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Keith Howard  |  Apr 02, 2009  |  First Published: Mar 02, 2009  |  0 comments
Until the Recording Industry Association of America hit the headlines in recent years with its antipiracy campaign, the initials RIAA meant one thing to seasoned audiophiles: the vinyl-disc equalization characteristic introduced in the 1950s to standardize what had previously been an anarchy of different EQs. Three decades later, as CD gained ascendance, a large proportion of audiophiles still knew what RIAA equalization was, and a good number of them had some idea or better of what the RIAA EQ curve looked like, and why it was applied.
Dick Olsher  |  Oct 29, 2008  |  First Published: Jan 29, 1989  |  0 comments
There was a time, as recently as 40 years ago, when frequencies below 100Hz were considered extreme lows, and reproduction below 50Hz was about as common as the unicorn. From our present technological perch, it's too easy to smirk condescendingly at such primitive conditions. But just so you're able to sympathize with the plight of these disadvantaged audiophiles, I should tell you that there were two perfectly good reasons for this parlous state of affairs. First of all, program material at that time was devoid of deep bass; not because it was removed during disc mastering but simply because there wasn't any to begin with. The professional tape recorders of the day featured a frequency response of 50–15kHz, ±2dB—just about on a par with the frequency performance capability of a cheap 1988 cassette tape deck.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 03, 2008  |  4 comments
Because loudspeakers interact with the acoustics of the room in which they are used, optimizing their positions within that room pays major dividends. Inexpensive speakers, optimally set up, may well outperform more expensive models just plonked down willy-nilly.
Keith Howard  |  Aug 29, 2008  |  0 comments
Headphones get pretty short shrift in much of the hi-fi press, which is puzzling—the headphone market is burgeoning. I don't know what the equivalent US figures are, but in recent years the UK headphone market has increased by an annual 15–20% in both units sold and overall revenue. It's easy to dismiss this as a natural byproduct of the Apple iPod phenomenon, but 20% of the market value is now accounted for by headphones costing over $120; a significant subset of consumers would seem to be looking for quality. When you also consider that many people's first exposure to higher-quality audio comes via headphones, there is ample reason for treating them more seriously.
Art Dudley  |  Apr 29, 2008  |  First Published: Apr 30, 2008  |  0 comments
Swiss Precision: The Story of the Thorens TD 124 and Other Classic Turntables
Swiss Precision: The Story of the Thorens TD 124 and Other Classic Turntables
by Joachim Bung. Published by Joachim and Angelika Bung, Schmitten, Germany (info@td-124.de), 2008. Hardcover, 288 pages, four-color, ISBN 978-3-00-021162-1. Price: €59 plus overseas mailing.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Apr 29, 2008  |  First Published: Apr 30, 2008  |  0 comments
Surround Sound: Up and Running (Second Edition)
by Tomlinson Holman. Published by Focal Press, an imprint of Elsevier (footnote 1) (Oxford, England, UK; www.elsevier.com). 2008. Paperback, 248 pages, ISBN 978-0240808291. $44.95.
Keith Howard  |  Feb 06, 2008  |  First Published: Jan 06, 2008  |  2 comments
Recently, I assessed four disparate room-correction systems based on digital signal processing (DSP): Copland DRC205, Lyngdorf Audio RoomPerfect, Velodyne SMS-1, and Meridian DRC. I concluded that Meridian's approach—which applies IIR (Infinite Impulse Response) "anti-resonance" filters to suppress room resonant modes, if only partially—was, in many respects, the best. What I particularly like about Meridian DRC is that, unlike the Copland and Lyngdorf processors, its approach to system tonal balance is largely hands-off. Yes, it lightens up the extreme bass a little, as you'd expect, but it doesn't recast the system balance in any way that might prove undesirable. If you like your system's tonal character as it is, Meridian DRC behaves just as you'd want a room-correction system to behave: it quells room resonance effects while leaving the system's essential sound well alone.
Keith Howard  |  Jul 29, 2007  |  0 comments
Why, in loudspeaker reviews, is impedance measured (assuming that the magazine in question bothers to measure anything)? Generally, for one principal reason only: to establish whether the speaker presents an "easy" or a "difficult" load to its partnering amplifier. In the design context, much more information can be extracted from a graph of speaker impedance vs frequency—such as details of the bass alignment, and indications of internal or structural resonances that can be difficult to identify by acoustical measurements. But for a magazine audience, the principal interest in a loudspeaker's load impedance lies in gaining some indication of its compatibility with a given amplifier.
Keith Howard  |  Apr 29, 2007  |  0 comments
When the brief flowering of quadraphonics began in the early 1970s, I was still at school. As a nascent but impecunious audiophile, I therefore had a ringside seat at the audio industry's first attempt to go multichannel—and, even for the disinterested onlooker, it wasn't a pretty spectacle.
Keith Howard  |  Nov 26, 2006  |  0 comments
As Hans Christian Oersted, the Danish physicist and founder of electrodynamics, discovered in 1819, an electric current passed through a wire generates a magnetic field. Place that wire close to a permanent magnet and the interaction of the two fields will generate a force. That, in two sentences, summarizes the operating principle of the motor that energizes every moving-coil drive-unit in millions of loudspeakers worldwide. It sounds simple, but—like everything in audio—it isn't.
Keith Howard  |  Jul 30, 2006  |  0 comments
The audio diaspora is split on the subject of bass. Some audiophiles—surely the majority—consider the reproduction of low frequencies purely in terms of the weight and drama it adds to sounds with significant bass content. Others—the generalists—take a much wider view of the significance of extended bass response, noting that an audio system's ubiquitous high-pass filters are unusual in Nature and suggesting that this is one of the factors that separate, at the fundamental level, live sound from its poorer reproduced cousin. When John Atkinson wrote on this subject more than 10 years ago (Stereophile, November 1995, "As We See It"), he quoted a memorable line by Kal Rubinson that encapsulates this latter view: "Something in Nature abhors a capacitor."
Keith Howard  |  Apr 30, 2006  |  0 comments
In 1977, just as I was about to take my first faltering steps in hi-fi journalism, the UK's Hi-Fi News ran two articles, translated from French originals by Jean Hiraga, that seemed to me and many others to turn the audio world we knew upside down. The second of them, "Can We Hear Connecting Wires?" was published in the August issue and is the better remembered because it introduced many English-speaking audiophiles to the contention that cables can sound different. The earlier article, published in the March issue, was less earthshaking but still an eyebrow-raiser of considerable force. Simply titled "Amplifier Musicality," it was a response to the word musicality being increasingly used in subjectivist circles to describe the perceived performance of amplifiers and other audio components. It was implicit that musicality was a quality not captured by conventional measurement procedures—a lack of correlation that Hiraga's article sought to address.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 06, 2006  |  First Published: Feb 06, 1990  |  0 comments
Wouldn't you just know it. As soon as I decide on a formal regime of measurements to accompany Stereophile's loudspeaker reviews—see Vol.12 No.10, October 1989, p.166—along comes some hot new technology that changes everything. Robert Harley reported in last month's "Industry Update" column how impressed he and I were with the new MLSSA measurement system from DRA Laboratories.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Apr 02, 2006  |  First Published: Jan 02, 2000  |  0 comments
I had been with Stereophile only six months and feared my tenure was over—I thought I was losing my hearing. There was pain, ringing, and stuffiness. I couldn't listen to anything.
Keith Howard  |  Feb 05, 2006  |  First Published: Jan 05, 2006  |  0 comments
106howard.1.jpgMuch as I like the prospect of being able to grunt a heartfelt Je ne regrette rien immediately before expiring, I know there will be too many what-ifs and wish-I-hadn'ts to make that even remotely possible. But here is one missed opportunity that won't flash before me, because John Atkinson has granted me a second chance.

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