Handcrafted in Brooklyn, NY
First impressions usually count for a lot, correct? Well, my first impression of a Grado product was not all that positive. I had a small LAN party at my house one night and I invited over the audio lead for Ritual Entertainment and got him set up on one of the test machines. He pulled out a pair of Grado SR225 headphones and plugged them in. I looked at them and thought, “Why does this audio guy have such terrible headphones?” Just like most others that have looked at Grados the first time, I thought these were similar to a set of WWII headsets, and likely sounded about as good. I offered my friend a more “gaming friendly” set of headphones. He laughed at me and said no thanks.
The packaging is relatively bland as compared to other competing "high end" headphones. Grado has a reputation of under-promising, yet overperforming.
I of course asked him about his headphones that he was so enamored with and he told me a little bit about how good they actually were and that he was quite happy to game on them. This of course got me quite interested in what exactly Grado had to offer. Those “cheap looking” headphones are anything but cheap. While the aesthetics can be debated, but what can’t be is that Grado makes a pretty great series of products.
Grado was founded by Joseph Grado in 1953. Sadly, Joseph passed away this year. Though he had been retired for some time, the company is still family owned and we are now seeing the 3rd generation of Grados getting involved in the day to day workings of the company. The headquarters was actually the site of the family fruit business before Joseph decided to go into the audio industry. They originally specialized in phonograph heads as well as other phono accessories, and it wasn’t until 1989 that Grado introduced their first headphones. Headphones are not exactly a market where there are massive technological leaps, so it appears as though there has been around three distinct generations of headphone designs from Grado with the Prestige series. The originals were introduced in the mid-90s then in the mid 2000s with the updated “i” series, and finally we have the latest “e” models that were released last year.
The company also offers five different lines of headphones that range from the $50 eGrado up to the $1700 PS1000E. They also use a variety of materials from plastic, to metal, and finally the very famous wood based headphones. In fact, they have a limited edition Grado Heritage run that was made from a maple tree cut down in Brooklyn very near to the workshop where Grado still handcrafts their headphones.
That townhouse in the middle? That is where the vast majority of Grado headphones are made. Not exactly what most expect considering the reputation of the Grado brand. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Grado)
I was sent the latest SR225e models to take a listen to some time back. I finally got to a place where I could just sit down and pen about my thoughts and experience with these headphones.
Introduction: Improving Portable Sound
The Calyx PaT is very small USB DAC and headphone amp that can be used with PCs and mobile devices, offering the possibility of better sound from just about any digital source. So how does it sound? Let’s find out!
The PaT is a very interesting little device, to be sure. It rather resembles a large domino and weighs less than 1 ounce thanks to an ultra-light aluminum construction. It requires no battery or power source other than its micro USB connection, yet it provides sufficient power (0.8 V output) for in-ear monitors and efficient headphones through its 3.5mm headphone jack. Inside is a proprietary mix of DAC and amplifier circuitry, and like other products produced by Calyx, a Korean company with little presence in the United States, there is the promise of a dedication to great sound. Did Calyx pull it off with the diminutive PaT?
Improving Portable Sound
Outboard DACs and headphone amplifiers for computers and mobile devices are nothing new, with recent products like AudioQuest’s Dragonfly a prime example in the portable USB DAC market (though it offers no mobile support). When I first heard about the PaT during CES it was still in the prototype stage, but I was interested because of the Calyx name if nothing else, as I already owned the Calyx M DAP and had been quite honestly blown away by the sound.
So what need might I have for the interestingly-named PaT (pronounced "paat", meaning "bean" in reference to the small size), which is itself a DAC that requires another device to play music files? It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to speak with Calyx president Seungmok Yi during CES (via video chat as I couldn’t attend the show) that I started realize that this could be a compelling product, not just for the $99 price tag - a bargain for an audiophile product - but because of how versatile the PaT can be. You don't have to identify as an "audiophile" to appreciate the clearer and more detailed sound of a good DAC, especially when so many of us simply haven't heard one (especially on mobile devices).
Today, Amazon rolled out a new feature for users of its Cloud Player music service called AutoRip. The new feature will provide free MP3 files to users that purchase CDs from Amazon with the AutoRip logo. The MP3 files will automatically be made available for streaming or download in your Cloud Player application (or the web browser-based music library) upon purchase of an eligible album.
The MP3s are 256kbps files and can be played on Kindle Fire, Android and iOS devices as well as Samsung Smart TV, Roku, and Sonos boxes. You will also be able to stream them from the Cloud Player website. The free music files from AutoRip are stored in your Amazon Cloud Player library, but they will not count against your storage quota.
Currently, the AutoRip program extends to 50,000+ physical CDs available on the Amazon website. Amazon has stated that it is working to add additional albums to the program. Interestingly, the AutoRip program applies to all future purchases as well as any AutoRip eligible CD purchase from Amazon since 1998(!). Albums that are eligible for the free MP3 copies can be identified by the AutoRip logo, which is a double blue and green arrow.
Considering older CDs were likely ripped with inferior codecs and/or bitrates (like RealMedia...), the AutoRip service may be a great deal if you purchased your discs from Amazon! Personally, I’m surprised Amazon did not restrict the value add to Prime subscribers only (not that I’m complaining), but it should help to bolster physical CD sales if you are getting the MP3s anyway along with a physical disc.
The full press release is available below the break.
Subject: General Tech | October 21, 2011 - 03:30 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: store, music, mp3, itunes, Internet, google
Google seems to be slowly surrounding itself in our online lives, and their soon to be released Google Music Store is sure to ensnare users even more tightly (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). The company’s music service has been in beta for a few months now and currently operates as a virtual music locker and allows users to upload their music collection to Google’s servers so that they can stream their music to computers and mobile devices. Unfortunately, the lack of a store required users to buy their music elsewhere and rip or download and then upload their music to Google Music which was kind of a pain. A store is on the way; however, so not all hope is lost. To make the upcoming music store exciting, the company hinted at a mysterious “twist” that would accompany the launch of the MP3 purchase and download service.
According to Business Insider, a source who claims to be in the know has stated that the “twist” in the Google Music Store is not only a twist tie but is a huge space warping, planet sized twist that will allow users to share their purchased music with their friends and family. This is a huge leap into the current decade for the music industry, and is sure to be a popular feature for Google. Google is allegedly paying hefty upfront payment advances to the music industry for the rights to allow users to share music with others. It seems that streaming subscription services like Spotify and Zune have been successful in softening the outlook of the RIAA after all, at least to the point that allowing users to share their own music is something the music industry will at least consider for the right price (I apologize for the ire/tongue in cheek nature of this particular paragraph).
Unfortunately, the source was not able to detail exactly how this sharing service would work, but will likely involve the ability to share a link with a Google (+?) contact or over email that would then allow the recipient to stream the song for a limited amount of time (say 30 days?). Google being Google, the process may require or “suggest” that the user set up a Google Music account in order to listen to shared music, and thus get new users foot in the door and hopefully buy music to help Google overcome all the RIAA fees. In a further bit of bad news; while the large music labels are able to (bully) their way into charging for the rights to share music, smaller indie labels and independent artists will not be getting any piece of the Google money pie for sharing their music.
Have you gotten a chance to check out the Google Music beta yet? Personally, the sharing ability will be nice and will definitely push me into using the service a bit more than I do now, especially if I can coerce some of my friends away from Itunes so that we can share the new music we find with each other.
Subject: General Tech | May 11, 2011 - 01:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: youtube, sandwich, music, ice cream, honeycomb, google, cloud, Android
The fourth Google I/O took place over the past two days and AnandTech was there to bear witness on the keynote speech and other presentations. As you might well expect Android was the most talked about, the new Honeycomb update was discussed in great detail and with good reason. The update allows Android powered devices to use USB peripherals in the same way as a PC, powering mice, keyboards and even XBox controllers which is a big change from only being able to be used as a USB device and offers even more for those interested in the Open Accessory Library.
Others will be more interested in Google's Music Beta which will let you upload your music collection to the web and includes the ability to make playlists and albums as well as gatherig meta artist information. You can think of it like Amazon's Cloud service, though hopefully more reliable, but as Google seems not to have got the permission of the record companies it may not be.
"Google’s I/O 2011 keynote may have suffered from a few choice leaks, namely the new Music service and Ice Cream Sandwich announcement, but Google still managed to include some surprises. Android 3.1, the update to Honeycomb, was announced along with a slew of development platforms, including one committed to bringing better introduction of accessories to Android devices of all types, and a home integration platform based on Android."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- First-tier motherboard makers to ship nearly 400,000 Z68-based motherboards in May @ DigiTimes
- Twitpic Owns your Pictures @ XSReviews
- Linux Kernel Benchmarks Of 2.6.24 Through 2.6.39 @ Linux.com
- A Look At Nouveau Driver Power Usage @ Phoronix
- Finding, Not Searching: How to Use Search Engines Correctly @ TechwareLabs
- Nikon Coolpix P500 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Tech-Reviews Prize Giveaway
- We're giving away a P67 mobo, a GTX 560, and a dozen games @ The Tech Report