We're very sorry to report that Gary Altunian, Guide to Stereos, passed away late last night. We will miss his kind spirit and the great work he did for About.com. Our thoughts are with Gary's loved ones and friends during this difficult time.
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Part of the process of evaluating a music system involves critical listening skills. Becoming a better listener allows you to get more enjoyment from your current stereo system and to improve your ability to know what you want the next time you shop for speakers or components. Read my tips about how to improve your listening skills.
Years ago a sales representative from a speaker company told me that only two things really matter: finding a better cheeseburger and reproducing better bass. It was his way of getting my attention, then he proceeded to demonstrate his speaker with its better bass. Cheeseburgers aside, great bass reproduction is arguably the most difficult to achieve in a stereo system. Since the loudspeaker was invented, manufacturers have tried every trick in the book to design a speaker with jaw-dropping bass that will bring an audiophile to tears. With that as background, I was eager to review the latest attempt, the Atlantic AT-1 tower speakers with H-PAS technology. Can just two 5.25" mid-woofers reproduce deep, tight, extended bass? Read my full review of the Atlantic AT-1 and find out more.
Serious music listeners would do well to look to one of the most revered speaker makers to find good headphones. I'm referring to Bowers & Wilkins, or B & W. The new B & W P5 Mobile Hi-Fi headphones are promoted as a 'Concert for One'. The P5s are designed for home and mobile use, but is the 'concert for one' worth the price of admission? Find out in my full review of the B & W P5 headphones.
After exploring the jungle of bookshelf speakers, I've found a few models that rise above the others, including the Axiom Audio M3v3. The M3v3s make a great choice for affordable, good sounding speakers in a main system or as second zone speakers in a multiroom system. Priced at $348 per pair and with a free 30-day in-home trial and free shipping, they're a great value. Read my full review of the Axiom Audio M3v3 bookshelf speakers.
When shopping for a stereo receiver or amplifier, there are many important features to enhance sound quality and make the component easier to use. Check out my list of most important receiver features, with a description of benefits.
Audiophiles and avid music lovers know the KEF name well and associate it with fine loudspeakers. The iQ50 is a 2 ½-way floorstanding bass reflex speaker in the middle of the Q series line with sound that belies its small size. The KEF iQ50 speakers are among the best speakers I've reviewed in the sub-$1000 per pair price range and it's clear to me why serious music lovers revere KEF speakers. Read my full review and check the best prices for this top pick speaker.
Together with speakers, stereo receivers and amps form the foundation of a good stereo system. Components come in all varieties and prices, but it's not necessary to spend a fortune to get good performance. Here are two new stereo components from Yamaha, the R-S700 stereo receiver and the A-S500 stereo integrated amplifier. Both are affordably priced and offer great performance for a moderate stereo system. Check out my full reviews of the new Yamaha components.
A reader that described himself as a 'poor audio enthusiast' recently wrote me about my review of the Mordaunt-Short Carnival 2 bookshelf speakers. He wanted to know if my opinion had changed, or if I had reviewed anything of greater value. My answer was no, I have not. For $299 per pair, the Carnival 2 speakers are a terrific buy and make a great choice for a moderate stereo system or as zone speakers for a multiroom music system. It's important to place them on good speaker stands and to place them correctly in the room. Check out my review.
2.1 Channel sound systems with two stereo speakers and a subwoofer are a great way to enjoy music, TV and movies. They require less complex setup and installation and offer great sound without the hassle of additional speakers and wires. Customers like them for their simplicity (and typically lower cost) and manufacturers see them as an opportunity to capture new business. A recent example is the 'Bird' system from Focal. The Focal 'Bird' is a unique system available in three satellite speaker configurations, and all based around the 'Power Bird', a single component with amplifiers, a built-in subwoofer and a wireless receiver. It uses Kleer technology for wireless transmission of CD quality sound between an iPod/iPhone/iPad or a computer and the Power Bird. It packs a lot of features and power in a compact, affordable system. System prices range from $899 to $1,199 depending on speakers and will be available soon. Check back soon for my full review of the Focal 'Bird'. For more information about 2.1 channel systems, read my article and check out Robert Silva's About.com coverage of home theater.