It was almost five years ago that I first spent some serious auditioning time with an omnidirectional two-piece speaker from German manufacturer MBL: the four-way MBL 111. When I reviewed the 111 in the April 1998 Stereophile, I had been extremely impressed with the speaker's stereo imaging, which was superbly stable and well-defined, with images that floated completely free of the speaker positions. The tonal balance was also excellent, with a rich midrange, superbly clean highs, and extended lows. "This Radialstrahler is one of the best tweeters I have experienced," I wrote. In fact, the 111 was let down only by bass frequencies that tended to lag behind the music slightly.
I have always had an affection for speakers designed and manufactured by the Canadian conglomerate Audio Products International Corp. (API), which markets speaker designs under the names Mirage, Energy, Sound Dynamics, and Athena. In fact, it was 20 years ago that API created the first budget speaker that caught my attention, the Mirage 350. At the time, the 350 was the only speaker I'd heard that cost less than $300/pair. It sounded open, musical, and detailed without seeming bass-shy. (A larger successor, the 460, was for many years my reference home-theater speaker.) Although I've been impressed with many other API designs I've heard over the years at friends' houses, press events, and hi-fi shows, it had been more than a decade since I'd formally reviewed an API product.
SCHOENBERG: Gurrelieder Karita Mattila, soprano; Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Moser, Philip Langridge, tenors; Thomas Quasthoff, bass-baritone, speaker; Gentlemen of the Ernst Senff Choir, Berlin Radio Chorus, Leipzig Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk Chorus; Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Simon Rattle EMI 5 57303 2 (2 CDs). 2002. Stephen Johns, prod.; Graham Kirkby, Andy Beer, Mike Cox, engs. DDD. TT: 110:14 Performance **** Sonics ****
The US Copyright Office is being pulled in opposite directions over a recent decree establishing royalty rates for music played by webcasters. On one side are radio stations and Internet-only music sites, which claim that the rates are too high. On the other side is the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which claims that the rates are too low. Both sides have filed separate appeals in US federal court.
Issues surrounding the music industry are heating up, and most stories revolve around the record labels, musicians, congress, consumers, and music pirates. Often lost in the noise is the importance of another major player in the business: the technical folks who make recorded music happen.
"You'd be hard-pressed to find a company more protective of its reputation than Krell," says Wes Phillips, as he heads off to evaluate the Krell KAV-300cd CD player. WP ponders whether that reputation is still intact as the company tries to save its customers some money.
DVD-Audio proponents, ranging from record labels execs and mastering engineers to CE manufacturers, staged a press event on August 9 at Dolby Labs in Los Angeles in the hopes of rekindling interest in their format, which has been quietly trying to launch for the last year or so. Warner Bros Records has gone so far as to call this current effort a "re-launch", but after spending over four hours with the DVD-A folks, this reporter thinks there's a good chance we may be seeing yet another official launch once most of the current issues (detailed below) are sorted out.
The music industry's ongoing copyright and royalty battle took a refreshing turn Wednesday, August 7, when EMI Group PLC filed suit against AOL Time Warner, Inc. over the unpaid use of songs from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movies. Filed in US Court for the Southern District of New York, the suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and an injunction barring AOL Time Warner from playing songs from MGM classics such as Singin' in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz.
"My god. This was better than any hi-fi I had ever experienced—I actually had Sergei Rachmaninoff in the room, playing Mendelssohn just for me. I am not ashamed to say that I wept." I wrote those words in the January 2001 Stereophile, about hearing a piano-roll transcription of Rachmaninoff performing Mendelssohn's Spinning Song (Op.67 No.34) on a Bösendorfer Imperial 290SE reproducing piano. I was in the middle of recording Robert Silverman's cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas at the Maestro Foundation in Santa Monica, where there just happened to be a floppy disk with Wayne Stahnke's transcription of the Rachmaninoff for the Bösendorfer mechanism, which Stahnke invented.