Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless Review

B&W’s P7 over-ear headphones go wireless, with spectacular results…

“2016 Award Winner”

Our Verdict 

B&W’s wireless headphones meet the high standard that we’ve come to expect from the company


Stylish design

Good audio quality

Easy usability


Nothing of note
Reviewed on 13th September 2016

If you’re looking for over-ear Bluetooth headphones, you’re probably going to be making your selection based on four main factors: their sound quality, their aesthetics, their comfort and their price.

These B&Ws have the same design as the stylish, wired P7s that won the What Hi-Fi? Award for ‘Best portable on-ear’ headphones in 2013. A case, it would seem, of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” from B&W.

Comfort and build

These wireless equivalents have all the best initial qualities of their wired siblings: the earpads are very comfortable and can be worn all day.

They have the same 17-hour lithium battery as the wireless P5s, charged via USB, so it’s unlikely you’re ever going to run out of power during the day as long as you start fully charged.


The P7’s aptX Bluetooth connectivity is controlled via the power button: slide it across to turn on and off, and push it inwards to make the headphones discoverable to new devices.

Once paired with a device, these cans don’t need to be made discoverable again to connect.

The headphones provide audio feedback too, by playing a different sound when they are being turned on, made discoverable, or turned off, in case you’re connecting the P7s while still wearing them.

On the right earpad lie the controls for volume and playback, each of which are clearly distinguished from the other by the raised design of the middle button that toggles playback.

As we would expect, the middle button is able to play and pause any media via Apple MusicNetflix and Amazon Prime Video across laptops, smartphones and tablets, and can be used to trigger voice-controlled assistants like Apple’s Siri.


We start with Where Is My Mind by The Pixies – the test here being whether the P7s can keep the contrast between the quiet background echoes and the distortion in the guitar balanced and organised.

Turns out they manage to do both, keeping the high-pitched wailing under control without ever overcooking the treble.

The midrange is clear and Black Francis’ haunting rhetorical questions are given the space to linger in the air before diving down into the lower octaves. And they do so without any noticeable peaks and dips that would take away the eerie essence of the song.

Changing to something more pop, Pitbull and Ke$ha’s collaboration Timber stays upbeat and fun with a lot of emotion in both the artists’ vocals.

These headphones do a good job of conveying the deep growl in Pitbull’s voice and revealing a harsh edge to it, making you believe that he could be singing this having just come out of a club.

Great headphones should be able to point your attention towards new details in songs, even those that you’ve heard a number of times. Sure enough, we find the P7s expose undiscovered facets in tracks we know backwards via lesser media.

The P7s have a good control of the dynamics too; able to smoothly build from the harmonica at the start of Timber to the crescendo of the loud club. The message is these headphones can effectively recreate the atmosphere of a range of music with ease.

The deep bass beats are generous, perhaps a touch overly so, yet are managed particularly well in the way they keep the sound taut and tuneful while sustaining plenty of attack. At the other end of the spectrum, the high notes have a rich texture to them without erring on the bright side and on the whole, the P7s deliver a comfortably full-bodied sound.

Should you need to, you have the option of connecting the wireless P7s to your device via a supplied lead. As we would expect, this results in improved transparency and detail – in exchange for the freedom of Bluetooth connectivity.


We can’t say we’re surprised, but the fact is the P7 Wireless headphones set a high standard for other competitors in this price range to reach. B&W has built a very impressive pair of Bluetooth headphones that we’d certainly recommend for their sound quality, stylish design, and user-friendly Bluetooth controls.


Sound: 5 Stars

Build: 5 Stars

Comfort: 5 Stars

Features: 5 Stars

Read more at:

Where to buy B&W:

Sony MDR-1000X review

OUR SCORE: 5 Stars


Light and comfortable

Excellent noise-cancellation

Superb sound quality

Adjustable ANC level

Excellent mic for calls

Long battery life


There’s a knack to the touch controls


Active Noise-Cancellation


Capacitive touch controls

Personal Optimizer mode

Quick Listen mode

Backup 3.5mm wired connection

Hard carry case and airplane adaptor

Manufacturer: Sony

Review Price: £330.00


Wireless over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation. This is hardly a new territory for a company of Sony’s stature, but nonetheless this is a decided move to dominate this end of the market. The Sony MDR-1000X is here to take down the ubiquitous Bose, whose headphones are a common sight on every plane and train.

It’s pretty good timing, too. The iPhone 7 has done away with the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack, and those who don’t want to faff about with adaptors will be needing a good cord-cutting alternative. The demand for good wireless headphones has never been higher.

Sony’s biggest obstacle is the Bose QuietComfort 35, which have all but claimed this turf. But Sony isn’t simply offering silence and freedom of movement: it also has some clever tricks to give you greater control over playback and isolation. These skills make Sony a formidable challenger to the throne. Sorry Bose, the Sony MDR-1000X are the new headphones to beat.


These are smart-looking headphones, with minimal branding and a streamlined silhouette. They look a little plain from afar, but get closer and you’ll see Sony has made a firm gesture towards luxury. The construction is primarily plastic but it feels tough rather than tacky. There’s polished metal in the headband, and the ear cups and ear pads are wrapped in a very believable synthetic leather that feels lovely.

They don’t just look great: these headphones feel good, too. The polyurethane foam stuffed in the ear pads is very squishy and conforms to the shape of your head. The headband uses just the right amount of pressure to stay put, gripping rather than squeezing. They’re also light enough to sit on your head for hours. I wore them on a flight and managed to fall asleep.

Build quality is strong; there’s no creaking and the headband expands with decisive clicks. Compared to the Bose QC35’s basic plastic construction, the Sony MDR-1000X look and feel far more luxurious. Look after them – there’s a hard case included – and they should last you a while.


Despite the subdued appearance, there’s plenty going on here. The left ear cup has an NFC chip for speedy Bluetooth pairing. The right ear cup offers touch-sensitive controls.

Swiping forwards and backwards to change tracks is easy enough, as is swiping up and down for volume. The double-tap pause/play command takes some practice (you need to hit the right spot) but I got used to it quickly enough.

Tucked away on the edges of the ear cups are a micro USB port for charging and a 3.5mm connection for cabling up when your 20-hour battery runs out. The fact that it’s a 3.5mm jack on the MDR-1000X means finding a replacement is much easier than the Bose QuietComfort range, which use 2.5mm to 3.5mm cables.

The physical buttons are here, too, with raised edges so you can press them without looking. So far so normal, but here’s what separates the Sony MDR-1000X from its rivals: there are some clever modes accessible from these buttons that give you an unprecedented amount of control over how you listen. A clear voice prompt is piped through the headphones so you know what mode you’ve engaged.

The Personal NC Optimizer analyses the shape of your head and tailors the sound to each listener. The Ambient Sound mode lets you choose to let some sound through, for when you don’t want total isolation. The Quick Listen mode temporarily lets you hear everything without taking off the headphones.

Internally, DSEE HX processing promises to upscale low-quality compressed music files. These headphones are compatible with aptX Bluetooth for higher quality streaming, but you also get Sony’s own LDAC codec. Sony claims it transmits up to three times more data than conventional Bluetooth, but it only works with certain devices, such as its Xperia smartphones and Walkman digital audio players.


Until now, Bose has been the undisputed king of noise cancellation. Well, consider that claim disputed. I’ve used the Sony MDR-1000X for nearly two weeks and I reckon they’re just as good at blocking the outside world.

Like all ANC headphones, the Sony MDR-1000X are better at handling constant noise at low frequencies, but they’re also great at turning everything else down a few notches. I tried them on a plane, and they reduced the roaring engines to a whimper. I got even better results on my daily train commute.

The general hubbub of London streets was no match, either. I’ve walked right next to road works and moving buses and my music was never interrupted. These headphones only struggled with wind noise, which seems to confuse the microphones. To be fair, I’ve not found a single pair of ANC headphones immune to this.

There’s none of the hiss and whine that often afflict wireless and noise-cancelling headphones. Like the Bose QC35, the Sony’s ANC tech is so effective that it feels like the headphones are actively pushing silence into your head. You’ll feel a change in pressure, which feels a little odd at first, but you’ll get used to it and the sensation goes away when you play music.

The effective noise cancellation also makes these headphones ideal for conversation. I made a phone call by a busy road, but the headphones managed to isolate my voice from the racket of buses, leaving the conversation clear.


The Personal NC Optimizer feature I mentioned earlier is a weird and wonderful way of calibrating the sound to the listener. It takes into account the shape of your head, and whether you have big hair or wear glasses. You trigger it from the headphones themselves by holding the NC button and it takes a few seconds. It means you can easily change the profile to take into account wearing a pair of glasses on the fly without having to deal with the faff of a separate app.

The headphones pump out a series of test tones, in the same way that AV receivers do to calibrate surround sound speakers. The tones bounce around on the side of your head before being received by internal microphones. The headphones analyse this data and adjust the sound accordingly. It really works. When I wear glasses, I’m not able to get a good seal around my ears and the sound is affected. The calibration takes this into account and tweaks the tonal balance.

Ambient Sound mode is useful too, for when you’re walking through town and want to keep half an ear out for passing cyclists. In my case, it was an irritable gentleman pushing a heavy trolley, swearing at me for being in his way. You can even choose to block out everything but voices – perfect for crying babies or airport announcements.

Quick Listen mode is my favourite. Hold your hand to the right ear cup and the music will drop away, letting in the outside world until you let go. It’s ideal for when a plane stewardess asks you what you want to drink, or when your colleague comes by your desk. Now you can have a quick word without taking off your headphones. It’s a genuinely useful feature, one that I found myself using a lot more than I had anticipated.


The Sony MDR-1000X are easily the best noise-cancelling headphones I’ve heard.

They are an immensely entertaining listen, thanks to a combination of rhythmic precision and hard-hitting dynamism. That agility and impact is something you just don’t get with the Bose QC35, which are a little too polite. Sony, meanwhile, offers the sort of fun and energy that might have you get up and dance about when you think nobody is looking.

The MDR-1000X are articulate, too. Detail separation is impressive, with firm leading edges that leave you in no doubt as to what’s happening to those instruments. What’s more, those instruments are given plenty of space. These headphones sound surprisingly spacious given their closed-back design.

Tonal balance is good. These headphones don’t favour any particular part of the frequency range, which makes them very versatile. The treble is crisp without grating or hardening up. The midrange is direct and expressive, with plenty of emotion in vocals. The bass is plentiful and low without ever losing its definition or manoeuvrability, nor ever threatening to overpower the rest. That’s something that even the more expensive Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless struggle with, sometimes coming across as overly rich.

I put these headphones through my usual gauntlet of test tracks (from John Williams to Hans Zimmer, via Daft Punk, AC/DC, Taylor Swift and Buena Vista Social Club) and I’ve come to the conclusion that these are seriously talented performers for the money, with no obvious shortcomings. That Sony has managed to make such well-rounded headphones – despite loading them with extraneous tech – is very impressive.

And that’s just the wireless performance. Plug in the cable and the performance is even better, benefiting from a more full-bodied sound and more subtlety in the textures. You don’t get the controls, though, as the touch-sensitive pad only works with Bluetooth.

You can carry on listening when you run out of power through the 3.5mm headphone cable, albeit without amplification or noise-cancellation. Sound quality dips – clarity and energy take a hit – but the overall character remains. Compared to the Bose QC35 in no-power mode, the Sony MDR-1000X sound fuller and better defined.


Yes. Absolutely. The Sony MDR-1000X have managed to dethrone the legendary Bose when it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, which is a remarkable feat in itself.

But Sony not only provides noise-cancellation that challenges the best in the field, it has done so with intelligence. The Ambient Sound and Quick Listen modes are genuinely useful features, which give listeners a level of flexibility that headphones are not known for.

Then there’s the sound quality, which is traditionally a secondary concern for noise-cancelling headphones. It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into the audio-only aspect of the Sony MDR-1000X, because they sound superb. Yes, these cost about £40 more than the Bose QuietComfort 35 but it’s worth it.

Put it together and you have a personal bubble of high-quality music. That’s the commuter’s dream.


Hands-down the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market – and they’re wireless, too.


Read more at:

Where to buy Sony:

Klipsch Heresy III speakers Review

At less than 24 inches tall, the Klipsch Heresy III is the shortest floor-standing speaker I’ve ever tested. Don’t let its diminutive stature fool you. This speaker can outrun many a tower speaker — and outlast them. In an age of disposable tech, any speaker that sticks around for five years or more is noteworthy, but Klipsch’s Heresy has been in continuous production since 1957. And the Heresy III outshines most contemporary high-end speakers in a few key performance areas.

Dynamic impact and bass “slam,” courtesy of the Heresy III’s 12-inch woofer, are extraordinary. Vocals have more “body” and fullness than those from most large speakers. The Heresy III sounds like a blast from the past; it’s the speaker equivalent of a 1960s muscle car — like a Pontiac GTO or Dodge Charger. The Heresy III lacks finesse, but it’s a lot of fun to listen to.

Speaking of power, the Heresy III doesn’t need a lot of it to make a big sound; it’s remarkably efficient, so it can play loud with as little as 10 watts, but it still handles up to 400 watts on “peaks.” I used a 40-watt-per-channel NAD C 316BEE integrated amp ($380) for all of my listening tests. The Heresy III’s 12-inch fiber-composite woofer is mounted in a sealed, non-ported cabinet. The ultrahigh efficiency of the design must be credited to the Heresy III’s horn-loaded midrange and tweeter drivers — more specifically, the 1-inch compression tweeter and 1.75-inch compression midrange driver. Horns are an essential part of the company’s DNA, starting with its very first speaker, the Klipschorn, and that one debuted in 1946! Like the Heresy, Klipschorn has never gone out of production, and is still built in Klipsch’s Arkansas factory.

The Heresy III measures 23.8×15.5×13.25 inches. My samples were beautifully finished in real cherry wood. Walnut and black finishes also are available.

Played at near-live concert volume, Wilco’s “Kicking Television” CD knocked me over and straightened me right up. The sound in my listening room was closer to a live rock concert sound system than I’ve heard from a lot of much more expensive and bigger speakers. That’s what the Heresy IIIs do so well, and once you experience that sort of sound at home, a set of Sonos wireless speakers won’t cut it anymore.

Duke Ellington’s “Jazz Party” LP sounded remarkably vivid over the Heresy IIIs; the energy of a big band isn’t easy to reproduce. Most speakers clamp down on the horns’ power and presence, miniaturizing their sound. Not this time — turn up the volume, and you’ll feel a large dose of Ellington’s music coming through the Heresy IIIs.

Bass “kick” and definition are exceptional; you’ll feel the bass. True, bass extension isn’t subwoofer deep — it reaches down to 50 hertz in my large room, and I would have expected more from a speaker with a 12-inch woofer. Still, acoustic and electric bass instruments are well-served by the Heresy IIIs. You’d have to spend a lot more on speakers to outdo the combination of low-down clarity and punch.

Play any well-recorded piece of music, turn up the volume, and you’ll be treated to something rare, the full dynamic jolts that no small speaker can ever approach. Heck, a lot of big speakers can’t reproduce the crack of a snare drum like the Heresy IIIs can. It’s similar to what I get from Zu speakers, but the Heresy III’s bass definition exceeds the Zu’s. On the other hand, the Zu speakers sound clearer and more detailed overall. No speaker gets everything just right — the Heresy IIIs come up short on resolution and detail. I sometimes wished for more clarity.

The Heresy III’s strengths really came to the fore in my two-channel home theater. They reproduce movies’ dynamics with ease, and dialogue was natural and highly articulate. I also found myself listening to a lot of vinyl over the Heresy IIIs, because these speakers emphasized all the things I like about the sound of records. I noticed it was impossible to read while playing LPs via the Heresy IIIs — the sound was that good! I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these speakers.

The Heresy III is sold through Klipsch’s brick-and-mortar and online dealers.

Read more at:

Where to buy Klipsch:

B&W ASW610 Powered Subwoofer Review

Best subwoofer up to £700, Awards 2011. The B&W ASW610 sounds bigger than it looks and more expensive than its price-tag


Our Verdict – 5 Stars

Best subwoofer up to £700, Awards 2011. Neat, well made and sounds great for the money.


Fabulously agile and well-extended bass for its size

good finish

small and well-equipped




As reigning best Buy within its price class, the B&W ASW610 is the target its rivals have to aim for, but as we’ve seen in several tests of late, it’ s a difficult target to hit.

That’s partially because it’s surprisingly small, at just 31cm high – but it’s also because its diminutive form disguises a formidably powerful and terrifically dynamic design, its 200w amplifier controlling the excursions of its 25cm Kevlar/paper drive unit with a martinet’s fervour.

Spin a movie, and depth and drive are never in doubt, the B&W thundering through The Dark Knight with an absolute authority that belies its modest size.

However, most of its rivals can go loud and deep: the ASW610’s edge lies its lethally effective blend of power and poise, muscle and musicality.


It can deliver bass with subtlety and expression, its speed on the attack and its tonal differentiation ensuring Santogold’s L.E.S Artistes fairly zips along.


Read more at:

Where to buy B&W:


V 4 & Rotary SPL & Sounds Alive Sound Off Auckland Nationals January 2017

What a HUGE day!!!

We hit the road early to get to the showgrounds before 7:30am, (arrive around 7:45 go figure!), and who was there already to greet us? The one competitor that travelled the furthest to get there, Jody Green from Taupo in the infamous Yellow Honda City.


This year saw a Lighter turnout than previous years, but oh what a turnout of amazing people!!! Although lighter on numbers this year, we still had an action packed and fun filled day.

The day started off strong with 2 big hitters in the SPL scene in Joseph George, and Anthony Latu, managing in their opening rounds seriously respectable scores of 154.8dB and 153.0dB respectively. As the day started, so did it continue to go from awesome score to awesome score!.


A little on in the competition saw a VERY close couple of runs between seasoned competitor Sam Ta’alili and new comer Kyle Holtman, in Sams first 2 runs he managed back to back 139.6dB, surely assuring him of 1st place in the Kiwi Class…. Until that is, later in the day Kyle Holtman appeared in his VW Golf R32, his first run netting him a 139.6 to MATCH Sams score (Are we going to see a play-off later in the day for 1st?)…. With the 1st 30second run complete and realising how close the scores were they opted for a second run starting out again with a 139.6dB, then in the last 10seconds managing to JUST pip ahead with a 139.7dB winning the class with a .1dB difference! And seeing Sam graciously taking 2nd place this year.


With more classes run, and Sounds Alive again testing the competitors nerves and gear, we moved onto the Extreme Bass Battle Class where again we saw the emergence of a VERY close 1st and 2nd, at the beginning of this class we saw Joseph George belt out a whopping 156.3dB.  Knowing there are a few solid competitors in this class he, and we, waited with bated breath to see if anyone could challenge that number… Not 10 minutes later, the Nissan Stagea of Alex Samuel rolled into the lanes, his 30 seconds started, silence for a moment wondering if there was a problem in his system then with 15seconds on the clock the bass hit! And the meter did its job, displaying an amazing 156.2dB…. ANOTHER class decided by .1dB!!


2 MAJOR standouts of the day for me:

Jody Green, rolling his bright yet seemingly unassuming (to the unknowing eye) Honda City into the lanes and on his very first run of the day cranking out an ear shattering, heart thumping score of 159.5dB, equalling his pb, and cementing the top spot this year so far of the loudest car in the country for NZ dB Drag!


Jason Sanders, and his ever-lasting quest to have the 4nr crew shut him down (it happened TWICE on competition day!!!)…
I have to say, after sitting in this car, it is the FIRST car to make me cough spontaneously due to vibrating my throat so much! This car is a serious pounder and air mover!! Don’t take my word for it, those else that had demos will surely also attest!


Please allow me now to take this time to thank all of the people that work together to bring this event to life each and every year!
4 N Rotary Promotions first of all, for without you, we would not have the amazing event we have aligned our National Soundoffs to, and for also putting up with all of the noise complaints you receive courtesy of our motley lot! J.

Ashley Burrell, and Abtec Audio Lounge, for your continued dedication, support, and mentoring of the events these past years, without your input, hard work, sacrifice, and dedication, we simply would not have an NZ dB Drags!! A simply Thank you pales to the support and dedication you have and continue to show to the SPL scene in NZ.

Deirdere, I cannot say enough thankyous to say just how thankful I am to have such an amazing Fiancée that supports my passion, and has helped in so many competitions over these past few years!

The helpers on the day, (my most heartfelt apology if I forget someone),
Jody Green                  Termlab Mic man, and all round HUGE help through the day
Joseph George             All round help through the day
Tina Burrell                 Photographer
Jeremy Burrell             All round help through the day
Ryan Law                   All round help through the day
Ashley Killip               All the awesome Vids I have seen popping up on Facebook

Aaron Bublitz (ME!)  MC


HUGE thank you goes out to ALL of the competitors that attended today, for without your hard work, dedication to your systems, and the many, many thousands of dollars you invest to chase the ever louder heights of car audio, we would simply not have an SPL scene to hold these competitions, thank you all so very much!

Links of interest:

Major Sponsor:

The home of dBDrag NZ

National dBDrag NZ Results

National Top 10

Show Gallery

One last time, thank you ALL!!

Peace out! Until we meet again around the lanes of SPL

Aaron [OUTLWD]  Bublitz


V4 & Rotary SPL & Sounds Alive Sound Off South Island Champs 10 Dec 2016


Well it’s that time again, time for the V4 & Rotary SPL & Sounds Alive Sound Off South Island Champs Dec 2016! Well for our first ever Timaru event is was great day and a big thank you to for everyone supporting us at South Island’s dB Drag SPL & Sounds Alive Event!


This year’s round up it was good to see more newcomers entering the events and taking part of the fun that is dB Drag. In the end of the day it is about two things, having fun and seeing how many dB’s you can squeeze out of your Car Audio Setup!


The highlights of the day were Tom Tamasesee getting a modest 149.3db and not far behind, Blair Madeley getting a 145.6db and also Blaise Beach a 140.9db, but the biggest highlight of the day was the massive support from all the locals in Timaru turning up to take part in the Sound Off!


Here’s the results of the day…

Kiwi Class

Tom Tamasese                     139.7db

Blaise Brach                           138.5db

Ryan Caswell                         138.4db

Blair Madeley                         136.7db

Jared Silcock                          131.2db

Marcus Hall v1                        129.9db

Marcus Hall v2                        128.5db

Kieran Butt                              121.5db

Kiwi Pro Class

Ethan Woodmore                    140.9db

Craig Allan                              140.5db

Kiwi Extreme Wall Class

Tim Ryan                                131.1db

Sounds Alive Class

Tom Tamasese                       137.6db

Ryan Caswell                          135.9db

Hannah Charles                      135.4db

Blair Madeley                          134.8db

Ethan Woodmore                    131.7db

Craig Allan                              130.2db

Blaise Beach                           129.9db

Tim Ryan                                128.0db

Marcus Hall                             122.0db

Jared Silcock                          122.0db

Marcus Hall                             118.1db

Kieran Butt                              114.6db

Extreme Bass Battle NZ Class

Tom Tamasese                       149.3db

Blair Madeley                          145.6db

Blaise Beach                           140.9db

Ethan Woodmore                    140.8db

Tim Ryan                                140.4db

Ryan Caswell                          139.8db

Hannah Charles                      139.2db

Craig Allan                              138.6db

Jared Silcock                          133.3db

Marcus Hall v1                        128.9db

Marcus Hall v2                        126.8db

Kieran Butt                              126.6db

Extreme Bassheads NZ Class

Tom Tamasese                       144.0db

Tim Ryan                                139.2db

Blaise Beach                           134.4db

Craig Allan                              134.1db

Ethan Woodmore                    133.2db

Jared Silcock                          132.6db

Ryan Caswell                          129.0db

Kieran Butt                              125.1db

Hannah Charles                      121.3db

Marcus Hall v1                        114.4db

Marcus Hall v2                        112.2db

Blair Madeley                          110.2db


A big congratulations to all the winners and all the competitors who entered on the day and hope to see you all again next year…

Major Sponsor:

The home of dBDrag NZ

National dBDrag NZ Results

National Top 10

Also a big thank you to for all who helped me run the event and V4 & Rotary Promotions for continuing to support the scene.

Ashley Madd Bass Burrell

How to get the best sound from your turntable


Vinyl is the format that just refuses to die. Back in the late 1990s its days seemed numbered, but since then, slowly but surely, sales have been building.

And we’re glad. It’s a format we like, and it’s capable of a terrific sound, provided you take a bit of care – and this is where vinyl is different from other formats. Unlike the digital alternatives, a lack of care in installation can cripple the final sound.

Now there are some great ‘plug and play’ turntables on the market, and for more complex decks, many dealers will help you set it up correctly. But if you’re prepared to get your hands dirty, there’s a lot you can do yourself to ensure you get your turntable performing to its full capability.

So, if you want to know how to get the best sound from your record player, from arm positioning to cartridge fitting, read on.

How do vinyl records work?


Have a close look at a record. That spiralling groove is packed with tiny bumps that cause the cartridge stylus (sometimes called the needle) to move. That movement is converted into an electrical signal by using an electromagnetic mechanism inside the cartridge body.

Consider that the tiny diamond tip of the cartridge is trying to trace bumps as small as a micron (1000th of a millimetre) and you’ll get an idea of just how difficult the task is. Any external vibration will degrade the cartridge’s ability to track the groove accurately.

These disturbances can be caused by many different sources: the sound coming out of the speakers, footfall transmitted through the floor or even passing traffic sending vibration energy through the structure of your house. Yes, really.

As an experiment, place the cartridge on a record but don’t start it spinning. Turn the volume up on your amplifier and try tapping (lightly) on the support, the deck itself and maybe even walking near where the player is positioned. The thumping sound you hear through your speakers is the mechanical energy picked-up by the record player. Loud isn’t it?

When you’re playing a record this unwanted energy is still being fed into the structure of your deck, not only making its life more difficult, but also superimposing itself over the sound of the record. The result? At best, there will be a slight degradation of performance. At worst, awful feedback that spoils everything.

That’s why a decent turntable support is essential if you really want to hear how good your records can sound.

Where to position a turntable

Kronos platter

The ideal support would be perfectly level, low resonance and positioned as far away from sources of vibration as possible. Yes, that includes your speakers.

On a hard concrete floor, a floorstanding support will work fine, though such a support will emphasise footfall on a suspended wooden floor. If you have such a floor construction we would recommend investing in a dedicated wall shelf. This kind of support avoids the footfall issue totally. Just make sure you use proper heavy duty mounting screws and fixings or the consequence could be expensive.

Most decks have some sort of isolation built in. This could be something like rubber feet at its simplest, going all the way to a fully suspended design. The better the isolation, the less fussy the deck will be about the support, but even the most sophisticated designs will perform better with careful placement and a good support.

How to level a turntable


Once you’ve got the ideal place to put your record player the next step is to set the deck up properly.  This is all about getting the basics right. Everything should be level. It’s important in order to ensure that the stylus tip sits properly in the record groove. Use a small light spirit level to check.

Start with the plinth. If your support is already level – and it should be – there shouldn’t be much to do here.

But, if for some reason you need to make adjustments many turntables have adjustable feet to help you get things spot-on. Next, check the platter is also level. With most decks the platter position is fixed relative to the plinth, and should be parallel to start with unless something’s gone seriously wrong in manufacture. Suspended designs will allow a degree of adjustment.

Usually, the levelling can be done in situ, but some decks require a specific jig, which means a trip to the dealer.

How to adjust tracking force


Back in vinyl’s heyday it was common for people to mix and match decks, arms and cartridges. Today, while it’s still possible to take that approach, we tend to see more deck/arm packages instead, with the choice of cartridge left open. The story is different at more affordable price points. Here, the cartridge tends to be included, which makes life easier. You’ll still have to do some set-up, though.

Arm and cartridge adjustments are usually done together. If your cartridge is pre-fitted then it’s relatively simple.  All you have to do is to set the tracking force – done by moving the counterweight on the back of the arm – and adjust the bias (sideways force) to compensate for the inward pull of the record groove.

The cartridge manufacturer will recommend a suitable range of downforce, usually between 1.5 -2.5 g, with a specific weight listed as most suitable. This would be our starting point, but with production tolerances and the use of different arms it is possible to get a better sound with a bit of experimentation. It’s best to stay within the recommended range, though.

If the sound is a bit dull and lifeless you’ve gone too heavy, while a thin or aggressive presentation means the tracking weight is a too little light. If you overdo the lightness, perhaps in an attempt to reduce record wear, the cartridge will mistrack, damaging the record grooves in the process. Counter-intuitively, if in doubt, go a touch heavier (just not Crosley heavy). The stylus tip will sit in the record groove with more stability, produce less distortion and cause less damage.

Most arm weights come with markings to help, but if you really want to be accurate it makes sense to buy dedicated cartridge scales. While there are expensive, and very accurate, digital options, there are also plastic alternatives that do the job well enough. These only cost a few pounds.

How to adjust arm height and cartridge alignment


Many upmarket decks allow the user to adjust arm height. Usually the arm is set to be parallel when playing a record, though sometimes a cartridge may have a particular preference depending on its design. Generally though, if the arm is too high you’ll get a bright, forward sound and the opposite if the arm is too low.

If the cartridge isn’t pre-fitted then you’ve got a bit more work to do. Most cartridges are held on with a pair of bolts. These are small and easy to lose, so take care. Some have captive nuts built into the cartridge body, which makes things less fiddly.

Once mounted, you’ll need to connect the thin, fragile arm wires to the cartridge. These are colour coded, but there’s not much space, so you’ll need small long-nose pliers to help attach them. Be careful when doing this. It doesn’t take much to damage the connectors or even break the wires.

Next up is cartridge alignment. You’ll need a gauge to do this. While you can get expensive metal ones, many manufacturers supply a simple but effective card-based alternative in the box. This usually consists of a two points, each surrounded with printed parallel lines.

The idea is to get the cartridge body square to the lines while the stylus tip is placed on each point. This takes a bit of patience, but once the cartridge is aligned properly the stylus top will sit at the proper angle in the record groove, distortion levels will drop and record wear minimized.

It’s worth taking the time to get this right. Errors as small as a degree can lead to large rises in distortion.

How to pick the right phono preamp

Get all these things right and your deck will perform well, though that’s not the end of the story. One of the side effects of the move to digital has been the loss of a phono stage (also known as a phono preamp) from many amplifier designs.

Even if such a circuit is included – in ‘plug and play’ turntables – it’s often an afterthought, with little care taken to maximise sound quality.

What does a phono stage do? It provides extra amplification – the output of a cartridge can be in the order of a thousand times less than a typical CD player – and equalises the tonal balance.

Vinyl isn’t physically able to accept large amounts of bass during recording, and so the tonal range of the music has to be skewed heavily towards the higher frequencies to make things work. On playback, the phono stage’s job is to rebalance this. A good phono stage will let your record player shine. A poor one will have you wondering what the fuss is about.

All but the most basic of phono stages can usually cope with both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. Moving magnet designs are usually more affordable and produce a higher output.

This is good news for the phono stage is the signal needs less amplification, and so less of a magnifying glass is put on any of the circuitry’s shortcomings.

What’s the difference between MC and MM cartridges?


Any electrical interface, in this case the one between the cartridge and phono stage, requires each to have specific electrical parameters (things like gain and impedance) for maximum information transmission.

Moving magnet cartridges tend to be consistent in terms of their electrical requirements, so phono stage manufacturers can design a single circuit that will suit (almost) all. Things aren’t so simple with moving coils.

High output MC designs aren’t far off their MM cousins in terms of level, while low output variants produce just a fraction of that. This means adjustable gain in the phono stage is desirable to optimise the sound in terms of signal to noise. While 40dB of gain is fine for most moving magnets, MCs will usually need anything from around 50dB to 70dB.

Moving coils also vary in their requirements of resistance, capacitance and inductance – all three add up to make the overall impedance. Get these things right and the interface between the cartridge and phono stage will be better, leading to improved sound.

Most moving coil manufacturers will suggest suitable values for these parameters, but once again feel free to experiment.

In the context of your system it’s possible that slightly different values may work better. Generally, the lower the resistance value the more solid and tonally dull the sound gets. Typical values will be in the region of 100-500ohms.

Capacitance values will normally be from around 200pF (picofarad) to 1nF (nanofarad) – the higher the value the more high treble is filtered. If your system is transparent enough these changes will be easily heard.

The finish line…

Sounds complicated? It can be. Certainly years of using line level sources like CD players, that require little more than to be plugged in, has made getting the most from vinyl seem like something of a black art.

It isn’t, and yes, you can get decent sound straight out of the box, but take a little extra care and patience to get things right, and you’ll be richly rewarded.

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Yamaha TSX-B235 Desktop Audio System



Built-In CD Player

Digital AM/FM Radio

Bluetooth with aptX, AAC, & NFC Support

1x USB-In, 1x Aux-In, 1x Headphone-Out

1x USB-Out for Charging Portable Devices

Built-In Clock with IntelliAlarm

Controllable via free DTA Controller App

Includes IR Remote Control


Listen to a powerful and versatile desktop stereo with the black Yamaha TSX-B235 Desktop Audio System. It outputs 30 total watts and has a built-in CD player to play your CDs, CD-Rs, and CD-RWs, including MP3 and WMA files. You can store your 30 favorite AM and FM stations as presets for quick tuning.

The system features a USB input to play audio files from a flash drive, and an ⅛” aux-in for wired devices. It also has a separate USB for charging your portable electronics. Bluetooth with aptX, AAC, and NFC support is available for playback from compatible smartphones, tablets, and more.

The TSX-B235 also has a headphone output for private listening. To get you moving in the morning, it also features a built-in clock with IntelliAlarm, which will gradually increase the volume of your selected music to wake up to. In addition to the included IR remote control, the system can be controlled by your smart device with Yamaha’s free DTA Controller app.


Sophisticated Looks and Functionality

The TSX-B235 has softly rounded form and wood top panel. Delivering deep bass with clear mids and highs, it delivers 30W of audio power. The unit is equipped with two USB ports – one for music playback from a flash memory drive and one for dedicated charging of mobile devices.

Bluetooth with aptX for High-Quality Wireless Streaming

Bluetooth compatibility gives you wireless playback of music stored on your smartphone or tablet. In addition, the TSX-B235 supports aptX and AAC for full-bandwidth audio over Bluetooth.

NFC Connectivity for Instant, Automatic Device Pairing

For added convenience, the TSX-B235 features NFC (near field communication) compatibility to automatically pair it with your NFC-compatible smartphone or tablet for enhanced simplicity.

USB Connectivity

This unit is equipped with two USB ports – one which allows you to enjoy audio files from a USB memory device (USB flash drive), and the other for charging your portable devices

Easy-to-Use Remote Control App and Clock Functions

By downloading Yamaha’s free DTA Controller app, you can remotely operate the TSX-B235, including its clock functions, using a smartphone or tablet. An IR remote control is also included. With the built-in alarm clock, you can wake up to your favorite music from a CD, a USB-connected device, or a radio station. Wake up using the IntelliAlarm function, which gently increases the volume of the music.


Also available in white as pictured above.

Where to buy Yamaha:


FiiO Mont Blanc E12A IEM Amplifier Review

Equipment used:

Headphones: Oppo PM-3, PM-2, HE-560, Aurisonics Harmony, UE900s, LZ-2A, Fiio EX1, RHA T20

Music used:

From Röyksopp to Amber Rubarth, Diana Krall to Apoptygma Berzerk, Tom Jones to Sphongle, Yello to Camouflage, mostly FLACs 24/96 or 16/44.1 – some mp3 320kbps, some AAC 256kbps, some DSD files Depending on headphone high or low gain – no EQ


Disclaimer: I received the Fiio E12a review unit from the local distributor of Fiio products. I have to return the unit, so there is no financial interest. I am not affiliated with Fiio or Though I really highly appreciate what these guys are doing for the audiophiles in the region!! Thank you so much for letting me test and review this amp.

When I review DAPs and amps I tend to use an input switcher and play the same song on both players, volume matched by ear and switch back and forth. Then I do some extensive listening with the unit and different headphones.   I owned a lot of Fiio products over the years, the X3, X5, E07K, E7, etc. and so far never had any serious issues with them.


Great design and build quality

Beautiful sound for IEMs and bigger headphones

Punchy bass

does one thing really good


None really

The Fiio E12a might be the only portable amp you will ever need. It provides plenty of power (though not too much to introduce hiss), you have an analogue bass boost that works really well. Plus handling this little beauty is a treat thanks

Now, the longer version:


Packaging & Accessories

You get a charging cable for USB, a 3.5mm to 3.5mm connection cable, 2 rubber bands to “stack” it with a digital audio player and a soft carry pouch.

Technical Highlights:

Type: portable Headphone AMP

Out-Put Impedance:<1 Ω

Output power: >420 mW (16 Ω/THD+N<1%)

Headphone Impedance Range: 16-300 Ω

Frequency Response: 20Hz-20KHz

Signal/Noise Ratio:  0.003%@1KHz

THD: <0.005% (1 kHz)(line out)

Dimension: 14.5mm (D) X 65,5mm (W) X 124mm (H)

Battery life: >20 Hrs

Charging Time: <3 h

Weight : 166g

Input: 3.5mm

Output: 3.5mm

Warranty: 1 year

Size comparisons



User Interface and Build Quality

The E12a is a portable amp and as such doesn’t have a whole lot going on. The most important dial is the combined on/off switch and volume dial. It feels very high quality and clicks on and off with a satisfying sound. It turns with the right amount of resistance not to accidentally turn it too much. The E12a feels very solid and high quality in your hand. It’s really surprisingly well build. Machined from a solid block of aluminum it does feel very apple-ish.

Next to the volume dial is the Gain switch. This is an important switch. While using IEMs you should leave it in the L (low) setting while using H (high gain) for larger headphones or hard to drive IEMs. Gain increases the voltage and volume level depending on the headphone so you can use the volume dial with more precision.

Next to that you will find the headphone output and the Line-In to feed music to the Fiio.

On the left side you find the micro USB charging port and the bass boost switch


Sound Quality Comparisons


The E12a is the “sort-of” successor of the Fiio E12. Differences between the two are: better components for a “darker, blacker” background (no hiss), new silver chassis, much larger battery and longer battery runtime and lower power specs.

While the E12 was a very powerful amp that could rival many desktop systems, the E12a is focussing on portability (and still has plenty of power). Though it might not be the best to drive your planar magnetic heavy weights anymore, it will drive close to everything you throw at it very satisfyingly.


So how does it sound?

Lovely low end punch, a lot of detail and a black, black, black background. It’s made for IEMs and it shows, even with the most sensitive IEMs with 8 Ohms – the E12a doesn’t show any hiss in low gain. It’s really done with a lot of care. Soundstage is good, depth and width are good for a portable amp and even for many desktop setups. If you have a Fiio X1, X3 or X5 adding this amp means you can drive a lot more headphones with you setup. The quality of the amp section of the E12a does beat the amp sections of these respective players. Just connect the line-out to the line-in on the E12a and enjoy the transformation.

The sound is organic and a touch on the warm side. Which is a good thing. The bass boost adds a lot of bass – depending on your headphones you might not need it, but it does add a lot of fun to some headphones.

Compared to E12

Main differences:

better components

darker background

larger battery

longer battery life

made for IEMs

lower power output

Even though the E12 has nearly twice the power in certain Ohm ranges, the E12a doesn’t give up easily. It still drives some of my planar magnetic headphones absolutely with ease. It finds it’s master in the HE560 and LCD2 with bass heavy tracks and quite high volume levels but hey, these are meant to be driven with a desktop amp. And as mentioned with normal listening levels even these sound great and there is only distortion when it’s getting very loud.


Rating 4 – 1/2 Stars                    8.6/10



best quality sound for the price range

organic sound and musical presentation

beautiful quality build

great bass boost functionality

slightly warm, engaging and fun presentation


size (not really)

battery eventually runs empty, haha

A great portable amp – for the money it will be hard to find anything comparable. Well done Fiio, this is going to be a classic.

I pitted it against the RSA “The Predator”, JDS Labs C5D and Cayin C5 and it held its ground beautifully. Much better than I imagined. For the current price of 669 AED this is a steal. Add this to your digital audio player and enjoy the improvement in sound – and drive all your headphone with this setup.

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Where to buy FiiO:


How to digitise your vinyl collection


They might not be cutting-edge tech, but for their look and feel – not to mention an exquisitely fluid analogue sound – you can’t beat vinyl. The only thing your record collection lacks is portability, but there is one way to take those LPs with you wherever you go…

We love records. We adore almost everything about them – their look, their feel, the large-scale cover art and easily readable sleeve notes. Most of all, we can’t get enough of their wonderfully fluid analogue sound. There’s just something about an immaculate record played back on a good record player that even the best of digital still struggles to match, let alone better.

But in many situations – whether it’s listening to your iPhone or computer, or if you’ve made a move towards streaming – records just won’t do.

There is always the option of buying the music again in file form (and some vinyl reissues come with download codes), but if you’ve already bought it once, the idea of paying for the same music again may not appeal. It’s also possible that older recordings may not have made the transition to digital anyway. That’s when turning your vinyl records into digital files becomes essential.

But don’t expect ripping your vinyl to be quite as fuss-free as making a copy of your CDs. It isn’t. CDs are easy. Pop them into the disc drive of your computer and rip away. Records require a bit more work – but the results are worth it.

What do you need?


If you have a turntable, the best option is to buy a USB phono stage, such as the Rega fono mini A2D

There are numerous hardware configurations, but the basic building blocks are: a turntable (of course), a phono stage, an analogue-to-digital converter with USB output, and a computer with suitable recording software.

It seems complex, but the system can be simplified. There are many turntables on the market with a phono stage, analogue-to-digital converter and USB output built-in. Usually referred to as USB turntables, these are a convenient way to get music on vinyl into your computer.

The downside is that most tend to be at the budget end of the market and concentrate merely on getting the job done rather than doing it particularly well. Simply put, your recordings won’t necessarily reflect the quality of sound possible from your records. The new Sony PS-HX100 vinyl-ripping deck will do its best to change that.

If you already have a turntable, the best option is to buy a decent USB phono stage. We like the £90 Rega Fono Mini A2D and there are decent affordable alternatives from the likes of Pro-Ject too. Such units pack phono stage, analogue-to-digital converter and USB output in one neat box.

Recording software


Channel D’s Pure Vinyl recording software is at the top end of the market, but offers a great deal of flexibility

Assuming you have a computer, you need some recording software. There are many on the market, some specifically designed for recording vinyl. Channel D’s Pure Vinyl comes in at the top end and offers a great deal of flexibility.

It features built-in phono equalisation, for example, so you can feed the turntable’s output straight into the computer without needing a phono stage in the signal path. There are also powerful editing functions to help optimise the recording. It’s great, but the downside is a price of around £250 – although a free 15-day trial offer is available.

A more affordable alternative is VinylStudio. This includes many of the features of Pure Vinyl, including built-in RIAA equalisation, but costs just $30 (around £20).

For many people, even this may be a step too far. If that’s the case, we recommend Audacity software. It’s free and does a good enough job. At first the interface looks pretty complicated, and some of the editing functions take a while to figure out, but spend some time getting familiar with it and it works well.

Patience will be rewarded


Check your set-up before you start. Make sure it’s sitting level and the cartridge is free of fluff – it can make a difference

Before you start recording, make sure your deck is working optimally. If you haven’t checked your turntable set-up for a while it’s worth doing so. Little things such as whether it’s sitting level or that there’s enough oil in the main bearing can make all the difference to the performance. Check your cartridge too. Is the tip free of fluff? Are the tracking force and bias adjusted correctly? These simple things can help produce a better-sounding recording.

In stark contrast to the few seconds that ripping a typical track from CD takes, vinyl can only be recorded in real time. If a song lasts five minutes, that’s how long it will take to record. So take your time. Make sure the player isn’t jogged during the recording, and keep the playback volume low to reduce any degradation of sound caused by feedback from the speakers.

Also make sure your records are spotless and dust-free. Ideally, they would be brand new and unused straight from the sleeve, but we understand that’s not practical in most cases. Remember: any hisses, clicks and pops will be recorded along with the music.

While such sounds may – if they’re not too excessive – add character to vinyl playback, people tend to be less forgiving of such noises from a digital source. You can buy software to edit such sounds but it’s a time-consuming process, and if you’ve been overzealous all that additional processing may spoil the recording.

All in the details


You’ll need a three-part system with record player, analogue-to-digital converter and computer with software

What format should you record in? Storage is affordable so we’d be tempted to go down the high-resolution route. 24-bit/96kHz is the norm for many studios and seems a good compromise between quality and memory space used. WAV, AIFF or FLAC? It doesn’t really matter so much as long as the kit you normally use is compatible.

CD music or music files usually have metadata built in. In the case of music files this includes album art plus track information. Records don’t have this, so the information has to be entered in manually. The process is fairly tedious, especially if you’ve recorded a large quantity of music, but it’s essential to make it easy to locate tracks once they’re in your computer’s music folder.

Your computer won’t recognise individual tracks, so you’ll have to stop recording when you’ve finished recording each one. Tracks that flow into each other are an issue too. Mark these for gapless playback or you’ll have a few seconds of silence where there shouldn’t be.

Once you’re done, it would be a right pain if a computer or NAS malfunction caused the data to be corrupted or lost. Ensure you have at least one back-up of your digital music library, two is even better. After going to all that effort to record your vinyl, it would be a shame if you had to do it all again.

And the final stage? Sit back and enjoy