Are people more obsessed with reducing clutter now than they were in times past? A mastering and recording engineer friend recently told me he was selling off all of his CDs and LPs, and from now on Spotify would be his only music source. I was taken aback by that remark; this man has spent his entire working life making the best-sounding music he could, but from now on he'll be streaming tunes. So I asked if he heard something new on Spotify he really liked, would he buy it? He just smiled and said, "Why?" So … Read more
Moving forward from the earliest days of Edison cylinders in the late 1880s, there is a long list of consumer audio formats that garnered popular support, while many others disappeared without a trace. The 78 RPM record, 45 single, and LP all enjoyed mass acceptance. Reel-to reel tape never took off, but 4- and 8-track cartridges had a good run, then the cassette hit the big time. A higher-quality analog cassette format, the Elcasette, arrived with much fanfare yet never caught on. Later, the two consumer digital tape formats, DAT and DCC, fizzled. The CD almost killed the LP in … Read more
I'm a big fan of M-Audio's desktop monitor speakers. Their build and sound quality standards, even for their near entry-level models, are exceptional. The new BX5 Carbon retails for $149.99 each.
The vinyl-wrapped, medium-density fiberboard speaker measures 10x7x8 inches. Around back there's a large bass port, so don't plan on placing this guy up against a wall. Each 11-pound speaker has two built-in amplifiers: a 40-watt unit for the 5-inch woven Kevlar woofer and a 30-watt for the 1-inch silk dome tweeter. Rather than use the more common Class D amps, M-audio engineers opted for … Read more
Regular readers of this blog will recognize the Schiit name, I've covered a number of their headphone amplifiers and digital converters over the past few years. The newest little Schiit, the vacuum tube Vali, looks exactly like the company's $99 solid-state amp, the Magni, but the internal electronics are completely different. As I listened to them both and switched back and forth they sounded similar. I listened more and the Vali sounded a wee bit sweeter and richer. Not as big a difference as I would have thought, but different enough.
As technology moves from desktop to handheld to wearable (connected fitness bands, smartwatches, Google Glass), one might wonder if microchipping is the next step in our tech evolution. The answer is an emphatic yes, according to CBS's "Intelligence," a new suspense series that airs Mondays (10 p.m. ET/PT). Josh Holloway plays Gabriel, a high-tech intelligence operative enhanced by a supercomputer microchip in his brain, which gives him unfettered access to the Internet, Wi-Fi, telephone, and satellite data -- info he uses to protect the US from foreign enemies. On the show, actor P.J. Byrne (&… Read more
With explosive drums, fuzzed-out guitars, and Wolfmother-style vocals, YB's first English-language single, "Cigarette Girl," might finally break YB in the West. Though already regarded as the Bon Jovi of South Korea, YB has not made much of a dent stateside -- unless you happened to catch the band at one of its sold-out 2006 NYC performances or at its acclaimed 2007 SXSW showcase. Under new manager Doug Goldstein, who formerly managed Guns N' Roses, Danzig, and Blind Melon, they just might make it here. As YB prepared for its first US mini-tour in seven years, frontman Do-Hyun … Read more
I'm on a family vacation this week, enjoying a much-needed respite from the horrors (horrors, I say!) of this year's winter. Although we all packed headphones for use with our phones and tablets, I wanted a speaker so we could jam together to Pharrell Williams' can't-not-dance-to-it "Happy."
I had several portable-speaker options to choose from, but I like to travel as light as humanly possible. So I packed the impossibly compact new Matrix Audio Qube2, which sounds way louder -- and better -- than any speaker of its size has any right to.
Alas, it'… Read more
On Sunday, February 9, in 1964, 73 million viewers in the US and millions more in Canada watched the Beatles' American television debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show." The band's very first LP, "Meet the Beatles," sold 3.6 million albums in the first two months in the US, and Capitol Records went on to sell 15 million Beatles albums in the States in 1964. These were different albums, with different combinations of songs than the Beatles albums released in England. That separate release pattern continued until June 1967 with the release of the "… Read more
British alternative rock band Maximo Park just released its fifth studio album (and follow-up to 2012's critically acclaimed "The National Health") "Too Much Information" on February 3. Synth-driven single "Leave This Island" is already burning up my iTunes.
The new album is called "Too Much Information." Are you implying that we're just bombarded with info via our computers and smartphones all day? Yeah, that's definitely a part of it. Being in the music industry, we became quite aware of people's attention becoming so much … Read more
Audioengine is one of those rare companies that gets it right every time. Its desktop speakers excel in a very crowded, highly competitive field, and its digital converters are also strong performers.
Audioengine's latest release, the tiny USB-powered D3 digital converter, continues that tradition. The aluminum body feels nice and solid, and its digital converter can accept 24-bit/192KHz audio. The headphone amplifier works with low- and high-impedance headphones. Alternatively, you can run a set of powered desktop speakers, such as Audioengine A2+s or A5+s, directly from the D3's headphone jack.
The D3 was designed to … Read more