You know what is one of the best reasons to shop at Classic Stereo? Our live showroom. Electronics Professional Bill Price shows us where you can test out headphones and portable speakers. Watch the video to learn more about The Sound Desk or visit our showroom and Find It At Classic Stereo yourself.
Your eyes set expectations for your ears. For example, one of our electronics experts visited a gorgeous home in West Michigan. The builder thought of almost every detail, from marble countertops to top of the line big screen TV’s. You can imagine the shock when the builder turned on the TV and the sound was muffled. It was an audio nightmare.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE AUDIO?
Sound typically flows from the bottom of your television. In this case, it immediately ran into the marble countertop. Sound bars, speakers and woofers exist to direct sound to where it can be heard. Classic Stereo worked with the builder and furnished the home with the option that worked best.
A COMPLETE EXPERIENCE
When we design and build our award-winning home theaters or media rooms, we think about the whole experience. You expect a corvette to have a strong engine and deliver a fast ride. When you walk into a room that looks beautiful, you expect the other details to be just as good. The audio is just as important as the video, the furniture and the beauty of the entire room.
A SIMPLE FIX FOR YOUR AUDIO NIGHTMARE
If you are looking for a simple and easy way to upgrade the audio on your television, consider a sound bar. It sets up easily and some even have the capability to stream music as well.
Here are a pair of choices you can buy from us:
KLIPSCH RSB 8
HIGH QUALITY AUDIO is important
Luckily you know the best audio and video retailer in West Michigan.
Plus we have the largest, most experienced technical staff. We provide the best solutions for high-quality sound bar or two channel audio and have the expertise to build you a Dolby Atmos Surround Sound theater.
Let’s be honest: we are living in a streaming world. Whether it be Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, or any of the other countless services, consumers are increasingly reaching for their phones or tablets to fire up their favorite tunes. Considering these preferences, what can one do when looking upstream to begin building (or rebuilding) their home audio system?
Let me tell you why Paradigm is quickly becoming one of my favorite brands in the hi-fi market today. Their latest release, the Premium Wireless Series (PW Series), takes a giant step forward in closing the gap between traditional hi-fi and digital music. The PW Series is Paradigm’s entrance in the fastest growing segment of the home audio industry: wireless streaming and multi-zone distribution.
Sure, there are numerous brands to choose from in these categories. You cannot enter an electronics store without tripping over at least 10 wireless streaming devices. The most recognizable brand Sonos (which we proudly carry in our store), has dominated the space since 2002, when they pioneered network solutions for distributed audio & wireless speakers. Denon, the well-loved legacy brand, has successfully launched their Heos line to compete directly with Sonos. Others are sure to follow.
So what makes Paradigm’s PW Series any different? The answer is simple. Firstly, the PW series utilizes the DTS Play-Fi platform. DTS-Play-Fi is a new open source platform which allows the participating brands to be connected on a single unified platform. This is unlike Sonos or Heos, who have their own proprietary platform, leaving you handcuffed to remain within their ‘ecosystem.’ With the PW Series, you can mix and match products from the growing number of those brands which support the platform. The much loved hi-fi brand McIntosh, for example, recently announced the addition of their Play-Fi enabled RS100 Wireless Speaker. Anthem’s new MRX Surround Sound Receivers also support Play-Fi.
The second reason to love the new PW Series is the inclusion of Anthem’s (sister company to Paradigm) infamous Anthem Room Correction…also known as ‘ARC.’ Room correction equipment typically consists of a microphone and computer software designed to measure frequency response and to make changes to loudness, response, and speaker delay with respect to the desired listening position. While Sonos has recently dipped their toes into room correction by adding it to their latest release of the Play 5II speaker (currently the only speaker in their line to offer this), there are a few points of consideration for beginning audiophiles: algorithms used in room correction systems are not all the same, and a decent microphone is imperative to getting quality results. While Sonos relies on the microphone in your smartphone for their first generation room correction system, Paradigm’s PW Series ships with a free dedicated microphone and the room correction software which they have been perfecting since 2007.
The last benefit of the PW Series puts Paradigm in a class all its own. The PW Series is, at the time of writing, the only product in its category to allow streaming or pass through of hi-resolution music. Neither Sonos nor Denon Heos support playback of any files higher than 16 bit/44.1 khz.
If you want to equip your home with great hi-fi audio, but don’t want to sacrifice the convenience and flexibility of digital streaming, I strongly encourage you to take a look at Paradigm’s new suite.
Paradigm’s Premium Wireless Series is currently available in our store (with the exception of the LINK Pre-Amp, which has not yet been released). Stop by and take it for a spin.
In our last post, we explored the difference a great set of headphones can make. I can say from personal experience that good headphones (combined with quality audio files) can completely change the way you listen to music.
Bowers & Wilkins P7 headphones, for example, are a revelation in audio. But at $399, these aren’t exactly entry-level headphones. The P7s are also a pretty big purchase for someone who, say, is newly venturing into hi-fi, or who hasn’t learned to clean their own bathroom yet (teens: I’m looking at you).
So what can you get if you’re a music lover who wants great audio but isn’t yet ready for a big investment?
Enter: Grado Labs.
The Classic team recently got in a much-anticipated order of the new “e” Prestige Series headphones, made by Grado Labs, a family-run, Brooklyn-based company since 1953. The story of the Grado company is itself fascinating, but what’s even more interesting is the quality and pricing of their third generation Prestige headphones.
Marketed as “moderately priced” headphones that offer superior sound quality, Grado’s new Prestige series does not disappoint the ears OR the wallet.
Grado SR80e retails at $99.
John, Bill, and Jim have been raving about Grado for months, so when I heard the new headphones were in, I headed over to take them for a test drive – and to hold them up against our gold standard: Bowers & Wilkins’ P7. So I pulled up my Spotify app and slapped on the SR125e.
I was floored. Not only did I forget I was wearing the Grados (you’d think the foam ears would be itchy, but they’re not – they feel like clouds), but I could barely tell the difference in sound quality between the SR125e and the P7. Sure, the P7’s full ear enclosures provided better sound isolation, and perhaps they have a bit more balanced sound, but at nearly 1/3 the price, you can’t do better than the Grado SR125e.
And it wasn’t just me. Jim also tested the Grado SR125 against the P7, with very similar results (despite the differences between our James Taylor and Meghan Trainor playlists).
Grado SR125e retails at $150.
Grado’s Prestige headphones, like all their headphones, use an open-air operating principle. Comfy foam ear pads and a throwback design give the headphones a vintage feel, and the headband is easily adjusted.
One thing that stands out about Grado’s Prestige headphones is the exceptionally thick cord. As audiophiles know, every touchpoint in an audio system matters, and the quality of the wiring transmitting sound has a serious impact on the final audio quality. The cords on Grado’s headphones are serious about delivering the best sound quality, and while this makes the cords a bit bulkier than you’d find on other models, it also helps to make Grado’s headphones the best value on the market.
Confession: up until a few months ago, I had no appreciation for quality audio. I knew nothing about the world of hi-fi when I first started my job here at Bekins and Classic Stereo last spring, and although I quickly picked up on audio/video terminology and product lines, there’s a difference between knowing the mechanics, and really “getting” it.
I was like most millennials: a music lover with no idea how great that music can really sound.
After all, I grew up on MP3 files and iTunes libraries. These compressed, sampled and otherwise degraded audio files may have given me convenient access to my music library anytime, anywhere, but they also kept me from experiencing my music the way it was intended to be heard.
Our audio experts John, Bill and Jim explained to me what I was missing, and demo’ed my music in hi-res for me, but I still didn’t “get” it. “Yeah, that sounds great,” I said, “but I don’t understand how it’s that much different from what I’ve been listening to.”
They pointed out that, like good wine, high fidelity audio is something that a person has to train their palette to appreciate. Like my taste in wine, I had terrible taste in audio quality, because I hadn’t had real exposure to great audio.
Determined not to be a hi-fi skeptic, I snagged the Bowers & Wilkins P7 headphones from our Sound Desk and began listening to Spotify on them at my desk. I subscribe to Spotify Premium, so I made sure to enable the “High Quality Streaming” option, which streams at 320 kbps, higher than their standard 94 kbps (it’s still nowhere near Tidal’s true high resolution audio, which clocks in at 1411 kbps, but it’s better than a poke in the eye).
Retailing at $399, the P7s are one of the most lauded headphone sets on the market – which is why I choose them. They have the most powerful drivers in Bowers & Wilkins headphone series, but they’re also legendary for their sound isolation and luxurious fit. The lambskin earpieces fit completely over your ears, which effectively blocks out the outside world – not to mention they’re crazy comfortable.
I figured if anything would make me fall in love with hi-fi, it would be the P7s.
I listened on and off for a month or two. While I loved jamming out to the P7s (much to the dismay and distraction of my co-workers nearby), I still didn’t feel like I was “sold” on hi-fi. That is, until I had a basis of comparison.
One day, I snagged a different set of headphones; one considered much more entry-level than the P7s. Now, don’t get me wrong: these were perfectly great headphones, made by a good manufacturer. They just weren’t as serious about sound quality as the P7s.
As soon as I fired up Spotify, I had a visceral reaction. “What IS this??!!” I hollered. The music was the same, but it was…different. Lacking. Hollow. Tinny. Distorted. Or at least – that’s how it sounded to my newly hi-fi tuned ears. I ripped the headphones off and marched over to Classic Stereo.
“What’s up with these headphones?” I asked Bill, one of our audio experts. “I was listening to the B&Ws, but then I switched over to these, and…they don’t sound GOOD!”
“Ah, you’ve been spoiled by the P7s,” said Bill. “That’s what happens. These are perfectly good headphones that have good sound. They just don’t sound as good as the P7s. Do you hear the difference now?”
I did. And, like a newly minted wine connoisseur, my palette has been irrevocably changed. My ears have learned to hear the nuances in high quality audio, and having acquired a taste for the good stuff, there’s no going back.
When compact discs came on the music scene, they offered a sound quality and depth which had up until then only been available on vinyl records. When the internet sparked the next phase of sharing and sourcing music – streaming – audio files were drastically compressed. While .wav and .mp3 files are easy to store, carry and play across universal devices, they lose a vast majority of song’s original depth and nuance.
Most digital music files today are only phantoms of what the artist intended to be heard.
MUSIC QUALITY SPECTRUM
High Resolution Audio, known more commonly as hi-res audio, is lossless music that’s nearly identical to the sound artists intended their listeners to hear. This is music that’s been taken from the original recordings and compressed, but not downsampled. Some refer to hi-res audio as CD quality music, but the truth is that hi-res audio quality is actually higher than CDs’ standard 16-bit 44.1 kHz resolution.
The industry’s leading organizations have defined hi-resolution audio as “lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound from recordings that have been mastered from better than CD quality music sources.”
For example, CD lossless quality recordings have a 44.1 kHz/16 bit resolution.
Hi-resolution audio begins at 48 kHz/24 bit and are most commonly found at 96 kHz/24 bit resolutions, although it’s common to see hi-res files as high as 192 kHz/24 bit.
Have questions? Want to know more? Call us, or drop us a line using the form below.
Wondering what the buzz over hi-resolution music is about? Ask the experts here at Classic Stereo!
We’ve put together a basic guide to help you begin your exciting journey into quality audio. Read on – and be sure to call us if you have any questions.
Before we get to high-resolution audio, let’s quickly go over the basics. Odds are that you’ve been listening to digital audio for quite some time now. Do you listen to CDs? Those are digital. Or perhaps you stream music on your smart phone or tablet, listen to music on an iPod, or have downloaded songs from iTunes, Google, or Amazon. If so, then you know that Digital Music is everywhere! But have you ever stopped to think about the quality of that music?
High Resolution Audio
If you don’t know what High Resolution Audio is, it’s safe to conclude you don’t own any – yet. Currently 99% of all digital music comes in one of 3 quality levels; 1) 256 kbps, 2) 320 kbps, or 3) 1411 kbps…and a few variations. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but the categories can be thought of as 1) Online Music Streaming, 2) Downloaded Music, and 3) CDs.
So what is High Resolution Audio? The DEG, CEA and the Recording Academy have officially defined High Resolution Audio as “lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound from recordings that have been mastered from better than CD quality music sources.”
In short, hi-res audio is any audio file that has a higher resolution than a CD.
File Formats & Containers/Codecs
Without going too far into technical jargon, all music files come in some form of a “container”. Within the container you find the codec. Codecs are what we typically discuss when we talk about digital music files. Codecs are important because different music players are capable of playing different, specific codecs. Here are a few codecs you might recognize:
• MP3 (Google,Spotify)
• AAC or ALAC (Apple)
Lossy Vs. Lossless Music
Lossy audio refers to any digital music that has lost information due to compression…think MP3 or AAC. Lossless audio refers to any digital music that has NOT lost any information during compression. Think FLAC or ALAC. Note: Lossless does not guarantee Hi-Res, but it’s a great start!
Building a Hi-Res music library
Already have a large digital music library? Not to worry. Adding a DAC, or Digital to Analog Converter to your system is the BEST way to make the most of your current digital music.
Ready to start building your new library? Online music stores like Pono and JRiver are great places to start. Stop by our Sound Desk with your computer, and we’ll help you build your dream Hi-Res library.
Streaming Hi-res music
The good old days of radio are gone. If you aren’t already streaming music, then you should start! Services like Spotify and Pandora are free to use. With Spotify, you can stream almost any song you can think of, and for a small monthly fee, users can enjoy streaming quality up to 320kbps AND no commercials. Tidal and Deezer are currently the only two music streaming services which offer Hi-Resolution streaming – a very recent luxury for hi-fi lovers!
iTunes, Google, and Amazon
Where do these guys stand on Hi-Res? None have fully adopted Hi-Res audio yet, but they are trending that way.
How Do I get High Resolution Audio?
So you might be asking yourself why high resolution audio now? How do I get it? Is it worth it? When music began the amazing journey from a CD to the computer, the huge constraint was STORAGE SPACE. My iPhone today has more storage than my computer did when MP3s where first introduced in 1995. MP3s were created to minimize the amount of space a song would take up on your computer or device (roughly 1/11 the size of the original). This was accomplished by removing data from the file. So we essentially traded storage space for quality. Well, things have changed. Storage space is cheap and plentiful. So the real question is why haven’t we added back the information that was taken from the files??
High Resolution Audio is popping up everywhere. You can now stream high resolution songs from sites like Tidal and Deezer. More sites are sure to join the list. There are also online music stores that offer High Resolution digital downloads.
So is it worth it? Absolutely. Come listen for yourself.