As We See It

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Jim Austin  |  Mar 16, 2023  |  14 comments
At the beginning of the 2022 novel Checkout 19, by Claire-Louise Bennett, I encountered some ideas that resonate in interesting ways with my recent experience of recorded music. . .

I've been bringing home too many records from the record store, or too many CDs from the CD shop, for decades—so many that it's difficult to focus on just one, to listen to it again and again, to give it the attention it deserves. In the era of streaming—of having a sizeable fraction of the history of recorded music at your fingertips for $10–$20/month—the temptation is especially acute. It's too easy to move among favorite bits of our favorite music—especially when, as is too often true of audiophiles, we're so eager to hear how a favorite moment in this or that piece of music sounds on our system, now that we've added in that new component.

Jim Austin  |  Feb 14, 2023  |  22 comments
There has been much discussion lately about ChatGPT, the machine-learning– based chatbot from OpenAI. Some experts say it will soon make human writers obsolete. Will that include human hi-fi reviewers?

I decided to engage ChatGPT in an exploratory conversation; think of it as a sort of job interview.

Jim Austin  |  Jan 17, 2023  |  9 comments
Since writing about Manhattan's renovated Geffen Hall in this space in our January issue, I've attended two concerts there. I thought I'd report back. The first of the two performances—the hall's "Grand Gala" concert, though they didn't invite me to the fancy dinner afterward—included works by young Puerto Rico–born composer Angélica Negrón (You Are the Prelude) and Ludwig van Beethoven (Symphony No.9). The second included works by Stravinsky (Symphonies of Wind Instruments), Bartók (Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra, with Daniil Trifonov and Sergei Babayan), and Sibelius (Symphony No.7).
Jim Austin  |  Dec 20, 2022  |  11 comments
What do New York's Lincoln Center and the typical Stereophile reader have in common? Both have recently made large investments to achieve sonic excellence.

I doubt that very many Stereophile readers have spent as much as Lincoln Center did on the renovation of Geffen Hall: $550 million. But then few audiophiles' systems are supported by the likes of David Geffen, a $100 million contributor to the Geffen Hall project, or Joseph and Clara Wu Tsai, who gave $50 million.

Jim Austin  |  Nov 15, 2022  |  18 comments
I have a confession, one I'm hesitant to make for reasons that will soon become clear, but my conscience compels me to make it.

I have a new dog. A puppy. Her name is Ella Wren.

Jim Austin  |  Oct 19, 2022  |  1 comments
For years, Audio Advice Live has been an annual event, drawing enthusiastic audiophiles to the dealership's showrooms on Raleigh's Glenwood Avenue, next to Virgin Cigars. This year, Audio Advice Live was different. It was a fully fledged audio show, held like most such events at a conference hotel: the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel in that North Carolina city, with rooms sponsored and presented by a wide range of hi-fi and home-theater manufacturers and distributors.
Jim Austin  |  Sep 13, 2022  |  11 comments
I first heard about the project in an email, one of the dozens I receive every day and barely glance at. It said that the editor of a German hi-fi publication was crossing the ocean to talk about hi-fi audio to students and their parents at a junior/senior high school in Westchester County, New York, just 45 minutes or so by car from my Manhattan apartment. Interesting. And odd. I moved on to the next email.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 16, 2022  |  26 comments
It was September 1962. In the UK, the Beatles were recording their first single, "Love Me Do," at London's Abbey Road Studios. And in the US, a young journalist, J. Gordon Holt, born in North Carolina but raised in Australia from 1935 to 1947, had become dissatisfied with the advertiser-friendly atmosphere at High Fidelity magazine, for which he had been the audio editor. Holt quit High Fidelity and, after a brief stint with phono cartridge manufacturer Weathers, published the first issue of what was then called The Stereophile.
Jim Austin  |  Jul 19, 2022  |  24 comments
'm writing this column on the long flight back to New York City following High End Munich, the big hi-fi show that in regular times takes place each May. Because these are not regular times, this was the first Munich show since 2019. This show was smaller than other recent Munich shows: COVID in the Far East limited involvement by people and companies from East Asia, and German government–mandated attendance caps limited the number of people who could enter at any one time. Even so, it was a big show, with some interesting product introductions and prototypes.
Jim Austin  |  Jun 15, 2022  |  2 comments
I'm writing this one week after returning from Schaumburg, Illinois, where I attended my first real audio show since the Florida Audio Expo in early 2020, just as the pandemic was starting to gain momentum. Everyone I talked to was hopeful, but no one could predict what attendance would be like or what people's attitudes would be.
Jim Austin  |  May 17, 2022  |  12 comments
I wrote about the music industry's impressive recovery in the February 2022 AWSI. Robust LP sales were a headline item of that report, but they're a sideshow: Paid-subscription streaming is what is bringing the industry back.

When I wrote that, 2021 wasn't quite over, so year-end financials weren't available. They're available now.

Jim Austin  |  Apr 12, 2022  |  52 comments
There's a notion among audiophiles that we must be regular consumers of live music, especially live acoustic music. It's the only way, the thinking goes, to calibrate our ears to the sound we should all be aspiring to at home.
Jim Austin  |  Mar 16, 2022  |  14 comments
No hi-fi is an island entire of itself; every component is a piece of the system, a part of the mains.—John Donne, from The Compleat Audiophile, 1623

Around the time I took over as Stereophile's editor, I bought a Peloton, the internet-enabled stationary exercise bike. It was a lifesaver during the pandemic, when gyms were closed; despite the poor audio quality and the awful music many of the instructors choose, it's good, diverting exercise.

Jim Austin  |  Feb 15, 2022  |  39 comments
Evidence is nothing without judgments.—The Lord Leto Atreides II in God Emperor Of Dune, by Frank Herbert

In college, I majored in physics, but I took a lot of theater courses. Not acting—I never had any affinity for that—but all the other aspects of theater: set design, directing, theory of performance, playwriting. One professor, a playwright himself, offered some advice to his students that has served me well ever since: To learn the craft, observe your response first, then look to the text to figure out what about it caused you to respond the way you did.

Jim Austin  |  Jan 19, 2022  |  9 comments
I'm excited about the return of live music to New York City. I've attended several classical concerts in the last few weeks, and in a week or so, I'll take in a show at the City Winery: Suzanne Vega. I haven't yet made it back to New York's amazing jazz clubs—the Vanguard, the Blue Note, Smalls—but I look forward to doing so soon, especially to dropping in on my jazz local, Smoke, when it reopens in a few weeks in new, larger digs.

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