Sound Advice Column Week 10, 2011 : Superzoom cameras, film scanners, vacuum tubes and Bluetooth Audio System

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Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 10, 2011

Q. I am going to Alaska and want to buy a superzoom camera to get good pictures of the glaciers. My budget is $300 or less. I was looking at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 (24x zoom) for $299, but heard image quality was lower than the older DMC-FZ35 (18x zoom) that is $219 on Amazon right now. What do you think will make me happiest long-term?

-Josh Kroll, Minneapolis, MN

A. The better image quality pays off every time you take a picture. The extra zoom range, rarely, and 18x is pretty good to begin with. Even when you need more magnification you can always crop in software. At $219 the DMC-FZ35 is almost 50% off, and was always a top pick in its class. I think you figured it out for yourself already, but I’d say get the DMC-FZ35.

Q. Could you recommend a device that can convert slide images to digital images? What should I be looking for as far as quality and what kind of prices would I be looking at?

-Jim Baran, Milwaukee, WI

A. You need a film scanner, which uses backlighting and optical scanning to create a digital image that is sent to your computer via USB. There are flatbeds with transparency backs but you are better off with a dedicated film-scanning unit. You can also scan film negatives and convert them to positive digital images.

You can spend $50 for something little better than a toy, up to $5,000 for a professional model. Usually $250 or so for a model from Pacific Image or Plustek is a good fit for amateur use.

Vacuum tubes and Bluetooth: This week’s system combines the warm sound of vacuum tube audio with the wireless convenience of Bluetooth. Sound like a contradiction? Read on!

In the past I have written about the $799 Neuhaus Laboratories T-2 vacuum tube amplifier with USB connection. The recently introduced Neuhaus Laboratories T-1 is a hybrid design that combines transistors and vacuum tubes to provide warm tube sound in a smaller package selling for only $499. The T-1 has two analog connections, an optical digital connection, USB, and built-in Bluetooth. Pair your iPad, iPhone or other Bluetooth device with the T-1 and you can wirelessly stream music to your system from wherever you are in the room. You will have both a remote control and media server in the palm of your hand. Of course, you can connect your computer to the USB port as well. See the T-1 at

In my office I use a T-2 with Arx speakers from The Audio Insider, finding them to be a match made in Heaven. The exotic leaf tweeters of the Arx sing when combined with vacuum tube amplification. I can’t think of a better match for the T-1, and the Arx A1 bookshelf speakers sell for only $249 at

Many would consider this elegantly simple mix of high tech and retro complete at $748. If you want to listen to the radio, either stream Internet radio from the Bluetooth device or add the Sony XDRF1HD tuner for $99. Want vinyl? The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB will plug right in for $199.98, or you can go up to the $499 Pro-ject Debut III USB for something a bit more audiophile.

Question?  Email Don

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