OK, so maybe 100 bucks or less isn't cheap in the scheme of things, but when you take into consideration that some of the most highly rated, excellent-sounding in-ear headphones can cost more than $400 (or, if they're custom molded, close to a grand), a $75 pair suddenly doesn't seem so pricey. Plus, can you really put a price on great sound quality? Chances are, you're not getting it from the cheapo stock earbuds that most manufacturers include with their MP3 players.
NAD is a lesser well-known brand than Denon, Marantz, Onkyo, Pioneer, or Sony, but in my opinion NAD makes better-sounding electronics.
Introduced in the late 1970s, NAD's 3020 quickly became one of the best-selling integrated stereo amplifiers of all time. Not just because it sounded better than anything going for two or three times its humble MSRP, the 3020 had that special something that made it, well, lovable. Over the years NAD maintained its leadership position by consistently designing great-sounding, unpretentious products.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending an advance preview of NAD's upcoming Master Series M2 Direct Digital Amplifier ($5,999). Yikes, the price was a lot higher than I expected, but don't worry, NAD still makes affordable electronics. Its 40 watt per channel C 315BEE stereo integrated amp goes for $349. It's impossible to beat for the price.
But the M2 is something else again. NAD claims it's not just another digital amplifier, and that's a good thing. I've heard some really nice digital amps over the years, but most don't cut it for serious audiophiles. It's not so much that they sound bad, just kind of bland. They gloss over detail and make everything sound the same.
So the first thing I noticed about the M2 was its resolution and clarity. In other words if I didn't know it was digital, I wouldn't have guessed. It's right up there with the better high-end amplifiers. The M2 is a 250 watt per channel stereo integrated amp.… Read more
The MP3 player market has done nothing but benefit from the decline in flash memory prices. One of many examples can be found in the Samsung Q2, a plain-looking device that comes in 8GB and 16GB versions for just $99.99 and $129.99, respectively.
The Q2 is priced well below its competitors--particularly the 16GB version--and it delivers an excellent value, thanks to good sound quality and a nice array of handy features. However, we're not too taken with the player's design.
Last year's HDTVs are yesterday's news, but great audio designs, like Vandersteen's Model 1C floor-standing speaker ($995/pair) stick around for decades.
Richard Vandersteen designs speakers for buyers who care more about sound than fashion. His stuck-in-the-1980s styling isn't a calculated stab at retro. The handsome 1C tower speaker was originally introduced in 1981 as the Model 1, and the "C" iteration debuted in 1996. No matter, it still sounds better than any speaker I've heard near the 1C's price. It's as good as it gets for under a grand.
Change for the sake of change isn't an option at Vandersteen, and that extends to bucking the industry stampede to move production offshore. Vandersteen still builds all of his speakers in Hanford, California, and every speaker is tested and measured in the factory's anechoic chamber. That's commitment.
It's a two-way design featuring a 1-inch alloy dome tweeter mounted just above an 8-inch woofer. The speaker is 36 inches high and weighs 44 pounds. Build quality is absolutely superb.
As you can see from the picture, the 1C isn't a conventional "box" speaker; the baffles supporting the drivers were designed to be as small as possible to reduce the reflections that are (unfortunately) part of the sound of conventional speakers.
The audible differences between box speakers and the 1C aren't subtle, so the very first thing you'll notice about the Vandersteen sound is that it's remarkably "open" and dare I say it, it approaches the purity of some high-end panel speakers. It's simply more natural sounding than any box speaker near the 1C's price.
The Vandersteens' soundstage depth is positively addicting; the spacious image isn't just wide and deep, it's also taller than average, which adds to the believability of the sound. … Read more
The Obama administration's fiscal 2010 NASA budget request includes $630 million in additional near-term funding for development of follow-on rockets and spacecraft needed for the agency's post-shuttle moon program, officials said Thursday. But most of the increase is from the administration's economic stimulus package, and projections through 2013 show a $3.1 billion reduction in overall funding for the program compared with 2009 projections.
Unveiling NASA's $18.7 billion 2010 budget on Thursday, acting Administrator Chris Scolese said the Obama administration had ordered an independent review of NASA's plans to replace the space shuttle with … Read more
Make no mistake, the monitors featured in this comparison are cheap! Now, I've been told not to use that word, as it carries with it the connotation that something is "cheaply made."
According to the Free Dictionary, cheap means "relatively low in cost; inexpensive or comparatively inexpensive." That's the most accurate way to describe five "low-priced" monitors I've gathered. Each comes in under $300, with a couple breaking the $200 barrier.
That's right--five speakers for $299--and we're not talking about one of those flyweight packages with itsy-bitsy speakers.
The Fluance SXHTB system features a pair of floor-standing tower speakers, a full-size center-channel speaker, and very decent two-way surround speakers. There's no subwoofer, but the Fluance towers make a lot more bass than tiny satellites, so some buyers won't need to add a sub. I reviewed this system for CNET in 2005, but it's still available.
I'm not claiming the system is a bona-fide giant killer or offers the sort of refined sound you'll find on much more expensive systems. But if you're on a limited budget and have the room for a full-size speaker set, the Fluance SXHTB's combination of credible sound quality and solid construction represent an amazing value.
The entire ensemble is finished in a durable natural beech vinyl wrap (the only finish option). The speakers' robust MDF wood construction cabinets are built to a high standard.
Standing 38.8 inches tall, the towers definitely qualify as full-size speakers, and each one weighs a hefty 33.4 pounds. Each tower's elegantly proportioned cabinet rests on an integrated base, which in turn features adjustable brass feet. The 15.8-wide center speaker is no less impressive, and the surround speakers, which also include bases, are wall-mountable. They're the babies of the package--just 8.8 inches high.
The towers feature dual 6.5-inch poly-coated woofers and a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter. The center channel speaker sports a pair of 4-inch poly-coated woofers and a 1-inch plastic tweeter, while the surround speakers include the same type of woofer and tweeter. All of the speakers are ported designs.… Read more
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is home to so many large heads.
Heads that need nurturing. Heads that needs feeding. Heads that need, just occasionally, to sweat and play and bang.
Now, some of MIT's finest brains will be denied these sources of release.
Yes, in a swathing, thoughtless massacre of all that is good and important in human development, MIT has withdrawn funding for eight crucial sports.
No longer will the men and women of MIT be able to represent the school in ice hockey or gymnastics. No longer will the artificial intelligentsia of tomorrow be able to … Read more
I don't know about you, but I find the hard plastic earbuds that come with most MP3 players to be hideously uncomfortable, not to mention lacking in low end response (and just generally tinny sounding). If you're looking to upgrade your listening experience but don't want to spend too much doing it, it's worth considering the Altec Lansing BackBeat Classic 106 earphones. These in-ear 'buds offer a fairly comfortable design, a durable cloth-covered cable, and reasonable sound quality--all for around $20. Your ears will thank you.
We've spent the last eight weeks testing and reviewing almost two dozen retail fixed-configuration laptops. Those are the specific models you'll find listed in Sunday newspaper sales circulars and boxed up and ready to go at big brick-and-mortar outlets.
In the entry level category, which refers to laptops under $599, you're going to find systems that are functional, but not particularly exciting. Faster dual-core processors and bigger screens are the main reasons to trade up from a similarly priced Netbook. As long as you keep your expectations modest, an entry level laptop can be good for either … Read more