I attended the Head-Fi "meet" last Saturday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in White Plains, NY. Head-Fi is a grass roots online community that reviews and discusses headphones, in-ear monitors (IEMs), headphone amplifiers, and music. Head-Fi's core is its discussion forums, where on average 3,000+ posts covering all aspects of headphones are made nearly every day. Head-Fi started in the U.S., but now has meets in Canada, England, Australia, Denmark, Singapore, and all over the world! You can join Head-Fi for free or just enjoy the site. I've attended a number of NY meets … Read more
The iPod is a phenomenon, and it has clearly elevated the state of the art of portable music players. But it's not a bona fide high-end device. It's good for what it is, but I've always been a bit frustrated by the iPod's inability to sound great with some of my favorite full-size headphones.
Earlier this year I reviewed the Hifiman HM-801, and dubbed it "the Hummer" of portable players. The HM-801 made my iPod sound feeble by comparison.
The HM-801 was conceived as an audiophile player, so non-sound-oriented features are scarce. Instead of a hard drive, the HM-801 uses 32GB SDHC cards, which can store 20 24-bit-96 kHz FLAC "albums," or 50 CD-quality albums. Obviously, you can bring a bunch of SD cards with you so capacity isn't an issue. The player retails for $790.
That's expensive, but the best stuff always is. The HM-801 is about to be joined by another Hifiman player, the HM-602. Priced at $439, it's a good deal more affordable, and smaller than the HM-801; it's just 2.4 by 4 by 1 inches. That's nearly the same size as an iPod Classic, but more than twice as thick.
I prefer the HM-801's bold styling, but the new player's ergonomics are better. Neither is as easy to use and navigate as an iPod, but I got the hang of the HM-602's functions in a few days. It also plays 32GB SDHC cards. Like the HM-801, the HM-602 plays 96-kHz sampled FLAC files, but reduces 24-bit resolution to 16 bit. It also plays WAV, MP3, ACC, OGG, and APE files. The new player has 16GB of built-in flash memory; the HM-801 has just 2GB.… Read more
Panasonic Technics' direct-drive (no belt) turntables have been DJ favorites since the 1970s. The blogs are abuzz with the news that Panasonic will cease Technics production this year. If it's true that Panasonic is completely out of the turntable business, that would be a shame.
That said, direct-drive turntables never really caught on with the audiophile crowd; we prefer belt-drive models. You see, the direct-drive motor's high torque instantly gets the platter up to speed from a dead stop, which is why Technics 'tables were prized by DJs.
But the powerful motors transmit whatever noise and vibration they … Read more
It's long been possible to connect Wi-Fi-enabled wireless devices to each other via a network or an access point, but the Wi-Fi Alliance has announced that is has begun certifying Wi-Fi Direct products "capable of making device-to-device connections." In other words, instead of your laptop sending documents to your printer via your network as is now the case, the new technology will make it possible for the laptop to speak directly to the printer.
To find out how it all works, I spoke with Wi-Fi Alliance spokesperson Kelly Davis-Felner.
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First demonstrated at CES 2010, Wi-Fi Direct has taken another step to become part of the Wi-Fi usage spectrum.
The Wi-Fi Alliance, the group that tests and certifies Wi-Fi products to make sure they interoperate, announced today that it has begun certifying products capable of making Wi-Fi-based device-to-device connections and designating them Wi-Fi Certified Wi-Fi Direct.
Traditionally, Wi-Fi clients need to connect to a central place, called an access point, before they can connect to one another in their "infrastructure" mode. Other than that, they can also connect in pairs via a mode called "ad-hoc," which … Read more
Advanced Micro Devices plans to unveil a new line of DirectX 11 graphics cards next week, CEO Dirk Meyer said in the chipmaker's earnings call yesterday.
According to Meyer, AMD will host "launch activities next week" for a second-generation of Direct X11 cards. He added that AMD plans to release "all the family members of that product line I'll call it, by the end of this quarter."
AMD expects to ship "several hundred thousand or hundreds of thousands of units" of the new graphics card during the quarter.
Everywhere we went in the 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe, we were met with turned heads and upturned thumbs. People couldn't get enough of looking at the angular coupe and, when the opportunity presented itself, asking us about it.
The CTS Coupe is a good-looking car with a profile that screams speed even when resting in a parking lot and neat touches such as handle-free doors that make this Caddy look more like a 2051 model than a 2011. We wouldn't turn down the extra performance if someone tossed us the keys to a rip-snorting CTS-V, but our tester'… Read more
It's one thing to buy a CD or a toaster oven online, but what about audio components? Wouldn't it be great to compare one speaker with another? With receivers it's impossible to gauge the touch and feel of the controls online. Sure, professionally written reviews can steer you in the right direction, but in the final analysis buying a hi-fi or home theater is mostly about personal taste. Buying "the best" at the cheapest price isn't always the ideal option; I think it should be more about getting the product that's right for you.
Sadly, expert advice isn't so easy to find, now that more and more independent brick-and-mortar audio shops have closed. That's no concern for buyers who happily forgo the advantages offered by the shops in favor of the lowest possible price. The online retailer can easily afford to give greater discounts; they don't have to pay high rent for a showroom, have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in demonstration units, provide on-site service technicians, and pay sales commissions. They can pass some of their savings onto their customers. Everybody wins, or do they?
I don't think so; it's the buyer who is losing out. Yes, the online discounters and factory-direct companies can always undercut the independent brick-and-mortar guys, but how do their customers know they're buying the speaker, amplifier, or turntable that best suits their needs? Have they listened for themselves and heard three or four competing speakers with their own ears? And if they wind up with a malfunctioning piece of brand new gear, they'll have to deal with it on their own. They won't get a "loaner" to use while they wait for the repair or replacement unit. Hookup questions will be answered by an anonymous person on an 800 line, not by the sales person at the local shop who knows you by name. … Read more
Khronos Group, the industry consortium that develops OpenGL, announced a new version of the graphics interface on Monday that it hopes will compete better with Microsoft's DirectX--and that could get a boost from 3D Web technology.
OpenGL 4.1, released just a few months after OpenGL 4.0, is an interface that programs can use to tap directly into a variety of graphics hardware. It's the 3D interface of choice for Mac OS X, Linux, and many 3D design applications, but when it comes to the biggest consumer market, games, DirectX rules the roost.
OpenGL 4.1 adds … Read more
As rumored last month, YouTube this week unveiled its latest partnership: a collaboration with ABC's local Bay Area news station that makes it easier for users to upload relevant local content they've snapped on their cell phone or other mobile video device.
On YouTube's blog, YouTube's news manager Olivia Ma says that ABC will then choose uploaded videos to run as part of local TV news coverage as well as on ABC7's Web site.
Alongside video content it's already received, or curated from known local YouTube users, ABC is encouraging users to go out … Read more