Linn's early decision to develop hard-disk audio systems first got our attention when the Kivor project was announced back at the 2000 Consumer Electronics Show. The Linn Kivor has now spent almost two years on the market, garnering a positive review from John Atkinson and a special "Editor's Choice" mention in this month's 2002 Products of the Year.
Unpacking and installing a new component is always cause for excitement, even if one does it with almost mechanical regularity, and the anticipation is greater when the component is from a manufacturer of almost mythic reputation. So when John Atkinson asked if I'd like to audition Nagra's new PL-L preamplifier, I feigned calm as I accepted the assignment, even while remembering those years in college radio when I had to schlepp big Ampexes and Maggies. The sexy, portable Nagras were the stuff of dreams. Finally, I thought, I'd get my hands and ears on one.
How much fun can you have with an audio component? Fun for me is having a Nakamichi BX-300 analog cassette deck running into Musical Fidelity's evolutionary, revolutionary CD-Pre24 preamplifier, with the unit's digital output feeding the Alesis Masterlink hard-drive-based digital recorder, and being able to monitor the digital loop through the preamp once again in the analog domain.
Over the course of several months, during which time I auditioned the Vacuum Tube Logic TL-5.5 tubed line-stage preamp with a variety of power amps and loudspeakers, I began to reassess many long-held notions about the "characters" of solid-state and tube components. Sometimes the TL-5.5 revealed its musical pedigree with all the midrange juiciness and sublime textural detail that one traditionally associates with a triode front-end, while at others it evinced a level of focus, transparency, and frequency extension I more readily associate with solid-state purity—all in a stylish package featuring a remote volume control and a full range of performance enhancements that belied its affordable price.
At present, the recording industry is based on a variety of analog and PCM digital audio formats, putting proponents of Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD, which is based on the Direct Stream Digital, or DSD, format) in a tough place when it comes to creating pure DSD works for showing off the format. To date, labels have had a limited number of options for creating, mixing, and mastering pure DSD projects.
Promising technology, interesting programming, and good business plans may not be enough to keep satellite radio services XM Radio and Sirius Radio aloft. Both companies are struggling with massive financial problems as they scramble to gain subscribers.
We kick off our anniversary collection with 40 Years of Stereophile: What Happened When. Editor John Atkinson recounts the complete history of Stereophile, starting in 1930 when J. Gordon Holt heard his first sound in North Carolina.
Earlier this month, an unambiguous and simple message went up on the Dunlavy Audio Labs web site: "As of November 7, 2002, Dunlavy Audio Labs, LLC has ceased operations." A phone call to the company confirms that it is indeed out of business, although Dunlavy president Keny Whitright did not return calls seeking comment.