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Michael Fremer Posted: May 25, 2016 0 comments
Marten is a small Swedish loudspeaker manufacturer with great aspirations, some of which the company has largely met. Leif Mårten Olofsson founded Marten and designs the speakers, while brother Jörgen Olofsson runs the business as CEO—a division of creative and administrative labors similar to the working relationship between David and Norman Chesky, the founders of Chesky Records and HDtracks.
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Michael Fremer Posted: Mar 10, 2016 0 comments
Dr. Feickert Analogue's top-of-the line turntable, the Firebird ($12,500), is a generously sized record player designed to easily accommodate two 12" tonearms. Its three brushless, three-phase DC motors, arranged around the platter in an equilateral triangle, are connected to a proprietary controller in a phase-locked loop (PLL); according to the Firebird's designer, Dr. Christian Feickert, a reference signal from just one of the motors drives all three—thus one motor is the master while the other two are slaves. (Man, today that is politically incorrect, however descriptively accurate.) Feickert says that the key to this drive system is the motor design, which was done in close consultation with its manufacturer, Pabst. The result is a feedback-based system in which the controller produces the very low jitter levels claimed by Feickert.
Michael Fremer Posted: Feb 09, 2016 3 comments
Are you old enough to remember when the wires connecting speakers to even the most expensive and sophisticated electronics were 16-gauge, multistrand lamp cord, and the terminals on speakers and amplifiers were just little screws? Sometimes those screws wouldn't even secure all of the wires' strands, but as long as loose strands from one screw didn't touch loose strands from the other, it was good enough . . . and back against the wall went your bookshelf speakers.
Michael Fremer Posted: Feb 03, 2016 1 comments
Was it more surprising that, in 2015, PS Audio would produce a monoblock class-AB power amplifier containing vacuum tubes, or that PS Audio would release a monoblock power amplifier at all? I'm not sure.

In 1974, Paul McGowan and Stan Warren founded the company to produce and market a standalone phono preamplifier, sold directly to consumers for $59.95. From there they naturally progressed to a series of line-level preamplifiers. Toward the end of the '70s, PS Audio produced the Model One, the company's first power amplifier. In the mid-1980s came the high-performance, moderately priced ($495) 4.5 and 4.6 preamplifiers. I reviewed—and bought—a 4.6 a few years after I began reviewing gear for The Abso!ute Sound; Tom Norton reviewed the 4.6 for the September 1988 issue of Stereophile.

Michael Fremer Posted: Oct 22, 2015 3 comments
Nuvistors—miniature, small-signal, vacuum tubes made of metal and ceramic—were introduced by RCA in 1959, at the dawn of the transistor revolution. RCA used them throughout the 1960s in its New Vista line of television sets, mostly in the tuner section. But by the early 1970s, solid-state devices had all but replaced tubes, nuvistors included (with a few notable exceptions). Ampex based the electronics of its well-regarded, late-'60s MR-70 open-reel tape deck on nuvistors, which were also used in microphone preamplifiers—in both cases for their very low noise and reputation for reliability and long life. For a time, Conrad-Johnson used them as well. While nuvistors may seem exotic today, they're hardly rare. On eBay you can find for sale hundreds if not thousands of used and new-old stock (NOS) nuvistors, as well as nuvistor sockets, without which the tubes are less easy to implement. (But they can be, and often are, hard-wired into a circuit.)
Michael Fremer Posted: Sep 29, 2015 0 comments
Class-A amplifiers have a well-deserved reputation for being power guzzlers that run hot enough to burn fingers. They're inherently inefficient because their output devices conduct full current at all times, and much of that current is dissipated as heat—requiring, in the case of class-A solid-state amplifiers, massive heatsinks. This is why class-A amps tend to produce relatively low power, and tend to be heavy and expensive to buy and run. And these days, energy inefficiency is out of fashion.
Michael Fremer Posted: Jul 09, 2015 Published: Jan 01, 2015 1 comments
Pear Audio Analogue's Peter Mezek can keep you up all night spinning fascinating turntable tales. Had my mind not been numbed by Sunday evening, October 12, the last day of the 2014 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I might have insisted that he do just that.

Over dinner that evening he regaled Pear Audio's North American importer, Michael Vamos of Audio Skies, and me with turntable stories dating back to the late 1970s and the Linn Sondek LP12, which, until the early '80s, he distributed in Czechoslovakia. In the mid-'80s, Mezek was involved in the development and distribution of the Rational Audio turntable, designed for Mezek by Jirí Janda (pronounced Yeerzhee Yahnda), who died in 2000. For those of you old enough to remember, Janda, a founder of NAD, designed that company's 5120 turntable; among other features, it had a flat, flexible, plug-in tonearm that you could easily swap out, much as you can with VPI's current models.

Michael Fremer Posted: Jul 09, 2015 30 comments
Late in the fall of 1982, Los Angeles turned ugly for me. I'd finished my work on Tron and despite the Academy Award nomination for Best Sound (which went to the mixing team, not the sound supervisor), it was obvious that nothing else was coming my way anytime soon. To earn a living, I had to reinvent myself.

So there I was in Las Vegas, at the 1983 Consumer Electronics Show, schlepping heavy bags filled with press kits, each containing an audio cassette of a dozen radio commercials for a car-stereo store that I'd voiced and produced, along with a résumé-bio and endorsements from clients.

Michael Fremer Posted: Jun 26, 2015 4 comments
Stereophile normally doesn't review audio systems. We review individual components. We've made an exception for the Bel Canto Black system because it deserves to be evaluated as such. It consists of three dense, almost identically sized cases of black-anodized aluminum. One, the ASC1 Asynchronous Stream Controller, is what in a conventional system would be called a "preamplifier." The other two, a pair of MPS1 Mono PowerStreams, would in a conventional system be called "monoblock power amplifiers."
Michael Fremer Posted: May 21, 2015 3 comments
Clearaudio began making moving-coil cartridges in the 1970s, and only later got into the moving-magnet business. Moving-magnet cartridge designers must now be mindful that most of today's tonearms are of medium to high mass and that therefore, to be compatible, their MMs must be of low to medium compliance and of higher mass than those of the 1960s and '70s.

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