John Atkinson

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John Atkinson Posted: Sep 06, 2013 0 comments
The door to a professional reviewer's listening room is one that revolves: As one product leaves, another enters. After a while, it becomes difficult to remember exactly when you auditioned any specific component. But some products stick in your memory—you fondly remember the time you spent with them, and wish they hadn't departed quite so quickly. With loudspeakers, I recall a few such: Revel's Ultima Salon2 ($22,000, footnote 1), MBL's 111B ($17,000), Dynaudio's Confidence C4 ($16,000), Sonus Faber's Amati Futura ($36,000), Vivid's B1 ($14,990), TAD's Compact Reference CR1 ($40,600 with stands), and even the much less expensive Harbeth P3ESR ($2195–$2395) and KEF LS50 ($1500). Among the most recently reviewed of those fondly remembered speakers is Sony's SS-AR2ES ($20,000).
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John Atkinson Posted: Sep 05, 2013 36 comments
It was like old times. A major consumer electronics company was presenting a press conference in a high-rent venue to introduce its new audio products. These events used to be commonplace; now they are rare. But on September 4, in Manhattan's Jazz at Lincoln Center, to an audience that included record company executives from Universal, Warner, and Sony Music, HDTracks' Norman and David Chesky, Chad Kassem and Marc Sheforgen from Acoustic Sounds, whose new DSD download store was last week's big news, musician Herbie Hancock, and veteran mastering engineer Mark Wilder, Phil Molyneux, President and Chief Operating Officer of Sony Electronics since September 2010, announced that the company saw high-resolution audio as the future of recorded music playback.
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John Atkinson Posted: Aug 22, 2013 Published: Apr 01, 2005 1 comments
"Without content, television is nothing more than lights in a box."—Edward R. Murrow, 1958

"When it comes to video, most audiophiles are insufferable snobs."—J. Gordon Holt, 1984

Those who have followed the arguments between audiophiles and home-theater enthusiasts in the pages of Stereophile—I lifted the Murrow quote from a 1996 battle between Steve Guttenberg (representing the former community) and Joel Silver (representing the latter)—will have no doubt over which side of the argument I am on.

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John Atkinson Posted: Aug 16, 2013 Published: Aug 01, 2006 28 comments
You could sense the frustration in Keith Pray's e-mail. "We are on the same team. I have always respected your wishes and will continue to do so," he had written me. At the request of a possible advertiser, Stereophile's publisher had asked me a question about something appearing in the issue of Stereophile we were preparing. I had responded that not only would I not give him an answer, I felt it inappropriate for him to ask.
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John Atkinson Posted: Aug 08, 2013 Published: Mar 01, 2005 9 comments
"Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature . . ."—Michael Faraday

"When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in confederacy against him."—Jonathan Swift

John Atkinson Posted: Aug 01, 2013 1 comments
Boston Acoustics made its name in the early 1980s with the A40, an inexpensive two-way bookshelf design that became one of that decade's best-selling speakers. Stephen Mejias was impressed by the A40's spiritual descendant, the Boston Acoustics A25 bookshelf speaker ($299.98/pair), when he reviewed it in November 2011, and I was similarly impressed when I had the speaker on the test bench for measurement. So when, in the fall of 2012, Boston's soon-to-be-departing PR representative Sara Trujillo let me know that the company was introducing a range of more expensive speakers, I asked to review the top-of-the-line, floorstanding M350.
John Atkinson Posted: Jul 25, 2013 Published: Aug 01, 2013 18 comments
Apple's iPod came of age in the fall of 2003, when, with the release of iTunes 4.5, the player was no longer restricted to lossy compressed MP3 or AAC files. Instead, it could play uncompressed or losslessly compressed files with true "CD quality"; users no longer had to compromise sound quality to benefit from the iPod's convenience.

Enter Astell&Kern. At the beginning of 2013, this brand from iRiver, a Korean portable media company, introduced its AK100, a portable player costing a dollar short of $700 and capable of handling 24-bit files with sample rates of up to 192kHz.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jul 16, 2013 Published: Jul 01, 2006 0 comments
"At last!" I rushed to open the UPS package with the familiar Amazon logo. "It's arrived!"

"What's arrived?" My 13-year-old daughter Emily showed some uncharacteristic curiosity.

"The new Pink Floyd two-DVD set, P.U.L.S.E, which I've had on order for what seems like forever. It contains four hours of music!"

"What's that, like three Pink Floyd songs?"

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John Atkinson Posted: Jul 16, 2013 Published: Aug 01, 2005 2 comments
"It's not just it doesn't work as well, it doesn't sound as good!"

Veteran audio reviewer Martin Colloms and I were taking a preprandial walk across London's Hampstead Heath, following Cream's reunion concerts at the Royal Albert Hall last May. Martin was getting animated:

"And don't ask about the whiskers!"

Of course, I had to ask about the whiskers.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jul 09, 2013 Published: May 01, 2006 1 comments
I'm still using a Mac mini as a music server, using iTunes on this host server to stream music to my listening-room system via the Apple Airport Express WiFi hub. However, as the Airport Express is limited to CD-quality music, I tend to use them for nonserious listening, when I am involved in some other activity. One of those activities this past week or so was reading a new book from erstwhile Stereophile record reviewer Allen St. John: Clapton's Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument (hardcover, 288pp; Free Press, New York, $25).

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