John Marks

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John Marks Posted: Feb 13, 2015 14 comments
I have to eat crow. I must retract a Record to Die For I handed out this time last year. [sigh] This has never happened before.

The pick in question is the recording, "remastered at Abbey Road" and bound as a book, of David Oistrakh playing the Brahms Violin Concerto and Double Concerto and Beethoven's Triple Concerto, with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, pianist Sviatoslav Richter, George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra (Brahms), and Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic (Beethoven) (2 SACD/CDs, EMI Signature Collection 9 55978 2).

Why take back an R2D4? I will explain. First, some necessary background:

John Marks Posted: Jul 20, 2002 0 comments
I don't know who originated the idea of "desert island" recordings. I do know that for many years there was a BBC radio program in the UK that asked celebrities to list their choices. While reading quite a few of those lists, I had the sneaking suspicion that the respondents either hadn't entered fully into the spirit of the task, or were tailoring their choices with a view to what the radio or reading audience would think. (Interior monologue: "I am an anorak-wearing viola da gamba player. Hmmm. Birth of the Cool had better be on my list. London Calling, too, just to be safe.")
John Marks Posted: Apr 03, 2015 2 comments
As a film title, Quantizing Hanson Hsu might not rank up there with Kissing Jessica Stein, but we work with what we have to work with. Hanson Hsu is the principal designer at Delta H Design, Inc., an acoustics and architecture firm based in Marina del Rey, California. Though he dabbles in some weird science, Hsu doesn't wear a white lab coat, literal or figurative. He's down-to-earth and personable, with a conversational style that evinces warm wit and a real love of music. At one point in our conversations, he exclaimed, "I get so much joy when things sound good."
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John Marks Posted: Jun 05, 2015 1 comments
The business of high-end audio can fascinate me almost as much as does high-end audio itself. Designers and entrepreneurs such as Frank McIntosh, Avery Fisher, Saul Marantz, Edgar Villchur (AR), David Hafler (Dynaco), and Henry Kloss (AR, KLH, Advent, Advent Video, Cambridge Soundworks, Tivoli Audio) combined technical brilliance and varying levels of business skill with flairs for publicity and marketing. Many of their products became objects of desire, and some became household names in the post-WWII era. Of that list, only McIntosh and Marantz are still in business as high-end audio companies—the latter relatively affordable, the former exclusive.
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John Marks Posted: Feb 13, 2005 0 comments
"Most people really don't like music—they just like the way it sounds"
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John Marks Posted: Mar 31, 2002 0 comments
In my January "The Fifth Element" column, I discussed the concept of value in the context of audio component manufacture. This month's "Letters" includes a response to that column from Austrian distributor Hans Hirner. In his letter, Herr Hirner writes about some of his Web-surfing non-customers: "If that weren't enough, they also call me or my dealers to tell them how proud they are, after having taken all from me that is possible in system matching and trial—and even denoising their systems—to have been able to find 'our' products cheaper out there."
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John Marks Posted: May 15, 2009 0 comments
For roughly the same amount of money, you can buy a new Toyota Camry or a used mid-sized Mercedes-Benz sedan. The new car has several things going in its favor: no one else has ever driven it, smoked in it, or ferried dogs and kids and fast-food leavings in it, and it comes with a fresh warranty and the latest safety equipment. But the used Mercedes has other things in its favor: having started with a much larger "build budget," it is, simply, more car for the money all around—you just have to pick a good one.
John Marks Posted: May 29, 2012 3 comments
I had had it in the back of my mind for some time to try to hear the Wilson Duette, if only because celebrated classical recording engineer Tony Faulkner had, some time ago, shared with me his opinion that the Duette's simpler crossover made it the most coherent speaker in Wilson's line. Faulkner told me that when a cramped recording venue makes it impossible for him to use his favorite Quad electrostatic speakers for monitoring, he uses Duettes.
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John Marks Posted: Oct 31, 2011 Published: Nov 01, 2011 1 comments
My "As We See It" in the July 2011 issue seems to have touched a nerve. At the AXPONA NYC audio show last June, more than one person stopped me in a corridor to take issue with what they thought I'd written.

That column certainly brought the Beethoven worshippers out of the woodwork. Look, I revere Beethoven, and I stand by what I wrote in the July issue: There can be little doubt, in terms of his impact on the course that Western music would follow, that Beethoven was the most important composer. But "most important" in terms of music history is not the same thing as the composer whose works most deeply touch my heart. For that, Beethoven is just not in my Top Five.

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