A perfect speaker wouldn't sound like a speaker. That's the goal after all, the speaker should disappear and we should just hear the sound. With perfect speakers the instruments and voices on the recording would sound life-size and completely believable.
Most speakers, including a lot of very high-end, stupid expensive ones still sound like speakers. You know there's a tweeter and woofer, and the sound is coming out of a box.
Magnepan, based in White Bear Lake, Minnesota builds panel (boxless) speakers -- without conventional dome tweeters and cone type woofers. Maybe that's why its MG … Read more
I never thought I'd say this, but I'm starting to think the iPod is a true high-end audio component. What's changed? I heard it in my high-end system, docked into Wadia's 170i Transport ($379). I can now testify to the iPod's bona fides.
Thing is, an iPod, even one loaded with uncompressed AIFF or WAV files, isn't all by itself a high-end component, but teamed with Wadia's 170i Transport, aka, dock, an iPod is elevated to high-end status. The transformation takes place when the Wadia transmits the iPod's zeros and ones to an outboard digital-to-analog (D/A) converter in your A/V receiver, or even better, a standalone high-end D/A. Wadia's claims that the 170i is the first and only "dock" to extract a digital output from an unmodified iPod.
The 170i's digital out sends a 16 bit/44.1 kHz PCM digital signal to a D/A. The 170i does that for MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV files, but just be aware that it converts all but AIFF and WAV to 16/44.1. It can also pass 16/48 PCM, but in most cases 16/44.1 is what you'll get.
According to Wadia's national sales manager, Martin Cooper, iPods store MP3, Apple Lossless, and AAC files in Apple's own digital language, and when an iPod is nestled into a 170i it converts those files to 16/44.1 PCM. That way, the signals can be processed by the D/A in your A/V receiver or high-end D/A. MP3, Apple Lossless, and AAC files will sound "good," just not quite the same as the original CD. In other words, only AIFF and WAV files can be heard with bit-for-bit accuracy over the 170i. … Read more
Samsung Electronics, an arm of the giant Korean company (second only to General Electric in annual revenue among conglomerates), held a press event in San Francisco last week to show off its products for the coming holiday season.
I'd been looking for an excuse to go up to the city, so off I went-- taking Caltrain rather than driving. Conveniently, the Samsung event was just a few blocks from the train station in San Francisco.
It's been 19 days since I tried and failed to get a new iPhone 3G, but today I became eligible for the discounted price, and at 7:50am I was in line at the Apple Store at the Westfield Valley Fair mall in San Jose.
As you can read in my previous post, I couldn't get the usual low price for my new iPhone because I had 19 days left on my current 2-year AT&T service contract. Apple was willing to sell me the phone for an extra $200, but I decided I'd rather wait until today.
I was the sixth person in line, and by 8:00am when the store opened, there were five more iPhone buyers in line behind me.
As we lined up, we received cards from an Apple employee reserving the particular model we wanted. I'd estimate the fellow had about 40 cards. I asked if the number of cards corresponded with the number of iPhones in stock, but he wouldn't say. Another Apple guy followed behind, checking our AT&T upgrade eligibility. I did this myself last night, so I was sure it would be okay this time, and indeed it was.
The doors opened right at 8:00am and… Read more
You have two grand to spend on a fantastic stereo system. Can your cash get you there? Yes, it can!
In this case, we're talking about a headphone-based system, but I will in the coming months cover speaker-based audiophile-grade systems for less than $3,000.
For the headphone system, I'm recommending the Woo Audio WA6 Special Edition vacuum tube headphone amplifier ($1,050) I reviewed in yesterday's blog, along with Grado RS-1 headphones ($695), and Oppo's DV-981HD SACD/DVD-Audio player ($229). All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail price.
Mind you, the Woo and Grado are … Read more
Would you buy a Ferrari for $1,050? OK, how about a $1,050 headphone amplifier?
The Woo Audio WA6 Special Edition headphone amp is built to Ferrari levels of quality and performance. Even before I listened to it, I knew it was going to be amazing.
It's a two-piece design. One chassis contains the power supply, the other is the amplifier proper. The pewter color, die-cast chassis parts are finished to a high standard, fully equal to $10,000 stereo amplifiers I've reviewed, but the WA6-SE is a good deal smaller than your average high-end amplifier. The two chassis together fill just 11.25 inches by 10.25 inches of shelf space.
The WA6-SE is a pure tube design, without a single semiconductor or integrated circuit in the entire amp. It's hand-crafted in New York's Queens borough, and there are no printed circuit boards; all wiring is point-to-point hand-soldered. Woo Audio builds each amp to order, so it can incorporate custom options and offer a wide range of upgraded parts. Current build time is about three to four weeks.
Woo Audio offers an extensive range of headphone amplifiers. Prices start at $470 for the Woo Audio 3; the top-of-the-line WA5 LE runs $2,400. When I heard the $585 WA6 amp a few months ago, I was knocked out by its sound. … Read more
The more time I spend with my new iPhone 3G and the new MobileMe software, the more I find that neither of these upgrades were worth the bother. Now, before you start sending me hate mail, let me be clear:
I still consider the iPhone to be one of the greatest technology inventions of the decade. And the new iPhone 3G is even better than the original. The iPhone 2.0 software, especially the App Store, is a significant leap forward from iPhone 1.1.4. As for MobileMe, on balance (assuming the service can ever … Read more
On Thursday, I attended MobileBeat 2008, a new conference here in Silicon Valley focused primarily on cell phones broad enough to encompass closely related gizmos like Apple's iPod Touch and--at least in theory--mobile Internet devices.
The event was hosted by VentureBeat, where a great many blog posts can be found that go through all the sessions and significant announcements from the conference. (My thanks to VentureBeat writer Dean Takahashi, who invited me to the conference.)
There's something cool going on there for just the next few days. And if you've bought an Amazon Kindle or a Sony Reader--or just like to read e-books on your laptop, cell phone, or other system--you'll want to scoot right over to the "Freebies Bonanza" page. [Update-- this content is no longer available.]