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.
When I first laid eyes on the Paravicini M100A monoblock power amplifiers at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2001, an audiophile in the room squinted at my badge and cried out, "Hey, J-10, these amps have your name written all over 'em!"
Checked my e-mail and a message from one Thomas J. Zukowski (firstname.lastname@example.org) caught my eye. I sensed something...friendly. The subject line was "Re: August & September Fine Tunes." A reader, great, and on my birthday no less.
The Boulder 1012's is a line-level preamplifier and DAC in one box. Its design and build qualities are icons to elegant engineering know-how. No screws show on the rectangular box of large but not massive proportions, for example, which is all done up in matte aluminum and set off with a few highly polished stainless-steel buttons. The chassis construction uses tongue-and-groove techniques. The sides of the 1012 benefit from styling cues found on Boulder's newer amplifiers. As you can see from the photograph, the look is both elegant and hi-tech in a way very few other manufacturers manage.
Classé's Mike Viglas watched the audiophile skies, scratched his chin, and thought about his business. As he gazed, it occurred to him that if everyone in audio was moving downmarket to invade his territory, why not take his company and head upmarket? Thus was born Classé's much-lauded Omega series.
This episode of "Fine Tunes" is mainly about the care and feeding of speaker drivers. Before I launch into some of the tweaks—a few fairly wild and wacky—sent in by readers, here are two from my own experience.
Last month I wrote about lasers of various pedigrees, so useful in marking walls to the sides and behind the listening position to ensure that your loudspeakers are toed-in, level, and equidistant from the sweet spot for best soundstage, imaging and focus. Using small Avery stick-'em labels makes this a snap. I've converged the tweeter axes of my JMlab Utopias somewhere about a foot into the wall behind the rearmost of our two listening chairs, and use two Studio Traps and a single Argent RoomLens between the speakers to cancel and damp the near-rear-wall reflections. With just a jiggle of the chair back or forward, suddenly I'm there.
Every once in a while, a piece of super-esoteric gear crosses my path that, on the face of it, makes no sense whatsoever. Eventually, however, the component is revealed as being "merely" simple and elegant, begging the question: Must it always be done the way it's always been done?