Most "sound art" installations leave me cold, mostly because they rarely sound good, and a lot of tech-oriented "art" is more about tech than art. Not this time. When I attended the opening party for "The Forty Part Motet" at The Cloisters on Tuesday, the sound was truly glorious. The artist, Janet Cardiff, took full advantage of the acoustics of The Cloisters' Fuentidueña Chapel. She specified 40 Bowers & Wilkins DM303 speakers (which are no longer in production) for the installation, and they literally "play" the Chapel's acoustics. The … Read more
In 1965 Ray Dolby founded Dolby Laboratories and pioneered the noise-reducing and surround-sound technologies used throughout the film and music recording industries. He died in San Francisco at 80 this past Thursday. Dolby perfectly fit the form of "American Inventor" -- he was first and foremost a problem solver.
Dolby introduced A-Type noise-reduction for professional analog tape recorders in 1965 and it quickly became the de facto, worldwide standard. Three years later Dolby B Type consumer noise reduction followed the same course, and in the 1970s nearly every cassette player featured Dolby processing. Starting in 1975 Dolby Stereo … Read more
Magnepan makes flat speakers, and has been perfecting the technology for more than 40 years. How flat is flat? The Super MMG three-piece system I'm looking at today is a mere 1.25 inches thick! The Super MMG floor-standing speaker is 48 inches high and 14 inches wide; the DWM Bass Panel is 19.25 inches high, 22.5 wide, and, like the speaker, just 1.25 inches thick. The Super MMG and DWM can be that thin because they don't use traditional box cabinets, cone woofers, or dome tweeters; they have "planar" flat drivers, designed … Read more
I've used an iPod Classic as my on-the-go music player for years, while I was waiting for something better. Sure, Astell & Kern has two perfectly fine players, the $699 AK100 and the $1,299 AK120, but FiiO smashed the high-resolution music player price barrier with the X3, which lists for $299, but which sells for $200 on Amazon and most other online retail sites.
This past Wednesday, at the Time Warner Building in New York, Sony Electronics demonstrated a renewed interest in high-resolution audio. The company had a full slate of high-resolution hardware on display, and promised review samples would be coming our way in the near future. The initiative includes a commitment to make high-resolution audio "a more convenient, compelling, and cost-effective listening experience for digital music enthusiasts everywhere. To support this, select Sony products will come preinstalled with high-resolution tracks from Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment."
The flagship high-resolution audio model, the HAP-Z1ES ($1,999) … Read more
I visited Stereo Buyers' Brooklyn headquarters to get a first-hand look at their gear. Located in Red Hook, the facility was flooded by Hurricane Sandy last summer, and most of the inventory was literally underwater. Stereo Buyers' Adam Wexler did his best to prepare before the storm hit, but his best line in recalling the disaster was, "I bet you didn't know that Wilson Audio Watt/Puppy 5 speakers (that weigh over 100 pounds) can float, but they can. It was crazy and depressing; the financial losses were a bummer." He didn't have flood insurance, but … Read more
This blog is all about finding great-sounding audio products, in every price range. In June I reported on the best-sounding headphone I've ever heard, the Abyss AB-1266, but not long after that I was knocked out by Sony's MDR-V6, and now I'm auditioning these surprisingly decent $15 Audio Technica ATH-CLR100 in-ear headphones.
Introduced earlier this year, this all-plastic design is incredibly light, just 3.4 grams. It has 8.5mm drivers, sports small, medium, and large silicone eartips, and the headphone comes with a round plastic case. Amazon sells it for around $12, and even with that … Read more
The "Spinal Tap" reference to the volume control that goes to "11" notwithstanding, there's a lot of confusion surrounding volume controls. There shouldn't be; the volume control setting has nothing to do with how loud an amp can play. Some folks mistakenly think that if you don't have to turn the knob up very far from the minimum setting to achieve high volume, that "proves" it's a powerful amp. No, not at all; the maximum volume level of any amp is determined not by how far you turn the knob, … Read more
The new Zoom H6 Handy Recorder jams a lot of technology and features into a surprisingly compact device, and it sounds great. The H6 was designed for musicians, sound professionals, journalists, and videographers, but I'm sure there's a smattering of audiophiles who would really enjoy using this thing. I spent a few days recording street musicians performing in various parks around NYC, and one feature immediately stood out, the interchangeable microphone modules that plug into the top of the recorder. The H6 carries a retail price of $399, and that price includes two mic modules, X-Y, and MS (… Read more
I've heard a lot of, but far from most of the world's best headphone amps, but even in that heady territory the Auralic Taurus MKII shines. I've used a wide range of my very best headphones, in-ears and full-size, and they're all sounding better than I've heard them before.
The $6,475 Mal Valve amp is right up there, but it's been a few months since I heard it, and I never had it at home so my experience was more limited. I had the luxury of living with the Taurus MKII for weeks, … Read more