Music in the Round

Sort By: Post Date | Title | Publish Date
Filed under
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Nov 05, 2015 1 comments
Outside of the listening I do for this column, I always audition, assess, and review components without using any equalization or room correction—primarily because I assume that most Stereophile readers listen in two-channel stereo, and that most aren't all that interested in EQ. Besides, two-channel is the tradition I come from, and my first instinct is to try to get at the essence of the individual component itself, without applying extraneous tools or accessories. John Atkinson's bench tests are based on the same philosophy.
Filed under
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Sep 10, 2015 104 comments
It has been a disrupted spring. Late last year, my wife and I committed ourselves to a long-needed renovation of our main living space: an apartment in Manhattan. Articles, books, and TV shows have illuminated the trials and triumphs of home renovation, but as far as I know, none has included a redo of the listening room of an obsessive audiophile, let alone one who is also an audio writer facing copy deadlines.
Kal Rubinson Posted: Jul 02, 2015 6 comments
Most new preamplifier-processors now fall into one of two categories. First are the fully featured models, with ever-growing numbers of channels to support such immersive surround-sound formats as Dolby Atmos, Aureo3D, and DTS-X. An example is Marantz's 13.2-channel AV-8802, which replaces the 11.2-channel AV-8801—a sample of which I've owned for barely a year and use only in 5.2! The second category is that of such high-end models as Classé's Sigma and NAD's M17, which offer only 7.1 or 7.2 channels, and from which nonessential features have been trimmed in favor of audiophile-grade circuit components and construction. But if money is no object, there is a third class of pre-pro, exemplified by Trinnov's Altitude32 and Datasat's RS20i, in which no compromise is made in any of these parameters.
Filed under
Kal Rubinson Posted: Apr 30, 2015 10 comments
I spent most of my time at the January 2015 Consumer Electronics Show exploring amps and preamps for Stereophile's on-line coverage of the show, but there were a few items of interest to fans of multichannel. There were demonstrations of Dolby Atmos, Auro3D, and dts:X, but these mostly focused on movies—save for Auro3D's thrilling demo of 2L's Magnificat—an album of music by Arnesin, Gjeilo, and Kernis, with Anita Brevik conducting solo singers, chorus, and the Trondheim Soloists and recorded in a cathedral (Pure Audio Blu-ray, 2L-106-SABD). The ambience was more enveloping with Auro3D's added height dimension, compared to what I hear from 5.1 systems, but I'm not sure whether this will be enough to encourage music listeners to make the necessary investment.
Filed under
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Mar 11, 2015 6 comments
It seems that the rising popularity of downloading of music files is going to affect not only the distribution of high-resolution recordings but also the availability of multichannel recordings. Once freed from the technical, marketing, and distribution constraints of physical media, large hi-rez and/or multichannel files can more easily be made available. The established providers of music downloads, such as Acoustic Sounds, HDtracks, and iTrax in the US, are being joined by: sites that specialize in particular genres of music, such as the Classical Shop (UK); other sites, that focus on particular formats, such as Native DSD Music (Netherlands) and the Promates Music Store (DXD files, Denmark); and music producers, such as Blue Coast Music and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (, that offer their work directly to listeners.
Filed under
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Jan 22, 2015 0 comments
While Dolby Atmos, which adds height information to both cinema soundtracks and domestic surround-sound reproduction has created a strong buzz in the mainstream market for home-theater A/V receivers and preamplifier-processors, it's too early to know what, if any, impact it will have on music-only recordings. I'm not sanguine about the prospects—as impressive as I've found Atmos to be for movies, the expansion of sources to the vertical plane would seem to be of little value for music performed on acoustic instruments. Moreover, it seems unlikely that mainstream record labels will adopt this format any more than they have embraced multichannel or even high-resolution audio. Sound of CD quality or below still dominates the recording industry, even if hi-rez downloads are a bright but tiny point of light.
Filed under
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Nov 13, 2014 0 comments
It's August as I write this, and I'm looking back at some things that need to be discussed, and forward to the fall audio shows—particularly the 2014 New York Audio Show, which, by the time you read this, will have been held in Brooklyn, September 26–28. I grew up in Brooklyn, not in "the city," Manhattan, a place that we traveled to only for special reasons. Audio shops were rare in Brooklyn—I remember only Audio Exchange—but in Manhattan there was a small cluster near Grand Central Station, there was Lafayette Radio near the Holland Tunnel, a few scattered elsewhere, and the magnet of Liberty Street in lower Manhattan, where more than two city blocks were packed with audio shops.
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Sep 04, 2014 8 comments
Power amplifiers are unglamorous but essential. In theory, they have only one task. But, according to audio sage Yogi Berra, "in theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not." Amplifiers must take a voltage input signal and provide an output of somewhat higher voltage but of substantially higher current, the product of which is power. The task is complex in that this output must be applied to electrical interfaces whose characteristics vary widely from speaker to speaker—across the audioband and, for some, even at different power levels. There are no control mechanisms or feedback signals to help. The power amp must just stand and deliver.
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Jul 11, 2014 7 comments
It seems more and more that I'm reviewing equalization products in this column, and that such components are less often dealt with in the magazine's formal equipment reports. But it's not as if the problems created by room acoustics affect only multichannel systems. Stereophile has not ignored the topic—see the many reviews of physical and electronic room-treatment products posted on this website—but months can pass without publication of a review of such a component. Meanwhile, multichannel devotees such as I seem to talk about almost nothing else—and here's why.
Filed under
Kalman Rubinson Posted: May 06, 2014 Published: May 01, 2014 3 comments
I'm sure that the larger manufacturers were displaying new audio/video receivers and preamplifier-processors at the Las Vegas Convention Center last January, during the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show—but except for dinner, I didn't get out of the Mirage, where I slept, or the Venetian Tower Suites, where the high-end audio displays were concentrated. Still, there were new developments to report; see Stereophile's almost live on-line coverage.
Filed under
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Mar 13, 2014 6 comments
After going so far off the beaten path in my last column, with examinations of digital signal processing (DSP) from miniDSP and Illusonic and multichannel in-room measurements, this month I take a look at and listen to a new preamplifier-processor from Yamaha, along with its companion multichannel power amplifier. The Japanese company (footnote 1) was a pioneer in digital signal processing (DSP) and multichannel sound, but for a long while now has been swimming in the mainstream of audio/video receivers and home theater.
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Jan 04, 2014 0 comments
In my November 2013 column, I looked at the NuForce AVP-18 multichannel preamplifier-processor ($1095) and the exaSound e28 multichannel DAC ($3299), each of which offers fresh options in its category that break with the predictability of mainstream products. That predictability is the result of market analysis that supposedly tells manufacturers which features users want most. However, it's just as true that users can buy and choose among only those components and features already offered. Many of us are more peculiar in our demands—what's generally offered doesn't always fit our needs. This month, I look at an unusual pre-pro and a multichannel digital equalizer at opposite ends of the price spectrum.
Filed under
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Nov 08, 2013 2 comments
Make It Simple. . .
Ah, for the old mono days. I remember assembling my first audio systems in my early teens and as a novice—things were easy. My first amp had four RCA input jacks, each clearly labeled and corresponding to an identically labeled setting on the input selector switch. There were screw-down speaker connectors for 4, 8, and 16 ohms, and ground. Tape output was defaulted to whatever input I was listening to. The amp had but four knobs: Input Selection, Volume, Bass, and Treble. And although it would seem almost impossible to go wrong, I did exercise focus and care as I tended to my first setup.
Filed under
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Sep 13, 2013 1 comments
Recently, my wife and I made a trip to Europe, where we heard some great music in some great halls. Those concerts reinforced my already strongly held opinion that the acoustic of the venue is a major determinant of the sound of music heard in that venue, and that each space has its own sound. One evening in Amsterdam, we heard Iván Fischer conduct the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in their own hall, the Concertgebouw, in a concert that underscored this interaction of performance and place.
Filed under
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Jul 09, 2013 3 comments
Sometimes, things happen so fast it's almost unsettling. DSD is the high-resolution recording format used on SACDs and I closed my May column with the expressed hope that the exaSound e18 multichannel DAC would eventually be able to decode DSD data, that Oppo would implement DSD streaming in its universal players, and that I'd be able to get my hands on a working trio of Mytek DSD DACs. I didn't expect that, even before that issue went to press, I'd have to add a footnote (p.61) indicating that stereo DSD streaming was a reality for the exaSound e18, and that Oppo had made available "test" firmware to empower their universal Blu-ray players for stereo and multichannel DSD. On March 26, Oppo publicly announced that this DSD capability was part of the comprehensive "Public Beta Test Release" made available that day. Then, with the May issue not yet hitting the streets, I got a proper multi-Mytek setup. I had a lot of catching up to do.


Enter your username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.