Sound posts on CNET

Sound

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

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

Getting better all the time: M-Audio BX5 Carbon speakers

I'm a big fan of M-Audio's desktop monitor speakers. Their build and sound quality standards, even for their near entry-level models, are exceptional. The new BX5 Carbon retails for $149.99 each.

The vinyl-wrapped, medium-density fiberboard speaker measures 10x7x8 inches. Around back there's a large bass port, so don't plan on placing this guy up against a wall. Each 11-pound speaker has two built-in amplifiers: a 40-watt unit for the 5-inch woven Kevlar woofer and a 30-watt for the 1-inch silk dome tweeter. Rather than use the more common Class D amps, M-audio engineers opted for … Read more

Schiit Audio's tiny, but powerful $119 tube headphone amplifier

Regular readers of this blog will recognize the Schiit name, I've covered a number of their headphone amplifiers and digital converters over the past few years. The newest little Schiit, the vacuum tube Vali, looks exactly like the company's $99 solid-state amp, the Magni, but the internal electronics are completely different. As I listened to them both and switched back and forth they sounded similar. I listened more and the Vali sounded a wee bit sweeter and richer. Not as big a difference as I would have thought, but different enough.

I liked it best with Grado headphones, … Read more

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