I occasionally check in with local high-end audio dealers to see what's new, and they're never at a loss to demonstrate something to catch my ear. Th listening rooms at Audioarts have been refreshed since my last visit, and the store is now the best appointed shop in town. Audioarts doesn't cover entry-level or midrange gear, but there are plenty of other shops covering that market here in New York City.
Grammy Award winning recording engineer Bruce Swedien received his first nomination in 1962 for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' "Big Girls Don't Cry," and Swedien went on to record and mix most of Michael Jackson's albums, including "Thriller," the best-selling album of all time. Swedien also worked with Donna Summer and has been nominated for a total of 13 Grammys.
I know, times being what they are for the music business, it seems like a crazy, even contrarian thing to do. But Rough Trade just opened a 15,000-square-foot record store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York. The store only sells new CDs and LPs, no used stuff, along with various music-related merch like books and magazines.
Rough Trade NYC is a big, wide-open, converted warehouse space -- it feels like it's been there for a long, long time. Rough Trade has a similar, but much smaller, shop in London, which opened in 2007, and it's doing fine. … Read more
When I first set eyes on the Koss KTX Pro 1 headphones I wasn't expecting much. The silver plastic on-ear has an all-too-generic look, but as soon as I started listening the sound had my full attention; they were very decent! Most cheap on-ears sound claustrophobic and pinched, but the KTX Pro 1's sound was big and spacious. The 60-ohm design is exceptionally comfortable, and the foam ear pads exert minimal pressure, so you can wear these things for hours without fatigue setting in. Like all budget headphones the KTX Pro 1's cable lacks an inline mic … Read more
I go way back with NAD amplifiers; I sold dozens of NAD's 3020 amps in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was working as a high-end audio salesman. The 3020 lacked the visual pizzazz of the Sony, Onkyo, Pioneer, and Yamaha amps of the time, but the 3020 was hailed by critics and consumers as the best-sounding budget amp of the era. It went on to become the best-selling amp of the time. Not bad for a company that no one in the US had heard of a few years earlier.
In the here and now we … Read more
My advice to speaker shoppers who prioritize sound quality is go for a good set of big speakers. They conjure the sound of music more realistically than tiny ones. I know all too well that most folks settle for something smaller, and usually it's a case of the smaller, the better. That's why designers are always trying to get bigger sounds out of smaller speakers. Enter the Vanatoo Transparent One, a 10-inch-tall powerhouse armed with a 5.25-inch aluminum woofer, a separate rear-mounted 5.25-inch passive radiator, and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter. This little speaker made a … Read more
I was smitten with the Coffman Labs G1-A stereo preamplifier, even before I heard it make a sound. I'd seen pictures of the preamp online and it looked fine, but once I saw it in person I knew it was one of the most beautiful audio components on the market. The feel of the control knobs and the metalwork's fit and finish are state of the art. Granted, the G1-A is priced accordingly, but just as with high-end cars, watches or cameras, with purist audio design build quality is just as important as performance.
Still, I wouldn't … Read more
When I first spotted the Sony MDR SA5000 headphones at a local Head-Fi meeting in Bayside, Queens, my first impression was that it was eerily similar to Sennheiser's HD 800 headphones. The MDR SA5000 is clearly derived from Sony's old flagship $3,000 Qualia Q10 headphones; both Sonys were first announced in 2004. The HD 800 was introduced in 2009.
The magnesium-framed, open-back MDR-SA5000 is superlight (260 grams) and remarkably comfortable. The real leather earpads' head-clamping pressure is oh-so-gentle, and the sound is remarkably detailed, spacious, and open -- I found the MDR-SA5000 extraordinary in those regards. I … Read more
I've always had a lot of audiophile friends, based in part on our shared common fascination with the sound of music. Sound appreciation and owning a great hi-fi definitely aren't essential to enjoy tunes, but the connection to music can feel stronger when you focus on the sound, the sound the musicians worked on for weeks or months to get just right.
Beau R. is a kindred spirit; we met a few months ago and I was impressed with his relaxed attitude. Over the years he'd assembled a hi-fi that made music sound the way he wanted … Read more
I've always had a soft spot for great-sounding big speakers, like the SVS Ultra Tower. It stands 45 inches tall, and the cabinet has a unique, aggressively styled trapezoidal shape. Decked out in a gleaming piano-black finish or black oak veneer, the Ultra Tower projects a distinctly high-end aura; it looks a lot more expensive than it really is. The three-way design features a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter sitting between twin 6.5-inch composite glass-fiber midrange drivers, and mounted on the lower side flanks, a pair of 8-inch woofers. All three drivers are proprietary SVS designs. The speaker weighs … Read more