5 Holiday Gifts for Audiophiles on Cyber Monday

12/02/2013

With Thanksgiving behind us, and today’s “Cyber Monday” boom, we have assembled a small holiday guide for audiophiles. From turntable accessories and LPs, to headphones and bluetooth speakers–these days there is no end to the wonderful musical accoutrements to enjoy.

 

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Ortofon’s 2M Blue Phono Cartridge

Upon a first glance, the unique design of Ortofon’s 2M Blue Cartridge is striking. The company has a series of phono cartridges for your record player, which like Johnny Walker, range in price and quality based on color. Red starts at $99, Blue is $225 and upwards to Bronze and Black. The 2M Blue is a lot more than just looks: the dynamics, sharpness and tone are noticeable even to the untrained ear. Immediately after replacing my old cartridge, it was clear my phono system was boosted. Listening to a live version of The Supremes at the Copa the levels of the crowd’s hoots and hollers became more noticeable in light of their distance from the stage, providing for a more live-concert experience.

For those of you that want to know more of the specifics about the cartridge, take a look here.

The XX Limited Edition Box Set

Oh, The XX. The UK indie-emo band have released two limited pressing (1,000 each) box sets of their first albums. Pressed onto 7″ vinyl and bundled into two box sets with unique artwork, each set costs just over $90. For record collectors and indie fans alike, this isn’t the cheapest addition–but it sure is awesome.

Learn more here.

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Thinksound ms01 (in-ear) Headphones

When shopping for headphones the first thing you have to consider is: do I want in-ear, on-ear or over-ear headphones? For many, the portability of in-ear headphones is a key selling point, not to mention–the price-point. Unfortunately, with in-ear headphones, the quality of the sound is often sacrificed. Not so with the ms01 by Thinksound. These tiny and elegantly designed headphones pack a surprising low-range punch. Additionally, with noise-isolation, it’s easy to notice the clear highs and mids that prove a treat when listening to vocalists or jazz. From house to hip hop–the ms01 deliver the umph you need for head-bobbing trances. The sound is so good it’s easy to forget to mention the makers’ eco-friendly design, with sustainable wood housing, PVC-free cables and plastic free packaging. At just over $100, these headphones are affordable for any music lover eager to improve upon their free cellphone earbuds.

Look more about Thinksound’s ms01 here, and check out their new, higher end on-ear headphones, here.

Sol Republic Deck Wireless Speaker

Sol Republic’s first venture into wireless speakers comes with mix reactions. The slim, easy to carry, speaker is packed with features like “Heist Mode” that allow up to five people to pair real-time to the device and alternate playing music. Perfect for a picnic affair. However, the sound doesn’t match the price at just under $200. Compared to its competitor Mini Jambox by Jawbone, Deck, provides plenty of umph but lacks the lower frequencies to provide the fullest sound.

Learn more here.

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Onkyo ES-HF300 (on ear headphones)

These headphones define auditory pleasure. As one of the oldest audio companies out there, Onkyo’s first dabble into the headphone business is certainly not lacking. At $180 the ES-HF300 pretty much has it all: 1) style, 2) lush sound, 3) durability, 4) features. The matte black is accentuated with a brushed and burnished aluminum cup and a smooth finish that is sleek and elegant. Each cup is padded with soft leather, and the adjustable band provides for a relaxed fit, all without feeling feeling the least bit flimsy. Adding further value is the audiophile-grade copper cable, which easily clips or unclips from the headphones and provides excellent sound quality. Speaking of which, these headphones love bass, but are not overly weighted like Monster’s Beats. They provide a full, clean sound. Actually, the Onkyo ES-HF300 are comparable to the Grado SR80i providing a range and richness that typically is limited to more expensive options or the aforementioned open-back headphones.

Learn more here.

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Recognizing a Star When You See One: Jessie Ware at The Fillmore

11/21/2013

A great performance doesn’t need to bring Jesus on stage or have the largest light show. It just needs a star. From the moment Jessie Ware walks onto the stage Monday night at The Fillmore she is radiant. When she admits to the crowd that she’s “a nice Jewish girl” and says “L’chaim!” fans return a smile and cheers as though they’re reuniting with an old friend. It’s this personableness that makes Ware’s show irresistible (we know, see, see and see), coupled with her raw talent that it makes it special.

Admittedly, Ware’s vocals are restrained on Devotion, her debut album that was released last August. In an interview with The Bay Bridged she explained:

I wanted it to be a subtle, restrained way of singing. I know I can sing really belty, but I don’t think everyone always wants to hear that. If you’re listening to an album, whether you would be on the tube or you’re driving; I don’t want people to turn (the volume on) me down.

This is apparent live. Like neo soul singers Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Tina Turner, all influences and often comparisons for Ware, she will extend her notes and range straying from the subdued tone of her recorded verses. Late into the set, she performs Bobby Caldwells “Do For Love” supported only by her guitarist. Her smooth vocals front and center are unwavering, lofty and yet restrained in a Quiet-Storm-coolness. The moment the bass drops for “Wildest Moment” the crowd forgets the oncoming workweek, erupting in swaying excitement.

Throughout the performance, Ware walks across the stage seemingly in disbelief with the excitement exuding from the crowd, as though mentally trying to capture the moments in hopes of later looking back and thinking to herself “I was pretty good, wasn’t I!” Yes, Jessie Ware you are.

-Photographs by Fabian Molina

Photographs by Jason Paladino

Bill Callahan at the Great American Music Hall

11/20/2013

Even Mr. Callahan himself seemed a bit taken aback by the uproarious energy of the crowd assembled at the Great American Music Hall Saturday night. His songs, mostly down-tempo and full of simple guitar figures and elegant, minute drums that ebb and flow like waves, don’t seem like they would inspire shrieks or giddy girls jumping off their feet, but that’s exactly what they did.

“YEAH, BILL!” someone screamed like it was a goddamn rave.

Callahan looked up, startled, his eyebrow arched quizzically. And after a long silence, “Yeah.” It might have been a question, or even an expression of concern.

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Watch Wet’s “You’re The Best”

11/20/2013

You’re the Best from Wet on Vimeo.

Late last month, Wet debuted their music video for “You’re The Best,” which tells the story where the group got its start: New York City. The trio, comprised of Kelly Zutrau, Martin Sulkow and Joe Valle, have been making music together in various outfits since meeting as students in New York in 2006.

From the press release:

“Pooling all their influences, Wet touch upon everyone from Solange to The XX to Patsy Cline, while still conveying a blissful simplicity that tugs at your heartstrings and forces you to hang onto their every waking word. Their self-titled debut EP is out now on Neon Gold Records.” You can get a taste for it below.

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Cut Copy Frees Fans at Fox Theater – Photos and Review

11/04/2013

Cut Copy took the stage Saturday night at the Fox Theater, in front of what lead vocalist Dan Whitford called the biggest crowd of the tour so far, and played an hour and 45 minute set that spanned fan favorites and new songs from forthcoming album Free Your Mind.

If you are unfamiliar with the group, Cut Copy is one of today’s most recognizable electronic acts out of Australia. Their sound brings you back to the best of 80s new wave, blending beats that you can’t help but dance to. Australia has become some sort of incubator for synth pop in the past decade, taking the familiar sounds of new wave and making something new and different. (If you enjoy the style, check out Empire of the Sun, Gypsy & The Cat, Strange Talk and Bag Raiders.)

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Photos of St. Lucia and Two-Door Cinema Club at the Fox Theater

11/03/2013
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Photographs by Darryl Kirchner

St. Lucia played a sold-out show with Two-Door Cinema Club at the Fox Theater on Tuesday night ght. The evening was kicked off by Peace, an arguably rawer, and more experimental rock outfit from the UK.

St. Lucia’s soulful blend of progsynthrock got the crowd moving early and had them at the tip of their toes as Two-Door Cinema Club took the stage. The band is accompanying them on select dates of the north-american leg of their ‘Beacon’ tour. Their newest album ‘When The Night’ was just released this past October and is definitely worth a listen. This video below is great teaser for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to check out their sound.

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