I'm a lucky guy, I've heard most of the world's very best headphones: Sennheiser's HD 800 and their legendary Orpheus, the Audeze LCD 2 and 3, the Stax SR-007 ($2,600), SR-009 ($5,200), and now I'm spending quality time with Hifiman's flagship HE-6 planar magnetic headphones. I've long admired Hifiman's designs, starting with their very first model, the HE-5 back in 2009. The HE-6 looks nearly identical to Hifiman's current HE-4, HE-400, HE-5LE, and HE-500 headphones, but the HE-6 is heavier (502 grams), and it feels like it's built … Read more
I love little speakers, especially when they're as fine as the Music Hall Marimbas I wrote about recently, but the best little ones can't touch the big guys for sheer power. If you've only heard little speakers at home, you have no idea what you've been missing. Big speakers sound, well, bigger, and more like live music.
That's why I'm so jazzed by the Tekton M-Lore. This 34-inch high tower sports an American-made 8-inch natural fiber woofer and a European-designed 1-inch silk dome tweeter, so the M-Lores can really belt out a big sound. … Read more
Spunk, that's what Music Hall's Marimba speaker has lots of. No measurements are needed to confirm this is an exceptional speaker. Its low-key looks are deceiving; it's just a nicely finished "wood" grain black medium-density fiberboard box, measuring 6.6 inches by 8.7 inches by 11 inches, with rounded corners. There's a 1-inch silk dome tweeter and a 5.25-inch woofer lurking behind a removable black cloth grille. The internally braced cabinet feels solid; there's nothing exotic about the design, but the box feels more expensive than you usually get in a $… Read more
Is $10, or the price of a few Starbucks lattes, really too much to pay for an album? Is $10 really too much to support musicians well enough they'll want to record more music? I still play LPs I bought when I was a teenager, and I can't think of anything else I still use from that part of my life. Those records are, if anything, more valuable to me now then they were then. I'm old enough to remember when record companies were freaking out about kids making cassette copies of albums, but producer and engineer … Read more
Great-sounding headphones have never been more affordable. Even the least expensive headphone model on this list, the Panasonic RP HJE 355 in-ear, has oodles of detail and decent bass punch. For me the most important thing when evaluating headphones is sound balance; no frequency range should call attention to itself, so I don't like overly bassy headphones, or ones that overemphasize treble. Headphones should sound clear, not muffled or fuzzy. I prefer spacious stereo imaging over sound that's stuck inside my head. Headphones that allow music's soft-to-loud dynamics to bloom are better than ones that constrict dynamics. … Read more
In 2009 I wrote about a new kind of piano, Yamaha's $20,000 AvantGrand. It's a hybrid (digital/acoustic) piano. Yamaha now offers a full line of hybrids, with prices starting at $5,499 for the recently released upright NU1 piano.
Hybrids feature the same mechanical piano "action" and natural wood keys used in Yamaha's acoustic pianos, but the sound is generated from digital samples. The NU1 is no toy, it weighs 240 pounds and has a full standard piano keyboard. The NU1's sound is derived from samples taken from Yamaha's CFX concert … Read more
It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when audio and video products were introduced that were so revolutionary that their impact was felt literally decades after their introduction.
Take the JBL L100 Century. It was the first speaker I fell in love with. Its brilliant orange "waffle" foam grille and white 12-inch woofer looked so cool in the early 1970s when the competition's speakers were all drab brown boxes with boring cloth grilles. The JBL was the ultimate "rock" speaker of the era, so my Hendrix and Led Zeppelin LPs never … Read more
I remember just before the CD was introduced 30 years ago thinking that digital audio would be a giant leap forward in fidelity, but as soon as I heard a few CDs I knew digital wouldn't do a thing to make music sound more realistic. The CD was vastly better than LPs and cassettes in terms of noise and distortion, but voices still didn't sound like they do in real life, and pianos didn't sound as big and powerful as they do in Carnegie Hall. That mystified me; those early digital recordings were compression-free, and I was … Read more
DENVER--The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, held in Denver, was a must-see event for audiophiles young and old. The biggest change this year was a bonanza of affordable high-end products -- mixed in with the usual crazy expensive gear -- along with a good helping of midpriced goodies.
Music Hall had a rather plain-looking little monitor speaker, the Marimba ($349 a pair), that sounded big and truly powerful. I have never heard that level of bass "slam" coming out of such a diminutive speaker; I can't wait to get it in for review.
I was a huge Talking Heads fan and saw the band many times at shows in New York. That was a long time ago. Byrne is still a vital creative force, recording new music, performing, and writing books. He's worked with various media including film, photography, opera, and non-fiction. He's still searching for new creative challenges, which is more than you can say about most aging rock musicians. Byrne's new book, "How Music Works" reads more like an autobiography than a how-to make it in the music business tome.
Byrne is hyper-aware of how technology … Read more