LATEST ADDITIONS

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Mar 24, 2023  |  1 comments
At AXPONA 2022, I eagerly headed to the Esoteric exhibit, where I spoke with Keith Haas, national sales manager of 11 Trading Company, Esoteric's US distributor. When I learned of the forthcoming Grandioso M1X monoblock ($35,500 each), the culmination of a complete revision of the company's top-selling M1 monoblock (now discontinued), I worked with Haas and Editor Jim Austin and set up a review.
Andrey Henkin  |  Mar 23, 2023  |  0 comments
Lakecia Benjamin: Phoenix (Whirlwind Recordings); Jim Self: My America 2: Destinations (Basset Hound Music); and The Necks: Travel (Northern Spy Records).
Julie Mullins  |  Mar 22, 2023  |  5 comments
Probably the biggest group of audiophiles right now are still "Boomers": members of the "Baby Boom" generation, which by most definitions puts their minimum age at close to 60. Boomers are aging and won't be around forever. So bringing new blood into the hobby is more important than ever.

Younger people (post-Boomer generations) listen to a ton of music—but are they really listening? Are they paying close attention, or, as the cliché goes, is it, for them, all background music? Generational clichés are rarely accurate. Of course they actually listen. Enough of them are, anyway. And they hear more; their hearing is better.

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 21, 2023  |  11 comments
The hegemony of the skinny-box orthodoxy had me worrying about our collective music-listening future—until a day in September 2022 at Jason Tavares's elegantly appointed HiFi Loft in Hell's Kitchen, NYC, where, after auditioning Klipsch's new, spectacularly dynamic, precise-imaging Jubilee horns (which have front baffles 52" wide) and Harbeth's latest not-skinny-but-consummately-coherent SHL5plus XD, I auditioned these stout, unpainted, unveneered-plywood box speakers.
Alex Halberstadt  |  Mar 17, 2023  |  44 comments
There's a good case to be made that the world's greatest—and strangest—audiophile culture resides in Japan. Probably the most important notion the Japanese have introduced to our hobby is that home audio isn't merely a way of heightening the musical art of others but can be an art in itself. This idea's most flamboyant embodiment was the poet, journalist, chef, and amplifier builder Susumu Sakuma, better known as Sakuma-san.

In the articles on hi-fi that he contributed to the Japanese magazine MJ, Sakuma-san also wrote about film, fishing, karaoke, and pachinko machines, and he usually began and ended his contributions with a poem. He considered himself an evangelist for emotional sound and demonstrated his audio systems in homes, at conferences, and on concert stages around the world. Though he passed in 2018, his fan club, called Direct Heating, remains a happening concern. Sakuma-san was fond of coining mottos—one was "farewell to theory"—but what has stuck with me most is his description of an ideal sound: "endless energy with sorrow."

This phrase came to mind often during the months I spent living with the Klipsch La Scala speakers, which imbued my musical life with unprecedented amounts of sound and emotion, and which I believe Sakuma-san would have enjoyed.

Jim Austin  |  Mar 16, 2023  |  13 comments
At the beginning of the 2022 novel Checkout 19, by Claire-Louise Bennett, I encountered some ideas that resonate in interesting ways with my recent experience of recorded music. . .

I've been bringing home too many records from the record store, or too many CDs from the CD shop, for decades—so many that it's difficult to focus on just one, to listen to it again and again, to give it the attention it deserves. In the era of streaming—of having a sizeable fraction of the history of recorded music at your fingertips for $10–$20/month—the temptation is especially acute. It's too easy to move among favorite bits of our favorite music—especially when, as is too often true of audiophiles, we're so eager to hear how a favorite moment in this or that piece of music sounds on our system, now that we've added in that new component.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Mar 15, 2023  |  7 comments
Stravinsky: Violin Concerto & Chamber Works
Isabelle Faust, violin; Les Siècles, François-Xavier Roth, cond.
Harmonia Mundi 902718 (reviewed as 24/96 WAV download). 2023. Jiri Heger, prod.; Aurélien Bourgois & Alix Ewald, engs.
Performance *****
Sonics ****½

You might think that by 1931—the year Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) completed his unforgettable Violin Concerto in D Major—orchestral instruments were the same as those used today. Far from it. According to the website of Claire Givens Violins, pure-gut D strings began to disappear after WWI and were wound with aluminum after WWII. Gut A strings ceded to synthetics in 1970, and gut E strings transitioned to steel between 1910 and WWII. With no consistency between modern orchestras, the string sections we hear in live performances and on electrical recordings set down since 1926 are, for the most part, a grab bag. Wind instruments and pianos have changed as well, and halls have increased in size and pitch has risen. Put all that together, and you can well understand why this "period instrument" recording of music Stravinsky completed between 1907 and 1931 is a revelation.

Tom Fine  |  Mar 14, 2023  |  0 comments
Most of us were not born with musical tastes intact. Tastes develop over time as we learn and experience new music and other things. An open mind, an ear attuned to songs and sound, and a procession of mentors and musical guides make for a musical life that's rich and full. To my way of thinking, the best life has a soundtrack that's varied and constantly expanding.

Which is not to say there aren't transformative events. Prior to my lightning-strike moment—about which, more in a minute—the blues were all around me, as they always are around all of us. As a kid attuned to rock'n'roll, growing up in the suburbs with a full FM dial, I was exposed to blues-based music current and past, from Elvis on the oldies stations to Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Mar 13, 2023  |  1 comments

Music Matters, the mostly annual audio showcase from Definitive Audio in Seattle, made a welcome return March 8–9 after a two-year pandemic-imposed hiatus. Divided into two two-hour sessions, the 16th edition of the private, ultra-concentrated audio show in miniature saw invitees moving between 20-minute presentations in four rooms, with ample time left for visiting systems in two others and schmoozing with industry legends.

Between several national and regional product premieres, presenters at Music Matters 2023 emphasized the importance of Definitive Audio (with locations in Seattle and Bellevue) to their brands. As if to underscore the dealership's centrality, star presenters include David Steven, CEO of Cambridge, England–based dCS, audio legend Dan D'Agostino of Arizona-based Dan D'Agostino Master Systems, Mike Latvis (aka Mr. HRS) of Buffalo, New York's Harmonic Resolution Systems), and Garth Leerer of Musical Surroundings, which imports and distributes Clearaudio.

Robert Baird  |  Mar 13, 2023  |  3 comments
Turns out rock stars are human after all. Which means music fans should prepare themselves for the coming toll. The next few years are certain to be brutal: Bob Dylan, 81; Paul Simon, 81; George Clinton, 81; Brian Wilson, 80; Carole King, 80; Keith Richards, 79; Jimmy Page, 79; Sly Stone, 79; Rod Stewart, 78; Neil Young, 77; Pete Townsend, 77, and the inexorability rolls on. The news is even worse among the pre-rock era stars, where it's a matter of any day now: Tony Bennett, 96; Burt Bacharach, 94; Sonny Rollins, 93. Even the ageless one, Willie Nelson, is 86.

January 2023 was a particularly cruel harbinger of the reckoning to come as guitar legend Jeff Beck and folk rock icon David Crosby died within eight days of each other.

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