Audio & Video

Small Wonder

Meridian Explorer Headphone DAC/Amplifier

Terms like all-metal enclosure, analog, and hand-made may conjure up thoughts of exorbitant price tags -- most often you'd be right -- but Meridian proves that occasionally pigs do fly. The British audio stalwart, known for stratospheric priced speakers and components, has unveiled the Meridian Explorer ($299), a pocket-sized USB DAC and headphone amplifier, and we got to try it out.

Take it outside

Bowers & Wilkins AM-1

Music lovers don’t want to be tethered to an indoor system -- loud enough to be heard outside is too loud for inside -- but even “outdoor” systems rarely last long out in the wet and cold. Bowers & Wilkins AM-1 exposes your music to the elements with impunity, thanks to a durable, weather-resistance speaker enclosure.

Turn on the tube(s)

Woo Audio WA7 Fireflies

Looking more like a miniature robot monolith than audio componentry, the WOO Audio WA7 Fireflies ($999) is a convenient (ideal) solution to poor desktop sound. As both a high-grade vacuum tube headphone/speaker amplifier and a state-of-the-art USB digital to analog converter, the Fireflies puts everything serious audiophiles crave in a 5-inch cube.

Soup up for the Superbowl

THX Tune-Up App

Properly calibrating your TV and sound system is essential for getting the best picture and sound out of your gear -- but few do it. Short of hiring a professional to take the work off of your plate, DIY solutions are grim: buying special discs and wading through various complex menus to get the job done. The THX Tune-Up App (Free, for now, $2 later) is a welcomed update to the process in a smartphone-dominated world.

To each their own

Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Headphones

The world may not be in black or white, but a glance at today's most popular gadgets would make you think otherwise. Wouldn't it be grand if technology could mirror your tastes and preferences (Swarovski crystal crusts excluded) -- and not cost a bloody fortune? Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro headphones ($195) are just that. Even in their stock form, a metal frame, metal ear cups, metal y-forks and a removable 2.5mm connector give the made-in-Deutschland set a premium feel.

Air superiority

The Best AirPlay Speakers

Originally designed to play music on only their own products, Apple's AirPlay technology now allows users to stream multimedia from iPhones, iPads and computers to any enabled HDTV or speaker system via wi-fi. Because Apple now allows third parties to use their tech, myriad standalone speaker systems designed specifically for AirPlay are on the market: some are better than others, and they all span the price and design spectra. Here are our 10 picks for some of the best AirPlay speakers available.

Look nice for twice the price

Symbol Audio Tabletop Hi-fi

The Symbol Audio Tabletop Hi-fi ($1,800) speaker is positioned as an attractive and space-saving solution for discerning listeners in search of better home audio. The console includes two 4-inch full-range drivers, which boast titanium cones, paired with a down-firing 1/4-inch sub, and is powered by a 2.1 channel class D amp; this is capable of pushing 8 watts to the stereo drivers and 15.5 to the sub.

The shortest of stacks

Marshall Hanwell

Leave it to those face-melting Brits over at Marshall to create something like the Hanwell ($800). Styled after the famed amps that have stuffed arenas with sound for half a century, the company’s first foray into home audio packs 200 watts of pure rock into one 25-pound body. Made of the same wooden construction and...

Great sound, bar none

Vizio 42-inch 5.1 Home Theater Soundbar

The soundbar is increasingly gaining traction as the audio setup of choice for aesthetically minded sound junkies. It’s no wonder: discrete designs and all-in-one efficiency keep minimalist media centers clutter free while trumping the tinny transmitters of any TV. Their only shortcoming is a one-dimensional soundfield, often the result of simulated surround. To buck that...

Set your stage right

Hoerboard Spin Age DJ Stand

Luxo DJ furniture maker Hoerboard has announced their latest shrine for decks and mixers, and like their previous works, you'll need a record deal in hand to afford it. Hoerboard Spin Age Dj Stand (~$2,952) flaunts a laser-cut metal frame made from two equal parts and includes three inlaid compartments.

Aquaman's Walkman

Sony Sports W Series Waterproof MP3

It’s widely known that swimmers and rainy weather joggers (and really all audiophiles hindered by humidity) are more than a little jealous of the ease with which their fellow athletes can take in tunes while exercising. Sony’s whipped up the next in their line of wet-weather answers: the Sports W Series Waterproof MP3 Player, a...

Cloudy with a chance of tunes

Teenage Engineering OD-11

The damn Cloud. Everything’s going there. Pretty soon, you’ll have to go to the Cloud to change your underwear. But for now, you’ll have to settle for the OD-11, the world’s first Cloud speaker — just introduced at CES 2013 — by the incredible folks at Teenage Engineering. If the nomenclature and design look familiar,...

Cut the cord

Corsair Voyager Air

Available with either 500GB or 1TB of storage, the Corsair Voyager Air ($199-$229) is a wi-fi wonder for media maniacs not content with cloudy reception. Dubbed the first all-in-one to combine the conveniences of being a USB drive, a wireless network drive and a hub, the Voyager Air is a potent portable of note. USB...

That's one hot (home media) librarian

Seagate Central Shared Storage

Hard drives are about as exciting as, well, hard drives. Seagate Central ($190-$260) aims to change all that as the world’s first shared storage device with a Smart TV app, enabling you to access files on your flatscreen and just about every other device in your home. In short, the Seagate Central allows access to...

Jongo Unchained

Pure Jongo

Streaming music to the four corners of your house might still be considered a luxury, but a new face in the hi-fi streaming game, Pure, claims to undercut the competition in price and ease of use with its Jongo speaker series. The line provides multi-speaker streaming for radio, podcasts, Pure Music subscriptions and more via...

Your Picasso might be jealous

Samsung S9 UHD 4K TV

If four times the number of pixels of the current Full HD standard can’t satisfy your lust for the bleeding edge, then the “unprecedented design” of the Samsung S9 UHD 4K TV should do the trick. The so-called “Timeless Gallery” frame mimics the look of an easel and allows the monstrous screen to rotate up...

Tubes for your tube

Samsung HW-F750 Vacuum Tube Soundbar

Samsung’s crush on vacuum tube amplification started with the DA E750 Vacuum Tube AirPlay Dock announced at last year’s CES. Now it’s a full blown love affair — complete with rewards club memberships at the local Shag-a-Day Inn. According to the tech giant, the newly announced HW-F750 Vacuum Tube Soundbar and paired wireless subwoofer is...

Plays well with others

Oppo BDP-103 Universal 3D Blu-ray Player

While the rest of the Blu-ray player market races to the bottom of a Dollar Store dumpster, Oppo remains resolute in serving those who demand the highest possible audio and video quality out of their home theater. The company’s latest OPPO BDP-103 Universal 3D Blu-ray Player ($500) includes Marvell’s Kyoto-G2h video processor for True 24p...

Big bass, little package

Sjofn Hi-Fi The Clue Loudspeaker

Home theater buffs and audiophiles alike know that to achieve harmonic balance a quality low range is essential. For those who also seek balance in all things feng and shui, that usually means burying oversized towers under foliage of some sort or trying to stuff a subwoofer under a settee. To quell the dissonance, Seattle-based...

AirPlay for grown ups

TEAC CR-H700 AirPlay Audio Receiver

Forget the Bose — throw the AirPlay enabled TEAC CR-H700 ($700) onto a bookshelf or console and you’ve got the perfect mid-sized room system. If you’re not familiar with TEAC, all the better; if you knew about the company’s bargain basement offerings of yore, forget them. It is worth noting they’re one of the oldest...

Good Morning, Vietnam... and Canada... and Brazil...

Geneva WorldRadio

It’s fitting that the radio has always had geographic limitations. Think of it as Mother Earth’s little joke: as media has made the world a smaller place, she still reminds you that she’s large enough to be an inconvenience — radio waves can only travel so far, after all. Which is why we imagine she’s...

Digital Dynamo

Widealab Aurender S10 Music Server

Most people are perfectly content to store and experience their music collection on a computer (we do it everyday at the office). The convenience of accessing massive amounts of music and rich metadata on a whim with just a click or a search is simply unparalleled. For audiophiles, though, this ease of use comes at...

Get down(hill)

POC Receptor BUG Communication Helmet with Beats by Dre.

Music and snow sports go together like Rick Ross and cheese covered honeybuns, but squeezing your favorite cans inside a helmet is rarely a formula for comfort. The POC Receptor BUG Communication Helmet (~$330) skirts this dilemma by integrating Beats by Dr. Dre headphones into the helmet neck roll, which combines bass-heavy tunes with a...

12 gifts for the tech obsessed

12 Guys of Christmas: The Techie

To the inexperienced, the words “techie” and “guy” seem synonymous. Sure, most guys do like technology these days — but like does not true a techie make. So while this list can absolutely be applied to any modern man, its real target is the hardcore gadget nut. The one who scours the blogs and refreshes...

Compressed for size, not sound

Astell & Kern AK100 Portable Audio System

The Astell & Kern AK100 portable audio system ($699) aims to be the iPod of audiophiles. It’s the first portable music player capable of playing Mastering Quality Sound files (MQS) from online stores like HDtracks.com, in addition to a slew of other lossless formats like Ogg, FLAC, WAV, WMA, APE and yes, even MP3 audio...

12 gifts for the traveler

12 Guys of Christmas: The Globetrotter

These guys seem to have racked up a bigger airline status than Clooney and more time on the road than Kerouac. They call ports of call home and know how to navigate the TSA, border checkpoints and a nasty comped bar hangover with ease. Whether a job takes them to exotic first-world destinations or their...

It's Showtime

Prima Cinema

We can’t all be members of the Bel Air Circuit. For those scorned by the secret society, there’s Prima Cinema ($35,000). Designed in California and built in the U.S.A., Prima Cinema is a combination system/service that delivers Hollywood’s latest creations directly to your own private screening parties, simultaneous to their theatrical release. The system comprises...

Completing your set

Pioneer DJM-2000nexus Mixer

The Pioneer DJM2000nexus Mixer ($2,999) is in many ways just a slight tweak of the already outstanding DJM2000 released in the spring of 2010, refreshed to match the brand’s advanced CDJ 2000nexus turntables. The most notable changes found in this nexus version are two additional Beat Slice and Sync Master functions that expand on Pioneer’s...

Bass Pro

Low Innovations: In-Depth with Mercedes-Benz FrontBass

It doesn’t feel like that long ago when adding aftermarket amplifiers, separates, and elephantine subwoofers (remember the Bazooka?) seemed like the right thing to do to your car. We’ve come a long way since then; and when we checked in with the families and friends at the office, not one could even recall the last...

Boom Barrel

Joey Roth Subwoofer

Joey Roth’s desktop speakers ($495) made a splash with both the audio and design set thanks to their ceramic construction and striking silhouette. Now he’s released a matching companion subwoofer ($695+), expanding the system’s frequency response down to 40Hz. Just like the speakers, the Joey Roth subwoofer is crafted from simple, refined materials including stainless...

Putting off aires

McIntosh McAire

While iDevices flipped the consumer audio industry ass over tea kettle in a brush of a click wheel, the audiophile world stubbornly weathered the storm for years, hoping the digital compression nightmare might just vanish away in time. The introduction of the McIntosh McAire hints that convenience is gaining ground with the stuffy, stubborn niche...

Match your mix

Bad Habits Made to Order DJ Consoles

Portability should be the first priority for any working DJ, but for the rare few who prefer to worship beats in anonymity and seclusion (or have enough cash for a second setup), Bad Habits Made to Order DJ Consoles ($1,374) are as good a temple as any. Each custom console is inspired by the set...

Digging for gold

Hunting eBay: Home Audio & Hi-Fi

For our second Hunting eBay post I’ve focused in on hi-fi. A personal soft-spot, my eBay watch list is often teeming with everything from iconic vintage audio listings to mystic hi-fi relics. There isn’t as much glory or panache in an excellent piece from the ’70s as there is an equally aged watch, but the...

American Beauty

VPI Traveler Turntable

The world of the audiophile isn’t normally for the light of wallet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t values to be had. VPI industries got its start 35 years ago as a record player component and accessories company, first making weights, then isolation bases and then record cleaning machines — all for incredible values. Inevitably,...

Canned Goods

Roundup: Best Over-Ear Headphones Under $250

The headphone market is packed tighter than Chris Farley in a navy blazer, thanks in part to the explosion of digital music — salud, iTunes, Spotify and The Pirate Bay — not to mention the business savvy of a few enterprising rhyme spitters (what up Dre?). Lucky for you, we’ve scoured the headphone market in...

For the record

Jico Kanade Record Cleaner

Vinyl is on a comeback, in many ways because it replaces the tangible elements of music collecting that the iPod killed in the blink of an eye. The Jico Kanade Record Cleaner ($88) is a beautiful companion accessory for keeping your records pristine. Each unique cleaner is meticulously hand built by expert artisans from the...

A better music box

Apogee Quartet

The Apogee Quartet ($1,295) is a USB audio interface that provides Macs and their parent’s-basement-squatting masters with studio-grade chops. Connection-wise, four combo XLR and 1/4” analog inputs — complete with world-class mic preamps capable of capturing click-free transitions from a vast gain range of 0-75dB — and eight digital inputs can accomodate a burgeoning boy...

Spin it all

Pioneer CDJ-2000nexus

Pioneer’s newest CDJ-2000nexus flagship gets everything right but the name — and we’re not referring to the potential confusion with Android products. That’s because the newly integrated Wifi compatibility allows the pro turntable to play everything from streaming music on computers, iPhones, iPods, and iPads to USB thumb drives, SD memory cards, and yes, even...

Sonic boom

KEF X300A

Look around at today’s computers and you’ll see exactly where companies are putting their money. Better-than-high-def screens with touch-sensitivity, ThunderBolt this and that, blisteringly fast graphics cards — it’s all about the visuals. And while we’re not ones to complain about amazing picture quality, it does get pretty difficult to enjoy lightning without any thunder,...

Hot mic

Apogee MiC

For the price of a one-way ticket to Boston, the Apogee MiC ($199) is a studio quality microphone that’s built specifically to play well with Apple recording software. With an all-metal construction, the large diaphragm studio condenser comes with a built-in mic pre, and 44.1/48 kHz, 24-bit analog-to-digital conversion. What this means is that you’ll...

Cantastic

Sony MDR-1 Headphones

Sony just announced their MDR-1 line of high-end ear-thumpers that combine gorgeous retro styling with serious audio chops and advanced connectivity. The top-of-the-line cans are available in three different models, all of which boast 40mm neodymium drivers with an impressive response range of 4Hz-80kHz. While the basic MDR-1Rs stick to traditional wires, the Bluetooth equipped...

Domestic Archive of Records

Symbol LP Storage Cabinets

There’s nothing quite like the sound of a record whisking as it spins, but while we need not wax poetic about the nostalgia of needle to vinyl, the other part of what makes records so satisfying is, well, the actual record. More importantly, the sacred process of stashing them away into storage like the Symbol...

Wi(reless)-Fi

Audyssey Wireless Speakers

Looking back on the past twenty years, we’ve made some pretty big strides when it comes to consumer technologies. But with all these advancements, why are we still listening to music through the same speaker wire our dads used? Up until now, the only way to get decent sound quality was through being hardwired; yes,...

Outside the box

Yamaha YHT-697

We’ve never been big fans of packaged home theater setups. They tend to be a mishmash of clunky, subpar components that do little to warrant their price points — no matter how low. The Yamaha YHT-697 ($750) does its best to shake the HTIB stereotype thanks to some serious future proof features, normally reserved for...