To be honest, I've never heard a Bluetooth speaker I liked, because better sound was available from wired speakers, like the AktiMate Micro model. They're sold in pairs for $499, so you get true stereo sound, a rarity even with higher-end Bluetooth and most other wireless alternatives like the $600 Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air, $600 Bose SoundDock 10, or $399 Sonos Play:5. Those three are perfectly fine for what they are, but wired stereo speakers from Audioengine, Emotiva, and AktiMate sound better, much closer to what I hear from traditional hi-fi speakers. True, they're not … Read more
Even by Oppo's high standards the BDP-105 is an extraordinary Blu-ray player. Sure, it's loaded with up-to-the-second features -- 4K upscaling, 2D-to-3D conversion, and a high-quality USB 2.0 digital-to-analog converter -- but what really makes the Oppo special is the sound. Pop the cover and look inside and you'll see why. Most of the 17-pound component's chassis space is devoted to the audio circuitry. That's nice, but the audio advantages will be completely irrelevant if you connect the BDP-105 to your receiver with a HDMI cable (the digital-to-analog conversion would then be handled in … Read more
People love sound bars for a lot of good reasons: they eliminate most of the wiring and setup hassles associated with traditional 5.1-channel home theaters, they don't take up a lot of space, they are less expensive than subwoofer/satellite packages, and since most sound bars are self-powered, you don't need to buy an AV receiver. A skinny sound bar positioned under a sleek display is certainly a more appealing solution than a 5.1 or even stereo pair of speakers. There's just one problem: sound bars can't fill a room with sound nearly as well as separate speakers can.… Read more
My fondness for big speakers is longstanding, but I'm almost as big a fan of smaller speakers that sound big. Take Definitive Technology's StudioMonitor 55 speaker ($299 each). Measuring 13x7.8x12.3 inches it's not all that big, but it weighs a hefty 15.4 pounds. The StudioMonitor 55 is a handsome, but conventional-looking design, until you peel off the cloth grille on the top of the speaker and see the "racetrack bass radiator." It's a unique Def Tech feature, and one that really helps the StudioMonitor 55 outperform similarly sized speakers.… Read more
The AudioQuest DragonFly is a USB-powered (it doesn't use batteries or an external power supply) digital-to-analog converter. I usually need some time to get a handle on the sound of a component, but within minutes of plugging in the tiny $249 DAC I knew exactly what made it so special. It sounds clear and clean, so there's less standing between the music and my ears.
The DragonFly is a bona fide audio component, designed by Gordon Rankin, a man known in audiophile circles as a great tube electronics engineer, but Rankin is also a computer audio guy. He's one of the few DAC designers with equal depth of knowledge in analog and digital audio technology.… Read more
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
I've known about Adam Audio for a long time, but for one reason or another I never reviewed one of its speakers. Adam (Advanced Dynamic Audio Monitors) may have started as a pro sound company, but it now also makes audiophile speakers. To get a handle on their sound I started with Adam's least expensive model, the ARTist 3, a compact desktop monitor. The company was founded by physicist Klaus Heinz and electrical engineer Roland Stenz, in Berlin in 1999.
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
I recently raved about Emotiva's Airmotiv 4 powered speakers, but if you already have a nice pair of speakers and need a great affordable amp, the company's Mini-X a-100 deserves an audition. Emotiva calls the Mini-X a-100 a "Super Flex" amp, which I assume means it's super flexible. You can run it with a CD player, computer, iPod, or as a "second zone" amp in a multiroom system, a rear surround speaker amp, or just a basic amp for a small hi-fi.
The Mini-X a-100 looks like a smaller version of one of … Read more