As of October, Meridian America's new VP/Sales, replacing the late Ross Keim, was industry veteran Andy Regan, who started his high-end career at Manhattan retailer Sound by Singer. Most recently, Regan was VP/Sales at cable manufacturer AudioQuest. Not uncoincidentally, Joe Abrams has moved from cable manufacturer MIT to AudioQuest.
"Comping," they call it at Madrigal. Once a circuit and its board layout have been finalized, passive components are substituted one by one in an exhaustive series of listening tests to determine the places where use of a premium part, or one of closer tolerances, results in an audible benefit. This fine-tuning process cannot be open-ended, however, as products do have to shipped. So what happens when new parts become available, or new manufacturing processes allow a better-sounding part to be used without financial penalty?
"This is offensive!" muttered usually mild-mannered Malcolm Hawksford, who was sitting next to me. "I'm leaving." The good professor was right. One thousand or so attendees at the 103rd Audio Engineering Society Convention, held at the end of September in New York, were being subjected to truly terrible sound. The irony was that the sound was that of 2- and 5-channel recordings made with 24-bit resolution and a 96kHz sampling rate, being played over a colored PA system to demonstrate the future of audio, in the form of DVD-Audio.
There are many benefits accruing to a loudspeaker when its designer goes the active or powered route. The usual losses and distortions associated with passive crossovers can be circumvented, while the fact that the amplifiers and drive-units can be designed as a package enables the designer to squeeze more performance from each than would otherwise be the case. And the savings gained from the absence of a separate amplifier chassis can be passed on to the consumer.
Canadian loudspeaker company PSB International celebrated both its 25th anniversary in July and the 10th anniversary of the introduction of its Stratus series. (I review the latest version of the flagship Stratus speaker, the Gold i, elsewhere in this issue.) Started by Paul Barton and two friends in the summer of 1972, PSB Speakers was named after Paul and his high-school sweetheart Sue (now his wife). Paul & Sue Barton Speakers is now part of Lenbrook Industries, which distributes NAD, Marantz, and Bang & Olufsen in Canada, and which in turn is part of the Canadian conglomerate Lenbrook Inc.
Thirty-five years ago this month, the first issue of a new audio magazine—cover price 50 cents—cautiously made its way out of a Philadelphia suburb. Its black'n'white cover featured a chessboard adorned with tubes and XLR plugs. Its 20 advertising-free pages included a feature on how to write an ad for an audio product, which had been penned by one Lucius Wordburger, a footnote helpfully pointing out that this was the nom de plume for one J. Gordon Holt, "who wishes to remain anonymous."
An acquaintance in the world of CD distribution recently gave me an astonishing statistic: that the average classical title sells fewer than 2000 copies worldwide in its first year of release; which in turn means that many titles sell only about 500 copies! Given that the cost of producing a classical orchestral album can include up to $100,000 in union-mandated musician fees, such minimal sales guarantee financial disaster.
Things are changing rapidly in the world of professional digital audio. After a decade of stability, with slow but steady improvement in the quality of 16-bit, 44.1kHz audio, the cry among audio engineers is now "24/96!"—meaning 24-bit data sampled at 96kHz. Not coincidentally, DVD offers audiophiles a medium with the potential for playing back music encoded at this new mastering standard.
A science-fiction parable I read too many years ago to remember who wrote it used the image of a glass jar stuffed with colored plastic spheres. The story's protagonist was asked whether the glass was full. "Of course," was his reply, whereupon a hidden faucet was turned, the jar filled up with water, and fish swam in the spaces between the balls.