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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 23 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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Kalman Rubinson Posted: Mar 07, 2016 6 comments
With the atomization of the playback of digital files into storage, servers, streamers, format converters, and DACs, I find that I've accumulated many miniature power supplies: small pods and wall warts. Most of these are generic switching devices made by companies other than the manufacturers of the components they power, and even those not designed for audio systems are, of necessity, at least adequate for the task. Because many of these supplies are indistinguishable from each other, I've taken to labeling them with sticky notes to remind me which goes with which component. Nonetheless, I'm concerned that they're no more than the commodity power modules available for a few bucks each on eBay. Whenever I think of the four or five of them clustered behind my equipment rack, I begin to suspect them of plotting revolt against the fancy gear they serve.
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Dec 30, 2015 0 comments
In my last column, in the November 2015 issue, I talked about Marantz's AV8802A preamplifier-processor and two accessories: UpTone Audio's USB Regen, and a DIY battery supply for my DAC. This month's column is all about accessories, and for me that's unusual. Some items, like interconnects and speaker cables, are usually considered accessories because they're not fundamental components (eg, source, amplifier, speaker), even though they're essential to getting any sound at all.
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Kalman Rubinson Posted: Nov 05, 2015 2 comments
Outside of the listening I do for this column, I always audition, assess, and review components without using any equalization or room correction—primarily because I assume that most Stereophile readers listen in two-channel stereo, and that most aren't all that interested in EQ. Besides, two-channel is the tradition I come from, and my first instinct is to try to get at the essence of the individual component itself, without applying extraneous tools or accessories. John Atkinson's bench tests are based on the same philosophy.
Michael Lavorgna Kalman Rubinson Posted: Nov 04, 2015 8 comments
UpTone Audio's USB Regen is a powered, single-port USB 2.0 hub that takes the USB signal from your computer, regenerates (ie, reclocks) the data, provides cleaned-up 5V power from a built-in, ultra–low-noise regulator, and sends an impedance-matched signal to your DAC. The Regen is designed to sit as close to your DAC as possible; UpTone supplies a male/male USB A/B adapter—a solid, double-ended plug, which they recommend over the 6"-long male/male USB A/B cable they also provide.
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Oct 30, 2015 16 comments
I first saw Benchmark's AHB2 stereo power amplifier at the 2013 Convention of the Audio Engineering Society, in New York City. On silent display in Benchmark's booth on the convention floor, its compact size and comprehensive features made the amp immediately attractive, and the design was described as a departure from traditional analog and digital amplifiers. It was also explained to me that the AHB2 was based on designs by Benchmark's founder, Allen H. Burdick (whose initials it bears). By the time of Burdick's retirement, in 2006, Benchmark didn't yet offer a power amplifier, but the company used a prototype based on his work to evaluate their new digital products, and that amp was soon developed as a commercial product; Burdick died just weeks before the AHB2, now named in his honor, was shown at the 2013 AES convention.

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