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- Bluesound Pulse Flex Bluetooth Speaker
- "Bicycle Thieves"
- Audioengine HD6 Powered Loudspeakers
- Pat Metheny: "The Unity Sessions"
- A Cheap Wireless Speaker Shows the Future of Audio
- Music Everywhere: Philips Shoqbox BT2200 Mini Bluetooth Speaker
- Moon by Simaudio Neo 230HAD DAC-Headphone Amplifier
- "My Own Private Idaho"
- Sennheiser HD 800 S Headphones
- Wes Montgomery: "In the Beginning"
- Paradigm Reference Signature S6 v.3 / C3 v.3 / ADP3 v.3 / Sub 1 / PBK Home-Theater Speaker System
- Monitor Audio Silver RX6 / RX Centre / RXFX / RXW-12 Home-Theater Speaker System
- Anthony Gallo Acoustics Nucleus Reference 3.5 Loudspeakers
- Paradigm Reference Signature S6 v.3 Loudspeakers
- Paradigm Reference MilleniaOne / Seismic 110 Home-Theater Speaker System
- Logitech Squeezebox Touch WiFi Music Player
- Explaining HDMI while Solving the Cause of Blue-Screen Nightmares
- Anthem Performance MRX 710 A/V Receiver: King of the Sonic Frontiers
- Bowers & Wilkins 802 Diamond Loudspeakers
- Jienat: “Mira”
Until recently, the product category of loudspeaker had seen little change outside of relentless tweaking by designers trying to refine its basic capabilities. Now, like almost everything else, it’s been absorbed into the Internet of Things and forced to undergo some reinvention. Most people associate wireless audio with Bluetooth speakers: affordable, portable, decent-sounding (good ones, at least). But in the past few years other options have emerged that can tap your home’s Wi-Fi network to deliver an even better wireless music experience than a typical Bluetooth speaker provides.
Vittorio De Sica’s Landmark Film: Still Very Moving
The Criterion Collection 374
Immediately after World War II, Italy’s film industry was a shambles. The studios were gone, good film stock was hard to find, and there was little money. There were independent directors and producers, however, some of them men of genius who established a new style that would not only make film more affordable but take it in a new direction. The style of this movement became known as neorealism, which was similar to the style of verismo that had preceded it in literature and opera. (Verismo was the Italian version of the late-19th-century shift toward naturalism, in operas such as Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci.) The scripts would be slices of the lives of working-class people, and would be shot on location -- no movie sets -- often with non-actors or those making their debuts. If a well-known actor was employed, he or she would be cast dramatically against type.
I buy a lot of the audio gear I buy because I think I should. After all, it’s part of my gig to know what’s going on in audio. Recently, one of those products I bought because I thought I should completely changed my ideas about the future of audio, and in just the first few days I owned it.
It had been a while since I’d visited the world of miniature Bluetooth speakers, but this one called to me from the shelf: “I look like a hand grenade. Doesn’t that make you curious?” Well, yes, it did -- and so did the fact that, like most hand grenades, this one is water resistant. But the Philips Shoqbox BT2200 Mini proved to be more than a toy.
Recommending pairs of loudspeakers to audiophiles and to non-audiophiles are two different propositions. It’s analogous to selecting the right bottle of wine to bring to a friend’s house for dinner. If the friend is a wine aficionado, the task becomes a tedious, labor-intensive process that includes trying to remember if she likes red or white, light- or full-bodied, Old World or New World, and so on. In every other circumstance the decision is far easier: $12-$15 USD, cool label, done. Up until 2010 or so, Audioengine’s A2 ($149/pair) and A5 ($349/pair) powered speakers were my go-to suggestions for audiophiles and non-audiophiles alike, and for good reason. The speakers looked good, were easy to set up, and sounded great for the money, with surprising amounts of bass.
While jazz has no shortage of solo performances, stemming from the European classical tradition of the virtuoso recital, it is primarily a collective music. Improvisation gains currency when one player takes inspiration from another, adding to what has already been played, while ensemble work is at the very core of what gives the music its power -- both in small groups and, most particularly, big bands.
Quebec’s Simaudio has been designing and manufacturing audio electronics for the past 35 years. The company began with preamplifiers and power amplifiers, and later, following the demands of the market, added CD players and standalone digital-to-analog converters (DACs). More recently, Simaudio has launched a series of components incorporating their Moon intelligent Network Device (MiND) platform, which enables streaming audio from your computer, network-attached storage (NAS) device, or the Internet. It should come as no surprise, then, that Simaudio has brought their electronics-design experience to the thriving market of headphone audio -- with first their flagship 430HA fully balanced headphone amplifier ($3500 USD; add $800 for DAC option), and now the subject of this review, the more modestly priced Moon Neo 230HAD ($1500 including DAC).
Van Sant's Cobbled-Together Masterpiece
The Criterion Collection 277
My Own Private Idaho (1991) was director Gus Van Sant’s third feature film, cobbled together from several different earlier sources, two screenplays, a story, and Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Many have found its fragmented structure irritating, but every time I watch it, I find that these glimpses into the lives of Mike Waters and Scott Favor add up to a masterpiece.
A recent article on TechCrunch about layoffs at Sonos caught the audio industry by surprise. Whenever it wants an example of “how to do it right,” much of the industry looks to Sonos. In just a little over a decade, Sonos has gone from a few guys in an office in Santa Barbara to a company with $1 billion in annual sales. Not only has Sonos kept up with the latest trends in music consumption, in some cases it has led them. So the news that the company is undergoing a major shift in direction shook up high-end audio manufacturers who would give their last EL34 for even a small fraction of Sonos’s success.
Apparently, Sonos isn’t shrinking, it’s adjusting. Two trends are pushing the company in new directions.
Audio-Technica, one of the last big-name manufacturers to enter the market of wireless Bluetooth headphones, has put out two new over-ear models: the ATH-S700BT SonicFuel, which I reviewed very favorably two months ago, and the subject of this review, the ATH-WS99BT Solid Bass ($249.95 USD), which has problems.