We're in the dead of summer. The mercury is cartoonishly exploding out the top of the thermometer. The mailman is crawling on the ground, begging for water. You've just stuck your head in the freezer for 20 minutes while eating a popsicle, but you're still pouring sweat from your body like a wringing mop. You shut the door and lock it: the air conditioner struggles, clunking and clinking, but it's still pumping out frosty air. The only thing on TV is Roseanne reruns, and while you normally love Roseanne reruns, for some reason the sound of Roseanne screaming "Daaaaan! Daaaaan! Daaaaan!" over and over again is causing you anxiety today. You've beaten every game app on your iPhone.
Bored, you decide its time to crank some tunes. But the problem is the loathsome 64 kbps MP3s coming out of your trendy computer speakers sounds like cat on a hot tin roof without the cat or the roof. Aluminum foil has better crinkle. What to do, what to do? It's time to build that stereo you've forever wanted build, component by component. This is a dream system that won't break your ears, or the bank.
The record player is key here, in the attempt to break away from the "lossy" digital muck your MP3s have been feeding you. Did you know that vinyl records' grooves mirrors the soundform of the original soundwave being produced? You can't argue with science, people. Scientific reasons aside, the Pro-Ject Debut (www.project-audio.com) is the best analogue player money can buy, because of its innate simplicity. Made from a beautiful glossy carbon, and available in eight different colors, the Pro-Ject Debut is a statement record player. The best things about a hi-fi player are all there: the high-end carbon-tube tone arm reduces reverberations, the platter is large and weighted perfectly, and the motor suspension is smooth.
As mentioned, the simplicity is key. You really feel like this is an instrument built for one reason, and it's perfected that intention. The bells and whistles are stripped away, instead leaving a hands-on, user-friendly record player. In fact, to switch from 33rpms to 45rps, one must actually pick up the platter and switch the belt's positioning. This helps remove the inaccessibility of actually using a record player--you're getting right inside the thing, and becoming more familiar with it.
I compared the sound of the Pro-Ject Debut with my old Technics 1200. It's really not a good comparison really, because the Pro-Ject is notably better, creating a warmer, crisper sound. It doesn't hurt that the Pro-Ject Debut comes standard with an Ortofon cartridge, which is well known for being the top cartridge and needle manufacturer in the world.
Pro-Ject is an Austrian-based company with some serious equipment. We took a look at their consumer model, but if you pop around on their website for a bit, you'll be impressed. In America, we found a Pro-Ject Debut at SUMIKO, a Fine Sounds Company, the exclusive American distributor of Pro-Ject products.
We get a lot of headphones coming through the offices of Flaunt. I use them to stream NPR through on my morning walk to work; I play jock jams through them while working out; and I listen to pretty much every new release that I get for review through them. Headphones, to me, are essential, as they are to a lot of people in the world.
When I was sent these beautiful, over-ear style headphones from Aerial7, it was out of the blue. I'd never heard of the company, so I didn't know what to expect. A collaboration with brand ambassador DJ Jam, who once did production work for Biggie, the white and gold colorway of the Tank series were striking. But, what of the sound? Honestly, for an affordable pair of headphones, the technical specs (S.P.L., impedence, etc.) rate comparably with headphones five times the price. The Aerial7 Tanks give a clear, full sound, which is perfect for listening to complicated dance music with intricate rhythms and barely perceptible sounds.
This is truly the piece of artwork, and the equipment that I noticed changed the sound of what I was listening to most: the NAD C725.
Playing though an analogue player, the NAD C725 performs: the bass sounds full and expansive, giving a lush boom that fills the listening space, and causing a warmness to pass through the body. Through my old Sony receiver the boom was more like a wobbly, disintigrating thump. Write that down: "boom" > "thump." In the midrange, the receiver gives an honest representation, allowing for a visceral, intelligable sound. The treble is lively, too, and makes the NAD C725 recommended for intricate music--electronica, noise, classical. The sound is highly detailed, like each instrument or sound has been isolated and delivered in neat packages to your ears. Paired with good speakers, the music coming from a NAD C725 should give you a perfect representation of what is coming out of the player.
NAD is a respected receiver manufacturer, and has been for a long time; the C725 is an important, affordable addition to their pantheon. It is a beautiful, smooth lined product, built with intricacy precision. Designed by legendary amplifier designer Bjorn Erik Edvardsen, the C725 is the perfect hi-fi receiver.
As far as the nitty-gritty goes, the C725 has everything you could ask for: two sets of switchable speaker outputs, and enough power to get even a big sized room bumping (or a small apartment), with zero distortion. The latter is due to Edvardsen's PowerDrive technology, which gives the receiver the power to reproduce the music without any hiccups. It also houses a celebrated FM stereo receiver, which is perfect for those down with jamming KCRW or KDAY 93.5.
All told, the NAD C725 is a receiver that brought joy to my life, and helped me rediscover the music that I've always loved with a new set of standards.
As far as new innovations in speakers go, Sonos has been on everyone's minds lately. The company, which has been visible everywhere lately, has recently produced a super-limited edition version of their Play:5 series, in collaboration with fashion designer John Varvatos. The speaker features a digital print of a skull on the front, and one was auctioned off to support the Stuart House charity earlier this year. As for the speaker's quality, once you get past some of the quirky interface issues, the wireless speaker produced a perfect compliment to the analogue audio equipment. The sound from the Play:5 is bouncy, and gives you the feeling of being in a larger space, even when you're just using them at home.
We got the speaker from Sonos Studio, which is Sonos' acoustically inclined gallery on La Brea, which plays films, holds listening events, and has a plethora of other activities and goings-ons.
It sometimes gets a little hot outside, but that's perfect. Because you've built your perfect system to escape the summer heat and cool down with some smooth jams.