COMPUTER AUDIO REVIEWS

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jan 26, 2007 0 comments
Griffin Technology's multichannel gift to fruit lovers.

Hey, Mac users: Does it ever feel like your PC-loving "friends" are having all of the 5.1 fun? For you, Griffin proposes the FireWave External Sound Card ($99.99), an outboard Dolby Digital decoder and more, specifically for OS X 10.3.9 and above.

Michael Berk Posted: Aug 08, 2011 0 comments

Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and X6D Limited (the folks behind the XPAND 3D glasses system) today announced the "Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative," a move towards bringing some much needed universality to both RF- and IR-coupled active 3D technologies.

Chris Chiarella Posted: Jul 24, 2006 0 comments
The fruit takes root in the living room.

A while back, we Home Theater drones were all on Macs, and life was good. Then, one day, the powers that be told us that the bulk of us were switching to PC, and that was that. I had a few annoying differences to work through, but I eventually forgot my first real computer. And then the Mac mini showed up for review in its pretty white cardboard box, and it reminded me of the experience of bumping into a friend from the old neighborhood: familiar, sure, but with a lot of catching up to do.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 15, 2013 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Supports lossless formats
Great-sounding headphone out
May be used as standalone DAC with a PC
Minus
Rudimentary touchscreen DAC use limited to 96-kHz or lesser files.

THE VERDICT
The AK100 successfully ventures beyond the iTunes universe to open a world of high-resolution portable playback.

Is Apple the biggest obstacle to progress in portable audio? The iPod has been around a full dozen years, and the iPhone for half that, yet even today the Apple ecosystem fails to support 24-bit audio file formats. All Apple-supported file formats—even the best of them, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV—are limited in iOS to 16 bits. That’s not high rez, that’s mid rez. Forget about playing your growing library of 24-bit FLACs. Leaving the Apple ecosystem can be painful because the company’s touchscreen and clickwheel devices are so ingratiating. But leave you must if you want better sound in your pocket, and the Astell & Kern AK100 may be on your list of destinations.

Michael Berk Posted: Nov 02, 2011 0 comments

When Atari's Greatest Hits made its way into the App Store this past April, retro-oriented gaming geeks worldwide - especially those who'd never been quite geeky enough to seek out ROMs to run on the open-source MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) - rejoiced.

John Sciacca Posted: May 14, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High-performance Wolfson Audio WM8671 DAC handles signals up to 192 kHz/24-bit
AccuBASS designed to restore depth to compressed audio sources
Automatic input switching

Minus
Runs hot
Lack of front-panel controls may be problematic for some installs

THE VERDICT
This terrific amplifier and DAC solution improves sonics in a small package.

The quest for audio simplicity has come far closer to becoming a reality with the introduction of music streamers from the likes of Sonos and Apple. Now just connect one of these devices to an audio system, and you’ve got an entire world of music literally at your fingertips. However, these components aren’t exactly revered for their terrific audio qualities, and many dress up the sonics by running them through an outboard DAC before connecting to a quality amplifier. But in space-challenged places like an office, kitchen, or bedroom, this can be easier said than done.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 20, 2014 3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $249/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Inviting, carefully tailored sonics
USB computer input
Easy setup
Minus
Controls in back
Unprotected drivers

THE VERDICT
Our audio editor’s favorite budget desktop (and TV) speakers have gotten more convenient thanks to the addition of a PC-friendly USB input, making them an even better value.

We may love good sound, but we can’t completely banish bad sound from our lives. We can’t listen to vinyl and high-rez audio all the time. We’ve all got some lousy MP3 files in our music libraries, love streaming services, and endure blaring SUV ads on TV. What’s the best way to make this substandard content palatable? Audioengine has offered compelling answers for years with its powered speakers, the chunky Audioengine 5 and smaller Audioengine 2. Now they’re available in variations that can accept USB input from a computer, including the Audioengine 2+ reviewed here.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 02, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $189

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Compact
Inexpensive
Lively sound
Minus
Converts 192-kHz files to 96 kHz

THE VERDICT
The Audioengine D3 is a fine- sounding entry-level headphone amp as well as the best USB-stick DAC I’ve heard so far.

If you find the whole concept of a headphone amp scary, Audioengine’s D3 might be comforting. It takes the form of a USB stick with a USB plug at one end and a 1/8-inch minijack at the other. Mediating discreetly between your computer and headphones, it gets far better sound out of your computer than you’d get from the computer’s potentially messy analog output.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 03, 2012 4 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $99 (reduced from original price of $249; version 1.2: $149)
At a Glance: Size of USB thumb drive • Up to 24/96 resolution • Minijack analog out

The AudioQuest DragonFly USB digital-to-analog converter ($249) and the B&W Society of Sound music download service ($59/year) arrived in my listening room at about the same time. They were made for each other: B&W’s 24-bit FLAC files gave the DAC a better chance to strut its stuff than any CD-quality or lossy audio file at my disposal. And the USB DAC enabled the high-resolution files to do an end run around the awful soundcard in my PC.

Kris Deering Posted: Jun 12, 2014 3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,995

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Handpicked parts and proprietary audiophile touches
Nearly plug and play
Supports all high-resolution formats
Reference level audio and video quality
Minus
Needs a tablet for easiest interface
Still only as good as what you plug it into

THE VERDICT
A no brainer if you seek audiophile performance from a media server without a lot of homework and trial and error. Customer support is exceptional and takes the IT guesswork out of the equation.

We have recently come to an enormous crossroad in entertainment. Physical media as a whole is withering on the vine and everything is moving to either streaming playback or file downloads. While I’m all about the convenience that this offers I hate the idea (and reality) of the compromise this situation can create in the quality of the content. We’ve already seen the music industry destroy the quality of music recordings to appease the iPod generation, and regardless of the convenience provided by Netflix and a host of other video streaming services, they cannot match the quality of Blu-ray video playback. So what do you do if you want to enjoy instantaneous access to your media but don’t want to compromise the quality of the material? Baetis Audio may have a few answers for you.
Michael Berk Posted: Oct 12, 2011 0 comments

S+V dropped by the Beats by Dr. Dre/Monster Cable holiday product preview last night, to check out what the company had to offer to follow up on the Beats Pro headphones we looked at in this month's headphone shootout.

SV Staff Posted: Nov 21, 2011 0 comments

Every year around this time, the editors and writers of Sound+Vision put their heads together to come up with a list of the best gift ideas for the holiday season.

Michael Berk Posted: Sep 15, 2011 0 comments

Today Bose introduced the latest unit in its SoundLink line of wireless speakers, the SoundLink Wireless Mobile.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 06, 2014 5 comments
Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Inexpensive
Compact
192-kHz capable
Minus
Potential dynamic limits
Runs warm

THE VERDICT
Though not ideal for more demanding headphones with challenging music, this is a highly affordable way to improve computer audio.

Bits are helpless prisoners trapped on the hard drive of your computer. If you plug your headphones (or desktop audio system) into the computer’s analog output, you can faintly hear their cries for help, but not the true timbre of their colorful voices. It takes a USB DAC (digital-to-analog convertor) to truly liberate them. And the good news is that USB DACs—especially those suitable for headphones—have gotten so small and unintrusive that you hardly notice their presence. A product like Cambridge Audio’s DacMagic XS is no bigger than a USB thumb drive. But the difference it can make to your computer audio listening life is very big indeed.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Sep 12, 2011 0 comments

From an audio standpoint, the CEDIA Expo used to be little more than a showcase for in-wall speakers and other products built mainly for multiroom systems and custom home theaters. But with the decline in home sales over the last few years, the custom market isn't so hot anymore.

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