As we move further away from our analog roots and become more entrenched in digital music, what are we to do with the forgotten musical instruments of yesteryear? Austin, Texas, artist and art teacher Christopher Locke has an idea. He salvages old horned instruments to create incredible audio players for the most ubiquitous digital music devices around. … Read more
Shure is one of the leading professional microphone manufacturers, and it makes terrific headphones, but my first brush with a Shure product was with one of its phono cartridges in the early 1970s. Shure cartridges were known for their superior tracking ability, and had lower distortion than most competitors. Shure now offers a full line of consumer and DJ phono cartridges.
I recently chatted with Shure's Michael Pettersen to learn more about how to get the best sound from any phono cartridge, and his first order of business was keeping the "needle" in the groove.
Pettersen says … Read more
I've frequently raved about Woo Audio's all-tube headphone amplifiers in this blog, so I was surprised to see that the company's new WDS-1 digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is a solid-state design. Woo still offers the full line of made-in-New-York-City headphone amplifiers, with prices starting at $495.
There's also a new matching WPT-1 CD transport. Build quality is superb; these components have the sort of detailing you see on high-end gear that sells for two or three times the price of Woo's products. Each unit is 9 inches wide and 13 inches deep so they can be … Read more
The iPhone and iPad are truly elegant designs, but they are the rare exceptions in the rather drab world of consumer electronics. Most cameras, printers, computers, home theater receivers, and speakers are pretty sedate, but there is one product category that stands out: turntables. I've picked a choice selection that represents remarkable achievements in industrial design, and they're highly functional, exquisitely engineered products.
The Redpoint Model A turntable has an aluminum and composite Teflon platter, damped by silicone oil, and the turntable features a battery-powered 12-volt DC motor with precious metal brushes. The turntable weighs 90 pounds.… Read more
If you think a lot of audio has become far too complex, check out the Halide Design digital-to analog converters (DACs). They're plain black boxes, without even a single LED, display, control, button, or connector jack (the DACs come with permanently attached USB and RCA cables).
The elegant simplicity of the Halide Design DACs is a brilliant alternative to most of today's overly complex gear. They have just one function--zeros and ones go in at one end--and analog signals come out the other end. The little Halide black boxes are the best-sounding DACs I've heard on my … Read more
No doubt about it, Nuforce makes audiophile products that don't conform to the old paradigms. Take a look at the Dia digital integrated amplifier. It's downright tiny, accepts only digital sources like CD, DVD, or Blu-ray players, or an Apple TV, flat-screen TV, game, or cable box. How tiny is the Dia? Just 6 inches by 4.5 inches by 1 inch; and man that's really small. It has one RCA coaxial and two Toslink optical digital inputs. The onboard digital-to analog converter accepts up to 192kHz/24-bit sources, and the analog switching stereo 24 watt per … Read more
Remember the iCade? It's the iPad gaming cabinet that started out as an April Fool's joke, but then evolved into a real product.
Neat, but at $99.99, it's not exactly an impulse buy--and it leaves Android, iPhone, and iPod Touch gamers out of the fun.
Enter ThinkGeek's latest retro-gaming accessorry, the iCade 8-Bitty. It's a handheld analog controller that closely resembles the old Nintendo NES controller--minus the cord. The 8-Bitty works wirelessly (via Bluetooth, I'm guessing, though ThinkGeek doesn't specify).
And it works with nearly all Android and iOS phones and tablets, … Read more
The CD format is fast approaching its 30th birthday, so if you're under 40, there's a good chance you didn't grow up playing LPs.
I'm over 40 and still play and buy new records, but I'm curious about why younger people are getting into vinyl. Is it the sound, the feel, or the satisfaction of holding a nice hunk of vinyl in your hands? Here in NYC there are lots of places selling new LPs. I can't help but notice the vast majority of the titles are from young bands, and are bought by … Read more
I get this question a lot, "Steve, what's the best-sounding Blu-ray player." Sometimes the questioner is more specific, "I have an Oppo BDP-83, but is the Oppo BDP- 95 better? What are you using at home?"
I have an Oppo BDP-95 ($999), which has a lot in common with the company's BDP-93 ($499) 3D universal Blu-ray, SACD, DVD-Audio player, but the BDP-95 is the potentially better sounding player. I say potentially because that player's upgraded digital-to-analog converter and audio circuitry won't make a nit of difference if you're using the player'… Read more
High-end audio doesn't always mean the most ridiculously expensive gear, just gear designed with sound quality as the top priority.
Mainstream audio products aren't designed that way; they're sold mostly on the basis of features like Bluetooth or AirPlay that consume an ever larger part of the design engineer's focus and budget. No, high-end audio in its purest form is all about superlative sound. Jolida's JD-9 tube phono preamplifier is such a design.