The Entry Level #40 Contacts

Sidebar: Contacts

Audioengine, 126 Industrial Drive, Building B, Burgaw, NC 28425. Tel: (877) 853-4447. Web:

Cambridge Audio, US distributor: Audio Plus Services, 156 Lawrence Paquette Industrial Drive, Champlain, NY 12919. Tel: (800) 663-9352. Web:


dalethorn's picture

The ear/brain can hear very tiny differences, and even subliminal things are sensed. But at different times of day the ambient noise varies, AC line noise varies, the human body may have very different active energy levels - all adding up to very different perceptions.

Utopianemo's picture

Thanks, Stephen.  

Some very astute observations.  It kind of makes me a little happier with my entry-level Grados and my Hifiman Waterlines.  Maybe I don't need more expensive gear, just 3 or 4 decent-sounding headphones that I can rotate between for that new-sound feel. :)

Music_Guy's picture

I enjoyed the referenced articles/blogs (almost) as much as your piece here.  The concept that even though I may know better, things are actually enjoyed better with context and external reinforcment stimuli makes perfect sense to me.

My music sounds better when I sit down and savor it.  When I hear a piece of music that I haven't listened to in a long time, I hear things I did not hear (or don't remember having heard) before.  I absolutely enjoy my stuff more because I know how I searced for it and chose it and set it up than if I just came upon it complete.

As the technology improves, the differences between high-end DACs and entry-levels ones is shrinking. (IMO)  It takes careful comparison with short intervals between listens to detect these differences.  My less than golden ears find it nearly impossible to hear the differences when I hear gear in different places and at differnent times. But when I do crtically listen, I invariably hear differences and for the most part enjoy each new sound and usually think it sounds "better" especially when I am told that there is some improvement in there soemwhere.

You know what car runs better after I wash it.  I know it can't be...but it sure seems that way to me.

I am going to polish my tonearm, re-seat the cables, re-route the speaker wire and enjoy the improvements....

Tiger Al's picture

I'm gonna throw in a cd and enjoy the music.

Kettch's picture

Hi Stephen, I just read that you are leaving Stereophile. Is this true and will you be continuing to write through a personal blog or other platform? I always appreciate your insights from your column. 

John Atkinson's picture

Kettch wrote:
I just read that you are leaving Stereophile. Is this true and will you be continuing to write through a personal blog or other platform?

Sadly, it is true. Stephen left Stereophile at the end of March after more than 13 years with the magazine. He was made an offer to join cable manufacturer AudioQuest that he would have been crazy to turn down. His new position is VP Communications for that company.

His final "Entry Level" column appears in our June issue. He will no longer be writing about hardware for Stereophile or blogging for our website, but it is possible that he will still be contributing record reviews to the magazine.

We are not replacing "The Entry Level" as such but editor Michael Lavorgna will start contributing a column with the July issue.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Utopianemo's picture

Mr. Atkinson,

I was immediately sorry to hear that Stephen has left the building.  When you say "The Entry Level" will not be replaced, do you mean that Michael Lavorgna will be continuing "The Entry Level"?  I sure hope so.  I am not familiar with Mr. Lavorgna's writing, but I know you understand how important this specific column is to your magazine(and to us).

Stephen, if you can hear me, good luck and thanks.  Em, good luck and thanks in any case.


Nathan Daniels

John Atkinson's picture

Utopianemo wrote:
I was immediately sorry to hear that Stephen has left the building.

Me too :-)

Utopianemo wrote:
When you say "The Entry Level" will not be replaced, do you mean that Michael Lavorgna will be continuing "The Entry Level"?  I sure hope so.

No, Michael's column will explore the kind of products he currently writes about for in greater depth. We will continue to cover affordable components in our reviews and regular columns, but "The Entry Level" was so strongly identified with Stephen Mejias that I thought it best to cease publishing the column as it currently stood. I hope to be able to launch a replacement column devoted to entry-level components when I have discovered a writer who offers the unique combination of experience, listening ability, a love of music, the ability to communicate what he and she thinks, and a love for uncovering affordable great-sounding gear.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Kettch's picture

Hi John, thank you for the reply and I had hoped it was just a rumour but at the same time I am happy for Stephen. His column will be greatly missed.


Utopianemo's picture

I'm sorry, I just don't buy the wine thing.  I agree with Felix Salmon's assertion in the above referenced Reuters piece that knowing the price one paid for wine corrolates to one's enjoyment of said wine in part.  I know that effect is true for some people, but by no means all. My own particular bias is oriented around getting the best value; If I wasn't paying specific attention to the taste, I'd be the most impressed with the one that had the highest cost that I paid the least for.  That's why I get all excited when I hear the phrase "it sounds as good as speakers retailing for twice the price" in reviews.  That's the placebo that activates my pleasure center.

dalethorn's picture

It's even more likely to sound "As good as items at twice the price" if the user is willing to do a little tweaking, but it seems so many audiophiles today say "If it isn't perfect out of the box I'll just send it back".

tnargs's picture

Of course our receptivity changes from time to time, with the same equipment. I take that as a given.

And of course it means the Stereophile-style 'listening' 'test' is a joke. I take that as a given too.

And of course the placebo effect is real. I take the fact that audiophiles even want to discuss this point, with reference to our hobby, as a simple matter of re-education (away from everything audio journalists have been writing and towards simple realities).

But the Myers solution of selling good gear and going back to worse gear is not one I commend, except for him personally if he was truly unable to simply enjoy the music through high performance gear. But that is simply a *personal* psychological issue for him.

It is still okay to obtain high performance equipment and thoroughly enjoy our music through it, comfortable in the knowledge that there is less interference between us and the music that way.

luvmusic1945's picture

When i drank, i would listen to music and never thought the volume was high enough for me to hear everything; about 6 months after i quit, i put on a record and was amazed at the instruments i could now hear on same  record. I was now paying attention to the music. Going back to the wet years and the subject of price vs hearing, i'd like to add that i once went to a high gear store and heard a pair of speakers that sounded so real, that i went home and would not play my gear for a couple of weeks. I knew it would only make me feel sick, knowing, what i could be enjoying if i invested in better stuff. It's between the ears, some say, but as a V8's posess a distinctive sound, you know, when you hear one.


In my experience the biggest changes in audio response in transducers come from changes in humidity.