Gramophone Dreams

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Herb Reichert  |  Nov 04, 2020  |  14 comments
The 1980s was a decade when I needed three jobs to support my wife, infant daughter, and octogenarian dad. My primary job was to make and sell art, and I'm sure you know how that can go. Between exhibitions, I was forced to do construction work and to find, repair, and resell old tube amplifiers.
Herb Reichert  |  Sep 30, 2020  |  10 comments
"Future generations will be able to condense into the brief space of twenty minutes the tone pictures of a lifetime—five minutes of childish prattle, five moments embalming the last feeble utterances from the death-bed. Will this not seem like holding veritable communion with immortality?"—Berliner Gramophone Company ca 1877
Herb Reichert  |  Aug 25, 2020  |  20 comments
I am fascinated by DACs and the shifting sands of today's digital-audio marketplace. This month, I am reporting on two more DACs, both made by Denafrips: the $4498 Terminator, until recently their flagship DAC, and the $768 Ares II, the company's least expensive model. Like the HoloAudio May DAC I described last month, both Denafrips converters employ R-2R conversion schemes, and both render recordings into direct, unprocessed sound.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 30, 2020  |  24 comments
In contrast to phono cartridges and analog tape recorders, digital audio converters distinguish themselves by the fact that they can be fashioned in an almost infinite number of ways. Therefore, the odds against two manufacturers' DACs or ADCs sounding exactly the same are extremely large.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 02, 2020  |  30 comments
Today is March 22, 2020. Outside my door, the plague is gaining intensity. People are wearing masks and rubber gloves. But outside the window by my desk, there is a Callery pear tree, and every day its blossoms are becoming more intensely white. Each day its brightness (measured in units of luminous flux) increases noticeably. The optical radiance of its zillion-petal whiteness illuminates the whole garden.
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 02, 2020  |  24 comments
My most cherished intangibles—love, beauty, glimpses of higher realms—enter my awareness only after I prepare my psyche to receive them. Extended bathing, lighting candles, making tea, and preparing food are ritual work forms that prepare my senses to accept both pleasure and illumination. In like manner, collecting LPs and storing them properly, setting up turntables, aligning cartridges, and cleaning styli are ritual actions that prepare me for the high moments of focused musical pleasure only a black disc can provide.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 29, 2020  |  7 comments
I hope you can tell how grateful I am to be writing a column every month. A column makes me feel like a reporter or raconteur, both of which I aspire to become. In a column, I can be more me. I can evolve, think out loud, and speculate, right in front of you. I can pass on crazy stories from a lifetime of audio. When I write about products in a Dream, I try not to form it as a review, per se, but rather as an informal chronicle of discovery.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 02, 2020  |  11 comments
Almost a year ago, a headphone pal loaned me the Zach Mehrbach–designed ZMF Auteur LTD headphones. He said, "Herb, see if you like these." I took them home and right away thought, Wow, these headphones really disappear!

Nothing about their sound attracted my attention. The only thing I noticed, casually, was how relaxed and unbelievably transparent they were.

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 04, 2020  |  40 comments
The image above is not a modernist oil painting. It's an airport x-ray of my friend Jeffrey Jackson's backpack.

Can you identify its contents? Did you notice the red rectangle alerting the inspector of a suspicious object? Do you know what that suspicious object is? Or what it is worth?

That ominous-looking black silhouette is a 1930s-era Western Electric 555W "receiver"—ie, a compression driver for use with a horn. It's about 10" in diameter and weighs around 15lb. It requires a 7V DC/1.4A power supply for its field-coil magnet and would cost about $8000 to replace.

Herb Reichert  |  Feb 07, 2020  |  71 comments
When I applied for this job, I wrote a pretend review of the Rogue Audio Sphinx integrated amplifier and emailed it to Stephen Mejias, then Stereophile's deputy editor, who printed it and put it on John Atkinson's desk.

Before I sent it to Stephen, I showed a rough draft to my business agent, Sphere, who said, "Herb, you can't turn this in like this."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because you speak as if you are not an audiophile and think you're superior to audiophiles."

Herb Reichert  |  Jan 08, 2020  |  31 comments
Tell me now: When you're there in the scene, watching Lord Voldemort chase Han Solo through the Cave of the Klan Bear, how often do you notice that the sounds you're experiencing are being pumped at you from five black-painted room boundaries, while the flickering-light images approach from only one? Moreover, in a parallel, more quotidian reality, you're sitting upright in your seat, noisily chomping popcorn while absorbing—and processing—massive amounts of sensory data: Did you ever consider the sensual, mechanical, and psychological complexity of a moment like this, and how fundamentally unnatural it is?
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 04, 2019  |  9 comments
My current romance with audiophile-quality headphones began in earnest with the appearance, about 10 years ago, of Audeze's LCD-2 planar-magnetic headphones—these predated the company's patented Fazor elements, said to guide the sound around the transducers' magnet structures—and Schiit Audio's original Asgard headphone amplifier. Together, these groundbreaking products rekindled my interest by making headphone listening into something new and exciting—something less distorted, more dynamic, denser, and more intensely lifelike than what I was getting from my speakers on the floor. Best of all, I could listen while lying in bed with my eyes closed.
Herb Reichert  |  Oct 11, 2019  |  40 comments
Let's talk about management styles. If you want to run a successful small business, you must first be happy. If your personal goals are to learn and to discover, and you combine those with an intrinsic need to share your achievements and connect with people in your chosen field, you are likely to succeed. Given those qualities, if your business goal is to provide desirable goods and needed services, you will not fail.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 30, 2019  |  4 comments
We were playing some old, cherished black discs when my partner, bb (the 6'-tall Aries artist), declared, "With records you hear touch, and you are not alone." Long pause. "Just holding the cover brings back memories—that's their humanity."
Herb Reichert  |  May 23, 2019  |  3 comments
Every time I review a digital-to-analog converter, my memory drifts to the spring of 1983, when the first Compact Discs arrived at Tower Records in New York City. They appeared in the opera section. Sitting next to big, thick boxed sets of opera LPs, these new discs looked truly compact. A few months later, boxed sets of popular opera LPs, in almost untouched condition, began selling in the Tower Annex for $1/disc.

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