Judy Spotheim, maker of the SpJ arm and the gorgeous La Luce turntable that I reviewed a while back for Stereophile (October 1998) and that has subsequently become one of my references for LP playback. She's an intelligent, well-read individual who has a penchant for asking me, "You didn't read that in the manual?!" Ahem. Although the following interview was taped on the phone from her home in the Netherlands, I hope to meet her sometime soon.
I had an epiphany the other night. (Hope Rabbi Lichtenstein won't be too upset.) Kathleen and I were watching the Antiques Road Show on PBS, and, during a break, I started channel-surfing. I know, it's obnoxious—but I feel compelled to hop around and keep up the sense- and info-pounding barrage we've come to take for granted and, in fact, rely on. In a way, channel-surfing is a perfect symptom of our information-overload society: click Geraldo, click Robin Byrd, click Jazz Channel, click Weather Channel. We're bombarded, we're inundated, we're . . . let's face it, we're overwhelmed. The Internet, e-mail, phone calls—lots of information, and little time to process it.
I suppose that most high-end designers dream about making a Statement Product—their best effort, without regard for price. Victor Khomenko, majordomo of Balanced Audio Technology, got the bug and came up with the VK-50SE. This hugely full-functioned line-stage preamp derives its Special Edition (SE) moniker from the eight hot-running, super-hush-hush Russian 6H30 Reflector SuperTubes that populate the circuit board.
Rarely have I anticipated the arrival of a review component as I did the Sony SCD-1 Super Audio CD player. I'd first heard the machine itself with the enthusiastic audiophile hordes at Chicago's HI-FI '99. I'd also been lucky enough to enjoy a few of the Direct Stream Digital-encoded recordings Tom Jung had made for DMP right off the hard drives of a prototype DSD processor via Ed Meitner electronics. (See my interview with Jung elsewhere in this issue.)
So here I am expounding on the tendency of audio components---especially tubes, capacitors, and resistors---to become microphonic, and you're wondering how you can find out if there's any of that shakin' goin' on in your system. And you want to do it easily and for next to nothing. The first thing you do, then, is listen carefully to Victor Tiscareno of AudoPrism. The following is his big idea, and a damn good one it is.
Recently I found myself on the phone with Linn's chief design engineer, Bill Miller, talking about switch-mode power supplies. Affable Mr. Miller was ensconced in Linn HQ in Glasgow, Scotland. After a bit I inquired if Head Man Ivor Tiefenbrun was about the manse, and was quickly handed over. "You're such a cheeky guy. Why'd you call it the Klimax?"
Victor Tiscareno and Byron Collett of AudioPrism are known in audiophile circles for their complete line of power-conditioning products. (See Barry Willis' omnibus review in the December 1998 Stereophile.) Their intimate knowledge of the ever-capricious electrical supply has resulted in a series of front-end components bearing the company's logo. The flagship Mana Reference monoblocks, under consideration here, represent AudioPrism's collected wisdom and engineering savvy taken to its logical extreme.
Todd Garfinkle, guiding light of M•A Recordings, travels the globe recording provocative music in unbelievably wonderful acoustic settings. Todd travels to exotic climes such as Macedonia and Southern Siberia to capture unique and beautiful traditional ethnic music and song. He records with only two omnidirectional microphones, the signals of which are fed into handmade recording equipment designed especially for his work. Kathleen and I caught up with him at St. Peter's on 20th Street, a popular recording venue in the West Village. After wrapping a session, Todd stopped by our loft, where we rolled some tape of our own...