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
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
There are many types of headphones, and if you understand the pros and cons of each before you go shopping, you'll make a more informed buying decision. Closed- and open-back headphones sound very different and serve different needs. To learn more about how they differ I spoke with two engineers, Sennheiser's Axel Grell and AKG's Philipp Schuster, and thanks go out to them. Today I'll look at open- and closed-back headphones; I covered on- and over-the-ear headphones in yesterday's blog item.… Read more
I get a lot of reader emails seeking recommendations for headphones, and sometimes they'll ask about two very different types of designs. For example, "What should I buy, Sennheiser's on-ear Momentum or the AKG K 712 'phones?" In that case there's no obvious "better" headphone, because they are two radically different types of headphones. The Sennheiser is an on-ear, closed-back design, and the AKG K 712 is a much larger over-the-ear, open-back headphone. It's like asking "What's better, a Ford F-150 Raptor truck or a Porsche 911 Turbo sports car? … Read more
The vinyl boom isn't slowing. Here in NYC, Rough Trade opened a new 15,000-square-foot record store, and the display space is evenly split between LPs and CDs. Vinyl sales were up 18 percent in 2012, and that growth continued in 2013.
To get the best sound from an LP, you need a decent turntable, and the $179 U Turn Orbit I reviewed a few months ago would be a great place to start. The $449 Rega RP1 turntable will get you even closer to audiophile nirvana.
After you buy a nice 'table the next question will be, how … Read more
Meridian Audio may be one of Britain's oldest high-end audio brands. It was founded in the late 1970s, but it was always exploring new technologies. It introduced the world's first high-end CD player in 1984, advanced the state of the art in self-powered speakers, and pioneered digital loudspeakers. The company also developed the lossless compression technology used in many Blu-ray Discs.
So when I heard Meridian was introducing a high-end headphone amplifier, I immediately requested a review sample. When the box arrived, I thought they had sent the wrong piece, it was too small to be a contender, … Read more
If you've laid down serious cash for a great pair of headphones but they're plugged into your phone or computer, you're missing out on a lot of the sound quality you paid for. Don't get me wrong, phones and tablets can sound acceptable, but their designers didn't focus on sound quality -- that's the last thing they worry about. The cure for so-so sound is straightforward: invest in a high-performance digital converter/headphone amp, like the Cypher Labs Theorem 720. It can be used with iPhones, Android phones, or computers via USB connection with … Read more