Most of the headphones I've tested over the years weren't designed to have a neutral balance of bass, midrange, and treble frequencies. Manufacturers are well aware that most people like bass, and that buyers tend to favor one headphone over another based on how much bass it produces. I think that's obvious, but a recent study cited in Brent Butterworth's blog countered that assumption. "The Relationship between Perception and Measurement of Headphone Sound Quality," a paper by Sean Olive and Todd Welti presented at last October's Audio Engineering Society convention found that a … Read more
Desktop digital-to-analog converters keep getting better and better, and the Micromega MyDac is a fine example of the breed. The 24-bit/192-kHz MyDac has three digital inputs: coaxial, optical, and USB, all selectable via the thumb wheel control on the front panel. The stereo RCA analog outputs can feed either your powered speakers or power amp. I was pleased to see the MyDac has a built-in power supply, so it doesn't use a wall wart. Micromega will soon release a matching headphone amp, which I hope to review here with the MyDac. Available in black or white finishes, its … Read more
Music, or should I say most recorded music, is already free; you can get it whenever and wherever you want it and pay nothing.
I've bought thousands of CDs, SACDs, LPs, and a few hundred downloads. Of course, when I started buying music I didn't have too many "free" options, other than radio or taping friends' albums. Radio was a great way to discover new music, but once I heard something I really liked, I bought it. My $3.98 "Led Zeppelin II" LP was a great investment; I've played it hundreds of … Read more
High Resolution Technologies makes some of the very best and most affordable digital-to-analog converters on the market. The company's newest model, the MicroStreamer, is a tiny thing, just 2.5 inches by 1.2 inches by 0.4 inch, and since it's USB-powered it doesn't have a power supply or require batteries. It works as an external sound card for computers, tablets, and some smartphones. It's also a high-quality headphone amplifier. It was designed in the U.S., and the little guy's circuitboard's components are mounted in Southern California. The aluminum case is made … Read more
More and more people are getting into vinyl and buying turntables, but to get the best sound you need to buy a separate "phono preamp." Some entry-level turntables come with built-in preamps, and that's a great way to get started, but if you want to really bask in all-analog glory you'll need to step up to a separate phono preamp. Look around on Amazon and you'll see a vast range of models, and some are decent enough, but they're not going to sound as good as a high-end phono preamp.
The thing to understand … Read more
I was bowled over by Anthony Gallo Acoustics' original Reference Strada when I heard it at a hi-fi show a few years ago. The small speakers projected a sound that rivaled the scale of big, flat-panel speakers, like my Magnepans. I never got around to reviewing the Strada, but when I heard that the Reference Strada 2 was coming out I let the company know I wanted a pair ASAP.
Unboxing the speakers it was impossible not to be impressed by the solidity of the cast-aluminum chassis and brushed stainless-steel spheres. The Strada 2 is 13.5 inches tall, and … Read more
There's no doubt that the best of today's receivers sound great and come jam-packed with a vast range of features. Even entry-level models paired with a decent 5.1 speaker/subwoofer system can do a fine job, but some buyers aim higher. They may have invested in a 65-inch or larger display, or maybe a video projector and a 120-inch screen. They crave a sound that matches the grandeur of the picture, and they can get that only with separate components like the Outlaw Audio Model 975 Surround Processor and Model 7125 Power Amp.
The Model 975 Surround … Read more
Pop a properly manufactured CD into a CD player, and you'll hear music in a second or two. In more than 30 years of playing CDs I've never once encountered scanning, searching, or error messages; after I press "Play," the music starts. Stick a properly manufactured DVD or Blu-ray in a working player, and you always have to wait a while to start watching the movie -- or it might not play at all. You might have to do a firmware update to play the disc. With DVDs and Blu-rays, there's no such thing as … Read more
To be honest, I've never heard a Bluetooth speaker I liked, because better sound was available from wired speakers, like the AktiMate Micro model. They're sold in pairs for $499, so you get true stereo sound, a rarity even with higher-end Bluetooth and most other wireless alternatives like the $600 Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air, $600 Bose SoundDock 10, or $399 Sonos Play:5. Those three are perfectly fine for what they are, but wired stereo speakers from Audioengine, Emotiva, and AktiMate sound better, much closer to what I hear from traditional hi-fi speakers. True, they're not … Read more
I suppose it's still a fair assumption that more people listen to music than movies with headphones, but there has to be a growing audience listening to movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos via their headphones. Thanks to the booming popularity of tablets, might the ratio of movies-to-music listening time be moving away from music? Or not?
I watch a lot of movies at home with headphones on. They present a level of detail that you can get from speakers only when you play them really loud. With headphones, I don't have to crank the volume. They're … Read more