Way back in the late 1970s, long before the Internet, iPods, and home theater changed the way we listened to music, I worked at Sound by Singer, a high-end audio store in NYC. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the golden age of high-end. It had a good, long run that made it to the early 1990s, but the high-end audio market didn't shrivel up and die. Here in NYC there are more high-end stores than there were in the golden age. Rents are sky-high, so you might wonder how the stores prosper, and … Read more
Andrew Jones has a degree in physics, but his real passion is speaker design. He worked as a research engineer for KEF, Infinity and now with Pioneer, and he's chiefly responsible for their ultra high-end TAD Reference line of speakers that sell for upwards of $80,000! So a few years ago when I first heard that Jones was working on a line of superaffordable speakers for Pioneer, I didn't believe it. I said, "You mean that Andrew Jones? No way." Well, it was that Mr. Jones, and the speakers were astonishingly good. The now-discontinued 5.1-channel, … Read more
I know it doesn't make sense, but it's true: most musicians don't have good hi-fis.
To be fair, most musicians don't have hi-fis at all, because like most people musicians listen in their cars, on computers, or with cheap headphones. Musicians don't have turntables, CD players, stereo amplifiers, and speakers. Granted, most musicians aren't rich, so they're more likely to invest whatever available cash they have in buying instruments. That's understandable, but since they so rarely hear music over a decent system they're pretty clueless about the sound of their recordings.… Read more
The day the iPhone 5 goes on sale, millions of people will happily line up to buy Apple's latest marvel. How could they resist? What with the temptations of the iPhone 5's rumored smaller 19-pin dock connector, in-cell technology that enables the screen's touch sensors and LCD to be consolidated into a single layer, global LTE networks, and oodles of other goodies, it's no wonder Americans on average replace their cell phones every 21.7 months. Computers, digital cameras, tablets, and other gizmos have somewhat longer useful lives, but their owners never develop long-term, decade or … Read more
All of the best sounding in-ear headphones I've tested over the years have been custom-molded to my ears models. Prices vary, but the $399 UE-4 was the least expensive, and most of the top-of-the-line models are more than $1,000. Those prices don't include the fee the audiologist charges to make molds of your ear canals, and the fees add $100 to the price of the headphones. Customs ensure a perfect fit, and the best isolation from external noise. Plus they can't fall out of your ears,
Some "portable" headphone amplifiers aren't all that small, but the Firestone Audio Fireye Mini is downright tiny.
It's just 1.5 inches by 1 inch by 0.5 inch, and the soft-rubber-shelled amp weighs almost nothing, so you can hang it off your iPod, iPad, iPhone or any device with a 3.5mm headphone output. Plugging in a headphone turns the Mini on and lights a bright blue LED, unplugging turns the amp off. Charge the Mini via the USB connection and it'll play for up to 24 hours. It's available in green, gray, purple, red, and white.
I first spotted Josh Ray's Urban Fidelity Kickstarter project on the Stereophile Web site, and it looked really interesting. The speaker is less than an inch thick and uses a made in the U.S.A. 8-inch driver. Completed speakers will sell for $399 a pair! The Urban Fidelity speaker is an "open baffle" design that uses sound from the front and back of the 8-inch driver. The speaker panel is made with formaldehyde-free wood sourced from North American forests and manufactured in Los Angeles, and the paints and inks are water-based and free of harmful chemicals. … Read more
My fondness for big speakers is longstanding, but I'm almost as big a fan of smaller speakers that sound big. Take Definitive Technology's StudioMonitor 55 speaker ($299 each). Measuring 13x7.8x12.3 inches it's not all that big, but it weighs a hefty 15.4 pounds. The StudioMonitor 55 is a handsome, but conventional-looking design, until you peel off the cloth grille on the top of the speaker and see the "racetrack bass radiator." It's a unique Def Tech feature, and one that really helps the StudioMonitor 55 outperform similarly sized speakers.… Read more
The great thing about headphones is that you can, with a bit of effort, find great-sounding models in every price range. True, the best expensive models definitely sound better, but my picks for the cheapest ones are still pretty awesome. In fact, the $89 Velodyne vPulse headphones are the ones I regularly used long after I wrote the review! There was something about the sound of the vPulse that had me coming back for more. I cover audiophile, in-ear, full-size, wireless, and noise-canceling headphones, and prices run from dirt-cheap to insanely expensive.