Over the years as a reviewer, I have tracked the swings of opinion and popularity of various audio ideas and technologies. Amid a sea of advanced designs that achieve powerful technical performance and laudable specifications, I'm reminded of a major blind listening test of 18 power amplifiers that I set up for the long-since-defunct UK magazine Hi-Fi for Pleasure back in 1975. We had "advanced technology" then: the transistor amplifier had matured and was well accepted by audiophiles. Prices of the review samples ranged from $300 to $3000 (equivalent to $1000-$10,000 in today's dollars). The auditioning sessions were graced by the presence of many industry leaders, among them the late Spencer Hughes of Spendor, Julian Vereker of Naim, Philip Swift then of Audiolab, Alan Harris then of retailer Audio T., Bob Stuart of Meridian, and John Wright of IMF (now TDL in the UK).
Operating at the fringes of the audio world, binaural recordings have continued to maintain a hardcore group of advocates. Creating a convincing three-dimensional surround effect using only a two-channel source, binaural technology is especially impressive with headphones.
Loudspeaker manufacturer Polk Audio announced on December 31 that it had acquired an interest in Genesis Technologies, manufacturer of both loudspeakers and digital products. Not only did Polk invest $500,000 in Genesis convertible preferred securities, it also obtained a three-year option to purchase the Colorado-based high-end audio company, which is led by three industry veterans: Arnie Nudell (co-founder of Infinity), Paul McGowan (co-founder of PS Audio), and Mark S. Schifter (co-founder of Audio Alchemy).
The one-two punch known as the Holiday Season is only half finished; Christmas is simply the warmup for the biggest blowout of the year. For a successful New Year's party, the only ingredient more essential than a well-stocked liquor cabinet is an ample supple of party tunes. (Recommended accessory: a reliable CD changer. It's hard to play host and DJ at the same time.)
Phil Jones, the loudspeaker designer who pioneered the resurgence of metal-cone woofers with first Acoustic Energy in the UK, then Boston Acoustics' Lynnfield series, and finally his own company, Platinum Audio, is no longer with Platinum.
Larry Archibald on CD: This article on Compact Discs and CD players is by Doug Sax, president of Sheffield Records and a longtime opponent of digital recording. J. Gordon Holt offers a response elsewhere in this issue, in which he advises readers to buy a Compact Disc player as soon as they can afford it. Gordon in general hails the Compact Disc as the greatest thing to hit audio since the stereophonic LP.
In the first set of prophecies, we foresaw the effects of DVD-Audio, high-end sales around the world, and tweak multidisc CD. For the second installment, we look into our crystal interconnects and foresee new audio data-distribution methods for the coming year.
Martin Colloms argues persuasively in the January 1998 Stereophile that negative feedback is not the panacea that amplifier designers believe it to be. His experience of an amplifier (the Cary CAD-805C) and a preamplifier (the Conrad-Johnson ART) that use no negative feedback other than local degeneration, yet have sound quality better than he has previously experienced, convinces him that even when a design's closed-loop distortion appears to be acceptably low, the listener is still aware of an amplifier's very distorted open-loop behavior.