I get a fair number of promo CDs in the mail, but don't be jealous, most of them are instantly forgettable or just awful, and only a few are worth a second listen. Greg Garing's self-titled CD was an immediate standout, and its rootsy, blues-infected grooves hit me hard. The music has a lot of soul, and sounds like it was made by a group of really talented players who were having a good time together. That happens so rarely nowadays I had to learn about how the record was created.
Most headphones have tiny dynamic drivers, basically miniaturized versions of the drivers used in box speakers. The Audeze LCD-2 features a completely different technology: it uses thin-film planar magnetic drivers. I first checked out the Audeze LCD-2 headphones last year and absolutely loved them. The company redesigned the drivers to produce even better sound, made the earpads thicker, and now covers the headband in real leather. I found the sound improvements of the revised model significant enough to warrant a new review.
The styling is bulky and retro, but the quality feel of the LCD-2 is more than skin deep; … Read more
Not every album is a song cycle or designed to be listened to as a complete work of art. But the songs were more or less recorded in the same time frame, and someone tried to create a musical flow, from one song to the next.
Some musicologists cite Frank Sinatra's 1958 album, "Only the Lonely," as the first "concept" album, for its sustained theme of late-night moods and melancholy. There were probably earlier pop song cycles, but it was definitely the Beatles' "Sgt Pepper" and the Who's "Tommy" that … Read more
Desktop audio has never been important to me. I already have a high-end hi-fi in my apartment, so while I occasionally play music on my Audioengine P4 speakers that live on my desktop, I'm not really listening. The music is just there in the background. When I want to listen, I turn on my hi-fi.
That's me, but for some 21st-century audiophiles, the computer is the primary music source at home. That's why Magnepan has designed the all-new Mini-Maggie system. I was the very first reviewer to audition it, and to say I was impressed would be … Read more
This Top-10 list of great-sounding solid-state and vacuum-tube amplifiers includes headphone amps and vintage models. Most are light on features, so if you need autosetup, GUI menus, AirPlay, iPod/iPhone/iPad compatibility, home networking, HD Radio, Bluetooth, HDMI switching, digital-to-analog converters, Dolby and DTS processors, that's not the main plan. The focus is on amps that provide the maximum sound quality for a minimal investment, but I included one receiver with some of those goodies.
I'll do a top-10 affordable speaker list soon.
Dayton Audio DTA-1 Amplifier ($40)
It weighs almost nothing, looks cheap and flimsy, but Dayton'… Read more
It's a powerful fantasy: the totally wireless hi-fi or home theater speaker system. If such a system were to exist, it would not only receive music signals wirelessly, but also AC power to run its internal amplifiers.
"Wireless" speakers always have an AC power cable (wire) that needs to be plugged into the wall. Normal "wired" speakers get the music over the wire, and the power that travels over the same wire from the amplifiers in your AV receiver. So if you're keeping score, you'll see that wired and the best wireless speakers … Read more
Audio Research Corporation (ARC), based in Minnesota, was in the vanguard of the American high-end audio movement in the early 1970s. By then mass-market transistor electronics had all but killed off the vacuum tube, but ARC's founder, William Z. Johnson, not only believed his tube amplifiers sounded better than solid-state gear, he thought tubes were technically superior. That's why ARC billed itself as a "high-definition" company since its start, decades before HDTV came on the scene. ARC was in large part responsible for starting the tube renaissance, and time has proven Mr. Johnson correct, as there … Read more
Thanks to streaming services and file sharing, there's little incentive to purchase music anymore. Everybody knows CD sales have been falling for years, but as soon as the record labels stop making CDs, their value will skyrocket.
Sure, there's still a sizable market for CDs, but if sales continue to decline I think the labels should offer a very limited run of each CD title on its original release, say a few thousand discs, with beautifully printed booklets and packaging, and auction them on eBay. When they're gone, they're gone. Prices would go through the roof, … Read more
It seems more than a little strange to me, but iPod speakers are really popular. This much I do understand, people love their iPods, and if they don't have a hi-fi system an iPod speaker might look like the best way to go. At $599 (MSRP) Monitor Audio's i-Deck 200 is priced at the upper end of the market, and competes with the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air ($599), Bose SoundDock 10 ($599) and the Monster Beats by Dr. Dre Beatbox iPod Dock ($449), but are any of these worth the money?
For most buyers of high-end iPod … Read more
Anyone can listen to music on $10 computer speakers, free earbuds, or a crappy car audio system. The only thing a good-quality hi-fi brings to the party is sound quality, which is something fewer and fewer people really care about. For audiophiles, sound is a big turn-on, and I figured that out when I was 13 or 14 years old. I was always saving up to buy better-sounding gear, and would spend my nights reveling in the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Doors albums. The sound was so fresh, and the layers of textures and spatial effects were endlessly fascinating. … Read more