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May 03, 2020


I’ve been an audio buff all my life. I built my first stereo amplifier–with tubes!–while I was in high school. I’ve got the home theater with surround sound and two subwoofers and a kilowatt of amplification. So I’m the last guy to compromise when it comes to portable audio.

In all the reviews I’ve done for PC Magazine, I’ve learned that many a slick-performing digital audio player has serious sonic flaws. I’ve also found that headphones and earbuds have a major effect on the quality of your listening experience. Yet virtually every other reviewer just downloads his favorite tunes and says. “Cool!” if the unit makes music, and goes on to complain about the computer-side software or the belt clip.

Yes, we often use these devices in conditions that are noisy, and it’s easy to say that audio performance isn’t all that critical. You could make the same argument for your car, but I’ll bet you have a premium audio system in your car to help you drown out some of that hostile outside world. Don’t you owe it to yourself to do the same thing for your ears when you’re traveling and on the go?

In addition to digital audio players, I’ll also be looking at headphones and earbuds, not only for their frequency response and sensitivity, but also their noise-blocking and noise-canceling capabilities. And in the tradition of comparison testing that I brought to PC Magazine over 20 years ago, you’ll see real numbers, real charts, not just “sounds good.”

I’ve chosen a web log format instead of a static website so that you can comment on the reviews, add your own observations, ask questions, and get answers.

Thanks for looking and listening.

- Bill

Posted by machrone at May 3, 2020 06:48 PM


Great effort Bill!. I'm just now investigating blogging and blogware for professional and personal uses. Quite an ad for WordPress. Probably shouldn't consider blogging without it from the limited exposure I have to applications supportware. It would be a welcome service to us newbies for you to use your offer of providing an extended column in PCMAG as a fronting piece for a feature section on the order of "Neophytes in Blogspace" (or something just as appropo but droll). I think us old dogs can learn new tricks if someone's willing to pace us.

Posted by: Ed at July 11, 2005 07:34 PM

I do not like any comression of music, no MP3 listening for me! I am a classical fan, and have a rather large amp and speakers, capable of 30 hz at 500 watts. Also, I love jazz (not that crap that passes for jazz on the "smooth jazz" stations). I spent some fifty years in the music biz, backing all the big stars of the biz--Sinatra to the poorest. I have been competely fouled up by the "golden ear" syndrome- I hear things others don't even notice. I saw your comments on the quality of MP3 versus CDa, and agree with you. I use Mp3 for sending large files to friends!

Posted by: Bob Hill at July 11, 2005 07:36 PM

I agree with Ed's comments, but wonder what's with the years... is it a typo or are you really writing to us from the future?

Posted by: fdp at July 12, 2005 04:45 PM

Regarding those dates, they're a silly hack to keep the content on the main page from disappearing into the monthly archive at the end of each month. Movable Type does its housekeeping by date, and if you want material to remain on the home page, you need to either post a future date or load a plug-in that overrides the date.

I wish that MT had a couple of expansion fields that I could use for sorting, home page flag, etc.

Posted by: Bill at July 12, 2005 04:57 PM

Hi I just read your articale about 3 hours ago, and though I would stop by . I have been hosting my own site for about 3 years now . It has been a GREAT learning exe.
The software I use (all open source) Geeklog,-in my opinion one of the best--, php5, mysql4.1,
MySQL Administrator, apache2, awstates ,
and phpmyAmin .For windows there is a very easy installer called Aeonserv.
The best place that i found for help(when i was new) was the Geeklog fourm they are very helpful and most often the site admin will give a repley that night . When a bug of security problem comes up there has been a fix in days --as in 2 or 3-- it is salved .
My site is " a blog/not a blog " for i only use the downloades plugin for my planet maps of the solar system and Gallery2 for a photo gallery of the maps in use in Celestia " a 3D solar sys./space/universe sim " and for moc images of mars and cassini images of saturn
have a look if you want at http://johnscelestiapage.no-ip.com/
or non html
12 noon to aprox. 4:00am EST Michigian USA

The one downfall of hosting my own 4 Gig. +
web site is I dont leave the box on for 24/7
Also i have no $$$ for a site this large to be hosted by a large firm .

Posted by: John Van Vliet at July 13, 2005 03:01 AM

Hey Bill. I was wondering about the dates as well, until I read your explanation in the comments. I've been blogging for about 2 years now. I started out with MovableType, switched to Wordpress for its robustness with php/mysql, and finally bit the bullet and paid for a copy of Expression Engine, which I have come to embrace fanatically. The functionality is wonderful, it's very, very stable and, most importantly for me, it's customizable almost beyond limits.

I'm starting to sound like a commercial for them, but just wanted to get my opnion in and to add that I'd like to see more articles in PCMag regarding blogging tools and other uses for them. Keep up the good work!

p.s. EE also has the functionality to make entries as "stickies" so they always stay at the top of your blog until you change the status - a nice feature.

Posted by: Alan W at July 15, 2005 03:31 PM

In your print article re: blogging you mentioned CSS & that is the topic I'd like to see investigated in PC Mag. I understand how CSS can be used for formatting text but it can also be used for layout, completely separating content from layout. Since Dreamweaver does not support this well I get lost.

Please check out this amaing site:

Posted by: dee at July 19, 2005 09:19 AM


I like what you're doing. I do not like the date issue. I maintain my own personal site (www.scott-lewis.com) using FrontPage for two reasons. 1) It is fairly easy to maintain the content I want, and 2) I had a copy.

Recently I wondered how easy, or not, it would be to setup some decent templates in FrontPage to support a blog like interface. However, I don't think I can have a comments/feedback section suing FrontPage to build the site. I think I would be better off with something else. I look forward to you writing about different blogging software. I especially like the way you put things into perspective with really large web sites that completely separate format from content. That is something I would like to do on a small scale as well.

Besides the date issue, I did notice a couple of inconsistencies. From the main page, if you follow the links to the Analysis page or the May 2010 page they are displayed without the framed blue border. I also noticed a slight shift to the left for the Archos and In-Canal pages. It has been 4 years since I did a web site professionally (an executive reporting system) and the term I used when building the site was "pixel perfect." I made sure every page was exactly alike... right down to the pixel.... except for the content.

Good luck with this blog and I look forward to your usual excellent analysis applied to blogging software.


Posted by: Scott Lewis at July 21, 2005 11:20 AM

I too, was extremely interested in a comparison of blogging software, although with so many different potential applications, it might be difficult to determine what features will be of the greatest relevance to the widest audience. For me, a more useful article would be a thorough discussion the differences, pros, and cons of using listservs, discussion boards, blogs, and personal web sites from the perspective of the creator/administrator and users.

Posted by: Bruce Gale at July 22, 2005 10:30 AM

"I wish that MT had a couple of expansion fields that I could use for sorting, home page flag, etc."

We're definitely working on that type of functionality now. You might want to check and make sure you've got all of Movable Type's built-in fields enabled as well, which we've described on our site:


Posted by: Anil at August 2, 2005 03:42 AM

Bill, I am an occasional blogger who used to use B2. I liked it for a while, but I kept being hit by spammers. B2 also evolved into b2volution, which is what I now use. It has skins and templates, and anti-spam capabilities, too. You can also have mutiple blogs.

You can check out my blog, and see the effect of skins at snave.org/evalu. I migrated my old blog, so I was able to keep all my old posts.

I've only been using it a few weeks, but I like what I see.

Posted by: Tom Evans at August 6, 2005 11:13 AM

[quote]The software I use (all open source) Geeklog, in my opinion one of the best[unquote]

I have to concur. I also run GeekLog on several sites. It doesn't seem to get the press of WordPress, PhpNuke, Mambo, Nucleus, Text, MovableType, b2Evolution or even the FREE sites such as Blogger, but, it is a robust CMS, and, not that heavy a footprint. I do all file uploading by FTP on dial-up. So, application size does matter. Hit my name and you'll go to my main site in GeekLog. Might even want to build this domain with GeekLog so you can update. Great tool.

You just play Fender? How about Gibson? William

Posted by: William Brandes Consulting at August 11, 2005 02:40 AM


As an avid reader of your column in PC Magazine, I had to check out your handiwork here. I am not an audio buff but I like very much what you have done with this content management system. Thanks for the demonstrations of what can be done.

I would have asked you about the dates but see from the comments above that they are a 'slick hack'.


Monnickendam, the Netherlands

Posted by: Alan Reynolds at August 13, 2005 06:44 AM


Your SpA site is a godsend. You have filled a tremendous void for we, the portable audio enthusiasts.

I hope you soon turn your attention to the issue of portable speakers. I have yet to have found the right balance between size/weight and sound quality. When PC Mag selected Virgin Electronics’ Boom Tube, I though the problem was solved. But the company went bankrupt just as the article was printed!


Posted by: Mike Garnice at August 21, 2005 06:41 PM

Nifty site -- I will be a frequent visitor!

I was wondering if you plan to review any of the less $$$ mp3 players on the market. A while back, I purchased a Sandisk SDMX1-512R and have been very pleased with its performance. After rebates, I paid about $45; not bad for a 512mb player w/ a good LCD display, FM tuner, EQ, etc... CNET.com gave the device an average rating: good feature set; poor sound. I'm no audiophile, but I think my little Sandisk sounds pretty darn good. Your test bench could confirm who's right.

Posted by: Ralph Gibson at August 22, 2005 04:31 PM

Thanks for the article in PC Mag. I'm looking into using blogging in the classroom. (Have the kids write blogs explaining what we did and what they learned. Mom and dad check it out.....) If you or guests want to comment, I'd appreciate it.

Posted by: john heydens at September 4, 2005 05:21 PM

I've always ben a fan of your PC mag articles and I think this site has great potential. I've already learned quite a lot. Some suggestions for products to look at in the future-iaudio X5,some portable headphone amps e.g. from fixup.net, Ray Samuels audio, Headroom(also their microdac);some higher end in ear monitors from westone,ultimate ears and sensaphonics. I think if one is serious about portable audio portable amps need to be considered. Some of the new ones, especially from Xin at fixup.net are so small that they are genuinely portable.

Posted by: Irvin Smith at October 5, 2005 08:03 AM