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?
A: There are several ways to get more headphone volume with your tablet. The first is to change to a more efficient or sensitive model of headphones. 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 by 3 dB requires a doubling of the amplifier power.
A headphone amplifier also will help. If you want an inexpensive solution, try the FiiO E6 or M-Audio Bass Traveler. They sell for under $30 online. Just beware that in addition to boosting the sound level, both of them 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 (oppodigital.com). This pocket-sized headphone amplifier has both an analog input and a USB digital input. The USB input is definitely the way to go. 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.
While the HA-2 can work with any headphones, it is especially well suited to Oppo's own planar magnetic headphones. Although some people would consider the price a bit steep, it is an investment that is likely to last many years. Certainly you would want to have some pretty good headphones in the first place to justify its purchase, but I don't know anyone who has been disappointed with it.
Q: I am looking for a better way to clean my vinyl records. What do you recommend?
A: The best record cleaners are wet cleaners, which apply a cleaning solution and then scrub the LPs clean. The Spin-Clean Record Washer (spincleanrecordwasher.com) is a great place to start. You fill a 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, leaving you with a record that is then dried manually before playing. At $79, it is the most affordable high-quality record cleaner available, and also one of the most effective cleaners despite its low price.
The premium choice would be vacuum record cleaners. 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 (nittygrittyinc.com), 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 cleaning. Immersion scrub the records with the Spin-Clean, then dry them with the vacuum machine for a pristine vinyl surface.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.