Where are the under-30 audiophiles? I don't know a single one here in New York City. Sure, high-end audio gear can be expensive, but that's no excuse. A pair of Audioengine 2 speakers ($199) and an iPod can sound pretty sweet. Maybe an older relative would be happy to give you a hi-fi or speakers they don't use anymore. There's no shortage of dirt-cheap, decent-sounding gear at yard sales, and there are lots of awesome deals on used hi-fi classics at Audiogon. So high prices can't be the only reason why young people aren't … Read more
HD Radio sounds better than satellite, Internet, or analog AM and FM radio. Have you heard it yet? Chances are a few of your local AM or FM stations broadcast HD Radio signals, but they probably don't mention that fact on the air. To find out if your local stations are HD, check with iBiquity Digital, the company that licenses the technology. HD Radio--unlike digital satellite radio--has no subscription fee.
The Insignia NS-HD01 ($50) portable HD Radio's sound quality is a big step up from most mini radios, and it's the least expensive way to listen to … Read more
Why did home theater buyers readily accept surround sound, but consistently reject multichannel music formats? From Thomas Edison's very first phonograph in 1877 through the late 1950s, monophonic sound was the only way people heard music at home.
Stereo arrived in the late 1950s on LP and analog reel-to-reel tape, and stereo has remained the most popular music format to this day. Quadraphonic (four-channel surround) debuted in the early 1970s, but didn't survive the end of the decade. People didn't want to plant four speakers in their living rooms, and the Quadraphonic Wars ensured the format's … Read more
The buzz in certain corners of the high-end audio community at this year's CES was that Audiovox was going to acquire Klipsch, and Klipsch's other speaker brands, including Jamo, Mirage, Energy, and Athena. The January 6 press release sounds like it was written by lawyers:
Audiovox Corporation announced today that it has recently signed a non-binding term sheet to purchase all of the shares of Klipsch Group Inc. and its worldwide subsidiaries ("Klipsch"). Klipsch is a leading, global provider of premium, high performance speakers sold through retail and installation channels. The transaction is subject to a … Read more
Americans love power. We buy 320-horsepower Chevy Tahoes to haul the kids to soccer practice. For home theater, the magic power number for receivers is 100 watts, and it has to be a seven-channel model, even though 80 or 90 percent of home theater buyers are perfectly happy with five-channel sound.
Americans equate power with quality, but I'm here to tell you there's another way. Sure, power is cheap, and a the-more-the-merrier strategy works well enough most of the time. Let's just be clear on what amplifier power provides: it defines the upper limit of how loud … Read more
I've written about better-than-iPod-sounding music players before, but this is my first portable headphone amplifier review. The Todd The Vinyl Junkie Portable Slim amplifier ($349) really works and will take the sound of an iPod, or any portable player, to the next level. The amp's sleek chassis (4.2x2.7x0.4 inches) is nearly the same size as an iPod Classic. It's built in Dallas, and the case comes from Canada.
The Slim's rechargeable lithium ion battery provides 15 hours of playback time. It recharges in about 2 hours from a USB port or a USB … Read more
Music is all around us, it's just that very few people actually listen to it. Sure, you have music in your car, iPod, or computer, but is the music just a soundtrack to other activities? If music, a la carte, can't hold your attention from time to time you're definitely not an audiophile. Worse yet, you're missing a lot.
Think about it: the people who made the music sweated the details, agonized over the sound, the mix, and the performance for weeks or months. The composer tweaked the work to the nth degree, and still, very, … Read more
Westone started out in the late 1950s making custom molds for hearing aids and ear protection devices. Once I learned that little factoid I wasn't surprised to hear Westone was the first to introduce custom-molded in-ear headphones in 1993.
This is my first Westone review, so I'm starting with its best headphone, the Elite Series ES5 Musicians' Monitor ($950). The company offers a range of more affordable universal-fit in-ear headphones, like the UM-1 ($109).
I hope to soon do a follow-up review with a universal-fit Westone to better describe the sonic differences between universal and custom-molded in-ear designs.
For now I will say that no universal in-ear headphone from Etymotic, Monster, Shure, Ultimate Ears, etc. has anywhere near the sound-isolating capabilities of custom-fit designs. I always hear more detail, overall clarity, and upper treble air and delicacy with custom-fitted in-ear headphones because those sounds aren't masked by noise. The ES5 is handcrafted at Westone's factory in Colorado Springs, Colo. … Read more
As I said a few days ago, bona fide audio breakthroughs are rare, but there was no shortage of interesting gear at this year's CES shindig in Las Vegas.
Stereophile's Tyll Hertsens spotted Furutech's GT-40 combination USB digital-to-analog converter/phono preamp/headphone amp. The device can rip your vinyl or play computer files at up to 24-bit/96-kHz resolution with USB convenience, and includes a high-quality headphone amp. It looks great!
CNET's Natali Morris' report on Sculpted Eers' custom-molded in-ear headphones looked really interesting. Every other custom molded in-ear on the market requires the buyer to first go to an audiologist to make "ear impressions" of your ear canals, which are sent to the headphone manufacturer; you get your headphones a couple of weeks later. With these Sculpted Eers headphones, you go to a store that sells Sculpted Eers and they make your headphones on the spot. Prices start around $149, which is $250 less than any custom-molded in-ears I've tested to date. How good are they? We'll see.
Over at Audio Review, Adam LaBarge was bowled over by Zu Audio's new $40,000 flagship speaker, the Dominance. LaBarge called it "a well-tamed beast that is just waiting to explode." Zu founder Sean Casey told me about this speaker a few weeks ago, and he sounded pretty excited about it. Zu has made its name selling affordable (by high-end standards) American-designed and -built speakers. For example, the $1,000-a-pair Zu Omen is getting great word of mouth, so I'm super-curious about this mega-buck Zu. … Read more
I was never a fan of cassettes; they were the MP3s of their time. Neither format ever sounded good to me.
Prerecorded tapes from the record companies were the lowest of the low. True, they were less expensive than LPs in the '70s and '80s, but you could make much better-sounding cassettes yourself by dubbing LPs to cassette.
Cassettes were only slightly more durable than LPs and were definitely subject to wear. Also, while the cassette you made might sound decent enough on YOUR cassette deck, there was no guarantee it would sound OK on anybody else's machine (tape … Read more