Art Dudley Listening

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Art Dudley  |  Aug 28, 2018  |  12 comments
For this month's column, I did something I've occasionally set out to do but never quite managed: I lived with a new power amplifier for nearly two months, used it to enjoy a variety of records, made scads of listening notes, and wrote most of the subjective portion of my review—all without knowing what was inside it.
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.
Art Dudley  |  Jun 19, 2018  |  53 comments
In the rural home in Cherry Valley, NY that my family and I inhabited from 2003 to 2017, we had dirty water but clean electricity. Evidence of the latter was seen in the results of tests performed by a technician from the local utility, National Grid—I told him I intended to do commercial sound recording on site, which was close enough to the truth that I considered my sin venal rather than mortal—and heard in the sound of my playback system, which rejected as superfluous or worse all of the AC-conditioning products I tried there.
Art Dudley  |  May 22, 2018  |  4 comments
In the early 1960s, young people who were anxious see the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show had to first sit through a seeming eternity of bad comedians, bad puppet shows, and acrobats spinning dinner plates to the tune of Khachaturian's Sabre Dance. So it is here: Before I can get to the Miyajima Saboten L phono cartridge, I have to report on something I left out of my April 2018 column, which was devoted to Zu Audio's modification of the classic Denon DL-103 cartridge. And since this is information I've been holding on to for almost a year, I suppose I also left it out of my August 2017 column, which was devoted to the MusiKraft Audio's own modification of the Denon DL-103.
Art Dudley  |  Apr 24, 2018  |  2 comments
In an oft-viewed clip on YouTube, recorded at the 2009 Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, three world-class guitarists pause during a music workshop to talk about their instruments: Danny Knicely describes his 1939 Martin D-18, Chris Eldridge talks briefly about his own 1937 Martin D-28, and Josh Williams notes that his guitar was made in 2002, by the Kentucky-based luthier Neil Kendrick. Then, with fine comic timing, Knicely remarks, "One of these days, me and Chris will be able to afford a new guitar, too!"
Art Dudley  |  Mar 29, 2018  |  6 comments
On at least one occasion that I can recall—in 1996, in the early days of Listener magazine—a US publicist for the Japanese manufacturing company Denon told me that they planned to discontinue their DL-103 moving-coil phono cartridge, an enduringly popular model that had been in production since 1962 (footnote 1). At the time, neither the DL-103 nor any of their other cartridge models appeared on Denon's US price lists, and neither English-language promotional materials nor even a basic spec sheet was available to American consumers or press.
Art Dudley  |  Feb 27, 2018  |  12 comments
Five years ago, I reviewed the Alumine loudspeaker from Stenheim, a Swiss company founded by four former employees of Goldmund SA. I noted the Alumine's surprisingly "high sensitivity and easy drivability," praised its performance for being "clean but neither sterile nor colorless," and admired, in my geeky way, the coated cellulose-fiber cone of its 5" midbass driver, which is made in Chartrettes, France—just southeast of Paris—by a company called PHL.
Art Dudley  |  Jan 30, 2018  |  4 comments
In my youth, I unwittingly trained myself in the art of deferred pleasure. I did this by investing my allowance in every mail-order product that caught my eye—things I saw in the back pages of the magazines and comic books I loved—then settling in for a wait that always seemed interminable. This happened most often in summer months, when extra chores brought extra cash, and when school didn't interfere with keeping vigil at the mailbox.
Art Dudley  |  Dec 27, 2017  |  16 comments
The company appears to be long gone, but throughout the 1970s, virtually every Sunday, there was an ad in the New York Times Magazine for a manufacturer of whole-house music systems—I recollect the name as Bolton, but that gets no hits on Google, so perhaps I've misremembered—with a headline that went something like: "ENJOY MOZART IN THE DINING ROOM, BEETHOVEN IN THE LIVING ROOM, AND THE ROLLING STONES IN THE CHILDREN'S ROOM."
Art Dudley  |  Nov 20, 2017  |  16 comments
Everything you know is wrong.—The Firesign Theatre

The Swissonor TA10, a contemporary tonearm designed for the Thorens TD 124 turntable (1959–1970), challenged me to set aside some of the things I thought I knew about phonography. On at least one of those counts, it succeeded.

Handmade in Switzerland and modeled on the Thorens TP 14 tonearm of the 1960s, the TA10 ($3990) improves on its predecessor with an effective length of 240mm, which Swissonor says is the longest that can be achieved with a stock TD 124 armboard (the TP 14's effective length was only 210mm), and replaces the non-universal plug and socket of the TP 14's removable headshell with the more common SME standard found on most contemporary headshells, pickup heads, and tonearms.

Art Dudley  |  Oct 24, 2017  |  28 comments
Dear Reader,

Not long ago, I lost patience with coffee.

Before that, I'd never quite made it to coffee-nerd status, but I had all four wheels on the onramp. A few years ago I got rid of my cheap coffeemaker and switched to a French press, because it was more hands-on. I started buying whole beans instead of ground coffee, and grinding them in the store's grinder, on its coarsest setting. When that wouldn't do, I bought an inexpensive electric coffee grinder. When that wouldn't do, I bought a manual grinder.

Art Dudley  |  Oct 05, 2017  |  8 comments
A place in the country: everyone's ideal.—Bryan Ferry, "Mother of Pearl"

Even at full strength, my family didn't need 3000-plus square feet of living space, let alone four acres of outdoor frolicking space, much of it wooded. But in 2003 that's precisely what we bought, partly because our deal fell through on another, very different house, partly because living next to a dairy farm was an appealing novelty, and partly because the hill on which the house is poised seemed defensible. On our very first morning in our new home—a Saturday in early June—we awoke to gunfire and puffs of smoke coming from the field below our hill.

Art Dudley  |  Aug 24, 2017  |  6 comments
In January of 2014, some of us wondered if the sudden death of designer Ken Shindo would spell the end of the company he founded in 1977: It was hard to imagine Shindo Laboratory being led by anyone but its founder, a former Matsushita engineer who made it his life's work to study not only the designs of audio's golden age, but to learn the sound of every vacuum tube, every passive part, every circuit variation that he might reasonably press into service.
Art Dudley  |  Jul 27, 2017  |  3 comments
How can you tell a classic product from the hi-fi hoi polloi? One sure sign is when third-party developers spring up around the thing, offering parts and service intended to maximize its performance—or just to keep it on the road. Thus regarded, a few true classics emerge: Quad's ESL and ESL-63 loudspeakers. Altec's 802 and 806 compression drivers. The Linn LP12 and Garrard 301/401 turntables. The Rega RB-300 tonearm and its direct descendants.
Art Dudley  |  Jun 27, 2017  |  20 comments
Sometimes I feign interest in living in the Soviet Union of the 1950s and '60s. This happens mostly when I'm shopping for toothpaste at my local supermarket, where the toothpaste aisle is as long as a football field. "I don't want so many choices," I say in my Abe Simpson voice, "because all these choices are stupid. I wish I lived in the USSR: Shopping for toothpaste wouldn't take so long." But I'm only kidding.

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