The Best Sound …

Devices that lead their pack

Photographs by John B. Carnett

FROM A PORTABLE

Portable players aren’t known as audiophile devices, but Sharp’s MD-DS8 minidisc player (left, top) comes close, thanks to a 1-bit amplifier. The high-power amp requires very little juice, so the MD-DS8 gets an amazing 180 hours of playback.

Sharp

FROM TWO SPEAKERS

Prior attempts at creating 5.1 channels of sound from two speakers have greatly improved the sound field, but not fooled our ears. But listening to Dolby’s Virtual Speaker, we’d swear we could hear five physical speakers. Dolby will incorporate the technology into TVs and PCs.

www.dolby.com

FROM A TABLETOP RADIO

You don’t need a high-end receiver to lock in faint FM stations anymore: Boston Acoustics’ Recepter (left, middle) makes weak signals its specialty. It also has BassTrac circuitry, which the company claims delivers superior bass performance. Price: $200.

www.bostonacoustics.com

FROM A PC

Most PC sound cards are not known for their audio quality, so bypass them with Xitel’s HiFi-Link Pro. It processes MP3, Dolby digital and other audio formats, then delivers a high-quality audio signal directly to your stereo. Price: $99.

www.xitel.com

FROM A LAPTOP

Laptop sound quality has improved over the years-some even have subwoofers built in. By using 24/192 upsampling technology, Best Buy’s VPR Matrix laptops (left, bottom) up the ante, providing audiophile-quality sound to go. Price: $2,399.

www.bestbuy.com