High-End Audio

Did the iPod kill the boom box?

Starting in the 1970s boom boxes provided the soundtrack of urban life -- on the street, buses, subways, parks, and beaches -- boom boxes were everywhere. Now they're almost defunct, music has moved inside, between our ears. We plugged-in and tuned-out from the world around us. The transition from external to internal was slow at first, before the iPod there were other MP3 players, and before that there were portable CD and cassette players. But big and brash boom boxes survived and prospered when those headphone-oriented devices appeared and then disappeared from the scene. If iPods and phones didn'… Read more

A super deal on super audiophile speakers

Ah yes, the Pioneer SP-BS21-LR -- it was love at first listen back in 2011 when I reviewed it as part of Pioneer's awesome SP-PK21BS six-piece, subwoofer/satellite home-theater system. I used the SP-PK21BS package as one of my reference speaker systems in reviews after that and was always amazed by the speaker's sound and build quality. The SP-BS21-LR speakers sold for $130 a pair. It was later replaced by the SP-BS22-LR, which is the current model (the SP-PK21BS package has also been discontinued). The old and current speaker models have the same retail price, $130 a pair, … Read more

Do you ever get to really hear stereo sound?

Thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of wireless speakers, single-speaker sound is making something of a comeback. Sure, Bluetooth speakers can play the left and right channels of a recording, but since they're just a few inches apart, stereo is a non-event.

Ideally, for desktop stereo the left and right speakers should be at least 24 inches apart when you're sitting a few feet away. With room hi-fi systems, the speakers should be at least five to six feet apart. With desktop and hi-fi systems, the listener must be equidistant from the left and right speakers to hear accurate … Read more

Poll: What's your favorite audio format?

A couple of weeks ago I asked Audiophiliac readers to vote in my "What's the worst audio format?" poll, so now let's find out what you guys think is the best audio format. As in that poll, sound quality isn't the only criteria -- how you use the format and other factors may come into play.

I love vinyl but play more CDs, mostly because the selection of contemporary music is vastly greater on CD than it is on LP. I listen to Apple Lossless files on my iPod Classic when I'm on the … Read more

Can an audiophile find joy in an under $100 amplifier?

The Dayton Audio DTA-120 stereo integrated amp isn't very big, but for anyone searching for a decent amp that won't break the bank it's a real contender. First, let's look at the numbers: It's rated at 50 watts per channel for 8 ohm speakers; 60 watts per channel for 4 ohm speakers; the rear panel has stereo RCA inputs and speaker cable binding posts. The front panel has a 3.5 mm stereo minijack input, a 6.3 mm headphone jack, and a volume control. The DTA-120's extruded metal chassis feels solid, it's … Read more

Bona fide high-end, affordable in-ear headphones from Beyerdynamic

The DX 160 iE ($119) and DX 120 iE ($99) are the first in-ear headphones I've reviewed from Beyerdynamic, and they're both up there with the best I've heard in their price range. These two Beyerdynamics sound similar, but there's a bit more life and detail with the DX 160 iE's sound, so I spent more time listening with that one.

Both models come with seven different sizes of silicone tips, one pair of Comply tips, and carry cases; but neither one has a mic or phone controls. The cables are a little unusual, the … Read more

Would you like a brick-and-mortar headphone store in your town?

Jamey Warren owns a terrific headphone Web site, HeadRoom, and it's been a valuable resource for headphone buyers for 20 years. Since he already stocks a large inventory of headphones opening a physical store seemed like the next logical step. Great idea, but Warren's company is based in Bozeman, MT, a small town of less than 40,000 people. The store required additional staff and Warren had to rent a space downtown, but he was eager to take the chance. He sees the store as a work in progress, and if all goes according to plan Warren will … Read more

Architects need to start using their ears

Julian Treasure's TED Talk, "Why architects need to use their ears" struck a chord with me. Our noisy living and working environments create stress, precisely because architects routinely ignore the consequences of acoustics in their work. Treasure put it this way: "Architects design with their eyes rather than their ears -- which means that spaces generally look great and sound terrible." I always thought the same, but it was nice to hear someone as well spoken as Treasure put it so succinctly.

Treasure believes that of all the senses, hearing is the one that has … Read more

An awesome small room/high-end stereo system

One of the most important factors in selecting the right hi-fi components is room size. If you're lucky enough to have a big living space (over 500 square feet), I'd recommend floor-standing speakers. Big rooms also soak up amplifier power; smaller rooms need a lot less. Here in NYC, most folks live in small apartments, and they'll get terrific sound with midsize bookshelf speakers and small amps.

I was thinking about the stereo/room size ratio question during a recent visit to In Living Stereo, one of my favorite NYC hi-fi shops. I was listening to a … Read more

Poll: What's the worst audio format?

Moving forward from the earliest days of Edison cylinders in the late 1880s, there is a long list of consumer audio formats that garnered popular support, while many others disappeared without a trace. The 78 RPM record, 45 single, and LP all enjoyed mass acceptance. Reel-to reel tape never took off, but 4- and 8-track cartridges had a good run, then the cassette hit the big time. A higher-quality analog cassette format, the Elcasette, arrived with much fanfare yet never caught on. Later, the two consumer digital tape formats, DAT and DCC, fizzled. The CD almost killed the LP in … Read more