Arena Wireless Speaker Performance Features Ergonomics Value Festival Wireless Speaker Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE Festival, $499; Arena, $249 AT A GLANCE Plus Excellent build and sound quality Chromecast, AirPlay, Bluetooth built-in Away mode and optional battery for portability Minus Chromecast multiroom interface THE VERDICT Riva Audio continues a tradition of excellent sound quality with the WAND series, the company&rsquo;s first wireless multiroom speakers. I first met Riva Audio founder Rikki Farr and chief engineer (now also president) Don North in the fall of 2014 when they marched into Sound &amp; Vision&rsquo;s New York City conference room to demo their first product, a Bluetooth speaker called the Turbo X. North was a youthful, glasses-wearing geek who had just enough of the right credentials and tech swagger to suggest he really knew what he was doing.
I met singer-songwriter Amber Rubarth when she was recording her first Chesky Records album, Sessions From the 17th Ward, back in 2012. I instantly fell in love with her music and the sound of her voice, but more than that, I was amazed by how relaxed she was making an entire album in just two days. Most of the tunes were hers, and they were consistently good, but her covers of Tom Waits&rsquo; &ldquo;Hold On&rdquo; and Bob Dylan&rsquo;s &ldquo;Just Like a Woman&rdquo; blew me away. No wonder legendary record producer Phil Ramone said Rubarth was &ldquo;part of the new old-soul generation.&rdquo;
Performance Sound Besides knocking the psychedelic movement off of its puffy cloud at the end of the &rsquo;60s with the seminal roots-based rustic albums Music From Big Pink (1968) and The Band (1969), The Band was also known for being a supernaturally gifted live act, having honed its stagecraft through many arduous but rewarding years on the road. Highlights from a magical four-night stand at New York&rsquo;s Academy of Music were set in stone&mdash;or rather, on wax and disc&mdash;with 1972&rsquo;s Rock of Ages. The album was a critically acclaimed best seller and a triumph in the eyes of everyone it touched. Well, almost everyone.
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&mdash;even the best of them, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV&mdash;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.
Also: Humble Pie expanded, Jethro Tull remixed in 5.1, and much more. Plus: the return of Dorothy Wiggin. (She used to be a Shagg.)
Also: Van Morrison’s Moondance in 5.1 on Blu-ray, Santana’s third album on audiophile vinyl, and ’80s tunes revamped by The Big Bright. Plus, let’s see…oh, yeah, Katy Perry.
Also reviewed: Pearl Jam. And in revue: many more new releases, as well as classic XTC in 5.1.
Whatever you think of Miley Cyrus these days, she does have you thinking. In other words, she got your attention. Which, in the current era of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and elder shockwoman Britney Spears, is the first order of business, and I do mean “business.” The thing is, what if she’d gotten our attention another way?
Also reviewed: Joan Jett, Haim, Quasi, and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Plus: the scoop on boxes from Rush and Vladimir Horowitz. And much more.
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