I remember the very first Woo Audio headphone amp I heard five years ago; it was the $520 WA-3, and they still make it. The little amp made a strong impression because it so radically improved the sound of Grado headphones. That amp transformed Grados, gave them more soul, more body, and sweetness. I've reviewed a number of Woo products over the years, but the new WA-234 Mono is a very different beast. First, it is as the name implies, a monophonic design, so you need two amps for stereo. The other big difference is that these tube amps … Read more
CNN recently reported on the "death" of the home stereo system, and while that's an exaggeration, few people -- young or old -- have "stereos" anymore. CNN was asleep at the wheel on this one; precious few folks have had stereos for decades. Music is now almost always consumed in cars, and over phones and plastic computer or Bluetooth speakers. If there's an imminent "death" on the horizon, it will surely strike MP3 players and iPods. Phones have already taken over as the portable music players of choice. Do you know anyone … Read more
I bought a Linn LP-12 way back in 1978, and used Linn turntables until five years ago, when I bought a VPI Classic. Turntables last practically forever, which is one of my favorite things about high-end audio gear: the best products have incredibly long lives. As I recall, the LP-12's initial claim to fame was conceptual; Linn promoted the idea that the "front-end," aka the source -- a turntable, CD player, or cassette deck -- would make or break the overall sound of a music system. If the source's sound quality was poor to start with, … Read more
There's no denying the Beats by Dre Studio's success, and how it so radically changed the headphone landscape. No other headphone manufacturer could have imagined that it could sell millions of $300 headphones to non-audiophiles. Before Beats those buyers were content with cheap and utterly disposable headphones, headphones that all too often would stop working in a few months, get thrown away, and get replaced with another set of cheap headphones. Of course, those cheap headphones sounded pretty bad, so moving up to the Studio meant the sound was a revelation! Bass, dynamics, and treble detailing were so … Read more
When I first reviewed the 1964 Ears V6 custom in-ear headphones earlier this year I not only loved the sound, I got the distinct feeling the company tries harder to please its customers than other custom in-ear makers. For example, 1964 Ears V6-Stage headphones are sold with a longer warranty (two years) and lower prices than the flagship models from more established high-end headphone competitors. 1964 Ears doesn't make universal-fit in-ear headphones, all of their designs are custom-molded to your ears for the best possible fit and maximum isolation from external noise. The headphones are hand-crafted by 1964 Ears … Read more
"Another Self-Portrait (1969-1971)" is the 10th Bob Dylan Bootleg Series release. I've been a big fan of the series since it started way back in 1991, and this new Bootleg is one of the very best.
The original "Self Portrait" wasn't a high point in the Dylan oeuvre, but over the years I've come to take it on its own terms. Arriving just a few years after Dylan was at his creative zenith as a songwriter, "Self Portrait" was mostly a collection of old and obscure cover tunes, with a smattering … Read more
Right, the name attracts a certain amount of attention, but Schiit is no joke. The California-based company made its name with the very first product, the little Asgard headphone amp, which I enthusiastically reviewed on this blog back in 2010. Since then more Schiit headphone amps and digital converters won raves from me. This time out we're back to the Asgard, in its revised Asgard 2 format. The price is still $249.
Most "sound art" installations leave me cold, mostly because they rarely sound good, and a lot of tech-oriented "art" is more about tech than art. Not this time. When I attended the opening party for "The Forty Part Motet" at The Cloisters on Tuesday, the sound was truly glorious. The artist, Janet Cardiff, took full advantage of the acoustics of The Cloisters' Fuentidueña Chapel. She specified 40 Bowers & Wilkins DM303 speakers (which are no longer in production) for the installation, and they literally "play" the Chapel's acoustics. The … Read more
In 1965 Ray Dolby founded Dolby Laboratories and pioneered the noise-reducing and surround-sound technologies used throughout the film and music recording industries. He died in San Francisco at 80 this past Thursday. Dolby perfectly fit the form of "American Inventor" -- he was first and foremost a problem solver.
Dolby introduced A-Type noise-reduction for professional analog tape recorders in 1965 and it quickly became the de facto, worldwide standard. Three years later Dolby B Type consumer noise reduction followed the same course, and in the 1970s nearly every cassette player featured Dolby processing. Starting in 1975 Dolby Stereo … Read more
Magnepan makes flat speakers, and has been perfecting the technology for more than 40 years. How flat is flat? The Super MMG three-piece system I'm looking at today is a mere 1.25 inches thick! The Super MMG floor-standing speaker is 48 inches high and 14 inches wide; the DWM Bass Panel is 19.25 inches high, 22.5 wide, and, like the speaker, just 1.25 inches thick. The Super MMG and DWM can be that thin because they don't use traditional box cabinets, cone woofers, or dome tweeters; they have "planar" flat drivers, designed … Read more