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Robert Harley Posted: Sep 07, 2010 Published: Oct 07, 1994 0 comments
The arrival of the Mark Levinson No.30 digital processor more than 2½ years ago marked a turning point in digital-audio reproduction. Although the No.30's $13,950 price tag put it out of reach of all but a few audiophiles, its stunning performance suggested that much more musical information was encoded on our CDs, waiting to be recovered by better digital processors. Further, it was inevitable that this level of performance would become less expensive over time. I was more excited by the No.30 than I've been over any other audio product. In fact, its musical performance was so spectacular that it alone occupied the Class A category in Stereophile's "Recommended Components."
Robert Harley Posted: Apr 03, 2009 Published: Aug 03, 1994 0 comments
High-end audio companies take different approaches to staying successful. One way to maintain a market position is to continue improving fundamental designs, offering a little higher sonic performance with each model. The latest products from a company employing this approach will look and operate very much like their first products.
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Robert Harley Posted: Jan 03, 2008 Published: Aug 03, 1994 0 comments
"You've set the audio industry back 20 years!"
Robert Harley Posted: Dec 04, 2010 Published: Mar 15, 1994 0 comments

It seems to me that it should be possible to make a perfectly jitter-free CD transport without resorting to elaborate, expensive mechanical structures. This idealized transport would ignore all mechanical considerations of disc playback—vibration damping and isolation, for example—and simply put a jitter-free electrical driver at the transport output. If such a circuit could be made, it wouldn't care about how bad the signal recovered from the disc was (provided the recovered data were error-free). The circuit would just output a perfect, jitter-free S/PDIF signal. The result would be the sound quality of the $8500 Mark Levinson No.31 Reference CD transport in $200 machines. Such a scheme would provide an electrical solution to what has been considered largely a mechanical problem.

But back in the real world there's no doubt that attention to mechanical aspects of transport design affects sound quality. Examples abound: listening to Nakamichi's 1000 CD transport with its Acoustic Isolation door open and closed; playing the Mark Levinson No.31 with the top open; and putting any transport on isolation platforms or feet are only a few of the dozens of experiences I have had that suggest that mechanical design is of utmost importance.

Robert Harley Posted: Nov 29, 2010 Published: Jan 15, 1994 0 comments
So many things in this world are designed for convenience, not for excellence. That's all right if you have a choice, but it becomes a problem when products designed for convenience become universal standards and are thus foisted on everyone—including enthusiasts, who must then live with a product aimed at the lowest common denominator.

The digital interface between CD transports and digital processors is a perfect example of this dilemma. The Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format (S/PDIF) standard was designed so that connecting two digital products required only one cable. This single cable carries left and right audio channels as well as the timing clock essential to making the system work.

Robert Harley Posted: Nov 08, 2010 Published: Jan 08, 1994 0 comments
Remember the early days of CD, when some players were touted as having the revolutionary new "2x-oversampling" digital filters?
Robert Harley Posted: May 08, 2005 Published: Dec 08, 1993 0 comments
I feel privileged to have followed the remarkable evolution of digital processors over the past four-and-a-half years. Since my first digital review—a survey of three modified CD players back in August 1989—I've been fascinated by the developments that have inexorably improved the quality of digitally reproduced music.
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Robert Harley Posted: Nov 01, 1993 1 comments
Not that long ago, digital audio was considered perfect if all the bits could be stored and retrieved without data errors. If the data coming off the disc were the same as what went on the disc, how could there be a sound-quality difference with the same digital/analog converter? This "bits is bits" mentality scoffs at sonic differences between CD transports, digital interfaces, and CD tweaks. Because none of these products or devices affects the pattern of ones and zeros recovered from the disc, any differences must be purely in the listener's imagination. After all, they argued, a copy of a computer program runs just as well as the original.
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Robert Harley Posted: Nov 05, 2004 Published: Oct 01, 1993 0 comments
I've watched from the sidelines with great interest the recent debate in this column over Home Theater (footnote 1) At one extreme is the suggestion that Stereophile begin reviewing video and Home Theater products. The other end of the spectrum was best expressed by John Atkinson at Stereophile's 1993 High-End Hi-Fi Show in San Francisco. Hearing the booming bass overflow of a Home Theater demonstration blasting down a hallway, he said, "They've brought televisions to our hi-fi show!"
Robert Harley Posted: Dec 08, 2015 Published: Oct 01, 1993 0 comments
It's easy for reviewers to become jaded by the high prices of some audio products. We get the products in our listening rooms—albeit temporarily—without having to part with our own money. Consequently, we get enthusiastic about products that offer real breakthroughs without, perhaps, fully considering their cost.

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