John Atkinson and I were On the Road, whistling down I-95 in a big, Kona Blue Metallic 2011 Ford Edge Ltd with voice-command everything. To paraphrase Raoul Duke at the very beginning of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, we were somewhere around Princeton, New Jerseynot quite the edge of the desertwhen the drugs began to take hold. Just as in the original text, "there was a terrible roar all around us, and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car . . ." I decided that there was no point in mentioning the bats to JA. He'd bought the Criterion Collection DVD of Terry Gilliam's film version of Fear and Loathing at Princeton Record Exchange. He knew about the bats.
With whom are you most intimate? Your wife? Husband? Your modern-times Significant Other? Your pet? Or, like a lot of audiophiles, is it your audio system? Do you nitpick and tweak it as if it were your pet?
In his first e-mail to "Fine Tunes," Rafael Teodoro (RBT@wolfenet.com) addressed a subject that Mark Gdovin, that faithful frequenter of the Stereophile soapbox, had already brought up. Mark had gone so far as to give readers sage advice from his brother, a materials engineer, regarding the dangers of applying Armor All to speaker cones and surrounds.
Sometimes tweaks take on a life of their own. Take the one of using Armor All to keep speaker surrounds from drying out, which you can read all about in the November 2001 "Fine Tunes No.41" I recently got another e-mail on the subject from Dan Mazza at Arizona Hi-Fi, who agrees with Mark Gdovin's objections to using Armor All. (Read Mark's comments on the entire issue in the readers' letters linked to "Fine Tunes No.41.").)
"Hi, Jonathan," Bob Matthews began his e-mail to "Fine Tunes" (firstname.lastname@example.org). "I enjoy reading your column every month, and enjoy hearing from other people about some of their cheap tweaks!"
No doubt about it—Linn's top-of-the-line Komri loudspeaker is a queer-lookin' duck. It's a large, boxy thing, fairly deep, and weighing a hefty 176 lbs, including the base. Whew. I'll put it this way: rap your knuckles, break your hand.
The VK-150SE stands tall at the top of Balanced Audio Technology's range. It and its smaller brother, the identical-looking VK-75SE stereo amplifier (or, sans the Special Edition mods, the plain VK-75, footnote 1), are related to BAT's first amplifier design, the VK-60. The company's partners, Victor Khomenko and Steve Bednarski, eventually realized that they'd made enough upgrades to the VK-60 to warrant a new model designation, and in 2000 they discontinued the VK-60. Bednarski explained that while the VK-60 accepted the upgrades with good results, the BATboys felt that, in order to fully realize the full potential of the 6H30 SuperTube, a new platform would be required. Enter the VK-75SE and VK-150SE.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2001, Pioneer announced the US launch of the DV-AX10, the first of their long-awaited "universal" disc players, previously available only in Japan. Right out of the box, it plays SACD (two-channel only), DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, CD, and CD-R discs. For two-channel operation—which is exclusively how I examined it—and via its easy-to-navigate menus (footnote 1), I set the DV-AX10 to two channels as the default for all modes, including SACD. Except for hybrid discs, which I'll come to presently, the DV-AX10 is, blessedly, a set-it-and-forget-it machine.