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Audiophiliac's picks for 2013, golden age of headphone design

We're living in the golden age of headphone design. Never before has there been such a vast assortment of exceptional headphones available in every price class. I was totally knocked out by the terrific Koss KTX Pro 1, on sale for just $10 right now, and at the other end of the scale we have the best headphones I've heard, the $5,495 Abyss AB-1266. Slotted between those two I found lots of jewels, including Shure's radically innovative SE846 in-ear headphone. The NAD HP50 over-the-ear headphone beat out Sennheiser's and Bowers & Wilkins' similarly priced models.

The Abyss AB-1266 is a full-size (and more) design; it's huge and heavy, but I find it super-comfortable to wear for hours at a time. The secret? The AB 1266's ear pad barely touch my ears, and the sound is a giant leap better than anything I've had home. With good recordings, you feel like you're in the room with the band; no other headphone can come close to producing that level of realism. The AB 1266 is The Audiophiliac's Full-Size Headphone of the Year. Abyss' Joe Skubinski and his son Eric developed the AB-1266's planar magnetic drivers from the ground up over a period of nearly five years. … Read more

JBL LSR305: Resetting sound expectations for desktop speakers

The way I see it, JBL's LSR305 stands near the top of the heap for under $500 (per pair) desktop monitors for its remarkable sound quality. The LSR305 is a breakthrough product, the $199 speaker price (per speaker), puts it right in the middle of the highly competitive audiophile desktop market, but it's easy to find the LSR305 selling for $120, just $240 a pair! That's under Audioengine's and Emotiva's entry-level speakers' prices!

The deeply recessed "waveguide" surrounding the tweeter is the first tip-off the LSR305 is special. The guide focuses and controls … Read more

Twitter lets you look back at 2013's land of tweets

It's that time of the year: Just about every social site will be sharing the big stories that happened on their services in 2013. And Twitter is no different.

The social company has published a 2013 retrospective, allowing folks to check out some of the biggest stories that hit its network over the last year. The #2013 pane looks at the hottest topics each month, like the Academy Awards in February and the Boston Marathon bombings in April. Each month includes fast facts and some of the most popular tweets around a given subject. On the Boston Marathon bombings, … Read more

Apple iPad Mini Retina vs. the new Google Nexus 7

It's a Prizefight punchout between Apple and Google once again and both sides of this longstanding have brought their best 7-inch tablets to the table.

Apple's iPad Mini finally brings its Retina Display, the best-designed 7-inch tablet, and the power of its iTunes and App Store ecosystems.

The new Nexus 7, which is one of the most feature-packed 7-inch tablets on the market today, is pushing the 7-inch tablet into new territory with its full-HD display, and the Google Play store is no longer a weak spot for Android.

Which tablet will reign supreme? Apple's iPad Mini … Read more

Audiophiliac speaker of the year: Zu Druid V

The very first Zu speaker I ever heard was a Druid IV, and it bowled me over! There was a rare vitality to the sound. That was back in 2007, and every Zu speaker I've tested since then has been remarkable. The Druid V is not only a significant advance over any Zu I've tested, it's the best speaker I've heard at home this year.

The Druid V is a 50-inch-tall floor-standing loudspeaker, and it's bolted to an immaculately finished, machined aluminum base. The speaker sports the latest version of Zu's 10.3-inch full-range … Read more

More proof the world's best headphones are made in the US

The way I see it, high-end audio is all about the pursuit of excellence, and Audeze headphones exemplify that philosophy. Now sure, most headphone manufacturers try to make the best products they can, but mass-market brands have to satisfy a broad range of tastes, load on features like Bluetooth and phone controls that don't enhance sound quality, and design their products within real-world price constraints. Audeze engineers focus on doing whatever it takes to make the world's best-sounding headphones, and the results speak for themselves.

The new LCD-X full-size, open-back headphone ($1,699) comes with two 8.2-foot-long … Read more

Old school vs. new school as academic publishers brawl over Web

The competition for prominence in academic publishing heated up this week as a traditional company, Elsevier, tangled with a Digital Era rival, Academia.edu.

Academia.edu publishes research papers for free online after researchers upload them. On Friday, the company took down some papers after receiving Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices from Elsevier, which often charges for access to the articles.

"Academia.edu is committed to enabling the transition to a world where there is open access to academic literature. Elsevier takes a different view, and is currently upping the ante in its opposition to academics sharing … Read more

Stenheim Alumine: Elegant high-end speakers from Switzerland

I occasionally check in with local high-end audio dealers to see what's new, and they're never at a loss to demonstrate something to catch my ear. Th listening rooms at Audioarts have been refreshed since my last visit, and the store is now the best appointed shop in town. Audioarts doesn't cover entry-level or midrange gear, but there are plenty of other shops covering that market here in New York City.

I spent an hour or so listening to the Stenheim Alumine speakers, which were played with Nagra electronics and a Holborne Analog 2 turntable (the entire … Read more

Salesforce crowns second hackathon king after criticism

Salesforce deemed the $1 million prize for its recent hackathon as the "biggest single hackathon prize in history." It appears that pot has grown even sweeter.

After allegations of favoritism, secret judging, and a rigged contest for the company's first-pick winner, Salesforce announced Monday that there will also be a second winner. This means Salesforce will pay out a total of $2 million to the top two winning developer teams.

Here's how Salesforce's vice president of developer relations Adam Seligman explains it in a blog post he wrote Monday:

We heard feedback loud and clear … Read more

Prizefight: Sony PS4 vs. Microsoft Xbox One

It's a prizefight punch out between Sony and Microsoft in a battle for bragging rights for the next generation of gaming!

Sony's PlayStation 4 is the sleekest console we've ever seen, with powerful hardware to boot, and has its sight set on the hardcore gamer.

Microsoft's Xbox One brings new innovations like HDMI pass-through and voice commands. Gaming is its heart, but it also hopes to rule your living room.

So which gaming console is your prizefight King of the Ring? It's the PS4 versus the Xbox One.

Cast your vote!