I've been attending the annual Consumer Electronics Show for years, and usually come away with the impression that there are too many "me-too" products. I see a numbing similarity of approach of manufacturers within a chosen discipline: solid-state power amps in black and silver bristling with heatsinks, single-ended triode amps with their glow reflecting from bronze or wood panels, MCPU/DSP-centered devices with sleek, flat cases and intimidating remote controls, etc.
Surround Sound: Up and Running (Second Edition)
by Tomlinson Holman. Published by Focal Press, an imprint of Elsevier (footnote 1) (Oxford, England, UK; www.elsevier.com). 2008. Paperback, 248 pages, ISBN 978-0240808291. $44.95.
I hate all those automobile reviews that go on and on about a car's design aesthetics. C'mon, I can see what it looks like, even if only in the pictures. Just tell me things I can't appreciate without a run on the Autobahn.
I don't think that the Bowers and Wilkins 804, in any of its incarnation, gets its due respect. As the smallest floorstander in B&W's elite 800 series, it has historically been overshadowed by its larger brethren and outmaneuvered by the smaller, stand-mounted 805. However, the 804 Diamond is unique, and deserves special attention for reasons I discovered when I chose the earlier 804S for the surround channels of my 5.1-channel surround system.
I finally got a chance to look at, but not yet hear, Bryston's first venture into a source component, the BCD-1 CD player. James Tanner gave me a tour of the innards which were even more impressive than the beautifully carved front panel and sturdy disc tray. He said that, while they used a Philips transport, all the control electronics were replaced by discrete Bryston-designed drivers and DACs and that separate transformer windings powered separate power supplies for the transport and audio electronics, with multiple isolated and regulated supplies for individual circuits and channels. That allows the class-A output stages to function best. In addition to the analog outputs, transformer-coupled S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital outputs are provided.
If you were fascinated, as I was, by JA's February 2013 review of the BSG qøl Signal Completion Stage but were deterred from satisfying your curiosity about this unusual device by the asking price, you no longer need hold back. In the ReveelSound room, BSG's Larry Kay showed and demonstrated his new, tiny and inexpensive implementation of the technology in the form of the øreveel. Contained within the small package in Larry's hands is an all analog in/out version whose size and connectors clearly indicate that its target is headphone use. When I told him that I don't listen to headphones, Larry made the convincing demo with a desk-top system. The unit is powered by a rechargeable battery and, although I didn't ask, it looks like it should also run on the included power supply. Price? Just $119.95 and an ear-opener.
My first exposure to Burmester electronics was some years back at a New York Hi-Fi Show, where they were powering a pair of B&W 801s and impressed the hell out of me. But Burmester's distribution seemed sporadic and the prices beyond my consideration, so I put them out of my mind.
Recently, we've seen the digital "horsepower" race accelerate with the arrival of digital sources and devices with 24-bit and 96kHz sampling capability. Much of this has been spurred by the 24/96 labels emblazoned on the newer DVD players—and, within the purer confines of the audio community, by high-end DACs with this same ability. Indeed, it's possible that the dCS Elgar DAC, near and dear to John Atkinson's heart and a perennial Class A selection in Stereophile's "Recommended Components," performs so well with standard 16-bit/44.1kHz sources because its wider digital bandwidth permits greater linearity within the more restricted range of regular CDs.
California Audio Labs is a child of the digital age. Originally, they made a noise by offering modified CD players with tube output stages, a practice for which I found no intellectual justification. On the other hand, the results were successful, even if (probably) due to the CAL units' softening of the harshness of early digital sound.