Blind loudspeaker listening tests are hard work, not least because usually, most of the models being auditioned fail to light any musical sparks. But back in the spring of 1991, when a small group of Stereophile writers were doing blind tests for a group speaker review, one speaker did light up smiles on the listeners' faces, including my own. (We don't talk during our blind tests, but it's more difficult to keep body language in check.) Once the results were in, we learned that the speaker that got the music right in that test was the diminutive ES11 from Epos in England (footnote 1).
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.
After I decided to join Stereophile as its editor in the spring of 1986, I took a road trip through Europe. The ostensible reason for the trip was to attend a hi-fi show in Lucerne, Switzerland, but the reality was that, faced with the transatlantic dislocation, I wanted to touch base with places that had meant much to me over the preceding years. I took the train to Paris, where I spent a day taking what might have been my last look at the Impressionist paintings (then at the Jeu de Paume gallery, now at the Musée d'Orsay), then drove the rest of the way to Lucerne with KEF's then marketing manager David Inman.
I was saddened to hear of the untimely death of David Smith, vice-president of audio engineering and R&D at Sony Music Studios in New York. David, who was 55, died Saturday June 17, at the home of his mother on Long Island.
Back at the end of September 2005, I dropped by Jonathan and Kathleen Scull's Chelsea loft after work. I can't remember why; I think I was returning some gear. But we had also just finished shipping the 2006 Stereophile Buyer's Guide to the printer that day, and it was possible that I needed some high-quality musical R'n'R. Sitting in Jonathan's listening seat—the legendary Ribbon Chair"—and enjoying the sound of his system, I flashed on the days when he worked for Stereophile full-time and I occasionally used to pop round to his place, just two blocks away from what was then our office, on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. Whatever components Jonathan was writing about, a consistent factor in the always superb sound of his system was the presence of the pair of JMlab Utopia loudspeakers that he had reviewed in the April 1998 issue of Stereophile. The Utopias delivered a seamless, full-range presentation that served Jonathan's eclectic taste in music while also allowing him to easily hear the effects, good or bad, of the various tweaks he was always trying.
When someone is described as having "written the book" on a subject, it is generally taken as a figure of speech. But veteran speaker designer Joseph D'Appolito, PhD, quite literally "wrote the book." His Testing Loudspeakers (Audio Amateur Press, 1998) is an invaluable resource for those of us who, lacking any talent for designing speakers ourselves, nevertheless find the subject of speaker performance endlessly fascinating. So when Snell's PR consultant, Bryan Stanton, contacted me a while back about reviewing the LCR7, the first design D'Appolito had seen through from start to finish for the Massachusetts-based company since he had replaced David Smith as Snell's chief engineer, I suffered from more than a little anxiety.
The Black Swan loudspeaker ($30,000/pair) from Canadian manufacturer Gershman Acoustics is unusual in that it uses a separate enclosure for its woofer section, flanked by extensions of the satellite's side-panels. The speaker's finish was excellent and the sound, with the speakers driven by McCormack universal player and electronics via Magnan cable, was equally excellent, even taking the the small size of the hotel room into consideration.
Wes Phillips already described his reaction to the new Nagra CDT CD transport and CDC CD player/control center. As can be seen from this photo, a hidden benefit of the player is that it has two sets of analog outputs: one pair on the side to go with Nagra own's PL-L and PL-P preamps and another on the rear panel, to be used with conventional preamps.
...use a unique drive-unit concept that provides breathtakingly realistic, silky-smooth treble reproduction. I always try to visit the German manufacturer's room at the end of the Show, to savor the sound of their 101E speakers. Driven by MBL's own amps and digital front-end, with Tara Labs "Zero" vacuum-dielectric cables, these lived up to my expectation, though the Show room was not completely sympatico with the bandpass-loaded woofers, which need a relatively well-damped acoustic to work at their best.
HE2006 had DJs Ming & FS, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet and jazz from the Anthony Wilson Nonet, alto saxophonist, Zane Musa, John Heard and Company on Friday; jazz from guitarist Chris Standring and singer Melora Hardin, along with the incomparable Dr. John doing his Dr. John thing on Saturday; and my own trio doing jazz on Sunday. But classical music enthusiasts were not forgotten at the Show: Sunday saw the Arroyo String Quartet, joined by soprano Kathleen Winters for Mozart's sublime Exultate Jubilate, perform a fine set. A treat for the ears!