Leslie Shapiro

Leslie Shapiro  |  Nov 28, 2023  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE: $1,499/pair

AT A GLANCE

Plus
Excellent treble clarity
Warm, rich bass
Placement flexibility
Minus
Powerful amplifier
Minimal tonal controls on remote
Dialogue clarity

THE VERDICT
The Klipsch The Nines speakers are in the Heritage Inspired Speaker line, and the sound signature is certainly aligned with their historic products. Warm, rich, with that legendary detailed high end that is always a classic.

Klipsch The Nines, found in the Heritage Inspired Speaker lineup, harken back to a time when HiFi stereos were all the rage. Even The Nines’ logo is 100% mid-century modern inspired.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Aug 10, 2023  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $249

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Surprising upper bass accuracy
Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
Privacy controls
Minus
Minimal stereo Imaging
Compressed sound

THE VERDICT
Who says you can't improve on perfection? The Sonos Era 100 is the new replacement for the much heralded Sonos One speaker. Does it offer improvements? Absolutely! With Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, voice assist and extremely loud playback, the Era 100 lives up to the usual Sonos hype with sound that delivers.

Move over Sonos One—there’s a new kid on the block and its time has come. The Era 100 is one of two new products from Sonos, the other being the larger, pricier Era 300. The Era 100 boasts an array of features that address many complaints from earlier products.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Jul 19, 2023  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $69.95

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Budget price
ANC and Ambient modes
Memory Foam tips
Minus
No-frills packaging
Treble response lacks clarity
ANC could be stronger

THE VERDICT
The JVC HA-A25T ranks among the top budget True Wireless earbuds I've tried, performing well as practical earbuds for the gym or office and won’t cause heartbreak if you misplace one.

I will just come right out and admit this: I am an audio snob, perhaps brought on by my early childhood years listening to my dad’s Quad Electrostatic speakers or the 25 years spent in professional recording studios. I know good sound quality and I like it. So when I was handed a pair of $70 JVC Marshmallow HA-A25T Noise Canceling True Wireless Earbuds, I scoffed. Will they be able to overcome my bias?

Leslie Shapiro  |  Apr 26, 2023  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Reference-quality sound
Excellent connectivity options
Exceptional ANC

Minus
Annoying voice confirmation
Short On-Head detection setting
Audio disabled while charging

THE VERDICT
The first headphones from legendary audio specialist Mark Levinson, tuned precisely to the Harman Curve, the No. 5909 are both exceptional sounding and have excellent ANC properties.

They say money can’t buy happiness. Without a doubt, it can buy the $999 Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones, and without a doubt, these make me happy. The Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones are the first headphones from this elite division of Harman. These over-ear headphones feature adaptive Active Noise Cancellation, USB-C wired connections and wireless Bluetooth.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Feb 22, 2023  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Convenient
Budget-friendly
Multiple input options
Excellent soundstage

Minus
Needs a subwoofer for movies
Veiled midrange
Bright treble

THE VERDICT
The Fluance Ai81 floorstanding self-powered stereo pair is ideal for anyone looking for an affordable solution that provides better imaging and soundstage compared to almost any soundbar in this price range while retaining all the same conveniences.

As a recording engineer, I’ve often pondered how soundbars could have become so popular, even though they typically sacrifice the sound quality and true stereo imaging attained by full-range speakers. I know the answer is because they’re so convenient, usually self-powered, and easy to connect to a TV. But is there a solution with a more realistic soundstage that also provides the same features and connectivity? Enter the Fluance Ai81 floorstanding, powered speakers with a multitude of input options.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Feb 02, 2023  |  27 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy streaming to Sonos
Automatically turns on
Included Ortofon 2M Red cartridge

Minus
App is finicky
Lacks phono output
Dust cover feels cheap
Complex music can overwhelm codec
Expensive

THE VERDICT
The Victrola Stream Carbon Turntable is a fun, convenient, albeit expensive way to stream directly from vinyl into the Sonos ecosystem. With RCA line outputs, it's also a simple, solid turntable for a traditional analog system.

If you've wandered by some iterations of Victrola turntables on the shelves in Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, or Crate & Barrel, you wouldn't set high expectations for the sound quality of those suitcase record players. However, in a bold move, Victrola hit the market with the Stream Carbon Turntable VPT-3000 (MSRP $799), designed for the serious vinyl enthusiast who also craves the convenience of streaming into their existing Sonos ecosystem.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Dec 14, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent sound quality
Beautiful fit and finish
Very good noise-cancellation algorithms
High-quality streaming codec
Minus
Expensive, and even more expensive for the James Bond special edition
Very snug fit might not be comfortable while wearing glasses
Increased bass boost in noise-cancellation mode

THE VERDICT
I tried, honestly, I did. I closed my eyes; I listened in the dark. However, try as I might, I could not separate the absolutely stunning fit and finish of the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones from their sound quality. That initial feeling that this would be something special pervaded throughout my review experience. Bottom line: the Px8 sounds exactly as good as you would expect from something that looks and feels so luxurious.

There's a certain expectation when you pay up for a product. Buy a premium car, and you'll expect a certain feel, fit and finish to every aspect, from the dashboard to the tailpipe. Buy a luxury watch and every component—the links, clasp, and crown—feels deluxe. The Px8 gives you that instantaneous expectation of quality. The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones are the newest flagship over-ear noise-canceling headphones, firmly placed at the top of their "reference" quality lineup. While the price is a gut-punching $699, the build and sound quality just might be worth it.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Oct 26, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $429

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Most affordable Sonos subwoofer
Compact, attractive
Controlled, restrained bass response
Minus
No Trueplay for Android
Fixed crossover
Only useable in the Sonos ecosystem

THE VERDICT
The Sonos Sub Mini is a great way (albeit, one of only two ways) to add deep bass to a Sonos soundbar or speaker in a small listening room. Considering that Sonos is a closed system, the Sub Mini only works with Sonos products, and Sonos products will only work with Sonos subwoofers. While not exactly a budget item, it's the most affordable subwoofer in the Sonos ecosystem.

What is the number one complaint about almost every soundbar? Let’s say it together: lack of deep bass. Even soundbars as sonically competent as the Sonos Beam and Ray could benefit from more. So here comes the Sonos Sub Mini (MSRP $429), a compact subwoofer that perfectly bonds with all of the non-portable, amplified Sonos products. It should be noted that while the Sub Mini will work with the larger Arc soundbar, Sonos recommends using that configuration only in a smaller room and at low-to-moderate listening levels. Fair enough.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Oct 12, 2022  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $279

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fantastic vocal clarity
Small footprint
Forward-firing design for easy placement
Minus
Trueplay tuning app only for iOS
Basic surround processing
Limited connectivity

THE VERDICT
The Ray is an affordable entry into the Sonos ecosystem—one that excels in meeting the most basic requirement for any soundbar: dialogue clarity.

Sonos always seems to be one step ahead of the competition, coming out with new products before people even realize they need them. That playbook hasn't changed with Sonos Ray, a new budget-friendly soundbar small enough to fit on a shelf or under almost any TV. While it's a simple design that lacks a ton of features and input options, its sound quality and price ($279) more than make up for those omissions.

Leslie Shapiro  |  May 25, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $250

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Soundstage-widening Dirac Virtuo processing
Adjustable Ambient Sound mode
Smart Noise Cancellation
Solid build quality
Minus
Overly sensitive touch controls
Bass lacking in certain modes

THE VERDICT
Cleer's Alpha Noise Canceling headphones are a good-sounding, airplane-ready offering packed with enough features to make them a top value compared with similar models from Sony and Bose.

Cleer Audio's new Alpha headphones, the company's flagship wireless noise-canceling model, is jam-packed with extras to augment its very good overall sound quality. At $250, the Alpha isn't a budget offering, but its many advanced and customizable features make it worth the price. With everything from app-controlled ambient audio level adjustment to smart noise-cancellation and Dirac Virtuo processing, the Alpha is primed to take on any travel adventure.

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