John Atkinson

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2006 1 comments
Conceptually, the preamplifier is the bottleneck in an audio system. All sources pass through it, and it influences every sound you hear. A system comprising great speakers and gutsy amplification will sound uninspired if that's the character of the preamplifier. Conversely, a great preamplifier will allow through so much information, so much of the music, that the listener can forgive the shortcomings of lesser speakers and amplifiers.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 11, 2006 1 comments
A line of speakers that impressed me when I auditioned them at the 2004 London Show was the Vivids, from South Africa. Designed by Laurence "Dick" Dickie, the engineer primarily responsible for B&W's groundbreaking original Nautilus design back in the mid-1990s, the Vivid speakers use proprietary metal-diaphragm drivers in enclosures formed from composite materials rather than wood. Seen here in one of the Audiophile Systems rooms, with VTL amplification and dCS's new P8i SACD player (review forthcoming), the Vivid B1s produced a clean, open sound. It was announced at CES that Vivid is being distributed in the US by Musical Surroundings.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 08, 2006 0 comments
We reported a couple of weeks back about the management buyout at English digital specialist dCS. CES saw the first public showing of the new products we wrote about, including the Verdi Encore SACD transport, which upsamples CDs to a DSD stream to feed a dCS DAC, such as the Elgar Plus seen here beneath the transport with both clocked by the dCS Verona that I reviewed a year ago. The rest of the dem system was a pair of Verity Parsifal speakers driven by a VTL S-400 amplifier and VTL's new TL-6.5 line preamp: the sound on a cut from the new Jackson Browne CD that Robert Baird writes about in the January 2006 Stereophile was effortlessly smooth, analog-like in the ease of musical communication. And on the top of the Encore is the award we presented to dCS at CES for the original LaScala transport being one of our two Joint Digital Products of 2005.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 08, 2006 1 comments
Toward the end of the final day in Las Vegas, I found Kalman Rubinson entranced by the sound of Shirley Horn singing and playing piano in the Audio Research room at T.H.E. Show. A pair of the new Mk.2 version of the Wilson Sophia speakers was being driven by ARC's Reference 210 monoblocks, a Reference 3 line stage, the Minnesota company's new Ref CD7 player, with cables from Shunyata and Cardas and AC conditioning by Richard Gray. I was equally entranced.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 08, 2006 0 comments
Toward the end of the final day in Las Vegas, I found Kalman Rubinson entranced by the sound of Shirley Horn singing and playing piano in the Audio Research room at T.H.E. Show. A pair of the new Mk.2 version of the Wilson Sophia speakers was being driven by ARC's Reference 210 monoblocks, a Reference 3 line stage, the Minnesota company's new Ref CD7 player, with cables from Shunyata and Cardas and AC conditioning by Richard Gray. I was equally entranced.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 08, 2006 15 comments
Codenamed "ML-DVD" during its development, the Mark Levinson No.51 Media Player made its debut at CES. The $18,000, limited-edition player (only 150 will be offered for sale) is intended to get all there is to be gotten from CDs and DVD-Vs, but pointedly will not play SACDs or DVD-As (though it will, of course, play the video-zone Dolby Digital tracks of the latter). I listened to the No.51 in a system comprising the Mark Levinson No.40 controller, the new No.433 three-channel amplifier for the LCR speakers (a pair of Revel F52s and a C32) and a No.431 two-channel amp for the Revel M22 rears, along with two Revel F15 subs. Whether it was two-channel music—Greg Browne's "Who Killed Cock Robin?", which was everywhere at the Show—or film surround sound—Pleasantville—there was an addictive ease to the system's sound, coupled with extraordinary dynamic range.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 07, 2006 0 comments
In our forthcoming February issue, I review the 5.2 loudspeaker from Genesis Technologies. Like many Arnie Nudell designs, the 5.2 demands a lot of current from the partnering amplifier. (See, for example, my 1989 measurements of Arnie's classic IRS Beta design.) I was impressed, therefore, to hear the 5.2s being driven to great effect on a track from singer Jacintha by Genesis' new i60 60Wpc integrated tube amplifier. Made in China, with design input from veteran amplifier maven Bascom King, the i60 uses KT88s and will cost $3495. Rather than show the normal frontal shot of the amp, I photographed the hard-wired circuit, which impressed the heck out of me with its superb craftsmanship.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 07, 2006 3 comments
A product that impressed me last year was OliveMedia Products' Symphony music server. The size and appearance of a conventional CD player, the Symphony incorporates an 80GB hard drive and a WiFi hub so that it can act as a music-file server, all for just $899. I wrote my positive impressions of the Symphony with its digital output driving my high-end rig in our mid-November eNewsletter, so I checked out Olive at CES. The company was demonstrating the new Opus, which increases the HD size to 400GB and uses a high-end D/A section. The Opus will be available mid-February for $2999.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 04, 2006 Published: Jan 05, 2006 0 comments
The CES's "Innovations" exhibit at the Sands Convention Center is intended to honor the most technologically advanced and ground-breaking consumer electronic products at the Show. Most of the display cases were still waiting to be populated on set-up day (though we spotted B&W's cute cylindrical subwoofer as well as Krell's Dean Roumanis wheeling in some big boxes). But some of the choices for an award raised our eyebrows, as with this robot intended to train boxers in the comfort of their own homes. Stereophile's Stephen Mejias strikes a suitably pugilistic pose.

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