Adcom is one of those companies that's just too consistent for its own good. Year after year, they put out well-engineered, fairly priced gear, while we audiophiles become jaded and almost forget they're there... You want a good-sounding CD player that doesn't cost an arm and a leg? [Yawn.] Well, you could try Adcom. Need a power amplifier with some sock that won't make your tweeters crawl down your ear? There's always Adcom.
SANTIAGO DE MURCIA: ¡Jácaras! Paul O'Dette, Pat O'Brien, Steve Player, baroque guitars; Andrew Lawrence-King, harp, psaltery; Pedro Estevan, percussion Harmonia Mundi 907212 (CD). 1998. Robina G. Young, exec. prod.; John Hadden, prod., eng. DDD. TT: 78:21 Performance ***** Sonics *****
If, as some would have it, Audiophilia nervosa is like the dark night of reason, then certain audio epiphanies must necessarily stand out from a distance, like a grove of trees 20 miles away thrown into stark relief by prairie lightning. And make no mistake that Audiophilia is a disease---I treasure the memory of the first time my wife and I heard Quad ESLs with tubes far more than the memory of my first kiss (although not more, I hasten to add in case Joan is reading this review, than the memory of our first kiss). I know men who stare into their flickering fireplaces on long winter nights and remember all the women they've known. Myself, I'm more likely to reminisce about my first tube preamp, or list the great-sounding systems I've owned.
It's cheating to say that the best sound I've heard at the English Show was at Martin Colloms' house on Saturday night---cheating the same way it is when someone asks that question and I (or some other reviewer) piously responds that some live music event ranks above any exhibitor. Martin, of course, has an advantage over anyone at the Show. He set up his own listening room and had all the time he needed to boot. Even so, his system, consisting of a Krell KRS-25 and FPB 650Ms and Wilson Audio WITT IIs, was astoundingly fast, rhythmic, and dynamic.
Are there differences between an American hi-fi show and the British variety? A few---the biggest is the extent to which all the real business takes place at the bar. This is true for the audio press (okay, not all that different from an American show), but it's true for manufacturers as well. After Show hours, the boozer is jammed with everybody in the business sharing a few pints, smoking, and talking shop. It's not unusual to see business rivals chatting amiably about the state of the industry---and even discussing distribution in some detail.
Wandering around the halls of the Heathrow Renaissance Hotel, I saw and heard a lot more affordable audio on display than I've seen at most American shows. This makes sense. After all, this is a consumer show (or it will be tomorrow---yesterday and today were trade days), and, while consumers want to fantasize about the state of the art, they also like to see kit they can actually own. Me too.
The HI-FI Show 98, the sixteenth put on by UK audio magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review, sedately opened its trade days this morning in the Renaissance and Excelsior hotels on Bath Road near London's Heathrow International Airport. No, that's not a change in venue, it's yet another name change for the hotel that first hosted the "Penta Show" and, more recently, the "Ramada Show." However, this year's show will be the last at the site, as the new owners do not seem interested in hosting large-scale events at all. Next year the show will be moving---to a destination that nobody's revealing in advance of Friday's official announcement.
I was watching Mr. Holland's Opus on the tube the other day and was surprised to find myself teary-eyed, even though the film lost me by subjecting me to Michael Kamen's atrocious "symphony" in the finale. Why had I become all choked up? Because I had a Mr. Holland of my own.