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.
"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.
Paul Bolin notes, "Bankers and doctors bought McIntosh, not 'serious' audiophiles. So ran the conventional wisdom." While reviewing the McIntosh MC501 monoblock power amplifier, PB discovers that conventional wisdom can be anything but wise.
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."
"No company has done more to vigorously fly the audio tricolor as has Focal-JMlab," declares Paul Bolin, who visits the Focal factory and then reviews the Focal-JMlab Nova Utopia Be loudspeaker. PB adds, "One thing about the Utopia line has not changed: the exquisite level of finish." But what about the sound?
"Size does matter," John Atkinson discovers, as he fits the Shure E3c in-ear headphones into his ears. Once fitted, JA hooks the mini "cans" up to his iPod and PowerBook to discover how much audiophile sound a little set of ear buds can produce.
Back in 1979, most of us had never seen a digital audio product, much less heard one, but J. Gordon Holt knew what was coming: "The beginning of 1979 saw the introduction of the first samples of what will finally, after 79 years of supremacy, lower the curtain on the mechanically-traced disc: The digital recording." In "High Fidelity at the Crossroads," Holt looks at the new twinkle in Sony's eye and makes some sage observations.
Regardless of what the skeptics claim, Jonathan Scull is a firm believer in resonance-control devices. For "Fine Tunes" #15, Scull investigates some products he has found useful. "Pssst," Scull whispers. "Hey you. Yeah, you . . . we know you're a tweaker. It's nothing to be ashamed of. You just wanna make it better, right? Even as everyone around you wants to know when enough's enough already."
Taking the measure of the Chord Electronics DAC64 D/A processor, John Atkinson finds nice things can come in strange packages. "Such is the pace of development in digital technology these days that it is hard not to become convinced that digital playback is a solved problem." But, as JA discovers, not all solutions are identical.