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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 09, 2015 23 comments
The day after I met manufacturer/industrial artist David Stanavich, it dawned on me why I was so taken with his Waxrax record racks: These sturdy, stylish, steel-and-aluminum structures resemble the shelving in my elementary school's library, ca 1960. If I could, I'd fill my home with multiples of the Waxrax LP-V3 tower seen here (LP capacity: 550). But at approximately $4000 per unit, depending on finish and options, this Brooklyn-built rack is too pricey. (To store 550 LPs for $4k works out to over $7 per record—which is more than many records themselves are worth.)
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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 08, 2015 5 comments
We make our beginnings in the manner of our endings; so it was on Saturday morning, when I headed back to the Rye Brook Hilton's Maple Room, where Friday evening Michael Lavorgna, Steve Guttenberg, and I had spun ripping yarns of shipping labels and galley proofs on the high seas of audio reviewing. (Yarr.) I was there to hear a presentation called Great Sound: Beyond the Gear: Life and Technology: A Compromise—a title with more colons than a lower-GI specialist sees in a week!—by an audio engineer/designer/producer/acoustical consultant named Stuart Allyn. I was running a minute or two late, and when I opened the door to the Maple Room I saw: a capacity crowd. Wow!

And that set the tone for the rest of the day...

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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 07, 2015 3 comments
There are shows that raise our expectations and there are shows from which greatness is not expected. And after October 26, when the organizers of the New York Audio Show, taking place at the Rye Hilton in Westchester County this weekend, announced that they were capping the number of exhibitors at 30—imagine Mike Huckabee or Hillary Clinton announcing a limit on corporate donations—this event slipped into the latter. No amount of positive, industry-healthy attitude on the part of myself or anyone else can shiny that up.

And yet . . .

Art Dudley Posted: Oct 29, 2015 6 comments
Please don't tell her I said this, but lately, my wife has been getting twitchy about my records. Twitchy as in: She wants me to sell them. Or at least some of them.

I have only myself to blame. For years, I have shared with her my every joy that came of finding, at a lawn sale or garage sale or on eBay or at a record store whose proprietors "had no idea what this thing is worth," some rare and valuable treasure. And therein lay another facet of my problem: As often as I would rejoice at the music I was poised to enjoy, or the sheer pleasure of acquiring something rare and well made, I would roll, pig-like, in the pleasure of the thing's potential monetary value. Old Testament–style dark clouds fill the sky outside my window even as I type this.

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Art Dudley Posted: Sep 30, 2015 3 comments
To paraphrase the playwright Alan Bennett: When I started Listener magazine, my idea was to create a small, anarchist journal. But people wouldn't obey the rules.

In 2003, when I began writing for Stereophile, I felt very much at home. John Atkinson had one set of rules (footnote 1) to ring us in, us being the codependent communities of audio reviewers and audio manufacturers. Martinet that I am, I layered atop those policies a few rules of my own, to govern interactions with members of the industry. More recently, I began to observe an additional practice—I wouldn't quite call it a policy—meant to prevent mismatches, missteps, misunderstandings, and hard feelings all around: When someone offers me a product of a sort for which I have a consistent and automatic dislike, I tell them so. I say, politely, that I'm disinclined to borrow and write about the thing, because I suspect it will mesh with neither my system nor my tastes.

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Art Dudley Posted: Sep 30, 2015 10 comments
"The way that young people will get into high-end audio is not through streaming: It's through the LP."

When that observation was offered during a recent phone conversation, I wrote it down word for word—not just because I agree with it, but because it was so remarkable: The audio-industry veteran who offered it owns a digital front end worth tens of thousands of dollars, and hasn't owned a turntable for at least a dozen years. Nevertheless, as became clear during the remainder of our conversation, he understands the dynamic that keeps vinyl at the top: a confluence of marketing psychology and genuine sonic goodness.

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Art Dudley Posted: Sep 06, 2015 2 comments
An opportunity to return to Sonor Filtronique came sooner than expected: I was invited there for a September 4 new-product launch co-sponsored by AudioQuest, Wilson Audio, Audio Research, and dCS America. Encouraged by the dual prospects of good sound and a chance to enjoy the beautiful city of Montreal without an overcoat, I booked my train ticket right away.
Art Dudley Posted: Sep 04, 2015 1 comments
In a bizarre but happy turn of events, recent consumer trends have given even the most socially awkward audiophile something to talk about at cocktail parties and family gatherings at which normal people predominate: the PonoPlayer and vinyl. These are hot topics; each is among the best-sounding music sources available, and both offer hope for our hobby, if not for music lovers in general. But vinyl has the advantage of appealing to a much wider range of budgets. LPs can be had from anywhere to "We'll pay you to haul these away" to "Your loan officer is on line one." Likewise, vinyl playback hardware is available in virtually every price range, from a second-hand Dual 1229 ($50 and up) to the highly praised Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn ($200,000 and down).
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Art Dudley Posted: Sep 03, 2015 3 comments
Our small hobby contains many even smaller subgroups, some of them openly hostile to one another—itself a partial explanation for the whole small-hobby thing. I have been a card-carrying member of some of those groups, have lurked at the edges of others, and have ignored only a few—most notably that community of manufacturers who believe that the surest way to make a better piece of playback gear is to make it bigger and heavier and more expensive than anything else on the market: a group sadly notable for its influence over much of the reviewing community. Those exceptions aside, almost every approach to domestic playback gear has, at one time or another, had at least some appeal, and I'm lucky to have learned something from many of them.
Art Dudley Posted: Aug 31, 2015 3 comments
People who speak of running with the big dogs describe the experience as a good thing; I can't imagine why. I'll take the small dogs any old time: They're more characterful, less self-possessed, and just plain friendlier. And among hi-fi shows, Capital Audiofest is the friendliest and most interesting small dog on the porch, and still one of my favorites.

Gary Gill's regional show, which retains its slight and very pleasant DIY vibe, returned to the Washington DC area on August 28–30 for its sixth year, and drew respectable numbers of people, especially by the end of the day on Saturday . . .

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