Thomas J. Norton

Thomas J. Norton  |  Sep 03, 2020  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1995  |  0 comments
In February 1994, when I reviewed the pricey ($12,900 with amplifier) Sennheiser Orpheus headphone system—HE 90 headphones and HEV 90 D/A processor/amplifier—I commented that the company had a similar, but less expensive, alternative available: the HE 60 headphones combined with the HEV 70 amplifier. At the headphone end, the HE 60s aren't so different from the HE 90s furnished with the Orpheus system. Both are extremely lightweight and supremely comfortable—even for long listening sessions (I logged up to four hours without a break on the HE 60s). In fact, the less-expensive HE 60s are about 100gm—4 ounces—lighter than the HE 90s.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 06, 2020  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1995  |  16 comments
To echo Audio Cheapskate Sam Tellig, who was in turn paraphrasing Thomas R. Marshall, what the world needs is a great $299 CD player. Certainly there's no shortage of expensive units vying for your attention—most of them consisting of separate transports and D/A converters.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 09, 2020  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1995  |  0 comments
Ah, yes, headphones again. The market for super–high-end headphones must be small, but manufacturers nevertheless keep introducing new designs. At least two manufacturers—Stax and Sennheiser—seem to have carved out a big chunk of this market for themselves, and are currently slugging it out with their respective takes on the best that electrostatic headphones have to offer.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 23, 2019  |  33 comments
About a year after settling into my new house, I decided to buy a pair of Monitor Audio Silver 10 floorstanding loudspeakers, which I had reviewed in 2014 for our sister publication Sound & Vision. I wound up buying three of them, with the intention of cannibalizing the drivers and crossover from one to make my own three-way center-channel speaker. But that project was long delayed, and I never got around to doing anything with the third Silver 10: It now sits in a closet as a spare.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Sep 11, 2019  |  First Published: May 01, 1988  |  6 comments
While it can't exactly be said that the folks from The Mod Squad invented the game of audiophile modifications of existing, current-production hardware, they certainly have grown to be one of the major leaguers. Their mods have a reputation for being well-thought-out, nearly always offering improvements over the originals. And while they weren't the originators of the concept, any company which brought the world Tiptoes (probably their most famous product) will probably have a niche in the 21st-Century Museum of High-End Audio.
Robert Harley, Lewis Lipnick, Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 06, 2019  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1992  |  1 comments
A visiting manufacturer recently expressed the idea that digital processors and transports are the worst value in high-end audio. He contended that, because they all sound bad, their differences and degrees of imperfection are meaningless. In his view, the very best digital differed very little from the worst. His advice? Buy a moderately priced CD player and enjoy your LPs.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Apr 23, 2019  |  13 comments
Visit any consumer audio show these days and you'll see rooms full of systems costing from six to seven figures. Manufacturers like to put their best foot forward, and demoing systems with loudspeakers designed to sell for $50,000/pair and up (often up) seems an obvious way to go.

It's also common for an audio company to launch its flagship models first, and only later release more affordable products, for a wider range of buyers. The hope is that the promotional shine of the dream products will be reflected onto the budget models.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 14, 2019  |  26 comments
Q Acoustics was founded in the UK in 2006, but has appeared on the radar of US buyers only in the last few years. Until recently, Q has aimed its efforts at the budget sector, earning enthusiastic reviews and commercial success.

But during that time the company also been quietly working on a product considerably more upscale, though still affordable in a marketplace now glutted with products at if-you-have-to-ask prices. The result is the Concept 500 ($5999.99/pair), first seen in the UK in 2017 and recently made available here. But you won't find it at your local audio shop (if you still have one); in the US it's currently sold only online, through Q Acoustics' US website, with a 30-day, money-back guarantee that includes shipping costs—both ways.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Nov 27, 2018  |  37 comments
German manufacturer Elac had a significant North American presence in the 1960s and '70s, primarily with its Miracord automatic turntables. While it eventually disappeared from the US market, Elac never ceased to be a player in Europe, where it eventually shifted its primary focus from turntables to loudspeakers.

When Elac decided to reenter the US market a few years ago, its success was hardly assured. Faced with hundreds of brand names and thousands of models fighting for attention, it hired veteran speaker guru Andrew Jones to improve the odds. In his previous work, first for KEF and then for TAD and Pioneer, Jones had built a solid reputation on designing well-received, cost-no-object speakers as well as high-value budget designs.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 26, 2018  |  10 comments
Stop me if I've said this before (okay, I have): There's much to be said for integrated amplifiers. While separates have long dominated high-end audio, an increasing number of integrated products not only bundle a preamp and power amp, but sometimes add digital inputs of various flavors, phono stages, bass and treble controls (long on life support in audiophile gear), and more.

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