Which iPad should you buy?

Want to buy an iPad? Not every one does -- or should (see our Android picks for alternatives) -- but as of this moment, Apple is selling four distinct versions of its tablet. Now that the fourth-gen Retina iPad has replaced the iPad 2 in the roster, which of Apple's tablets is the right one? Which is the best value? What should you do?

Let's take a look at each: there are two iPad Minis, and two larger 9.7-inch iPads. The good news is this is a better selection of iPads than before. But, I also think … 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

The HTC Desire 601 brings 4G and flagship stylings on a budget

With its all-metal design and full-HD screen, the HTC One is a stunning piece of kit, whether you're a hardened tech nerd or a casual phone fan with deep pockets. If your budget is a bit tighter -- or you simply have better things to spend your money on -- the Desire 601 might be more up your street.

It has a 4.5-inch display, a capable dual-core processor, 4G LTE connectivity, and a decent 5-megapixel camera, all wrapped up in a body that's taken design cues -- such as the front-facing Boomsound speakers -- from its bigger, … 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

The Germans get serious about making great in-ear headphones

InEar is a new name to me, but it's an established German maker of high-end headphones. ALO's Ken Ball contacted me a few months ago about trying out some InEars and he sent over two models, the StageDiver 2 and StageDiver 3.

They look similar to custom-molded in-ear monitors from Ultimate Ears and Westone, but the StageDivers are universal-fit models that come with silicone ear tips. The large earpieces rest on the folds of your outer ear, so the fit feels more secure than in-ears that stick out from your ears. Both InEar models have user replaceable cables, … 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

The Beatles' US albums remastered: Review and overview

On Sunday, February 9, in 1964, 73 million viewers in the US and millions more in Canada watched the Beatles' American television debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show." The band's very first LP, "Meet the Beatles," sold 3.6 million albums in the first two months in the US, and Capitol Records went on to sell 15 million Beatles albums in the States in 1964. These were different albums, with different combinations of songs than the Beatles albums released in England. That separate release pattern continued until June 1967 with the release of the "… Read more

Come together: Rogue amplifier fuses the best of old and new tech

The Rogue Audio Sphinx is a cool-running vacuum tube/Class D hybrid design, but it feels and acts like a classic 1980s high-end integrated amplifier, and that's a compliment. If you need Bluetooth or digital inputs, sorry, the Sphinx won't cut it -- check out the NAD D 3020. That NAD is wonderful, but it doesn't sound like a tube amp. The Sphinx is tonally rich and warm, it's a honey.

The Sphinx is rated at 100 watts per channel for 8 ohm speakers, 200 watts per for 4 ohm speakers. There's no way you … Read more