John Atkinson

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John Atkinson Posted: Jun 11, 2015 1 comments
Aurender was a name new to me when I encountered the company at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, where they displayed a range of music servers designed in California and manufactured in South Korea. But what caught my attention in Aurender's suite was their Flow portable D/A headphone amplifier ($1295). This handsome, battery-powered device, housed in a machined aluminum case about twice the size of a pack of playing cards, offers optical S/PDIF and USB 2.0/3.0 input ports and a single ¼" stereo headphone jack. Two features distinguish the Flow from the pack: Its USB input can be used with iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android smartphone sources, and it can accept an mSATA drive (not included in price) of up to 1TB capacity for internal storage of audio files. Visually, the Flow's distinguishing feature is its round LCD display, which stands proud of the faceplate; the bezel encircling the display acts as a velocity-sensitive volume control operating in 0.5dB steps.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2015 Published: Jan 01, 1995 2 comments
It was with regret that I heard John Ulrick had passed away on May 20, 2015 due to complications from cancer. With Arnie Nudell and Cary Christie, John was one of the founders of loudspeaker manufacturer Infinity, a company that, with Audio Research, Magnepan, Mark Levinson, and Threshold, epitomized the nascent High End that emerged in the early 1970s. After leaving Infinity, John Ulrick started Spectron, to manufacture class-D amplifiers.

Just by chance, I met with the John Ulrick, in Los Angeles in late 1987, when he was doing some design consultancy on a switch-mode power amplifier to be used with the Sumo Samson subwoofer. As I had my Walkman Pro with me, I took the opportunity to tape some background from John about the birth of Infinity and about switching/pulse-width-modulated/class-D amplifiers—boy, can this man talk about switching amplifiers! The natural kickoff question was, How did Infinity get going?

John Atkinson Posted: May 28, 2015 7 comments
The story's been often told: 30 years ago, British speaker manufacturer KEF was asked to design a small, spherical loudspeaker that could be used in a European project to research room acoustics. The speaker had to have wide, even dispersion, so KEF's solution was to mount the tweeter coaxially, on what would have been the woofer's dustcap. That "point source" drive-unit, called the Uni-Q, began appearing in KEF's commercial speaker models in 1989, starting with the Reference 105/3—but it wasn't until the appearance of KEF's 50th-anniversary loudspeaker, the LS50, which I reviewed in December 2012, that I felt that the Uni-Q drive-unit had fully fulfilled its promise, at least in a speaker I had auditioned in my own room.
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 15, 2015 Published: May 01, 2015 109 comments
I write this in a Seattle coffee bar—my flight home to New York has been canceled due to a snowstorm. As I try to put down these thoughts, I'm listening to the high-resolution masters of the April issue's "Recording of the Month," Sasha Matson's jazz opera Cooperstown, on my Pono player using Ultimate Ears UE18 in-ear monitors. I was in Seattle for Music Matters 10, held by retailer Definitive Audio, and this was my first road trip with the Pono since I reviewed it for the April issue. (Bruce Botnick and Charles Hansen comment on that review elsewhere in this issue.)
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 08, 2015 Published: Sep 01, 1984 4 comments
As reported by Michael Fremer on AnalogPlanet.com, legendary mastering engineer and co-founder of Sheffield Lab, Doug Sax, passed away on April 2. Doug had been suffering from cancer and would have been 79 on April 26.

Coincidentally, we had just posted J. Gordon Holt's October 1982 review of the Sheffield Track Record, which Doug had cut direct-to-disc. This reminded me that Robert Harley had interviewed Doug in the October 1989 issue of Stereophile; rereading that interview reminded me that in September 1984, I had published an interview with Doug in the magazine Hi-Fi News, which I edited at that time.

So, in tribute to Doug, here is my 1984 interview, reprinted with the kind permission of Hi-Fi News editor Paul Miller.—John Atkinson

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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 28, 2015 27 comments
All of us Stereophile were deeply saddened this morning to learn of the death of Bob Reina, after a brief battle with cancer. Bob was 61. After a stint at The Absolute Sound and cofounding a high-end audio magazine, Sounds Like..., Bob joined Stereophile in 1995 and his first review was of a Creek amplifier. . .
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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 23, 2015 62 comments
In the 1960s, musical giants walked the earth. I vividly remember the first time I heard a song called "Expecting to Fly," in a UK record store. The vast, reverberation-drenched sound was extraordinary; the frail, shaky alto voice of the singer riveting.

"Who is that?" I asked the clerk.

"It's a new American band, Buffalo Springfield . . . but they've already broken up."

I bought all I could find of the Springfield, which wasn't much, and learned that the singer and composer of "Expecting to Fly" was a Canadian, Neil Young.

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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 08, 2015 43 comments
MBW/Nielsen Soundscan statistics. Presented without comment!
John Atkinson Posted: Feb 27, 2015 2 comments
Looking back at our September 2014 issue, I think my review of the Triangle Signature Delta loudspeaker marked something of a watershed in the evolution of my taste in loudspeaker sound quality. For decades I have been a devotee of what might be called "British" sound: low coloration and, overall, a rather polite presentation, coupled with low sensitivity. The Triangle speaker opened my ears to what could be achieved with a very different approach: still-low coloration but high sensitivity, impressive clarity, and a hefty dose of what the late J. Gordon Holt called "jump factor," in which the leading edges of transients are neither smeared nor tamed. So when, last September, on a visit to Dallas and The Sound Organisation, the US distributor of Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries (DALI), I encountered DALI's Rubicon 8 speaker (footnote 1), which had benefited from a low-loss design philosophy similar to the Triangle's, I asked for a pair for review.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2015 3 comments
Richard Vandersteen points to the detailed improvements to his flagship Model Seven speaker, which produced one of my best sounds at the 2015 CES.

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