By Don Lindich
Week 16, 2016
Q. Is there a way to increase the maximum volume on my headphones? I need it to be louder when watching a movie on my tablet when on a plane. Would a headphone amplifier be the answer?
-Joan C., Ocean City, NJ
A. First of all, be careful you do not damage your hearing by playing them too loud. Hearing loss can occur quickly at high volumes. Consider noise-cancelling headphones as well.
There are several ways to get more headphone volume with your tablet. The first is to change the headphones to a more efficient, or sensitive model. Most headphones have about 99 decibels (dB) sensitivity. Switching to a headphone with a sensitivity of 102 dB effectively doubles the power of your tablet, because to increase the volume 3 dB requires a doubling of the amplifier power.
A headphone amplifier will definitely help. If you want an inexpensive solution the FiiO E6 or M-Audio Bass Traveler are worth a try. They sell for under $30 online and will take your headphone output and amplify it to power your headphones. Unfortunately both of these amplifiers are said to also increase the bass, which you may not like.
For those looking for a no-compromise solution I strongly recommend the $299 Oppo HA-2. This pocket-sized headphone amplifier has both an analog input and a USB digital input. The USB input is definitely the way to go and there are two main advantages. The HA-2 has a state-of-the-art ESS Sabre digital-to-analog converter chip that works with the USB input. This better chip will lead to better sound quality. Second, when you use the HA-2’s USB port it acts as a power bank, charging your phone or tablet as you listen. Multiple inputs and adjustments make the HA-2 adaptable to different devices, and the rapid charger will fully charge it in only 30 minutes.
Though it is pocket-sized, the HA-2 has superb sound quality and can worth with any headphones. It is especially well suited to Oppo’s own planar magnetic headphones and though it is not inexpensive, it is an investment that will likely last many years. Obviously you would want to have some pretty good headphones to justify its purchase, but I don’t know anyone who has been disappointed with it. oppodigital.com
Q. I am looking for a better way to clean my vinyl records. What do you recommend?
-Paul D’Amico, Atlantic City, NJ
A. The best record cleaners are wet cleaners, which completely wet the record with cleaning solution and scrub them clean. The Spin-Clean Record Washer is a great place to start. With the Spin-Clean you fill reservoir with cleaning solution, insert the record and spin it by hand. The vinyl portion of the record is completely immersed as the brushes scrub dirt from the grooves. The dirt settles in the cleaning solution below, leaving you with a clean record which is then dried manually before playing. At $79 it is the most affordable high-quality record cleaner available, and it is also one of the most effective cleaners despite the low price.
The premium choice is a vacuum record cleaner. These use fluid and scrubbing action combined with a vacuum to suck the fluid out of the grooves. The Record Doctor V sells for $199 online and is a good entry-level vacuum model. It is made by Nitty Gritty, an iconic company that sells a wide variety of record cleaners including fully automatic models for over $1,400.
You can combine a Spin-Clean with a Record Doctor or Nitty Gritty for the ultimate in record cleaning. Immersion scrub the records with the Spin-Clean, then dry them with the vacuum machine for a pristine vinyl surface.