I heard through the grapevine that the Mal Valve Head Amp Three takes headphone sound to the next level, so I had to check it out for myself. I brought two of my best headphones to the Audioarts NYC showroom to audition the amp, and it really was an ear opener. "Space" was the first thing I noticed, the Mal Valve decodes spatial cues in recordings better than any amp I've heard to date; and the resolution, clarity, and purity of the sound were all superlative via my Audeze LCD 3 headphones. The Mal Valve frees up … Read more
Subwoofers are used in most home theater systems, but subs can also radically improve the sound of stereo systems -- and not just the ones with small speakers. Subs can provide a foundation to the sound that few speakers can muster on their own. So adding a sub is not just about adding more and deeper bass; rather, a properly integrated subwoofer can improve the overall sound of the system.
The No. 1 question I get from readers is something along the lines of "What's the best speaker?" Some readers include a price range, which is a huge help, but there are a lot of factors that should be considered when selecting a speaker. Or to be more precise, a speaker system.
Speakers "play" the room, so room size and acoustics should be taken into consideration when buying speakers. The pair of 8-inch tall speakers that might sound great in a 10-by-12-foot bedroom probably won't cut it in a 25-by-40-foot living room, where you … Read more
I get asked this question a lot: "Does anyone still make great-sounding affordable CD players?" Sure, most of the major brands do, but only NAD currently offers a large slate of players starting with the $300 C 516BEE, and it's a honey.
Before we go any further I want to first clarify why I'm reviewing a CD player in 2013. Despite the naysayers the CD isn't "dead," far from it. Music lovers are still buying hundreds of millions of CDs every year. Download sales just barely surpassed sales of physical music (CDs, LPs, … Read more
Most folks rarely focus on music; it's background to other activities like talking, reading, working, exercising, and so forth. They don't really think about sound that much, as long as it's loud enough, or they can follow the dialogue, or there's enough bass, they're happy. Audiophiles are more likely to really listen, so we care about how our music or home theater sounds. The more you listen, the more you hear, and the opposite is also true.
I always liked music, but it was the sound of Jimi Hendrix's guitar feedback and distortion that … Read more
Most audiophiles' first "serious" speaker is a small, two-way monitor, so whenever I come across a little one that strikes my fancy I share it with my readers. The Teac LS-H265 is such a speaker, and priced at $199 a pair, it's definitely in the affordable price range.
The LS-H265 measures just 7.1x11.5x10.2 inches and weighs 9.7 pounds. It has a 1-inch dome tweeter and a 5-inch woofer. I can't get over how gorgeous the piano-black finish is; the LS-H265 looks better than a lot of $600 and $700 speakers! The speaker … Read more
Physical music formats were so 20th century, so we put our music on computers. But even that was too much of a burden, so music is going up, up, and away, into the cloud and streaming. The iPod Classic is firmly rooted to the ground, and I like it that way.
I can live without Siri, iCloud, a camera, iOS 6, a Lightning connector, Bluetooth, AirPlay, or any of that jazz to keep the Classic's 160GB storage capability, and the Classic's "classic" 30-pin connector that still works with gazillions of docks and accessories. Is there another … Read more
When I dropped by the Park Avenue Audio NYC showroom, I was on a mission to find an audiophile bookshelf speaker that wouldn't break the bank. The store's selection covers a wide gamut, but the majority of speakers are $1,000-plus per pair. Then I ran across the Monitor Audio "Silver" RX1; it's a medium-size bookshelf speaker, measuring a tidy 12.3 x 7.3 x 9.4 inches. At 15 pounds, it feels surprisingly heavy for its size. It has a 1-inch ceramic-coated aluminum/magnesium-alloy dome tweeter and a 6-inch metal woofer. The speakers … Read more
Regular readers of this blog know we're living in the golden age of desktop audio. The speakers just keep getting better and better, and digital converters from the likes of Schiit Audio, AudioQuest, Hifiman, FiiO, and HRT have all made computers sound better than ever.
Now along comes the Meridian Explorer, a sleek, extruded aluminum converter with line- and headphone-level 3.5mm output jacks and a USB input. The line-level output internally bypasses the headphone amp and volume control. Meridian is best known for its ultra-high-end digital converters that sell for thousands of dollars -- the Explorer is their … Read more