Bill Gates would have you believe we live in a plug'n'play world. Apple has proselytized same since day one. But I'm here to tell you it just isn't so for high-end audio. The orientation of a component's AC plug—even the quality of the wall receptacle itself—affects the sound! Oh no, Mr. Bill, not something else to futz with! Will it never end?
Okay, let's return to the power grid. In the February installment of "Fine Tunes", we learned that typical domestic 110V AC supplies are derived from that 220V transformer out on the pole. The center-tap 110V supply is unbalanced, but if you take 220V service, you're getting balanced power. One thing you can do is take 220V down to 110V with a step-down transformer. George Cardas swears by it. He's also experimenting with a Statpower Technologies Prosine 1000 Full Square Wave Converter hooked to a big mutha battery to power his front-end components.
I'm always eager to fulfill my prime Stereophile directive: "To go where no audiophile has gone before," as JA often quips. As it happens, I've long suffered an itch to audition OTL (output-transformer–less) amplifiers, wondering how eliminating the output transformer might affect the sound. Enter the Graaf GM 200, with nothing but wire between its power tubes and the crossover.
With whom are you most intimate? Your wife? Husband? Your modern-times Significant Other? Your pet? Or, like a lot of audiophiles, is it your audio system? Do you nitpick and tweak it as if it were your pet?
A true story: I got tagged for doing a howling 90mph on the way back to New York on the Jersey Turnpike late one night and got off with a warning.
I was pulled over by a beefy young Trooper, lights blinking furiously. Oops. [heh heh]. He saw Kathleen and I weren't nuts, checked the papers and my license, then checked out the Lexus very carefully with his flashlight. There was much oohing and ahhing.
Our interview with Hiroyasu Kondo—founder of Audio Note Japan, and a legendary figure in his own time—took place during HI-FI '96 last June at the Waldorf=Astoria. It seemed very natural; the crowd at the Show was very internationalist. Herb Reichert of Audio Note New York found us a quiet corner after lunch, and we sat down to talk.
Kathleen (K-10) and I first met Jack Renner—Telarc's Chairman, CEO, and Chief Recording Engineer—at Iridium, a tony jazz club here in New York. He was recording Benny Golson and the Jazz Messengers doing a rousing a tribute to Art Blakey. Now what would you think a guy who's won 31 Grammys over 21 years would be doing, exactly? Maybe feet up, a cigar languidly tracing curlicues in the air while directing his minions?
Jacques Mahul is an interesting, thoughtful man. He's entirely Parisian: international, urbane, and sophisticated. During "HeeFee" '96 in Paris, Kathleen and I sat down with him and spoke about his early years as an audiophile. To accompany my review of the JMlab Utopia, We tried to find out what drives him—to make the drivers he makes today! I asked him when had it all started:
The Jadis Eurythmie speakers ($37,000/pair) arrived in a multitude of oversized boxes. Importer Northstar Leading the Way's Frank Garbie dragged them into our downstairs lobby and broke them open, elevatoring the individual modules up to our door. This happened on one of my office days, but Kathleen pushed me out the door in the morning with a "Don't worry cherie, I can handle it..." She phoned in periodic updates on Garbie's progress. Remember that old Stan Freberg routine? "I got it, I got it...I don't got it!" I arrived home just in time to hook up the amps.