I met Julie Glick a few months ago with some folks from Ultimate Ears at a Head-Fi meeting in NY. UE was promoting a new set of custom-molded in-ear headphones, the Personal Reference Monitors, which are just now entering full production. In her NYC office, Glick can fully demonstrate these unique headphones, which are not only custom-molded to your ears but fine-tuned, soundwise, to your liking. Ultimate Ears technicians use the frequency curve you create to build your Personal Reference Monitors. I crafted my EQ curve in Glick's office; it was a lot of fun to design my sound. … Read more
The CD player's days may be numbered, but we're seeing more and more turntables. They all share the common design features of a base, platter, and tonearm, but the Townshend Audio Rock 7 turntable is decidedly less common.
In addition to those three components I just mentioned, the Rock 7 employs proprietary features, mounted on the front of the tonearm, ahead of the phono cartridge. The cartridge and its needle are designed to convert the record groove's tiniest wiggles into electrical signals, but on other turntables the tonearm is unsupported and free to vibrate at the cartridge … Read more
It was just a few weeks ago when my buddy Tyll Hertsens was raving about Colin Shaw's Sicphones amplifier Kickstarter project. Hertsens never steers me wrong, so I contacted Shaw, and a few days later I received the amp. Hertsens was right. This design uses a newly available SemiSouth silicon carbide transistor, and the amp sounds amazing. If Shaw makes his Kickstarter goal he'll be able to sell amp kits for as little as $229, and assembled amps for $279! DIY-ers can spring for just $35 and get the Sicphones amplifier PC board, assembly instructions, and parts source … Read more
Before the iPod and iTunes supposedly changed everything, we listened to records, CDs, tapes, and radio in our cars, on the street and in mass transit. Music was nearly as portable as it is now, but iPods and other MP3 players radically increased the quantity of music you could take with you. Looking back to the dawn of the iPod/MP3 era, sound-quality improvements weren't part of the agenda, just the quantity of music that was transportable. Apple's early ads touted the advantages of having "1,000 songs in your pocket," which struck me as an … Read more
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.
"Copper," the new BBC America crime drama, is set in NYC in 1864, while the Civil War was still raging. I was intrigued because the 10-part series was created by Tom Fontana, who did "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "Oz," and on a more personal level, my old friend Frank Morrone is a sound mixer for the show. We met in 1999 when I was writing a feature story on mixing sound for Ron Howard's film "Edtv," and more recently, Morrone shared some of his experiences about mixing sound for … Read more
With the booming popularity of sound bars, iPod docks, and tiny Bluetooth speakers, it's increasingly obvious that most people aren't interested in buying the best-sounding speakers. Other factors, such as the smallest possible size and maximum feature set are higher priorities than sound quality. I go the other way and put sound at the top of my list, but I'm far from convinced that the most accurate sound is the best sound. Accuracy isn't what it's cracked up to be.
Digital audio formats, for example, always have more accurate frequency response than any analog format, … Read more
Late last year I raved about the ADL by Furutech Cruise USB digital-to-analog headphone amplifier, so when the company sent over the new Esprit desktop digital-to-analog converter, I was eager to see what it could do.
I had the 2.3-inch-by-5.8-inch-by-7.4-inch component on my desktop for a few months and I was a little concerned that I was starting to take it for granted. It sounded so utterly natural that I listened to it a lot longer than I needed to write a review, and that's always a good sign. I ran it with my Emotiva airmotiv … Read more
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about AV receiver feature glut. Today's receiver manufacturers put an inordinate amount of time and money into designing feature-laden receivers, and feature glut might be part of the reason why today's receivers don't sound as good as receivers did in the 1980s. I get it, today's consumers rarely compare one receiver's sound with another receiver, but they can count HDMI connections, so that's where the money goes.
It's not that Denon, Onkyo, Pioneer, Sony, and Yamaha aren't trying to make great-sounding receivers, … Read more
I wrote a Top 10 music Blu-ray list late last year, so it's time for an update.
Patricia Barber, "Modern Cool"Sultry jazz singer Patricia Barber's "Modern Cool" album was a hit with the audiophile crowd soon after its release in 1998, so I was surprised to see it come out on Blu-ray with a new 5.1-channel DTS Master Audio mix. Even more surprised that the surround mix totally works. You're in the middle of the band, which I usually don't care for, but it clicks here. Barber wrote a lot … Read more