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
I had my first glimpse of the Raidho Acoustics' sound at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver in October, but the Denmark-based company's demo didn't click for me. That's not uncommon; show conditions and hotel rooms may not be the best environments to hear state-of-the-art sound.
Then just last week I heard a pair of Raidho C 3.1 speakers ($39,000) at a friend's home in New York, and the sound was a revelation. We played an unreleased and 100 percent uncompressed audiophile recording of a solo piano, and the purity and clarity were … Read more
Even before you hear KEF's new LS50 speaker, there's no doubt it's a unique design. The speaker's single "rose"-color driver sports radial fins, and the cabinet has a swept-back front baffle. I've never seen anything quite like it before. The speaker stands 11.9 inches tall, 7.9 inches wide, 10.9 inches deep, and weighs 15.8 pounds. The MDF cabinet has the build quality of a very high-end design. The sound is just as extraordinary as the look, and the LS50 can be used as a desktop monitor or as … Read more
Most audiophiles don't self identify as audiophiles. I suppose that's because audio is something of a guilty pleasure, best enjoyed solo, and that's part of the problem. Wine aficionados or guys that collect Corvettes aren't shy about their pursuits, but audiophiles have a hard time admitting they love gear.
Audiophiles are the other "one percent." We might be the only people listening -- really listening -- to music at home; the other 99 percent don't. They have music "on," in the background. To me, owning expensive gear doesn't make you … Read more
The LP was invented in 1948, and judging by the sales surge over the past few years, LPs won't be going away anytime soon. Amanda Ghassaei's "3D Printed Record" project demonstrated vinyl's continuing relevance in the 21st century. Years ago when I saw an early demonstration of 3D printing, I knew the technology would eventually lead to printing LPs, but now it's a little closer to becoming a reality. First, however, there are major sound-quality issues to overcome with 3D printed LPs (though they can play tunes with fidelity that's far below MP3 … Read more
I've long admired Pro-Ject turntables, but I was only vaguely aware of their electronics line so it was high time to check out one of their amplifiers. I requested their baby amp, the Stereo Box S ($299). It's the smallest power amp I've ever seen, a mere 4.1 by 1.4 by 4.8 inches, and the build quality of its all-metal chassis felt robust. The amp is available in silver or black finishes. A remote control adjusts volume and switches between two RCA inputs. The gold-plated speaker binding posts are really pretty small, and so … Read more
I've covered a lot of great sounding budget gear this year, but the very best audio is far from cheap. That's hardly unique to high-end audio; the best cars, cameras, and clothes are always pricey, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that cutting-edge audio can be crazy expensive. What follows is a list of most astonishing gear I listened to this year. I love my job!
Sound bar buyers' performance expectations are pretty low; all the 'bar has to do is sound better than the lousy speakers that are built into their TVs. So if that's all you need, a sound bar will get the job done -- but there are better-sounding alternatives, starting with a pair of self-powered Audioengine A2 ($199) speakers. The A2s are terrific, but the Paradigm Millenia CT ($700) is a 2.1-channel subwoofer/satellite system, and it sounds better than the Audioengines. A lot better, and it's really pretty amazing.
Spread 64 inches apart, the Millenia sats produced a … Read more
A great-sounding recording will sound its best only when it's properly mastered to LP, SACD, DVD-Audio, or a high-resolution file. Those formats will reveal the full glory of the music in ways that lower-resolution formats like MP3 or analog cassette always miss. But if you didn't have access to the high-resolution file to compare it with, a great recording will still sound pretty terrific as an AAC, M4A, or 320kbps MP3 file, because the recording's innate quality would shine through. On the other hand, a heavily compressed, processed and crude recording will always sound heavily compressed, processed … 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.