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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 27, 2008 Published: Jun 01, 1987 0 comments
Enid Lumley accosted me in the corridors of Santa Monica's BayView Plaza Hotel in March: "That doesn't sound like a real piano!" I was taken aback. The sound to which the redoubtable Ms. Lumley was referring emanated from a 7' Steinway we had hired for James Boyk to play at the Stereophile show. Jim was conducting a series of tutorials on how the sound of a real piano is constituted, so Enid's criticism, on the face of things, seemed absurd. As my face obviously showed this conclusion, she hastily explained that, of course it was a real piano, but the fact that it overloaded the 40-seat room in which it was being played caused it to sound different from the sound of a real piano played in a concert hall. To lead visitors to the show to expect piano records to sound similar to what Jim was producing was dishonest.
John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2008 0 comments
In his July 2003 "The Fifth Element" column, John Marks enthusiastically wrote about the Benchmark Media Systems DAC1 D/A processor and headphone amplifier. Comparing its sound playing CDs with that of a three-times-more-expensive Marantz SA-14 SACD player, he concluded that the DAC 1's "Red Book" performance was at least as good as that of the Marantz, being "slightly more articulate in the musical line, and slightly more detailed in spatial nuances, particularly the localization of individual images in space, and in soundstage depth."
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2008 0 comments
As I wrote in this space last month, test-equipment manufacturer Audio Precision has loaned Stereophile a sample of their top-of-the-line SYS2722 system, which has both significantly greater resolution and greater bandwidth than the Audio Precision System One Dual Domain we have been using since 1989. The reviews you can read in this issue include the first measurements I have performed with this impressive piece of gear, though there are still a number of graphs I produced using our System One. In fact, with the equipment I tested using the SYS2722, I performed duplicate sets of measurements using both the System One and the Miller Audio Research QC Suite in order to get a handle on how close the three systems agreed. (They did on the tests where the SYS2722's improved resolution was not a factor.)
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2008 3 comments
The Benchmark DAC1 D/A headphone amplifier has long been our affordable digital recommendation, both in its original form ($975) or with an additional USB data input ($1275, reviewed in the January issue of Stereophile). The DAC1 looked a little different when I went into the Benchmark room at the THE Show; "That's because you're looking at the new DAC1 PRE," explained Rory Rall. The NY company has added a pair of single-ended analog inputs so that the DAC1 can act as the system preamp. It still has digital inputs, of course, though the AES/EBU XLR had to be omitted to make the rear-panel real estate available for the analog inputs. A switch scrolls between the four digital inputs, the USB computer input, and the analog input. The DAC1 PRE is expected to begin shipping in February 2008 and will retail for $1575.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2008 5 comments
In their suite at the Mirage, Nagra introduced the VPS (Valve Phono Stage), shown here under the Swiss company’s well-regarded PL-L line preamplifier. The front-panel switch selects between A and B inputs and mute, while the rear panel features two sets of inputs and outputs and an output level switch. The A inputs accommodate MC cartridges, while the optional B input can be set for either MM or MC operation. Capacitive and resistive loading can be changed with modules that plug into the pcb close to the input connectors. The MC circuit is based on high-quality transformers wound in-house by Nagra, followed by gain and RIAA stages using ECC81 and ECC83 tubes. The RIAA equalization can be set with internal jumpers either to the 1953 standard or to the 1976 standard. The circuit boards are mounted on compliant supports, to minimize microphony and the power supply is housed in a separate chassis. Unusually, the output can be taken either directly from the tube stage or via a solids-state buffer.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2008 1 comments
At a press conference on the first day of CES, TEAC Esoteric launched a new range of source components. That was expected. But what was not expected was Esoteric's manager of overseas sales, Kazutaka Tsuda (above), introducing a new monoblock tube amplifier, the AT-100. Using KT88s in its output stage, the 50Wpc Esoteric amp features a new variable bias system and an output transformer using specially treated copper foil as the secondary winding to give the best coupling from the primary. The heaters of the input and driver tubes are DC-powered, to give the lowest noise; in fact, Esoteric claims the AT-100 is extremely quiet, despite its all-tube design. While it was designed as a power amplifier, a rear-panel switch, in conjunction with a volume control knob on its front panel, turns the AT-100 into an integrated, with three RCA inputs ands one XLR. Price will be $18,500.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2008 2 comments
I'd gone into the DCM room at the end of the day to hear the speaker manufacturer's new Time Frame TFE200 three-way tower, which can be seen at the left of the photo. Using two 6.5" woofers and a midrange mounted above the tweeter, the TFE200 offers a lot of speaker engineering for just $1000/pair. But following my audition of the speakers, driven by Jolida CD player and tube monoblocks, connected with Esoteric USA cables, we were treated to a concert by singer-songwriter Herman Hogan. Al Congdon, the VP of DCM parent company Mitek's Consumer Electronics Group, had heard Hogan playing in a Long Beach coffee house, and liked what he heard. He invited Hogan to perform in the DCM room at CES. You can't beat that live music!
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 12, 2008 0 comments
PBN's Peter Noerback had emailed me back in December about his new Montana KAS2 tower. The 300lb, 6'-tall speaker has twin 12" woofers top and bottom powered by a 1kW amplifier, with what appear to be top-of-the line 9" lower and 5" upper midrange units from SEAS flanking a 1.125" tweeter. An active, line-level bass extender, the Olympia EX, pushes the low-frequency extension below the resonance point of the woofers. Sensitivity is specified as a very high 93dB/W/m. The sealed cabinet features a solid-maple front baffle and is an asymmetrical hexagon in shape to minimize internal resonances. Price, considering the enormous size of the speaker, is a relatively realistic $38,000/pair, which includes the bass extender.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 12, 2008 1 comments
"What's new?" I asked the Canadian company's affable Lionel Goodfield on the last day of CES.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 04, 2008 Published: Dec 04, 1986 1 comments
The accuracy of a hi-fi system's "soundstage" reproduction seems to be of paramount importance these days, just as a component must now have "transparency" to possess hi-fi righteousness. If the system in which that component is used doesn't give good soundstage, then the system's owner has definitely fallen by the wayside. But what defines a good soundstage? Stereo imaging must have something to do with it, I hear you all cry. (I would have said stereo imagery until Larry Archibald pointed out that imagery has far less to do with hi-fi than with good writing, something I'm sure we agree has no place in a hi-fi magazine.) OK, what defines good stereo imaging?

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