When I first attended Comdex several years back, it was easy to feel like a fish out of water. My core interests were always high-end audio---and the computer biz at the time would get excited about anything that sounded as good as a telephone. But I was still curious about what all the brainiacs were up to.
"Comping," they call it at Madrigal. Once a circuit and its board layout have been finalized, passive components are substituted one by one in an exhaustive series of listening tests to determine the places where use of a premium part, or one of closer tolerances, results in an audible benefit. This fine-tuning process cannot be open-ended, however, as products do have to shipped. So what happens when new parts become available, or new manufacturing processes allow a better-sounding part to be used without financial penalty?
Five or six years ago I wrote a breezy, introductory-type piece on mid-fi "knob-surfing," winding up with a reprise on the old line that the number of the knobs, lights, and tattoos on the faceplate is often inversely proportional to the quality behind them.
My next-door neighbor bought a late-'70s Porsche 924 last week, and I'm really glad he did. For one thing, it adds a little class to the 'hood—my 1984 Grand Wagoneer's peeling "wood paneling" is far more typical of the vehicles in my part of town. And Eric is just so obviously thrilled to own a piece of the legend—a real Teutonic driving machine.
Audio Artistry's Beethoven is the banner model of the company's Composer series (footnote 1), which includes the entry-level Vivaldi as well as the Dvorak I reviewed in the April 1996 Stereophile (Vol.19 No.4, p.204). Like the Dvorak, the Beethoven is a four-piece, bi-amplified, dynamic dipole design; unlike the Dvorak, the Beethoven has been taken to the nth degree of refinement.
There are many benefits accruing to a loudspeaker when its designer goes the active or powered route. The usual losses and distortions associated with passive crossovers can be circumvented, while the fact that the amplifiers and drive-units can be designed as a package enables the designer to squeeze more performance from each than would otherwise be the case. And the savings gained from the absence of a separate amplifier chassis can be passed on to the consumer.
Twice a year, Stereophile brings some of its writers out to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to discuss the compilation of the magazine's "Recommended Components" listing, the most recent of which appeared in the October issue. Following a comment from Will Hammond, John Atkinson's collaborator on the recent amplifier blind listening tests, that the magazine's readers would love to eavesdrop on the conversations that take place on these occasions, it seemed a good idea to tape (footnote 1) some of the discussions and publish the transcript as this month's "As We See It" (footnote 2). Accordingly, Lewis Lipnick, Gary A. Galo, Robert Harley, Thomas J. Norton, Guy Lemcoe, Richard Lehnert, Dick Olsher, Peter Mitchell, Robert Deutsch, J. Gordon Holt, Larry Greenhill, John Atkinson, and Arnis Balgalvis all gathered in LA's palatial listening room one August Saturday. JA set the ball rolling by asking the assembled writers where they thought Stereophile had been, where it was, and where they thought it should be going, particularly in view of Robert Harley joining the magazine as Technical Editor.
What kind of speaker can you get for $250/pair? The most tightly contested sector of the speaker market in the UK is right around that price. If you want to be competitive in Old Blighty, you have to offer something pretty special in that range—and because the stakes are so high, the competition is fierce.