"The large peak at 16kHz reported by Stereophile...was nowhere in evidence...The most probable explanation of this discrepancy is that the [Waveform supertweeter's] very light ribbon depends on the air load for damping, and that load is much smaller in the thin air up there at 7000' in Santa Fe than at altitudes where less lightheaded and scientifically more accountable reviewers dwell." Thus spake Peter Aczel (footnote 1), erstwhile loudspeaker designer and Editor/Publisher of the reincarnated The Audio Critic, a publication that advertises itself as having "unusual credibility among the top professionals in audio."
The 2006 edition of the Stereophile Buyer's Guide is out now. Listing the specifications of more than 5000 audio components within its 212 large-format pages, the Buyer's Guide is exclusively concerned with products for music reproduction, as opposed to the bangs, bonks, and battle noises typical of movie soundtracks.
Loudspeaker manufacturer Boston Acoustics made its name—and its fortune—building high-performance but low-cost speakers. Indeed, I recently set up a modest system for my mother-in-law that was based on Boston's classic A-40—a two-way design that sold for just $160/pair back in 1986—and was very pleasantly surprised at the quality these little speakers offered. Back in the early '90s, however, the Massachusetts-based company announced that they were taking a step into the High End with a new loudspeaker line, the Lynnfields (see Thomas J. Norton's interview with Boston's Andy Kotsatos elsewhere in this issue). These were designed by expatriate British engineer Phil Jones, previously responsible for the impressive Acoustic Energy speakers.
Richard Shahinian has been offering loudspeakers to music lovers for more than 15 years. I use the word "offering" here in its strictest sense, because Dick has never "sold" his products—by pushing them. Indeed, he is probably one of the worst self-promoters in the business. If we think of "soft sell" in the usual context of laid-back and low-pressure, then Shahinian's approach would have to be called "mushy sell."
Back in the spring of 1986, I was visiting a hi-fi show in Lucerne, Switzerland. In the KEF/McIntosh/Perreaux room, I was engaged by a voluble American, who wanted to talk about the changes I was making with the English magazine Hi-Fi News. The conversation shifted to the hotel bar, then to a restaurant. The American was one Tony Federici, who at that time was distributing Perreaux gear in the US. With an education in the philosophy of science, Tony's comments were insightful and challenging. He was never at a loss for an opinion! After I moved to the US to take the editorial reins at Stereophile, Tony stayed in touch, and many were the conversations we had about audio magazines, the audio business, and music.
"This is offensive!" muttered usually mild-mannered Malcolm Hawksford, who was sitting next to me. "I'm leaving." The good professor was right. One thousand or so attendees at the 103rd Audio Engineering Society Convention, held at the end of September in New York, were being subjected to truly terrible sound. The irony was that the sound was that of 2- and 5-channel recordings made with 24-bit resolution and a 96kHz sampling rate, being played over a colored PA system to demonstrate the future of audio, in the form of DVD-Audio.
It was a classic American tale: hearing that the head honcho of RadioShack was in town, the principals of Oregon-based high-end loudspeaker manufacturer Linaeum found out where he was staying and called him to see if RadioShack would be interested in marketing their speakers. They were rewarded for their daring by being given an introduction to the right RadioShack department head, and before you could say time-coherent, a deal was struck for RadioShack to manufacture a new line of three "audiophile" loudspeakers featuring a version of the unique Linaeum tweeter. The less-expensive Optimus Pro X77 and LX4 models use a baffle-mounted tweeter that radiates just to the front; the top-of-the-line Optimus Pro LX5 reviewed here mounts a bi-directional tweeter on the top of a diecast aluminum enclosure.
Back in the early 1970s, the BBC needed a physically unobtrusive, nearfield monitor loudspeaker for use in outside-broadcast trucks. Accordingly, they instructed their design department, which at that time featured such luminaries as Dudley Harwood (the "father" of the polypropylene cone, who went on to found Harbeth) and the late Spencer Hughes (the "father" of the Bextrene cone, who went on to found Spendor), to produce such a model. Thus, not only was what was then probably the finest collection of British speaker-design talent involved in its development, there were no commercial constraints placed on the design. The only limitations were intended to be those arising from the necessarily small enclosure and the absence of the need for a wide dynamic range under close monitoring conditions.
Among the terrible news coming out of the Gulf states these past few days, we heard the sad news that Gary Warzin, one of the co-founders, with Tony Gregory, of high-end distribution company Audiophile Systems, had died on Saturday August 27 at just 56. Audiophile Systems had grown to prominence in the 1970s and '80s marketing Linn components in the US, and after Linn had set up their own distribution, had worked hard to establish the Arcam and dCS brands in the US. We reproduce below the email we received from Audiophile Systems, telling us of the news, but I'd like to offer my own memory of someone whose abilities as a serious expert on marketing—he was a Disney Fellow—were matched by his penchant for practical jokes: