Home Entertainment 2004 West in San Francisco might have been called off last November, but I wasn't about to let that stop me from taking a trip to visit the wine country—except that the wine country in question turned out to be the wine country of Southern New England.
ListenUp NHT: NHT's 75W M-00 powered two-way studio monitor has long been an audiophile favorite for the title of "best computer loudspeaker"—not that the competition has been all that fierce. The Benicia, CA–based loudspeaker manufacturer recognized that the powered monitor, initially marketed direct to recording engineers and in-home studio owners, was selling beyond its target audience and repositioned it as part of its PC Hi-Fi line. When Walt Stinson, co-founder of Colorado-based Audio/Video chain ListenUp discovered the M-00s when he was searching for something to pair with his portable player, he was so taken with their performance that he called ListenUp's marketing manager, Phil Murray, and told him that the chain had to carry them, because they were "simply the best multimedia speakers, bar none."
Broadcast flag on trial: On February 22, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit brought against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding its plans to institute the broadcast flag rule. The "broadcast flag" is essentially encryption embedded in digital television signals that would not permit recording devices such as personal video recorders, iPods, cellular phones, or VCRs to record over-the-air digital transmissions without the permission of the broadcaster. The suit, sponsored by diverse organizations including the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, and the American Library Association, charges that the FCC decision to require the broadcast flag "exceeds its authority."
Youth may not be the only thing that's wasted on the young. Many recent studies have shown that as people age, they have increased difficulty getting a good night's sleep. A new study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing indicates that listening to soft music may help people with sleep disorders to fall asleep faster.
CBGB, the legendary Bowery club frequently cited as the birthplace of America's punk movement, is the latest in a growing list of urban nightclubs getting priced out of the neighborhoods they helped create. According to a February 11 article in The Village Voice, CBGB's lease will end in August, and its landlord wants to see the club's monthly rent increase from $20,000 to $40,000.
One of the hot items audiophiles were able to score at last month's 2005 CES was a hybrid SACD that Ray Kimber was handing out. Labelled IsoMike Tests 2005A, the disc is beautifully packaged and sports dozens of recorded snippets of vocal music, string quartet, piano, marching band, orchestra, blank pistol, and a local janitor.
"So what kind of music do you listen to?" I heard myself asking Leif Mårten Olofsson, designer of the Coltrane, Coltrane Alto, Duke, Miles II, Mingus III, and Monk loudspeakers, before I could take it back. The small company, headquartered in Göteborg, Sweden, where Volvos are made, has been building and marketing loudspeakers for the past six years, though Olofsson confesses he's been building them for 30 years, ever since he was 12.
The "Reference" designation is thrown around a lot in the world of perfectionist audio. It's most often used to elevate the top of the line to a higher perceived status. Occasionally, as in the case of the VTL TL-7.5 line stage that I reviewed in October 2003, it genuinely denominates a component that is clearly superior to its competition in most aspects of performance.
My first reaction to the Prima Luna Prologue One was based solely on looks: For $1095, I might not have been disappointed had it sounded no better than a Bose Wave Radio. Its casework straddles the breach between vintage and modern in a way that little else does, at any price. The dark gray-blue finish, hand-rubbed to a tactile gloss, wouldn't look out of place on an Alfa GTV (the new one, which resembles a drop of oil). And for the first time in my experience, a high-end audio manufacturer has figured out a way to make a protective tube cage easy to remove and replace: with banana plugs and sockets. Why couldn't one of the high-price American brands have figured that out?