Rants

Do you have a problem with clutter?

Are people more obsessed with reducing clutter now than they were in times past? A mastering and recording engineer friend recently told me he was selling off all of his CDs and LPs, and from now on Spotify would be his only music source. I was taken aback by that remark; this man has spent his entire working life making the best-sounding music he could, but from now on he'll be streaming tunes. So I asked if he heard something new on Spotify he really liked, would he buy it? He just smiled and said, "Why?" So … Read more

Can Sony make a world-class headphone?

2014 isn't shaping up as a stellar year for Sony, the company is forecasting losses of $1.1 billion, but I think a serious effort to reestablish its stature as a leading headphone manufacturer might be a wise move. Sony currently offers a vast range of headphone models, but they don't have any truly great ones. With the ongoing boom in headphone sales, you have to wonder why Sony is sitting on the sidelines.

Back in the '70s, '80s, and '90s, Sony made some of the world's best headphones: the very affordable MDR-V6 and MDR-7506 are examples … Read more

An inconvenient truth: Why music sounds bad

CNN recently reported on the "death" of the home stereo system, and while that's an exaggeration, few people -- young or old -- have "stereos" anymore. CNN was asleep at the wheel on this one; precious few folks have had stereos for decades. Music is now almost always consumed in cars, and over phones and plastic computer or Bluetooth speakers. If there's an imminent "death" on the horizon, it will surely strike MP3 players and iPods. Phones have already taken over as the portable music players of choice. Do you know anyone … Read more

Do all amplifiers sound exactly the same?

The $25 Lepai LP2020+ integrated stereo amplifier plays exactly the same notes as a $42,000 D'Agostino Momentum amplifier. Exactly. The rhythms, melodies, and harmonies are all the same. Granted, the Momentum is considerably more powerful, so it can play louder, the bass will be more potent, the treble is clearer, and the stereo sound stage takes on an almost three-dimensional quality, but the notes, they're no different.

For me, the real difference between the two amps is how they translate music into sound. The emotional connection to the music is stronger through the D'Agostino Momentum; it'… Read more

Does it go to '11,' and other myths about volume

The "Spinal Tap" reference to the volume control that goes to "11" notwithstanding, there's a lot of confusion surrounding volume controls. There shouldn't be; the volume control setting has nothing to do with how loud an amp can play. Some folks mistakenly think that if you don't have to turn the knob up very far from the minimum setting to achieve high volume, that "proves" it's a powerful amp. No, not at all; the maximum volume level of any amp is determined not by how far you turn the knob, … Read more

Poll: Are restaurants and bars too loud?

I've lived in NYC since birth, so you might think I wouldn't have a hard time with noise. It's always been part of my life, but restaurants used to be a lot quieter than they are now. The noise isn't just an annoyance; in some places it can reach dangerous levels, according to standards set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The noise is generated by the restaurant's sound system and people talking, in an acoustic setting too often designed to exacerbate and reflect, rather than absorb noise. Bare floors and … Read more

Lego, you are dead to me

I am done with Lego. And no, it's not because I stepped on a brick in the middle of the night last night, suffering what can only be described as the worst pain in the world, although yes, that's a permanent source of rage for every parent, really. No, I'm done with Lego because that sacred cow of millions of geeks who grew up happily constructing elaborate vehicles, castles, cities, and imaginary lands, is no longer the Lego of our childhood. It's time to face the hard truth: Lego is evil now.

On the one hand, … 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

Twitter needs to deal with the Twitter Accuracy Problem

Twitter's had a bad couple of weeks.

First, the Boston marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt led many (including me) to question the role of fast-moving, potentially inaccurate real-time Twitter reporting and its effect on mainstream news.

Then today, a false tweet from a hacked Associated Press Twitter account claimed that the White House had been bombed and that President Obama had been injured. The news caused a sudden plunge in the stock market (and, one can probably assume, some massive profit-taking by the hackers).

Twitter has always had an accuracy problem. It's a lot of voices, its information … Read more

What's more 'practical,' a Ferrari or a high-end hi-fi?

Eyeball a car magazine or two on a newsstand and there's a good chance you'll spot a 200-mile-per-hour dream machine gracing the cover. Why not? They're gorgeous weapons of speed, and they all sell for more than the price of your house. Supercar MSRP inflation shows no signs of letting up, all (three) of the $3.9 million, 750-horsepower Lamborghini Venenos are spoken for. Ferraris are priced somewhat more competitively; the legendary Italian maker will soon offer 499 editions of their $1.15 million carbon-fiber-bodied, hybrid V-12/electric LaFerrari, which has 963 horsepower and can reach 217 … Read more