Chad Kassem is a true audio renaissance man. For years he has headed Acoustic Sounds, supplier of select recorded musical treasures from a variety of audiophile and specialty labels. Kassem also has his own label, Analogue Productions, which produces reissues, revivals, and a series of original recordings under the label APO Records.
Copy-protection hysteria in the entertainment industry is driving possible changes in copyright laws that could make what is legal today illegal tomorrow. Legislation such as Senator "Fritz" Hollings' to-be-introduced Security Systems Standards and Certification Act could erode long-established "fair use" provisions that allow consumers to make compilation CDs and video recordings of favorite TV shows.
Michael Fremer gets a chorus of oohs and ahhs as he sets up the Hovland Sapphire power amplifier in his listening lair. While the Hovland is certainly a sweet-looking amp, MF rightly points out that "looks alone don't sell hi-fi equipment in the specialty audio market—especially when you're asking $7800 for a 40Wpc two-channel amplifier."
The record companies have declared war on their customers when it comes to the fair use rights of purchased music, and it would appear that they want the government to enlist in their crusade. Previous weeks have seen South Carolina senator Ernest Hollings propose draconian copyright legislation as well as recent pro-Hollywood remarks from California's senator Diane Feinstein.
As I explain in the current issue's "As We See It" column, I decide on the ratings of the equipment featured in Stereophile's "Recommended Components" listing after consultation with the reviewers, taking into account the original review comments and, sometimes, my own experience.
Not since Sonus Faber's Amati Homage loudspeakers took up residence in my listening room has a piece of audio gear elicited so many "Oohs," "Aahs," and "Wows" from friends as Hovland Company's dramatic-looking, EL34-driven Sapphire power amplifier—especially when it was switched on and glowing orange and blue. It drew unsolicited attention and admiration even when turned off. Not that, on or off, its unusual looks didn't also have their share of detractors. As with Hovland's chrome-façaded, blue-backlit HP-100 preamplifier, some found the Sapphire too shiny, too gaudy, and generally just too much. Me, I'm thumbs-up on the Sapphire's looks—I found myself staring at it incessantly. But anything that draws such intensity of response, whether love or hate, must be doing something right. B&O shouldn't have a monopoly on striking-looking audio gear.
The VK-150SE stands tall at the top of Balanced Audio Technology's range. It and its smaller brother, the identical-looking VK-75SE stereo amplifier (or, sans the Special Edition mods, the plain VK-75, footnote 1), are related to BAT's first amplifier design, the VK-60. The company's partners, Victor Khomenko and Steve Bednarski, eventually realized that they'd made enough upgrades to the VK-60 to warrant a new model designation, and in 2000 they discontinued the VK-60. Bednarski explained that while the VK-60 accepted the upgrades with good results, the BATboys felt that, in order to fully realize the full potential of the 6H30 SuperTube, a new platform would be required. Enter the VK-75SE and VK-150SE.