By Don Lindich
Week 47, 2022
Q. Have you come across good earbuds for sleeping? I have searched for recommendations and read reviews and gotten overwhelmed, never purchasing anything. I finally thought to send you an email and ask if you might steer me in the right direction. As a side note, I have Apple AirPods, and love using those.
-M.E., Minneapolis, MN
A. The best earbuds I know of for sleeping are the Soundcore Sleep A10 earbuds, which list for $179.99 but are often on sale for $129.99. Not only do they have noise reduction for sleeping, they also have Sleep Health monitoring and other features that make them perfect for the task. soundcore.com
Cambridge Audio Alva ST turntable: I often receive emails from readers asking for recommendations within a price range, for example, “55-inch TV under $700.” This leads us to this week’s gift recommendation, my favorite turntable under $1,000.
Cambridge Audio’s first turntable was the Alva TT, which combined a direct drive system, a Rega tonearm, an integrated phono preamp and a high output moving coil cartridge made specifically for the package. It also featured Bluetooth aptX HD so you could transmit the signal both wirelessly and through a wired connection. The Alva TT was exquisitely finished of high-quality, heavy duty materials and felt truly substantial, a dramatic contrast to most high-end turntables under $2,000 which tend to be made of MDF. When I reviewed it I marveled at how it provided high-end vinyl sound with plug-and-play simplicity, a rarity in the world of audio. High performance turntable setups usually require lots of tweaking and component matching, and the Alva TT made it almost as simple as connecting a CD player.
The Alva TT has been replaced by two new models, the $1,999 Alva TTV2 and the $999 Alva ST. Both feature an upgraded tonearm with interchangeable headshells and switchable phono preamps, features that keep everything as simple as before while opening things up to tweaks for those so inclined. The Alva TTV2 remains direct drive, but the Alva ST is belt drive and has a more modest platter (aluminum instead of thick and heavy Polyoxymethylene.) The phono cartridge is the decent but entry-level Audio-Technica AT-95E.
It would be easy to look at the Alva ST as simply a stripped-down Alva TT or Alva TTV2, but my testing quickly showed that is not the case. It is a fine turntable that stands on its own strengths and could easily be the price-independent choice of those who prefer belt drive turntables. The base of the Alva ST has the same heavy-duty, high-end feel of the direct drive Alva turntables and the tonearm is a big improvement over the old one. The sound is crystal clear with detail leaping out of the grooves, even with the included cartridge. Touching, operating and looking at it is a joy. The Bluetooth feature remains so you can send music to a remote speaker as well as to your stereo, and in fact I found it a great match to the Tribit StormBox Blast I wrote about last week. At $999 the quality, features, and value are all there and it is a purchase that is likely to delight generations of music lovers. My only nitpick is I think it deserves a better cartridge out-of-the-box. I did try a few stylus upgrades with it and settled on the $59.99 LP Gear CFN95SE as having the best price-to-performance equation. While there are other stylus upgrade options costing up to $200, at that price point I think it is best to upgrade the whole cartridge, an easy task with the interchangeable headshell. cambridgeaudio.com