How small can a bona fide high-end headphone amplifier be?

Meridian Audio may be one of Britain's oldest high-end audio brands. It was founded in the late 1970s, but it was always exploring new technologies. It introduced the world's first high-end CD player in 1984, advanced the state of the art in self-powered speakers, and pioneered digital loudspeakers. The company also developed the lossless compression technology used in many Blu-ray Discs.

So when I heard Meridian was introducing a high-end headphone amplifier, I immediately requested a review sample. When the box arrived, I thought they had sent the wrong piece, it was too small to be a contender, … Read more

Review: Convert audio files to play on your device with Free Audio Converter 2014

In the crowded field of audio conversion tools, Free Audio Converter 2014 straddles the fence between ease of use and features. It's an approach that many users will no doubt want to try, especially those disappointed by stripped-down tools yet intimidated by the do-it-all software. It has the features we expect, like drag-and-drop and plenty of presets to make it easy to convert files to play on your phone or other devices, and it supports high-quality formats like Ogg Vorbis and FLAC.

Like the program, itself, Free Audio Converter 2014's user interface strikes a balance between ease of … Read more

Former homeless man finds success in the speaker business

Five years ago I wrote about a homeless man in California who wanted to start a speaker company. That man, Kevin Nelson, dared to be different: his speakers could produce stereo sound from a single box. He was way ahead of his time -- nowadays millions of Bluetooth speakers claim the same thing. But Nelson's speakers do a more convincing job of creating stereo. Nelson started working on the stereo from one speaker idea in 1989 and spent years perfecting the concept. He cooked up the name Zealth Audio early on and stuck with it.

Some time after I … Read more

What should you look for when choosing a car stereo?

When most people think about a "car stereo," they're actually thinking about the receiver. Also known as the head unit or deck, the receiver is both the brain and heart of your car audio system and the bit that you'll directly interact with from behind the wheel. When you choose a receiver, you're also locking in your available audio sources, features, and the expandability of the rest of your car audio system.

So what should you look for when choosing for a new receiver? Here are the 7 attributes that we consider when recommending a … Read more

Get an iLoud Bluetooth speaker for $234 shipped

Calling all musicians (and music lovers): today's deal is for you.

For a limited time, and while supplies last, StackSocial has the IK Multimedia iLoud Bluetooth speaker for $239 shipped. And when you apply coupon code cheapskate5 at checkout, your price drops to just $234. It lists for $299.99 and sells elsewhere in the $290 range.

So, yeah, $234 is still a lot for a speaker. But this is about as premium as they get, a great choice for a den or family room where you want rich, full sound from a fairly compact package. Or for your … Read more

All-American beauty: Decware Zen Torii MKIV amplifier

Audiophiles love tube amplifiers; a sizable percentage of us own tube-based systems. It's easy to see why; tube amps look a lot more interesting than solid-state amps, and second, they sound different than solid-state. There's more character to the sound, and you can change the sound of a tube amp by swapping one brand of tubes for another. Sometimes a new $5 tube can light up your Wilco records in ways you never heard before.

Some tube amplifiers sound warm and rich, and some sound a lot like solid-state amps; Decware amps are right down the middle. The … Read more

Get the sounds you deserve with DJ Audio Editor

Most of us have a deep connection to our favorite music. While some are more laid back and take songs as they are, others like to tinker with their sounds. Not all of us can afford a professional recording studio, but now we can get all the tools we need in a quality mixer with DJ Audio Editor. This easy-to-use and well-organized music editing program will let you enjoy your favorite songs in ways, which you would never have imagined.

Manipulate audio files with tools that allow you to cut, join, trim, split, and mix audio files with a couple … 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

Devialet's stunningly beautiful amplifiers at CES 2014

I reviewed the first Devialet back in 2010, and that advanced tech amplifier, the D-Premier, rocked the audiophile world. At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Devialet is showing its next generation amps. There's the new flagship Devialet 240, along with the more affordable Devialet 170 and Devialet 110, which can either be placed on a table or vertically mounted flat on a wall.

Catch CNET's complete coverage of CES 2014

High-resolution music streaming from computers, smart phones, or tablets using any format up to 24 bit/192 kHz digital is possible. Rear panel connectivity features … Read more

Harman's got the Rx for poor-quality music

LAS VEGAS -- The connected car brings many advantages to the driver, but will also mean degraded music quality as people increasingly use streaming audio-services. At CES 2014, Harman announced Signal Doctor, a digital signal processor technology that attempts to restore fidelity to compressed audio.

Typical digital audio tracks bought from Amazon and iTunes are compressed to 128 or 256Kbps, and streaming audio from the likes of Pandora and Spotify is often down to 64 or 96Kbps. That much compression means a lot of lost information from a music track, which diminishes the sound quality.

Signal Doctor analyzes the audio … Read more