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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 11, 2015 Published: Jul 01, 1990 12 comments
In their seminal work on the subject of audio "Bluff your Way in Hi-Fi" (1987), Sue Hudson and John Crabbe stated that "the perfect speaker would have no mass and no dimensions. The perfect speaker does not exist, and if it did, it still wouldn't." One might add, as a corollary, that a speaker with zero dimensions would also have infinite cost. At least there seems to be a trend in that direction. The Wilson WATT and Celestion SL700—to use today's two most visible examples—may have attracted considerable attention because of their exceptional performance, but they have also attracted at least as much because of their price/size ratio. Even in a considerably "lower" price bracket, a "simple" two-way loudspeaker with a 6" or 7" woofer costing $1000–$2000/pair would, at one time, have had most audiophiles laughing themselves silly.
Thomas J. Norton Sam Tellig Posted: Nov 12, 2015 Published: Oct 01, 1988 0 comments
Let's go back a few years. Well, more than a few, actually. The electronics end of high-end audio consisted of two companies—Marantz and McIntosh. If you were not up to shopping at their stratospheric price level—even though the industry hadn't yet invented components priced to compete with automobiles—you could always fall back on Dynaco, the poor man's high end in kit form. You hooked all this together with two-dollar connecting cables and 16-gauge zip cord purchased from the local electrical supply house, or—if you felt particularly flush—you'd spend a few (very few) bucks more at Fred's Stereo for the cables with the fancy molded plugs. Hoses were used for watering the lawns.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 14, 2015 Published: Feb 01, 1989 0 comments
While the AT-OC9 bears the Audio-Technica logo, you won't find a sample of this moving-coil cartridge at your friendly Audio-Technica dealership. The US distributor of Audio-Technica products has apparently decided that their market does not include high-end cartridges. A quick perusal of the latest Audio directory issue (October 1988) lists the most expensive AT cartridge at $295, with no moving-coils in sight. When I first heard of the AT-OC9, the only reasonably accessible source, short of Japan, was Audio-Technica in the UK. A quick phone call and follow-up letter resulted in a review sample. Since that time, Music Hall in the US importers of the Epos loudspeakers, among other items) has begun importing the AT-OC9 (along with the less-expensive AT-F5). Mail-order company Lyle Cartridges also stock it, I believe.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 06, 2015 Published: Jun 01, 1992 0 comments
If anyone can be said to be the guru of the transmission line, that would have to be Irving M. "Bud" Fried. He has been promoting the design for years now, first with the made-in-England IMF designs, later with the designs of Fried Products, made right here in the US of A. He has long been convinced of the basic superiority of the design, and still uses it in his top-of-the-line systems. But true transmission lines are invariably big, heavy, hard to build, and, for all of those reasons, expensive. Essentially, they involve a long, convoluted, heavily damped tunnel behind the bass driver which channels the back wave to the outside world. The length and cross-sectional area of the tunnel are of some importance, although the technical basis for the transmission line, as applied to a loudspeaker enclosure, has never been firmly nailed down. Certainly there is no mathematical model for the transmission line as complete as that developed over the past two decades for the sealed or ported box (footnote 1).

But Bud Fried has clung to the transmission line, for all of its complexities. In order to bring at least some of its touted advantages to a lower price point, he had to come up with a variation which would work in a smaller enclosure. That variation was the "line tunnel," which, according to Fried, originated in an early-1970s Ferrograph (a British company specializing in tape recorders) monitor which was later adapted by IMF. Basically it consists of a short (compared with a transmission line) duct from the inside to the outside of the heavily damped enclosure. The duct is designed with approximately the same cross-sectional area as the loudspeaker cone.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 16, 2015 Published: Jan 01, 1995 1 comments
95christie.250.jpgWhen Cary Christie, Arnie Nudell, and John Ulrick founded Infinity Systems more than 25 years ago, high-end audio as we know it today didn't exist. Hi-fi was audio, though the reverse wasn't necessarily true.

Through the growth years, Infinity became a major force in the High End. Cary Christie is the only one of the original players still associated with Infinity in 1995, now part of Harman International. His relationship, however, is now as an independent designer and consultant with Christie Designs, Inc. (footnote 1). I corralled him by phone on a clear fall day in Santa Fe, and a snowy one at his home near Lake Tahoe, Nevada. I asked him how Infinity had started.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 16, 2015 Published: Jun 01, 1992 0 comments
692.parapromo.jpgParadigm is not a new name to US audiophiles, but the Canadian loudspeaker company hopes to increase awareness of its products with their Monitor series, all members of which incorporate a similar design philosophy and drive-units. Heavy and apparently massively constructed, the top-of-the-line Paradigm Studio Monitors ($1899/pair) are the first commercial loudspeakers to pass my way with provision for tri-wiring: three sets of terminals on the back of the enclosures provide direct links to the crossover segments feeding each separate driver (or drivers, in the case of the low end).

Those crossovers use quasi-Butterworth filters, but there is, by design, little attempt to correct for driver aberrations in the crossover, a technique which Paradigm does not believe produces the best results. The wood-veneered cabinet is solidly constructed, making use of a combination of high-density composite hardboard and MDF—a technique claimed to reduce uncontrolled resonances. MDF cross-bracing is provided, and four heavy-duty spikes are furnished per speaker. (I used Tonecones in my listening for the simple reason that three spikes are self-leveling, four are not.)

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 18, 2015 Published: Jun 01, 1992 1 comments
By now most readers will be familiar with the relatively new tuned-cavity method of low-frequency loading. Such designs have popped up all over the place of late, especially in those little satellite/woofer systems, but KEF can rightly lay claim to generating the design's theoretical basis, as JA described in his review of the KEF R107/2 loudspeaker in Vol.14 No.5 (May 1991). Essentially, the technique consists of loading the rear of a woofer in a conventional fashion—usually a sealed box—but also loading the front of the driver into another enclosure, ducted to the outside. Basically, the design acts as a bandpass filter with its response centered on the port-tuning frequency. The rolloff is smooth and rapid on either side of this frequency, providing a natural low-pass characteristic but thereby virtually mandating a three-way system. If properly designed, this configuration offers a number of theoretical advantages. The radiating element is actually the air in the port, which is low in mass. Low distortion is possible, as is relatively high sensitivity.
Jason Victor Serinus Sasha Matson Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 03, 2015 3 comments
One of the most delightful annual surprises of the now departed Las Vegas installment of THE Show was stumbling upon the NFS (Not For Sale) room. Assembled by the distinguished personage known as Buddha, it allowed visitors to become submerged in a combination of post-psychedelic revelry, good sound, lots of free booze, and a total absence of hawking...
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 02, 2015 0 comments
Headphonium, Earphonium, Canjam. Every audio show has its own name for a section set aside to serve headphone enthusiasts, an increasingly active audiophile sub-segment. The one at this year's Newport show was smaller than the one I recall at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest show last fall. But among the newcomers were headphones from Mr. Speakers (like the $1499 planar designs shown here)...
Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 30, 2015 3 comments
When longtime TAD/Pioneer speaker designer Andrew Jones moved on to design new speakers for German manufacturer ELAC, we expected big things, though not quite immediately. Speaker design takes time. But Jones and ELAC made a big splash at the Newport show with the new line of Debut speakers. The first model ready for demo was the baby of the Debut family, the B5. It's shown here with proud papa Andrew, with its 5.25" aramid-fiber woofer and 1" cloth-dome tweeter, and is expected to retail for $230/pair in early fall when the entire lineup should be available...

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