Sonically speaking, what does a great speaker sound like?

It comes up again and again: "Steve, please recommend a great speaker." Good question, but there are a lot of factors to consider before coming up with a definitive answer. A lot depends on what you're looking for and how you define "great." Nailing down the price is the first step, but if there's one thing I've learned about audiophiles, it's that taste always plays a big part in evaluating sound quality. That's why, in my reviews, I describe how a speaker sounds with different kinds of music.

There's no … Read more

Get an Urge Basics portable Bluetooth speaker for $33.99

Headed to the beach? The campground? The shower? Gotta love a battery-powered Bluetooth speaker for those and other destinations.

But which one? Jawbone's Jambox is arguably the best-known, but at $129.99 (down from $179.99), it feels a little pricey. Thankfully, there are more affordable alternatives.

Like this one: Today only, and while supplies last, Tanga has the Urge Basics Soundbrick portable Bluetooth speaker for $33.99, plus $2.99 for shipping. It's available in your choice of colors: white, blue, red, and pink.

Urge Basics? Nope, I never heard of 'em either. But check this out: … Read more

AT&T offers $99 HTC One 32GB package in error

AT&T subscribers eyeing the HTC One were able to save $100 and get a free Beats speaker to boot due to an error from AT&T.

The carrier's HTC One 32GB package includes the 32GB edition of HTC's flagship phone and throws in a Beats Pill Bluetooth speaker, which by itself retails for $199.

On Friday, the price listed for the entire package was $99, which almost seemed like too good a deal. And in fact, it was. The $99 price was actually put up in error. However, AT&T will honor the price … Read more

Review: Speakers Lock restricts other users from changing your volume

Speakers Lock grants you more control over your volume, but installs as an ad-supported application; therefore, caution is needed. It will drive your antivirus software up the wall and try to load your computer up with nasty adware. Once you get to the program, itself, it's a little too aggressive with how it takes over your volume; but it performs well.

Since this is an executable program, it might make your antivirus software suspicious. That could be because the program is loaded with nasty add-ons. It tries to change your search and your homepage, and install something called the &… Read more

A jumbo AirPlay speaker with a less sizable sound

When a Bluetooth or AirPlay speaker crosses the $500 mark, you expect to be impressed. Yes, it has to sound good, and yes, it has to look good, but it also has deliver just a little something extra to make you throw out reason and spend more than you probably should on a wireless speaker.

The Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200 ($600) is an undeniably nice speaker, but it doesn't quite feel worthy of the asking price. Its strongest suit is its refined design, with a clean look that blends into most decor without drawing attention to itself. The … Read more

Meet the new champ of desktop speakers: Adam Audio F5

My first encounter with one of Adam Audio's smallest speakers, the ARTist 3, took me by surprise last year. That little speaker is still in the line, but when I learned Adam just introduced a less expensive, but slightly larger desktop speaker, the F5, I was eager to get it in for review. The ARTist 3 has a better tweeter, bigger amps, a more robustly designed cabinet, and it's a lot nicer looking. The F5's black vinyl-covered cabinet is strictly business, and at $499 a pair it lists for $300 less than the ARTist 3.… Read more

Crave giveaway: Boombotix Boombot Rex portable speaker

Congrats to John D. of Fruitland Park, Fla., for winning a Crucial M500 SSD and copy of Iolo System Mechanic in last week's giveaway. This week, I asked you for help deciding whether to give away a mini action cam, a waterproof iPhone 5 case, or an ultraportable speaker. The speaker won by a few tweets, so here you go, readers. Ask and ye shall receive (and don't worry; those other prizes will be coming soon).

We're giving away a pocket-size Boombotix Boombot Rex, which connects via Bluetooth to smartphones, tablets, laptops, and any other device with a 1/8-inch standard headphone jack. It's got built-in voice control so you can ask the time, dial a contact, or play a song, all while keeping your handheld device in your pocket. How you'll look talking to your speaker? Well, that's your business. … Read more

Rate your AV receiver's autosetup program

I've had a run of bad luck with some of the latest AV receivers' autosetup programs; they set the subwoofer volume way too loud, or misidentified the "sizes" of the speakers (one receiver tagged our small Aperion 4B satellites as large speakers). These reviews have yet to post, but that boo-boo played havoc with the sound. Rerunning autosetup sometimes fixes the problem, but not always. When I'm testing speakers I always do a totally manual setup. In this man versus machine contest, I always win.

Automatic calibration programs started to appear on Pioneer's higher-end receivers … Read more

Gallo Micro SE: How can a speaker this small sound this good?

The Anthony Gallo Acoustics Micro SE speaker ($239) is a tiny steel sphere, just 4 inches in diameter -- that's the size of an orange. It's an audiophile quality performer, capable of delivering high-resolution sound and a big, downright spacious stereo image. In fact, the imaging of the Micro SE and the slightly larger A'Diva SE reminds me of the wide-open, boxless sound I get with large, flat-panel speakers. Since these Gallos have just one full-range driver, they don't need a crossover network to direct high frequencies to the tweeter and bass to the woofer, and … Read more

Three great-sounding affordable sound bars

No one can deny the popularity of sound bar speakers, but I've always been frustrated by their sound quality. There were exceptions; the $899 Atlantic Technology PB-235 and $699 SpeakerCraft CS3 are quite good, but in the more popular $300-to-$400 range the 'bars weren't all that great. Granted, they were a big step up from TV speakers, but their sound was still a compromise, compared with what's available from the better $300-to-$400 Emotiva and Audioengine self-powered stereo speakers (they get hooked up from your TV's stereo analog jacks).

A few weeks ago I spent … Read more