I've always been obsessed with sound, and I've always wanted to hear my music with the best possible sound. It enhances the experience for me, because I can more clearly hear what the musicians are playing, and the subtleties in the mix, so I get more out of the music. That's true at home and for on-the-go listening, and even when I didn't have much money I still managed to put together a pretty good hi-fi. Then again, good sound is in the ear of the beholder, and that beholder may not be so sure about … Read more
I worked as a high-end audio salesman for 16 years and spent another 16 reviewing audio products. Here's what I learned: The very best gear is always expensive. Sure, there are occasional examples of affordable products that are remarkable, but they never get remotely close to what true high-end gear can offer. Beyond price the main thing that separates high-end companies from mass-market brands is high-end designers are all about maximizing performance. Mainstream audio companies rarely try to make the best possible sounding gear. They know that features, wireless connectivity, styling, compact size, cheap pricing, marketing, distribution, etc. -- … Read more
The best I can say about most cheap subwoofers is they make bass. The bass won't be the deepest, most powerful, or the clearest, or blend all that well with most speakers, but all subs make bass. Better subs, like the $449 Hsu Research VTF-1 MK2, generate deeper, less distorted sound, so you can actually hear distinct bass notes, and can play louder and fill larger rooms better than most cheap subs.
While audiophile gear can be quite expensive, picking out a selection of terrific gift ideas that won't break the bank is still doable. Here you'll find books, music, gear, and even a free download that will put a smile on any audiophile's, or music lover's, face. The Audiophiliac had a self-imposed price limit of $100 max and easily met that goal. Seven of the 10 gift ideas are under $50!
My quest for the best-sounding/lowest-cost desktop system is finally over.
First, the caveats: I'm assuming that you, like me, will already have an audio source -- an iPod, smartphone, or CD player -- so I'm not including that expense. And you may need to invest in some speaker wire, which could run you another $10 or so. I also name a handful of optional accessories below that … Read more
I admit it, most of my favorite amplifiers produce enough heat to warm up a room and consume a lot of AC power. "Green," they are not. Class D amplifier designs (the "D" does not stand for digital) are vastly more efficient, and run cool to the touch.
For example, my Bel Canto REF500S power amp ($2,495) puts out 250 watts per channel, and it's a bona fide audiophile quality design. Bel Canto doesn't specifically refer to the REF500S as a Class D amp, but its low-heat, ultraefficient, heavily regulated switch-mode power supply … Read more
You don't have to be an audiophile to appreciate good sound and music, so I've put together a healthy selection of great gift ideas, all priced under $100. I'll soon post another blog with under-$300 gift ideas.
The AIX Records "Audio Calibration Disc & HD Music Sampler" Blu-ray ($25) is loaded with exceptional-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. And with the release of "Goldberg Variations Acoustica" AIX has ventured into producing original 3D video programming. The Blu-ray was shot with four prototype Panasonic 3D A1 cameras, and the sound was recorded in 96 kHz/24-bit high-resolution audio.
My pick for the best full-size headphone for less than $100 is the Grado Prestige Series SR-60i ($79). It's an improved and updated version of the original SR-60, which was a budget audiophile favorite for more than 10 years. The SR-60i sounds great at home or plugged into an iPod. The sound is nice and full, and since the SR-60i is an open-back design, you can hear the world around you. Highly recommended.
If you'd prefer an in-ear headphone, you should get the NOX Audio Scout ($79). The design features "balanced armature technology," which is rarely seen in headphones in the Scout's price class (I actually don't know of any others). It's very comfortable, the flat ribbon cable is as tangle-free as they come, and the sound quality is extraordinarily good.
Paul McCartney & Wings' "Band On The Run" Special Edition is a two-CD, one-DVD set ($30). Recently remastered by the team responsible for the Beatles 2009 remasters, "Band on the run" has never sounded better. The second CD has nine bonus tracks of rare demos and alternative takes. The original remastered album and bonus audio content are also available on a two LP, 180 gram audiophile vinyl edition that comes with an MP3 download of all 18 tracks. … Read more
One of my audiophile pals, Dave King, e-mailed me the other day about his latest find, the Dayton B652 ($25 per pair). It didn't arrive in time for my Top 10 audio bargains blog the other day, or it would have surely been included.
I've known Dave for 20 years, and we've listened to a lot of hi-fis together, so I know he's got great ears. And he knows how to get my attention: "I'm certain I recently discovered the absolute diminishing returns point in hi-fi loudspeakers. They remind me a lot of Wharfedale Diamond speakers of yore, but the B652 has a 6.5-inch midwoofer instead of the Diamonds' 4.5-inch." The original Diamonds were a really big deal in the 1980s; they were easily the best budget speaker of the era, but even then they were more like $60 or $70 a pair. They were probably made in England, the Dayton B652 is built in China.
It's a mid-size, black vinyl-covered monitor speaker, 11.7 inches high, 7.1 inches wide, and 6.5 inches deep. The front baffle hosts a 6.5-inch polypropylene woofer and a 0.6-inch polycarbonate ferrofluid-cooled tweeter. Dave liked the fit and finish well enough, but he wasn't too happy with the Dayton B652's spring-clip wire connectors. I agree, clip connectors never have much grip on the wires, so they can fall out when you move the speakers. I've seen those things on $100 speakers, but on a $25 speaker you can't really complain about spring clips.
One of the Dayton B652's more interesting design features is its acoustic suspension (nonported woofer. I like that because acoustic suspension woofers tend to sound better than ported ones, and Dave was impressed by the Dayton B652's bass definition. The downside to acoustic suspension designs is the bass doesn't go as deep as ported woofers do. The Dayton B652's bass is reasonably flat to 70 hertz, and Dave likes to use subwoofers with most speakers anyway. When I pressed him on the matter he said he thought most folks would be well-satisfied with the Dayton B652's bass on its own. … Read more
Dear readers, while I am a current resident of the great state of California, I will always consider Dayton, Ohio, to be home sweet home. And while it's unfortunate that I am unable to make it home for the Thanksgiving holiday, I have this cute little Web video to remind me of the good-ol' Midwest as CarAndDriver.com takes the 2010 Porsche Panamera for a 24-hour tour of Dayton and its surrounding suburban Ohio neighbors.
The premise here is that the CarAndDriver.com guys are going to take turns driving the 2010 Porsche Panamera sport sedan all around the … Read more