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!
Face it, most of today's shiny new gizmos will be hopelessly out-of-date in a few years and taking up space in landfills not so long after that. The iPhone 5 may be a marvel of engineering and marketing genius, but like iPhones of years past it's doomed to be cast aside when legions of Apple fanboys and girls stand in line to buy the iPhone 6 sometime next year. And so it goes.
I was fascinated with high-end audio long before I owned any of the good stuff, but I always loved the way the best ones looked.
I remember the soft blue glow radiating from McIntosh Labs' components way back in the 1970s, and they still look great. Exquisitely machined metal and sumptuous curves are responsible for some high-end cars, boats, and audio's eye-catching allure. Of course, high-end gear's sound doesn't always live up to the aesthetics, but the products in the slideshow below are all exceptional performers.
The day the iPhone 5 goes on sale, millions of people will happily line up to buy Apple's latest marvel. How could they resist? What with the temptations of the iPhone 5's rumored smaller 19-pin dock connector, in-cell technology that enables the screen's touch sensors and LCD to be consolidated into a single layer, global LTE networks, and oodles of other goodies, it's no wonder Americans on average replace their cell phones every 21.7 months. Computers, digital cameras, tablets, and other gizmos have somewhat longer useful lives, but their owners never develop long-term, decade or … Read more
I had a long fascination with high-end audio before I owned any of the good stuff. I suppose the same allure applies to exotic cars; millions read reviews of cars they never drive, and watch Food Network shows about food they'll never taste. Folks are interested in excellence, but compared to $200,000 cars or celebrity chefs' handiwork high-end audio is more accessible and practical. Two products covered in today's blog -- used high-end Grado headphones and the Oracle Delphi turntable -- sometimes sell for less than $1,000 on eBay. That's still expensive, but more within … Read more
The New York Audio & AV Show at the legendary Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is hosting the biggest collection of high-end audio products the city has seen in many years. Audiophiles and curious New Yorkers are crowding the halls and rooms, eager to see and hear some of the world's best audio products.
You've probably already read about the latest and greatest in smartphones, tablets, and OLED displays, so let's take a look at the coolest high-end audio goodies. We've assembled some of the most promising candidates for your approval.
The Arcam rPAC is a portable USB powered digital-to-analog converter and headphone amplifier, but it can also be played over a hi-fi system. "USB powered" means there are no batteries or "wall warts," it's powered by your computer's USB port. The entire component is enclosed in a small precision-cast aluminum case.
I've loved … Read more
I remember the first time I saw a Burmester component in a hi-fi store. I couldn't get over how beautiful it was.
The Burmester pictured here is the Reference Line 808 MK5 preamplifier. Introduced in August 1980, the 808 is the fifth-generation model. The preamp's modular construction was a revolutionary design approach in 1980, and new technologies have been incorporated to maintain the 808's performance at the current state of the art.
As an audiophile, I value sound quality, but most audio buyers don't. Even when superior sound is available for the same cost as a lower quality alternative, most buyers will opt for the smaller, more convenient, more attractive, or more feature-laden product.
Case in point, the $399 Pioneer SP-PK21BS home theater speaker package. It's the best sounding home theater speaker/subwoofer system you can buy for that price, but it's also the biggest system you can get for that much money. How big is it? The SP-BS21-LR bookshelf speakers are 12.6 inches high, 7.2 inches … Read more
Looking for gift ideas for that special audiophile in your life? Here are some, priced from affordable to crazy expensive. Let's get started!
"Miles! Live at Montreux - The Definitive Miles Davis at Montreux Collection, 1973-1991" This historically important 10-DVD set ($150) captures all of Miles Davis' performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival between 1973 and 1991. The final concert features Davis paying tribute to his collaborator and close friend Gil Evans, who died in 1988. The audio and video quality of the collection varies, but most of it is surprisingly good.
Audio Technica ATH M50 headphones These headphones are nearly impossible to fault; they're extremely comfortable, great-sounding, ruggedly built, and fairly priced. The ATH M50 ($199) is a closed-back design and provides nearly as much isolation from external noise as noise-canceling headphones, but sounds better than any NC headphones I've heard to date.… Read more