I first spotted Josh Ray's Urban Fidelity Kickstarter project on the Stereophile Web site, and it looked really interesting. The speaker is less than an inch thick and uses a made in the U.S.A. 8-inch driver. Completed speakers will sell for $399 a pair! The Urban Fidelity speaker is an "open baffle" design that uses sound from the front and back of the 8-inch driver. The speaker panel is made with formaldehyde-free wood sourced from North American forests and manufactured in Los Angeles, and the paints and inks are water-based and free of harmful chemicals. … 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 great thing about headphones is that you can, with a bit of effort, find great-sounding models in every price range. True, the best expensive models definitely sound better, but my picks for the cheapest ones are still pretty awesome. In fact, the $89 Velodyne vPulse headphones are the ones I regularly used long after I wrote the review! There was something about the sound of the vPulse that had me coming back for more. I cover audiophile, in-ear, full-size, wireless, and noise-canceling headphones, and prices run from dirt-cheap to insanely expensive.
Outdoor speakers are a little out of my area of expertise, and most of the ones I've seen at shows look like plastic rocks. Leon Speakers' Boundary B404 is definitely a big step up from those sorts of things.
Live concerts are louder than ever, but home audio systems that sound great turned up loud are increasingly rare. If you're into loud music and lucky enough to live in a place where maximum volume won't get you evicted or arrested, or earn the wrath of neighbors, treat yourself to a set of big speakers.
Sure, small satellite speakers with a powerful subwoofer can sound great, but not in the same league as large speakers. Big systems really do have huge performance advantages over even the best small ones. If you've got the space to accommodate a pair of Klipsch Reference RF-7 II speakers, they deserve an audition. The only downside to listening to the RF-7 IIs is you'll never be satisfied with a Bluetooth speaker ever again.… Read more
Even if it's just an inexpensive iPod or Bluetooth speaker, careful placement can really make a difference in the sound. Specific placement requirements vary with the type of speaker, but it's usually wise to have speakers at least 36 inches off the floor, close to the height of a seated listener's head. If the speakers have to be placed lower or higher, angle them toward the main listening position. Try to place speakers at least a few feet away from corners and large pieces of furniture that reflect sound.
Placing speakers close to boundaries -- walls, corners, … 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
Blackie Pagano's skills as a repair technician and designer of one-of-a-kind electronics and speakers have ensured a steady stream of happy customers. He started in New York City, relocated to LA and lived there for seven years, but now he's back in NYC. He's played guitar and bass since he was 11, been a roadie, then a live sound engineer, a recording engineer, and a studio tech; through it all, he's been just a guy who loves building stunning works of not just art, but art that also sounds great.
Pagano mostly makes his living repairing … 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
First things first, I'm referring to soft-to-loud dynamic range compression, not MP3 or other types of lossy data compression. Dynamic range compression has been around for almost as long as recorded music has existed, but over the last decade or so the public has demanded ever higher levels of dynamic range compression. The so-called lowest common denominator approach to mixing and mastering music boosts all of the softer/quieter passages to be loud all the time. That process obliterates all of the original details, subtleties, and nuances of the instruments and vocalists. Once the mix has been compressed, it … Read more