Jim Austin

Jim Austin  |  Feb 24, 2020  |  27 comments
January's Industry Update included a report on a scientific article presented at last year's AES meeting, in which the authors used test tones and a modest audio system (albeit in an anechoic chamber) to prove that listeners can discriminate between high-rez and CD-rez audio. This is important because scientific evidence of an audible difference between high-rez and CD-rez music is considered weak by some, even as anecdotal evidence grows stronger by the day.

As I pondered this, I recalled a recent paper I'd seen in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society but hadn't yet read. "High Resolution Audio: A History and Perspective," which the AES has made available free online, does precisely what the title says: reviews the history of digital audio beyond CD-rez and frames the issue of high-rez audio's audible superiority on the basis of the available evidence.

Jim Austin  |  Feb 20, 2020  |  27 comments
In the 1980s, the CD nearly pushed the LP to extinction. Nearly. For all the claims of "Perfect Sound Forever," the main thing offered by the CD was convenience.

Then, in the mid-1990s, the MP3 and the Internet made it easy to extract and distribute the information encoded on a CD. Secret websites raced to be the first to distribute free MP3s of new recordings, sometimes even before they were released. This went on for years, undermining record-company profits, before Napster came along and gave the record industry a high-value lawsuit target: no more suing widows and small children.

Jim Austin  |  Feb 09, 2020  |  3 comments
When I heard the Stenheim Alumine 3 at AXPONA last year, I frankly wasn't impressed. The tweeter seemed a little hot, the character a little buzzy. I learned just this morning that Jean-Pascal Panchard, Stenheim's CEO and designer, wasn't happy with them, either. He didn't think they were ready, but they had committed to presenting them at AXPONA, so he kept his commitment. They only produced three pair in that configuration. After that show, changes were made.
Jim Austin  |  Feb 08, 2020  |  2 comments
This was a surprise.

When I walked in to this room and saw these skinny towers, I didn't expect much. When I saw that they were wireless, I expected even less. But the Piega 701s made some very fine sounds, with good bass, tweeters that didn't draw attention to themselves, and a stereo image that didn't collapse when I moved off-center.

Jim Austin  |  Feb 08, 2020  |  20 comments
I'm surprised how many principals and designers are at this show, as opposed to local dealers and distributors—although perhaps I shouldn't be, considering that it's February and this is Florida.

In the Cardas/Joseph/Doshi room, I found both Jeff Joseph and Nick Doshi. I also found very good sound, produced by Jeff Joseph's Perspective 2 Graphene loudspeakers ($15,000/pair), which John Atkinson reviewed in the July 2018 issue of Stereophile. I won't comment on the speakers except to say that they sounded great; I'll just refer readers to JA's review.

Jim Austin  |  Feb 07, 2020  |  6 comments
It's Friday morning as I write this—the first day of the Florida Audio Expo, which is being held at the Embassy Suites Airport Westshore, near Tampa. As often happens, breakfast ran long, as colleagues and others stopped by for conversation. By the time I got up to attack the show—a little after 10am—someone told me the show was sold out, as in no more room for visitors. Say what? I've never heard of a sold-out audio show.
Jim Austin  |  Jan 30, 2020  |  7 comments
Hi-Fi: The History of High-End Audio Design, by Gideon Schwartz, Phaidon Press, 2019. 272pp. $84.97, hard cover.

The ongoing evolution of hi-fi can be measured in any number of ways. Most obviously, we see that evolution in the technologies associated with our industry: in big breakthroughs—mono to stereo, tubes to transistors, analog to digital—as well as incremental improvements in materials and manufacturing techniques.

Jim Austin  |  Jan 21, 2020  |  32 comments
This, our February issue, is the first Stereophile issue to arrive during the year 2020, which marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Audio Research—in my view one of the key events in the history of high-end audio. So it makes sense for this issue to include an Audio Research review—in this case, of the $20,000 Reference 160 S stereo amplifier.
Jim Austin  |  Jan 14, 2020  |  4 comments
My first exposure to current-mode phono preamplification was maybe a dozen years ago, when such products were new. The one I received, though nicely packaged, was not ready for prime time. I never smelled smoke, but I never heard sound, either: If it wasn't DOA, it was at a minimum DSAA—Dead Soon After Arrival.

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