The good news: Domestic audio has survived its first half century and continues to live above ground. The bad news: At an age when most hobbies can enjoy the luxury of splintering into smaller factions that hate each other with impunity, ours isn't big enough. There are too few audiophiles on Earth to indulge that kind of specialization, let alone support the very different magazines that would ensue—so we'll never get to enjoy such promising titles as Liberal Tube Lover (not that I didn't try), The Elderly Skeptic, or, of particular interest, Cable Hating for People Who are Barely Audiophiles in the First Place.
RCA's time-honored 6SN7 may be the coolest tube of all. The octal-based dual-triode has its own Wikipedia entry—something not even the 2A3 or 300B can boast—along with its own website. The 6SN7 is chunky, rugged, and handsome. Best of all, it's available, probably because people keep coming up with very good uses for it. In that sense, the 6SN7 is the Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup of the tube world.
There are a thousand different ways to make a loudspeaker. A hundred to make an amplifier. And at least a million to make a piece of wire. But here's the deal with a moving-coil phono cartridge: stylus, cantilever, rubber grommet, tensioning wire, coils, magnet, output pins, and maybe a body. Done.
In his June, 2006 "Listening" column, Art Dudley discussed the original Quad ESL loudspeaker, and started to describe the task of refurbishing a 47-year-old pair of them; this month, Art fries a pair of transformers and nearly ruins his new wall oven—but finishes the job nevertheless. Please remember that sharp tools, solder flux fumes, and the high voltages typically present inside an electrostatic loudspeaker can sicken or kill you if you don't proceed with caution, and neither Stereophile nor its parent company, Primedia, can be responsible for the suffering or loss that may befall readers who follow Art's advice. Thank you.
In the fall of 2005, while the People's Republic of China continued to hold political dissidents in prison without due process, the US government wiretapped its citizens with impunity, tensions rose on the border between Chad and Sudan, Israeli citizens annexed thousands of acres of land from poor Palestinian farmers, Saudi Arabia executed more petty thieves and adulterers in the name of Allah, Russia "lost" a few more tons of nuclear armaments, and the polar icecaps continued to recede as the levels of preventable greenhouse emissions climbed out of control, a small band of middle-aged men took to the Internet to express their seething outrage.
You've heard it said that the early bird catches the worm, which is all well and good if you like worms. If you're more interested in music, you might want to follow the lead of Roy Gandy instead: He's the managing director of Rega Research, a 331/3-year-old audio company that was the very last of its kind to enter the CD market. Rega's first CD player, the Planet of 1996, was a success in virtually every way.
Going from being an audio hobbyist to a professional reviewer is like passing kidney stones in an emergency room staffed with Playboy bunnies: Not only can you not have what you want, but you don't even want it anymore. In fact, you begin to consciously associate desire with a blinding pain in your crotch.