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Kristen Weitz  |  Jun 14, 2019  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1994  |  22 comments
If you: 1) live in an apartment, condo, townhouse, dorm, or share a house or apartment with someone;

2) are going to, have recently graduated from, or have never gone to college and are not working at all, are working a minimum-wage job, or have just gotten your first job but have loans, Visa/MasterCard/American Express bills, a brand-new car payment, and can't afford to eat anything but macaroni and cheese anyway. . .

Robert Harley  |  May 28, 2019  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1994  |  0 comments
If there's one buzzword in high-end audio for the 1990s, it's undoubtedly jitter. "Jitter" describes timing variations in the clock controlling the ones and zeros that represent the analog audio signal. If that clock isn't stable to an extraordinarily precise degree, the sound quality of the digital processor will be degraded.

A CD transport/digital processor combination introduces jitter in three ways: 1) the transport puts out a jittered signal; 2) the S/PDIF or AES/EBU interface between the transport and processor creates jitter; and 3) the digital processor adds its own jitter to the clock. These additive factors are largely responsible for the great range in sound quality we hear from different transports and interfaces.

Barry Willis  |  Apr 09, 2019  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1994  |  5 comments
One evening late last summer I took the most expensive workout of my life. In my hurry to meet a friend at the gym, I left the house, leaving my computer and hi-fi on despite the ominous look of the sky. In the South, experience teaches you to dash about disconnecting everything at the first sign of a thunderstorm. Usually I do, but this time my mind was elsewhere.
Jim Austin  |  Dec 04, 2018  |  16 comments
If there's one thing audiophiles agree on, it's that snake oil is bad—even if they can't agree about what snake oil actually is.

In audio, snake oil means fake science or fake technology—anything that's claimed to improve the sound of a system but that looks like an obvious rip-off. For some people, expensive speaker cables and interconnects are snake oil. A few objectivists consider AC power treatments snake oil: most modern audio components, after all, can correct for AC line-voltage flaws and reject "ripple" in a power supply's output. A handful of hard-core objectivists maintain that every new digital technology since the advent of the Compact Disc is snake oil.

Art Dudley  |  Nov 21, 2018  |  44 comments
Since fake news is on everyone's minds these days—I would say it's been in the news a lot, but that kind of reasoning is too circular even for me—it's worth keeping in mind that there's also such a thing as fake praise. You see it every day, whether it's a fake Google review—an alarming number of businesses seem unaware that real people don't actually say things like "the team at New Hartford Chevrolet really listened to all of my needs"—or fake trophies handed out to all 20 co-captains of your child's soccer team.

Then there are fake awards.

Jim Austin  |  Oct 02, 2018  |  43 comments
The most notable aspect of Benchmark Media Systems' DAC3 HGC ($2195), which I favorably reviewed in the November 2017 Stereophile (footnote 1), is its low noise floor. John Atkinson's measurements corroborated Benchmark's claim that the DAC3 is capable of "at least" 21-bit performance. While significantly less than the theoretical potential of a 24-bit data format, 21 bits is still the state of the art, and corresponds to a dynamic range—the ratio of the highest achievable digital-domain volume to the DAC's internal noise—of 128dB. That's well above the dynamic range that most power amplifiers can achieve. A good-measuring high-end solid-state amplifier is likely to have a dynamic range—the highest attainable ratio of signal to noise—of about 100dB ref. its maximum power.
Stereophile Staff  |  Aug 14, 2018  |  10 comments
EISA is the biggest and, at nearly 40 years, the oldest general consumer-electronics awards association in the world; its members include 50 special-interest magazines in over 23 European countries and, now, the US, Canada, India, and Australia. Through its annual Awards program, EISA has been celebrating the very best consumer-electronics products for over 30 years. Each spring, the editors of the member magazines in the Hi-Fi Expert Group vote on products that have been nominated in up to 15 categories: turntable, floorstanding loudspeaker, amplifier, etc. The winners are announced at the EISA Awards Gala at the Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA), which takes place each September in Berlin, Germany.

Here are the 2018–2019 winners...

John Atkinson  |  Aug 14, 2018  |  47 comments
In a series of recent feature articles for Stereophile, Jim Austin has examined how the controversial MQA codec works: "MQA Tested, Part 1," "MQA Tested Part 2: Into the Fold," "MQA Contextualized," "MQA, DRM, and Other Four-Letter Words," and, most recently, "MQA: Aliasing, B-Splines, Centers of Gravity." I doubt there is a Stereophile reader who is unaware of the fracas associated with MQA, and I have been repeatedly criticized on web forums for describing its underlying concept as "elegant."

But elegant it is, I feel.

Robert Harley  |  Jul 10, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 1995  |  11 comments
The men behind HDCD (L–R: Pflash Pflaumer, Michael Ritter, Keith Johnson

High Definition Compatible Digital® (HDCD®), the proprietary process for improving the sound of 16-bit digital audio, has finally arrived. More than a dozen digital processors using the technology are on the market, and the professional encoder used to master HDCD discs is following closely behind.

John Atkinson  |  Jul 03, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 1981  |  40 comments
The author demonstrating stereo microphone techniques at an English audio show in 1981.

For most people the terms hi-fi and stereo are synonymous, and yet it is clear that there is still a great deal of confusion over what the word "stereo" actually means. There isn't even a consensus of opinion amongst producers of records, designers of hi-fi equipment, audio critics and music lovers as to the purpose of stereo, and considering that the arguments show no sign of diminishing in intensity, it is instructive to realise that 1981 sees both the 100th anniversary of Clement Ader's first stereo experiments and the 50th anniversary of Alan Blumlein's classic patent on stereo.

Dick Olsher, J. Gordon Holt, Martin Colloms  |  Jun 07, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1986  |  0 comments
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) loudspeaker projects are quite common in the UK, where details about several excellent designs, including a recent one by Martin Colloms, have been published for public domain consumption. Stateside, the situation is rather grim, where only an occasional subwoofer project (always popular) makes it into the commercial magazines.
Jim Austin  |  Apr 19, 2018  |  47 comments
In an article published in the March 2018 Stereophile, I wrote that critics have been attacking MQA, the audio codec developed by J. Robert Stuart and Peter Craven, by accusing it of being lossy. The critics are right: MQA is, in fact, a lossy codec—that is, not all of the data in the original recording are recovered when played back via MQA—though in a clever and innocuous way. For MQA's critics, though, that's not the point: They use lossy mainly for its negative emotional associations: When audiophiles hear lossy, they think MP3.
Jim Austin  |  Feb 13, 2018  |  173 comments
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.—Yogi Berra

Over one busy week in 1986, Karlheinz Brandenburg laid the foundation of a technology that a few years later would upend the record business. Brandenburg, a PhD student in electrical engineering at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, was figuring out how to code digital music efficiently enough that it could be delivered over digital telephone lines. A patent examiner had concluded that what the application proposed was impossible, so over a week of late nights, Brandenburg produced the proof of concept and more. It was another decade before the technology—MPEG-2 level III, more commonly known as MP3—would find its true home, the Internet.

Jim Austin  |  Jan 06, 2018  |  27 comments
Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature's delight.—Marcus Aurelius

Master Quality Authenticated (MQA), the audio codec from industry veterans Bob Stuart and Peter Craven, rests on two pillars: improved time-domain behavior, which is said to improve sound quality and what MQA Ltd. calls "audio origami," which yields reduced file size (for downloads) and data rate (for streaming). Last month I took a first peek at those time-domain issues, examining the impulse response of MQA's "upsampling renderer," the output side of this analog-to-analog system (footnote 1). This month I take a first look at the second pillar: MQA's approach to data-rate reduction. In particular, I'll consider critics' claims that MQA is a "lossy" codec.

Jim Austin  |  Dec 12, 2017  |  213 comments
I don't think I've ever seen an audio debate as nasty as the one over Master Quality Authenticated (MQA), the audio-encoding/decoding technology from industry veterans Bob Stuart, formerly of Meridian and now CEO of MQA Ltd., and Peter Craven. Stuart is the company's public face, and that face has been the target of many a mud pie thrown since the technology went public two years ago. Some of MQA's critics are courteous—a few are even well-informed—but the nastiness on-line is unprecedented, in my experience.

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