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Positive Feedback ISSUE 43
may/june 2009


Glow Audio - a Complete System for the Music Lover
by Sandy Taylor (guest contributor)


"There are birds in the background of this song?!" I have listened to Stephen Fretwell's song "Do You Want to Come With" for two years repeatedly on my iPod through various speakers, and I had never noticed the now obvious sea gulls in the background. Perhaps it is purely the telling sign of my newly enhanced sense of hearing since starting to date an audiophile, but I listen to my music loud and in close quarters, so go figure. Where were these birds on my supposed high-end Bose system in my car, or even on earbuds stuffed deep within my ear canal?

I cannot pretend to know the difference between tube and non-tube systems or even remotely differentiate when something is recorded using tubes. I am still grasping to completely understand why I tend to like Lightnin' Hopkins on vinyl versus files on my laptop but dig Lauryn Hill on my iPod and not so much on this tube system.

What I can tell you is there are certain artists on my iPod that sound phenomenal on this integrated and its pint sized speakers - which are made for the artsy Nouveau part of my soul. The Glow Audio loudspeakers look like something out of a 1960's magazine. These gallon sized, reddish speakers made some of my music sound amazing and full, bringing artists like Muddy Waters and Ray Lamontagne right into my bedroom and serenading my morning ritual. M. Ward and crashing beach waves soothed me like a lullaby as I closed my eyes to sleep at night.

I did most of my listening with the iPod on shuffle. I figured this would be the best way to get a crash course on what sounds okay through "tubes." To be fair, I sat in the same exact spot every time I listened to music with the exception of when I was getting ready for my day. I found there were some songs I loved even more and some that lacked clarity and sounded somewhat muffled at times, these were mostly hiphop type tracks. And no, I do not mean Kanye West or 2Pac. Tracks from Atmosphere, Lauryn Hill, and related music sounded as if there was a piece of cardboard in front of the singer's mouth. I found the same lack of clarity and muffled sound in music from bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Presets. Now, like I said earlier, I have no idea if the method of recording for this music is equal to that of audiophile quality music, as there were quite a few heavier and faster tracks that sounded just fine. But I found there to be some tracks that sounded muffled and distant. This system may not be ideal for a low end hiphop recording or the latest punk band to put together a demo. Instead, it seems to require a higher level of track quality. For audiophiles, this probably is a moot issue. While some of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's new album sounded muffled to me, there was a particular acoustic song by the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, "Skeleton," that sounded impeccable. The sound of this song caught my attention and made me hit repeat, even though I had previously heard it many times over in my car and with an iPod. This system captured Karen O. as I had only previously heard her live in concert.

Setting up this four piece geometric puzzle was a bit more daunting for me than it would be for a beginner audiophile. My last stand-alone stereo was three pieces and came from Best Buy. Enough said. I tried to set it up, but didn't have the faintest idea what the subwoofer connects to and which input and output goes to what. That required my asking someone who did know, a little embarrassing for someone as independent as I am. Once I had everything connected, I asked the question that one only learns as being important after living with someone who is obsessed with how things sound. "Do these speakers need to be spaced out a certain distance?" He chuckled at me, and said, "Definitely more than the six inches you have them at now." Sigh. This is much more complicated than expected. The sound filled the room more when I spaced them apart more than the original placing.

Next, I was expected to adjust the buttons in the back of the subwoofer. This required some Google action to figure out exactly what was the purpose of those buttons. After some reading, I figured I would just adjust on a trial by error basis. This worked well for me instead of trying to completely understand every minute detail. My audiophile informed me these speakers were full-range and crossover-less. This required a long conversation explaining something about tweeters, midranges, and full range systems that I am fairly certain went mostly over my head, but made my audiophile happy. Once I adjusted the dials on the back of the subwoofer, the sound improved immediately. The tracks seemed to be more balanced and full.

Instantly, I was excited to just have something with which to listen to my music outside of my car or on earbuds. With a connector for my iPod this system became my iPod dock without having to look like it was a typical docking tray. I now had an edgy system with a nifty ever changing background on the volume button, all for myself. I found myself enjoying my morning cup of coffee, while I went through my routine all the while listening to great sounding music. It not only sounded great in the bedroom but it was clear in the bathroom too. I was reminded of my years as a bachelorette, alone listening to whatever my heart pleased and starting my day out right with a tune of my choice stuck in my head. I enjoyed this system to say the least.

Next I wanted to try the USB plug. I pulled out the USB cable that I use for everything, my phone, Bluetooth, camera, etc. I shortly figured out that this was not the right cable as it was a master plug as was my laptop. Oh, so this must be for my flash drive to plug right into it, right? Not exactly, this is a DAC. (Yes, you are correct to surmise I had no idea what DAC meant until I ran to the audiophile in my life and asked for his help). Frustrated I sought out a master to master cable, but this was not an easy task. They're not as readily available as the cable I use for everything else and left me in the typical "this woman has no idea what she is talking about" situations at a couple of stores. This is not a true master device and that is confusing for those of us that are not experts. Perhaps altering this to a slave port would make it easier to use for those of us with tons of regular USB cables.

This system is a great high-end iPod extension. If you are like me and your iPod is chock full of random genres, a playlist or particular album choice might save you from wondering what in the world is playing when you hear distorted sounds as you shower. Aesthetically, I dig this iconic looking system. It fits perfectly into my red accented bedroom and earned quite a few compliments from many women I know. It definitely is more captivating than one of those plain Jane iPod docking stations you can buy at Costco or Best Buy. Overall, this system not only fits nicely as a conversation piece into any room that can handle a Nouveau touch but also adds a level of clarity and sophistication to most tracks from a source like an iPod. It is a nice little gem that has most of the qualities I would look for in a system.

Glow Two System (as reviewed)
Amp One ($648) + Voice One Speakers ($348) + Sub One ($348)
List cost: $1344, retail price: $1188

Glow Audio