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.
It is with regret that I announce that Wes Phillips has resigned from Stereophile in order to take a position, beginning January 1, 1999, with PR company J.B. Stanton Communications, Inc. Wes and his wife, Joan, will be relocating to Connecticut. I wonder how Wes's unreconstructed Virginia ancestors will take to his becoming a Yankee!
Let's talk cable dressing. Make mine vinaigrette! (And you thought I'd go for French . . . ) Cable dressing is actually a rather delicate issue that requires a certain leap of faith. The concept is so simple that even I can explain the science to you. But the leap occurs when you realize how the positioning of cables and interconnect can make a real difference in the sound of your system. In spite of this, I've seen power cords and interconnects tangled up in a hopeless mess at the back of some pretty serious components.
How can a reviewer possibly put a value on a loudspeaker as costly as the Wilson Audio Specialties X-1/Grand SLAMM? When he reviewed Wilson's WATT 3/Puppy 2 system ($12,900-$16,000/pair, depending on finish) a few years back (footnote 1), John Atkinson said that it was "one of the more expensive loudspeakers around." The Grand SLAMM costs almost five times as much!