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J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jul 08, 2015 Published: Apr 01, 1982 1 comments
482rotm.promo250.jpgWilliams: Suites from Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra, Zubin Mehta.
Mobile Fidelity MFSL-C.008 (cassette).

Originally released on London Records, then re-released with better sound on a Mobile Fidelity disc (now a cutout), these are stunning performances of these popular film scores, rivaling the composer's own performances of them. (Composers aren't always the best conductors of their own music, but John Williams is one who is.)

Sonically, this is simply a tour de force: Without a doubt the best commercially made cassette I've ever heard (and I've heard a lot of them). Last month, I expressed some doubt that the high end on any cassette could rival that of a half-speed LP and, indeed, there is a softening at the top on this cassette, when compared with the Mobile Fidelity disc. But the truth of the matter is that the cassette's high end is substantially more natural than that from the disc, which was one of Mobile Fidelity's first and had a slightly steely edge to it.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 30, 2015 Published: May 01, 1982 1 comments
666shefdrum.jpgThe Sheffield Drum Record
Improvisations by Jim Keltner and Ron Tutt (drums)
Sheffield LAB-14 (LP) (1981). Reissued as FIM DXD 001 (CD) (2010). Bill Schnee, Doug Sax, prods.; Lincoln Mayorga, exec. prod.; Steve Haselton, Bill Schnee, engs. TT: 13:49.

There was a time when drum records were as common as records of steam locomotives and thunderstorms. It has been so long since anyone has tackled any of them that a lot of technology has gone over the dam, but they are precisely the kind of program material which illuminate the state of the audio art like nothing else. Thus, Sheffield's Drum Record emerges as a landmark—a technological tour de force that should discourage anyone else from issuing a similar disc until the state of the art advances by a few more years.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 16, 2015 Published: Aug 01, 1975 6 comments
The summer of 1975 will be remembered by us, with no fondness whatsoever, as The Time the Roof Fell In. Or the Murphy Months, or the Period of the Plague Upon Our House.

Ye Editor can recall from the days of WWII hearing and reading about the depredations of some mischievous sprites called Gremlins, who would cause aircraft hatchcovers to jam and control cables to get hung up at the worst possible moment, but I don't think I ever really did believe in Gremlins. I think I sensed somehow that the mishaps attributed to their malevolent machinations were too capricious to be the work of thinking, calculating little spirits. But I was not clever enough to put my finger on what was going on. That had to wait for a gentleman named something-or-other Murphy, who was (to my knowledge) the first person to put a tag on it, and to formulate a basic law about it. The tag was "the perversity of inanimate objects," and the law was "If anything can possibly go wrong, it will."

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 11, 2015 Published: Sep 01, 1983 2 comments
The Model 34 preamplifier is the component from English manufacturer Quad that will disenchant perfectionists, partly because of its obvious pandering to connoisseurs of old and sometimes lousy-sounding records, and partly because of its sound.

This solid-state design is supplied with a built-in moving-magnet cartridge preamplifier, and a moving-coil preamp is included with it for (easy) installation by the user if desired. (Remove two screws, pull out the old module, plug in the new one and replace the screws. The job takes about 3 minutes.) The MC preamp supplied is for 20 microvolt-output cartridges—contrary to the instruction booklet's statement that the supplied one is the 100µV version. Modules having a rated input level of 100 or 400µV are available as extra-cost options.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: May 28, 2015 Published: Aug 01, 1976 3 comments
Editor's Note: In Stereophile's second decade of publication, things were starting to unravel, with long gaps between each issue. There were just seven issues published between January 1974 and January 1978. The late Harry Pearson has gone on record that he founded The Absolute Sound in 1973 part because he was tired of waiting for the next issue of Stereophile to reach his mailbox. In this "As We See It" essay from the "Surface Noise" issue in August 1976, founder J. Gordon Holt owns up to it appearing 8 months late!
J. Gordon Holt Posted: May 14, 2015 Published: Sep 01, 1975 5 comments
While we will not pretend for a moment that the millennium of high fidelity has arrived, we are finally having to face up to a fact that has been staring us in the face and nudging us in the ribs increasingly rudely of late: The state of the art of sound reproduction has gotten to be pretty damned sophisticated. Perfection is just as unattainable as it was almost 100 years ago when Thomas Edison was diddling with different diaphragm materials on his phonograph because some sounded better than others.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: May 14, 2015 Published: Mar 01, 1977 0 comments
We cannot recall when any new products have generated as much of a stir among perfectionists as the new solid-state equipment from Audio Research. Preceded by rumors of "a new kind of amplifying device—a cross between a tube and a transistor"—the announcement of ARC's new power amp and SP-4 preamplifier elicited very mixed reactions from loyal ARC customers, some of whom gleefully anticipated a virtual revolution in audio electronics, others of whom felt betrayed by the company which, having originally convinced them that "Tubes Are Better," suddenly seemed to be doing an about-face and espousing the views of the Enemy—the "Soiled-State"—forces.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: May 13, 2015 Published: Mar 01, 1986 0 comments
Meridian's MCD CD player was perhaps the first audiophile-quality player to be introduced in the high-end market. I met with Bob Stuart of Meridian at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, in January, 1986 (footnote 1). My first question was about the name of the company he runs with industrial designer Alan Boothroyd:

J. Gordon Holt: Meridian in England is called Boothroyd Stuart, right?

Bob Stuart: Yes, the company is called Boothroyd Stuart, Limited, and the trademark is Meridian.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: May 07, 2015 Published: Apr 01, 1975 17 comments
Because this is an unusual and controversial tonearm design, and has had astonishing claims made for its performance by the manufacturer, this in-depth report goes deeper and is longer than is usual for Stereophile. We will return to a reasonable balance of reportage in the next issue.

The manufacturer's initial advertisement for their mis-named "Vestigal" arm (footnote 1) was so laced with nonsense that we will admit to having been skeptical about the product from the outset.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Apr 10, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1977 1 comments
Many years ago, the now-defunct Life magazine ran a feature article about science and its sacred cows, in which a cartoon showed a huge inverted pyramid-shaped structure of great complexity, tapering downward to a single support at its base: a toothpick. The toothpick was labeled "basic premise," the inverted pyramid was the entire body of scientific knowledge.

Everything we do or think or know is based upon assumptions, some of which are rather more justified than others. When we set the alarm clock, we assume there will be a tomorrow. When we reach for the car's brake pedal without glancing at it, we assume it will be where it was yesterday, and that it will stop the car. When we scorn a phono cartridge because it is too bright, we assume the brightness is in the cartridge, not in the rest of our system. We have to trust our toothpicks or live in a world totally devoid of security—a world where 2+2 can equal anything from 3 to 11, all the laws change unannounced every few days, and Greenwich Mean Time is determined by a roulette wheel.


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