I worked as a high-end audio salesman for 16 years and spent another 16 reviewing audio products. Here's what I learned: The very best gear is always expensive. Sure, there are occasional examples of affordable products that are remarkable, but they never get remotely close to what true high-end gear can offer. Beyond price the main thing that separates high-end companies from mass-market brands is high-end designers are all about maximizing performance. Mainstream audio companies rarely try to make the best possible sounding gear. They know that features, wireless connectivity, styling, compact size, cheap pricing, marketing, distribution, etc. -- … Read more
I recently put together a new sound system for my living room. With a couple of chunky bookshelf speakers on tall stands, it hardly blends into the vintage expedition decor of the space. I should have held out for a Transparent Speaker.
The Transparent Speaker is a Kickstarter project that looks a bit like a cross between a sound system and a fish tank. It puts all the audio components you need in a glass case. This helps it blend into its surroundings, like an audio system version of a chameleon. … Read more
I had my first glimpse of the Raidho Acoustics' sound at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver in October, but the Denmark-based company's demo didn't click for me. That's not uncommon; show conditions and hotel rooms may not be the best environments to hear state-of-the-art sound.
Then just last week I heard a pair of Raidho C 3.1 speakers ($39,000) at a friend's home in New York, and the sound was a revelation. We played an unreleased and 100 percent uncompressed audiophile recording of a solo piano, and the purity and clarity were … Read more
Even before you hear KEF's new LS50 speaker, there's no doubt it's a unique design. The speaker's single "rose"-color driver sports radial fins, and the cabinet has a swept-back front baffle. I've never seen anything quite like it before. The speaker stands 11.9 inches tall, 7.9 inches wide, 10.9 inches deep, and weighs 15.8 pounds. The MDF cabinet has the build quality of a very high-end design. The sound is just as extraordinary as the look, and the LS50 can be used as a desktop monitor or as … Read more
Most audiophiles don't self identify as audiophiles. I suppose that's because audio is something of a guilty pleasure, best enjoyed solo, and that's part of the problem. Wine aficionados or guys that collect Corvettes aren't shy about their pursuits, but audiophiles have a hard time admitting they love gear.
Audiophiles are the other "one percent." We might be the only people listening -- really listening -- to music at home; the other 99 percent don't. They have music "on," in the background. To me, owning expensive gear doesn't make you … Read more
Pedestal-style sound bars are the latest evolution in the simplification of home audio. Instead of placing a long sound bar in front of your TV, pedestal sound bars are designed to sit under your TV, for a cleaner look with considerably less clutter. It's by far the easiest way to improve on the sound of your TV with the least intrusion on your living room decor.
The trade-off is that these systems generally don't sound quite as good as traditional sound bars, largely because they lack a separate subwoofer to handle the low end. It's yet another … Read more
I've covered a lot of great sounding budget gear this year, but the very best audio is far from cheap. That's hardly unique to high-end audio; the best cars, cameras, and clothes are always pricey, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that cutting-edge audio can be crazy expensive. What follows is a list of most astonishing gear I listened to this year. I love my job!
Sound bar buyers' performance expectations are pretty low; all the 'bar has to do is sound better than the lousy speakers that are built into their TVs. So if that's all you need, a sound bar will get the job done -- but there are better-sounding alternatives, starting with a pair of self-powered Audioengine A2 ($199) speakers. The A2s are terrific, but the Paradigm Millenia CT ($700) is a 2.1-channel subwoofer/satellite system, and it sounds better than the Audioengines. A lot better, and it's really pretty amazing.
Spread 64 inches apart, the Millenia sats produced a … Read more
The best I can say about most cheap subwoofers is they make bass. The bass won't be the deepest, most powerful, or the clearest, or blend all that well with most speakers, but all subs make bass. Better subs, like the $449 Hsu Research VTF-1 MK2, generate deeper, less distorted sound, so you can actually hear distinct bass notes, and can play louder and fill larger rooms better than most cheap subs.
I've long admired Aperion Audio's Intimus speakers, but for one reason or another, I never auditioned the company's higher-end Verus speakers. The line starts with the $350-per-pair Verus Forte satellite speakers, but I went for the bigger Verus Grand bookshelf speakers that run $598 a pair. The speaker has a 1-inch dome tweeter and 5-inch woven Kevlar woofer. It measures 13 by 7.5 by 9 inches, weighs 14 pounds, and the curved sided cabinet feels like it's well put together.
Aperion Intimus speakers' satin real cherry wood or high-gloss black finishes are superb, but the … Read more