J. Gordon Holt

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J. Gordon Holt Posted: Nov 18, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1969 17 comments
Four-channel stereo is here, but for how long? By the time this gets in print, it is extremely unlikely that any of our readers will have escaped being told that 4-channel stereo is here. "Two channels brought us direction," the announcements trumpet. "Now, four channels bring us dimension." Now, for the first time in the history of hi-fi, modern technology can bring us hall acoustics in stereo, to surround us with the sense of spaciousness that we hear in the concert hall.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Nov 12, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1966 0 comments
When we first heard rumors that Shure Brothers was about to unleash something called "trackability" on the audio world, our reaction was mainly one of indifference. We already had loudspeakers with listenability, tape recorders with portability, and amplifiers with stability and dependability. Trackability, we figured, was just another clever sales gimmick; a catchy word that the advertising department had thought up to describe what everyone wanted in a pickup.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Oct 12, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1979 4 comments
Long-time Stereophile readers May be dismayed by what appears to be our unfettered satisfaction with some of the recent crop of new components. Aren't we, after all, dedicated to the pursuit of perfection? Do we really feel that some products are all that close to it? The answer to both questions is "Yes."
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Sep 15, 2015 Published: Mar 01, 1971 9 comments
In the 1952 edition of the Radiotron Designer's Handbook, long recognized as the "bible" of the industry, the permissible level of IM distortion for a high-fidelity amplifier was given as 3%, with the alternate figure of 2% being cited as a "rather extreme" specification. We wonder what the author of that statement would think of today's solid-state amplifiers with their measured IM of 0.01% and less. And we wonder what he would think about the fact that these super-amplifiers still have audible distortion.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Sep 15, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1979 0 comments
Imagine if you can a power amplifier with the bass richness, midrange liquidity, and high-end accuracy of the best tube amplifiers, and the inner detail, transient attack, and bass solidity and range of the best solid-state amplifiers. If you can imagine that, you can visualize what this amplifier sounds like.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Sep 10, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1979 6 comments
The Shure Brothers have been making magnetic cartridges since the early 1950s (they had been exclusively microphone manufacturers prior to then), and their continuing R&D program has resulted in new, improved models every few years rather than every 6 months (as seems to be the rule these days). As a result, Shure has the appearance, to most audiophiles, of a stodgy, plodding, rather "establishment" manufacturer that can be trusted to make a solid, reliable product but nothing brilliantly innovative or—for that matter—nothing remarkably good either.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Aug 24, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1977 1 comments
Not the easiest tonearm to set up (let your dealer do it if you aren't overly skilled at such things), this English-designed and Japanese-made device is the best pivoted tonearm we have tested to date, and at a very reasonable price at that. Polk Audio is importing them and distributing to dealers, most of whom sell them for around $130 to $140, and some buyers have managed to purchase them directly from stores in England for as little as $80. We received two samples of this for testing, one directly from the US distributor, Polk Audio, the other from Natural Sound, a Nebraska dealer and (naturally) one of our advertisers. Suffice it to say that both samples were identical in every perceptible manner.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Aug 11, 2015 Published: Jul 01, 1971 19 comments
Until about nine months ago, in the fall of 1970, FM radio station WFLN, Philadelphia, was just another one of that dying breed: the classical FM station. Like its counterparts in the few remaining classical-radio cities, it provides the major part of the high-fidelity listener's radio diet, and also like most similar classical stations, its fidelity was nothing to brag about.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Aug 11, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1977 7 comments
This receiver includes a rather respectable little tuner, almost comparable to the Dyna FM-5 in performance, a 15Wpc power amplifier of passable quality, and a preamplifier section that in some ways gives some of the costliest preamps a run for their money.

If you don't live in a difficult receiving area or are trying to receive long-distance FM, the tuner should satisfy any perfectionist. It is far superior to the FM transmission quality in most US cities anyway. The power amplifier is better than any we have previously found driving the dinky little speakers in most compact systems, but it has neither the power nor the other attributes to replace any of the amplifiers currently in favor with perfectionists.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jul 14, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1973 11 comments
A recent experience with two excellent loudspeaker systems and two of the top power amplifiers raised a question that has been cropping up more and more frequently these days: When one component sounds more toppish or more bassy than another, which one is really flat and which isn't?

The question arose this time in connection with some listening tests on a pair of FMI 80 speakers and a pair of IMF Monitor III speakers, using Audio Research Dual 75 and Crown DC-300A power amplifiers.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jul 14, 2015 Published: Mar 01, 1982 5 comments
82award.250pr.jpgElgar: Orchestral Works
Falstaff, The Sanguine Fan, Fantasia and Fugue in c (transcribed from J.S. Bach), excerpt from The Starlight Express
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Adrian Boult
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 2-501 (half-speed–mastered LP, pressed in Japan, 1981). Originally released as HMV ASD 2970 (LP, 1974). Reissued as EMI CDM 7 63133 2 (CD, 1989). Christopher Bishop, prod.; Christopher Parker, Stuart Eltham, engs.

We have never before bestowed an award on anyone for anything. We felt obliged to do it on Mobile Fidelity for their remastering of the EMI Elgar Falstaff recording because it is the first time to our knowledge that a single classical release has combined a performance and a recording which are both good enough that neither need be done again. Our congratulations to Mobile Fidelity's Gary Giorgi. Now, let's have some more, from Mobile Fidelity or any other source. We have more awards to hand out when and if.—J. Gordon Holt

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jul 08, 2015 Published: Oct 01, 1974 5 comments
Some years ago, we attended a hi-fi show in New York City where one of the exhibitors was RCA Victor. Their presence there would have been forgotten were it not for the fact that their exhibit, featuring their own discs played on their own line of phonographs, was producing some of the filthiest sound at the entire show. And that, in the proverbial nutshell, is why you never see reports in Stereophile on equipment made by RCA, Philco or General Electric.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jul 08, 2015 Published: Apr 01, 1982 1 comments
482rotm.promo250.jpgWilliams: Suites from Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra, Zubin Mehta.
Mobile Fidelity MFSL-C.008 (cassette).

Originally released on London Records, then re-released with better sound on a Mobile Fidelity disc (now a cutout), these are stunning performances of these popular film scores, rivaling the composer's own performances of them. (Composers aren't always the best conductors of their own music, but John Williams is one who is.)

Sonically, this is simply a tour de force: Without a doubt the best commercially made cassette I've ever heard (and I've heard a lot of them). Last month, I expressed some doubt that the high end on any cassette could rival that of a half-speed LP and, indeed, there is a softening at the top on this cassette, when compared with the Mobile Fidelity disc. But the truth of the matter is that the cassette's high end is substantially more natural than that from the disc, which was one of Mobile Fidelity's first and had a slightly steely edge to it.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 30, 2015 Published: May 01, 1982 2 comments
666shefdrum.jpgThe Sheffield Drum Record
Improvisations by Jim Keltner and Ron Tutt (drums)
Sheffield LAB-14 (LP) (1981). Reissued as FIM DXD 001 (CD) (2010). Bill Schnee, Doug Sax, prods.; Lincoln Mayorga, exec. prod.; Steve Haselton, Bill Schnee, engs. TT: 13:49.

There was a time when drum records were as common as records of steam locomotives and thunderstorms. It has been so long since anyone has tackled any of them that a lot of technology has gone over the dam, but they are precisely the kind of program material which illuminate the state of the audio art like nothing else. Thus, Sheffield's Drum Record emerges as a landmark—a technological tour de force that should discourage anyone else from issuing a similar disc until the state of the art advances by a few more years.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 16, 2015 Published: Aug 01, 1975 6 comments
The summer of 1975 will be remembered by us, with no fondness whatsoever, as The Time the Roof Fell In. Or the Murphy Months, or the Period of the Plague Upon Our House.

Ye Editor can recall from the days of WWII hearing and reading about the depredations of some mischievous sprites called Gremlins, who would cause aircraft hatchcovers to jam and control cables to get hung up at the worst possible moment, but I don't think I ever really did believe in Gremlins. I think I sensed somehow that the mishaps attributed to their malevolent machinations were too capricious to be the work of thinking, calculating little spirits. But I was not clever enough to put my finger on what was going on. That had to wait for a gentleman named something-or-other Murphy, who was (to my knowledge) the first person to put a tag on it, and to formulate a basic law about it. The tag was "the perversity of inanimate objects," and the law was "If anything can possibly go wrong, it will."


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