Erick Lichte

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Audio Research of Minnesota is located only a mile from my home, yet my visit to their room at this year’s CES was the first time I’d really met any of their staff. Getting pride-of-place in their CES system this year was the Reference Anniversary Preamplifier ($24,995), a two-chassis preamp celebrating the company’s 40th anniversary. According to the folks at Audio Research, this preamplifier has been a huge hit and has, to their own surprise, exceeded their sales expectations. Orders for the preamplifier will be taken through April 2011 and, unlike Brett Favre, will not come out of retirement.
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
“Go check out the Constellation Audio room,” said Jon Iverson. So I did. As I entered the room filled with unworldly looking gear I spied Michael Fremer, engrossed in one of his famous mix CDs, burned from his vast vinyl collection. Michael, ever the gentleman, relinquished the sweet spot to me and both of us took in some big, clean, transparent sound. Driving a pair of $150,000 Tidal speakers was Constellation’s Hercules amplifiers ($70,000 each), which are each able to put out a kilowatt of juice into 8 ohms and runs its first 250W in class-A.

The visual design of the amps is both striking and understated, clad in an all aluminum chassis. Each side of the amp has a diffuser grid which hides the amp’s heatsinks and allows for a chimney action to help cool the amplifier. All that aluminum also serves the purpose of mass-loading the amps to control vibration. Internally the amps mechanically float the sensitive signal carrying parts. That attention to vibration damping could be heard as stillness and ease, particularly when I played a high-resolution file of Robert Silverman playing the final fugue from Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Handel. My time in the Constellation room was stellar.

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Also on display was Bel Canto’s new headphone amplifier (shown right), a product so new it doesn’t yet have a proper model number or name. Bel Canto’s John Stronczer let me take a listen to the amp through a pair of in-ear headphones. The sound was lovely, but I couldn’t really get the cans to stay in my ears (I must have very large ear canals).

When I checked out the back of the headphone amp I noticed that it was in the signal path of the room’s big rig. The DAC3.5VBS’s outputs went into the headphone amp and the outputs of the headphone amp went to the rig’s amplifiers. I asked John, “What gives?” He told me that he has been experimenting with using the new headphone amplifier as a unity gain buffer, taking advantage of the headphone amp’s ultra-low output impedance. John said that he hears improvements in the system using this configuration and that Bel Canto is exploring new applications for this technique. No price has yet been set for this headphone amplifier.

Erick Lichte Posted: Nov 21, 2010 0 comments
In sixth grade, I was given a Victorinox Swiss Army knife. I loved it. An avid camper and erstwhile Boy Scout, I was amazed at how many things I could do with this well-made, pocket-size wonder. I used its tweezers to remove splinters and ticks, its scissors to cut thread, its can opener to prize open tins of baked beans, and its knife blade to whittle, occasionally cut myself, and generally wreak teenage mayhem.

As I grew older, I discovered that using specialized tools for a given job was generally easier, faster, and more pleasurable than using my Swiss Army knife's utilities. Though I could cut a tent's ground cloth with my knife's scissors, a plain-Jane pair of Fiskars worked much better, an OXO can opener got me into those baked beans much faster than my Victorinox could, and even my Swiss Army knife blade didn't stay as sharp or fit in my hand as well as a simple Buck knife. Still, there was no doubt that my Swiss Army knife was a great tool and a good value, even if it was never the best tool for a specific task. To put it another way: The value of my Swiss Army knife was broad but shallow, while the value of something like my OXO can opener was narrow but deep.

Erick Lichte Posted: May 10, 2010 0 comments
Every audiophile is born sometime, somewhere. My audio birth happened on a family visit to my Uncle John's house, when he played Information Society's "What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)" through his brand-new Klipsch Heresy IIs. Uncle John did three things at this listening session that turned 12-year-old me into the audiophile I am today: he played music I liked, he played it really loud, and afterward, he took the time to explain how his system worked and why it sounded so good. His Klipsches were powered by Nelson Pass–influenced Nakamichi gear—I'd never before heard speakers play music with such ease or such startling dynamics. I was immediately hooked. In many ways, nothing I've heard since that day has impressed me as much, or been as revelatory of what home audio can do. That single experience set me on a path of caring about re-creating musical performances in my own home.
Erick Lichte Posted: Mar 22, 2010 0 comments
Years ago, when I taught high school choirs, I had many types of kids in my ensembles. Though none exclusively fit the overly stereotypical lineup of kids on Fox TV's Glee, I always managed to have a nice assortment of jocks, preps, goths, motorheads, geeks, wastoids, and dweebs. One of the things that always fascinated me was how the big, tough jocks would turn out to be the most sensitive, emotional singers. It was always a touching moment when an otherwise stoic football star or wrestler would get all misty while singing the final song of the year-end concert. It showed me that the toughest exteriors often hide the creamiest creampuffs.
Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 27, 2010 0 comments
Two audiophile buddies of mine both own Rogue Audio M-150 monoblocks. I'd always been impressed with not only the sound quality of the M-150, but also its price. For $4495/pair, I thought my friends got a whole lotta amp for notta lotta dough. In this day and age, it's a rare and wonderful thing to get a pair of monoblocks, made in the US by a real audio company, that give you 150Wpc of tube power for under $5000. When Rogue came out with an update of the M-150, the M-180 ($5495), I thought it might be a good subject for my first full review in Stereophile. John Atkinson thought so too. I also thought it would be interesting to compare the M-180 with the very tube-like and almost identically priced Pass Labs XA30.5 two-channel amplifier ($5500), a sample of which I had on hand. (see my Follow-Up in August 2009).
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 14, 2010 3 comments
There were a few companies showing products on the 2nd floor of the Venetian, adjacent to the Sands Convention Center, where the Adult Show was being held. After John Atkinson and I grabbed a well-needed afternoon cup of coffee we checked out a few of the spaces on these lower floors. JA and I quickly found the Parasound/Atlantic Technology room—a pairing of companies I would not have come up with myself. On silent display was the brand new JC3 phono preamplifier ($2000). Those who know about Parasound equipment will already know that the JC moniker for this phono stage indicates that it was designed by John Curl, an engineer that many audiophiles (and reviewers) speak of only in hushed tones. As you can see from JA's photo, the preamp is divided up into shielded sections within the chassis to keep the dirty signals dirty and the clean signals clean. Each channel's circuitry is encased in a metal sub-enclosure, that also shields the input and output jacks, and is supplied super-regulated DC from the power supply.
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 14, 2010 0 comments
I spent much of my time at CES roaming around with Stereophile's self-proclaimed Web Monkey, Jon Iverson. I'd never met Jon before I came to the 2010 CES but he was a wonderful guide both to Las Vegas and to CES, as well as a smart and kind person to get to know. On Saturday morning he suggested we head on over the THE Show located at the Flamingo Hotel, right on the strip. One of the first rooms we happened upon was the Edge Electronics room. Jon said, "We've got to go in here."
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2010 0 comments
Musical Fidelity, now distributed in the US by Tempo, had a room at the Mirage and were displaying lots of new equipment. As part of their newly released M series, Antony Michaelson's company showed off the M6i dual-mono integrated amplifier. The amps' circuitry design trickles down from the Musical Fidelity Titan amp reviewed last June by Michael Fremer. The amp puts out 200Wpc, retails for $3000, and, surprisingly, features a USB input.

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