I didn't know the price of the M-Audio M3-8 when I first started listening, I just assumed it was $900 to $1,000 for the pair of speakers. No, the street price is closer to $600 for a pair, around the same price as for one of the reigning wireless champions, such as the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air or Bose SoundDock 10. And the M3-8s deliver so much more of the sound of your music than those two wireless models, it's not even close. For one thing a pair of M3-8s produce stereo, and the sort of … Read more
The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest is held every October in Denver, and every year it's packed with the latest and greatest high-end audio goodies. High-end doesn't necessarily mean outrageously expensive, though; Schiit Audio was previewing its upcoming $119 Vali tube headphone amplifier, and I quickly auditioned Audioengine's soon-to-be-released $249/pair A2+ desktop speakers. I hope to get one of the first pairs in for review. Hifiman was showing prototypes of a sleek portable music player that comes with a set of the company's excellent in-ear headphones; the complete system price was $249.
Oppo, best known for … Read more
The Gigaom Web site reported on December 20 that Pono announced it won't be showing at the CES show in Las Vegas in January.
I first heard about Neil Young's Pono music system more than a couple of years ago, and it was supposed to roll out a few months later. Rumors continued to circulate about an imminent debut, then fade away. Young showed a Pono music player prototype on the David Letterman show in September 2012, and it seemed like the launch was within reach.
Like everybody else I'm still unsure about how the Pono music … Read more
Bass-emphasized headphones are now the norm, so much so that when I get to listen to more accurate headphones they really stand out. Not that I have anything against bass, readers of this blog who crave feel-it-in-your-bones bass had their turn with the JBL Synchros S700 headphones, so now it's time to go for a higher-resolution/clarity model with the new Phiaton Fusion MS 430 M-Series headphones ($179).
The earcups' carbon fiber inserts are a sleek styling touch, but the ear cushion's comfort levels are good, not great. While the headband padding may be a little lean for … Read more
Every now and then I get e-mails from readers who like to listen loud -- really loud. One recent one asked, "Can you recommend a nice pair of tower or bookshelf speakers capable of keeping the party going?" Well, there's loud, really loud, and there comes a point where it's so loud your neighbors call the police.
The guy's budget was limited to around $600 for a pair of speakers, so I immediately thought of Klipsch; its larger bookshelf and tower speakers can play really loud, and sound good while raising the roof.
I rang … Read more
I recently met with speaker designer Andrew Jones at the CNET office in NYC to discuss his latest project, the new Pioneer SP-SB23W Speaker Bar. And after we finished, I picked his brain about the value of speaker specifications.
My take is that most, but not all, are nearly useless for providing consumers with information that could lead to opting for one speaker over another. For example, what exactly does "power handling" mean? When a manufacturer claims its speaker has a 100-watt power handling rating, can it be safely used with a 200-watt-per-channel amplifier? Or a 500-watt amp? … Read more
If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that most people like bass, and they like more bass even more. I suppose JBL engineers know the same thing, and they made sure the new Synchros S700 over-the ear, closed-back headphones deliver incredibly deep bass.
Designwise, JBL avoided the slick, plastic look of Beats and other fashion-oriented 'phones. The Synchros S700's precision die-cast aluminum earcups look like they mean business, and the headband is steel-reinforced, so the headphones feel really solid. One other reason for that is the headband isn't hinged, so while it … Read more
I remember the very first Woo Audio headphone amp I heard five years ago; it was the $520 WA-3, and they still make it. The little amp made a strong impression because it so radically improved the sound of Grado headphones. That amp transformed Grados, gave them more soul, more body, and sweetness. I've reviewed a number of Woo products over the years, but the new WA-234 Mono is a very different beast. First, it is as the name implies, a monophonic design, so you need two amps for stereo. The other big difference is that these tube amps … Read more
CNN recently reported on the "death" of the home stereo system, and while that's an exaggeration, few people -- young or old -- have "stereos" anymore. CNN was asleep at the wheel on this one; precious few folks have had stereos for decades. Music is now almost always consumed in cars, and over phones and plastic computer or Bluetooth speakers. If there's an imminent "death" on the horizon, it will surely strike MP3 players and iPods. Phones have already taken over as the portable music players of choice. Do you know anyone … Read more
I bought a Linn LP-12 way back in 1978, and used Linn turntables until five years ago, when I bought a VPI Classic. Turntables last practically forever, which is one of my favorite things about high-end audio gear: the best products have incredibly long lives. As I recall, the LP-12's initial claim to fame was conceptual; Linn promoted the idea that the "front-end," aka the source -- a turntable, CD player, or cassette deck -- would make or break the overall sound of a music system. If the source's sound quality was poor to start with, … Read more