Reviewer Video Profile: Michael Fremer

In this video, we visit Michael Fremer, Senior Contributing Editor to Stereophile, Editor of, and an unparalleled guru of all things analog.

volvic's picture

I really enjoyed this, have always admired Fremer, he was the only one in the 80's and 90's who carried the vinyl flag when everyone else was abandoning it, and as someone who never gave up on vinyl, I'm glad to see his stance has been vindicated. He always answers his emails and I value his opinions. Nice record collection as well as great accessories strewn all over the place. This video rocks.

Anton's picture

I find MF to be very earnest.

The vinyl haters will be here shortly to complain about prices, pops, and clicks, but MF keeps analogue vital and fun to talk about.

volvic's picture

The vinyl haters are just haters, no time for them, too busy enjoying my vinyl. Besides, I contend if they hate it, it's because they have either never had their table properly set up or they chose wrong in their equipment purchase. In the end it's great to have Fremer pushing the envelope with equipment reviews as well as new vinyl releases.

mrkaic's picture

...they can calculate the RMS voltage of thermal noise in turntable coils and prove that vinyl can never have the dynamic range of a good old CD :))

Anton's picture

Neither vinyl nor CD use their full dynamic range.

In fact, many mixes for LP are geared toward LP listeners and have a wider dynamic range than the CD version.

If you think you are hearing more dynamic range on your new CD's than we are getting on vinyl, there's been a terrible joke played on you.

Depending on who you ask, LP can have a dynamic range of 68-80 dB. Do any CDs you play use even half of that?

There is a website that lists many recordings' dynamic range. It will depress you and you will need to find a different way to hate on vinyl!

mrkaic's picture

Anton, I 100% agree with you about compression -- it is depressing, just like everything else associated with modern pop music and loudness wars.

I wanted to make a more theoretical point. A CD can theoretically reach 96 dB, but LP's cannot reach that even theoretically. If you take data for some typical MM or MC coils and take their output voltages, divide them with the RMS voltage of the thermal noise at room temperature and convert into dB, you might get 80 dB or a bit more. But that is the maximum that a LP can do if we assume that everything else is perfect. It will never reach 96 dB.

Anton's picture

Now, all we need are CDs that take advantage of their 16 dB head start!

Classical artists ride gain, too.

I guess the coolest thing a system could do would be to access a database or 'pre-read' a CD and you'd be asked to select the peak volume and then the original dynamic range would be left intact with your known peak level and we wouldn't blow up our gear!

John Atkinson's picture
mrkaic wrote:
It will never reach 96 dB.

As was pointed out by Bob Stuart decades ago, because of the RIAA pre-/de-emphasis, LP actually exceeds the dynamic range of 16-bit digital in the low treble where the ear is most sensitive. It is very much worse than 16-bit digital at low and very high frequencies, of course.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

mrkaic's picture

Yes, LP's might have higher dynamic ranges in some frequency bands -- the RMS voltage of thermal noise is obtained by averaging over the audible spectrum. As you say, they cannot beat CD's over the whole audible range.

I'd be interested in the original paper that discusses this. Could you please link the reference?

Thanks in advance,


John Atkinson's picture
mrkaic wrote:
I'd be interested in the original paper that discusses this. Could you please link the reference?

I mentioned this in passing in 2002 - - as well as in my 2011 Richard Heyser Lecture to the AES - Bob Stuart had discussed this in a 1990s article in Audio magazine but that article doesn't appear to be available on-line. I will keep looking.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

cgh's picture

John, your first link is broken.

What are your thoughts on some of Tim de Paravincini's comments re:

"I did my own summation—and this is from 20 years ago—that if we did 384kHz at 24-bit, we'll have a system that will resolve on a par with the best analog."


mrkaic's picture

Great stuff, thank you.

tonykaz's picture

We music hobbyists are a tiny group.

The Gigantic group of music listeners are the SUV Commuters who sit in their noisy cars for two hours per day.

Compressed music is ideal for them.

At home they have a 2k TV and Sound Bar, music for Video is much higher quality than the compressed CD stuff.

When I become President I'll outlaw compression for CDs.

Till then, the entire music CD industry will cater to the folks in the Cars.

So, if you wish to enjoy CDs, get in your car and go for a drive, GM and I will thank you.

Tony in Michigan

Anton's picture

That was complete fun.

Which Minus K stand?

I am actually in the market!

Michael Fremer's picture

It's actually not a self-contained unit but the "raw guts" of one that drops into the stand....which makes it a very neat installation...

Anton's picture

I have been looking at them and can't decide which to go for!

It was fun just watching how it moved in your video.

I appreciate the look at the complete room, as well.

Here's to 17,000 more copies!

cgh's picture

Thanks Mikey, that was great. Also, Jana, the picture quality was great.

I had a shitty day, and my patience is thin, but it's almost annoying how apologetic you (all?) have gotten about the cost / price / entitlement thing. You have amazing perspective, and you've spent thousands of hours learning and accumulating knowledge, and I am happy for you no matter how you're compensated for that investment, as I am the beneficiary. I appreciate the perspective. Thanks.

Michael Fremer's picture

Yes I saw in retrospect that I was somewhat defensive but if you saw the accusations of "corruption" and hate mail (along with good stuff) in my inbox you'd get it...

Axiom05's picture

I was disappointed to see such a vinylphile with such a small collection of LP's (joking!). Enjoyed this video, another great one in the series, looking forward to more. MF's collection of LP's is truly amazing and certainly drool worthy. Just incredible to be surrounded by so much music and history.

Anton's picture

I hope MF has a university in mind for to keep his collection intact in perpetuity.

What a gift!

(I know nothing about his real world life, so I did not mean to exclude sons or daughters, etc.)

Michael Fremer's picture

Grim! But that's okay....

fischer's picture

Are you attempting Rosie and the Originals, "Angel Baby" at the end? Good way to end the segment :)

itsallgood's picture

A bit long but very enjoyable. Made me long for the days when I owned vinyl (and a turntable). I get along quite happily with my digital files though it helps that I don't know anyone with a high end vinyl system.

A left handed vintage Strat is a thing of beauty but I wouldn't recommend that Mikey quit his day job.

The room treatment in a listening space that includes shelves and shelves of vinyl in parallel and perpendicular arrangements - not to mention the water tank(!) - well, that gave me pause for thought(though I am certain that it still sounds terrific.).

My wife did wonder why Mr. Fremer had so many copies of the same record. I understand why but I really wasn't up to trying to explain it to her. The wild and wacky world of the obsessed audiophile!

Ortofan's picture

... "an unparalleled guru of ALL things analog"?
All things analog disc related, perhaps, but where are the analog tape machines?

Also, shouldn't the two tonearm wire leads (at the headshell) for each channel be twisted together to help reduce crosstalk and act less like an antenna for RF?

Michael Fremer's picture

I didn't show a restored Revox G36....but it's there only for commercially duplicated 7.5IPS R2R tapes. The twisted pairs may make a difference in some cases but I don't have RF issues that are audible and because I do so much cartridge swapping beyond what most end users do, I am careful not to stress the wires by twisting them and the extra length is there in case a clip breaks off. It leaves sufficient wire to strip and solder. Consumers who buy the arm don't get such a big wire loop!

mav52's picture

Michael, thank you, a very enjoyable look at your world.

Allen Fant's picture

Another hit-Jana!
Keep writing and making these videos.

itsallgood's picture

My guess is that Stephen Mejias is up next for the Jana video treatment. I'd also be very interested in seeing Jana visit Kal Rubinson to see how he has things set up for music in the round. Sooner or later someone is going have to develop the videographer chops to profile Jana.

Everest Audio's picture

After being in this business for a long time, I completely agree with this statement by Michael..."Everything makes a difference". Granted, some things make more of a difference than others, but your system will only be as good as your weakest component and nothing should be overlooked.

davds1582's picture

While I am certain that they are set-up to a fare-thee-well, were the Alexx's designed to be used in the space you have them in? How did you go about selecting them?

Jason Victor Serinus's picture Check for your answer there.

davds1582's picture

Jason, was I talking to you?
Anyhoo, it just seems odd; those huge speakers in that cramped little space.
How could virtually any reader's/prospective buyer's impressions not vary?

Michael Fremer's picture

"Cramped"? Well filled with "stuff" but not really "cramped". And it is about 15' x21' feet, which is not "little". It's a testament to Dave Wilson's design theories that the speakers work so well in the space...

supamark's picture

Your room actually sounds good, don't know what people are complaining about. Of the three reviewer's rooms I've heard on Jana's videos, yours sounds best (JA's worst, it honks and you can hear trucks rumble by).

Edit - I take that back, just listened to a snippet of Michael Lavorgna's "barn" room and it is much worse - RT60 is waaaay too long to be useful as a listening room and is much more appropriate to a live performance space for acoustic music.

I also wish people would stop framing digital vs vinyl as one being objectively better - they both have distortions, it's just a matter of which you prefer. I have exactly one piece of equipment in common with you - I still have a Pioneer Elite CD player with the upside down tray that I bought new in '92. The analog outs are kinda hosed but who wants to listen to D/A converters from '92?

One last thing, the story about the furries was freakin' hilarious.

Anton's picture

Sean casey of Zu Audio was recently demonstrating some gear and he talked a little about "room treatments."

He summed it up well.

"Have a room with lots of different stuff in it, especially record shelves. Furniture, nick knacks, all the stuff of an interesting life."

He said, "All that stuff will add up to a great acoustic space."

I like the advice and think MF is living proof of how his stuff adds up to a great sounding room."

There are only videos, but he sounded great. No slap echo, no extended reverb time, he sounded natural."

Art Dudley's room seemed very live, in comparison, which may suit him fine, but it was much more reverberant than MF's area. I thought Art's room would be sonically tough.

However, only MF and Michael Lavorgna have allowed full/open views of where they sit and how the room is set up. Herb's room and Art's room were never revealed in full. (Not a complaint, just discussing.)

Anyway, I think MF's room seems like the sound would be very very good.

(He's not a reviewer, but I bet High Water Sound's room sounds pretty good, too.)

michaelavorgna's picture think you know what my room sounds like from a YouTube video.

Michael Lavorgna

supamark's picture

it's not that difficult to hear the long reverb decay. Jana is standing nearer to you than you sit to your speakers. As I said, it would make a nice performance space for acoustic music. By the way, you are the reason I don't read Audio Stream (but I do read Stereophile (from way back), Inner Fidelity, Analog Planet, and Sound & Vision). That is how genuinely unpleasant I find you to be.

FYI - among other credits, I recorded the 1991-1992 season of Austin Symphony Orchestra... so I know a thing or two about mics, acoustic spaces, and recording. Here's something I recorded that you might like:

michaelavorgna's picture are wrong but too pompous to recognize it. Your resume doesn't change this fact.

Anton's picture

Dang, it posted double. Apologies.

Anton's picture

Please quote me where I commented on how your room sounded, as I don't recall it. If you do, I will try to give a better answer. I said your room sounded how?

Answering the broader question, could you tell if I was recording a video in a very lively room or a more dead room from a video?

I think, yes.

Try it yourself, compare the sound from Art's video to this one.

Art's room had a much more lively sound, even on You Tube. Try it, you'll see!

I said this about MF's room: "There are only videos, but he sounded great. No slap echo, no extended reverb time, he sounded natural."

As to humorous....

You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it's me, I'm a little fucked up maybe, but I'm humorous how, I mean humorous like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to fuckin' amuse you? What do you mean humorous, humorous how? How am I humorous? Because I can hear echo on a You Tube video? ;-D

michaelavorgna's picture

...I responded to "supamark". Not you.

As far as hearing echo in a video goes, that tells you as much about how a room sounds as the color of the walls.

Anton's picture

Different experiences!

That's the beauty of our subjective hobby.

I can even hear differences on MF's different needle drop files while listening on my crappy computer at work. I know I shouldn't but I do.

michaelavorgna's picture

...about how a room sounds from watching a YouTube video? I wouldn't if I was you because it's foolish.

Imagine if I said I am convinced that you are a chipmunk. How much time & energy would you spend seriously trying to refute that?

So...if you think you know what a room sounds like based on a YouTube video, you are clearly a chipmunk.


Anton's picture

I am convinced that you are convinced! In keeping with the rule that no internet discussion ever changed anyone's mind, I will leave you to your belief(s)!

With love,

Dale. (Or, maybe I am Chip.)

Send cookies.

michaelavorgna's picture

...better than anyone who has never been in it. If that makes this a zero sum game, then I am guilty as charged.


Michael Fremer's picture

I owned the even bigger XLFs before these. I owned the MAXX3s after reviewing them bought them. They offered the bigger XLFs for review and I was incredulous. Wilson's Peter McGrath was very familiar with my room and was sure they would work and they did. So then I reviewed the Alexx and liked them even better particularly midband transparency and speed thanks to 4 way design that used a mid and upper mid instead of two mids in a MTM configuration. I've had many other good speakers in the room that I'd considered, especially the big Vandersteens, the Marten Coltrane IIIs and the Magico Q5s. The Vandersteens have a powered woofer and I felt I couldn't use them to review amplifiers because of that so they were out. I realize how it LOOKS. But what matters is how it SOUNDs. Even the "Wilson haters" I know think the system sounds great. Of course more importantly I do.

itsallgood's picture

BTW, Mikey's impression of a stroke victim reminded me of the 2016 US presidential campaign.

davds1582's picture

Yea goodie, brain damage and physical disability are always good for some laughs.....

Michael Fremer's picture

The humor was not about "brain damage" or at the expense of the stroke victim. The humor sprang from the RECORD you think I would otherwise have made some "stroke jokes"? My father suffered a very debilitating stroke and was stuck in a bed for the last 6 years of his life so I understand that.... I think you focused on the wrong thing..

itsallgood's picture

I totally got the joke and fully understood where the humor sprang from though I think it would have gone over better without the impression. I personally have some very subtle and minor balance issues after suffering 3 cerebellar strokes(thankfully I've been stroke free for the past 7 years and, yes, I count myself very fortunate).

anomaly7's picture

A wonderful journey into the home and the mind of Michael Fremer. Thanks for sharing you multi decade obsession with vinyl. I can't imagine my enjoyment while playing music being quite the same without vinyl records, but I can imagine vinyl records not being the same as they are now without your efforts to keep the medium alive, well, and expanding from those dark days of the digital plague that nearly did in the vinyl format.

supamark's picture

get some freakin' lavalier mics!! Every time Mike walked off camera the treble disappeared because he was off axis from your mic, and every time he walked towards you the bass in his voice increased due to proximity effect (and got thin when he walked away). This is an audiophile magazine, getting the audio right is kinda important to the readers (or it should be).

foxhall's picture

Another super informative video that allows us into the rooms and lives of the reviewers.

I had never heard the Porgy & Bess record you showed us but went ahead and listened to it via TIDAL. It sounded amazing so the LP must be out of this world good. What a performance! I listened to it 3 times.

The darTZeel gear looks remarkably cool.

foxhall's picture

I took the stroke victim moment as mean even though I don't think Fremer was doing that intentionally.

ganyc's picture

I agree. I'm absolutely certain that no malice was intended. As I see it, it just didn't belong in what was otherwise a very enjoyable experience. Michael says we're focusing on the wrong thing. I say it's hard to ignore. It should have either been cut or presented a different way. There's no disrespect for Michael intended here. I loved the video up until that point.

Richardharmer's picture

Thanks for the tour! As an analog photography enthusiast it was great to see the Jim Marshall original prints.

Anton's picture

Do the digital vs. analog photo forums fall along this sort of line?

Good lord, what a fight that would be!


Richardharmer's picture

Mostly the debate is pointless! Both are great, but very different. An original silver gelatin (darkroom) print is a thing of beauty. Many great working photographers still shoot film for fun. The process is enjoyable and in spite of shooting fewer frames, often the results are better with film because you concentrate more so as not to waste film. In the same way, vinyl lovers wouldn't spend their hard earned cash on a terrible record! You make an informed choice or take a calculated risk, but never just spend money for apathetic background noise! There are many parallels!

alucas's picture

i am learning way more than i thought i would. watching this was very informative and enjoyable! your videos and side comments are great, wish you would do more of them and go through your collection, or anything!

Severius's picture

And still working: John Atkinson's one. Mike Fremer's the other one.

Everyone else is either an industry shill or wack job.

Beyond that, Mr. Fremer's a laser-sharp mind, warm and engaging, and funny as hell. I loved it - "I get up every morning and stream for a while..." - hilarious!

Anton's picture

The most awesomest two minutes in movie vinyl history...

veganaudiophile's picture

What is the microscope used for?