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Ben Duncan  |  Oct 10, 2019  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1992  |  9 comments
Power amplifiers fascinate me. In the past 15 years I've helped design and build over a dozen advanced models, with output powers ranging from 50 to 2500W, for a number of the UK's professional equipment manufacturers. To learn from others' ideas and mistakes, I've also repaired, measured, used, and reviewed hundreds of makes of amplifier. My experiences have led me to regard the power amplifier as one of the messiest, most imperfect pieces of electronic equipment in the record/replay path.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 08, 2019  |  18 comments
1019psbbok.promo99% True: Almost a National Bestseller, by Paul McGowan. Lioncrest Publishing, 2019. 364pp. $25.00, hard cover; $15.99, paperback; $9.99, Kindle e-book.

To many audiophiles, high-end audio manufacturers must seem like monolithic entities, enduring for what seems like forever, like cliffs beside a familiar path. But as Paul McGowan explains in this unputdownable autobiography (footnote 1), behind the facade of stability things can be in financial turmoil, with success equally as risky as failure.

John Atkinson  |  Aug 22, 2019  |  3 comments
DALI's loudspeaker factory in Nørager, Denmark. (Photo: DALI.)

Seen from the air, Denmark is a vista of farms and wind turbines. But once your plane touches down, it is a land of loudspeakers. Perhaps this is because audio has a long history in Denmark—it was a Dane, Valdemar Poulsen, who developed a magnetic wire recorder in 1898—but there are more loudspeaker manufacturers per person than any other country. According to Wikipedia, Denmark is home to 5.75 million people, compared with New York's five boroughs, which have a population of 8.67 million However, as well as drive-unit manufacturers Audio Technology, Peerless, Vifa (which merged with Peerless to form Danish Sound Technology), and ScanSpeak, there are Bang & Olufsen, DALI, Dynaudio, Gamut, Gryphon, Jamo, Lyngdorf Audio, Peak-Consult, and Raidho all making loudspeakers. Lots of loudpeakers.

Robert Schryer  |  Jul 23, 2019  |  31 comments
Dear Newbie: Welcome to the wonderful world of hi-fi! If you're besotted with a desire for audio gear that can make your recorded music sound better than you've ever heard it, you've come to the right place.

And at just the right time: Not only is there an unprecedented amount of sanely priced, excellent-sounding audio gear on the market; there's this thing happening between us right here and now—the fact that you're reading a letter I wrote especially for you.

Kristen Weitz  |  Jun 14, 2019  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1994  |  22 comments
If you: 1) live in an apartment, condo, townhouse, dorm, or share a house or apartment with someone;

2) are going to, have recently graduated from, or have never gone to college and are not working at all, are working a minimum-wage job, or have just gotten your first job but have loans, Visa/MasterCard/American Express bills, a brand-new car payment, and can't afford to eat anything but macaroni and cheese anyway. . .

Robert Harley  |  May 28, 2019  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1994  |  0 comments
If there's one buzzword in high-end audio for the 1990s, it's undoubtedly jitter. "Jitter" describes timing variations in the clock controlling the ones and zeros that represent the analog audio signal. If that clock isn't stable to an extraordinarily precise degree, the sound quality of the digital processor will be degraded.

A CD transport/digital processor combination introduces jitter in three ways: 1) the transport puts out a jittered signal; 2) the S/PDIF or AES/EBU interface between the transport and processor creates jitter; and 3) the digital processor adds its own jitter to the clock. These additive factors are largely responsible for the great range in sound quality we hear from different transports and interfaces.

Barry Willis  |  Apr 09, 2019  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1994  |  5 comments
One evening late last summer I took the most expensive workout of my life. In my hurry to meet a friend at the gym, I left the house, leaving my computer and hi-fi on despite the ominous look of the sky. In the South, experience teaches you to dash about disconnecting everything at the first sign of a thunderstorm. Usually I do, but this time my mind was elsewhere.
Jim Austin  |  Dec 04, 2018  |  17 comments
If there's one thing audiophiles agree on, it's that snake oil is bad—even if they can't agree about what snake oil actually is.

In audio, snake oil means fake science or fake technology—anything that's claimed to improve the sound of a system but that looks like an obvious rip-off. For some people, expensive speaker cables and interconnects are snake oil. A few objectivists consider AC power treatments snake oil: most modern audio components, after all, can correct for AC line-voltage flaws and reject "ripple" in a power supply's output. A handful of hard-core objectivists maintain that every new digital technology since the advent of the Compact Disc is snake oil.

Art Dudley  |  Nov 21, 2018  |  47 comments
Since fake news is on everyone's minds these days—I would say it's been in the news a lot, but that kind of reasoning is too circular even for me—it's worth keeping in mind that there's also such a thing as fake praise. You see it every day, whether it's a fake Google review—an alarming number of businesses seem unaware that real people don't actually say things like "the team at New Hartford Chevrolet really listened to all of my needs"—or fake trophies handed out to all 20 co-captains of your child's soccer team.

Then there are fake awards.

Jim Austin  |  Oct 02, 2018  |  43 comments
The most notable aspect of Benchmark Media Systems' DAC3 HGC ($2195), which I favorably reviewed in the November 2017 Stereophile (footnote 1), is its low noise floor. John Atkinson's measurements corroborated Benchmark's claim that the DAC3 is capable of "at least" 21-bit performance. While significantly less than the theoretical potential of a 24-bit data format, 21 bits is still the state of the art, and corresponds to a dynamic range—the ratio of the highest achievable digital-domain volume to the DAC's internal noise—of 128dB. That's well above the dynamic range that most power amplifiers can achieve. A good-measuring high-end solid-state amplifier is likely to have a dynamic range—the highest attainable ratio of signal to noise—of about 100dB ref. its maximum power.
Stereophile Staff  |  Aug 14, 2018  |  10 comments
EISA is the biggest and, at nearly 40 years, the oldest general consumer-electronics awards association in the world; its members include 50 special-interest magazines in over 23 European countries and, now, the US, Canada, India, and Australia. Through its annual Awards program, EISA has been celebrating the very best consumer-electronics products for over 30 years. Each spring, the editors of the member magazines in the Hi-Fi Expert Group vote on products that have been nominated in up to 15 categories: turntable, floorstanding loudspeaker, amplifier, etc. The winners are announced at the EISA Awards Gala at the Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA), which takes place each September in Berlin, Germany.

Here are the 2018–2019 winners...

John Atkinson  |  Aug 14, 2018  |  47 comments
In a series of recent feature articles for Stereophile, Jim Austin has examined how the controversial MQA codec works: "MQA Tested, Part 1," "MQA Tested Part 2: Into the Fold," "MQA Contextualized," "MQA, DRM, and Other Four-Letter Words," and, most recently, "MQA: Aliasing, B-Splines, Centers of Gravity." I doubt there is a Stereophile reader who is unaware of the fracas associated with MQA, and I have been repeatedly criticized on web forums for describing its underlying concept as "elegant."

But elegant it is, I feel.

Robert Harley  |  Jul 10, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 1995  |  11 comments
The men behind HDCD (L–R: Pflash Pflaumer, Michael Ritter, Keith Johnson

High Definition Compatible Digital® (HDCD®), the proprietary process for improving the sound of 16-bit digital audio, has finally arrived. More than a dozen digital processors using the technology are on the market, and the professional encoder used to master HDCD discs is following closely behind.

John Atkinson  |  Jul 03, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 1981  |  40 comments
The author demonstrating stereo microphone techniques at an English audio show in 1981.

For most people the terms hi-fi and stereo are synonymous, and yet it is clear that there is still a great deal of confusion over what the word "stereo" actually means. There isn't even a consensus of opinion amongst producers of records, designers of hi-fi equipment, audio critics and music lovers as to the purpose of stereo, and considering that the arguments show no sign of diminishing in intensity, it is instructive to realise that 1981 sees both the 100th anniversary of Clement Ader's first stereo experiments and the 50th anniversary of Alan Blumlein's classic patent on stereo.

Dick Olsher, J. Gordon Holt, Martin Colloms  |  Jun 07, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1986  |  0 comments
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) loudspeaker projects are quite common in the UK, where details about several excellent designs, including a recent one by Martin Colloms, have been published for public domain consumption. Stateside, the situation is rather grim, where only an occasional subwoofer project (always popular) makes it into the commercial magazines.

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