16:00 EST, 3 May 2014
16:01 EST, 3 May 2014
Naim Muso £895 ★★★★★
No one turns up the TV any more. There’s no point.
A couple of weeks back, 2,000 viewers besieged the BBC to complain about Jamaica Inn’s near-inaudible mumbling.
Meanwhile, reality-show singers sound like they’re buried in wet sand (sadly, they rarely are).
It’s one of the most first world of all problems – our TVs are now so slender and glamorous, they sound terrible. There is an answer though
Back in the Seventies, Top Of The Pops used to be played at the volume of an H-bomb test.
But today, Simon Cowell is able to hand the top prize in The X Factor to people with voices like Zippy and Bungle from Rainbow. And that’s down to one fact: we can barely hear them.
And even the dimmest of X Factor hopefuls should be able to grasp why.
To make a big sound, you need to vibrate a lot of air, and there’s not much of that in a television one centimetre thick.
It’s one of the most first world of all problems – our TVs are now so slender and glamorous, they sound terrible. There is an answer though.
Sound systems like Naim’s Muso (built to sit in front of your TV) aims to bring back that apocalyptic sonic assault.
There is a lot of space inside the Muso. It’s not a slim machine.
It weighs 14kg – more than many TVs – and has six speakers inside, each with its own 75W amp (even the pair of tweeters).
Those little cones could probably create a shriek that would send an entire suburb insane.
This wood-and-metal colosssus can make TV sound like an aerial bombardment, but other companies are offering less extreme – and less costly – solutions.
The Naim Muso is a seriously desirable lump, and a welcome return by a well-loved hi-fi brand
Sales of soundbars have risen 70 per cent year on year, and Roth’s £150 Audio Bar3 (see below) brings a pleasing bark back to your television without breaking the bank.
TV makers, too, are stepping in: Sony’s new Ultra HD X9 sets have big, powerful speakers underneath; they also have price tags – £2,000 plus – that could buy you a flat in Orkney.
But the Muso’s a seriously desirable lump, and a welcome return by a well-loved hi-fi brand.
Back in the days when British hi-fi companies were gods that bestrode the world, Naim was Zeus.
They partnered with Linn and were (sensibly) one of the last companies to come out of the jungle and surrender to CD in the war with vinyl. Naim takes sound very seriously.
And Naim is so posh it does the stereos for Bentley – the Muso costs nearly £900, so it’s the equivalent of Naim’s Value or Basics range – and specialises in ‘serious’ hi-fi.
So serious that Naim gear has to look deadly dull. Most Naims sound like heavenly choirs, but look about as interesting as photocopiers.
Systems like the Naim Uniti integrated amplifier, with its tedious grey, and cooling slats like an air-con system, makes you suspect that the design director spent months tearing up blueprints screaming, ‘I said BORING! I want something that makes a kettle look exhilarating.’
For the Muso, they hired a new designer, who stood out from the engineer-ish Naim-ites at the launch, with his designer stubble and a hat.
Stroking its volume knob, he stepped forward and said, ‘It actually goes up to 11… look.’ Sure enough, there were 11 LED indicators glowing on top.
The Uniti can pair up with pretty much anything via Bluetooth – so you can play music from iPads, Androids or PCs, as well as diving into the bottomless world of internet radio (the touch control has preset stations built in).
Proper volume knobs are ‘in’ this year – the Muso goes one further by offering touch control for radio and switching between sources, built into the glimmering LED-trimmed surface.
For once, a gadget doesn’t just look loud – it IS loud.
TILE TEMPLE TACTICS
FREE, iPAD, GOOGLE PLAY
Playing on a grid of numbers, you must harvest them faster than your rival. It causes more despair, fury and joy than any board game should
This Chinese-themed puzzler is like Sudoku come to life – and devours spare time in day-long chunks. Playing on a grid of numbers, you must harvest them faster than your rival. It causes more despair, fury and joy than any board game should. ★★★★★
GOD OF LIGHT
No slings: you direct beams of light, using mirrors, prisms and even black holes. You’ll miss your stop on the bus
After five years of Angry Birds sequels, most iPhone owners are drumming their fingers looking for a new physics puzzler. This is it. No slings: you direct beams of light, using mirrors, prisms and even black holes. You’ll miss your stop on the bus. ★★★★★
FIFA WORLD CUP
XBOX 360, PLAYSTATION 3, £37
It’s got all the correct player names, teams and stadiums – but it’s basically the same game as FIFA 14, and they expect you to pay £37. Grrrr
There are some cash cows where you don’t need a milkmaid and a bucket to gather the profits. Sure, it’s got all the correct player names, teams and stadiums – but it’s basically the same game as FIFA 14, and they expect you to pay £37. Grrrr. ★★★★★
iPHONE, iPAD, £1.49
Blending pictures is surprisingly hard, but this app makes it easy, letting you cut out faces, create silhouettes, and use transparency for greetings cards or Facebook.
MAC, iPHONE, iPAD, £2.99
Where does your money go? This app beats its rivals by categorising your outgoings – offering budgets, graphs and goals to help see where you’re overspending.
ROTH AUDIO BAR3
My beloved first-born has an ability to find the volume button on any soundbar near the floor, and turn it up until the ceiling practically falls down, so this slim bar’s wall-mount option is great for families. The subwoofer is wireless, too, and hides neatly behind your telly.
Most TV soundbar systems require PhD-level engineering to get them to switch on. Here, the subwoofer connects wirelessly, instantly. And what a subwoofer – at two feet high, and 100W, it’s a Dobermann of woofs, and can make even The Great British Bake-Off sound terrifying.
Sonos has quietly become king of the multi-room sound system, and this is a two-in-one gizmo, which will play all your music, but also add a bit of beef to the sound from your TV. Pricey, though, so only really ideal for those whose homes are already infested with Sonos units.
PHILIPS FIDELIO SOUNDBAR
Surround-sound systems tend to do for the ‘look’ of a front room what the Allies did for Berlin in the final days of the war. So this is a crafty idea: a soundbar with wireless detachable speakers – for a proper lights-down, popcorn-out cinema experience.
Sony’s new X9 TVs go for an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, with Ultra HD (which nothing is broadcast in so far), and the clever addition of its own soundbar that slides discreetly under the set. It has its own wireless sub to add proper extreme noise terror to blockbusters.
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