Q: I want to improve my record playback system. Would I be better off spending $150 to $200 on a better phono pre-amp for my original 1973 Pioneer PL-115 turntable, or should I spend $300 on a new turntable with a built-in phono preamp? I am a musician, and good sound is important to me.
A: I think you should take a long-term approach. Start with the phono pre-amp, then save toward an audiophile turntable in the $300 to $400 range, like a Pro-ject Debut Carbon.
The Schiit Audio Mani phono pre-amp is excellent and sells for only $129. You can put the $70 you save toward the new turntable. Go to http://schiit.com/products/mani to see and order it. Schiit Audio is a very interesting company with inexpensive, high-quality made-in-the-USA products. Be sure to check out the other offerings while you are there.
I spent the first week of January at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. I saw a lot of interesting products there that I will be writing about in the future.
But I can't wait to tell you about the GoldenEar Technology Triton Five Tower Speakers (www.goldenear.com). A few years ago, I wrote about my impressions of the GoldenEar Technology Aon 3 speakers, which I heard for the first time at the 2012 CES. These $999 a pair bookshelf speakers sounded noticeably and dramatically better than the $20,000 a pair tower speakers that were being demonstrated down the hall. I ordered a pair on the spot.
The new GoldenEar Technology Triton Five tower speakers, priced at $1,998 a pair, took my prize again for the best sound at the show. Like the smaller, $1,398 a pair Triton Seven, the Triton Five does not include a built-in powered subwoofer, but incorporates proprietary GoldenEar Technology drivers to create incredibly sweet, open and detailed sound with taut, precise, strong and detailed bass.
In a world filled with many speakers that sell for $25,000 a pair and up, it is refreshing that to get some of the finest sound quality in the world you don't have to be a millionaire.
Another product that caught my attention was the Petcube. This four-inch cube streams audio and video so you can watch and interact with your pets from wherever you are. It includes a built-in laser pointer that can be controlled with your smartphone. Just touch the video image on the screen and drag the laser point where you want it to go.
The Petcube is $199 and can be seen and ordered at petcube.com. The short demo I was given (using the company representative's own cats in her apartment overseas, 6,000 miles away) was really neat.
jHub Ultra update
Last month, after my column praising the jHub Ultra power bank, I was inundated with e-mails from readers asking where they could buy it. This is because soon after my column ran, the product and the manufacturer disappeared from Amazon, and the manufacturer's website, modernportable.com, showed it sold out. The product is available again. More on this next week.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns a www.soundadviceblog.com.