John Atkinson

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John Atkinson  |  Dec 11, 2017  |  114 comments
"The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point."—Claude Shannon

Since its announcement at the end of 2014, Master Quality Authenticated, the MQA encoding/decoding system, has spawned outspoken criticism. Some of the more thoughtful negative reactions have come from engineers such as Dan Lavry, Bruno Putzeys, and Daniel Weiss. Others have been expressed by manufacturers of digital products: the late Charley Hansen at Ayre Acoustics, for example, along with Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat at Schiit Audio, John Siau at Benchmark Media Systems, and Jim Collinson at Linn Products. Some have been audio writers: Doug Schneider, at SoundStage!, and Paul Miller and Jim Lesurf, at Hi-Fi News. Most vociferous have been anonymous website posters. As Jim Austin remarks in his examination of MQA's decoding of impulse-response data elsewhere in this issue, "the nastiness online is unprecedented."

John Atkinson  |  Dec 07, 2017  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1989  |  1 comments
666skinny.promo250.jpgOne of the joys of reviewing loudspeakers is that there are always intriguing aspects of any particular design. The problems involved in producing a speaker that has an even tonal balance, well-controlled directivity, good bass extension, and a smooth integration of the outputs from often widely disparate drive-units have what appears to be an infinite number of solutions. The result is often a speaker so different from the norm that it just cries out to be auditioned.

Such was the case with the Delaware Acoustics DELAC S10, which costs $629/pair. Only sold factory-direct, this would therefore have been low on Stereophile's priority list for review if it weren't for two things: first, the fact that the S10 was designed by one Ralph Gonzalez, a name that should be familiar to readers of Speaker Builder magazine for having written a very useful speaker design and analysis program; second, as implied in the first paragraph, the S10 is one of the weirdest speakers I have ever laid ears on.

John Atkinson  |  Dec 05, 2017  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1980  |  21 comments
The problem confronting the magazine reviewer when organising the necessary listening tests to accompany/reinforce the measured behavior of a device under test is complex. There has never been a problem with the measurement aspect; as long as someone has access to the same test gear—and full knowledge of the test conditions—then he should be able to replicate the critic's findings exactly (assuming an infinitely narrow spread of behaviour from sample to sample—a rasher assumption with some manufacturers' equipment than of others). However, when it comes to determining reliably the audible (or inaudible?) effects on music program by an amplifier/cartridge/loudspeaker etc. then the going gets tough.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 01, 2017  |  11 comments
On Wednesday, November 29, I received the following announcement from Ayre's Brent Hefley: "With heavy hearts, we regret to inform you that Charles Hansen, founder of Ayre Acoustics, has passed away on November 28th, 2017. Those who knew Charley knew that he was a passionate man who always stood up for what he believed to be right. His family knew him as a loving and dedicated father of his two children. With the passing of Charley, the world has lost one of the most creative and innovative minds in the audio industry and we have lost a good friend."
John Atkinson  |  Nov 28, 2017  |  0 comments
Back in May 2014, I reviewed NAD's Masters Series M50 Digital Music Player ($2499) and M52 Digital Music Vault ($1999 with 2TB storage). At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, NAD announced the M50.2, which is almost identical to the original M50 but now incorporates two 2TB hard disks, arranged as a 2TB RAID array, to ensure data integrity, and adds TosLink and coaxial digital inputs, Bluetooth with aptX for streaming music from a smartphone or tablet, and two single-ended analog inputs—all for $3999, or $499 less than the combined cost of the two earlier products. Like the M50, the M50.2 offers WiFi and Ethernet connectivity, and has a CD drive, accessible via a slot on the front panel under the color TFT touchscreen, that can be used to play CDs, or rip them as FLAC, WAV, or high-bit-rate MP3 files.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 20, 2017  |  17 comments
Headphone listening has always been an important part of my audiophile life. In recent years I've been using at home Audeze's large, open-back, circumaural LCD-X headphones, which I bought after reviewing them for the March 2014 issue; and a pair of small Ultimate Ears 18 Pro in-ear monitors, which provide much better isolation on my subway commute to Stereophile's offices in Manhattan. I was intrigued by Audeze's iSine in-ear models, which were introduced in November 2016 and are unique in using planar-magnetic drive-units mounted outside the ear. I thought about reviewing a pair of the affordable iSines, but before I could get around to it, I heard that Audeze was to launch a cost-no-object version, the LCDi4, priced at a substantial $2495/pair. Aspiration got the better of frugality, and I asked for a pair to review.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 12, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1987  |  1 comments
Introduced in 1985 as the smallest model in JBL's "Ti" range, the 18Ti ($590/pair) shares with its larger siblings, like the JBL 250ti (recently reviewed by J. Gordon Holt), a high-tech tweeter that uses a one-piece ribbed titanium-foil dome/surround just 25µm thick. This is both rigid and of very low mass, pushing its first-breakup mode up to the region of 30kHz. The tweeter is mounted above the polypropylene-cone woofer, offset a little to one side to make room for the 45mm diameter port (though the speakers are not supplied as a handed pair). The 10-liter internal volume box is well-constructed from 20mm chipboard, covered in real-wood veneer.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 21, 2017  |  14 comments
Of all the speakers I have most enjoyed in recent years, two were from British manufacturer KEF: the LS50 Anniversary Model ($1500/pair), which I reviewed in December 2012; and the Blade Two ($25,000/pair), which I reviewed in June 2015. Though these two speakers lie at opposite ends of the price scale, they have in common KEF's unique Uni-Q drive-unit, in which the tweeter is mounted on the front of the midrange unit's pole piece, so that the lower-frequency cone acts as a waveguide for the higher-frequency output.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 07, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1987  |  6 comments
666thielcs1.promo.jpgKentucky manufacturer Thiel has acquired a reputation for the coherence of sound presented by its range of distinctive, sloping-baffle, floor-standing loudspeakers. Designer Jim Thiel gives a high priority to linearity of phase response; as a result, he chooses to use phase-linear, first-order crossovers in his designs, the target response being the combination of electrical and mechanical filtering. As the out-of-band rejection is then only 6dB/octave, it places demands on his chosen drive-units to be well-behaved, not only in their passbands, but also outside of them. In effect, the loudspeaker has to be designed as a whole system, the interaction between the drive-units and crossover being considerable.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 22, 2017  |  5 comments
Throughout the summer and fall of 2016, I worked on a project with Stereophile contributor Sasha Matson, recording, editing, mixing, and mastering—for release on 180gm LP, CD, and high-resolution download—an album of works that Sasha had composed for various chamber ensembles: Tight Lines. As you can read in the article we published about this project, for the vinyl release we decided not to master the discs directly from the hi-rez files, but to create an intermediate analog tape master. Feeling that audiophiles would want an LP that at some stage was "analog," we therefore needed to choose a D/A processor to drive the Studer open-reel tape recorder we were going to use.

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