Magnepan's ultraskinny speakers make big, fat sound

Magnepan makes flat speakers, and has been perfecting the technology for more than 40 years. How flat is flat? The Super MMG three-piece system I'm looking at today is a mere 1.25 inches thick! The Super MMG floor-standing speaker is 48 inches high and 14 inches wide; the DWM Bass Panel is 19.25 inches high, 22.5 wide, and, like the speaker, just 1.25 inches thick. The Super MMG and DWM can be that thin because they don't use traditional box cabinets, cone woofers, or dome tweeters; they have "planar" flat drivers, designed … Read more

Is a stereo receiver right for you?

If you watch a lot of movies and can deal with the hassles of setting up five or more speakers, plus a subwoofer, go ahead and buy an AV receiver. We've reviewed a bunch of the latest models here on CNET, just pick the one that best suits your needs.

Then again, if you listen to more music than watch movies, a stereo receiver might be a better option. Think about it: the more speakers you buy with a fixed amount of dollars, the less good they're likely to be; the same dollar amount lavished on just two … Read more

Marshall Hanwell: An 'iPod' speaker on steroids

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed I'm not a big fan of any type of wireless speaker, and more specifically I have no love for Bluetooth or AirPlay speakers. For me the sound compromises that come with compact size and wireless technology are hard to swallow. I have less of a grudge against the smaller, under-$200 models; they produce "good enough" sound, but the more expensive models' sound pales next to a pair of wired Adam Audio, Audioengine, or Emotiva self-powered speakers.

So when I first spotted Marshall's $800 Hanwell speaker I wasn'… Read more

FiiO's nifty $200 portable high-resolution music player is a knockout

I've used an iPod Classic as my on-the-go music player for years, while I was waiting for something better. Sure, Astell & Kern has two perfectly fine players, the $699 AK100 and the $1,299 AK120, but FiiO smashed the high-resolution music player price barrier with the X3, which lists for $299, but which sells for $200 on Amazon and most other online retail sites.

I've favorably reviewed FiiO products before, so I had some reason to expect the X3 would be pretty decent, but it's way better than that. Granted, the X3 can't match the … Read more

Can a $15 in-ear headphone sound better than good enough?

This blog is all about finding great-sounding audio products, in every price range. In June I reported on the best-sounding headphone I've ever heard, the Abyss AB-1266, but not long after that I was knocked out by Sony's MDR-V6, and now I'm auditioning these surprisingly decent $15 Audio Technica ATH-CLR100 in-ear headphones.

Introduced earlier this year, this all-plastic design is incredibly light, just 3.4 grams. It has 8.5mm drivers, sports small, medium, and large silicone eartips, and the headphone comes with a round plastic case. Amazon sells it for around $12, and even with that … Read more

The Zoom H6 high-resolution portable recorder

The new Zoom H6 Handy Recorder jams a lot of technology and features into a surprisingly compact device, and it sounds great. The H6 was designed for musicians, sound professionals, journalists, and videographers, but I'm sure there's a smattering of audiophiles who would really enjoy using this thing. I spent a few days recording street musicians performing in various parks around NYC, and one feature immediately stood out, the interchangeable microphone modules that plug into the top of the recorder. The H6 carries a retail price of $399, and that price includes two mic modules, X-Y, and MS (… Read more

Motion Tennis hands-on: iPhone + Apple TV = Wii-style gaming

Has the Wii era come to an end? If Wii U sales are any indication, America's love affair with the popular game console looks to have petered out.

But that hasn't stopped Rolocule Games from borrowing the Wii concept for an intriguing iPhone game: Motion Tennis ($7.99). Forget flicking tiny onscreen players; Motion Tennis pairs with your living-room TV by way of your Apple TV, which is required to play the game. And in true Wii style, your iPhone becomes the controller.

See, late-model iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches can mirror their displays via an Apple TV, … Read more

The edge of the art of headphone amplifier design

I've heard a lot of, but far from most of the world's best headphone amps, but even in that heady territory the Auralic Taurus MKII shines. I've used a wide range of my very best headphones, in-ears and full-size, and they're all sounding better than I've heard them before.

The $6,475 Mal Valve amp is right up there, but it's been a few months since I heard it, and I never had it at home so my experience was more limited. I had the luxury of living with the Taurus MKII for weeks, … Read more

Chasing the ultimate sound system

Last month I asked readers to submit essays for my "You can be the Audiophiliac for a day" contest. I received a lot of thought-provoking pieces, and I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to write. You guys are a smart bunch, but there can be only one winner, and I selected John O.'s "Chasing the Ultimate Sound System." His perceptive examination of the audiophile quest for great sound will reverberate with a lot of folks. The only thing I'd like to add is that the only person you need to … Read more

ReadyCase hands-on: A crowd-funded project comes to life

Way back in October 2012, I told you about the ReadyCase, an Indiegogo project for an iPhone case with seven handy built-in tools.

Because I was in the market for a new case for my 4S, I decided to fund it, even though it meant waiting until production began in February.

I ended up waiting quite a bit longer; various delays pushed the shipping date back and back, resulting in no small number of extremely angry backers (as evidenced by the comments on the project page). But a few days ago, my ReadyCase finally arrived. Was it worth the wait?… Read more