Brian Damkroger

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Brian Damkroger Posted: Jun 02, 2014 1 comments
Audiophiles spend a lot of time thinking about the law of diminishing returns. We'd all agree that spending $1000 to replace an iPhone and generic earbuds with one of Stephen Mejias's "Entry Level" systems is in the early, steep part of the curve: a huge jump in performance for relatively small investment. We'd also agree, or at least suspect, that after you've spent that $1000, the curve gets a lot flatter. What we don't agree on is the shape of the curve between these points. The ideal situation is to find the knee: the point at which the curve's slope changes dramatically. At the knee, we've gotten most of what we want, and the next increment of performance improvement is disproportionally expensive.
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Brian Damkroger Posted: Dec 20, 2013 1 comments
A reader once noted that I tend to stick with the same reference gear longer than most reviewers. In addition to Audience's Au24e interconnect, I've been using Nordost's Valhalla, Nirvana's S-X, and Stereovox's SEI-600II for many years. They're ancient in audiophile terms, and, other than the Audience cables, have long since been discontinued or replaced. However, they are still excellent, and conveniently define a continuum of qualities that I use to assess cables. At one end, the Nordost Valhalla is sharply focused and excels at reproducing transients. At the other end, the Nirvana S-X strips away electronic grunge, and beautifully conveys the continuity of the space and musical flow. The Au24e and Stereovox are near the middle and share many—but not all—of the others' strengths.
Brian Damkroger Posted: Dec 05, 2013 1 comments
When I reviewed Simaudio's Moon Evolution 880M monoblock amplifier for the June 2013 issue, I communicated via phone and e-mail with the company's VP of marketing, Lionel Goodfield. When the topic of hearing the 880Ms at their best came up, I could almost imagine him shrugging as he said, "Just use it with the most transparent, revealing preamp you can find." Not surprisingly, he then went on to say that Simaudio's own Moon Evolution 850P would serve nicely in that role. My cynical side might normally have discounted any such suggestion from a marketing man, but I'd been hearing the same sort of thing from other sources. And, as it happened, there was an 850P at Stereophile World Headquarters . . .
Brian Damkroger Posted: Jun 14, 2013 17 comments
In the September 2005 issue (Vol.28 No.9), I reviewed Simaudio's first reference-quality power amplifier: the 1000W, 220-lb Moon Rock monoblock ($37,000/pair). At the time, the Rock was a dramatic departure for Simaudio, then primarily known as a maker of midpriced gear that was good for the money. I found a lot to like about the Rock, concluding that while it wasn't quite up to the standard of the best superamps of the time, it was very good—and, for Simaudio, an admirable first shot at the state of the art.
Brian Damkroger Posted: Nov 09, 2012 6 comments
I've heard a lot of great audio components over the years, but even in that steady stream of excellence, a few have stood out as something special. These are the products that, in their day, set a new standard for performance, and many of them are ones I wish I'd hung on to. Among these products are three preamps from Audio Research: the SP3A, the SP6B, and the SP10 (footnote 1). I know I'm not alone in viewing these models as classics.
Brian Damkroger Posted: Jan 05, 2012 0 comments
Saying that Sutherland Engineering builds a nice line of phono stages is like saying that the Porsche 911 Carrera is a nice line of sports car. The Sutherlands all share common design philosophies, features, and sonic attributes—but just as ramping up from Porsche's classic Carrera Coupe ($78,000) to the GT3 ($115,000) or the Turbo S Cabriolet ($172,000) increases the level of performance and distills the Porsche experience down to its essence, ascending the Sutherland line from the PH3D ($1000) to the 20/20 ($2200) to the Hubble ($3800) buys more of what Ron Sutherland is all about.
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Michael Fremer Brian Damkroger Posted: Oct 24, 2011 0 comments
According to Parasound's founder and CEO, Richard Schram, the Halo JC 3 began as a phono-preamp retrofit for the JC 2 line stage, with separate small circuit boards for each channel. The smaller the board, the better, Schram says, so as to attract less noise than do larger boards, whose many copper traces can act as antennas.
Brian Damkroger Posted: Jul 22, 2011 0 comments
It seems the obvious way to build a loudspeaker: one driver, no crossover, full range.

Instead, most speakers work this way: Complicated electronics split the audio signal into pieces, adding various colorations and phase shifts along the way. The pieces are distributed to different drivers, each of which adds another unique set of characteristics. We then expect these fragments of electronic signal to be brought together again in a continuous, coherent reproduction of music. We agonize over different cable routings or which contact cleaner to use, and yet we calmly accept this grotesque sausage-making way of building speakers. It's ludicrous.

Brian Damkroger Posted: May 16, 2011 3 comments
Should an audio component accurately reproduce the signal it's fed, or should it evoke the sound and feel of live music? Accuracy or musicality? This question has been at the heart of high-end audio since its inception. Back then, the question often took the form of the tubes-vs-transistors debate. Proponents of solid-state pointed to the far superior measured performance of transistor designs, and claim that they thus more accurately reproduced the input signal. Tube lovers steadfastly maintained that their gear sounded better, more natural—more like music. Since then, both camps have eliminated the obvious colorations of their respective technologies, and the levels of performance of today's best tubed and solid-state gear have converged. At the same time, the circuits themselves have blurred into hybrids of various sorts, different mixes of devices and circuits.
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Brian Damkroger Posted: Feb 25, 2011 0 comments
Why no batteries?

It seemed a simple and obvious question, but I couldn't get an answer out of Ron Sutherland. Why did his new 20/20 phono preamp use an AC power supply instead of batteries? I asked directly, I asked repeatedly, I tried framing the question in different ways, all to no avail. Did the AC supply make it sound better? Was it less expensive to build? Were potential customers turned off by having to replace batteries once every year or two?

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