As We See It

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Robert Schryer Posted: Nov 15, 2016 10 comments
My friend was in dire straits. What had been rare occurrences of panic attacks—one every year or so—had turned into a full-blown panic disorder that made it impossible for him to enjoy peace of mind..

If you've never suffered a panic attack, the idea of one—of being, in the absence of any real threat, suddenly overwhelmed by fear—can seem inconceivably strange. Try to imagine fear flooding your mind with such fierce momentum that you struggle to catch your breath, so convincing is the sensation that everything is spinning horribly out of control. Once that happens and the fear has taken over, it doesn't matter if the threat is real or not.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 19, 2016 6 comments
I'm at Dan D'Agostino's house listening to his triamped Apogee full-range ribbon speakers. It's 1985. His listening room is immense, easily 30' by 45', and we're rocking out to Led Zeppelin and Bonzo Dog Band records. The sound is light-years better than anything I've heard—dynamic as hell, beyond vivid, and the soundstage has infinite depth—and Dan's obviously loving that I'm blown away by his system. We get to talking. He has three pairs of Krell KMA-160 monoblocks and Reference KRS preamps for me. Thanks, I say, but how can I get them home? No problem—Dan has a van.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Sep 20, 2016 17 comments
What do Prince, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Gato Barbieri, Phife Dawg, Frank Sinatra Jr., Keith Emerson (Emerson Lake & Palmer), Dan Hicks (Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks), Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire), Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson (Jefferson Airplane), Glenn Frey (Eagles), Dale Griffin (Mott the Hoople), pianist Paul Bley, bassist Rob Wasserman, sopranos Susan Chilcott, Phyllis Curtin, and Denise Duval, countertenor Brian Asawa, composers Steven Edward Stucky and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and conductors Pierre Boulez, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gilbert Kaplan, Gregg Smith, and Royston Nash have in common? Besides the fact that all were musicians who made multiple recordings and who died in 2016, their recorded legacies rarely, if ever, get airplay at dealerships or audio shows.
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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 16, 2016 11 comments
A recording engineer's choices of microphones to record singers, guitars, horns, bass, drums—or an entire orchestra—are absolutely crucial. Those very subjective choices are, in large part, what separate the best recordings from the also-rans. When I contacted some of the best engineers in the business to talk about mikes, I got an earful. I was told that mikes have a more profound impact on reproduced sound than does any other link in the recording chain. Yes, the acoustic of the recording venue also plays a huge role, and post-session mixing and mastering can of course improve or ruin the sound—but the choice of mikes is absolutely crucial.
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Robert Schryer Posted: Jul 14, 2016 10 comments
Once in a blue moon, I'm asked this question: How much should I spend on an audiophile rig? It's usually asked by someone with no real interest in buying an audiophile rig, but who's fishing, for giggles, for the exorbitant figure that is the presumed going rate for joining our hobby. Sometimes, when the mood strikes, I'll bang out a randomly absurd number—"$80,000!"—then lean back to observe the fallout. Nine times out of ten, that fallout consists of a head shake and a snicker, as if to say, "You guys are nuts!" But on those occasions when honesty seems the best policy, my short answer to the how-much question, regardless of the buyer's financial means, is the same: As little as possible.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 14, 2016 Published: Jul 01, 2016 12 comments
Last January, in Las Vegas, a record 170,000 people attended the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. Most of them neither saw nor heard a trace of high-end audio gear. Not only was all mention of what CES calls "high performance audio" absent from the show's official Attendee Guide, but the hallways of the Venetian Tower, which in past CESes were filled with high-end manufacturers, dealers, and distributors, were anything but crowded.
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Art Dudley Posted: May 17, 2016 Published: Jun 01, 2016 17 comments
Note: All dialogue quoted verbatim from e-mail exchanges to which I am privy; the stage directions are imaginary.

Dramatis Personae:

bill, director of marketing for PS Audio

randy, amateur reviewer for a commercial audiophile website

dick, professional reviewer for an established audio magazine (not Stereophile)

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 21, 2016 Published: May 01, 2016 41 comments
I was in a strange mood last January when I posted this on Facebook: "Do speaker designers strive for accuracy, or for a 'sound' they think potential buyers want?" I doubted that any designer with two working ears would even attempt to design speakers that merely measured well—there must be at least some subjectivity in their process. I also assumed that few designers would go on record about where they stand on the accuracy question, so I was thrilled when Elac Americas' speaker designer, Andrew Jones, responded...
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Robert Schryer Posted: Mar 22, 2016 Published: Apr 01, 2016 14 comments
It's one of audiophiledom's eternal questions: What can we do to draw more music lovers into the audiophile fold?

Of the proposals bandied about on audio forums, two seem predominant: a) sell stuff more people can afford, and b) sit your neighbor or the cable guy in front of your stereo, cross your fingers, and let 'er rip—the theory behind b) being that the experience will be so epic as to transform the reluctant participant into an audiophile butterfly. As if.

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John Atkinson Posted: Feb 23, 2016 Published: Mar 01, 2016 13 comments
One of the benefits of belonging to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a subscription to their monthly magazine, IEEE Spectrum. Superbly written and edited, this journal keeps me up to date on emerging technology, and entertains me with things like reprints, on the final page, of vintage advertisements. Their January 2016 issue, for example, featured an ad from December 1920, promoting the Victor Talking Machine Company's Victrola: "By all means get a Victrola this Christmas, but be sure it is a Victrola and not some other instrument made in imitation. $25 to $1500. Victor dealers everywhere."
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John Darko Posted: Jan 27, 2016 5 comments
How many advertisements for hi-fi or head-fi hardware do you see on your morning commute? Two? Three? If you live in Los Angeles, Sydney, or Paris, most likely it'll be zero.

Not so in Tokyo, where commuters, tourists, and shoppers moving through the Shinjuku or Shibuya subway stations will find it almost impossible to ignore Sony's latest advertising campaign, which colorfully announces a new range of affordable portable audio players (né Walkmans). Inside, banners suspended from the cars' ceilings promote Panasonic's latest headphones and shoebox-sized stereo system. Many of the bigger Japanese manufacturers treat audio gear as a mainstream concern.

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John Atkinson Posted: Dec 15, 2015 Published: Jan 01, 2016 101 comments
My spirits sank as I read the comments on Stereophile's Facebook page. In the November issue, we had published reviews of UpTone Audio's USB Regen device by Kalman Rubinson, Michael Lavorgna, and myself. Michael and Kal had enthused about the positive effect the USB Regen had made, but I could detect no measurable difference. On Facebook, Dan Madden had written, "I think a device like this would need a blind listening test to verify that a listener could hear the difference in a statistically measurable way, in a very high percentage of times."
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Robert Schryer Posted: Nov 18, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 2015 43 comments
It never fails. Browse Stereophile's Facebook page, scroll through the comments to an article that refers to life as an audiophile, and splat—appearing like bird droppings on your glistening screen are anti-audiophile wisecracks pointing out exactly how far off the "normal" track our hobby has derailed. Occasionally, I catch myself in mid-sentence, already replying to one of these droppings, the gist of my intended message invariably being: "If you're an anti-audiophile, what are you doing using up what life you have left reading a webpage devoted to a hobby you don't get? Shouldn't you be hanging out with your own friends?" Then, realizing that I'm wasting my time.
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Richard Lehnert Posted: Oct 20, 2015 Published: Nov 01, 2015 35 comments
"There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind," Duke Ellington is famously supposed to have said. But that doesn't tell us how to recognize "good music," and it doesn't define good. Nor will this essay. Many have described the music of, say, Mozart or J.S. Bach with such phrases as the music of heaven or the mind of God or—especially Bach's music—that it embodies the basic structure of the universe/existence/reality. I've said such things myself.
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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 22, 2015 Published: Oct 01, 2015 38 comments
I began working as a salesman of high-end audio gear in 1978. I was 29, and, as I recall, a healthy percentage of my customers were about my age. Most of the top high-end designers and entrepreneurs, too, were young: John Curl, Dan D'Agostino, Jon Dahlquist, Ray Kimber, Mark Levinson, Bill Low, Mike Moffat, Nelson Pass, Peter Snell, Bob Stuart, Jim Thiel, Ivor Tiefenbrun, A.J. van den Hul, Richard Vandersteen, Harry Weisfeld, David Wilson. The fact is, high-end audio's Golden Age—the late 1970s to the mid-1980s—was largely fueled by the under-40 set, and most high-end journalists were fellow baby boomers. Now we're all oldsters, with just a smattering of under-fortysomethings. That's about to change.

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