LATEST ADDITIONS

Art Dudley  |  Jul 26, 2018  |  10 comments
The Emitter II Exclusive integrated amplifier, from German manufacturer ASR Audio (footnote 1), challenged my idea of what I could expect from a solid-state amplifier and my thoughts of what might be the best amp for driving a pair of Quad ESL loudspeakers—revelations that were more or less inseparable. After hearing my friend and former neighbor Neal Newman drive his own ESLs with a ca 1975 sample of the Quad 303—a solid-state amplifier rated at 45Wpc into 8 ohms—and after my experiences, in 2016, driving my ESLs with a borrowed sample of the 18Wpc, solid-state Naim Nait 2, I began to think that Quad-friendly transistor amps are easier to find than their tubed counterparts.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 24, 2018  |  42 comments
It was almost seven years ago that Nelson Pass, whose talks and exhibits I'd covered at many a Bay Area Burning Amp DIY event and audio show, surprised me with a loan of two Pass Laboratories' XA 160.5 class-A monoblock amplifiers. Ten months later, after I'd commented that my system had challenged the XA 160.5s in the bass department, he sent me a pair of XA200.5 monos. I connected those bigger babies to Wilson Audio Sophia 3 loudspeakers and some now-discontinued digital components with Nordost Odin 1 interconnects and speaker cables. Then came my way, toward the end of 2016, the XA200.8 monoblocks ($42,000/pair).

Herb Reichert  |  Jul 24, 2018  |  31 comments
Before I spin this 23rd edition of "Gramophone Dreams," I must ask: How many of you are using zip-cord as your speaker cables? RadioShack interconnects? Those black universal 18/3 power cords that come standard with virtually every audio amplifier?

AudioQuest Storm Tornado/High-Current power cord
A few months after I wrote about AudioQuest's Niagara 1000 power-line conditioner ($1000), my friend Sphere asked if I'd ever then removed the Niagara from my system, listened, and still thought it improved the sound.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 22, 2018  |  5 comments
Duo Noire's debut recording for New Focus Recordings, Night Triptych, covers so many bases, and speaks so clearly to contemporary realities, that it immediately qualifies for several gold stars. But once you hear the sheer musicality of its premiere recordings of six new works for duo guitar, and how wonderfully they are played, you may be tempted to award the album several more.
Art Dudley  |  Jul 19, 2018  |  4 comments
Record players and the average consumer enjoy an on-again/off-again relationship—happily, at this moment in time, it is very much on—but to high-end audio enthusiasts, the turntable has endured as an object of near-talismanic importance. I think that's not only because the turntable continues to give us so much pleasure, but also because it seems so understandable—at its simplest, it's just a motor and a rotatable platter, attached to a board that also has some provisions for fastening a tonearm. End of story. Who among us has not, at one time or another, considered the lot of the turntable designer and thought, I could do that?
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 19, 2018  |  30 comments
"It was not subtle. The [$2000/pair] Tekton Impact Monitors were doing it all: singing, drumming, shaking the air, drawing me in, and making every CD or LP pure pleasure to listen to. A little soft . . . but not too soft. Imagine a gentle but guiding touch with a most perfect sparkle—and then firm and impactful when necessary."

I wrote that last October, after hearing Tekton Design's new Impact Monitor speakers at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I repeat it here because, as I listened to the Impact Monitors, I thought, Yeah, these speakers sound pretty damn good, but those seven tweeters are a gimmick if ever there was one.

Jim Austin  |  Jul 17, 2018  |  71 comments
It's after 5pm on Wednesday, and I'm finishing up the listening part of my review of Apple's wireless speaker, the HomePod ($349). On a whim, I've just asked Siri to play me some drinking songs.

I mention this because the HomePod's "smart" features—its integration with Siri and the Apple Music streaming service—is a big part of its appeal. In its natural element, the HomePod provides a way of accessing music that, although as old as our century, to me is still new and unfamiliar: Forget your hoary music collection, your Rolling Stones and Beethoven. Decide what kind of music you want to hear—a genre or a mood—then leave the choice to Siri and her algorithmic minions.

John Atkinson  |  Jul 17, 2018  |  16 comments
Sssssshhhhhh—I forget what music was playing, but as the sound faded away, I could hear a loud hissing coming from the 2011 i7 Mac mini I was operating headless with Roon 1.3 to play files over my network. Checking the mini's shared screen on my MacBook Pro revealed that it was completely unresponsive, so I yanked its AC cord, after which it wouldn't boot up.

This was the second time the Mac mini had died. The first time, in 2015, the local Apple Genius Bar had repaired it. This time, the hipster at the Genius Bar turned me away: "We don't offer repair work on vintage computers."

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 15, 2018  |  62 comments
Given how much fuller and more natural I find hi-rez audio sounds, I rarely review recordings that are only available in Red Book quality in the US. But when the soprano is Sandrine Piau, whose voice conveyed the essence of springtime when I heard her live at UC Berkeley a little over six years go, and she sings as marvelously as she does on Chimère, her latest song recital with pianist Susan Manoff, I throw such self-imposed strictures out the window.
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.

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