Features

Sort By: Post Date | Title | Publish Date
Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 11, 2017  |  20 comments
The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World, by Damon Krukowski. The New Press, 2017. Hardcover, 240 pp., $24.95. Also available as an e-book.

Defining noise is tricky business.

In high-end audio, noise is often defined as the enemy—of music, beauty, truth. Engineers and enthusiasts alike spend significant amounts of time, energy, and money attempting to minimize or control noise so that it has the least possible impact on the source signal: music. In this way—if we are intelligent, careful, and fortunate—we can extract from our stereos cleaner, clearer, more naturally beautiful sound for listening experiences that are enriching, emotionally compelling, and, above all, fun. On the other hand, when noise is allowed to excessively modulate the signal, music can sound relatively abrasive, more mechanical, and, ultimately, less engaging.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 07, 2017  |  68 comments
By the time we had finished the house tour and admired the quiet beauty of the fir-canopied neighborhood, we sensed that we would follow our hearts from unsafe and increasingly unaffordable East Oakland, CA to the serene hamlet of Port Townsend, WA. We also knew that the only suitable place for my reference/review system would be in the 22' x 22' detached garage
Tyll Hertsens  |  Jan 31, 2017  |  10 comments
Some 100 engineers and scientists from around the globe assembled for the Audio Engineering Society's 2016 International Conference on Headphone Technology, in Aalborg, Denmark.

I figured it was coming, but it wasn't until just after I'd returned from the Audio Engineering Society's 2016 International Conference on Headphone Technology—held last August in Aalborg, Denmark—and was writing up my report and summary on the event for InnerFidelity.com (footnote 1) that I knew for sure: Headphones are about to change . . . a lot.

John Atkinson, Will Hammond  |  Dec 08, 2016  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1990  |  9 comments
In "Music and Fractals" in the November 1990 issue, I discuss how digital audio's quantization of amplitude information in what was originally a continuous waveform represents a fundamental difference between analog and digital representations of music. In a letter published in the English magazine Hi-Fi Review in January 1990, John Lambshead conjectured that naturally originating sounds were pseudo-fractal in character; that is, their waveforms have a wealth of fine detail, and that detail itself has an even finer-structured wealth of fine detail, and so on, until the crinkliness of the waveform is finally enveloped in the analog noise that accompanies every sound we hear.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Sep 01, 2016  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1985  |  1 comments
There were no surprises, innovations, or breakthrough designs in loudspeakers at the 1985 Summer Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. By and large, those on display were nothing more than refinements of, or variations on, previous speaker designs. Of course, there's nothing the matter with that; any improvement in a product is a step in the right direction. It merely perpetuates the pattern of the past ten years: evolution but no revolution.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 18, 2016  |  67 comments
Last June, Jim Austin briefly discussed the operation of MQA in his review of the Meridian Explorer2 USB DAC, but you can find a more detailed explanation on Stereophile's website here and here. MQA involves two fundamental concepts, discussed in a paper presented to the Audio Engineering Society in October 2014. The first is responsible for a large reduction in the bandwidth required to store and stream high-resolution files, the second for a potential improvement in sound quality. . .
J. Robert Stuart  |  Aug 11, 2016  |  104 comments
Author's Note: We are grateful to Stereophile for the opportunity to address some frequently repeated technical questions appearing in comments to articles. Recently this has included misunderstandings about noise calculation, dynamic range, resolution, definition, music spectra, channel capacity, lossless processing and temporal aspects of digital channels.

To simplify this document we have grouped the topics and set them as questions and answers either as response, tutorial or axiom. Some months ago we published a comprehensive Q&A for an online forum and to avoid repetition we occasionally refer to topics already discussed there (see [37] in the "References" sidebar).—J. Robert Stuart

Kalman Rubinson  |  May 30, 2016  |  3 comments
In August 2015, I visited loudspeaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins in England. It was an exciting prospect to see the factory, and meet the people who designed and built the speakers I've been using for years. Of course, as the time of my visit approached, it was impossible not to speculate that something important was afoot—there was growing Internet buzz that it was time for B&W to update its 800-series speakers. Nonetheless, B&W remained tight-lipped.
John Atkinson  |  May 19, 2016  |  41 comments
Jim Austin briefly discusses MQA in his review of the Explorer2 in this issue, but a more complete description of MQA can be found in an article posted on Stereophile's website at the end of 2014.

MQA involves two fundamental concepts, discussed in a paper presented to the Audio Engineering Society in October 2014, the first responsible for a potential improvement in sound quality, the second responsible for a large reduction in the bandwidth required for storage and streaming of high-resolution files...

David Lander  |  Apr 26, 2016  |  1 comments
Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life & Times of Doc Pomus
by Alex Halberstadt. Da Capo Press, 2007. Paperback, 272 pp., $16. Available as eBook.

Many people, after seeing him repeatedly at Manhattan's Forrest Hotel in the early 1960s, might have described the lyricist and songwriter Doc Pomus as the narrator of a Damon Runyon short story depicts himself: as someone "who is just around." Pomus lived for years in lackluster hotels like the Forrest, which Runyon himself had once called home, and his cronies could be just as colorful as Runyon's creations, including the gamblers—for a time, Pomus gambled for a living.

David Lander  |  Mar 07, 2016  |  4 comments
In Lost Highway, published soon after he was introduced to Sam Phillips, in 1979, Peter Guralnick said he had long dreamed of meeting the Sun Records founder, who produced the hits that introduced Elvis Presley and other pioneering rock'n'roll performers. He dedicated Lost Highway to Phillips and the blues singer Howlin' Wolf, calling them "the real heroes" of the musical genre, and a quarter-century relationship between Guralnick and Phillips followed. This long, densely detailed biography is its affectionate culmination.
David Lander  |  Jun 06, 2014  |  1 comments
According to Terry Teachout, Duke Ellington's story is one of "a somewhat better-than-average stride pianist largely devoid of formal musical training [who] managed to turn himself into a great composer." Ellington had ample help from his organization, which included the gifted composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn, who succinctly described his employer's modus operandi: "Each member of his band is to him a distinctive tone color and set of emotions, which he mixes with others equally distinctive to produce a third thing, which I call the Ellington effect." Without standout band members, and without Strayhorn himself, that effect would have been significantly less memorable.
David Lander  |  Apr 17, 2014  |  1 comments
514book.250.jpgKansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch (New York: Harper, 2013), 365 pp. Hardcover, $27.99.

A section of this biography, which documents the early life of the dazzling bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker, starts with a four-page meditation on "the truth and myth of railroads" in America: the figurative underground railroad that comprised a web of escape routes for slaves fleeing the South; the "black-smoke-puffing iron horse" that galloped into the West and "would eventually carry the brutal and legendary Apache chief Geronimo and his people . . . to Florida"; the trains "that inspired the legend of Casey Jones"; and the trains steaming through the blues tunes that echoed their melancholy nocturnal sounds.

Crouch views the train as "a vehicle and a dream source" in a culture where children were once tantalized by ads that pictured toy trains looping around "bright ovals of miniature track." As every jazz fan knows, Charlie Parker's playing traveled along bright ovals of its own. So does Crouch's prose, and his intellectual excursions carry readers well into the realm of African-American history, which is a significant dimension of this book.

John La Grou  |  Mar 13, 2014  |  9 comments
By 2035, the way we produce and consume media will be entirely different from how we experience it now. Today there is still a "fourth wall" between us and the media we consume: within three decades, that line between reality and its recreation will all but disappear. Our media experiences will become fully immersive—from spherical audio and video that tracks with our body's movements, to gestural computing, to physical-feedback devices, and more. Using tomorrow's technology, our children and grandchildren may find it difficult to distinguish the real thing from reproduced.
John Marks  |  Nov 13, 2013  |  1 comments
RA—The Book: The Recording Architecture Book of Studio Design
By Roger D'Arcy and Hugh Flynn (illustrator), with photographs by Neil Waving. Foreword by Adrian Kerridge. Black Box Limited (London), 2011. $215. Hardcover, 15" by 10.5" by 1.25", 350 pp. ISBN 978-1-907759-16-1. Available from www.ra-thebook.com (ships from within the US).

In July 2004, I reviewed Jim Cogan and William Clark's Temples of Sound: Inside the Great Recording Studios, a collection of the business histories of 15 US recording studios. Each chapter covered a particular studio, focusing on its role in the careers of the recording artists most associated with that studio; eg, United Western Recorders and the Beach Boys.

Pages