The subject of audiophile-grade AC outlets, which I have been discussing in previous Fine Tunes" columns is more contentious than I'd ever imagined. In August's episode of "Fine Tunes," I forwarded you an e-mail from audio worthy Glen Bartholomew, who waxed poetic about the inexpensive and therefore (he felt) oft-overlooked hospital-grade devices from Leviton. He found the Levitons to be the equals of, if not better than, the Hubbell, Bryant, and Eagle units I'd previously recommended.
In the Beginning Was the Word... At first blush, the sound of the Vandersteen Model 2Ce Signature transported me to a bucolic nature trail in the Berkshires on one of those high, dry August days when the amber stillness of late afternoon imparts a sense of otherness against the endless vistas of green and brown and blue. In my Wordsworthian reverie, as I made my way up the mountainside, remembrances of venerable loudspeakers past called out to me from the sturdy stands of New England foliage. Mark you the lofty maple and the supple white birch; the noble pine, the mighty oak and humble larch; there, on the crest, an Acoustic Research AR3a; farther up the ridge, a copse of Advent, KLH, and Allison—and finally, high on yonder peak, beckoning like God's own flip-top, crush-proof box, the Vandersteen 2Ce Signature.
It is often observed that audiophiles are an aging, dying breed, and that the obvious antidote is to bring younger 'philes into the fold. To that end, BuzzNet 2000 has been created as a "touring educational festival of new music listening technologies" by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The program launches this fall with two dates on the west coast: California State University at Long Beach and the University of California at Davis.
The dawning of the age of inexpensive universal DVD-Audio/SACD/CD players may finally be upon us. Cirrus Logic recently announced the introduction of their CS4392 integrated circuit chip, which the company describes as a high-performance Crystal digital/analog converter that "delivers unrivaled sound quality while providing manufacturers a cost-effective solution for next-generation DVD-based audio products including DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD (SACD) players."
For the 109th convention of the Audio Engineering Society, the main floor of the L.A. Convention Center was transformed into a bazaar of new tools for audio professionals—but the panel discussions upstairs were where the real action took place. On Friday, September 22—just an hour before researchers Dr. Stanley Lipshitz and John Vanderkooy of Ontario's University of Waterloo presented a paper offering a mathematical proof for the "imperfectability" of one-bit delta-sigma recording systems—Sony Corporation issued a clarification of the technical standards for its Direct Stream Digital technology, the basis of the Super Audio Compact Disc. DSD, it now appears, is a one-bit technique as it applies to consumer playback systems, but uses a multi-bit PCM quantizer [presumably within a delta-sigma converter negative-feedback loop; see an article on this subject in the forthcoming November issue of Stereophile—Ed.] at the recording and mastering ends of the business. (The Lipshitz/Vanderkooy paper is available as AES preprint #5188.)
Citing the potential danger of "collective dominance" of the music business, European Commission members have nixed the proposed merger of American media conglomerate Time Warner and British music-industry powerhouse EMI. The $20 billion joint venture may still have some small chance at a future, provided the companies make further concessions to allay fears of monopolistic control of music prices in Europe.
Every once in a while, John Atkinson comes across a speaker that redefines the boundaries of what is possible with the moving-coil loudspeaker approach established 60 years ago by Rice and Kellogg. JA feels that the B&W John Bowers Silver Signature loudspeaker is just such a product, and puts it through its paces to reveal its significant virtues and minor faults.
Most people who now listen to tube amplifiers began with a transistor amp, and know from experience that a tube amp of a given measured power output sounds louder than its nominally identical transistorized equivalent. The unofficial consensus is that you need two to four times the transistor power to achieve the same loudness as you would using tubes. In other words, given the (subjectively) undistorted sound level a 25W (footnote 1) tube amplifier can provide, if you want the same loudness from solid-state technology you would have to replace it with at least a 50W transistor amp (footnote 2).
Italian audio journal Fedelta' del Suono (Sound Fidelity) has honored American startup Red Rose Music with "Product of the Year" awards for the company's Model 3 preamplifier and Model 2 power amp. The award is especially noteworthy in view of the fact that the monthly publication, based in Terni, Italy, does not normally fête products from new companies.