Brian Damkroger

Brian Damkroger  |  Feb 19, 2021  |  65 comments
Many companies in high-end audio and elsewhere use a trickle-down approach to advance their products. The process begins with the development of a suite of new technologies, capabilities, components, or whatever the relevant entities might be. Typically, it's a flagship product that functions as the impetus, target, and first deployment of the new technologies. Subsequently, the new technologies trickle down to other models, each one incorporating a subset appropriate to its price point.
Brian Damkroger  |  Oct 04, 2019  |  28 comments
Descriptions of the sounds of products from Sutherland Engineering nearly always include "refined." While that word is certainly justified, it would be more apt to use it as a verb: Ron Sutherland spends more time than any audio designer I've known studying and fine-tuning and refining every detail of his work. I have the impression he knows those products so well that when he decides to design a less expensive version of his newest and best models, he knows exactly what to do.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jul 04, 2019  |  33 comments
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of afternoons listening to a system built around the late David Wilson's magnum opus, the Wilson Audio WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeaker ($685,000/pair), which Jason Victor Serinus reported on in December 2016. In addition to the joy of simply listening to music on such exotic speakers, the experience provided insight into just how well the Master Chronosonics would work in a relatively normal-sized listening room—in this case, one measuring 21.5 feet long by a little over 18 feet wide, with a ceiling height of a little over 9.5 feet: not small in an absolute sense, but a lot smaller than the sort of space usually associated with speakers this large.
Brian Damkroger  |  Apr 25, 2019  |  59 comments
Wilson Audio Specialties considers the Yvette ($25,500/pair) to be the replacement model for the Sophia Series 3. I would argue that the Yvette is an entirely different animal. There are obvious similarities between the Yvette and Sophia. Each is a floorstanding, three-driver, three-way design. Each comprises a single box with a separate internal chamber for each driver. The Sophia's woofer and midrange chambers are ported; the Yvette's are respectively ported and vented. The two models are about the same size and, from the back, look a lot alike.
Brian Damkroger  |  Aug 22, 2017  |  5 comments
"Saying that Sutherland Engineering builds a nice line of phono stages is like saying that the Porsche 911 Carrera is a nice line of sports cars." So began my review of Sutherland's PhonoBlock in the January 2012 issue. I went on to note that similar philosophies underpin both product lines, and to link the cost-no-object PhonoBlock ($10,000/pair) with the GT2 RS ($245,000), then the pinnacle of Porsche's 911 family. It's now 2017, and though Sutherland and Porsche have both gone through a complete development cycle and replaced their flagship models, the analogy still holds true.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jun 23, 2016  |  45 comments
It would be an understatement to say that in 2001, when Nordost introduced their original Valhalla cables, they were a revelation for me. Their focus and resolution of detail were like nothing I'd ever heard, and revealed in recorded performances a startling energy and realism. Throw in their seemingly absolute transparency, and similarly unique levels of spatial and temporal precision, and the Valhallas established a new standard of sound quality in audio cables. Although their tonal balance was cool, as I reported in my first review of them in the November 2001 issue, they were the only game in town in terms of reproducing the feel of a live performance. I immediately adopted them as a reference cable, and they remain a reference for me today.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jun 02, 2014  |  2 comments
Audiophiles spend a lot of time thinking about the law of diminishing returns. We'd all agree that spending $1000 to replace an iPhone and generic earbuds with one of Stephen Mejias's "Entry Level" systems is in the early, steep part of the curve: a huge jump in performance for relatively small investment. We'd also agree, or at least suspect, that after you've spent that $1000, the curve gets a lot flatter. What we don't agree on is the shape of the curve between these points. The ideal situation is to find the knee: the point at which the curve's slope changes dramatically. At the knee, we've gotten most of what we want, and the next increment of performance improvement is disproportionally expensive.
Brian Damkroger  |  Dec 20, 2013  |  1 comments
A reader once noted that I tend to stick with the same reference gear longer than most reviewers. In addition to Audience's Au24e interconnect, I've been using Nordost's Valhalla, Nirvana's S-X, and Stereovox's SEI-600II for many years. They're ancient in audiophile terms, and, other than the Audience cables, have long since been discontinued or replaced. However, they are still excellent, and conveniently define a continuum of qualities that I use to assess cables. At one end, the Nordost Valhalla is sharply focused and excels at reproducing transients. At the other end, the Nirvana S-X strips away electronic grunge, and beautifully conveys the continuity of the space and musical flow. The Au24e and Stereovox are near the middle and share many—but not all—of the others' strengths.
Brian Damkroger  |  Dec 05, 2013  |  1 comments
When I reviewed Simaudio's Moon Evolution 880M monoblock amplifier for the June 2013 issue, I communicated via phone and e-mail with the company's VP of marketing, Lionel Goodfield. When the topic of hearing the 880Ms at their best came up, I could almost imagine him shrugging as he said, "Just use it with the most transparent, revealing preamp you can find." Not surprisingly, he then went on to say that Simaudio's own Moon Evolution 850P would serve nicely in that role. My cynical side might normally have discounted any such suggestion from a marketing man, but I'd been hearing the same sort of thing from other sources. And, as it happened, there was an 850P at Stereophile World Headquarters . . .
Brian Damkroger  |  Jun 14, 2013  |  17 comments
In the September 2005 issue (Vol.28 No.9), I reviewed Simaudio's first reference-quality power amplifier: the 1000W, 220-lb Moon Rock monoblock ($37,000/pair). At the time, the Rock was a dramatic departure for Simaudio, then primarily known as a maker of midpriced gear that was good for the money. I found a lot to like about the Rock, concluding that while it wasn't quite up to the standard of the best superamps of the time, it was very good—and, for Simaudio, an admirable first shot at the state of the art.