When I browse through early issues of this magazine, I envy J. Gordon Holt. When he foundedStereophile in 1962, there were aspects of society that stood as solid as the Rockies overlooking his current Colorado home. Back then a magazine was a thing forever; the main means of serious communication would always be the written word; records would always be LPs...recorded in stereo; the US had a large, prosperous consumer electronics industry; computers were huge mainframes made in the USA by IBM (of course), and required air-conditioned rooms and armies of white-coated attendants; everyone watched three broadcast television networks; once a film left the neighborhood cinema, it was gone forever—or at least until it appeared on the "Late, Late, Late Show." And most importantly, people took for granted that progress in sound reproduction meant improvements in quality.
I moderated two "Ask the Editors" sessions at the NY Show, where reviewers and editors were put on the spot by probing questions from the audience. My thanks to (from left to right): Alan Sircom (HiFi+, not visible), Stephen Mejias (Stereophile), Jeff Dorgay (ToneAudio), Alan Taffel (The Absolute Sound), Michael Fremer (Stereophile and AnalogPlanet.com), Grant Clauser (Electronic House), and Art Dudley (Stereophile and Fretboard Journal) for their often frank and always informative answers.
Two recent listening experiences of mine echoed the overblown praise Jon Landau lavished upon Bruce Springsteen after he heard The Wild, the Innocent & the E-Street Shuffle. But all hype aside, Landau was right: Springsteen was the future of rock'n'roll—or at least what passed for the future of traditional rock in those pre-MTV, pre-techno, pre-house, pre-gangsta, pre-rap, pre-hip-hop, pre-grunge, pre-Mariah Carey, pre-Garth Brooks, pre-sampling, pre-digital days. And I believe that, Landau-like, I too will be right. I have heard the future of audio, and it is digital—digital technology has finally surpassed the sound quality of analog.
"...and measures bad, then you're measuring the wrong thing!" If one motto could sum up this magazine's philosophy, this would be it. Too many times we have discovered components that sounded musically fabulous while offering measured performance that was, at best, merely competent. Yet recently, I'm starting to lose confidence in that old saw.
On a number of occasions, I or another of Stereophile's reviewing team has heard a product sounding flawed in ways later revealed by measurements. A closed story, you might thinkbut consider the NEAR-50M loudspeaker reviewed by Dick Olsher in this issue. Despite hearing many good things in the speaker's sound, Dick was bothered by a tonal-balance problem in the low treble. He was also disturbed by a lack of integration between the tweeter and midrange unit. When I measured the '50M, my response graphs (footnote 1) pretty much explained why Dick heard what he heard. Nevertheless, other reviews of this loudspeaker have been ecstatic in their praise, one even stating that it was "one of the most transparent and balanced dynamic loudspeakers available at any price" (my italics).
Was how this Stereophile-sponsored event Saturday and Sunday afternoons was billed. Mikey demonstrated to a packed house how straightforward it is to optimize the performance of an LP player. Close-ups of his work on a VPI turntable fitted with a Soundsmith cartridge were projected on to a screen so all could see what he was doing and why.
Watching the Beatles Anthology TV shows last Thanksgiving, I was struck by how good recorded sound quality was in the early to mid-1960s and how bad it had become by the era of Let It Be. Early Beatles recordings may have been primitive in terms of production, but their basic sound quality was excellent, with extended response at the frequency extremes and a natural, clean-sounding midrange. Late Beatles recordings lacked highs and dynamic range, and sounded grainy by comparison. This was partly because, by 1969–70, studios had replaced their simple tubed mixing consoles with the first generation of solid-state desks, and their old tubed two-track Studers and Ampexes with solid-state multitrack recorders. These featured track widths so narrow that only the massive use of Dolby-A noise reduction made it possible to produce recordings that had any dynamic range at all!
The listing for the Rogue Audio M-120 monoblock power amplifier in the current issue's "Recommended Components" includes the comment, "Specified output power is 120W; JA measured just 100W into 8 ohms at clipping," which seems to suggest that Rogue Audio is overstating the amplifier's output power. This is not the case. The M-120 can be operated in both ultralinear pentode mode, in which it delivers the specified 120W, and in triode mode, in which it is specified at 60W. Our measurements were performed in triode mode; thus the 100W clipping power does, in fact, exceed the M-120's claimed output power of 60 watts in triode mode. Our apologies to Rogue Audio and to anyone confused by our lack of clarity.
So read the flyer promoting YG Acoustics' dem in room 446 I picked up in the Marriott's lobby. So I went by room 446. Twice. Neither time could I get in, such was the throng inside. But I did manage to hold my camera above the avid listeners' heads to take a shot of the Colorado company's Anat Reference speaker, which had very much impressed me when I heard it at the 2006 CEDIA Show. I am going to try to get a listen on the Show's final day, but the news that YG has hired veteran sales manager Dick Diamond away from Kimber is a sign that this new speaker manufacturer is aiming high.