It's cheating to say that the best sound I've heard at the English Show was at Martin Colloms' house on Saturday night---cheating the same way it is when someone asks that question and I (or some other reviewer) piously responds that some live music event ranks above any exhibitor. Martin, of course, has an advantage over anyone at the Show. He set up his own listening room and had all the time he needed to boot. Even so, his system, consisting of a Krell KRS-25 and FPB 650Ms and Wilson Audio WITT IIs, was astoundingly fast, rhythmic, and dynamic.
Are there differences between an American hi-fi show and the British variety? A few---the biggest is the extent to which all the real business takes place at the bar. This is true for the audio press (okay, not all that different from an American show), but it's true for manufacturers as well. After Show hours, the boozer is jammed with everybody in the business sharing a few pints, smoking, and talking shop. It's not unusual to see business rivals chatting amiably about the state of the industry---and even discussing distribution in some detail.
Wandering around the halls of the Heathrow Renaissance Hotel, I saw and heard a lot more affordable audio on display than I've seen at most American shows. This makes sense. After all, this is a consumer show (or it will be tomorrow---yesterday and today were trade days), and, while consumers want to fantasize about the state of the art, they also like to see kit they can actually own. Me too.
The HI-FI Show 98, the sixteenth put on by UK audio magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review, sedately opened its trade days this morning in the Renaissance and Excelsior hotels on Bath Road near London's Heathrow International Airport. No, that's not a change in venue, it's yet another name change for the hotel that first hosted the "Penta Show" and, more recently, the "Ramada Show." However, this year's show will be the last at the site, as the new owners do not seem interested in hosting large-scale events at all. Next year the show will be moving---to a destination that nobody's revealing in advance of Friday's official announcement.
It was one of those uncommonly warm late winter Sundays when you hardly need a coat. The fine weather had set aside any critical listening sessions, the door to the kitchen was open, and I was playing my audio system—then equipped with a pair of Spendor BC-1 loudspeakers—at moderate levels. Playing on the Linn turntable was an LP that the kids loved—"The Magic Garden Song," sung by the two female leads from the children's television show of the same name (footnote 1), My wife doesn't often comment positively on audio equipment, but that day she walked in from the kitchen to say, "Those voices sound real—as if two people just walked in our living room and started singing."
On August 25 and 26, John Atkinson and Wes Phillips were in Salina, Kansas. They were recording what will be Stereophile's first jazz album, at the deconsecrated downtown church Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds has transformed into Blue Heaven Studios. The band, led by acoustic bass guitarist Jerome Harris, featured alto saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, trombonist Art Baron, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, and percussionist Billy Drummond. Over the two days, the quintet recorded a striking set of original compositions by Harris, as well as a superb tribute to Duke Ellington in one of the great bandleader's signature tunes, "The Mooche."
The Library of Congress has honored American composer, conductor, writer, and teacher Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) with an online preview exhibit from The Leonard Bernstein Collection, one of the largest special collections in the Library's Music Division.
Drum roll, please: As promised, the DVD-Audio 1.0 specification has been finalized by the DVD-Audio Working Group 4 of the DVD Forum, and will shortly be presented to the Steering Committee for final approval. A multitude of delays both technical and political popped up over the last two years, stalling the evolving specification until just recently. (It was orginally intended to be released months ago.) Still to be settled, however, is how DVD-Audio 1.0 will co-exist with Sony's and Philips' promise to promote their rival technology, Super Audio CD (SACD), as an independent and competing format.
CD audio recorders are becoming affordable and more available. Philips' CDR880 (reviewed by Wes Phillips in the current issue of Stereophile) will be in dealers' showrooms soon at a suggested retail price of $649. Pioneer will also have an inexpensive recorder on the market---the PD-R555RW, which will reportedly sell for $599. These two---and others that will no doubt follow---are welcome relief from the four-figure machines that have dominated the recordable audio CD niche.