One of the most important factors in selecting the right hi-fi components is room size. If you're lucky enough to have a big living space (over 500 square feet), I'd recommend floor-standing speakers. Big rooms also soak up amplifier power; smaller rooms need a lot less. Here in NYC, most folks live in small apartments, and they'll get terrific sound with midsize bookshelf speakers and small amps.
I'm a big fan of M-Audio's desktop monitor speakers. Their build and sound quality standards, even for their near entry-level models, are exceptional. The new BX5 Carbon retails for $149.99 each.
The vinyl-wrapped, medium-density fiberboard speaker measures 10x7x8 inches. Around back there's a large bass port, so don't plan on placing this guy up against a wall. Each 11-pound speaker has two built-in amplifiers: a 40-watt unit for the 5-inch woven Kevlar woofer and a 30-watt for the 1-inch silk dome tweeter. Rather than use the more common Class D amps, M-audio engineers opted for … Read more
Regular readers of this blog will recognize the Schiit name, I've covered a number of their headphone amplifiers and digital converters over the past few years. The newest little Schiit, the vacuum tube Vali, looks exactly like the company's $99 solid-state amp, the Magni, but the internal electronics are completely different. As I listened to them both and switched back and forth they sounded similar. I listened more and the Vali sounded a wee bit sweeter and richer. Not as big a difference as I would have thought, but different enough.
Even before I listened to the AKG K812 headphones I knew they were pretty special. First, they're so incredibly comfortable that after a few minutes it was easy to forget I was wearing a world-class headphone. One reason for that is with the K812, you never feel like you're cut off from the outside world -- you can hear everything around you. Once I started listening to tunes, that spacious quality remained and stereo imaging was wider and more outside my head than what I get from other headphones. Closed-back designs are always 100 percent closed, but open-backs … Read more
I admit it: most of the time, I'd much rather listen to recorded music than live music. I've seen my share of great shows: the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden, the Pixies at the Beacon Theater, Ray Charles at the Blue Note, the Philip Glass Group at Lincoln Center, Laurie Anderson at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, to name a few. But most live shows aren't worth the ticket price: they're way too loud, too crowded, too hot, too cold, or too something-or-other. The night I saw Led Zeppelin the sound was awful, and when … Read more
On Sunday, February 9, in 1964, 73 million viewers in the US and millions more in Canada watched the Beatles' American television debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show." The band's very first LP, "Meet the Beatles," sold 3.6 million albums in the first two months in the US, and Capitol Records went on to sell 15 million Beatles albums in the States in 1964. These were different albums, with different combinations of songs than the Beatles albums released in England. That separate release pattern continued until June 1967 with the release of the "… Read more
The Rogue Audio Sphinx is a cool-running vacuum tube/Class D hybrid design, but it feels and acts like a classic 1980s high-end integrated amplifier, and that's a compliment. If you need Bluetooth or digital inputs, sorry, the Sphinx won't cut it -- check out the NAD D 3020. That NAD is wonderful, but it doesn't sound like a tube amp. The Sphinx is tonally rich and warm, it's a honey.
The Sphinx is rated at 100 watts per channel for 8 ohm speakers, 200 watts per for 4 ohm speakers. There's no way you … Read more
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, surround-sound music looked like the next big thing, but in the intervening decade and a half, precious little rock, jazz, or world music has been recorded in surround. True, in the early days of SACD and DVD-Audio formats there were hundreds of remixes of older stereo recordings, and some were recycled on Blu-ray, but the number of newly recorded 5.1 titles remains paltry. Looking back, the early 2000s should have been an ideal time to launch surround music; multichannel home theater was peaking, so there was a large number of households … Read more
2014 isn't shaping up as a stellar year for Sony, the company is forecasting losses of $1.1 billion, but I think a serious effort to reestablish its stature as a leading headphone manufacturer might be a wise move. Sony currently offers a vast range of headphone models, but they don't have any truly great ones. With the ongoing boom in headphone sales, you have to wonder why Sony is sitting on the sidelines.
Audioengine is one of those rare companies that gets it right every time. Its desktop speakers excel in a very crowded, highly competitive field, and its digital converters are also strong performers.
Audioengine's latest release, the tiny USB-powered D3 digital converter, continues that tradition. The aluminum body feels nice and solid, and its digital converter can accept 24-bit/192KHz audio. The headphone amplifier works with low- and high-impedance headphones. Alternatively, you can run a set of powered desktop speakers, such as Audioengine A2+s or A5+s, directly from the D3's headphone jack.
The D3 was designed to … Read more