In the 1970s, the U.S. audio market was dominated by American-made products. Case in point: the original Dynaco A-25 speaker, introduced at the end of the previous decade, sold really well. The oft-cited sales number was something like 1,000,000 speakers sold.
Annandale Acoustics took the original Dynaco as the inspiration for its A-25 XL2. It's not a replica per se, more like the A-25 XL2 is a pumped-up version of the original concept. The company is selling the speaker directly, with a 30-day in-home audition.
The A-25 XL2, like the original A-25, is a large two-way … Read more
My cure for post-CES information overload is playing music. For me, that means a return to the basics: pop on a LP, sit down, close my eyes, and just listen. Man, that feels good.
Call me a Luddite, but I like well-designed products you don't have to replace every year or so. Unless you have money to burn, why be an early adopter? Why buy a first generation anything? You'll pay a big price for being first, and pay again when trading up for the next "improved" model. I've never heard of anyone who regretted … Read more
I didn't go to CES, but a lot of my friends did. I call them all the time, and they don't seem to be all that jazzed about what they're seeing. "Nothing new" is what I keep hearing, but there were a few juicy tidbits to be found.
The new 3D TVs and Blu-ray players may or may not render the AV receiver you bought way back in 2009 obsolete. I can't get a consistent answer to the question: do you need a receiver with HDMI 1.4 to pass 3D program material to your 3D TV? You may not care about 3D, but if you do please direct your anger at the consumer electronics industry that regularly leaves its client base high and dry. We'll have to see how 1.4 works out.
Ultimate AV magazine was impressed with the Manley Stingray iTube stereo integrated amplifier. Sure, we've seen vacuum tube iPod dock/amps before, but this is the first one with real audiophile appeal. The blue LED displays surrounding the input and volume knobs can be dimmed down or turned off entirely. Manley makes truly stellar tube electronics for audiophiles and the pro market. … Read more
Exoticism and the high-end audio aesthetic ought to be a natural combination, but that's rarely the case. There are exceptions, and when I find them I'll cover them in this blog.
Walking down Crosby Street in SoHo in Lower Manhattan with a few friends, we spotted a trendy shop, BDDW. The window display featured brilliantly designed furniture.
Once inside, it wasn't just the furniture that dazzled, there were quite a few vintage motorcycles on display! Looking further I came upon one of the strangest looking turntables I've ever seen. BDDW was definitely not your average boutique … Read more
If you think all high-end products are stupid expensive or mammoth monstrosities, the MiniWatt vacuum tube integrated amplifier should change your mind. What differentiates high-end gear from mass market technology is performance; mainstream manufacturers know sound quality isn't much of a priority for most buyers, so they build their products to sound just good enough.
By high-end standards at least, the MiniWatt is dirt cheap, just $229 (shipping is $40). And measuring just 5 by 4 inches, the little guy can fit anywhere. Powerful it's not, just 2.5 watts for each channel, but that should be plenty … Read more
Every year product life cycles in the consumer marketplace grow ever shorter and we see ever faster turnover in cameras, phones computers, and so on. On the audio side, the latest and greatest receivers become yesterday's news faster than you can say "HDMI 1.4." It seems like no receiver can stay current for more than a year or so.
Speaker companies show a little more restraint and "refresh" their lines every few years, but even then new models rarely demonstrate actual performance improvements over the previous generations' models. Speaker manufacturer Magnepan doesn't play by those rules; it invests years of development in each of its models before introducing a new speaker. It has to sound better--a lot better--than the outgoing model before it's released to the world.
And not just in the opinion of the designers. New-model Magnepans undergo extensive "blind" listening tests with a wide range of audiophile and non-audiophile listeners (the listeners don't know whether they're hearing the old or new model). The new speaker must consistently score better than the old model before it goes into production.
When I first heard the Magneplanar 1.6 back in 2008 I said it was the best under-$2,000 speaker on the market. Incredibly enough it was 10 years old at the time! The Magneplanar 1.6 has stayed in production for 12 years, but now it's about to be replaced with the new Magneplanar 1.7.
Magnepan, based in White Bear Lake, Minn., builds nothing but panel (boxless) speakers. Not only that, Magnepan designs forgo conventional dome tweeters and cone-type woofers. As I pointed out in my August 14, 2008, blog that's why the company's Magneplanar 1.6 speaker mostly avoids sounding like a speaker. The speaker earned the top position in my Top 10 greatest audiophile speakers blog earlier this year.
The new Magneplanar 1.7 is also a flat-panel design, 64.5 inches tall and a mere 2 inches thick! The new speaker looks a little more contemporary, thanks to its aluminum, wrap-around edge molding. The old model was a two-way design, with a 48-inch-tall aluminum ribbon tweeter and a 442-square-inch mid/bass panel. The Magneplanar 1.7 is a three-way design, with a woofer, tweeter, and super-tweeter. The super-tweeter comes in around 10,000 hertz and is said to produce wider dispersion and better-resolved treble than the Magneplanar 1.6 did.
The other big difference is the Magneplanar 1.7 is a "full-range" ribbon design.… Read more
For those of you with older receivers lacking HDMI connectivity, or perhaps for audiophiles with stereo home theater systems, the Oppo BD-83 Special Edition player is for you.
You see, the new Oppo player handles the digital-to-analog conversion at a higher standard than the original--and still available--BD-83 player. So rather than use its HDMI connectivity you hookup the Special Edition's eight analog (7.1) outputs to the multichannel inputs on older receivers or sound processors. Don't worry if your receiver is limited to 5.1, the Special Edition will work perfectly well with those systems. The Special Edition … Read more
Here are my picks for the best-sounding audio products of 2009, in no particular order.
Pioneer VSX-1019AH Receiver The VSX-1019AH has just about every gotta-have feature and its stellar performance makes it the go-to choice for sound-quality-conscious midprice receiver buyers.
Onkyo HT-RC180 ReceiverSure, the HT-RC180 goes for around double the Pioneer's price, but its power and dynamic slam put it over the top.
Onkyo HT-S9100THX Home Theater in a BoxThe HT-S9100THX is not only the best sounding HTIB on the planet, you can easily upgrade its performance by adding better speakers or subwoofer. Few HTIBs offer owners that capability.
Monster Turbine Pro (Gold) in-ear headphones I'm a big fan of the original and still-available Monster Turbine in-ear headphones, but now that I've gotten to spend time with the Pro I can tell you this: it's simply the best $300 in-ear I've heard.
Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference Strada Speaker The double-balled Reference Strada ($995 each) measures a lifestyle-friendly 6.5 inches tall by 12.5 inches wide by 5.5 inches long, but the compact speaker makes a huge, room-filling sound. The Strada is jam-packed with unique technology. … Read more