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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 24, 2015 0 comments
Just as John Atkinson has a special telephone on his desk, by means of which the late J. Gordon Holt expresses his displeasure at this magazine's continuing decline into latitudinarianism, my own desk is littered with a dozen or so windup timers, each set to remind me how long it's been since I last wrote about this or that hi-fi eccentricity. Each timer has its own distinctive ring: The one labeled "LOWTHER" is a bit shrill, especially at certain humidity levels, while the one marked "QUAD ESL" can be heard to best advantage only when sitting in a particular spot—and even I have to admit that my "CARTRIDGE ALIGNMENT" timer seems to go off rather too often.
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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 19, 2015 34 comments
Timing distortions are the lifeblood of magazine publishing—a field of endeavor where cheers cheered in September can sound wistful by raw November, when readers read them. Then again, by the time you see this, an asteroid strike or an itchy finger on a nuclear trigger may have blown us all back to the age of bronze—oxygen-free, one hopes—in which case this edition of Stereophile's Products of the Year celebration will seem all the more nostalgic.

But this is no mere nostalgia: Only once every 12 months do we set aside our complaints, our contentions, our niggling criticisms, and simply declare: Here are seven products that kicked righteous wads of ass and made it worthwhile to be an audiophile this year. And precisely half of our top-place winners are priced within reach of the average consumer.

Art Dudley Posted: Nov 18, 2015 3 comments
Joanna Newsom: Divers
Drag City DC561 (LP/CD). 2015. Joanna Newsom, prod.; Noah Georgeson, prod., eng.; Steve Albini, eng.; John Golden, mastering. ADA/ADD. TT: 51:56
Performance *****
Sonics ****

It's hard to imagine a more auspicious debut than Joanna Newsom's The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City DC263): Her songs on that 2004 release were imaginative, memorable, and almost uniquely literate, and her performances of them—she sang as distinctively as she wrote, and on most of them, her full-size Lyon & Healy concert harp was the sole accompanying instrument—were effective and thoroughly charming. At the age of 22, Newsom had created one of the most original pop records in memory.

Art Dudley Posted: Nov 14, 2015 1 comments
At some point within the last few years of his life, the late Ken Shindo designed an outboard phono preamplifier—a decision perhaps made inevitable by his earlier decision to answer popular demand with line-only versions of the Aurieges and the more upmarket Vosne-Romanee preamps...
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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 10, 2015 0 comments
The word flagship takes on new meaning when the product in question is literally the size of a small boat; so it is with MartinLogan's 75"-tall, 385lb Neolith loudspeaker ($79,995/pair), which combines electrostatic and dynamic transducers in a high-tech phenolic frame. Appropriately enough, the Neolith's appearance at the Rye Brook Hilton took place in one of the two largest rooms reserved for the New York show. (One day after the show, I'm still not sure if those are sound-enhancing accessories, objets d'art, or dinner plates on the wall behind the Neoliths: There exist some questions that even the bravest reviewers are too squeamish to ask.)
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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 09, 2015 18 comments
The day after I met manufacturer/industrial artist David Stanavich, it dawned on me why I was so taken with his Waxrax record racks: These sturdy, stylish, steel-and-aluminum structures resemble the shelving in my elementary school's library, ca 1960. If I could, I'd fill my home with multiples of the Waxrax LP-V3 tower seen here (LP capacity: 550). But at approximately $4000 per unit, depending on finish and options, this Brooklyn-built rack is too pricey. (To store 550 LPs for $4k works out to over $7 per record—which is more than many records themselves are worth.)
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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 08, 2015 5 comments
We make our beginnings in the manner of our endings; so it was on Saturday morning, when I headed back to the Rye Brook Hilton's Maple Room, where Friday evening Michael Lavorgna, Steve Guttenberg, and I had spun ripping yarns of shipping labels and galley proofs on the high seas of audio reviewing. (Yarr.) I was there to hear a presentation called Great Sound: Beyond the Gear: Life and Technology: A Compromise—a title with more colons than a lower-GI specialist sees in a week!—by an audio engineer/designer/producer/acoustical consultant named Stuart Allyn. I was running a minute or two late, and when I opened the door to the Maple Room I saw: a capacity crowd. Wow!

And that set the tone for the rest of the day...

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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 07, 2015 3 comments
There are shows that raise our expectations and there are shows from which greatness is not expected. And after October 26, when the organizers of the New York Audio Show, taking place at the Rye Hilton in Westchester County this weekend, announced that they were capping the number of exhibitors at 30—imagine Mike Huckabee or Hillary Clinton announcing a limit on corporate donations—this event slipped into the latter. No amount of positive, industry-healthy attitude on the part of myself or anyone else can shiny that up.

And yet . . .

Art Dudley Posted: Oct 29, 2015 4 comments
Please don't tell her I said this, but lately, my wife has been getting twitchy about my records. Twitchy as in: She wants me to sell them. Or at least some of them.

I have only myself to blame. For years, I have shared with her my every joy that came of finding, at a lawn sale or garage sale or on eBay or at a record store whose proprietors "had no idea what this thing is worth," some rare and valuable treasure. And therein lay another facet of my problem: As often as I would rejoice at the music I was poised to enjoy, or the sheer pleasure of acquiring something rare and well made, I would roll, pig-like, in the pleasure of the thing's potential monetary value. Old Testament–style dark clouds fill the sky outside my window even as I type this.

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Art Dudley Posted: Sep 30, 2015 10 comments
"The way that young people will get into high-end audio is not through streaming: It's through the LP."

When that observation was offered during a recent phone conversation, I wrote it down word for word—not just because I agree with it, but because it was so remarkable: The audio-industry veteran who offered it owns a digital front end worth tens of thousands of dollars, and hasn't owned a turntable for at least a dozen years. Nevertheless, as became clear during the remainder of our conversation, he understands the dynamic that keeps vinyl at the top: a confluence of marketing psychology and genuine sonic goodness.


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