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  • If a headphone maker could ask Magnetic Man, Katy B, and Skream for thoughts on their design, of course they would, and Sony also thought to film it. Headphones are as much about who’s wearing them as it is how they’re being worn, so the video brings this together with a brief discussion of what they look for in an all-around headphone. And the MDR-1R delivers. A favorite of ours for sonics, wide compatibility across sources, comfort, construction, and looks, the MDR-1R hosts a very attractive balance of qualities.

    "Meyer and Moran are careful to point out that the new hi-rez formats generally sound better than standard CDs, but not because the processing technology is superior.

    The hi-rez discs are aimed at a more sophisticated market, and therefore the recording sessions and production techniques tend to be more sophisticated, more puristic, in terms of microphoning, compression, editing, etc.”

    - The Audio Critic; October 17, 2007, quoting a study published in the September 2007 issue of the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society.

    For example, the Mastered for iTunes edit of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories is much lower-res than the original studio master on HDTracks, although some listeners say “it sounds significantly better.”

    It turns out the artist requested compression to be added to the master to “give it more punch.

    Resolution is important, of course, but it’s the mastering that counts most.

    (Photo Credit: RCA Studio B in Nashville)

    Every now and then, you can grab an entire album for free from Google Play, but today was the first time you could thank Apple for the same, and this time, it’s a new and exclusive release.

    U2’s new album, ‘Songs of Innocence,’ is now available for free on iTunes — presumably until October 13, when it goes on sale everywhere else (read: $$). ‘Songs of Innocence’ is produced by Danger Mouse and ‘Mastered for iTunes,’ a company term for closest to the original recording.

    The album kicks off with a tribute to Joey Ramone and ends with a collaboration with Lykke Li. A passing of the mic?

    Get yours here.

    (Photo Credit: digital booklet)

    Tannoy’s Dual Concentric driver

    The tale of two drivers. One midrange, one tweeter, in a single cone — the dual concentric driver, a technology grandfathered by Tannoy LTD of Glasgow more than 40 years ago.

    Our loudspeaker corps include their Precision 6.4, a write-up we’ve been wanting to complete. If only some of our conceptions, and those of several other reviews, haven’t evolved as the speakers continue breaking-in.

    The 2013 iteration seen here incorporates an updated phase filter called the ‘Tulip Waveguide’ — the rings you see in the center — and a wideband tweeter mounted just behind it at the center of the cone. These technologies pair together to lower harmonic distortion, which in plain Scottish, means clearer sound.

    Until we go to Web with our review of the 6.4, click below to learn more about the lodestar of Tannoy design.

    Tannoy’s Dual Concentric by Definition 

    Visit Life After CD on Flickr for higher-resolution photos.


    Enjoy Burning Man dust-free in the comfort of your home! No Ticket required!! Includes fully functional burn barrel. BONUS: FIVE RAVERS & LARRY’S GOLF CART!

    "We were sad when we got no tickets this year, so we decided to create a mini-burn out of Legos! Then it got out of hand.” - Creators @simonpearcelive and @maryelisechavez on Music Festival Junkies.

    And, DJ Luke Skywalker in the booth.

    (Photo Credit: Flickr)

    [ UPDATE ]

    Leben CS-250 Power Amplifier

    A new old addition to our setups, the Leben CS-250 tube amplifier swaps places with a Jolida FX10 integrated amp, still powering Martin Logan Electromotion EM-R in-walls. 

    That bass. Here we’ve found a tube amp that isn’t afraid to Rock, so long as your speakers can run with eight watts on each side. It’s deep, quick, and responsive, even if it’s 20% less powerful than the Jolida FX10 it replaces.

    Except these are not the right numbers.

    The CS-250 weighs more than twice the Jolida and sounds it. Never mind that it retailed for five times the Chinese FX10’s price. However, the Leben isn’t a Chinese amp.

    Made in Japan as a limited production, Leben engineered the CS-250 for an ‘American’ sound, with its Hammond transformers and quad of 6K6GT vacuum tubes across stage front — a tube more likely to be seen inside vintage guitar amps.

    It’s the tube Leo (Fender) chose for the Fender Reverb Tank.” Says Fender, the Reverb is an amp that was “a staple of virtually every surf performance and recording since the early ’60s; blues and experimental players love it too.” Dick Dale’s Misirlou from the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction is probably the best known example of surf guitar.

    One characteristic of the 6K6 tube that’s also evident in the mastering of surf guitar is that the harder its driven, the brighter and smoother the audio becomes, so with the right glass, the effect draws you in as the music gets louder. Circuits with 6K6 tubes are all over but getting it right is less common. Televisions from the 50s often have them in their audio sections.

    In our own Leben, we settled on stock Phillips 12AT7 tubes and after-market old stock Ken-Rad (Kentucky Radio Corp.) 6K6GT specials. Fascinating, isn’t it, how the Japanese and the Bluegrass State can both be known for its whiskey and its vacuum tubes. Kanpai, listeners.

    Manufacturer: Leben Hi-Fi Stereo Company (

    Price: $3195 in 2002

    Notes: The CS-250 has a built-in attenuator on the lower left (volume control) and enough gain to be ran as a single input integrated amplifier. For performance, adding a matching preamplifier is an improvement, but not as important as the rest of the system.

    Its sibling amp, the CS-200p, is officially pictured with four brass rings around the base of its power tubes. According to the US distributor, these rings were never included or available for the 200p or the 250. Pity as they look great and there’s a source for them somewhere on the Web. Strictly for the hifi shows, we presume. That’s one way to tease a niche audience.

    Visit Life After CD on Flickr for higher-resolution photos.

    "High-end audio is the tail of the dog that is the consumer audio business. We have little leverage in determining where the technology is going, even though we undoubtedly know more about it than the average buyer.

    "On the other hand, after the mainstream has determined where it’s going (or thinks it’s going), the high-end business must accept that, and try to optimize it for those of us who care deeply about getting the best sound."

    — Kalman Rubinson, for Stereophile magazine. To most people, superior, if arcane, file formats won’t win the day without support by a catalogue of music that appeals to most people. “Sony is a major supporter of the effort… to coordinate the hi-def download business.”

    (Photo Credit: Stereophile; ‘Sony HAP-Z1ES high-resolution file player.’)

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