Audacious Audio

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John Atkinson  |  Oct 18, 2018  |  34 comments
Doug White, of Philadelphia-area retailer The Voice That Is, has been a fixture at US audio shows the past few years, where he always gets great sound using loudspeakers from Tidal Audio. (There is no connection between the German audio manufacturer and the music-streaming service owned by Jay Z and Sprint.) In early 2017, Herb Reichert, Jana Dagdagan, and I visited White and spent a delightful afternoon listening to Tidal's then-new Akira loudspeakers. I promised myself to review the Akira, which costs a wallet-straining $215,000/pair, when my schedule opened up. As things turned out, it was more than a year before that opportunity presented itself.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 25, 2018  |  32 comments
I am finding hard to grasp that it is almost 50 years since I first went to a hi-fi show. That show, held at London's Olympia exhibition center, was notable both for Yamaha's launch of a loudspeaker with a speaker diaphragm shaped like a human ear, and for being the first time I saw the drop-dead gorgeous Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference turntable, which was later featured in the film A Clockwork Orange. The most recent show I attended was AXPONA, held last April in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg. There I saw no ear-shaped drive-units, but the final room I visited featured sound that the 1969 me could have only fantasized about.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 18, 2018  |  40 comments
In 1959, in their musical revue At the Drop of a Hat, the British musical-comedy team of Flanders and Swann sang their "Song of Reproduction." It's not about sex. The song mocks audiophiles (you thought this was something recent?) for how we spend "all of that money to get the exact effect of an orchestra actually playing in their sitting room." Before launching into the song, Flanders quips, "Personally, I can't think of anything I should hate more than having an orchestra playing in my sitting room!"
Art Dudley  |  Aug 16, 2018  |  80 comments
Some of my reviewer colleagues would have you believe that negative reviews are the most difficult of all to write, and that positive reviews fairly write themselves. What nonsense!

As I write this, my copy deadline is three days away, yet I've succeeded at crafting little more than my heading (easy enough: it's just the product's name, followed by my name) and my Associated Equipment sidebar (also easy), leaving a great expanse of nothing in between. That's mostly because the Kalista DreamPlay One, a two-box CD player whose $43,000 price might once have kept me from even considering it as a real-world product, has stunned me into a sort of paralysis: I feel that anything I write will be inadequate to the task.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 26, 2018  |  50 comments
Not everyone needs a power amplifier that can deliver 888W RMS into 8 ohms or 1776W into 4 ohms. You could say that no one needs one of these—or two, if you want to listen in stereo. Most household AC systems can't even provide enough current to deliver all that power. But Simaudio does build Moon 888 monoblocks, and people do buy them, whether or not they need an amp that weighs about 250 lb each and costs $118,888/pair.
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).

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 22, 2018  |  18 comments
Designers of hybrid amplifiers can use solid-state devices in an amp's input stage and tubes in its driver and output stages, as Music Reference's Roger Modjeski did in his RM-200 Mk.II—or they can use tubes in the input and transistors in the output, as Ypsilon Electronics' Demetris Baklavas prefers.

The advantage of solid-state at the input stage can be lower noise. In the RM-200 Mk.II's fully balanced design, carefully matched input devices result in high common-mode rejection and low-noise operation close to the levels achieved with the best input transformers. The RM-200 Mk.II's signal/noise ratio measured a healthy 95.4dB.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 01, 2018  |  16 comments
"How natural the sound," wrote Jonathan Scull in March 1994, in his Follow-Up on the original Jadis JA 200 monoblock amplifier, which then cost $18,990/pair. "How easy it was to follow the musical line and fall into the music. How deep, controlled, tight, and satisfying the bass. How magnifique the midrange—the traditional strength of the Jadis presentation. How full and satisfying the lower midrange. How open, airy, how right the highs—not at all hard, but very extended and natural. How involving their presentation. How full, how harmonically correct, how wonderfully compelling. How magical."
Jon Iverson  |  Dec 19, 2017  |  3 comments
It's been more than seven years since the late Wes Phillips reviewed Vivid Audio's top-of-the-line loudspeaker, the Giya G1, for Stereophile, and since then the speaker has been seriously revised. At first glance you still notice the sui generis form; closer inspection reveals fundamental changes that make it, in most respects, an entirely new speaker.
Herb Reichert  |  Nov 28, 2017  |  8 comments
I spend my days comparing cartridges and speaker stands, arguing about imaging and microphone placement, speculating about DAC filters, and lately, sometimes, very secretly listening to headphones connected not to commercially available headphone amplifiers but directly to the outputs of basic tubed and solid-state power amplifiers. No person in his right mind would or should try this—it's too easy to destroy a pair of delicate, expensive headphones. But for me, it's been worth the risk.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Sep 28, 2017  |  22 comments
For as long as I've known about high-end audio, I've put Dan D'Agostino, co-founder of Krell, on the same pedestal reserved for the likes of Frank McIntosh, Saul Marantz, Avery Fisher, H.H. Scott, and Sidney Harman. The reason is simple: Dan's the man whose achievements at Krell led me from the harsh sound of my first high-end amp into another dimension, one of truly musical sound reproduction.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 25, 2017  |  8 comments
What? Johnny-come-lately turntable manufacturer Brinkmann Audio now makes a DAC? Are they desperate? What sampling rates does it support—162/3, 331/3, 45, and 78? I guess the vinyl resurgence is over! Why else would Brinkmann make a DAC?

If that's what you're thinking, consider that Helmut Brinkmann began designing, manufacturing, and marketing electronics well before he made the first of the turntables for which his company is best known in the US.

John Atkinson  |  Jul 18, 2017  |  3 comments
Following my review of the floorstanding Magico S5 Mk.II last February, I spent some time with two-way stand-mounted speakers from Aerial Acoustics, Bowers & Wilkins, and Dynaudio. As much as I appreciated the small speakers' virtues, I found myself missing the big Magico's bass extension and ability to play loud; my next loudspeaker review, therefore, would be of another floorstander.

It's been a while since we published a review of a Rockport Technologies loudspeaker.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 02, 2017  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2017  |  5 comments
My 0.56mV-output Lyra Atlas moving-coil cartridge ($11,995) has put in four years of heavy-duty use. But not long ago I began to hear some problems with sibilants from records that previously hadn't given me trouble in that department. Lyra's Jonathan Carr and Stig Bjorge suggested I bring my Atlas to the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, held last January in Las Vegas, where they would exchange it for a new one.
Art Dudley  |  Jun 20, 2017  |  3 comments
"As the original L2 circuitry was virtually flawless, it was the emergence of new electronic components that opened up a possibility of [even better performance] . . ."

So begins one of two booklets—one a collection of specifications and interior photos, the other a distinctly thorough user's manual—included with the new L2.1 Reference line-level preamplifier from Brooklyn's Lamm Industries, earlier products from which have impressed me as among the best available. Indeed, coming from almost anyone else, the above quote would strike me as trivial boasting—but I know from experience that there's nothing trivial about designer and company head Vladimir Lamm.

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