LAS VEGAS--I know CNET pays me to cover MP3 players, but privately, I'm a sucker for my beat-up, old Technics SL-1200MK2. Compared with most of the flimsy, plastic, belt-driven, disposable toys that get passed off as turntables these days, my 1200 is a 20-pound metal beast that will probably outlive my grandchildren.
USB turntables are the worst offenders. Built on the cheap, to last just long enough to rip your old LPs into iTunes, most of the world's USB decks spend their lives stored in closets in garages once their owners see them for the bulky, eyesores they … 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
When the CD was introduced in 1982, everyone thought the LP's days were numbered, but it's still here. Now it's starting to look like the LP might outlast the CD.
Of course "record stores" are also on the endangered species list; here in NYC, Tower, Virgin, and Sam Goody are long-gone, but J & R Music World in lower Manhattan is the last remaining full-size outfit. Smaller shops are hanging in there, too.
You can still buy CDs and LPs online, and vinyl's selection is getting better and better. So if you're a music lover, what should you buy, CD or LP? First, it depends on whether you can get the music you want on vinyl.
Sound quality issues aren't black and white. CD wins in terms of noise-free listening, though clean records, played on a decent turntable can sound amazingly quiet. But even then, there will be occasional clicks and pops. That's a deal breaker for some, but if you've never heard records played on a decent turntable, you don't know how quiet records can be.
LPs can sound warmer, fuller, and more natural than CDs, and way better than low-bit MP3 and AAC variants. LP sound seems to engage listeners in a very different way than digital recordings do. It's not that digital sounds bad, but vinyl is more fun to listen to. Music on LP seems more immediate and realistic than digital. Oh, and it's worth noting that most people who use vinyl actually listen to music, while digital listeners rarely do. Digital makes do as background sound. That's just the way it is. If you can't see yourself ever really listening to music--without talking, reading, working on the computer, etc--sure, CDs and MP3s are perfectly fine. … Read more
What's the definition of a great hi-fi? It's the one you're listening to. Not just for background "listening," but actual, focused listening.
Investing a lot of money on a hi-fi isn't the only way to get there. In fact, spending as little as possible on decent gear is the best way to get acquainted with good sound. Who knows, you might become an audiophile.
My friend Matt Calderone might be on his way. He was given a used Denon DP-7F turntable, and recently bought a Kenwood KA-701 integrated stereo amplifier on eBay and a pair of Klipsch speakers through Craigslist. All told, he spent less than $200.
Calderone is 26 years old so I was curious about how and why he wound up with a hi-fi. He says he's always been interested in LPs, and he likes listening to them over a decent stereo, not computer speakers. Calderone thinks good speakers make a big difference.
It's not just that the sound is better, music engages on a different level when heard over a hi-fi. Calderone frequently winds up just sitting on the couch and get this, he listens to entire records! The music is the main focus; vinyl has that effect on some people. Calderone is going to add a CD player soon, but for now his system is analog only.
The hardest part of buying a used hi-fi is picking the right gear. If you're new to hi-fi ask an older relative who knows audio about which brands are worthy, but for starters I'd recommend steering clear of Sony and Bose products. I like Creek, Denon, NAD, Onkyo, Pioneer, and Yamaha amplifiers and receivers; look for used Advent, AR, Boston Acoustics, DCM, Epos, Infinity, Klipsch, Magnepan, Mirage, Monitor Audio, NHT, Polk, Snell, or Vandersteen speakers. For a few hundred bucks you can put together a very listenable used system. … Read more
As the music games genre overflows with add-on packs for Guitar Hero and Rock Band (and too many plastic guitar variations to count), consumers might be feeling a little gun-shy about adding a turntable to the mix. Smartly, however, Activision has countered the skepticism by adding what might be the best video game soundtrack of all time to DJ Hero.
Ninety-three tracks (double the amount on The Beatles: Rock Band) of unique mashups and remixes from some of the world's most renowned DJs are not only great listening, but each one takes two excellent source songs to make music with. That's actually 186 songs floating around somewhere in this game.
Scott: The turntable in DJ Hero almost feels like an afterthought compared with the track selection, but it's solid and thankfully compact, with a free-spinning platter that's extremely smooth. The plastic buttons, crossfader, and other knobs feel a little jiggly, but the rubber feet beneath will make sure the controller stays put on a table.
To make music in DJ Hero, a very similar-looking "notes approaching" interface is repurposed to resemble a spinning record. Three different note-tracks are controlled by pressing colored buttons on the plastic turntable, just like Guitar Hero or Rock Band. You can also scratch the notes by pressing and turning at the same time.
On the left side of the controller, the crossfader is activated during certain zig-zaggy cues in the track, and alternates the two tracks. Above that is a "euphoria" button that is DJ Hero's version of "star power." Beside that is also a knob that either controls pitch effects during some sections, or selects sound effects in another portion of gameplay. As you can imagine, it starts to get complicated. DJ Hero might have one knob too many, but it adds to the feel of deck manipulation, and keeps your hands pretty busy. The end result--awesome hip-hop--is worth the effort.
Months ago, we were skeptical about DJ Hero--we worried that it was shameless music game exploitation. We were wrong. The effort has been exceptional, and that level of incredible musical talent should earn DJ Hero serious consideration this fall, perhaps even over the latest Rock Band and Guitar Hero entries.
Jeff: The real star of DJ Hero is without a doubt the music. The game boasts 93 mashup tracks that are sure to appeal to music tastes of all kinds with some of the most renowned DJs in the business lending their talents to the game.
So how does it play? DJ Hero is an interesting beast as its wireless turntable controller must be played on flat surface. We found success laying it on an ottoman while sitting on a couch behind it. For the most part, the tapping, crossfading, and scratching works, but you may have a problem with the button closest to the center of the faux record. Since it's anchored so closely to the center, it's tougher to scratch than the outer buttons. Regardless of how you orientate the controller, that last button may give you a problem.
The crossfader is also tough to master as its center position is not as easy to detect as you might think. During songs you'll have to switch it left and right, but we wish the center was more noticeable just by feeling its position--a definitive notch here would have helped.
DJ Hero may have less of an appeal to the more mainstream Guitar Hero franchise fan; it's a different demographic that this game is trying to reach. That combined with the intimidation of finding room for yet another plastic accessory and its $120 price tag may turn off prospective buyers.
Dan: We've spoken before about the threat of guitar game fatigue, with semiannual installments of music games vying for consumer's increasingly stretched dollars. Successfully injecting a little new life into the genre, DJ Hero is the biggest sea change in music games since the addition of drum kits. … Read more
When it comes to turntables, I prefer them in their natural, all-analog state.
That's just me. Mixing digits and grooves is a hot topic of late. My pal Chris Chiarella over at Home Entertainment magazine seemed to really like Denon's new DP-200USB turntable ($250). I reviewed another USB turntable last year and thought it was too much work to use.
I'm no expert in this area, but this Denon seems like a better way to go. First, you don't need a computer nearby to do the analog-to-digital thing. Chiarella just connected the turntable's analog cables to his receiver's phono input, after switching the turntable's internal Phono EQ to Off (so the Denon will work even if your receiver is phono-input challenged).
The DP-200USB's best feature is its front-panel USB port. The system's internal MP3 encoder converts analog signals to digital files. A blinking red light confirms that grooves are being digitized. Denon claims 30 LPs fit on a 1GB drive.… Read more
What happens when one extremely popular tech TV show with an attractive female host blatantly takes the slogan of a much lesser known Internet radio show with three mildly humorous, if not a bit awkward, post-pubescent manboys? You're about to find out on today's episode of The 404, where Attack of the Show's GadgetPr0n stole our tagline, "High Tech, Low Brow." Now, I'm a little unwilling to compromise my relationship with Olivia Munn, the , but Jeff and Wilson are heated and propose an all-out battle for the right to the slogan!
The new simulated reality video game DJ Hero keeps on adding musicians to the growing list of special guests- this time, they just recently announced a collaboration with Daft Punk. The game will come out on October 30th, but we're pretty psyched to mash-up tracks from those French Robots. Well, Jeff and I are- Wilson is still confused about how the game works and why people listen to music in the first place.
Which brings us to a huge Calls From the Public- we got so many voicemails over our three-day weekend that we have to take the entire second half of the show just to play them all. Of course, we have to re-visit the dreadful washing machine/computer hypothetical that got drummed up on Thursday's show. In a world where humans are enslaved by free-thinking computers, the man atop the washing machine reigns supreme King. This fall, look out for Wilson G. Tang break-out role in...THE CLEANER.EPISODE 428 Subscribe in iTunes audio | Suscribe to iTunes (video) | Subscribe in RSS Audio | Subscribe in RSS Video… Read more
Vinyl is back, big time, but the fact is most folks, probably close to 99 percent of the under 40-set, haven't heard records.
For them, music is about portability and vinyl is a stay-at-home deal. Vinyl has more of a hands-on work ethic: you've got to cue the tonearm, lower the "needle," and when the side's over, turn it over or play another LP. Digital requires almost nothing from you; no wonder it's dominated the music scene for the last couple of decades.
Me, I'm having something of a vinyl fling right now. I've always owned a turntable, but there were times I played only CDs for months on end. I guess I didn't want to deal with the extra work of playing vinyl. Sad, but true.
As for LP vs. CD comparisons, I didn't do any. Trust me, you don't have to be a golden-eared audiophile to notice the two formats sound very different. Records are "warmer" and sound more like the sound of real instruments and voices; CDs almost always make them more detailed and brighter-sounding than they are in real life. … Read more
I bought my first hi-fi with money I made working at a supermarket when I was 16 years old.
The system had a Garrard turntable, XAM amplifier, and XAM speakers. The system cost $106 in 1965, that would be more like $600 to $700 in 2009 dollars.
Man, that little system ruled! My records came to life like never before. A month or two after I bought the system I accidentally crushed the "needle," so I bought a better phono cartridge and my records sounded even better. I became an audiophile! It didn't take long before I … Read more