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John Marks Posted: Aug 21, 2015 2 comments
For many years, I've been a fan of the loudspeakers made by the British audio company Wilson Benesch. Their speakers definitely have their own personality. I first reviewed a Wilson Benesch loudspeaker while a columnist and reviewer for The Abso!ute Sound, and how that came about was amusing. As WB's then US importer was packing up his exhibit at the 1999 Consumer Electronics Show, by mistake he put labels with my address on them on the boxes containing the show samples of WB's revolutionary A.C.T. One, the first loudspeaker to have a curved carbon-fiber enclosure, a sloping top, and a baffle of cut steel. And a very nice late Christmas present they were, too.
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John Marks Posted: Jul 28, 2015 0 comments
Chris Huston is as soft-spoken and unassuming a chap as you would ever hope to meet, a real gentleman of the old school. He also has an amazing backstory. He and John Lennon were close friends at Liverpool's College of Art, and later had "dueling bands" that played at Liverpool's Cavern Club. Huston's band was the Undertakers, with lead singer Jackie Lomax. Like the Beatles, the Undertakers spent time playing gigs in scrappy clubs near the Hamburg docks. However, Huston is not just an asterisk in the music encyclopedias. He co-engineered Led Zeppelin's II, earned a Grammy for producing War's The World Is a Ghetto, and has produced and/or engineered more than 80 gold and platinum records.
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John Marks Posted: Jun 05, 2015 1 comments
The business of high-end audio can fascinate me almost as much as does high-end audio itself. Designers and entrepreneurs such as Frank McIntosh, Avery Fisher, Saul Marantz, Edgar Villchur (AR), David Hafler (Dynaco), and Henry Kloss (AR, KLH, Advent, Advent Video, Cambridge Soundworks, Tivoli Audio) combined technical brilliance and varying levels of business skill with flairs for publicity and marketing. Many of their products became objects of desire, and some became household names in the post-WWII era. Of that list, only McIntosh and Marantz are still in business as high-end audio companies—the latter relatively affordable, the former exclusive.
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John Marks Posted: May 21, 2015 5 comments
The day before I began writing this, John Atkinson posted on Stereophile's website a chart from Nielsen Soundscan showing the ski-jump–like path CD sales have been on since 2004. In 2004, total sales were 651 million units; in 2014, 141 million units. All that is lacking from that impactful visual to make the ski-jump analogy perfect is the little uptick at the end to launch the skier into free air. Those numbers look to me like a total decline in sales of 78%. Ouch.
John Marks Posted: Apr 03, 2015 2 comments
As a film title, Quantizing Hanson Hsu might not rank up there with Kissing Jessica Stein, but we work with what we have to work with. Hanson Hsu is the principal designer at Delta H Design, Inc., an acoustics and architecture firm based in Marina del Rey, California. Though he dabbles in some weird science, Hsu doesn't wear a white lab coat, literal or figurative. He's down-to-earth and personable, with a conversational style that evinces warm wit and a real love of music. At one point in our conversations, he exclaimed, "I get so much joy when things sound good."
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John Marks Posted: Feb 13, 2015 14 comments
I have to eat crow. I must retract a Record to Die For I handed out this time last year. [sigh] This has never happened before.

The pick in question is the recording, "remastered at Abbey Road" and bound as a book, of David Oistrakh playing the Brahms Violin Concerto and Double Concerto and Beethoven's Triple Concerto, with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, pianist Sviatoslav Richter, George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra (Brahms), and Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic (Beethoven) (2 SACD/CDs, EMI Signature Collection 9 55978 2).

Why take back an R2D4? I will explain. First, some necessary background:

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John Marks Posted: Dec 06, 2014 9 comments
It's time for another holiday gift list!
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John Marks Posted: Oct 10, 2014 3 comments
"The Guitars of Rachel Rosenkrantz" is perhaps not quite as evocative a title as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Nevertheless, there are parallels. I met the young, French luthier through mutual friends, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that she is very serious about her art, and rather obsessive about her craft. Rosenkrantz studied art, architecture, and industrial design, and worked for some years designing commercial lighting fixtures and furniture. However, she let go of that career to start over from scratch as an apprentice to Daniel Collins, a builder of classical guitars. She recently opened her own custom shop, Atelier Rosenkrantz, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, sharing space with jazz-guitar builder Matt d'Ambrosio.
John Marks Posted: Jul 30, 2014 5 comments
The CD-200 is the new CD-only player from TASCAM, the professional-audio division of TEAC (footnote 1). It has unbalanced analog outputs, and RCA and optical digital outputs. The CD-200 also has a new transport, the CD-5020A, designed by TEAC for audio use.

Unlike many affordable disc-spinning devices with slot-loading transports (eg, inexpensive DVD players starting at $29.99), the CD-200 has a traditional drawer mechanism that has been upgraded to minimize the noise of loading and clamping a disc. TASCAM also claims improvements in the internal clock function, for smoother sound and lower jitter.

John Marks Posted: Jun 06, 2014 10 comments
Were one in a whimsical mood, one could divide the history of hi-fi into the eras before and after Edgar Villchur (1917–2011), inventor of the sealed-box, air suspension (or acoustic suspension) bass-loading principle. It was Villchur's invention of the acoustic-suspension woofer that made possible affordable loudspeakers with deeper bass from a smaller cabinet (see Sidebar: "Sealed Boxes").

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