As We See It

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John Atkinson  |  Mar 12, 2019  |  51 comments
The dichotomy between what is measured and what is heard has resurfaced in recent months. Jon Iverson discussed it in his "As We See It" in our December 2018 issue, and I followed up on the subject in my January 2019 "As We See It." These further thoughts were triggered by an e-mail exchange I had last December with Stereophile's longtime copyeditor, Richard Lehnert.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 12, 2019  |  32 comments
With this year's Consumer Electronics Show behind us, readers of our on-line show reports know the sad truth: that the largest industry-only technology show in North America attracted even fewer "high-performance" audio exhibits in 2019 than it did in 2018. The phrase "CES is dead" is now a mantra, and no one should be surprised if this year's poor showing proves to be the final nail in CES's coffin as far as high-end audio is concerned.
Robert Schryer  |  Jan 15, 2019  |  22 comments
It happened 30 years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday: My best friend's brother's friend showed me his record player—an AR turntable equipped with an SME 3009 Mk.III tonearm and a Shure V15 Type V-MR cartridge—and offered to sell it to me at a price that, until that moment, I would never have considered spending for a complete system. "It's audiophile gear," he said with a knowing smile.

Audiophile? The word sounded exotic—and grown-up.

John Atkinson  |  Dec 18, 2018  |  34 comments
It was January 1986. Stereophile's then publisher, Larry Archibald, and I were driving in his diesel 'Benz sedan from Las Vegas to Santa Fe. We had shaken hands at the just-concluded Consumer Electronics Show on my replacing J. Gordon Holt as the magazine's editor, and now, during the 750-mile drive, we mapped out the strategy to take what was then an "underground," digest-format, somewhat irregularly published magazine to the position of dominance in audio publishing it still enjoys.
Jon Iverson  |  Nov 19, 2018  |  79 comments
I recently experienced an alarming audiophile episode. John Atkinson wanted to send me BorderPatrol's Digital to Analogue Converter SE, so that I could write the Follow-Up published in the November issue. But he wouldn't tell me anything about Herb Reichert's original review of the product, which had not yet been published. Instead, he said, cryptically, "If this is a 'great' DAC, I'll have to hang up my measurements." I took this to mean Herb liked it, but JA's test rig did not.

Sure, why not? Go ahead and send me the DAC, I thought. I'd love to hear what something covered in audio fur sounds like.

John Atkinson  |  Oct 16, 2018  |  63 comments
"At what price does a high-end product cease to exist for the 'normal' audiophile?" This question, which I asked in the February 2017 issue, was a follow-up to one I'd asked in our April 2011 issue: "If all someone is offered is a $150,000 pair of speakers . . . that person will walk away from this hobby, or build his or her system by buying only used equipment. Either consumer choice turns the price spiral into a death spiral for manufacturers."
Art Dudley  |  Sep 11, 2018  |  36 comments
"No one's buying music anymore: They're renting it."—John Atkinson, keynote speech, AXPONA 2018

Streaming music isn't new. US companies have been doing it since the 1920s, when it was discovered that multiplexing—the then-new practice of combining multiple signals over a single conductor—could be used to send live or recorded music over public power lines. The first of those companies was Muzak LLC.

File that away.

Robert Schryer  |  Aug 14, 2018  |  27 comments
The blowout happened as I climbed the stairs from the basement, where I'd just spent two hours listening to musi on my hi-fi. Standing rigidly in the archway, a wet sheen of hurt trembling in her eyes, my wife shouted: "You love your audio more than you love me!"

It erupted with such raw emotional force that I knew exactly what she meant, and that she was right: I spent more quality time with my audio than I did with her—or, for that matter, with either of my two homebound teenagers. It was nothing personal; my listening room is my private safe place, conceived and realized in my own image.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Jul 12, 2018  |  67 comments
I remember the Tuesday night that music broke free of my hi-fi. The sound stirred my soul—everything was so right that I was tempted to call over my audiophile pals to earwitness its magnificence. But I didn't, fearing that sharing the sound might break the spell cast first by the Allman Brothers Band's At Fillmore East (2 LPs, Capricorn ST-CAP 712223 VSRP), then by Jimi Hendrix's Live at the Fillmore East (CD, MCA MCAD2 11931). By the time Hendrix got to "Machine Gun," I could almost smell the pot wafting up to the Fillmore's top balconies.
Jim Austin  |  Jun 12, 2018  |  66 comments
It's not surprising that many people, like me, love nice cameras and good stereo gear. In my worse moments, I attribute this to mere consumerism: We love expensive stuff and the thrill of buying something new, whether for reproducing music or creating visual images. In my better moments, it's clear to me that there's more than that to this common taste for audio and photography, and more to the hobby of so-called perfectionist audio.
Robert Schryer  |  May 18, 2018  |  27 comments
"No one thing turned more people into audiophiles than the '60s counterculture," said Bruno, arm flung over his cash register. "It opened up the doors of sonic perception. Even the great audio designers of the day were countercultural mavericks!"

Bruno is the lanky, braided-beard, thirtysomething owner of a small, well-stocked record shop in Montreal, and we stood facing each other on either side of a glass case filled with vinyl paraphernalia. Bruno has made the most of his limited space. Every foot of each wall supports a shelf crammed with music-related merchandise: rock and jazz memorabilia, album covers, refurbished turntables. There's even a rack in the back for music and audio magazines, including Stereophile.

Bill Leebens  |  Apr 20, 2018  |  42 comments
The Internet of Things, or IOT, is an extremely hackable network that connects everything from household appliances to cars. To me, it's the ultimate example of technology that, once created, just doesn't need us—and I fear that the more tasks that are routinely, magically performed for us puny humans at the touch of a button by "smart" devices, the less capable we become.
Jon Iverson  |  Mar 13, 2018  |  271 comments
Enough has been said by now about the technical details of how Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) works to fill several books. But the technical details are only part of the story, and probably not the most interesting part—and they're certainly not what provokes the extreme emotional responses of many to the format. So let's jump into the business and practical aspects of MQA to which so many audiophiles are reacting.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 15, 2018  |  23 comments
The 2018 audio show season is about to start and it's not just Stereophile's coverage of high-end audio shows—which has taken a leap forward with the inclusion of Jana Dagdagan's binaural videos—that's changing. The shows themselves are on the move.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 06, 2018  |  72 comments
An economy of information transmitted . . . what was encoded was only what was needed, nothing more. (footnote 1)

As I wrote in the January issue's "As We See It," Master Quality Authenticated (MQA), the encoding/decoding system developed by J. Robert (Bob) Stuart and Peter Craven, has been widely criticized, despite reports in this magazine and others that MQA-encoded files tend to sound better than the PCM originals from which they were derived. Also in last month's issue, Jim Austin investigated the time-domain performance of the MQA reconstruction filter and I examined some of the more general aspects, ending with: "Other criticisms of MQA involve its implications for the recording industry, for manufacturers of audio products, and for consumers. I will examine those in next month's 'As We See It.'"

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