A product that functions imperfectly yet possesses a singular character can be as enjoyable to own as one that delivers unassailable performance. Before you argue the point, know that millions of Harley owners stand ready to back me up.
We've long been fans of CEntrance's portable USB DAC/headphone amp, the DACport; in an expanding market of bus-powered USB DACs, the venerable unit (along with its streamlined sibling, the DACport LX) remains a favorite of, and reference for, many reviewers of portable audio gear. Now they've gone ahead and put out a complete two channel system, of all things - the Audiophile Desktop System.
There is a way to make your music sound better. Well, OK, there are LOTS of ways to make your music sound better. If you're looking to improve your digital music, beyond new speakers, amps, and so on is a bit of technological wonder called the DAC, or Digital/Analog Converter. This is what turns your music files into something analog you can actually hear.
Receivers these days tend to have built in DACs, but just because they're there doesn't necessarily mean they're any good. A great sounding DAC can smooth out your digital audio, making it sound more natural and realistic.
Firestone Audio's tiny ILTW packs a lot into a tiny frame, for not a lot of money.
Housed in a billet-like slab of aluminum, the HRT microStreamer’s clean, utilitarian design tips you off right away that it means business. In this case, that biz is performing the same basic tasks as the Dragonfly, including decoding files with up to 96 kHz/24-bit resolution. And at a mere 2.5 inches, it checks in for work in a similarly compact form factor.
Hitachi's drive division has established a beachhead among thrift-conscious media professionals with it's G-Tech line. The long-awaited G-Connect, however, is a vastly different type of product - a portable wireless media server, meant for the iOS accessory market. It's a cool little box, packed with features.
But what, exactly, is this thing? And who is it for?
The dirty little secret of the iOS aftermarket accessory world (at least where audiophiles are concerned) is that Apple's various bricks and slabs actually sound fairly good out of the box. Output impedance of the headphone jack is comfortably low (around 5 ohm for iPods and iPads most cases, below 1 ohm for the iPhone 4/4s), the onboard DAC isn't a slouch - totally adequate for on-the-go, and for everyday desktop listening, you could do a lot worse.
Summer’s here, and it’s time to hit the road. Automotive entertainment used to be restricted to radio and whatever you brought onboard in the form of prerecorded music — from 8-tracks to discs and later iPods. But now that smartphones and tablets have made Internet connectivity possible in the car, a whole new world of content has opened up on the road.
We gathered five of the coolest connected- car gadgets and took them out for a shakedown cruise.
Most high-end headphones come with a case or at least a pouch of some kind, but if you're constantly putting them on and taking them off, that kind of storage can get tedious. But, the Omega Headphone Stand solves that problem, offering an extremely beautiful and practical - if expensive - option. Each stand is steam molded into a shape designed to prevent the headband from stretching.
I have seen the future, and it is wireless. Wireless data, wireless music, wireless speakers, wireless keyboards, and now, wireless HDMI hi-def video. (Of course, all these things still need to be plugged into the wall, for AC power. Perhaps, somewhere on the Other Side, Nikola Tesla is still working on that.)
Wireless HDMI gets us that much closer to the Jetsonian ideal of the sheet-of-glass video screen floating unencumbered on a wall – without having to tear down that wall to run wires.
AT A GLANCE Plus
500-GB hard drive
Serious fun to use
No live streaming from network devices
This handsome DSD-capable audio player with built-in storage takes the pesky computer out of computer audio—and it’s way more fun to use.
Sony made waves when they announced their intention to market three high-resolution audio (HRA) products built around the company’s DSD file format. True, there was a nascent HRA movement before Sony made the move, with loads of network audio players and USB DACs flooding the market. But somehow the Sony announcement provided the extra momentum that finally made HRA seem not just promising but inevitable. That the Consumer Electronics Association has also launched an HRA initiative is icing on the cake.
AT A GLANCE Plus
Quietest PC I’ve ever used
Impeccable build quality
High-end A/V gear gorgeous looks
Still a PC, which scares some people
A stunningly silent, built-like-a-tank, ultimate HTPC.
I am a vocal supporter of the home theater PC, a computer that lives in your home theater or media room. While not for everyone, HTPCs offer an incredible access to content for your enjoyment. This includes games, of course, but also media streaming, Web pages, and personal video/audio libraries. Sure, you can get most of that through other devices, but often not as easily or well.