I don't think that the Bowers and Wilkins 804, in any of its incarnation, gets its due respect. As the smallest floorstander in B&W's elite 800 series, it has historically been overshadowed by its larger brethren and outmaneuvered by the smaller, stand-mounted 805. However, the 804 Diamond is unique, and deserves special attention for reasons I discovered when I chose the earlier 804S for the surround channels of my 5.1-channel surround system.
Sometimes, things happen so fast it's almost unsettling. DSD is the high-resolution recording format used on SACDs and I closed my May column with the expressed hope that the exaSound e18 multichannel DAC would eventually be able to decode DSD data, that Oppo would implement DSD streaming in its universal players, and that I'd be able to get my hands on a working trio of Mytek DSD DACs. I didn't expect that, even before that issue went to press, I'd have to add a footnote (p.61) indicating that stereo DSD streaming was a reality for the exaSound e18, and that Oppo had made available "test" firmware to empower their universal Blu-ray players for stereo and multichannel DSD. On March 26, Oppo publicly announced that this DSD capability was part of the comprehensive "Public Beta Test Release" made available that day. Then, with the May issue not yet hitting the streets, I got a proper multi-Mytek setup. I had a lot of catching up to do.
I had been anticipating getting to audition a pair of TAD loudspeakers in my system since the introduction of the original TAD Model-1, in 2003. It was designed by Andrew Jones, who had recently assumed the mantle of chief designer at Technical Audio Devices Laboratories (TAD), at that time a subsidiary of Pioneer. Although TAD dates back to the mid-1970s, its research and development efforts had been focused on the professional sound market, something that continues. Jones came from a long line of speaker innovators at KEF and was assigned the goal of developing state-of-the-art speakers for the domestic market.
Yes, more Oppos. First off, let's put aside the expected superiority of the D/A conversion and outputs of the BDP-105 ($1199) and state that the BDP-103 ($499) is itself no slouch in these departments. In two or many channels, the '103 was good enough to let me distinguish among various high-resolution media, and to provide me with satisfying enjoyment of music in even the best of systems.
There has been a lot of buzz lately generated by show demonstrations of DSD recordings played directly from files and as the opportunity to download DSD files is expanding. The reactions of our writers have ranged from "impressive," to an "epiphany," to my own delight reported in the upcoming May issue of Stereophile. The hardware used has been mostly professional (Sonoma workstation) or semi-professional (Mytek Stereo 192-DSD) or, at the very least, costly enough for the unconvinced to hesitate. Now, in one fell swoop, Oppo has made this possible at no cost at all for those of us who own an Oppo BDP-103 or BDP-105.
Growing up as an audiophile in the 1950s, I always aspired to owning Marantz equipment, and finally attained that status when, late one night in 1974 in Greenwich Village, a friend found a Model 8 amp sitting on a pile of discards on a curb. He quickly ran for his car, and scarfed up the amp and a pair of Acoustic Research AR1 speakers. All turned out to be in perfect working order, though their appearance reflected their history of ill-use. The speakers went into his machine shopbut I got the Model 8! Few products have ever given me so much pleasure and pride; Marantz will always occupy a warm spot in my heart.
NAD's T 187. Another pre-pro? And not inexpensive at $3000! Why do I care?
First of all, NAD has come to the forefront of established full-range manufacturers as innovators in digital audio. From their original digital preamp, the 118, which I reviewed in the July 1998 issue; to the M2 Direct Digital amp, reviewed by JA in March 2010; to the Masters M51 high-resolution DAC, reviewed last July by Jon Iverson; and their Masters M50 and M52 music-streaming devices, NAD has never simply repackaged available chips and modules, but has always gone their own way.
There never seem to be enough AC outlets, and when there are, they're not always easily accessible. I have two dedicated 15A duplex outlets at the power-amp end of my room, but a subwoofer and multiple power amps (up to three at a time) exhaust those facilities. What happens when I need to add a second subwoofer or other EQ? What do I do when I want to keep more than three amps cooking for quick comparisons?
When I first saw Anthem Statement's M1 at the 2011 CEDIA Expo, it was a bolt from the blue. Happening on this flat, black slab of an amplifier lying on a display table or bolted to a wall, reminded me of the appearance of the iconic monolith in Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The M1's dimensional ratios are not 12:22:32, and there are many other one-rack-unit ampsyet, like the monolith on the moon, the M1 was in such striking contrast to everything else in its environment that it demanded attention and reflection.
Patricia Barber: Nightclub & Modern Cool Nightclub
Premonition 90763-1 (2 LPs). Patricia Barber, prod.; Michael Friedman, exec. prod.; Jim Anderson, eng.; Bob Ludwig, mastering; Doug Sax, mastering (LP). AAA? TT: 51:20
Premonition 90761-4 (BD-A). Patricia Barber, prod.; Michael Friedman, exec. & surround prod.; Jim Anderson, eng. & surround eng. Robert Gatley, asst. surround eng. ADD? TT: 67:49
Much as the music world at large supremely values so-called original compositions (as if . . . but then that's a discussion for another day), it takes a special talent to make a song written by someone elsein common parlance, a coveryour very own. Take Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Alfie," from the 1966 film with Michael Caine in the title role. Recorded for the soundtrack by Cilla Black, and later cut by everyone from Babs and Bill Evans to the Delfonics and Sarah Vaughannot to mention a pair of laughably bad versions from Cherthe song is nothing if not overexposed. Bacharach's own soaring arrangement for the film sticks in the world's collective head. For lesser performers, that alone would be more than enough to keep them well clear of trying to cover it.