Jack White (White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather) has a cool video demonstrating his "triple-decker," three-records-in-one 12-inch single, "Blue Blood Blues." You have to watch the video to see exactly how the technology works, but let's just say for now it's a 7 inch 45 rpm single glued to one side of a 12-inch single; but the 12-inch can be pried open to retrieve another 45! It's a limited to 300 edition so I'm sure it'll sell out quickly. The Triple-Decker Record is a Jack White invention; and it's assembled by … Read more
High-end audio, just like high-end everything else--cars, clothes, watches, boats--is in large part about style. Sure, high-performance is part of the appeal, but exquisite build quality and eye-catching designs are essential for market success.
With that in mind I put together a nice assortment of some of the more dazzling high-end components currently on the scene.
Magico's speakers are built with solid, massively inert structures designed to ensure the only sound you hear comes from the speaker's tweeter, midrange, and woofer drivers. No other speaker I've heard approaches Magico's resolution and precision. The company's latest designs upped the ante and now feature even more extensive frames designed to quell structure borne resonance to produce the highest-resolution sound possible.
Founded in 1991 by legendary audio designer Nelson Pass, Pass Laboratories, sells its unique amplifiers, preamplifiers and speakers throughout the world. The company has been based in Foresthill, California, since its beginning, and is widely regarded as one of the most innovative audio brands in the world. Many Pass Labs amplifiers, like my XA100.5 are pure Class A designs, and deliver breathtakingly beautiful sound.
The Ayre MX-R mono amplifier (you need two for stereo) is a looker, but pardon me for a second while I get tweaky and gush over the MX-R's zero-feedback and fully-balanced circuitry. Ayre's founder and chief engineer Charles Hansen invests vast amounts of time fussing over the tiniest circuit details, listening obsessively to eke out a sound that gets his designs ever closer to perfection. Some of the MX-R's resistors and capacitors are built to his specifications.
The Krell Modulari Duo Reference is a blatantly original, thoroughly masculine design, but at 44 inches tall, 11 inches wide, and 29 inches deep, it can still fit in average size rooms. Each speaker weighs 345 pounds, it's fair to assume the bulk of the weight can be attributed to its thick-walled aluminum construction. If the goal was to make an absolutely dead cabinet, I'd say Krell has done it. The speaker's design shows a clear aesthetic kinship with Krell electronics.… Read more
Technology can lower the price of a lot of things, but when it comes to speakers, the very best ones are really expensive, so if you want a world-class speaker be prepared to spend well over $10,000.
That said, you can buy a pair of very respectable speakers for less than $1,000. The following list is in no particular order, but since $1,000 is still out of reach for a lot of folks this top 10 will feature speakers ranging in price from $29 up (all speaker prices listed are per pair). And since the prime weakness of affordable speakers is they lack true authority in the bass, I've included one overachieving subwoofer, the Epik Empire to round out this list. I've covered bargains before, but this is the first top-10 list for speakers that sell for $1,000 or less.
Zu Audio Omen ($999). Zu is one of my all time favorite American speaker manufacturers, but they've never made a speaker as affordable as the Omen, which will be released November 1 for $1,500. The speaker is finished in real maple veneer and manufactured in Ogden, Utah. Zu speakers are extremely dynamic, lively performers, and they produce razor-sharp imaging. Right, $1,500 is priced over my self-imposed limit for this top-10 list, but for just this week (ending September 17) the company is taking preintroduction orders for the Omen for just $999.99, saving you $500! Zu is selling the Omen with a 90-day money-back guarantee.
Magnepan MMG ($599) This 4-foot-tall, 1.25-inch-thick flat-panel, made-in-the-U.S., bona fide high-end speaker will knock you for a loop. Magnepan's larger speakers, like my reference MG3.6, are only sold through dealers, the MMG is sold direct, and it's a great way to get a taste of what makes high-end audio so special. If you've only heard box speakers, the MMG will be a major treat for your ears.
Dayton B652 ($29) That's not a typo, the Dayton B652 sells for $29 a pair. It was $25 when I first wrote about the speaker a few months ago, but since then a lot of audiophiles on a budget have raved about this little speaker with a 6.5-inch woofer. Seriously, I know a few guys with very high-end speakers who love the B652 and swear its price/performance ratio is off-the-charts good. … Read more
I know it might seem like a crazy idea, but do you ever listen to music without doing anything else? The musicians sweated over the tiniest details of the music and sound when they recorded it, so why not give it your undivided attention? Is music worth savoring?
Then again, it's not just recorded music, a lot of people can't keep their mouths shut at concerts. Sometimes they quiet down at the end of a tune to applaud, and go on yammering when the music starts again. The crowd at City Winery here in New York jabbered their hearts out the night I saw Dr. John in August. I paid more than $100 for the ticket, food, and drink, so I assume everyone else there spent about the same, but more than half the crowd talked, loudly, through Dr. John's long set.
The woman sitting next to me wasn't talking; she was too busy texting and e-mailing, and the light from her phone was hugely distracting. Her boyfriend was into the music, but she was sitting next to me so he wasn't blinded by her phone. They say times are tough, but I can think of better ways of blowing $100 for a night of music you totally ignore.
New York's free outdoor concerts are even worse places to listen to music. The talkers and texters make up an even larger majority of the crowds, even for a classical concert with the Kronos Quartet at Lincoln Center. The sound coming out of the huge PA speakers was surprisingly good, but I couldn't stand the crowd's noise so I left after 20 minutes.
Music, by itself, can't hold the audience's attention anymore; it's just a nice backdrop to other activities. Is there another explanation? I swear I don't remember it always being this way. … Read more
HD Radio is the best way to listen to broadcast radio. AM and FM HD Radio stations simultaneously broadcast analog and digital signals, and these stations can display the song title, artist, and other data. The first HD Radio stations went on the air in 2003. Too bad HD Radio is a secret.
Based in Columbia, Maryland,iBiquity Digital is the developer behind HD Radio. I recently spoke with Bob Struble, HD Radio's president and CEO, to catch up on what's new. Struble told me there are 2,000 stations broadcasting HD Radio in the U.S., and … Read more
Here's proof entrepreneurial spirit is alive and kicking in the U.K.: And Vinyly will press your (or your pet's) cremated ashes into 30 custom LPs, for a rather hefty fee!
You can record anything you want; just don't exceed the maximum playing time of 12 minutes per side. You can use a recording of your voice, play a banjo, or recite your last will and testament. Some And Vinyly customers opt to just press the ashes in the grooves and let the clicks and pops "speak" for themselves. Hey, it's your sound after … Read more
I've referred to the AIX Records "Audio Calibration Disc & HD Music Sampler" Blu-ray in a bunch of my CNET equipment reviews, because it's loaded with terrific-sounding Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio music tracks. AIX refrains from using dynamic range compression, equalization, or signal processing, so the sound is as close to the original session as can be.
Now, with the release of "Goldberg Variations Acoustica" AIX has ventured into producing original 3D video programming. The new Blu-ray was shot with four prototype Panasonic 3D A1 cameras, and the sound was recorded in 96 kHz/24-bit high-resolution audio.
"Goldberg" maintains AIX's high standards for sound quality, but I'm an audio guy, so I called upon two of my video-reviewing CNET colleagues, David Katzmaier and Matthew Moskovciak, to comment on the disc's 3D picture quality. They watched the Blu-ray on a Panasonic TC-P65VT25 display and were generally impressed. They liked the picture's depth, but expressed concerns about visible crosstalk, which can appear as doubled outlines around onscreen objects, such as on the stand-up bass' strings. Katzmaier and Moskovciak also thought the image wasn't as sharp as it could have been. The crosstalk artifacts varied from shot to shot, but Moskovciak still thought the "Goldberg" Blu-ray might be the best live-action 3D picture he's seen "in a home theater setting" (the 3D image quality of "Avatar" in a movie theater was better).
Regarding the crosstalk, Katzmaier said it wasn't the disc's fault, and the crosstalk might not show up on future generations of 3D TVs. "Goldberg" is fully compatible with standard 2D Blu-ray players and displays, so you can enjoy the disc even if you don't own a 3D set. … Read more
Imagine what movies would look like if producers thought everybody was watching their films on iPhones, and never in theaters or big screen TVs. That may be the perfect analogy to how the music business thinks the audience is listening to music.
The root source of the problem is that good-enough sound quality is all most people need, so the record companies and recording engineers don't have any incentive to make great-sounding recordings anymore. Other than a few audiophiles, who would hear them? The engineers have to "dumb down" the recordings to sound passably good on ear … Read more
Yesterday, there were jitters at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for Apple's media event that the company would discontinue the iPod Classic ($249) without providing a direct replacement. No worries, however, as the seventh-generation 160GB machine remains in the line, unchanged--and that's a good thing. It sounds awfully nice, for a portable device.
I can tell you this: The 160GB Classic smokes my reliable, but ancient, 15GB third-generation iPod. Loaded with identical files, the 160GB has better defined, deeper bass and it has a clearer overall sound with my Monster Turbine Copper in-ear headphones.
Better, much … Read more
We all know subwoofers make bass. Big subwoofers, like the $799 Epik Empire, can sport massive 15-inch woofers and a Class D 600-watt power amplifier, all packaged in a 22x18x24-cabinet. The Empire's 120-pound weight might be a not-so-subtle indication that it's solidly built.
But Eminent Technology's TRW-17 Rotary Woofer ($12,900) doesn't have a cone-type woofer or a box or cabinet. No, the TRW-17 looks like a high-tech fan. And when you turn it on, the fan's blade spins just like a fan, but it's a bona-fide subwoofer. It produces deeper and more powerful … Read more