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.
The analog vs. digital debate has been raging for nearly three decades, and there's still no clear winner, because it's really just a matter of personal preference. I'm fine with that, but there's a lot of sniping in the analog/digital wars, and each side never misses an opportunity to put down the other side as misguided, deaf, just plain stupid, or worse. Each side claims its chosen format is superior and the opposite's is garbage.
I'm an analog guy, but I'd admit that analog's distortions, speed variations, and noise/hiss make … Read more
Last month the Internet was ablaze with articles like Mark Milian's "Apple in talks to improve sound quality of music downloads." Milian did mention that the improved sound might be accompanied by higher prices, but no further details were covered.
He also said, "Many models of Mac computers can play 24-bit sound, and the iTunes program is capable of handling such files. But most portable electronics, and many computers, don't support 24-bit audio." Right, so I can't see why significant numbers of iTunes buyers would even consider purchasing higher-resolution files.
Download times for … Read more
The iPod is a phenomenon, and it has clearly elevated the state of the art of portable music players. But it's not a bona fide high-end device. It's good for what it is, but I've always been a bit frustrated by the iPod's inability to sound great with some of my favorite full-size headphones.
Earlier this year I reviewed the Hifiman HM-801, and dubbed it "the Hummer" of portable players. The HM-801 made my iPod sound feeble by comparison.
The HM-801 was conceived as an audiophile player, so non-sound-oriented features are scarce. Instead of a hard drive, the HM-801 uses 32GB SDHC cards, which can store 20 24-bit-96 kHz FLAC "albums," or 50 CD-quality albums. Obviously, you can bring a bunch of SD cards with you so capacity isn't an issue. The player retails for $790.
That's expensive, but the best stuff always is. The HM-801 is about to be joined by another Hifiman player, the HM-602. Priced at $439, it's a good deal more affordable, and smaller than the HM-801; it's just 2.4 by 4 by 1 inches. That's nearly the same size as an iPod Classic, but more than twice as thick.
I prefer the HM-801's bold styling, but the new player's ergonomics are better. Neither is as easy to use and navigate as an iPod, but I got the hang of the HM-602's functions in a few days. It also plays 32GB SDHC cards. Like the HM-801, the HM-602 plays 96-kHz sampled FLAC files, but reduces 24-bit resolution to 16 bit. It also plays WAV, MP3, ACC, OGG, and APE files. The new player has 16GB of built-in flash memory; the HM-801 has just 2GB.… Read more