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
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
PSB Speakers is one of my all-time favorite brands. Its little Alpha B1 monitor ($299 a pair) is excellent, and a couple of years ago I was blown away by the Imagine Mini ($759 a pair), an even smaller but bona fide high-end speaker.
Small speakers are great, but the lucky folks with huge living rooms who like to occasionally play movies and music nice and loud need big speakers. And since it's been a while since I spent quality time with a PSB tower I requested a pair of Image T6s ($1,298 a pair).
The 40.… 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
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
When I dropped by the Oswalds Mill Audio (OMA) showroom/loft space, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'd heard OMA speakers at hi-fi shows and was always impressed by the sound, but the full immersion OMA experience was a very different trip. The wildly retro-futuristic designs looked more extreme than I remembered them. Jonathan Weiss, OMA's founder and CEO and also my tour guide put on quite a show, but not by hammering my ears with a high-decibel attack. I have no doubt Weiss' huge Imperia four-way horn speakers and 21-inch subwoofer could easily reproduce … Read more
I can't name one truly high-end preamp with tone controls, and that's because most audiophiles wouldn't dream of altering the signal in any way. Home theater buyers see things differently, so virtually all AV receivers have bass and treble controls and many employ auto setup programs that feature extensive speaker and room correction processing. Some say the processing improves the sound. Personally, I'm far from convinced these calibration systems really do that, they change the sound, but the results are too inconsistent to be counted on. If your receiver has auto setup, try turning it off, … Read more
Last Wednesday, I went to the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU to meet with Young Guru. He was in New York with The Recording Academy's Grammy U 13-city tour visiting colleges across the country. The tour started on April 8 in Philadelphia and concludes on April 28 in Memphis. Young Guru has collaborated with Beyonce, Drake, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and Snoop Dogg, among others.
I didn't know how much time I would have with the engineer/producer/DJ, so I went straight to the heart of the matter and asked him to define what good … Read more