You'll never find a comparably equipped 1980 Corvette outperforming a 2011 'Vette, or a 1980 TV or computer blowing away a '11 model. Audio is a different matter; a lot of decades-old gear really does sound better than its 2011 equivalents. That's especially true when comparing 1970s and 1980s receivers with today's models. I covered why that is so in last weekend's "How can 30-year-old receivers sound better than new ones?" blog.
I recently bought a NAD 3020 integrated amplifier on eBay for $66. The little amp was a smash hit in 1980 and instantly put NAD on the map. While the amp made its reputation as a giant killer, it's not very big--just 16 by 3.75 by 10 inches. And the look is bare-bones basic. The sound is something else again; as soon as I fired it up I remembered why budget-minded audiophiles bought more than a half million 3020s in about three years, making it the best-selling integrated amp of all time.
It was rated at just 20 … Read more
Due to shrinking demand, Sony will cease production of MiniDisc Walkman devices this coming September, Nikkei reported today. This marks yet another blow to the dying format, which experienced a roller-coaster ride of popularity during its 20-year lifetime.
During MiniDisc's introduction at CES 1991, Norio Ohga, Sony's president and CEO at the time, boasted that "the success and benefits of CD and analog compact cassette led to a new need--a need based on satisfaction with CD's wonderful sound, durability, and quick random access, and a need based on the portability, recordability, and shock resistance of the analog cassette. It is a need for MiniDisc."
A need, indeed. After launching the first MD products in 1992, Sony would go on to sell more than 22 million MiniDisc devices (as of March 2011), with millions more sold by other companies that licensed the technology, including big names such as Sharp, Kenwood, Panasonic, and others. … Read more
I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I just recently stumbled upon the Turntable Lab in the East Village in NYC. The shop was established in 1999, and the company also has brick-and-mortar shops in LA and Seoul, Korea.
The NYC shop may not have a huge selection of goodies on display, but I was very impressed with the range of products offered. Store manager David Azzoni stressed that customer service is "attitude-free" and totally avoids the snooty vibe sometimes associated with high-end hi-fi shops. For example, if you're new to vinyl and need help picking out … Read more
High-end audio shows are a great way to see and hear the very best gear. I'm getting good feedback about the goings-on at T.H.E. Show: Newport being held this weekend at the Hilton Hotel at the Orange County Airport in California.
There are oodles of outrageously priced, groovy turntables; gorgeous amplifiers; and statuesque speakers on display; and lots of great music to buy. More than 100 high-end audio companies will be demonstrating their best products in rooms throughout the hotel.
T.H.E. Show: Newport is also presenting a series of seminars on computer audio; tips on … Read more
While most of today's consumer electronics goods are designed with limited life expectancies, high-end audio gear has always been built to last for decades. Sure, it's more expensive to buy the good stuff, but when you stop and consider how many years of enjoyment you'll get out of a pair of really great speakers (or electronics) the investment makes a lot of sense. So instead of buying and replacing gear over and over again, just buy something really nice, once.
My Samsung Blu-ray player conked out just before its second birthday, and the one before that was … Read more
With a supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 producing 556 horsepower, the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe is one fast machine. Stomp on the gas in first gear and you are in for all sorts of fun, from the car twisting and turning under tremendous torque to the surprised looks of Porsche and BMW owners as you fly past them. And the future car look of the Coupe body perfectly fits this outrageous performance.
But the CTS-V Coupe is also significantly refined, a snarling tiger in a tuxedo. Magnetic ride suspension technology keeps its tires gripping pavement and maintains stability in fast cornering, making … Read more
The Equus is not your typical Hyundai. First of all, it costs a lot more, over 50 grand, than you would expect from the economy car maker. It also has a V-8, massage seats, and a refrigerator between the rear seats. It competes favorably with the Lexus LS 460, which Hyundai clearly had in its sights when it designed the car. And although it might seem pricey for a Hyundai, it undercuts every other luxury sedan on the market by 10s of thousands of dollars.
In Ultimate trim, the Equus comes with two big, powered seats in back, the right side featuring an ottoman. There is also a rear seat entertainment system. With all the money you save buying the Equus over a Mercedes-Benz S-class, you can give the chauffeur a raise.
The first Porsche hybrid should be something to be thrilled about. But as we just reviewed the VW Touareg Hybrid, we noted similarities between the cars. Both use the same hybrid power train, meaning the exact same engine, which leads to similar acceleration performance. But the Cayenne steps it up with better handling, taking corners like a dancer.
Where the Cayenne Hybrid suffers the most is in cabin tech. Although Porsche fits its cabins with high-quality materials and charges a luxury price, the brand has never really stepped up its electronics game, leaving competitors such as BMW and Audi to … Read more
The latest Mini model, the Countryman, has four doors and can be had with four-wheel drive. A little roomier than the standard Mini coupe, it's a more versatile vehicle, ready to have bicycles and surfboards attached to the roof.
But its equipment, both in the cabin and under the hood, is the same as in the standard Mini, with BMW's advanced four-cylinder engine in the S model. Cabin tech could use a shot in the arm, although Mini makes some new options available, such as an integrated iPhone app with a variety of functions.
While we were reviewing our Mini Countryman, it had the temerity to break down, its engine refusing to start. A little research in Consumer Reports shows that Mini's expected reliability is not high, something we experienced first-hand.