Breaking news at the 2001 CEDIA Expo, held this past weekend in Indianapolis, IN, was that Harry Pearson, founder and editor of bimonthly high-end audio magazine The Absolute Sound, has apparently been moved to one side. According to TAS publisher Mark Fisher, with whom I spoke briefly Sunday morning on the Show floor, the day-to-day editing of the magazine will become the responsibility of erstwhile Stereophile consulting technical editor Robert Harley.
My dogs were killing me. It was the end of the second day of the 1985 Summer Consumer Electronics Show, which I was visiting on behalf of English magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review. I had been dutifully tramping the capacious corridors of Chicago's McCormick Center and the rooms of the (now demolished) McCormick Inn, looking for signs of musical life amid the huge promotion for the 8mm tape format, which was being heavily touted at CES as the future of both video and audio (!) reproduction. Even trade-paper headlines shouting "Audio: Not Just Video Peripheral!" failed to lift my spirits as I took the shuttle bus over to the Americana Congress hotel on South Michigan, where most of the high-end audio companies were hanging out.
The occasion was the 1999 Consumer Electronics Show, and I had sought out the Sony suite at Bally's—the word in the Las Vegas bars where audio journalists hung out was that Sony was demonstrating the production version of their SCD-1 Super Audio CD player. I was glad I'd made the trek along the Strip: As I reported in the May 1999 Stereophile, the sound of a DMP recording—of unaccompanied choral music recorded and mixed in DSD by Tom Jung—was breathtaking, I felt, with an exquisite sense of space. It was definitely the best sound at the CES.
As I write these words, it is exactly 15 years to the day since I left the English magazine Hi-Fi News (then Hi-Fi News & Record Review) to take the editorial helm of Stereophile. What has driven my editing of both magazines (and, Carol Baugh, p.10, I certainly do "edit" them) has been the view that the traditional model of a magazine—that it dispense and the readers receive wisdom—is fundamentally wrong. Instead, I strongly believe that a magazine's editors, writers, and readers are involved in an ongoing dialog about their shared enthusiasms. Stereophile's involvement in Shows stems from this belief, and it is in this light that its "Letters" column should be regarded as the heart of each issue.
As part of this issue's coverage of the recent Consumer Electronics Show (see Sidebar), I report on my dissatisfaction with almost all the surround-sound demonstrations I experienced in Las Vegas. As a music-lover, the last thing I want is to have trumpets and drums attacking me from behind, yet almost without exception, that is what record producers seem to feel is an essential part of the DVD-Audio and SACD experiences.
The affair started quietly enough, with the following exchange that appeared in Stereophile's January 2001 "Letters" section, following my decision to put the Digital Audio Labs CardDeluxe high-end PC soundcard on the cover of our September 2000 issue:
Little Feat: Hotcakes & Outtakes: 30 Years of Little Feat Warner Archives/Rhino R2 79912 (4 CDs). 1970-2000. Russ Titelman, Ted Templeman, Lowell George, Van Dyke Parks, Erik Jacobsen, George Massenburg, Bill Payne, Paul Barrère, Bill Wray, Ed Cherney, Frank Zappa, Michael O'Bryant, Richard Moore, orig. prods.; Gary Peterson, Bill Payne, Paul Barrère, reissue prods.; Bill Inglot, reissue sound. AAD. TT: 5:13:48 Performance ***** Sonics ****
Charles Hansen said it best, in a recent e-mail: "People have been holding back from criticizing this technology because they weren't certain that some new discovery hadn't been made." Ayre Acoustics' main man was talking about "upsampling," whereby conventional "Red Book" CD data, sampled at 44.1kHz, are converted to a datastream with a higher sample rate. (Because of its association with DVD-Audio, 96kHz is often chosen as the new rate.)