Audacious Audio

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Michael Fremer  |  Aug 27, 2021  |  74 comments
The Air Force Zero turntable is very large for a turntable, but it is not as large as a house. At $450,000 for the base model, it does, however, cost as much as many houses and more than many others (footnote 1).

This observation will set off howling among some audio enthusiasts of a sort that never happens in the wine world, for instance, where well-heeled oenophiles routinely spend large sums for a short-lived thrill.

Jim Austin  |  Aug 18, 2021  |  6 comments
Many loudspeaker designers are minimalists at heart. They embrace a design aesthetic that says that simpler is better. Based on the evidence of the company's R 8 Arreté, Ole Klifoth, of Danish loudspeaker maker Audiovector, is not one of those designers.

On its website, in the Specifications section for its "R"-model loudspeakers (footnote 1), Audiovector offers a long checklist of technologies, many of them optional, some of them, called "Concepts," assigned snappy names and acronyms: IUC for Individual Upgrade Concept; LCC for Low Compression Concept; SEC for Soundstage Enhancement Concept; NES for No Energy Storage; FGC for Freedom Grounding Concept; and NCS for Natural Crystal Structure.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 22, 2021  |  12 comments
Even as I was admiring some of the handsomest audio gear I'd ever set eyes on, my thoughts kept returning to equipment of a very different sort.

Flash back maybe 40 years to my one-bedroom apartment on Elgin Park in San Francisco during the period when I was whistling for my supper and performing Puccini's "O mio babbino caro" in the Emmy-nominated Peanuts cartoon, "She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown." Cue the constant din of an elevated four-lane freeway, since demolished as a blight on humankind, which I tried to pretend was the sound of water in the accompaniment to one of Schubert's many "water and fish" songs.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 23, 2021  |  22 comments
Brand-fan excitement ran high among consumers and reviewers alike when Wilson Audio Specialties announced that it would roll out a nonfunctioning prototype of the Chronosonic XVX at the 2019 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF). The Chronosonic XVX was rumored to be a replacement for the $210,000/pair Alexandria XLF, offering performance similar to that of the $850,000 WAMM Master Chronosonic system (including two Master Subsonics and a controller) at a less breathtaking price. (You won't catch me writing "affordable" here.) The static unveiling at RMAF intensified anticipation.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Nov 26, 2020  |  13 comments
"Oh goody!" thought self, to self: "Another Gryphon component to review." As eloquent and revelatory as that statement may be, there's an even more illuminating backstory.

I had been aware of Denmark-based Gryphon Audio since the advent of the Gryphon Exorcist, a now-discontinued demagnetizer that cost far more than your average break-in CD, but I only began to encounter Gryphon electronics at audio shows a few years ago. While at first they seemed available for review only as a complete package, Jim Austin was able to arrange for me to review the Gryphon Ethos CD player–D/A processor ($39,000).

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 17, 2020  |  74 comments
Let's begin by discussing what SAT's XD1 Record Player System is not: It is not a Technics SP-10R in a sci-fi–inspired plinth—although the XD1's engine does begin life as the SP-10R's basic drive system, which is stripped down to a handful of essential components, reimagined, reengineered, and rebuilt to much higher mechanical standards.
Michael Fremer  |  Oct 06, 2020  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2020  |  46 comments
In 2013, when I first wrote about it (footnote 1), the TechDAS Air Force One ($105,000) was that company's best and most expensive turntable; it joined the handful of products that have earned an A+ in our semiannual Recommended Components feature—a rating that remained in place for six years. But too much time has passed since the Air Force One was auditioned by a Stereophile writer, so it has now fallen from that list.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 17, 2020  |  22 comments
Although it was founded by ex-Siemens loudspeaker engineer Oliver Göbel in 2003, I am embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of Göbel High End until I visited the room hosted by Florida retailer Bending Wave at the 2019 AXPONA. There, I listened to the German manufacturer's ginormous $220,000/pair Divin Noblesse loudspeakers, which were making their US debut. I was impressed by what I heard. I was interested, therefore, to learn that Göbel was introducing a smaller Divin model, the Marquis, which would not be too large for my listening room and would be priced at $80,000/pair.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 14, 2020  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2020  |  24 comments
The two biggest sonic jolts I've experienced involving phono preamps were from two very different ones: the Petr Mares's Connoisseur 2.0 and Boulder's 2008, which was reviewed in the July 2002 Stereophile. The first was hand-built, single-ended, housed in a wooden case, limited to 100 units, and, when I got to hear it in the mid-1990s, cost around $6000, or about $10,000 in today's dollars. The other was a feature-laden, double-chassis monument to flexibility and surface-mount high technology. It featured beautifully finished, flush-mounted mirrored buttons your fingers just wanted to press.
Michael Fremer  |  Jun 19, 2020  |  91 comments
Achieving room-filling, high-quality sound in a hotel room is difficult enough. Getting it in a cavernous ballroom is even more problematic. Yet, over the past few years at AXPONA, RMAF, and most recently at the February 2020 FLAX (Florida Audio Expo), Von Schweikert Audio, in association with The Audio Company of Marietta, Georgia, has managed that—and, other than the approximately 100 bodies occupying every seat in the house, they've done it without any room treatment, or without any that I could see.
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 18, 2020  |  61 comments
VAC's Statement 452 iQ Musicbloc amplifier ($75,000 for a single amp; $150,000/pair mono, as reviewed) is tall, young, and lovely, but unlike the girl from Ipanema, it isn't tan. Nor, at 280lb in its flight case, is it likely to "go walkin'." Getting the pair moved into my listening room required considerable effort—fortunately not mine.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 24, 2020  |  19 comments
Designing and building a turntable isn't all that difficult. All that matters is in plain sight: Start with a base of wood, MDF, or acrylic; add some isolation "feet" for it to rest upon, and a spindle bearing such as any competent machine shop can fabricate, topped by a platter of acrylic or aluminum or suchlike. The motor can be an off-the-shelf AC synchronous type, fed directly by the electricity from a wall socket.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 29, 2020  |  97 comments
I thought I knew what a preamp could do. But when the Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum HD preamplifier ($40,000) arrived for review, all my expectations flew out the window.
Sasha Matson  |  Dec 20, 2019  |  21 comments
There is change, and also continuity, at Wilson Audio Specialties, the company founded in 1974 by recordist and loudspeaker designer David A. Wilson. David's son Daryl Wilson was appointed president and CEO in 2016. David Wilson passed away in 2018. And in 2019, Wilson Audio Specialties released the Sasha DAW loudspeaker ($37,900/pair), designed by a team led by Daryl Wilson and named in honor of his father.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Dec 19, 2019  |  45 comments
What kind of creature is this? Gryphon Audio Designs' new Ethos ($39,000)—pronounced EE-toss by its Danish manufacturers—is marketed as a CD player and digital-to-analog converter. It's decidedly au courant in that it includes two 32-bit/768kHz ES9038PRO Sabre DAC chips—one for each channel—with each holding eight individual DAC chips; offers optional upsampling to either 24/384 PCM or DSD128; and decodes up to 32/384 PCM and quadruple DSD (DSD512) via its USB input, or up to 24/192 (and no DSD) via AES/EBU or S/PDIF.

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