Any audiophile who stumbles onto one of the more cantankerous audio newsgroups ("wreck audio opinion," anyone?) may wonder what has happened to the modern breed of audiophiles. One suspects that religious wars pale when compared to how some audio pundits jostle against each other! But over the years, there has always been a wide variety of opinion. For a perspective written decades ago that still holds true today, we present J. Gordon Holt's classic "Why Hi-Fi Experts Disagree."
History teaches us that the full flowering of any social phenomenon takes place after the seeds of its destruction have been sown. That tourist magnet, London's Buckingham Palace, for example, was built decades after the English Revolution and the Restoration had redefined the role of the British monarchy as being merely titular, and made the elected Parliament the real seat of power.
Okay, let's return to the power grid. In the February installment of "Fine Tunes", we learned that typical domestic 110V AC supplies are derived from that 220V transformer out on the pole. The center-tap 110V supply is unbalanced, but if you take 220V service, you're getting balanced power. One thing you can do is take 220V down to 110V with a step-down transformer. George Cardas swears by it. He's also experimenting with a Statpower Technologies Prosine 1000 Full Square Wave Converter hooked to a big mutha battery to power his front-end components.
Call me naÏve, but I thought the Hi-Fi Wars were merely in-house squabbles. Yes, meter-carrying objectivists and wide-eyed subjectivists can carry on worse than Republicans and Democrats in Congress. But I always figured that once someone cues up Dark Side of the Moon or Kind of Blue, the partisanship subsides as we revel in our common passion for music and sound. C'mon, everybody—group hug! Okay, I exaggerate.
Holding his thumb and forefinger together to reveal barely a sliver of light, Chris English said, "This close. We're this close." He wasn't talking about how far apart we were sitting, but about how close Threshold is to being back in business after an attempted restructuring last year did not work out.
Accidents and disasters have no sense of good timing, and when they strike have a way of fouling even the most promising love affairs. Case in point: loudspeaker manufacturer Von Schweikert Research and the small town of Watertown (pop. 30,000) in northern New York, about three hours' drive from Toronto.
Last week, the Recording Industry Association of America released its annual demographic survey of 3051 music purchasers in the United States. "Several interesting profiles emerged in 1998, including the boom in R&B and Gospel, as well as the sharp decline in Rock sales," said Hilary Rosen, RIAA president and CEO. "Demographic shifts also continued, with women outbuying men for the second year, and a drop in purchases among 15-to-29-year-olds, contrasted by significant growth among those age 35 and older." Last month, the RIAA released its annual year-end shipments statistics, which revealed the size of the domestic sound-recording industry in 1998 to be $13.7 billion.
On a very special Saturday night in early September—late winter in Australia—I was deeply moved by hearing Brahms' Symphony 1 in the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House complex. Perhaps it was Marek Janowski's fiery, inspired conducting, but I keep recalling the hall itself. Earlier that day, I had photographed—first from my hotel room, later from a ferry—the huge, nesting sail-like roofs, covered with a million white ceramic tiles, that enclose an opera theater, concert hall, and restaurant. Twenty-five years in construction and costing over $107 million, the Sydney Opera House is described in my Fodor's '98 Australia guide as "the most widely recognized landmark of urban Australia." Attending the concert that night—all 2679 seats were occupied—I found the acoustics lovely, dark, and rich.