OK, maybe the name of the contest, "The Audiophillie Music Awards for Excellence in Recorded Sound" is a little intimidating. If that's what's holding you back, rest easy; record some tunes from an unsigned band, or your uncle playing Grateful Dead tunes on a banjo and you could win. A recording of a tuba playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" might be a contender.
I went to the 2010 New York International Auto Show to listen to car audio systems. Weird, yes, but I'm the audio guy, and a lot of cars have expensive audio systems. It's not hard to drop more than a couple of thousand dollars on a car system, which is probably more than most folks spend on their home hi-fis. I thought the same thing last year.
I get it; if you spend a lot of time in your car, it's easy to justify the expense, but dollar for dollar, car systems are pretty lame compared to … Read more
People buy home theater-in-a-box systems for a lot of reasons, but sound quality isn't one of them.
The problem with HTIBs, even the very best ones, is they don't come with great speakers or subwoofers. Denon has a solution at hand: the S-5DB. Think of it as a HTIB that doesn't come with speakers or a subwoofer. No HTIB ever made has speakers as good as the better ones I've reviewed from Aperion Audio, Atlantic Technology, Definitive Technology, Energy Speakers, Klipsch, Mirage, or Polk. You want great sound? You gotta have great speakers.
The S-5BD combo … Read more
Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) has a new headphone, the P5.
B&W is one of the more legendary names in British hi-fi, and its speakers are used in many of the world's top studios, including the Beatles' favorite, Abbey Road.
B&W is also known for its sleek styling, and the P5 is definitely a looker. Its real leather and chunky construction put all of the other $300 headphones on the market to shame. The P5 is a handsome luxury design, on par with B&W's high-end speakers.
Comfort? The P5's thickly padded leather headband and ear pads are soft and comfy. That's great, but the full leather-to-ears contact may promote perspiration. My ears didn't sweat, but they sure felt hot when I wore the P5s for extended periods. The upside to the close contact design is that it blocks a fair amount of external noise. Not as effectively as noise-canceling headphones, but the P5 doesn't need batteries.
The P5 is being marketed as a portable design, so it's smaller than most full-size, over-the-ear headphones. The included quilted carry bag is nicer than what you get with most headphones.
A user-replaceable 48 inch cable is attached to the left earcup. The P5 is supplied with two cables, one of which, the MFI cable with built-in microphone, is for use with the very latest Apple iPod and iPhone models. The removable (magnetically attached) earpads are more squarish than round, about 3 inches high, and they fold flat against your chest when you put the headband on your neck..… Read more
When I reviewed and raved about the Energy RC-Micro 5.1 Surround Speaker System in late 2008 the MSRP was $1,000. It still is, but it's not hard to find the awesome sounding system selling for $399, delivered!
Energy is big on small speakers, so even though the Energy RC-Micro 5.1 is downright tiny, it sounds big.
How small is small? The four jewel-like RC-Micro satellites measure just 4.7 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep, a size that barely contains the unusually small drivers: a 0.5-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a 2.5-inch aluminum midbass driver. Each speaker weighs just 1.6 pounds.
The center speaker uses the same drivers, but they're housed in a slightly larger cabinet (3.5 inches tall by 5.9 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep), and weighs 1.9 pounds. Both speakers feature Energy's proprietary Convergent Source Module (CSM) technology that was originally developed for the company's flagship Veritas series speakers.
The 240-watt ESW-CS8 subwoofer has a down-firing port and a front-mounted 8-inch injection-molded woofer. The driver utilizes Energy's Ribbed Elliptical Surround--the rubber "rim" that surrounds the woofer cone has molded-in ribs--which Energy claims lowers distortion and allows the subwoofer to play louder than more conventional designs. A blue LED behind the front baffle's grille lights up when the sub is on. The sub isn't too big--just 12.7 inches tall by 10.5 inches wide by 12.3 inches deep--and it weighs a modest 16 pounds.
The entire RC-Micro 5.1 system is beautifully finished in piano black, and each component has a removable black cloth grille. The satellites and center channel speaker can be wall mounted with either their keyhole slots or threaded inserts.… Read more
Moon Audio claims the Signature Titan was designed to outperform any speaker system in the world. It's a strictly limited edition of three pairs, and each pair is hand-signed by the designer. Each pair will also be named after its buyer and once the third pair is built, the Signature Titan is history.
Even by high-end audio standards the pricing structure is a little unusual: Signature Titan #003 can be yours for $500,000 per pair, but the cost for #002 doubles to $1,000,000! Sounds crazy, but #001 has already been sold for $2,000,000!
I spoke with Moon Audio's founder, Chris Moon, yesterday about the Signature Titan, and learned the speaker grew out of Moon's dissatisfaction with the world's best production speakers. He went out and built the Signature Titan just to see how far he could take speaker design. Moon isn't your average high-end guy, he told me that he discovered, recorded, and produced Prince, along with Morris Day, Alexander O'Neal, Dez Dickerson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
Moon wrote and produced music for companies such as Northwest Airlines, music scores for films and television.
Moon claims the designers of the 72-inch-tall speaker have been involved in the high-end audio industry for 25 years. Installation and setup in the customer's home anywhere in the world is included in the purchase price. They better have strong floors; the pair of speakers weighs 2,800 pounds!… Read more
Those awful glasses may doom 3D TV.
What with all the advances in technology they still haven't eliminated the glasses people have been using to watch 3D movies since the 1920s. "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland" may use vastly more refined 3D techniques, but the glasses remain. Some people get headaches, dizzy, or even nauseated watching 3D. There are exceptions, but most 3D films haven't matured past the gimmick stage.
No matter how you look at it, 3D TV is an expensive proposition. You'll need to buy a new Blu-ray player, new TV, and possibly a new receiver. Oh, and don't forget to factor in the cost for extra 3D glasses for family and friends.
Worse yet, after you've made the substantial investment in new hardware there's not a lot of 3D content to buy or see. Put those bucks in better-sounding speakers, and you'll have a vast assortment of choices to dazzle your ears right away. Surround sound may be imperfect, but you can hear it with just your own two ears; no special "ear goggles" are required.
So instead of investing in 3D TV, take those dollars and buy better speakers or a new receiver. That's an improvement you hear with every movie you watch and music you listen to. It's simply a smarter way to spend your money.
What is 3D sound? True 3D sound would involve height, width, and depth speakers. Stereo sound produces width, and surround speakers produce depth. What about height? My experiences with the only available height systems--Dolby Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX--didn't do much for me, but I'm not giving up on the height dimension entirely. Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX were designed to work with any surround movie. Maybe we'll have to wait for movies mixed to provide genuine height information to get three-dimensional sound.… Read more
There are surprisingly few multinational audio companies.
I'm talking about big companies that just make speakers and audio electronics, so that leaves Sony and Panasonic out of the picture. Bose and D & M Holdings (Denon, Marantz, Boston Acoustics, etc) come to mind, but Harman International has a longer reach. Harman owns AKG (headphones, microphones), Harman/Becker Automotive Systems, Crown (professional audio), Harman Kardon (receivers), Infinity (speakers), JBL (speakers), Lexicon (high-end electronics), Mark Levinson (car and high-end audio electronics), Revel (speakers), Soundcraft (professional audio), and Studer (professional audio).
Some brands, like JBL and Lexicon, make consumer and pro gear, and in the case of JBL, speakers for every budget, from entry-level hi-fi and home theater all the way up to recording studios, movie theaters and stadium sound systems.
I was thinking about all that because the Harman Mobile Showroom was in NYC last week for the Architectural Digest Home Design Show. It may soon be in a town near you, or you can take a virtual tour and see and learn more about Harman's Mobile Showroom.
I liked the sound at the Mobile Showroom and chatted with Todd Packer, a technical product and project manager for Harman, about the gear. The company's intention, "To make a strong design statement," came through loud and very clear. … Read more
The MartinLogan Motion 4 answers the question, can a speaker be considered a high-end design if it retails for $499 a pair? Jeff Dorgay at Tone Audio magazine thinks it can!
MartinLogan made a splash with audiophiles in the early 1980s with its electrostatic panel speakers. The clear, 5-foot-tall panels were remarkable for their "see-through" transparency of sound. The company still makes big-panel speakers but has branched out into home theater, and now with the Motion 4, it's making overachieving small speakers.
The Motion 4's tweeter is pretty special; its Folded Motion transducer works by moving air, similar to the way an accordion works. Its low-mass diaphragm "squeezes" air and produces almost 90 percent less back and forth movement than a dome tweeter. The Folded Motion tweeter also has a large surface area; eight times that of a 1-inch dome tweeter. The Folded Motion technology is said to minimize distortion.
The Motion 4 is a small bookshelf design, 5 by 5 inches and just over a foot tall; it has a 4-inch woofer.
Dorgay listened to the Motion 4s with a few different amplifiers: a Naim Uniti receiver, Prima Luna Prologue 1 vacuum-tube integrated amp, and a Denon AVR 3910 receiver. In a small room placed near a corner, the Motion 4s had a surprising amount of bass. MartinLogan concentrated on making a great speaker that only goes down to 75 Hz cleanly, instead of a mediocre speaker that goes down to 50 Hz. Need more low-end oomph? Add a subwoofer to provide deep bass. … Read more
This was my third Head-Fi "meet," and at each one I've met lots of great people sharing a common passion for hi-fi. I'm not sure why, but Head-Fi members are a lot younger than most audiophiles. You see a lot of under-30 members, and it seems like under-40 Head-Fi-ers are in the majority! The weather outside on Saturday in Queens, NY, was frightful, but inside the vibes were warm and inviting. This event was hosted by my friend, Aaron Kovics (Head-Fi username Immtbiker).
Head-Fi meets gather Internet friends at a place, in this case a hotel, where they can listen to each other's headphones and headphone amplifiers. Some amps are home-built designs, some are commercial units. And unlike regular hi-fi shows, you can listen to what you want, with your own music, as loud as you want.
I met one guy with a set of vintage Grado Signature HP-2 headphones, probably from the early 1990s. They had a very dynamic, bold sound, and a special something I can't quite put my finger on. I'm a big fan of John Grado's current line of headphones (and phono cartridges), and I sold a lot of those early Grados (designed by John's uncle, Joseph Grado) when I worked as a salesman at a high-end audio store.
As I recall the original Grado headphones sold for $400 or $500, but used ones now go for $1,300 to $2,000! That's what I love about the best high-end gear; it sounds amazing, it's built to last, and it goes up in value! Think anybody will want to buy a 30-year-old iPod for a premium price in 2040 to actually listen to? I doubt it. … Read more