Andover Audio SpinSub Powered Subwoofer Review

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  • 2021 was another big year in terms of product reviews, and there were some definite themes. Wireless earbuds continued to be huge. I had so many requests for earbud product reviews that I could only take on a small fraction of them. Among those that I was able to evaluate, I found some extremely compelling options including versions with a fully customizable fit. High capacity power stations were also more popular than ever — no doubt the various natural disasters of 2021 helped kick off a new level of interest in being able to keep home basics operating when the power grid is down. With record stores unable to keep vinyl in stock and demand for records at levels not seen since the 1980s, turntables were big as well.

    I spent some time revisiting my 2021 reviews and picked out a handful of products that made a particularly big impression.

    M1 MacBook Pro

    Apple's M1 MacBook Pro has continued to impress with its performance.

    Brad Moon

    In January, I wrote about my first month with Apple’s 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro. In short, it performed far beyond my expectations. Apple’s M1 chip offered ridiculous battery life, chewed through video encoding, and handled as many Safari windows as I cared to have open at once — which was a lot. At the time, I mentioned that despite being pushed to extremes, the laptop’s fan had never come on. I actually had several people write me to say the M1 MacBook Pro had no fan, but they were mistaking it for the M1 MacBook Air...

    It simply takes a huge load (think a video encode + multiple Safari windows streaming movies + a video game + a video conference, all running simultaneously) to push the M1 to the point where it begins to overheat.

    I’ve been using the M1 MacBook Pro as my daily driver for a year now, and I still feel it is a fantastic machine. The new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros with M1X and M1Pro processors are even better — and more screen real estate is always welcome — but in terms of performance, the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro is probably more than enough laptop for most users. 

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    Kobo Sage eReader

    The Kobo Sage eReader continues to push new tech, with the adoption of active stylus support.

    Brad Moon

    I don’t have anything against Amazon Kindle eReaders (I still own one), but I prefer the offerings from Kobo. And not just because I’m Canadian and so was Kobo (until it was acquired by Rakuten). I prefer Kobo’s more open approach to eBook formats, the superior eBook layout customization capabilities, and the tight OverDrive integration for borrowing from libraries. 

    Kobo has also been big on pushing the tech envelope, with features like color-shifting ComfortLight PRO and bigger displays. Kobo’s latest flagship eReader is the Sage (review here). It offers a big, 8-inch E Ink Carta 1200 display, adds Bluetooth for audiobook support, and pushes the eReader envelope with the addition of stylus support. Whether you choose to take advantage of the stylus support or not, the Kobo Sage is arguably the best eReader on the market.

    Bluetti AC200MAX Expandable Portable Power Station

    The Bluetti AC200MAX power station offers many compelling features, including the ability to run ... [+] high-demand appliances like a portable heater.

    Brad Moon

    I’ve evaluated many high-capacity portable power stations over the past few years. The Bluetti AC200MAX I reviewed in October really stood out. With a 2048 Wh battery, it had the capacity to run a full-sized refrigerator for 22 hours. The ability to handle 2200W of continuous power draw and surges up to 4800W meant it could power a portable heater. Its use of LiFePO4 batteries makes it heavier than other power stations, but those batteries are more stable and last for far more charge cycles than other Li-ion batteries — 3,500 charges at 80% compared to the typical 500 charges. I think the tradeoff in weight is well worth it.

    Bluetti also sells add-on battery packs. They cost and weigh less since they lack the electronics of the power station, but each hot-swappable battery adds 2048 WH or more of capacity to the AC2000MAX power station, and several can be daisy-chained together. The system can be charged with optional solar panels for indefinite off-the-grid power. 

    Pro-Ject Essential III Sgt. Pepper’s Drum Special Edition Turntable

    The Beatles + Pro-Ject makes for an awesome, collectible turntable.

    Brad Moon

    Pro-Ject is one the big names in audiophile turntables. The Pro-Ject Essential III has been around for a while and it’s a favorite — offering premium components, European assembly, and an affordable price tag. In February, I reviewed a special edition of this iconic turntable done up in a special paint job celebrating the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album. It’s the same Pro-Ject Essential III turntable that’s been a top-seller for years plus an acrylic platter upgrade, so nothing really new. But its proven performance combined with Beatles nostalgia that only ramped up with the Apple TV+ The Beatles: Get Back series made this turntable special.

    1More ComfoBuds Pro Aurora Blue

    1More released a number of impressive earbuds this year, but the ComfoBuds Pro Aurora Blue really ... [+] stood out.

    Brad Moon

    One of the more impressive sets of wireless earbuds I tried out in 2021 made one of the biggest impressions. With the ComfoBuds Pro, 1More finally gave in to the AirPod “stem” approach. But 1More went with slick design that looked like liquid metal, tipping the stems with colored LED indicator lights. ComfoBuds looked cool, lived up to their name in terms of a comfortable fit, sounded great (thanks to titanium composite dynamic drivers and custom tuning), delivered up to 8-hour battery life, and offered adjustable ANC.

    Did I mention the $99.99 price tag?

    However, 1More quickly followed these up with the ComfoBuds Pro Aurora Blue. The same core functionality, but the added $10 gets a nice blue metallic paint job and adds 22 pre-programmed sound profiles so you can customize the audio.


    The $249 UE FITS (L) offer a custom-molded fit, just like the much more expensive UE 18+ CSX ... [+] earbuds.

    Brad Moon

    In the final days of 2020, I reviewed a set of earbuds that set a new high water mark for me. The UE 18+ CSX earbuds from Ultimate Ears came with wired and wireless connectivity, six drivers per bud, and custom-molding for a perfect fit. The shells could even be customized. Frankly, the UE 18+ CSXs delivered the best overall experience I’ve ever had with earbuds, with incredible detail, wide soundstage, and unbeatable comfort. But... at $1,499 these are obviously priced for those with deep pockets.

    However, in the summer I was able to go hands-on with UE FITS. Ultimate Ears took the custom-molding feature of the CSX series and made it available in mass market earbuds. This is a game-changer. Customized fit means no more eartips or wings to lose, superior comfort for everyone, and optimized audio. All you need is the app and 60 seconds. The soft earbud material will conform to your ear canal, then permanently harden after being cured by integrated LEDs. It’s pretty amazing to experience a customized fit — something that used to require a trip to the audiologist, a hefty price, and a waiting period — available in one minute, at home, for $249.  

    The UE FITS don’t have the six drivers of the UE 18+ CSX earbuds, but they still sound very good, with plenty of energy. Like an Ultimate Ears speaker. The audio can be tweaked with the app’s EQ. And with their perfect fit, these earbuds do a very good job of passive noise isolation as well.

    Andover Audio Spin System

    Andover Audio's expandable Spin System is ideal for record fans who want a compact, capable, and ... [+] highly stylish audio system.

    Andover Audio

    Finally, there is the Spin System from Andover Audio. This is one of the greatest things to happen to record fans, especially those who have limited space.

    The Spin System is made up of a series of components: the SpinBase (turntable speaker with Bluetooth), SpinDeck and SpinDeck MAX (turntables), SpinSub (powered subwoofer) and SpinStand (audio stand). Each of these can be purchased and used individually, or in combination. Put them all together, and you have a very capable, minimalist, and stylish record listening system. Available in black or white, Spin System components start at $199.

    To learn more about the Spin System, check out my review of the SpinDeck Turnable (made in partnership with Pro-Ject) and SpinBase from November.

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