I take my earbuds out to salute you, sir/madam, for making the excellent decision of living here.
These pages and the rest of the Colorado Daily’s Welcome Back series are to fill your minds with good thoughts and helpful advice. In that vein, I’ve got some ideas to help get your trunk bumping ASAP. Read and learn:
Just the bass-ics
Let’s say you just want to host the occasional get-together, and music is a must. A Bluetooth speaker or computer speakers probably won’t cut it. Fire up Craigslist, or better yet, head to a thrift store, like Ares on Spruce Street, and rummage for a couple of vintage speakers and an amp.
A rule of thumb for finding quality old speakers is “heavier the better.” It’s like picking a watermelon, but easier. If the speaker is heavy, it means it is well-braced and structurally solid. This pays off huge in the sound department.
Rule two: Pull the grill and take a look at what’s underneath. Don’t buy old speakers if you can’t pull the fabric off the front. You want to know if the woofer’s foam ring is rotted and missing, or if it’s really thin. Both bad. Keep an eye out for pokes and dents too.
At a thrift store, for 100 bucks or less you can buy speakers and a nice ’80s-era receiver, like an Onkyo or Yamaha. Quick trip to Best Buy for some cables and speaker wire and you are on your way to “Call of Duty,” cinema-style.
Come party time, try putting the speakers in the corners of the room and raise them so the tops are at (or above) dancing head height. This will give you a bass boost and maintain music clarity throughout the sweatiest of dance floor moments.
A step up
Let’s say you’re not partying, you want to go vintage, do it right and get something nicer. Mow some lawns or snag a part-time gig at Moe’s Bagels on 28th Street (they’re hiring) and then head straight to Absolute Vinyl (5360 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder). Besides a hand-picked, rotating library of vinyl on display, owners Doug and Anne Gaddy will help customers through a veritable forest of choice vintage gear — all thoroughly inspected and ready to rock. If you want a vintage McIntosh to go with some Klipsch Heresy speakers, this is the place to go.
For more local vintage electronics, browse through the online offerings of The Music Room (www.tmraudio.com), which is based in Broomfield and has a huge assortment of used equipment.
OK let’s say you’re less into vintage and more into new gadgets.
For something portable, I’ve yet to hear better sound in a Bluetooth speaker than from the Bose SoundLink III ($299). Everything Bose puts out sounds good in my experience, and usually worth every penny.
I’m also impressed with Libratone’s Zipp Bluetooth speaker ($299). Its ribbon tweeters are fast and lively and it’s designed to be omnidirectional, meaning you can put it anywhere and it will sound good.
Do it on the desk
I’m not a fan of plastic speakers. If you have some of those, knock them with your knuckle and hear the sound. That’s the sound that will be emphasized in your music, smearing that area of the spectrum with unnecessary resonance.
If you’re willing to hunt a little on Craigslist or at estate sales, small vintage bookshelf speakers paired with a small simple amplifier could fit the bill wonderfully for your desktop. I recently found a pair of H.H. Scott vintage mini-speakers (very heavy for the size) at an estate sale for $30. They would be perfect with a mini-amp like the Audioengine N22 ($199).
If you wanna go all out, I recommend the Trapezium desktop speakers by Decware ($695). Lots of science goes into those, and a subwoofer is not needed, though they are small in size. Pair them with a desktop amp like Temple Audio’s Bantam Gold ($298) or better yet — much, much better yet — take a look at a small do-everything audiophile amplifier designed and engineered right in Boulder — the PS Audio Sprout ($799).
The Sprout is a modern design audiophile-quality home sound solution. Aside from the speaker wires it can run wireless, connecting with your laptop or phone via Bluetooth. It plays nice with wires too, sporting optical or USB inputs for its high-quality internal DAC. It also features an excellent headphone amp which drove my planar headphones better than anything I’ve heard. Vinyl heads will love the built-in phono stage as well.
I learned about PS Audio a few years ago at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. My friend Colin and I remarked on the wonderful sound of one of its amps. It turns out much of the audiophile world is already familiar with PS Audio, but it’s one of Boulder’s little secrets.
In May, Stereophile Magazine featured PS Audio’s Sprout amplifier with a cover article full of praise. I listened to one for a bit, and I think the praise is well deserved.
The mind behind the Sprout is the company founder’s son Scott, whom I caught up with for an interview in this weekend’s Colorado Daily — check out Page 3 of Friday’s paper. You can also find the entire interview online at www.coloradodaily.com.
There’s a sea of options out there for listening equipment. Most, like me, are limited by budget. If you’re willing to hunt a little and connect things yourself, great sound can be had for cheap. However, in life you often pay a little extra for convenience and reliability, and to an extent that’s true with entertainment electronics. Just make sure what you’re buying sounds good to you — that’s what’s most important.
Don’t settle for crappy sound. Life is short. Turn the music up!
Duncan Taylor is producer and sound engineer of our newsroom music video studio Second Story Garage. Read his column, “Audio File” every Friday in the Colorado Daily.