Over the past year or so we've seen a new product category emerge: the portable digital converter/headphone amplifier. Of course, no one "needs" such a device -- phones and iPods already have converters and amps built-in -- and sound perfectly fine with average headphones. The sound is good enough, but your phone's converter and amp share space and battery power with the phone's electronics. A separate converter and amp, about the size of a phone, has only one mission: improved sound quality. So if you upgraded to a high-end in-ear headphone, like the $399 … Read more
Late last year I raved about the ADL by Furutech Cruise USB digital-to-analog headphone amplifier, so when the company sent over the new Esprit desktop digital-to-analog converter, I was eager to see what it could do.
I had the 2.3-inch-by-5.8-inch-by-7.4-inch component on my desktop for a few months and I was a little concerned that I was starting to take it for granted. It sounded so utterly natural that I listened to it a lot longer than I needed to write a review, and that's always a good sign. I ran it with my Emotiva airmotiv … Read more
There's good sound, and there's high-end sound; the difference is in the details. Case in point: the little Cruise USB digital-to-analog headphone amplifier from Alpha Design Labs by Furutech.
The Cruise sounds clear, clean and remarkably transparent. Regarding the details, connectivity comes in two flavors, there's a 3.5 mm analog stereo line input and 24/96 USB digital input. The Cruise can run off its external AC power supply, internal rechargeable lithium ion battery, or USB power from your computer. Furutech claims the battery is good for 80 hours of playback time.
High-end gear has to look the part, and again the Cruise scores. It may be a little thing, but it feels solid. Mirror-polished, nonmagnetic stainless-steel end caps flank a curvy, high-gloss carbon fiber body. Resting on my desktop the Cruise absolutely looks the part; it's the real deal. … Read more
As I said a few days ago, bona fide audio breakthroughs are rare, but there was no shortage of interesting gear at this year's CES shindig in Las Vegas.
Stereophile's Tyll Hertsens spotted Furutech's GT-40 combination USB digital-to-analog converter/phono preamp/headphone amp. The device can rip your vinyl or play computer files at up to 24-bit/96-kHz resolution with USB convenience, and includes a high-quality headphone amp. It looks great!
CNET's Natali Morris' report on Sculpted Eers' custom-molded in-ear headphones looked really interesting. Every other custom molded in-ear on the market requires the buyer to first go to an audiologist to make "ear impressions" of your ear canals, which are sent to the headphone manufacturer; you get your headphones a couple of weeks later. With these Sculpted Eers headphones, you go to a store that sells Sculpted Eers and they make your headphones on the spot. Prices start around $149, which is $250 less than any custom-molded in-ears I've tested to date. How good are they? We'll see.
Over at Audio Review, Adam LaBarge was bowled over by Zu Audio's new $40,000 flagship speaker, the Dominance. LaBarge called it "a well-tamed beast that is just waiting to explode." Zu founder Sean Casey told me about this speaker a few weeks ago, and he sounded pretty excited about it. Zu has made its name selling affordable (by high-end standards) American-designed and -built speakers. For example, the $1,000-a-pair Zu Omen is getting great word of mouth, so I'm super-curious about this mega-buck Zu. … Read more
I didn't go to CES, but a lot of my friends did. I call them all the time, and they don't seem to be all that jazzed about what they're seeing. "Nothing new" is what I keep hearing, but there were a few juicy tidbits to be found.
The new 3D TVs and Blu-ray players may or may not render the AV receiver you bought way back in 2009 obsolete. I can't get a consistent answer to the question: do you need a receiver with HDMI 1.4 to pass 3D program material to your 3D TV? You may not care about 3D, but if you do please direct your anger at the consumer electronics industry that regularly leaves its client base high and dry. We'll have to see how 1.4 works out.
Ultimate AV magazine was impressed with the Manley Stingray iTube stereo integrated amplifier. Sure, we've seen vacuum tube iPod dock/amps before, but this is the first one with real audiophile appeal. The blue LED displays surrounding the input and volume knobs can be dimmed down or turned off entirely. Manley makes truly stellar tube electronics for audiophiles and the pro market. … Read more
Warped LPs are the bane of vinyl loving audiophiles. Non-flat platters play havoc with phono cartridges' ability to accurately track grooves and worse yet, the warps make demands on power amplifiers as they try to reproduce wavy records' very low frequency undulations. Woobly LPs sometimes make your speakers' woofers pump in and out. In other words, flat records just plain sound better than warped ones.
Furutech's DFV-1 Record Flattener uses heat and compression to "iron" warps smooth and flat. The device clamps the record, slowly applies heat and gentle pressure, and finally cools the record. The automated … Read more
With luxury turntables reaching prices well into six figures, a salient question arises: What about the quality of the albums themselves? Even the most ardent vinyl collector has lost a few records to warping over the years.
That's where the "DFV-1 Record Flattener" will prove its worth as long as it stays true to its name. The device, made by Tokyo-based Furutech, claims to be a "one-stop, one-button solution" that uses a "carefully controlled heating and cooling cycle it flatten all your warped records, even those with only slight irregularities that still unsettle your … Read more