Let's not beat around the bush: this is what an amplifier is supposed to look like. The silver front panel contains over a dozen knobs and switches, yet somehow avoids seeming cluttered. The solid wood cabinet wouldn't look out of place next to Hugh Hefner's cognac decanter. And the controls! The SQ-38u is as full-function as they come ("as they used to come" would be closer to the truth), with a Balance knob, separate Bass and Treble Tone Controls, a low-frequency cutoff (aka "rumble") switch labeled Low Cut, a Mono/Stereo switch, and a mute button; plus switching and connectors for two pairs of loudspeakers. Everything but curb feelers.
In a perfect world, I would own the following: one good turntable (footnote 1), one good tonearm, one good pickup head, one good step-up transformer, one good integrated amplifier, and two good loudspeakers. And some decent cables. That's all, except maybe a home and a dog and some records and some books and one good guitar.
The Leben RS-30EQ phono preamplifier ($2695) incorporates a pair of common dual-triode tubes (12AT7) for phono gain, but breaks with tradition by using a CR-type equalization circuit rather than the more common negative-feedback type. Total gain is specified as 23.5dB, which is sufficient for moving-magnet pickups; an external transformer is recommended for use with moving-coil types. A silicon full-wave rectifier supplies heater voltage, while the rail is supplied by a 6X5GT rectifier tube.
Late last month, New York City's In Living Stereo underwent two major changes: They made a short move, from a modestly sized storefront to a much larger one2 Great Jones Street in the East Villageand they went from being a hi-fi shop to being a hi-fi and record shop. On a recent visit to their new digs I was impressed with the latter: While some hi-fi shops limit their music commitment to just a few racks of 200-gram LPscommendable in and of itself, of courseIn Living Stereo has built an entire record loft and filled it with hundreds of well-chosen new and used LPs. (I took it upon myself to lighten their inventory while I was there.)
In 2010, sales of motorcycles equipped with sidecars accounted for only 4% of total motorcycle sales in the US. But that was a significant increase over 2009, which was itself an increase over 2008. While numbers remain low overall, sales of sidecar motorcycles are going up at a decent rate, while sales of most other motorcycles are in the toilet.
I don't remember where I was when the Berlin Wall came down, and I already don't remember what I was doing when Liz Taylor died. (I suppose I was busy not thinking about Liz Taylor.) But I do remember when USB-based computer audio became a serious medium: That was when Gordon Rankin, of Wavelength Audio, introduced asynchronous data streaming, with his proprietary Streamlength software. After that, things picked up speed.
Word went out among the small, frightened woodland animals in this part of upstate New York: If you come down with rabies, go to Art Dudley's place and die under his shed. The latest was a raccoon that showed up last Saturday morning with a face full of burdocks and a head full of pain. Before wedging himself beneath the floor of my freestanding shed, the dying animal produced a series of moans and yips that frightened even my dog, a Jack Russell terrier who appears to have been a Somali pirate in a previous life. For the remainder of that sunny afternoon, my family and I holed up inside the house, unenthused about being bitten by an unpredictable animal with a diseased brain and a foamy mouth. (Feel free to imagine your own political joke in this space. God knows I did.)
While change follows Stateside change for Naim Audio, enthusiasts for the venerable British brand on this side of the pond recently got a bit of good news: Chris West, the tech-savvy Englishman who managed Naim Audio North America for over 20 years, is back in the business of servicing Naim gear.
It wasn't so much a vow as a prediction: After selling my last pair of Ticonal-magnet drivers and the homemade horns I'd carted around to three different houses, I supposed I would never again have a Lowther loudspeaker in my humble house.
That remains literally true: The 7" full-range drivers to which I'm listening today are from a German company called Voxativ; the horn-loaded cabinets from which they play were also designed by Voxativ, and are made in Germany by the Wilhelm Schimmel piano company. And, with all due respect to Lowther, the 75-year-old English loudspeaker firm that launched a thousand DIY fantasiesnot to mention a thousand very lively wavefrontsthe Voxativ drivers and horns take the Lowther concept further than anyone else of whom I'm aware.
At what point does a domestic audio product cease to be an appliance and assume a loftier place in one's home and heart?
We all can agree that a Bose Wave CD player sits at one end of that continuum, a Koetsu Jade Platinum phono cartridge at the otherbut what of all the products in between? Scarcity, mode of manufacture, appearance, even sentimentality ("This is just like the one my father used to have!")each plays a role, but there's no doubt that price tops the list: The more we pay, the more we love (footnote 1).