Some audiophiles swear that cables can make or break the sound of their hi-fis, while others poo-poo the idea and use the cheapest hardware store wires. The debates have raged for years, but the only way to really know for sure is to try a set of high-end cables in your system. When I sold hi-fis for a living, I convinced a lot of reluctant customers to buy a set of cables, with the promise I'd refund their money if they didn't hear a difference. The majority of them kept the cables; even some of the most skeptical … Read more
A lot of audiophiles love tube amplifiers, and I've owned my share, but I don't currently have tubes in my main hi-fi system. I instantly remembered what I was missing when I hooked up the Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum integrated amplifier with my KEF LS50 speakers. They're good together.
Before founding Rogue Audio in 1996, Mark O'Brien worked for Bell Labs and other companies doing electronics development, lasers, and transformer design. Like so many audio designers I've met over the years, O'Brien started building amplifiers when he was a little kid. Audio is a … Read more
When I dropped by the Oswalds Mill Audio (OMA) showroom/loft space, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'd heard OMA speakers at hi-fi shows and was always impressed by the sound, but the full immersion OMA experience was a very different trip. The wildly retro-futuristic designs looked more extreme than I remembered them. Jonathan Weiss, OMA's founder and CEO and also my tour guide put on quite a show, but not by hammering my ears with a high-decibel attack. I have no doubt Weiss' huge Imperia four-way horn speakers and 21-inch subwoofer could easily reproduce … Read more
I can't name one truly high-end preamp with tone controls, and that's because most audiophiles wouldn't dream of altering the signal in any way. Home theater buyers see things differently, so virtually all AV receivers have bass and treble controls and many employ auto setup programs that feature extensive speaker and room correction processing. Some say the processing improves the sound. Personally, I'm far from convinced these calibration systems really do that, they change the sound, but the results are too inconsistent to be counted on. If your receiver has auto setup, try turning it off, … Read more
Last Wednesday, I went to the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU to meet with Young Guru. He was in New York with The Recording Academy's Grammy U 13-city tour visiting colleges across the country. The tour started on April 8 in Philadelphia and concludes on April 28 in Memphis. Young Guru has collaborated with Beyonce, Drake, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and Snoop Dogg, among others.
I didn't know how much time I would have with the engineer/producer/DJ, so I went straight to the heart of the matter and asked him to define what good … Read more
The Wilson Alexia speakers and Dan D'Agostino electronics in the Innovative Audio room at the New York Audio Show stopped me in my tracks. I heard a lot of great gear at the show, but the sound in that room was closer -- a lot closer -- to the sound of the real thing than anything else. The system had a "this is happening now" quality that takes you back to the recording session, proof that cutting edge high-end gear is getting better all the time. Yes, ubergear prices are in the stratosphere, but there were plenty … Read more
I heard through the grapevine that the Mal Valve Head Amp Three takes headphone sound to the next level, so I had to check it out for myself. I brought two of my best headphones to the Audioarts NYC showroom to audition the amp, and it really was an ear opener. "Space" was the first thing I noticed, the Mal Valve decodes spatial cues in recordings better than any amp I've heard to date; and the resolution, clarity, and purity of the sound were all superlative via my Audeze LCD 3 headphones. The Mal Valve frees up … Read more
Subwoofers are used in most home theater systems, but subs can also radically improve the sound of stereo systems -- and not just the ones with small speakers. Subs can provide a foundation to the sound that few speakers can muster on their own. So adding a sub is not just about adding more and deeper bass; rather, a properly integrated subwoofer can improve the overall sound of the system.
The No. 1 question I get from readers is something along the lines of "What's the best speaker?" Some readers include a price range, which is a huge help, but there are a lot of factors that should be considered when selecting a speaker. Or to be more precise, a speaker system.
Speakers "play" the room, so room size and acoustics should be taken into consideration when buying speakers. The pair of 8-inch tall speakers that might sound great in a 10-by-12-foot bedroom probably won't cut it in a 25-by-40-foot living room, where you … Read more
I get asked this question a lot: "Does anyone still make great-sounding affordable CD players?" Sure, most of the major brands do, but only NAD currently offers a large slate of players starting with the $300 C 516BEE, and it's a honey.
Before we go any further I want to first clarify why I'm reviewing a CD player in 2013. Despite the naysayers the CD isn't "dead," far from it. Music lovers are still buying hundreds of millions of CDs every year. Download sales just barely surpassed sales of physical music (CDs, LPs, … Read more