Week 2, 2015: Phono preamps, report from CES

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 2, 2015

Q. I want to improve my record playback system. Would I be better off spending $150-$200 on a better phono pre-amp for my original 1973 Pioneer PL-115 turntable, or spend $300 on a new turntable with a built-in phono preamp? I am a musician and good sound is important to me.

-John Buschiazzo, Concord, CA

A. I think you should take a long-term approach. Start with the phono preamp, then save towards an audiophile turntable in the $300-$400 range, like a Pro-ject Debut Carbon.

The Schiit Audio Mani phono preamp is excellent and sells for only $129. You can put the $70 you save towards the new turntable. Go to http://schiit.com/products/mani to see and order it.

Schiit Audio is a very interesting company with inexpensive, high-quality made-in-the-USA products. Be sure to check out their other offerings while you are there.

jHub Ultra update:  Last month I received a great many emails from readers asking where they could buy the jHub Ultra power bank. This is because soon after my column ran, the product and the manufacturer completely disappeared from Amazon, and the manufacturer’s website modernportable.com showed it sold out. The product is available again and there is quite a story behind what happened. Sadly, me and my positive review actually hurt the company, though they did absolutely nothing wrong. It’s a first in my twelve years of answering reader questions and reviewing and recommending products. Next week I will tell the story.

2015 CES report: I spent the first week of January at the 2015 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. I saw a lot of interesting products there and will be reporting on them in the coming weeks.

GoldenEar Technology Triton Five Tower Speakers: A few years ago I wrote about my impressions of the GoldenEar Technology Aon 3 speakers, which I heard for the first time at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. These $999/pair bookshelf speakers sounded noticeably and dramatically better than the $20,000/pair tower speakers that were being demonstrated down the hall at the show. I ordered a pair on the spot!

The new GoldenEar Technology Triton Five tower speakers took my prize again for the best sound at the show, despite their very modest $1,998/pair price. Like the smaller, $1398/pair Triton Seven, the Triton Five does not include a built-in powered subwoofer, but incorporates proprietary GoldenEar Technology drivers to create incredibly sweet, open and detailed sound with taut, precise, strong and detailed bass.

GoldenEar is one of my two favorite speaker companies in the world. This is a cost-no-object preference for me, which is remarkable considering GoldenEar doesn’t make any speakers that cost more than $5,000 per pair. In a world filled with many speakers that sell for $25,000/pair and up, it is refreshing that to get some of the finest sound quality in the world you don’t have to be a millionaire. www.goldenear.com

Petcube: This four-inch cube streams audio and video so you can watch and interact with your pets from wherever you are. It includes a built-in laser pointer that can be controlled with your smartphone. Just touch the video image on the screen and drag the laser point where you want it to go.

The Petcube is $199 and can be seen and ordered at petcube.com. It’s pretty neat and the short demo I was given (using the company representative’s own cats in her apartment overseas, 6,000 miles away) was really neat!