I occasionally check in with local high-end audio dealers to see what's new, and they're never at a loss to demonstrate something to catch my ear. Th listening rooms at Audioarts have been refreshed since my last visit, and the store is now the best appointed shop in town. Audioarts doesn't cover entry-level or midrange gear, but there are plenty of other shops covering that market here in New York City.
When I first set eyes on the Koss KTX Pro 1 headphones I wasn't expecting much. The silver plastic on-ear has an all-too-generic look, but as soon as I started listening the sound had my full attention; they were very decent! Most cheap on-ears sound claustrophobic and pinched, but the KTX Pro 1's sound was big and spacious. The 60-ohm design is exceptionally comfortable, and the foam ear pads exert minimal pressure, so you can wear these things for hours without fatigue setting in. Like all budget headphones the KTX Pro 1's cable lacks an inline mic … Read more
William Kentridge's "The Refusal of Time" (2012) creates its own environment through the ever-morphing, large-format videos depicting the collision of technology, social upheaval, and industry. The five videos display a series of scenes, texts, shifting diagrams and papers, and laborers shown in silhouette marching across the screens. Music and voices come from eight speakers -- four large JBL studio monitors -- and four smaller megaphone-like horns that make announcements throughout the piece.
Picture and sound quality are exceptional, and while the sound is realistically loud, I never thought it was too loud. The running time is 30 … Read more
I go way back with NAD amplifiers; I sold dozens of NAD's 3020 amps in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was working as a high-end audio salesman. The 3020 lacked the visual pizzazz of the Sony, Onkyo, Pioneer, and Yamaha amps of the time, but the 3020 was hailed by critics and consumers as the best-sounding budget amp of the era. It went on to become the best-selling amp of the time. Not bad for a company that no one in the US had heard of a few years earlier.
In the here and now we … Read more
My advice to speaker shoppers who prioritize sound quality is go for a good set of big speakers. They conjure the sound of music more realistically than tiny ones. I know all too well that most folks settle for something smaller, and usually it's a case of the smaller, the better. That's why designers are always trying to get bigger sounds out of smaller speakers. Enter the Vanatoo Transparent One, a 10-inch-tall powerhouse armed with a 5.25-inch aluminum woofer, a separate rear-mounted 5.25-inch passive radiator, and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter. This little speaker made a … Read more
I was smitten with the Coffman Labs G1-A stereo preamplifier, even before I heard it make a sound. I'd seen pictures of the preamp online and it looked fine, but once I saw it in person I knew it was one of the most beautiful audio components on the market. The feel of the control knobs and the metalwork's fit and finish are state of the art. Granted, the G1-A is priced accordingly, but just as with high-end cars, watches or cameras, with purist audio design build quality is just as important as performance.
Still, I wouldn't … Read more
When I first spotted the Sony MDR SA5000 headphones at a local Head-Fi meeting in Bayside, Queens, my first impression was that it was eerily similar to Sennheiser's HD 800 headphones. The MDR SA5000 is clearly derived from Sony's old flagship $3,000 Qualia Q10 headphones; both Sonys were first announced in 2004. The HD 800 was introduced in 2009.
The magnesium-framed, open-back MDR-SA5000 is superlight (260 grams) and remarkably comfortable. The real leather earpads' head-clamping pressure is oh-so-gentle, and the sound is remarkably detailed, spacious, and open -- I found the MDR-SA5000 extraordinary in those regards. I … Read more
I've always had a soft spot for great-sounding big speakers, like the SVS Ultra Tower. It stands 45 inches tall, and the cabinet has a unique, aggressively styled trapezoidal shape. Decked out in a gleaming piano-black finish or black oak veneer, the Ultra Tower projects a distinctly high-end aura; it looks a lot more expensive than it really is. The three-way design features a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter sitting between twin 6.5-inch composite glass-fiber midrange drivers, and mounted on the lower side flanks, a pair of 8-inch woofers. All three drivers are proprietary SVS designs. The speaker weighs … Read more
The House of Marley Liberate headphones don't look or feel like any other $100 pair. Most are flimsy plastic things, while the Liberate's metal, wood, hemp cloth, and vinyl construction gives it the feel of a more expensive design. The Liberate features 40mm drivers and an unusually flexible cable with an iPhone/iPad-compatible mic and inline controls. The headband isn't hinged and the earcups don't fold flat, but the upside to those design choices is the Liberate will probably withstand rough treatment better than most hinged models. Then again, the Liberate's cable isn't user-replaceable, … Read more
Like anyone who regularly reviews headphones, I've noticed that the majority of them have no unique features or qualities. So for example, it's rare to find headphones in the T 51 P's price class that aren't made in China, but this little $289 Beyerdynamic is made in Germany. The lightweight, 174 gram, mostly metal design doesn't have a hinged headband, but the ear cups fold flat for easy storage in the supplied, beautifully designed carry case. The headphone lacks a mic or inline controls, marking it as a design intended for the serious audiophile who … Read more