Much ink has been spilled, and rightly so, on the topic of the LP's recent and apparently durable resurrection as a playback medium. The corpse may not be quite as lively after death as before, but it is nonetheless arguably more Lazarus than Lavoisier (the latter having managed nothing more than to wink at the crowd following his time on the guillotineas he boasted, in life, that he would do).
Whether the subject is hi-fi equipment, films, restaurants, power tools, or condoms (see the April 2005 "Listening"), reviewing should be off-limits to the perennially unhappy. I'm reminded of that dictum by the flap over the recent film Identity Thief, which was savaged by reviewer Rex Reednot because the film is weak, but because its star, Melissa McCarthy, is heavy. Reed, whose career as the Paul Lynde of film reviewing was punctuated by a starring role in a flop called Myra Breckenridge, mentioned in his review McCarthy's size not once but numerous times, thus exposing himself as a bullying hack who wields his harshest criticisms not when they are merited but as unconscious expressions of his own personal anguish. Hate speech of any sort is the crayon of the unhappy; that is doubly true of people who write for a living.
The name sounds perfect. It fits neatly next to those of Messrs. Leak, Sugden, Walker, Grant, Lumley, and others of Britain's most rightly revered amplifier builders. In fact, when their distributor called and asked if I'd like to review the latest amplifier from Croft Acoustics, I accepted without actually knowing who they are, simply because they sounded like someone I was supposed to knowsomeone who's been around for 60 years or so, shellacking bell wire in an old mill with a thatched roof.
Volti Audio's Vittora, a borrowed pair of which now sit at the far end of my listening room, is a great loudspeaker and, at $17,500/pair, a seriously great value. After a few weeks with the Vittora, I find myself convinced by the naturalness, momentum, and force that it found in every record I played: This is surely one of the finest horn-loaded speakers made in the US.
Those of us who groan at the appearance of every new five-figure digital source component in a massively oversized chassisand who groan in greater torment when the offending manufacturer says his customer base insists on products that are styled and built and priced that waycan take heart: The appearance of such sanely sized and affordable products as the Halide Design DAC HD ($495) and the AudioQuest DragonFly ($249) would suggest that the market has a mind of its own.
On Saturday evening, right after Capital Audiofest closed for the day, everyone seemed to converge upon the hotel bar at the same time: myself, Gary Gill (Capital Audiofest), Mat Weisfeld (VPI Industries), Clarence Wheat (Hifilogic), Dave Cope (Audio Note UK), Robin Wyatt (Robyatt Audio), Myles Astor (Positive Feedback Online), Brian Zolner (Bricasti Designs), Jonathan Horwich (International Phonographic), and numberless others. It was the first time since the Heathrow Airport show of 1996 that I'd witnessed such a convivial mobcompetition be damned.
While I was speaking with Gary Gill, an exhibitor approached and asked if would be too early to sign up for Capital Audiofest 2014; hearing this, another exhibitor expressed the very same thought . . .
There was this guy in the room shared by Joseph Audio, VAS, and VPI (above), and I guess he'd been there for a little while before I came in: big guy, sort of athletic-looking. Jeff Joseph had apparently just played one of his CDs for him, and the guy was stunned. You could tell he wasn't just being polite: "That was . . . really good!" Irrespective of the name over the door, I think we all live for moments like that.
It's my favorite part of every hi-fi show: the one big room, usually on one of the lower floors, where smaller companies exhibit such things as phono accessories, hi-fi furniture, publications, and, best of all, records. At Capital Audiofest, the Magnolia Ballroom on the Sheraton Hotel's fourth floor was home to all that, including a larger and altogether more impressive selection of used and collectable vinyl than I've seen at any other show in recent memory.
Among the people I telephoned during my first month on the job at The Absolute Soundwe're talking January of 1985was Frank Van Alstine, the pioneering designer and builder of affordable-perfectionist electronics. Twenty-eight years and six months later I finally got to meet himand I was happy to hear he has zero intention of retiring: good news, considering the altogether fine sound being made by the new Audio by Van Alstine Transcendence Nine vacuum tube preamp ($1395), used in concert with AVA's hybrid FET Valve 600R amplifier ($3499) and a pair of Philharmonic Audio's two-way Philharmonitors ($850/pair).