The criticisms are out there. They're in the audio newsgroups on the Internet, even in this magazine's "Letters" section. For years, Cassandras have proclaimed that Stereophile has sold out, gone down the tubes, become a mere lapdog for the big-league manufacturers whose components almost never get panned.
On the occasion of a recent major birthday, my significant other, Bonnie, gave herself a "mid-life crisis" present—a beautifully restored, bright yellow Porsche 911. She'd spent the previous several weeks wading through reference books to figure out exactly which year and model she wanted, and each night we'd discuss the pros and cons of various models, options, and points in the 911's +30-year evolution. Bonnie explained to me that, throughout its production run, the 911 maintained the same basic design and a consistent set of engineering goals, but was continually updated and refined. In her mind, the 1973 Targa was the one to have, the last and fastest of the lightweight 2.4-liter models.
January 9, 3pm Some fascinating prototypes were on display at the Madrigal breakfast at Bally's this morning---and we can't tell you about them. But when the Cone of Silence is lifted, you can bet we'll spill the beans, particularly in view of Madrigal's confidence that there will be a future market for very-high-quality surround-sound music reproduction. In the meantime, we are able to report that the new Proceed DVD transport has enough upgradeability options to allow for just about any future digital format: DVD-Audio, SACD, CD, DVD-Video, etc. The transport will also allow for easy upgrading to future interface schemes such as IEEE 1394. And, unlike many other DVD-Video transports, the Proceed should be able to play CD-R discs. For two-channel fans, the Mark Levinson No.32 Reference preamplifier is in production and will be available next month. Price of the two-chassis, dual-mono unit, without phono stage, will be in the region of $15,000. Madrigal is already back-ordered.
Ah, it's good to be home again. We have finally arrived at the Alexis Park complex, the enclave of specialty audio. It's a much more civilized venue than the Convention Center, but, here as there, new products prevail. Only drawback this year: Someone has apparently rerouted the airplane take-offs from nearby McCarran airport to directly overhead, making it tough to continue a conversation or demo for more than 5 minutes.
Friday, we'll venture into the Alexis Park complex and the adjoining exhibits from T.H.E. Show, where most of the specialty audio manufacturers have set up shop. But so far, at the Las Vegas Convention Center and adjoining Hilton (which we are currently touring), live 24/96 digital audio is conspicuous by its absence.
Your dauntless reporters---Tom Norton, Steven Stone, Michael Fremer, Bob Deutsch, Larry Greenhill, Jon Iverson, and Barry Willis---have shown up on schedule for Philips Electronics' 1999 kickoff press conference at the Desert Inn's Grand Ballroom II, attended by a hundred or so other journalists.
If one were to judge by new high-end audio-product intros at this year's CES, the industry appears to be hopping. So far we're only halfway through the Alexis Park (the home of most high-end audio exhibitors at the Show), but our bags are already overstuffed with brochures. Not surprisingly, a lot of the two-channel manufacturers are branching out to the multichannel market.
If, as some would have it, Audiophilia nervosa is like the dark night of reason, then certain audio epiphanies must necessarily stand out from a distance, like a grove of trees 20 miles away thrown into stark relief by prairie lightning. And make no mistake that Audiophilia is a disease---I treasure the memory of the first time my wife and I heard Quad ESLs with tubes far more than the memory of my first kiss (although not more, I hasten to add in case Joan is reading this review, than the memory of our first kiss). I know men who stare into their flickering fireplaces on long winter nights and remember all the women they've known. Myself, I'm more likely to reminisce about my first tube preamp, or list the great-sounding systems I've owned.
There is practically nothing that has set high-end audio on its collective ear like the article Jonathan Scull wrote back in 1994 on room-tuning devices from Shun Mook. Not only did some readers dog-pile J-10, but two other Stereophile writers, Barry Willis and Sam Tellig, decided to take on the challenge. Required reading for anyone who wants to know more about The Shun Mook Affair.
Imagine that you are a Canadian with a mid-sized accounting business. You have tons of data to keep track of, and have found the recordable CD to be an excellent form of storage: convenient, reliable, and cheap---until New Year's Day, when the cost of blank discs suddenly doubled. You may not have the slightest interest in music, but one of your basic costs of doing business has just skyrocketed because someone, somewhere, has allegedly made an illegal copy of a commercial music CD.