Don Lindich’s Sound Advice: When making the jump, avoid ‘upgrade-itis’

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Ques­tion: I read your rec­om­men­da­tion of the Grado head­phones and no­ticed that the SR80e head­phones are only $20 more than the $79 SR60e model. That’s not much more if the head­phones are no­tice­ably bet­ter. How do they dif­fer? Are they worth the ex­tra $20?



Answer: I have not heard the SR80e, so I called Jon­a­than Grado at Grado Labs for his in­put. He said that com­pared to the SR60e, the SR80e “is a lit­tle more trans­par­ent, and it has a bit more bass … the dif­fer­ence is sub­tle but no­tice­able, and worth the ex­tra $20 if you have it in your bud­get. If the cus­tomer wants to stay un­der $80 then the SR60e should serve them very well.”

Given how long some­one is likely to own a set of head­phones, spend­ing the ex­tra $20 seems to be an easy de­ci­sion. As some­one who has spent a lot of time pur­chas­ing and ad­vis­ing oth­ers about elec­tron­ics, I cau­tion you not to get “up­grade-itis” and bump your­self into an­other price range en­tirely.

For ex­am­ple, you start by go­ing from the $79 model to the $99 model, a very small jump in price. Then you look and see there is an­other pair of head­phones some­where for $129. You think to your­self, “That’s only an­other $30 on top of the $99? why not?”

Then you look at where you started at $79, and at $129 you are al­most dou­ble from where you be­gan!

When shop­ping for my­self, I’ve done this to the point where I was spend­ing sev­eral times what I orig­i­nally in­tended. At that point I stepped back and did a re­al­ity check, then usu­ally went back and pur­chased one of the lower priced items. More of­ten than not I was fully sat­is­fied with them.

You can see the Grado head­phones at www.gra­


Ques­tion: Do you have a rec­om­men­da­tion for a good pair of noise-can­cel­ling head­phones that are not ex­pen­sive?


St. Petersburg, FL

Answer: The Au­dio-Tech­nica Qui­etPoint ATH-ANC7B head­phones are a good choice. These closed-back head­phones have ac­tive noise can­cel­la­tion sim­i­lar to that found in much more ex­pen­sive mod­els. They list for $179 but can be found on­line for un­der $130.

Read about them at­dio-tech­


Ques­tion: I read your ar­ti­cle about the ZVOX SoundBase and am torn about what to do for my TV sound sys­tem. I have an older home the­ater in-a-box (HTiB) sys­tem that does not have HDMI. I am de­bat­ing re­plac­ing the re­ceiver with an HDMI re­ceiver and us­ing the HTiB speak­ers, or get­ting the ZVOX for less money and hav­ing a nice sim­ple setup. I don’t want to spend a lot. What are your thoughts?


San Francisco

Answer: Given that the speak­ers are the weak link in HTiB sys­tems, and also that speak­ers are the most im­por­tant part of a sound sys­tem, chang­ing the re­ceiver and keep­ing the speak­ers is prob­a­bly the ab­so­lute worst thing you can do from a per­for­mance and value stand­point.

I’d give the ZVOX SoundBase a try, es­pe­cially since ZVOX is hav­ing a back-to-school sale right now and the prices have never been bet­ter. The sound is won­der­ful and bet­ter than most any HTiB sys­tem I have heard, all in a much less in­tru­sive com­po­nent that is prob­a­bly less ex­pen­sive, too.

You can see the ZVOX sale at www.zvox­au­

Read product reviews by Don Lindich at

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