Paying for recorded music is a voluntary act -- you can get almost any tune you want on demand from streaming music services or YouTube. Of course, musicians wind up making little or no money from this arrangement, but thanks to crowd-funding, bands can get paid in advance of making a record. At least initially there are no freeloaders, so the band really has an incentive to record! The same Internet that made it harder than ever to make a living from recorded music has made it possible for bands to directly connect to their fans.
I've had a run of bad luck with some of the latest AV receivers' autosetup programs; they set the subwoofer volume way too loud, or misidentified the "sizes" of the speakers (one receiver tagged our small Aperion 4B satellites as large speakers). These reviews have yet to post, but that boo-boo played havoc with the sound. Rerunning autosetup sometimes fixes the problem, but not always. When I'm testing speakers I always do a totally manual setup. In this man versus machine contest, I always win.
Automatic calibration programs started to appear on Pioneer's higher-end receivers … Read more
The Anthony Gallo Acoustics Micro SE speaker ($239) is a tiny steel sphere, just 4 inches in diameter -- that's the size of an orange. It's an audiophile quality performer, capable of delivering high-resolution sound and a big, downright spacious stereo image. In fact, the imaging of the Micro SE and the slightly larger A'Diva SE reminds me of the wide-open, boxless sound I get with large, flat-panel speakers. Since these Gallos have just one full-range driver, they don't need a crossover network to direct high frequencies to the tweeter and bass to the woofer, and … Read more
No one can deny the popularity of sound bar speakers, but I've always been frustrated by their sound quality. There were exceptions; the $899 Atlantic Technology PB-235 and $699 SpeakerCraft CS3 are quite good, but in the more popular $300-to-$400 range the 'bars weren't all that great. Granted, they were a big step up from TV speakers, but their sound was still a compromise, compared with what's available from the better $300-to-$400 Emotiva and Audioengine self-powered stereo speakers (they get hooked up from your TV's stereo analog jacks).
A few weeks ago I spent … Read more
The Fostex TH600 full-size headphones' sound is downright addicting. They take you inside the sound of a recording like few other headphones can. Unfortunately, Fostex's U.S. distribution of its high-end headphones is very limited (it's a Japanese company), but Fostex dealer Moon Audio was kind enough to send over a sample pair of TH600 headphones ($1,299) fitted with an extra-cost Black Dragon V2 cable. Fostex also offers much less expensive models, including the $129 T50RP, but the company mostly caters to the pro sound market.
The TH600 has large 50mm drivers, matched with an unusually powerful … Read more
I've said it many times: the very best audio is frighteningly expensive, and so are the world's best cars, cameras, clothing, boats, and so forth. The good news is there are really pretty spectacular finds at the other end of the audio rainbow. I love it when I come across an over-performing budget-priced speaker, and lately, I've found quite a few. Here's a newly revised list of standout designs.
Since this list covers a broad range of speaker types, there's no ranking order; each one is exceptional in its own right. I have spent time … Read more
Late last year when I had my first encounter with a Tekton Design speaker, the M-Lore ($650 a pair), I was so bowled over by the sound I could hardly wait to try another Tekton. The time has come today with the all-new Enzo, a 40-inch-tall tower sporting three tweeters and two 8-inch woofers.
Multiple tweeters are rare on audiophile speakers, but Tekton's Eric Alexander developed a unique patent-pending approach that changes the way multiple tweeters are used. Unfortunately, he was mum about the details of his technology, but the Enzo's sound tells me all I need to … Read more
Some audiophiles swear that cables can make or break the sound of their hi-fis, while others poo-poo the idea and use the cheapest hardware store wires. The debates have raged for years, but the only way to really know for sure is to try a set of high-end cables in your system. When I sold hi-fis for a living, I convinced a lot of reluctant customers to buy a set of cables, with the promise I'd refund their money if they didn't hear a difference. The majority of them kept the cables; even some of the most skeptical … Read more
David Segal Violins is located just a few blocks from Lincoln Center and the Juilliard School in New York City. I stopped by the showroom to learn how the technology of violin making has changed, but that wasn't the main story. Today's violins may look similar to the ones made 300 years ago by Stradivarius or Guarneri, but they get used in different ways. Where before violins were only played in concerts, now they're also recorded. Segal tells me that a great concert violin might not work all that well to accompany a vocalist.
The "technology&… Read more
A lot of audiophiles love tube amplifiers, and I've owned my share, but I don't currently have tubes in my main hi-fi system. I instantly remembered what I was missing when I hooked up the Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum integrated amplifier with my KEF LS50 speakers. They're good together.
Before founding Rogue Audio in 1996, Mark O'Brien worked for Bell Labs and other companies doing electronics development, lasers, and transformer design. Like so many audio designers I've met over the years, O'Brien started building amplifiers when he was a little kid. Audio is a … Read more