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Kalman Rubinson Posted: Dec 29, 2016 10 comments
Bang & Olufsen's revolutionary BeoLab 90 loudspeaker, which I examine in greater depth elsewhere in this issue, has had some profound effects on me, not least of which is that the review pair prevented me from listening in multichannel for nearly two months. Additionally, I and a few friends found that the two BeoLab 90s delivered an absolutely stunning and convincing soundstage. So when the time came to relinquish them, I was anxious. Would my reference 5.1-channel surround system now disappoint when I played two-channel recordings? Would I still find multichannel to be a substantial advance over stereo, or no improvement at all? Would I need to come out of retirement and find a new day job so that I could afford the BeoLabs' price of $84,990/pair?
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Dec 20, 2016 18 comments
Bang & Olufsen's BeoLab 90 is not a loudspeaker to take on lightly. Though its size—49.33" high by 28.9" wide by 29.4" deep—and weight (302 lbs each) meant a major disruption of my listening room, which is also our living room, my wife assented. Its price of $84,990/pair puts it far beyond anything I might consider buying—and the complexity of the BeoLab 90, which has its own dedicated amplifiers and DACs, makes it impossible for a reviewer—or consumer—to directly compare it with any other loudspeaker. So be it.
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Kalman Rubinson Posted: Nov 01, 2016 4 comments
Last spring, when I was listening to Bowers & Wilkins's 802 D3 Diamond loudspeakers, Classé Audio offered a pair of their new Sigma Mono amps for the review. They claimed a synergy—B&W's D3 series had been developed using Classé amps. I declined, only because using unfamiliar amplifiers would add to my assessment an uncontrolled variable. Now that the B&Ws have settled in—three 802 D3 Diamonds across the front, two 804 D3s at the back—it seemed time to hear what they could do when driven by the Classés.
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Sep 29, 2016 5 comments
Has it really been more than seven years since I reviewed Bel Canto's REF1000M monoblock? According to the Bel Canto website, that model, based on Bang & Olufsen's ICEpower class-D modules, is no longer available. But now, like so many manufacturers, Bel Canto has adopted for its new models the NCore class-D module from Hypex—although the REF600M monoblock ($4990/pair) is not Bel Canto's first product to use it . . .
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Sep 01, 2016 4 comments
In January, I reviewed JL Audio's Fathom f113v2 subwoofer (footnote 1), which features, among other improvements over the original Fathom f113, a better multiband equalizer. The significance of this relates to the great influence exerted by room dimensions and acoustics on a loudspeaker's performance.

The matter of room acoustics itself relates to the Schroeder frequency: a transition point, usually between 200 and 300Hz above which a room will exhibit a high density of reflections that are analyzed statistically, and below which that room will display a limited number of discrete modal reflections. (Thus, it should not to be confused with the number of times that Beethoven's music appears in Charles Schulz's comic strip "Peanuts.")

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Kalman Rubinson Posted: Jun 30, 2016 4 comments
The SOtM sMS-1000SQ Windows Edition with AudiophileOptimizer and Roon: Not only does that very long name require finger-twisting shifts between upper and lower case, it really doesn't tell you what the sMS-1000SQ WE is.

Korean manufacturer SOtM, Inc. describes it on their website as a "music server based on Windows Server OS besides the original Linux [Vortexbox] OS based sMS-1000SQ." I'd describe it as a Windows-based PC that's designed and optimized to manage a database of music files and stream the music to local or networked DACs, and that supports multiple options for file management, playback, and target devices. (Hmmm: that's not much better, is it?)

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Kalman Rubinson Posted: May 30, 2016 3 comments
In August 2015, I visited loudspeaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins in England. It was an exciting prospect to see the factory, and meet the people who designed and built the speakers I've been using for years. Of course, as the time of my visit approached, it was impossible not to speculate that something important was afoot—there was growing Internet buzz that it was time for B&W to update its 800-series speakers. Nonetheless, B&W remained tight-lipped.
Kalman Rubinson Posted: May 26, 2016 36 comments
"This is getting to be a habit."

That's how I ended the first paragraph of my review of Bowers & Wilkins' 800 Diamond speaker, in the May 2011 issue; apparently, Stereophile's habit of reviewing models from B&W's 800 series remains unbroken.

Later in that review, I said that "The 800 Diamond doesn't look radically different from its predecessors." That doesn't apply to the 802 D3 Diamond ($22,000/pair). It's still a three-way system with tapered-tube high-frequency and midrange enclosures, stacked and nestled into a generous bass enclosure that's vented on the bottom into the space between it and its plinth.

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Kalman Rubinson Posted: May 05, 2016 3 comments
The number of devices that can constitute a home-audio streaming system ranges from one—a laptop computer running a music program to play internally stored files—to x the unknown. These days we have storage devices, servers, streamers, renderers, bridges, controllers, players, and DACs, at least one of which is hoped to have a volume control. Any combination of these elements can be put in a single box and described by one of many new hyphenated product categories—or can be given a name along the lines of exaSound's PlayPoint Network Audio Player: a model designation that at least hints at this product's ability to play music. Let's see what else it can do . . .
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Kalman Rubinson Posted: Apr 24, 2016 2 comments
Some of my recent delights have come from recordings by BMOP, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, under the direction of Gil Rose. So I was thrilled to hear that BMOP had recorded their highly praised performance of David Del Tredici's Child Alice, a sprawling romantic work for soprano and orchestra. Please go to www.kickstarter.com/projects/bmopsound/david-del-tredici-child-alice now and we will all be able to enjoy Child Alice. . .

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