Newest Updates - Quick View
- IsoAcoustics is the Real Deal
- NAD Masters Series M17 Surround-Sound Processor
- "The Soft Skin"
- We Need a New Definition of "Audiophile"
- NAD Masters Series M27 Seven-Channel Amplifier
- IsoAcoustics Component Stands: Magic or Science?
- Music Everywhere: Monoprice 10585 Bluetooth Headphones
- "Mark of the Devil"
- Moon by Simaudio Neo 430HA Headphone Amplifier
- Steven Wilson: "Hand. Cannot. Erase."
Having established, over the past 40 years, an excellent reputation for manufacturing affordable yet high-quality audio gear, NAD has recently gained the attention of audiophiles with their Masters Series models, most of them priced at a few thousand dollars -- relatively expensive for NAD models, but not when compared to gear from many specialty-audio makers. And, like other NAD products, the Masters Series models have already become known among audiophiles for providing excellent performance and value, even at their higher prices.
Truffaut Channeling Hitchcock
The Criterion Collection 749
When it was first shown in 1964, The Soft Skin (French title: La peau douce) was a big flop. Audiences who had cheered for François Truffaut's previous films -- The 400 Blows (1959), Shoot the Piano Player (1960), and Jules and Jim (1962) -- didn't know what to make of a typical love-triangle story. I remember being somewhat cold to it myself. But history has been kind to the movie; it has acquired a following among cinema fans, and we can now see that though its story might be typical, its execution is anything but ordinary.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition defines audiophile as “a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction.” The word first appeared in print in 1951, in an era in which audio gear bore little resemblance to what we use today. Since then, the working definition of audiophile also seems to have changed. Look on any online audio forum, or in the comments section of an audio blog, and you’ll see that the word is now commonly used to mean “a person who believes certain things about audio.”
This reviewer is never so happy as when he’s blown away by a real bargain. I expected little when I first put on Monoprice’s 10585 Bluetooth headphones ($89.50 USD). Then I began to gush. “Whaaattt!?” “Oh, my!” Other complimentary exclamations followed . . .
Unpacking and contents
The Monoprice 10585s come in an attractive, low-key, quality looking outer sleeve. Lift that off to reveal a sturdy, black, cigar-box-quality case with a hinged lid secured by a magnetic clasp. Flip this open to find the headphones and accessories, protected by a clear plastic cover. It’s all simple, neat, and attractive. Also included are a USB-to-USB Micro charging cable, a 3.5mm stereo audio cable, a quick-start instruction manual, and a drawstring storage pouch of black plastic.
Recently, my attention has been captured by some Direct Digital integrated amplifier-DACs: NAD’s Masters Series M2 and C 390DD. My own budget reference, the NuForce DDA-100, is of similar design. Each of these models sounds fantastic for its price, and I like the idea of keeping the signal entirely in the digital domain, right up until the speaker outputs.
When NAD announced the newest power amplifiers in their top line, the Masters Series, I was surprised to learn that they would be class-D amps with conventional analog inputs, not Direct Digital designs. Also offered are the matching Masters Series M12 stereo digital preamplifier-DAC and M17 surround processor, but these link to the new Masters Series power amps only via analog RCA or XLR connections.
My wife and I recently moved from a very large single-family home to a loft in a downtown condo. This is called “downsizing,” but the term is relative -- the folks who bought our place in Texas were downsizing as well. They also wanted to buy our house’s entire contents, and we agreed -- so I lost my well-loved audio/video system. That meant that, in our new place, I’ve had to assemble two entirely new systems: one for the entire house, another for my office. In doing so, I’ve tried to accomplish a few goals.
A Notorious Exploitation Movie Receives a High-Def Makeover
Arrow Films AV002BL
One of the most notorious exploitation movies ever made, Mark of the Devil was released in 1970 in the United States with the marketing slogan "Rated V for Violence." It was further hyped as "Positively the most horrifying movie ever made," and filmgoers received vomit bags along with their ticket stubs.
Traditionally, headphone amps have been afterthoughts -- relatively low-cost circuits built into receivers, computers, portable media players, etc. After all, even with relatively insensitive headphones, the amp usually needs to put out no more than 50mW -- 0.05W -- to drive headphones to loud volumes with no audible distortion. But with headphones’ recent surge in popularity, and the concomitant growth in the number of hardcore headphone enthusiasts, many manufacturers have been putting serious design effort and resources into their headphone amps.
Urban Nightmare, Audiophile Dream
Format: 24-bit/96kHz AIFF download
Steven Wilson's musical expressions have been getting more diverse and colorful as he evolves through and beyond progressive rock. Hand. Cannot. Erase. is tough to categorize. What do we call it -- rock opera, rock oratorio, social statement? Perhaps all of them apply. It was inspired by the story of Joyce Vincent, a young woman who was found dead in her flat in 2006. She'd been dead since 2003. Automatic accounts had paid her bills, and her family supposedly thought she had moved away. Wilson sees this event as the invasion of social media into our lives. As told to Record Collector, "It is a way of withdrawing from human interaction that gives the illusion of being connected." Joyce Vincent was/wasn't there.
I had an ear-opening experience recently while researching an article for JazzTimes about Tidal, a CD-quality music-streaming service launched late last year. Tidal uses FLAC lossless data compression, so it delivers a bit-for-bit reproduction of what’s on a CD. All of the well-known streaming services, such as Pandora and Spotify, use lossy data compression (usually MP3 or AAC) that discards most of the data of a digital audio recording. Simply put, the idea behind such lossy compression algorithms is that the data they discard represent sound that would be difficult for your ear to detect. Lossy compression is, of course, also used for most digital downloads, including the ones available through iTunes and Amazon.