The quest for new speaker technologies has resulted in some novel approaches to the reproduction of sound, as witnessed by products announced in the last few years by NXT and 1 . . . Ltd. (See previous story.) Some of Stereophile's readers may also recall that, back in May 1996, American Technology Corp. shook things up in the audio world by announcing what the company described as its "breakthough" new technology, the much-debated HyperSonic Sound (HSS). This was followed up in February 1997, when ATC announced the introduction of its Stratified Field Technology SFT, which company literature touted as "a significant improvement over conventional loudspeakers."
Since 1992, Stereophile has named a select few audio components its "Products of the Year." In doing so, we recognize those components that have proved capable of giving musical pleasure beyond the formal review period.
One of the delights of being published by a multinational conglomerate that grows through acquisition, as Emap Petersen does, is that Stereophile finds itself in interesting company. Like La Nouvelle Revue du Son in France, for example, edited by the legendary Jean Hiraga, who turned me on to the sonic importance of wires and passive components almost 25 years ago. And Mojo, an English music magazine tightly targeted on baby boomers like me, who bought their first stereo systems in the '60s to better appreciate the progressive rock we lived and loved by. (I wonder if turn-of-the-millennium college students gather 'round a new G4 Mac to get off on MP3s the way, 30 years ago, we gathered 'round our precious vinyl.)
Unlike the imposing mbl and Burmester DACs that I review elsewhere in this issue, the Mark Levinson No.360 is New England conservative in appearance. Its operation was simple to master despite the sophistication and flexibility on tap. Flanked by Fasolt and Fafner, the Levinson No.360 seemed as amiable as Freia.
One of the challenging attributes of the new DVD-Audio format is the ability to release music in high-resolution multichannel (four or more) sound. For some this will be a thorny issue: Can previously released recordings be remixed to take advantage of the extra channels without sounding gimmicky? Should classical and/or live recordings use the surround channels for concert-hall ambience? How long will it be until consumers even care about setting up their systems to take advantage of more than two full-bandwidth channels?
Old joke: "We lose money on every sale, but we make it up in volume." A similar concept seems to be at the heart of the free download phenomenon sweeping through the Internet music industry: give it away as a lo-rez MP3, and customers will come back to buy the CD.
In his third installment of "Fine Tunes," Jonathan Scull encourages readers to stick their heads in a corner. "Notice how strongly the bass loads up there, how exaggerated and out of control it sounds," he writes. With the help of Jeff Joseph, Scull also reveals a trick for dealing with square rooms.
The object of the audio game, as Stereophile founder J. Gordon Holt put it, is "to re-create original acoustic events as accurately as possible." That goal has driven engineers to extraordinary lengths, improving every link in the recording and playback chain. Most such improvements are incremental, but their cumulative effect is the sometimes astounding level of sonic realism available today from even moderately priced equipment.
Among the ingredients needed for a successful online consumer-electronics business, having well-known, sought-after brands may be the most important. Just in time for the holiday season, Hifi.com announced last week that it has become one of a "select group" authorized to sell Sony Electronics products over the Internet. This announcement comes on the heels of Celestion and Marantz joining the mail-order retailer (see previous story).
It is with regret that we announce to Stereophile's readers the closing of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, on November 19, 1999. Known to audiophiles since its inception in 1977, the company provided serious listeners with hundreds of remastered LPs, cassettes, and CDs.