How loud is loud? I know loud when I hear it, but if you want a number, I'd say at home anything over 90 dB is getting up there, and might annoy neighbors in adjacent apartments, especially after 10 p.m. If you live in a house, 90+ dB would definitely disturb other family members not watching the movie or listening to music. Of course, the volume at concerts and movie theaters is much, much louder than most people would ever tolerate at home. Loud music, games, and home theater takes on an almost physical quality; you don't … Read more
Back in February I first posed the question, "Do separate components sound better than AV receivers?" when I checked out the Outlaw Audio 975 surround processor and 7125 power amp and compared their sound with a Denon AVR-1912 AV receiver. The Outlaws handily trumped the receiver.
I ran another comparison with the Denon, this time with the Emotiva UMC-200 seven-channel surround processor ($599) and UPA-500 five-channel amplifier ($399). If you just go by the numbers, the AVR-1912's 90 watts per channel might appear to be slightly ahead of the Emotiva UPA-500 amp, which has 80 watts per … Read more
The Fosgate Signature Headphone Amplifier is one of the very best-sounding amps I've ever used. It was designed by one of the greats, Jim Fosgate, a man who earned 18 audio related patents, founded a number of successful electronics companies -- oh, and he pioneered high-power car audio systems. He was also a big supporter of the very first home surround format -- quadraphonic -- in the early 1970s, and so committed to the format that even as quad was winding down, he designed the Fosgate Tate 101, arguably the finest quad processor of the era. Fosgate also created … Read more
Most of the headphones I've tested over the years weren't designed to have a neutral balance of bass, midrange, and treble frequencies. Manufacturers are well aware that most people like bass, and that buyers tend to favor one headphone over another based on how much bass it produces. I think that's obvious, but a recent study cited in Brent Butterworth's blog countered that assumption. "The Relationship between Perception and Measurement of Headphone Sound Quality," a paper by Sean Olive and Todd Welti presented at last October's Audio Engineering Society convention found that a … Read more
Desktop digital-to-analog converters keep getting better and better, and the Micromega MyDac is a fine example of the breed. The 24-bit/192-kHz MyDac has three digital inputs: coaxial, optical, and USB, all selectable via the thumb wheel control on the front panel. The stereo RCA analog outputs can feed either your powered speakers or power amp. I was pleased to see the MyDac has a built-in power supply, so it doesn't use a wall wart. Micromega will soon release a matching headphone amp, which I hope to review here with the MyDac. Available in black or white finishes, its … Read more
I had a good feeling about the SVS Ultra Bookshelf speaker even before I heard it. First, the high-gloss black finish was perfect, and the heft of this 19-pound beauty left no doubt about the speaker's build quality. It seemed solid.
I've confessed many times on this blog my fondness for big speakers, but if you don't have the space for a set of tower speakers, so-called bookshelf speakers are the way to go. I said so-called because the last place you'd ever want to put a set of bookshelf speakers is in a bookshelf cabinet. … Read more
High Resolution Technologies makes some of the very best and most affordable digital-to-analog converters on the market. The company's newest model, the MicroStreamer, is a tiny thing, just 2.5 inches by 1.2 inches by 0.4 inch, and since it's USB-powered it doesn't have a power supply or require batteries. It works as an external sound card for computers, tablets, and some smartphones. It's also a high-quality headphone amplifier. It was designed in the U.S., and the little guy's circuitboard's components are mounted in Southern California. The aluminum case is made … Read more
More and more people are getting into vinyl and buying turntables, but to get the best sound you need to buy a separate "phono preamp." Some entry-level turntables come with built-in preamps, and that's a great way to get started, but if you want to really bask in all-analog glory you'll need to step up to a separate phono preamp. Look around on Amazon and you'll see a vast range of models, and some are decent enough, but they're not going to sound as good as a high-end phono preamp.
The thing to understand … Read more
I'm usually a sound-first guy, but when it comes to evaluating headphones, comfort is a very close second. So even when I love the sound of a headphone, if they start to hurt my ears after a half an hour, that's a deal-breaker.
That's why I'm happy to report on a remarkably comfortable and great-sounding headphone, the MrSpeakers' Mad Dog. That's an odd name for a headphone maker, but MrSpeakers' Dan Clark started out as a speaker designer. Now he extensively modifies Fostex T50RP headphones, a headphone that I've never cared for. Clark transforms … Read more
I was bowled over by Anthony Gallo Acoustics' original Reference Strada when I heard it at a hi-fi show a few years ago. The small speakers projected a sound that rivaled the scale of big, flat-panel speakers, like my Magnepans. I never got around to reviewing the Strada, but when I heard that the Reference Strada 2 was coming out I let the company know I wanted a pair ASAP.
Unboxing the speakers it was impossible not to be impressed by the solidity of the cast-aluminum chassis and brushed stainless-steel spheres. The Strada 2 is 13.5 inches tall, and … Read more