I get a fair number of promo CDs in the mail, but don't be jealous, most of them are instantly forgettable or just awful, and only a few are worth a second listen. Greg Garing's self-titled CD was an immediate standout, and its rootsy, blues-infected grooves hit me hard. The music has a lot of soul, and sounds like it was made by a group of really talented players who were having a good time together. That happens so rarely nowadays I had to learn about how the record was created.
Thanks to streaming services and file sharing, there's little incentive to purchase music anymore. Everybody knows CD sales have been falling for years, but as soon as the record labels stop making CDs, their value will skyrocket.
Sure, there's still a sizable market for CDs, but if sales continue to decline I think the labels should offer a very limited run of each CD title on its original release, say a few thousand discs, with beautifully printed booklets and packaging, and auction them on eBay. When they're gone, they're gone. Prices would go through the roof, … Read more
It seems more than a little strange to me, but iPod speakers are really popular. This much I do understand, people love their iPods, and if they don't have a hi-fi system an iPod speaker might look like the best way to go. At $599 (MSRP) Monitor Audio's i-Deck 200 is priced at the upper end of the market, and competes with the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air ($599), Bose SoundDock 10 ($599) and the Monster Beats by Dr. Dre Beatbox iPod Dock ($449), but are any of these worth the money?
For most buyers of high-end iPod … Read more
Anyone can listen to music on $10 computer speakers, free earbuds, or a crappy car audio system. The only thing a good-quality hi-fi brings to the party is sound quality, which is something fewer and fewer people really care about. For audiophiles, sound is a big turn-on, and I figured that out when I was 13 or 14 years old. I was always saving up to buy better-sounding gear, and would spend my nights reveling in the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Doors albums. The sound was so fresh, and the layers of textures and spatial effects were endlessly fascinating. … Read more
It's a strange turn of events, but mainstream manufacturers long ago gave up on the idea of selling receivers on the basis of superior sound quality. I'm not claiming today's receivers sound "bad," but since almost no one ever listens to a receiver before they buy one, selling sound quality is next to impossible.
Back in the days when brick-and-mortar stores ruled the retail market, audio companies took pride in their engineering skills and designed entire receivers in-house. Right up through the 1980s most of what was "under the hood" was designed and … Read more
Most of today's music on CD, LP, or download is compressed to sound loud all the time. The engineers, producers, and record labels are afraid not to make music sound as loud as possible.
Dynamic range compression isn't new, it's been used by recording, mixing, and mastering engineers for decades. A little bit of compression is fine, but the unnatural onslaught of dynamically compressed sound obliterates musical nuance, delicacy, and emotional power. Compression's loud-all-the-time nature sucks the life out of music. The overuse of compression has become known as the Loudness War.
Before we go any … Read more
Quadraphonic was the first music surround format, and the first to bite the dust. That was in the 1970s. The SACD and DVD-A formats debuted at the dawn of the century, promising vastly improved sound quality over the CD, and both formats flopped. Their futures looked bright, so why did they fail?
Of course the record labels knew selling a new format on the basis of sound quality was a risky business, so they tacked on 5.1 surround sound. There were millions of households in the early 2000s with multichannel home theaters, so selling new music surround formats looked … Read more
Most of the music people enjoy doesn't sound very good. That's not to say it isn't good music, just that it doesn't sound great. I'm not picking on digital or contemporary music; most of my favorite Motown and Stax soul music from the 1960s and 1970s sounds like crap. Most rock music from any decade sounds cruddy; that's just the way it is.
A lot of today's best bands, including alternative darlings Arcade Fire, make awful-sounding recordings. I'm specifically referring to their Grammy Award-winning "The Suburbs" album from 2010; it'… Read more
I loved Tower Records, but I never felt a thing about any of the other big record store chains like Sam Goody, Virgin, or HMV Records. I'm sure that over a 20-year period I bought 1,000 albums at Tower Records in New York City, vs. maybe one or two at the other chains. It's easy to explain why; the other majors weren't interesting enough to hold my attention. Their inventories were too superficial; when they'd have just a small handful of Miles Davis titles, Tower had a hundred.
Tower stores were in sync with the … Read more
I view the rising popularity of sound bar speakers as proof positive that more and more people are rejecting the notion of deploying five or more speakers in their home theaters. It's not just the number of speakers, people are also not thrilled by the idea of running wires to the far corners of their home theaters. Truly "wireless" surround speakers are a recurring fantasy, but I've yet to see a wireless surround speaker that doesn't have at least one wire; most have two (one for signal, one for power), which as far as I … Read more