Wide-open sound: AKG K812 headphones

Even before I listened to the AKG K812 headphones I knew they were pretty special. First, they're so incredibly comfortable that after a few minutes it was easy to forget I was wearing a world-class headphone. One reason for that is with the K812, you never feel like you're cut off from the outside world -- you can hear everything around you. Once I started listening to tunes, that spacious quality remained and stereo imaging was wider and more outside my head than what I get from other headphones. Closed-back designs are always 100 percent closed, but open-backs … Read more

Rethinking Microsoft's tablet: Surface Pro 2 succeeds

The Surface Pro 2 is an excellent laptop-tablet hybrid.

I didn't think I would ever be able to write those words after using (for two months) the original Surface Pro, then selling it because, well, I didn't like it.

The Surface Pro 2 changed my mind, though.

A good laptop-tablet hybrid is extremely difficult to design and build; it took me a while to realize this.

Build something that works well as a tablet and it probably won't be a very good laptop. Emphasize the laptop aspect too much and it's a lousy tablet.

In short, … Read more

Ooh la la: The Aedle VK-1 headphones

As soon as I spotted the Aedle VK-1 headphones on the Web, I just had to check them out. That was early last year; e-mails were exchanged, and there were delays along the way, but now that I have them I'm happy to report they sound as good as they look. Aedle designs and manufactures the VK-1 in Paris, France.

I've had the VK-1 for a while; Aedle's founder Raphael Lebas was in NYC a few months ago and hand-delivered the headphones to me. He's a young guy, but totally focused on the job at hand. … Read more

ACLU: 'Obama, grant Edward Snowden immunity now'

In anticipation of President Barack Obama's speech about his review of the National Security Agency's spying programs, the American Civil Liberties Union has launched a petition calling for the amnesty of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

"Edward Snowden is a great American who deserves full immunity for his patriotic acts. And we're proud to serve as his legal advisors," the ACLU wrote on the petition. "Now if tens of thousands of us stand together and tell President Obama to grant Snowden immunity, we have a real chance of bringing him home."

As of … Read more

Sennheiser's HD-25 Aluminum and HD-26 Pro: Two knockout headphones from Germany

Sennheiser makes a lot of headphone models, and it can be a bit confusing to make sense of the lineup. Some models are close cousins, and then it's even tougher to keep track of them all. Take the Sennheiser HD-25 Aluminum ($330), the 25th anniversary edition of the classic HD-25 headphone. Then again, the HD-25 Aluminum looks like a twin of the Sennheiser Amperior ($349), and to keep things interesting Sennheiser just introduced another very similar model, the HD 26 Pro ($320). I don't have an on-ear Sennheiser Momentum ($200) in house to compare, but I know it … Read more

Court to Yelp: Reveal names of negative reviewers

I recently stayed in a hotel that was described by a Yelp reviewer like this:

Don't be fooled by the nice pictures on their Web site. The one bedroom suite we got looked like a gross, dirty version in comparison (imagine Jersey Shore house AFTER it's already been stayed in). Stains on the drapes, the two girls that slept on the pull out couch got bug bites, and poor plumbing in the bathroom (the shower smelled like sewage and every time the toilet was flushed you had to wait at least 10 minutes before it could be used … Read more

Kickstarter's year in review: 3M people pledge $480M

What company could claim to have helped launch satellites into space, brought US rappers to North Korea, been part of powering up the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, and resurrected the TV show Veronica Mars? Kickstarter, of course.

This crowdfunding platform came out with its stats for 2013 on Wednesday and the year proved to be the company's best to date. In all, Kickstarter saw 3 million people pledge $480 million on projects posted to its Web site. That means $1,315,520 was pledged per day, coming out to $913 a minute.

According to Kickstarter, those millions of … Read more

Rotel's stereo integrated amp is high-end but not absurdly high-priced

If you listen to more music than watch movies at home, a top-notch integrated stereo amplifier may be a better choice than an AV receiver. I've said that for years. But a lot of the better-sounding integrated amps are feature-challenged, and some offer nothing more than an input selector for analog sources and a volume control. Some don't even have a remote control. So I was happy to spend some quality time with Rotel's sweet-sounding, fully loaded RA-1570 amplifier.

The 17x5.8x13.75-inch component weighs a hefty 28.7 pounds. That's interesting because this 2x120 watt … Read more

Back to the future: Koss Pro4AA headphones

The Koss Pro4AA has been around for ages, and when you listen you'll know why. Koss got the sound right the first time. And while contemporary headphones have more features and are lighter and more comfortable, they're nowhere as ruggedly built as the Pro4AA. This headphone will shrug off more than a few mishaps that would shatter to pieces a lot of 2013 designs.

So if you're rough on headphones, you might want to pick up a pair. And since they're covered by a lifetime warranty, Koss will keep repairing or replacing them forever. The warranty … Read more