Martin Colloms argues persuasively in the January 1998 Stereophile that negative feedback is not the panacea that amplifier designers believe it to be. His experience of an amplifier (the Cary CAD-805C) and a preamplifier (the Conrad-Johnson ART) that use no negative feedback other than local degeneration, yet have sound quality better than he has previously experienced, convinces him that even when a design's closed-loop distortion appears to be acceptably low, the listener is still aware of an amplifier's very distorted open-loop behavior.
We have followed at a distance the discussion over whether 60Hz/50Hz electromagnetic radiation from powerlines affects the health of people in close proximity, and in the November 1997 Stereophile (Vol.20 No.11, p.51), an "Industry Update" story by Barry Willis reported a connection with Alzheimer's Disease.
As of October, Meridian America's new VP/Sales, replacing the late Ross Keim, was industry veteran Andy Regan, who started his high-end career at Manhattan retailer Sound by Singer. Most recently, Regan was VP/Sales at cable manufacturer AudioQuest. Not uncoincidentally, Joe Abrams has moved from cable manufacturer MIT to AudioQuest.
"Comping," they call it at Madrigal. Once a circuit and its board layout have been finalized, passive components are substituted one by one in an exhaustive series of listening tests to determine the places where use of a premium part, or one of closer tolerances, results in an audible benefit. This fine-tuning process cannot be open-ended, however, as products do have to shipped. So what happens when new parts become available, or new manufacturing processes allow a better-sounding part to be used without financial penalty?
There are many benefits accruing to a loudspeaker when its designer goes the active or powered route. The usual losses and distortions associated with passive crossovers can be circumvented, while the fact that the amplifiers and drive-units can be designed as a package enables the designer to squeeze more performance from each than would otherwise be the case. And the savings gained from the absence of a separate amplifier chassis can be passed on to the consumer.
Canadian loudspeaker company PSB International celebrated both its 25th anniversary in July and the 10th anniversary of the introduction of its Stratus series. (I review the latest version of the flagship Stratus speaker, the Gold i, elsewhere in this issue.) Started by Paul Barton and two friends in the summer of 1972, PSB Speakers was named after Paul and his high-school sweetheart Sue (now his wife). Paul & Sue Barton Speakers is now part of Lenbrook Industries, which distributes NAD, Marantz, and Bang & Olufsen in Canada, and which in turn is part of the Canadian conglomerate Lenbrook Inc.
Things are changing rapidly in the world of professional digital audio. After a decade of stability, with slow but steady improvement in the quality of 16-bit, 44.1kHz audio, the cry among audio engineers is now "24/96!"—meaning 24-bit data sampled at 96kHz. Not coincidentally, DVD offers audiophiles a medium with the potential for playing back music encoded at this new mastering standard.
John Atkinson sets the stage Nothing seems to polarize people as much as the vexed question concerning the importance of audible differences between amplifiers. If you think there are subjective differences, you're an audiophile; if you don't, you're not. And as any glance at an appropriate issue of Consumer Reports—the publication for non-audiophiles—will confirm, the established wisdom is that once the price of an amplifier or receiver crosses a certain threshold, any further improvement in sound quality becomes irrelevant, in that it puts the price up for no apparent gain. In other words, when it comes to amplification, there is such a thing as being "too" good. Yet, as a reader of this magazine, I would expect that not only have you been exposed to real subjective quality differences between amplifiers that Consumer Reports would regard as sounding identical, you have made purchasing decisions made on the basis of hearing such differences.