Vacuum tube amplifiers are the Holy Grail for a lot of audiophiles, but they tend to be a lot more expensive than solid-state amps.
Priced at $1,295, the A-50T is one of the most affordable all-tube integrated amplifiers on the market, but I wasn't thinking about that as I ran my fingers over its half-inch thick front panel and fondled the beautifully machined knobs, or admired the quality of the rear panel's RCA jacks and hefty, gold-plated speaker wire binding posts. It's beautiful and the A-50T's quality is on par with amps that sell for $2,000 or more.
I reviewed the Cayin for Playback magazine a few months ago, and you can read the full review here.
Cayin is one of China's oldest and largest high-end audio manufacturers; they're justifiably proud of the fact that they build every significant part of the A-50T in-house. Got a turntable? The A-50T can be ordered with a built-in phono preamp for an extra $250; that still leaves three line-level inputs. … Read more
The App Store is no doubt one of the best things to have happened to the iPhone (and the iPod touch). Users are happily adding a wide array of apps to their devices, usually with little or no difficulty. Still, occasionally things go wrong. At such times, beyond the standard troubleshooting advice you'll find here at MacFixIt, it pays to know at least a bit about what's going on "under-the hood." Here's a Q&A detailing 5 things you should definitely know:
1. Where are iPhone apps actually stored on … Read more
Apple is doing a good job at driving developers to circumvent the official App Store sales mechanism and motivating users to jailbreak their iPhones. The company has rejected another useful application, Angelo DiNardi's MailWrangler, because it "duplicates the functionality of the built-in iPhone application Mail."
In a post to his blog, DiNardi says his application, which allows users to add and access multiple Gmail accounts "simply directly loading and showing Gmail inside of an application," adding "How you can confuse Gmail with Mail.app I?… Read more
Amazon.com really knows how to treat its customers.
Although I've read a few dozen books on my Kindle by now, my use of it is erratic. I use it heavily for days or weeks at a time, then set it aside for a while to address the stack of paper books by my nightstand. (When Montalvo Systems shut down, I had two 2.5-foot stacks of unread books. After a long summer of unemployment, the unread stack is down to a mere five titles.)
Last Tuesday, I found an e-book I wanted to read, so I got out the Kindle and saw it was dead. (The battery lasts only a few days even if I'm not using it, which really isn't good enough.) I charged it overnight and moved the book onto the Kindle on Wednesday. Later that day when I wanted to read the book, I found the Kindle was out of juice already.
I charged it overnight again (with the radio off in case it was having some kind of issue), forgot about it Thursday and remembered it this morning. But it was dead again. I started it charging again before going out to a lunch interview. When I returned, I turned the unit on and just sort of kept an eye on it, pressing buttons occasionally to keep it mostly awake while doing some other work on my computer.
The battery ran down in less than two hours.
It's the classic conundrum: everybody wants the smallest possible speakers and subwoofer, but nobody wants to give up sound quality. Then reality sets in and you hear the size constraints taking their toll on the sound.
Namely, little speakers don't make bass, and even bolstered by a subwoofer, the bass and oomph limitations become painfully obvious with action packed films like Master & Commander.
Two Canadian speaker companies, Energy and Mirage, believe they have devised effective engineering solutions to the size problem. They were in Manhattan last week to show-off their itsy-bitsy creations, and I have to say … Read more
A perfect speaker wouldn't sound like a speaker. That's the goal after all, the speaker should disappear and we should just hear the sound. With perfect speakers the instruments and voices on the recording would sound life-size and completely believable.
Most speakers, including a lot of very high-end, stupid expensive ones still sound like speakers. You know there's a tweeter and woofer, and the sound is coming out of a box.
Magnepan, based in White Bear Lake, Minnesota builds panel (boxless) speakers -- without conventional dome tweeters and cone type woofers. Maybe that's why its MG … Read more
I never thought I'd say this, but I'm starting to think the iPod is a true high-end audio component. What's changed? I heard it in my high-end system, docked into Wadia's 170i Transport ($379). I can now testify to the iPod's bona fides.
Thing is, an iPod, even one loaded with uncompressed AIFF or WAV files, isn't all by itself a high-end component, but teamed with Wadia's 170i Transport, aka, dock, an iPod is elevated to high-end status. The transformation takes place when the Wadia transmits the iPod's zeros and ones to an outboard digital-to-analog (D/A) converter in your A/V receiver, or even better, a standalone high-end D/A. Wadia's claims that the 170i is the first and only "dock" to extract a digital output from an unmodified iPod.
The 170i's digital out sends a 16 bit/44.1 kHz PCM digital signal to a D/A. The 170i does that for MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV files, but just be aware that it converts all but AIFF and WAV to 16/44.1. It can also pass 16/48 PCM, but in most cases 16/44.1 is what you'll get.
According to Wadia's national sales manager, Martin Cooper, iPods store MP3, Apple Lossless, and AAC files in Apple's own digital language, and when an iPod is nestled into a 170i it converts those files to 16/44.1 PCM. That way, the signals can be processed by the D/A in your A/V receiver or high-end D/A. MP3, Apple Lossless, and AAC files will sound "good," just not quite the same as the original CD. In other words, only AIFF and WAV files can be heard with bit-for-bit accuracy over the 170i. … Read more
Samsung Electronics, an arm of the giant Korean company (second only to General Electric in annual revenue among conglomerates), held a press event in San Francisco last week to show off its products for the coming holiday season.
I'd been looking for an excuse to go up to the city, so off I went-- taking Caltrain rather than driving. Conveniently, the Samsung event was just a few blocks from the train station in San Francisco.