Where are the under-30 audiophiles? I don't know a single one here in New York City. Sure, high-end audio gear can be expensive, but that's no excuse. A pair of Audioengine 2 speakers ($199) and an iPod can sound pretty sweet. Maybe an older relative would be happy to give you a hi-fi or speakers they don't use anymore. There's no shortage of dirt-cheap, decent-sounding gear at yard sales, and there are lots of awesome deals on used hi-fi classics at Audiogon. So high prices can't be the only reason why young people aren't … Read more
Music is all around us, it's just that very few people actually listen to it. Sure, you have music in your car, iPod, or computer, but is the music just a soundtrack to other activities? If music, a la carte, can't hold your attention from time to time you're definitely not an audiophile. Worse yet, you're missing a lot.
Think about it: the people who made the music sweated the details, agonized over the sound, the mix, and the performance for weeks or months. The composer tweaked the work to the nth degree, and still, very, … Read more
Steve's back for one more episode before we head out, but we'll be posting special Yuletide episodes throughout the holiday so you can still get your 404 fix.
Our guest today is CNET's audio expert, Steve Guttenberg, and he brings a list of the most significant inventions of the early 20th century with him.
Wilson will probably be disappointed to see that the electric washing machine isn't included on that list, and neither are antibiotics like penicillin, so you'll have to tune into today's episode to hear the whole story; you might be surprised to hear about which invention changed Steve's life, for better or worse.
Steve also has plenty of suggestions for the top gifts to buy for the audiophiliacs in your life. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get top-quality sound from your devices, and Steve's list of gifts under $100 includes an affordable in-ear headphone from NOX, a pair of bookshelf speakers that can produce audiophile-quality sound for just $29/pair, and a small amplifier that'll add 15 watts of power to your music.
Also be sure to check out Steve's other list of audio devices for the more affluent gift-givers, and have a great holiday, everyone!Episode 731 Subscribe in iTunes audio | Suscribe to iTunes (video) | Subscribe in RSS Audio | Subscribe in RSS Video… Read more
High-end cables are a controversial subject, even among audiophiles. I know an extremely wealthy audiophile who uses cheap hardware store wire in his $200,000 hi-fi system. He thinks audiophile cables don't make a difference, so he doesn't use them. That's fine with me.
When I was a high-end audio salesman I sold a lot of very expensive wires to my customers, including customers that didn't initially believe cables would make any real difference in the sound of their hi-fis. "It's just wire" was the classic rebuke, I've heard it thousands of … Read more
I'm an audiophile and know a lot of 'philes, so I know from where I speak. We share a common passion for music and the gear we play music on. Non-audiophiles don't have a problem playing music over good-enough gear; audiophiles obsess about how the music sounds, almost as much as the musicians who recorded it. Are you an audiophile?
You might be an audiophile if you sometimes listen to music without doing anything else.
You might be an audiophile if you paid more for your hi-fi than your car.
You might be an audiophile if your speaker … Read more
I've been an audiophile for more than 30 years, and from where I stand there's never been a more exciting crop of high-end speakers to choose from. The goal--to make as lifelike a sounding speaker as possible--is exceedingly difficult, but that hasn't stopped a slew of very talented designers from trying. This top-10 list was created without price constraints and is presented in no particular order; the speakers are all exceptional performers (prices listed are for pairs of speakers). They are all currently available models, but I will soon do another top-10 list of the best speakers of the 1950s, '60s, '70s, and '80s.
I did the first "Top 10 greatest audiophile speakers" blog post last year, with a self-imposed price limit of $3,500 per pair (two were under $1,000). Most models are still available, so if you're looking for affordable options, please refer to that list. All of the companies on today's list offer less expensive models.
Hansen Audio Prince V2. This speaker's handsome curves and strong physical presence demands respect--it all but shouts "this is very serious audiophilia"--it's made for those rare souls who would appreciate a world-class speaker small enough to fit in an apartment, with floors strong enough to support the 540-pound weight of a pair of these $39,000 beauties. For my money it's better than Wilson Audio's highly regarded Watt/Puppy speaker.
Naim Ovator S-600. Britain's Naim Audio Ltd. is best known for its amplifiers and CD players, but this new speaker breaks a lot of rules and sounds less like a box speaker than anything on the planet. With super-tight bass, uninhibited dynamic punch, superlative midrange tone, and pure treble, the S-600 is a strong contender on a number of fronts. At $10,450 it's priced near the low-end for today's state-of-the-art speakers. Review to come.
Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference 3.5. A radical update of the Gallo Reference 3.1, with new drivers; the small, 35-inch tall floor-standing speaker projects a huge soundstage. The cast aluminum and stainless steel design feels remarkably solid. Sonically, the Reference 3.5 has the ease and poise of a much larger and more expensive speaker. At $6,000 the Reference 3.5 is the most affordable speaker on this list and offers more than a glimpse of state-of-the-art audio. Sounds great with low-power amplifiers; review to come.
B & W 802 D. Another English contender, and this one's loaded with interesting design tricks, including a synthetic diamond tweeter. The form-follows-function design is drop-dead gorgeous. B & W's top models are favored by audiophiles and recording studios. $15,000.
Wilson Audio MAXX Series 3. More than any other company Wilson Audio dominates the upper-end speaker market. Its held that position for more than 25 years, and now with this 5-foot, 7-inch-tall, 425-pound bad boy, there's no sign that reign will end anytime soon. So sure, the MAXX 3 is brute-force powerful, capable of producing "live" sound volume, in the largest rooms or mansions. That said, the MAXX 3 also plays quiet music with beguiling refinement. It's what any demanding (and wealthy) audiophile would expect a $68,000 speaker to sound like. BTW, the MAXX 3 isn't Wilson's most expensive speaker, not by a long shot. … Read more
Every year product life cycles in the consumer marketplace grow ever shorter and we see ever faster turnover in cameras, phones computers, and so on. On the audio side, the latest and greatest receivers become yesterday's news faster than you can say "HDMI 1.4." It seems like no receiver can stay current for more than a year or so.
Speaker companies show a little more restraint and "refresh" their lines every few years, but even then new models rarely demonstrate actual performance improvements over the previous generations' models. Speaker manufacturer Magnepan doesn't play by those rules; it invests years of development in each of its models before introducing a new speaker. It has to sound better--a lot better--than the outgoing model before it's released to the world.
And not just in the opinion of the designers. New-model Magnepans undergo extensive "blind" listening tests with a wide range of audiophile and non-audiophile listeners (the listeners don't know whether they're hearing the old or new model). The new speaker must consistently score better than the old model before it goes into production.
When I first heard the Magneplanar 1.6 back in 2008 I said it was the best under-$2,000 speaker on the market. Incredibly enough it was 10 years old at the time! The Magneplanar 1.6 has stayed in production for 12 years, but now it's about to be replaced with the new Magneplanar 1.7.
Magnepan, based in White Bear Lake, Minn., builds nothing but panel (boxless) speakers. Not only that, Magnepan designs forgo conventional dome tweeters and cone-type woofers. As I pointed out in my August 14, 2008, blog that's why the company's Magneplanar 1.6 speaker mostly avoids sounding like a speaker. The speaker earned the top position in my Top 10 greatest audiophile speakers blog earlier this year.
The new Magneplanar 1.7 is also a flat-panel design, 64.5 inches tall and a mere 2 inches thick! The new speaker looks a little more contemporary, thanks to its aluminum, wrap-around edge molding. The old model was a two-way design, with a 48-inch-tall aluminum ribbon tweeter and a 442-square-inch mid/bass panel. The Magneplanar 1.7 is a three-way design, with a woofer, tweeter, and super-tweeter. The super-tweeter comes in around 10,000 hertz and is said to produce wider dispersion and better-resolved treble than the Magneplanar 1.6 did.
The other big difference is the Magneplanar 1.7 is a "full-range" ribbon design.… Read more
With Jasmine out on vacation, Donald brings CNET Labs' Eric Franklin into the studio for an epic nerd session on audio quality measurements, including recent test data from the Zune HD and iPod Touch. We've got charts, folks!
Every year, the major record companies produce more miserable-sounding recordings. I'm not surprised by this. The labels know most folks listen to music with iTunes or streaming audio, and sound quality is a low priority for most music listeners. My weekend poll is ample proof of that.
Lyor Cohen, CEO of recorded music for the Warner Music Group, cares about sound, at least at home. He admitted, in so many words, to being an audiophile on the pages of the September 20 New York Times Sunday magazine. The media has been alerted! It's like learning that a fast-food bigwig is a wine snob.
Cohen was Run-DMC's road manager in the 1980s, and he now works with Jay-Z, Madonna, and the Beastie Boys. In the article, Cohen said his hi-fi is his "favorite possession." The Clearaudio turntable pictured in the article is a very high-end German model that "won a gold medal at a consumer technology convention a few years ago." … Read more
Most of you probably think of JBL as a manufacturer of affordable high-performance speakers, but the company offers a truly vast range of consumer and professional models.
The K2 S9900 ($15,000 each) is the best consumer speaker JBL makes. It's a massive thing, weighing in at 182 pounds, and it's armed with a 15-inch woofer, 4-inch magnesium, horn-loaded midrange, and 1-inch magnesium horn-loaded tweeter. It can handle amplifiers as large as 500 watts a channel.
The JBL K2 S9900 will be equally at home in ultra-high-end music and home theater systems.
The K2 was originally developed for … Read more