October 17, 2006
I have had the pleasure of testing hundreds of radios and many good stereo systems in my life. I have struggled with this question for decades. I confess I love the Beatles, Hendrix, Dire Straits, the Dead and the Pointer Sisters among others. I have heard most of them live so when I listen to a recording I am usually disappointed and wanting with what I remembered it sounded like live.
There is a big musical division in this world between people that like bass and people that don’t. It is a war of tastes. One of my favorites was big Klipschorn corner speakers with 15″ woofers and horns. Paintings did figure eights on the wall. Neighbors came by to see where the band was. On the Klipschorn any defect in the original recording was obvious. But they are too big except for rooms dedicated to sound. They looked similar to the Klipschorn® Floorstanding Loudspeaker.
Another set I heard at the Consumer Electronic Show was exceptional with piano and violin though expensive was the VMPS Super Tower III / Special Ribbon Edition
What I do like is an accurate rendition of the original concert and that kept me searching. One Sunday I briefly got fooled at a wedding thinking the next door bar had a live band. They were running JBL 15″ woofers with horns. I felt like Albert Einstein at that moment when I realized if you want to hear the music like at a rock concert then WHY NOT USE THE SAME SPEAKERS THAT THEY USE WHEN THEY PLAY LIVE!!! It is so simple. My part-time musician brother uses the same speakers for some of his music, so he helped me get the right order together. Now I happen to have a workshop a few hundred feet from any neighbors, which I decided would be a great home for my new speakers. I sweated, struggled and hoisted them 10′ high and out of the way. It was a horrible failure… no bass, though I was running 400 watts of power through a commercial equalizer! So the expert called the local stereo store and was told: “They need to be mounted near a corner or bass response will be weak.” Change was made. Blam! Here comes the bass! My brother came over to inspect and he approved the speakers after he shut off the 400 Hz selection on the equalizer. He said each room has its own acoustic properties when it comes to how a particular set of speakers sound. They did sound great after he did his magic, which was
obvious in retrospect.
Now there are probably dozens of speakers with 15″ woofers and horns that work absolutely great. I am happy with the JBL’s, but it is the concept of using the original speakers that are used in concert that is important. I would buy them local if you can. Mine came slightly damaged and the service I got was worse than nothing. Here is the approximate model for which I paid about $600.00 each for JBL’S MP415 delivered. Is it worth it? I love the sound and most of my friends have never heard music like this before in their lives. For $1200.00 they are hard to beat! I now run a 100 watt Denon receiver I bought from Crutchfield which is more than adequate. My neighbor at 300′ away can clearly hear the bass inside his house when I have it turned up. We have an agreement to never do this before 8:00 AM.
I can also make a recommendation on personal computer speakers that work good with the great streaming music now available. Never before has a compact system had the depth of bass as the Acoustic Energy Aego M Series Music System. At only $200.00 it not only sets a new level of performance standards but it makes every other similar compact system sound like tin cans.
I would love to hear your comments on your experiences.
August 5, 2006
LED light bulbs are a miracle. During the last heat-wave that swept through the country, I spent a lot of time at night sitting under an LED light bulb. I put an LED light bulb in my reading lamp, I put a row of LED strip lights above a poster in our bathroom, and I put an LED light bulb in my son’s bedroom for him to read by. The benefits? No heat. None. Nothing at all. Before I put in all those LED bulbs we would find ourselves constantly turning on more light than we needed just to do things like reading a book. It didn’t make sense — and I quickly discovered — just by empirical observation, that every time I turned on the regular lamp in our living room — a lamp with three 60 Watt incandescent bulbs — we would get plenty of light around the room — but also a lot of heat. Within minutes of turning on the regular lamp our air conditioner would kick in and start working much more than it should. This was especially frustrating at night when the sun was already down, and there wasn’t any extra heat coming at us through our windows. Once we switched to just turning on the LED light bulbs and using the light right where we needed it — our comfort level improved — and so did my mood, since I no longer felt my pocket book getting sucked into the air conditioner’s vents every time we turned on a light.
Another spot we put LED lights to use is over the dining room table. The light is just bright enough for us to see everything as if in daylight, and once again there’s no extra heat to worry about. On a hot night, it made a tremendous difference to eat dinner so comfortably — and without a hot lamp above our heads. I had tried compact fluorescent bulbs above the dining room table too — but I just couldn’t get used to the humming sound — and so we’re sticking with the LED light bulb there instead.
Are LED light bulbs perfect? Not yet. They’re still best suited to directional lighting needs — like in reading or task lights, or above pictures, or even over a dining room table. But how can you argue against the benefits of getting light to read by or eat by — and not getting a lot of extra heat kicked around your home. I know it’s kept our energy costs down this summer, and I since these LED bulbs last at least 60,000 hours, I’m looking forward to saving money on electricity for years to come. Oh…I was just about to finish when I looked up and realized that I also use an LED lamp at my work desk. It’s a gentle light that’s easy to read by, and since so much heat is already given off by the computer, it’s comforting to know that I’m off-setting the cost of running the computer (at least somewhat), by using this LED lamp.
July 18, 2006
Politics aside, KSFO, 560 AM has some real funny irreverent witsters in the early morning. Over the last few months my wife and I have noticed that stations about 300 to 500 miles away from us just don’t sound the same. There is a new, constant background hiss and digital noises. The station hasn’t changed; it’s the signal that doesn’t sound the same. And it’s not just the summer sun that causes an already weak 5,000 watt signal to fade-to-static too fast. Every time a neighbor I plug in a new digital device it gets worse for AM radio.
I know KSFO streams their audio but I abhor fiddling with the computer. The audio sucks and it’s in the computer is in the wrong room. It is especially aggravating when I want to hear the week’s highlights broadcast from KSFO on Saturday morning. I used an FM Transmitter once but still had to fuss with the cords when I wanted technology to serve me, not the other way around. I heard the first unsuccessful Internet radio called the Surf Rider made by Jerry LeBow and friends about 1995. It was not wireless but it was very interesting. Then came the dot-bomb Kerbango and a few other recent brands I won’t name that require a difficult set up and cataloging of your favorites sites. Sorry let’s just say I’m spoiled and won’t serve the time!
Then I heard the new Acoustic Energy Wi-Fi Internet Radio. I plunked down the money (with satisfaction guaranteed) and brought home the bacon to show my wife. It only took about 10 minutes to understand the cell-phone-like menu system and enter my wireless network name or what techies call the Extended Service Set Identification number (ESSID). As soon as it was connected, the Wifi Radio automatically downloaded the addresses of thousands of stations. I pulled in KSFO rapidly and we both yelled “WOW!” at the same time and laughed! Now that’s technology. I could not resist. I tried Morocco and heard strange, indigenous music I never knew existed. The feeling was just like being there… the exact same feeling I had when I listened to my first shortwave broadcast only the reception is crystal clear! Then on to a station called “Africa” from the UK and found children singing the most innocent and happy a cappella music I have ever heard. Early in the morning we giddily turned on the WiFi and heard the entertaining voices of our favorite radio hosts and all was very good.
Using a WiFi radio to tune in a station I have not heard clearly in almost 20 years is a technological milestone in my opinion. I would be worried if I was a subscription satellite radio company. The WiFi radio is so convenient that it makes me wonder how it will affect the average broadcast station. The WiFi radio eliminates all reception problems. Even if you don’t have a wireless broadband connection, if you have a neighbor with an open wireless network, (and permission of course), you can listen to the WiFi Radio by just turning the radio on. It is still not portable but I am sure someone is working on it.
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June 23, 2006
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