Hi-fi has a dated, almost "Mad Men" ring to it, but it predates Don Draper's 1960s time frame. Sound-quality advances in hi-fis first grabbed the public's imagination 10 years earlier, in the 1950s.
A hi-fi system could be configured in a variety of ways, but the basic setup had a turntable, amplifier, and a pair of speakers. That sort of rig, with a CD player, still works for today's audiophiles, but they're probably 1 percent of all music listeners. For the other 99 percent, their "hi-fi" is in the car, or maybe … Read more
There are times when you can't quite believe what you're hearing. Little speakers' bass limitations are a fact of life, but Audyssey's Lower East Side Media Speakers can generate considerably more bass punch than I've heard from any speaker of this size and price. Beyond the bass, the sound was lively and fun; I really enjoyed spending time with these speakers.
The Audyssey Web site lists the price at $249.99 a pair, but Amazon sells 'em for $199.95.
The red-accented, matte-black plastic cabinets feel sturdy and come mounted on metal desk stands that tilt the speakers back at a rakish angle, so the sound is aimed up toward your ears.… Read more
CNET Reader Kato asks:
I have speakers directly hooked up to my TV via the "speaker audio out." It works fine. I then hooked up additional speakers I had from a computer. Upon doing so the volume on the original speakers went way down and I get even less from the new speakers. What am I doing wrong?
Oh, so many things...… Read more
It seems like every time I write about a USB digital-to-analog converter or portable headphone amplifier I get a slew of reader e-mails requesting a review of one of Fiio's low-cost/high-performance audio components.
Pricing may be solidly in the affordable range, but don't for a second conclude Fiio's components aren't beautifully designed little gems.… Read more
I rarely get all that excited by the sound of iPod speakers, if only because you can so easily get better sound from a good set of desktop speakers. I've cited Audioengine's terrific little speakers many times in this blog, and I still love them, but there's a new speaker from Emotiva Pro, the airmotiv 4, and it's raised the sound quality benchmark for $399 per pair speakers.
Audioengine is one of my favorite brands. For me it all started with their petite A2 speakers ($199/pair), and then I gushed over their P4 speakers ($249/pair). But Audioengine isn't the sort of company that reinvents its line every year or two. No, they invest a lot of time into designing great products, and then let them be. The A2 and P4 are still in the line, and are still stellar.
I've shied away from reviewing all that many iPod speakers, mostly because they don't offer the best possible sound for the money. That's my beat, finding great-sounding gear, and iPod speakers rarely qualify. Convenient, you bet, sound great, well, that's another story.
The Arcam rCube is a portable iPod dock. Fit and finish are upscale; it's a truly elegant design. The top of the cube has five touch-sensitive buttons--source select, wireless on/off, volume up and down, and standby--arrayed in front of the flip-up door that conceals the iPod dock and the speaker's carry handle. The rCube is available in a black or white finish, and I think the white one looks great. … Read more
The Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 is easily the best speaker I've heard for $350 per pair. Wharfedale started making loudspeakers in 1932, which makes it the second-oldest still-surviving speaker manufacturer in the world (Tannoy is the oldest). The entry-level Diamond Series speakers debuted some 49 years later; the Diamond 10.1 we're reviewing today is from the latest incarnation of the line.
Wharfedale not only designs and builds all of its own woofers and tweeters in-house, it also designs and manufactures nearly every part of its speakers, including the crossover networks' resistors and capacitors. Even the bolts that … Read more
The nice folks at Parts Express sent over an amazing-sounding little amplifier, the $129 Topping TP30. It's a tiny desktop Class T amp design, with one analog RCA stereo input and one USB connection (the TP30 has a built-in digital-to-analog converter). The amp delivers 15 watts per channel to 4 ohm-rated speakers (10 watts into 8 ohms), and has a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the front panel.
With its extruded aluminum chassis, 8mm thick, CNC-machined front panel, and solid-metal volume control knob the TP30 wouldn't look out of place in a high-end system. It even feels expensive, but I have just one nitpick: the illuminated blue LED ring surrounding the volume control knob is too bright. I wish there was a way to dim it or turn it off. The amp measures a tidy 4.13 inches by 1.77 inches by 8.07 inches.
The USB interface utilizes standard Windows audio class 1 drivers (it worked fine with my Mac mini). Internal parts quality is superb; the TP30 boasts Elna capacitors, Dale resistors, and an ALPS volume control. The Burr-Brown USB digital-to analog converter chip accepts up to 48 kHz sampling rates with 16-bit resolution.
I compared the sound of the TP30 with my Audioengine N22 amp ($199), and they're both pretty good. The N22 has a fuller, warmer tonal balance, but the TP30 has a more immediate, detailed sound with more tightly controlled bass. I used my Audioengine P4 speakers for all of my speaker-based listening tests. It's interesting, the TP30 is a digital amp and takes digital signals "straight-in" via its USB port; the N22 is analog-only and is a more traditional Class A/B amplifier design. It sounded softer, and a wee bit less defined than the TP30.… Read more