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A Thorough Guide to Listening the Right Way

Guide to Life: Upgrade Your Music Library

Our obsession with hardware is here to stay — don’t expect an apology for it anytime soon. We’ll be the first to admit, though, that even the right headphones, speakers and amps are only as good as the source material you play through them. Garbage in, garbage out. The solution? Get more out of the tunes you love by upgrading your music library.

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Jolly Good

KEF M500

Premier audiophile brands owe Doctors Amar Bose and Dre a begrudging thanks for opening the eyes of the public to the value of investing in a set of headphones. Thanks to their savvy marketing and branding, the luxury hi-fi headphone market is exploding as an entire generation of consumers look to replace their bass-blasting, noise-canceling sets with something more refined. Perhaps the most ready to profit is KEF, the British hi-fi manufacturer best known for selling six-figure sound systems. Their flagship M500 headphones ($300) capture the luxury bent of potential buyers and hold up their end of the elite audio bargain, all at a price well below the company’s mortgage-your-house standard fare.

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Bump the bass -- and finish that report

Front Row Seat: 10 Best Desktop Speakers

The majority of us have become extremely comfortable with the mediocre phonics that ooze through the speakers of our laptops and PCs or the less-than-stellar resonance produced from our headphones. This is sad, seeing as how providing a significant audio boost can transform your desk into the ultimate home entertainment console.

For those seeking a more potent and louder alternative to their built-in receivers or noise-canceling cans, we assembled this collection of awesome stereo monitors sure to have your ears ringing. No, they don’t have to break the bank (though they certainly can, if you’re the splurging type). From portable blasters to music studio amplifiers, each is Bona fide audio hardware powerful enough to enliven any Netflix, Spotify, or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 sessions at the computer counter. Now get jammin’.

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Luxury to Go

Tested: KEF M500

The recent rise in popularity of luxury headphones has created a large pocket of those who want high-quality audio, integration with their phone and portability but don’t want to look like they’re DJing a set at The Tunnel. The KEF M500 ($300) sits at the top of the heap for top-tier, portable headphones.

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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,…