Much to the dismay of audiophile old fogies, the audio scene has been overrun by punks and their celebrity endorsements. Everywhere you look (Dre, I’m looking at you) you see audio gear, headphones in particular, with a famous DJ or other artist name attached. Of course, even old fogies were young once, and now it’s another generation’s turn to discover how cool audio is.
So far, this has been a pretty good year for moviegoers. The Hollywood dream machine has cranked out a steady stream of big-budget movies with colossal production values. If you enjoy getting your eyeballs fried by flying fireballs or your ears rocked by rampaging robots, the multiplex has been very, very good to you. But how will these screen gems look from your Lay-Z-Boy? After our reviews of the theatrical releases, I asked colleague Leslie Shapiro (our Grace Notes blogger) to join me in eagerly anticipating their Blu-ray releases.
When you buy a Rolex Submariner from a guy with a dozen of them in a cardboard box in Times Square, there is absolutely no chance of misunderstanding. Both parties fully understand that the timepieces in question are fakes. But what if you buy a pair of high-end headphones from that kind-of-weird stereo store across from the mall?
Back in the day, as you drove off the dealer's lot, you turned on the radio. And that radio stayed on, all the time, for the life of the vehicle. Whether or not you were actually listening to it, the sound of the radio was as reassuringly present as the purr of the motor. That is changing.
From far away, you hear it coming. The sky clouds up and you notice that birds are flying away as fast as possible. Your glasses begin to fog up, and then tiny cracks appear in the lenses. Slower birds fall from the sky like rocks. The sheet metal on your hood buckles under the intense sound-pressure wave front. Women faint.
Sometimes, even during the most secret of covert ops, you need to unwind a little. You know - put your weapons aside (but still placed within easy reach) and relax with The Duffel Blog. But what kind of music playback system is best? You sure can’t pack a big boombox into your knapsack, and when the batteries run out, where are you going to find a Radio Shack in Tora Bora? What you need is a small, rugged music player that can recharge on solar power. With carabiner attach points, of course. What you need is an Eton Rugged Rukus.
"One size fits all" surround is dying. It's time for us all to consider a whole new dimension. First, a parallel to impart from the annals of tech history. In the earliest days of photography, the emulsions and lenses were extremely "slow." Even in bright sunlight, a plate might require hours of exposure time. As technology improved, exposure times decreased to a minute or so.
I have two cars but only a one-car garage. As you might expect, my favorite car (a red 1968 Porsche 911 Targa) gets the garage. Plus, since it’s vintage, it deserves indoor parking. From a performance standpoint, that car is still impressive. It’s lightweight, with lots of horsepower, and since the laws of physics haven’t changed in the last 4 decades, it can blow away most modern cars.
Scientists, who apparently never cease thinking of things that would never occur to me, have demonstrated that it is possible to store digital data in molecular form. As reported in Nature, a team of brainiacs stored the text of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a photo of their institute’s building, and a copy of a paper by Watson and Crick, as DNA sequences.
I recently received a thoughtful e-mail from S+V reader Michael Kiley. He commiserated with my perception that the general level of sound quality has declined. Like me, he worried that the rise of mobile phones as our preferred playback source, the popularity of listening to compressed files stored or streamed (and through earbuds), isn't exactly making for audiophile heaven. Mr. Kiley's letter provided some perspective and got me to thinking…
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that one in five American teenagers has some irreversible hearing loss. That’s bad. Even worse, the number of teens with slight hearing loss has increased 30% in the last 15 years, and the number with mild or worse loss is up 77%.
I’m sure your first thought upon hearing that was the same as mine: Bring me the snack foods!
So you’re a committed audiophile. You used a laser to precisely toe in your front loudspeakers. You lie awake at night worrying about that 2-dB dip at 9 kHz in your room’s frequency response. You hire Mike Mettler to hand-deliver every issue of S+V. [I aim to please —Ed.] Well, that’s great.
They are not so common any more, but I'm sure you remember used record & CD shops. Now imagine them without the bricks and mortar. Or the bins. Or the records and CDs. Say what? Welcome to the biggest music-industry brouhaha since Napster.