A few months ago I had the pleasure of reviewing GoldenEar Technology's least expensive home theater system. The SuperCinema 3 ($1,750) comes with five small satellite speakers and a smallish subwoofer, but the sound was big and beautiful. More than that, the sound was distinctly high-end in its flavor. It was easy to tell it was designed primarily for home theater, but for those buyers who also have a hankering for audiophile-quality sound.
In the early 1980s the Boston Acoustics A 40 and A 60 were the go-to speakers for audiophiles on a tight budget. They were hugely popular, and there are still vast numbers of them in circulation.
Well, the smart folks at Boston Acoustics have brought the A Series back, but the new speakers don't share any technology with the original models. The engineers have learned a lot over the decades, and that was immediately obvious when I heard some of the new A Series speakers earlier this week.
The little bookshelf model, the A 26 ($200 each), was sounding a lot bigger than I would have thought possible. For a speaker that measures just 13 inches by 8.25 inches by 10.5 inches, bass was punchy and deep, dynamics were wide open, and the treble was clear. Female vocals sounded especially natural.
These speakers don't need the assistance of a subwoofer to sound full and rich, so they would be a great fit for two-channel home theaters or hi-fi use. I also heard the A 360 towers ($400 each), which produced more and deeper bass, and played louder, but the same sound signature was evident over both speakers. … Read more
Linton Weeks' March 5 National Public Radio article, "Whatever Happened To The Audiophile?" questioned the pursuit of better sound. It was one of too many articles written by an outsider who had no idea of what he was talking about, but that didn't stop Weeks from making his case for the demise of audiophilia. Weeks spoke to the usual suspects--professors, industry spokespeople, and even an audio journalist or two--but the tone of the article was skewed. It presented audiophiles as oddities, people desperately clinging to their hi-fis, while everyone else is happily listening to music over the … Read more
My recent "Are there any young audiophiles?" poll drew a surprisingly strong response from under-20 audiophiles. I was hoping to hear from 20- or 30-something audiophiles, and they were well represented, but a healthy number of younger people are getting into audio!
I bought my first hi-fi when I was 15, so I relate to what Sebastian5495 wrote:
I'm 15 and I view myself as an audiophile. My dad has some truly amazing gear including a beautiful American vinyl player. My dad showed me what good sound is and I really understand it and appreciate it. Heck, … Read more
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