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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 04, 2015 5 comments
A comment by "cgh" in an online reprint of a Stereophile review caught my attention: "The [1990s] were probably the last real decade that we could reasonably bend the truth. Everything since is verifiable electronically."


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John Atkinson Posted: Dec 21, 2014 43 comments
Meridian's Bob Stuart at the Manhattan launch, showing the law of diminishing returns regarding increasing the sample rate of PCM encoding.

In almost 40 years of attending audio press events, only rarely have I come away feeling that I was present at the birth of a new world. In March 1979, I visited the Philips Research Center in Eindhoven, Holland and heard a prototype of what was to be later called the Compact Disc. In the summer of 1982, I visited Ron Genereux and Bob Berkovitz at Acoustic Research's lab near Boston and heard a very early example of the application of DSP to the correction of room acoustic problems. And in early December, at Meridian's New York offices, I heard Bob Stuart describe the UK company's MQA technology, followed by a demonstration that blew my socks off.

John Atkinson Posted: Nov 26, 2014 5 comments
The experience left me doubting my ears. After I'd performed all the measurements of Ayre Acoustics' KX-R preamplifier ($18,500) to accompany Wes Phillips's review in our November 2008 issue, I spent a weekend listening to it. To my astonishment, the sound of my system with a Transporter D/A processor feeding the preamplifier was better than when the DAC fed the power amplifier directly. Through the KX-R, images sounded more tangible, and the sound was better focused, despite the signal's having been passed through not just another set of interconnects but also through the preamp's input and output socketry, switches, a volume control, printed circuit-board traces, and active and passive parts. Logically, you'd think that having nothing in the signal path would have less of a degrading effect than so many somethings. But no, that was not what I heard, much as I would have preferred otherwise.
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John Atkinson Posted: Nov 08, 2014 4 comments
The founder and until recently the long-term editor of The Absolute Sound, Harry Pearson (left above), has passed away. His protege Michael Fremer (right above) offers an appreciation here and Robert J. Reina, a long-term friend, is writing his own rememberance of HP in the February 2015 issue of Stereophile. (The January issue has already gone to press.)
John Atkinson Posted: Oct 30, 2014 7 comments
For a reviewer, deciding which products to write about is a tricky business. You want to do a professional job of evaluation, but you also want to be able to wrest maximum enjoyment from your music while you do so. Attending audio shows is where reviewers perform sonic triage, weeding out the products that aren't ready for prime time, and making a note of those they wish to invite home after the show.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 18, 2014 2 comments
Nola's Carl Marchisotto was demonstrating the Studio Grand Reference Gold floorstanders ($19,800/pair) when I entered his second-floor room. This new speakers is similar in concept to the Metro Grand Reference Gold ($33,000/pair) that I review in our November issue but has just one of the reflex-loaded SEAS magnesium-cone/alnico-motor woofers rather than two. But Carl wanted me to hear the new Nola Brio desktop ($995/pair), which he is holding in the photo and describes as a one-and-a-half-way design. The Brio has two 3.5" cone drivers, one of which is reflex-loaded, the other open-baffle.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 18, 2014 17 comments
When I entered the On A Higher Note room on the Marriott's mezzanine, Synergistic Research's Ted Denney was talking about the sonic benefits of his new Atmosphere ($1995, the vertical black tower between the equipment racks in the photograph). "RF pollution affects how we perceive sound," Ted said," explaining that that is why our systems unpredictably sound good or bad. The Atmosphere, he said, creates a binaural RF field that swamps external RF pollution, allowing our perception to operate correctly. It affects the listener, not the system . . . "Yeah, right," I was thinking.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 17, 2014 1 comments
Danish manufacturer Gamut has had a patchy history in the US, with a succession of distributors, none of who could establish the brand here. But Gamut has now set up a US-based distributor, who will likely have more success. Gamut's head of engineering, Benno Meldgaard, premiered the new RS5 two-and-a half-way speakers ($31,900/pair) at RMAF.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 14, 2014 0 comments
I have always thought it important for audio shows to feature live music, so showgoers can recalibrate their ears. Thanks to Ray Kimber, who flew in Canadian pianist Robert Silverman, RMAF attendees could do just that. Robert, who had recorded the complete Mozart sonatas on SACD for Ray's IsoMike label a couple of years back and who also appeared on five Stereophile CDs, performed a series of mini-concerts on Saturday and Sunday, as well as a full recital Saturday evening.
John Atkinson Posted: Oct 05, 2014 2 comments
A reader recently asked if I preferred listening to loudspeakers or to headphones. There is no easy answer: Although I do most of my music listening through speakers, about 10% of that listening, for various reasons, takes place in the privacy of my headphones. I have also found that, since I purchased the Audeze LCD-X headphones following my review of them last March, I now tend to watch movies on my MacBook Pro, with the soundtrack reproduced by these headphones plugged into an AudioQuest DragonFly or whatever D/A headphone amplifier has been passing through my test lab. So when Meridian's PR person, Sue Toscano, asked me last Christmas if I'd be interested in reviewing the English company's new Prime D/A headphone amplifier ($2000) with its optional Prime Power Supply ($1295), it took me less than a New York minute to say "Yes."


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