Secbrowsing is a free extension for Google Chrome that automatically checks for updates for your plug-ins. Calling this simple program "compact" hardly seems to do justice to its tiny footprint; at a mere 2.47 KB (yes, kilobytes) it's probably close to some software equivalent of the quantum realm, beyond which programs are simply too tiny to exist in the Windows universe. It does the job well, so there's no reason it should be any bigger. In the world of browser extensions, smaller is better. Keeping Chrome lean and speedy is one of the open source … Read more
We downloaded and installed QuickJava and restarted Firefox. QuickJava placed six blue icons in the statusbar at the far right edge along the bottom of our Firefox interface, labeled Js, J, F, SL, and … Read more
This program is called Kid-Key-Lock, but it could just as easily be called Cat-Key-Lock. It was just a few days ago that we came back to our computer to find that our cat had added several letters and numbers and 15 pages of carriage returns to a document that we had been working on. Whether you have a curious toddler or an oblivious feline, Kid-Key-Lock can keep your computer safe from unwanted keyboard and mouse input.
The program appears as an icon in the system tray, and you can access the setup menu by right-clicking on it. From there, there … Read more
I've probably listened to and reviewed a thousand speakers, and truth be told, the majority of them never sound like live music. They sound like speakers.
The "problem" with box speakers is that you're always aware the sound is coming out of a box, but Magnepan speakers don't have a box. And they don't have dome tweeters or cone midrange or woofer drivers, either. Magnepan technology is radically different than what you find on box speakers, so the 1.7's sound "floats" free of the speakers themselves.
The new Magnepan 1.7 ($1,995 per pair) looks a lot like the model it replaces, the 1.6, which was regarded by many of the world's high-end audio critics, including me, as one of the greatest less-than-$2,000 speakers on the market. The 1.6 stayed in the line for more than 10 years, and I have every reason to believe the 1.7 will be a standard bearer for just as long. And speaking of value, Magnepan also offers a factory-direct $599 (per pair) panel speaker, the MMG. The technology isn't as advanced as the 1.7's, but it's miles ahead of any other $599 speaker I can think of.
The 1.7 panel is 64.5 inches high, 19.25 wide, and just 2 inches thick. Magnepan builds all of its speakers in White Bear Lake, Minn., and almost all the 1.7's parts that aren't fabricated in-house are sourced from U.S. suppliers. I reviewed the 1.7 for Tone Audio magazine, where you can read the complete review.
The 1.7's technology is unprecedented for Magnepan; the speaker is the company's first "full-range ribbon" design. It's also worth noting that what makes a well setup pair of 1.7s so special isn't just something that only dyed-in-the-wool audiophiles would notice; pretty much anyone with ears will immediately grasp what's going on. Their box-free sound is astonishing.… Read more
Wapedia isn't the only free Android app to access Wikipedia, but its extras make it a favorite. If you're patient, Wapedia will search for article matches as you type, which saves you some effort. Along with pulling in Wikipedia content, it also imports your article's photos and a collapsed table of contents that saves on space and helps you navigate around.
In addition to sharing articles with friends, you can read articles in a language other than your default, customize preferences, and read in full-screen mode. We appreciate the bookmark button that keeps tabs on articles for … Read more
"Good enough" audio is the order of the day, but here at The Audiophiliac it's all about great sounding gear, which can get really expensive. Usually, but not always, so here's a Top 10 list of great gear that won't break the bank. Prices run from $8 to $1,995, and seven of the ten are under $650. All are truly exceptional performers, affordably priced. (Just note that these are my personal picks; see CNET's list of best home audio products for the editors' official recommendations.)
Grado SR60i headphones ($79). Grado long ago set the standard for unbelievably great-sounding, full-size budget headphones with the original SR60. The SR60's sound had weight, detail and punch far beyond the capabilities of most under $100 'phones. Jim Austin, over at Stereophile magazine, recently reviewed the SR60i, and he thinks Grado's upgraded design surpasses the original SR60.
Ikea Lack hi-fi component stand ($7.99) It's made of particleboard and ABS plastic, and it comes in a variety of painted colors (and "birch effect"); it's 21.3 inches wide and deep, and 17.75 inches high. Ikea doesn't present the Lack as audio furniture; it's a side table, but audiophiles all over the world have used it to support their prized possessions. Build quality is surprisingly sturdy.
Sony XDR-F1HD HD Radio ($100). I guess most of you don't listen to radio anymore, but if you're lucky enough to still have a great NPR or college station nearby, you gotta hear this radio. Plug it into your computer or hi-fi and it'll sound better than Internet radio by a long shot.
Samsung HT-C6500 home theater in a box system ($649, pictured at top). I've probably reviewed more HTIBs than anybody, but this new Blu-ray Samsung HTIB really stood out from the crowd. First because it doesn't have the feeble, thin sound I associate with the petite speakers that come with most HTIBs. The sound is rich, full, and thanks to the HT-C6500's potent subwoofer, powerful.
Altec Lansing Expressionist Ultra MX6021 PC speaker-subwoofer system ($200). I checked out Altec's mighty PC sound system when David Carnoy was working on his CNET review. Wow, this thing rocks! It's remarkably clean-sounding, and the subwoofer goes really deep, without the boom and bloat so common to computer speaker systems. Face it, you're never going to get great sound out of pipsqueak speakers, the Altec system's subwoofer is 15.8 inches tall by 15.1 inches wide by 10.2 inches deep, and the satellites sport 3-inch midrange drivers and 1-inch neodymium tweeters. It's easily the best sounding $200 speaker/subwoofer package on the planet! … Read more
Sudoku is an addictive number puzzle that challenges users to fill in the missing numbers based on the numbers that are present; each of nine grids must contain the numbers one through nine once, as must each row and column of the playing board. The premise is simple, but the game can be quite a challenge. Sudoku Portable is a lightweight version of this popular puzzle that's made to be used on USB drives and other portable devices (although it works just fine installed on a PC). It's not fancy, but it does deliver the fun--and frustration--of traditional … Read more
Jamendo is an online music sharing community where users can stream and download a wide variety of music. What sets Jamendo apart from similar sites is that all of its music is licensed with Creative Commons or the Free Art License, making it legal to copy, share, and edit songs found there. Jamendo Radio is a Chrome extension that lets users control Jamendo from within their browser. It's not the most intuitive add-on we've ever seen, but once we figured it out we found that it worked well.
Jamendo Radio installs easily and appears as a small icon … Read more
Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing sites based on torrents have made it possible for users to share and download huge files without the need for large servers to host them. Torrents technology breaks big files down into many tiny chunks, each hosted on the PCs of individual members of the P2P network. There are dozens of file-sharing clients available, most of them free; some promise power and flexibility, and others focus on making the file-sharing experience as easy as possible. Goforsharing's Sharetastic 1.7 is a bit of both. It's designed to make it as easy as possible not only … Read more
Every year product life cycles in the consumer marketplace grow ever shorter and we see ever faster turnover in cameras, phones computers, and so on. On the audio side, the latest and greatest receivers become yesterday's news faster than you can say "HDMI 1.4." It seems like no receiver can stay current for more than a year or so.
Speaker companies show a little more restraint and "refresh" their lines every few years, but even then new models rarely demonstrate actual performance improvements over the previous generations' models. Speaker manufacturer Magnepan doesn't play by those rules; it invests years of development in each of its models before introducing a new speaker. It has to sound better--a lot better--than the outgoing model before it's released to the world.
And not just in the opinion of the designers. New-model Magnepans undergo extensive "blind" listening tests with a wide range of audiophile and non-audiophile listeners (the listeners don't know whether they're hearing the old or new model). The new speaker must consistently score better than the old model before it goes into production.
When I first heard the Magneplanar 1.6 back in 2008 I said it was the best under-$2,000 speaker on the market. Incredibly enough it was 10 years old at the time! The Magneplanar 1.6 has stayed in production for 12 years, but now it's about to be replaced with the new Magneplanar 1.7.
Magnepan, based in White Bear Lake, Minn., builds nothing but panel (boxless) speakers. Not only that, Magnepan designs forgo conventional dome tweeters and cone-type woofers. As I pointed out in my August 14, 2008, blog that's why the company's Magneplanar 1.6 speaker mostly avoids sounding like a speaker. The speaker earned the top position in my Top 10 greatest audiophile speakers blog earlier this year.
The new Magneplanar 1.7 is also a flat-panel design, 64.5 inches tall and a mere 2 inches thick! The new speaker looks a little more contemporary, thanks to its aluminum, wrap-around edge molding. The old model was a two-way design, with a 48-inch-tall aluminum ribbon tweeter and a 442-square-inch mid/bass panel. The Magneplanar 1.7 is a three-way design, with a woofer, tweeter, and super-tweeter. The super-tweeter comes in around 10,000 hertz and is said to produce wider dispersion and better-resolved treble than the Magneplanar 1.6 did.
The other big difference is the Magneplanar 1.7 is a "full-range" ribbon design.… Read more