Herb Reichert  |  May 04, 2023  |  0 comments
Since the 1980s, I've been asking every speaker designer I meet, "What amplifier do you recommend using with your speakers?" Annoyingly, they always say, "My speakers are easy to drive. Any amp will do." Whereupon I'd whine, "Aww, come on man, don't feed me that. What amp did you use when you were designing the speaker?" The closest any manufacturer came to providing a real answer was Wendell Diller of Magnepan, who, when I reviewed his .7 quasi-ribbon speaker, said, "We used an amp of our own design. It's not for sale. But any amp that doubles its power into 4 ohms will be fine." Wendell's answer helped me choose effective amplification and feel more confident about my conclusions.

Unlike loudspeaker manufacturers, headphone manufacturers know that which amp a reviewer uses could make or break a review of their product. So, wisely, they seem grateful when I ask for guidance.

Alex Halberstadt  |  May 03, 2023  |  9 comments
It turns out that PVC, or polyvinyl chloride—the stuff used to make Starbucks gift cards, imitation leather wallets, inflatable pool unicorns, the pipes under your sink, and Billy Idol's pants—is also the main ingredient in phonograph records. And today we're living in the silver age of PVC. Not the golden age, since records are no longer the dominant medium for recorded music, but these days we're lucky to again have access to a remarkable amount of music stamped on top-quality hot plastic.

Better still, as listeners have become more knowledgeable and demanding, vinyl releases have become more scrupulously sourced, pressed, annotated, and packaged. Many of today's records show an unprecedented level of care and transparency about their production—and sound terrific to boot.

Julie Mullins  |  May 02, 2023  |  9 comments
Several traditional hi-fi dealerships have shuttered in recent years: NYC's Lyric Hi-Fi and Chicago's Audio Consultants are prominent examples. A few new brick-and-mortar shops have opened, but it's rare to see a next-generation owner breathe new life into a long-established dealership. Christopher Brewer (above) is doing exactly that with New England Hi-Fi.
John Atkinson  |  May 01, 2023  |  10 comments
We started issuing recordings on the Stereophile label at the end of the 1980s, both to make available some of test tracks that we were using in our reviews and to enable readers to have access to recordings where the provenance was fully documented. That way the "Circle of Confusion" that Bob Katz discussed on the Stereophile website in 2017, where the sound quality of an audio component couldn't be judged using a recording with unknown sound quality potential, could be avoided. As Bob wrote, "How can any reviewer make a judgment about a transducer without knowing what a recording is supposed to sound like?"
Robert Schryer  |  Apr 28, 2023  |  11 comments
I'm picturing a gaggle of cigar-chomping Simaudio execs in an office discussing what to do about the fact that their high-end amplification lines have become so successful that their names have become synonymous with the company. "In the '90s, people thought our company was called Celeste," one floor-pacing exec says, speaking for everyone in the room. "Now they think we're called Moon! How do we fix this?" After much debate, a member shouts: "We add 'by Simaudio' at the end!" The execs hoot, holler, and slap the conference-room table—and thus is born Moon by Simaudio.

A fictional account? Sure, but, as they say in the movies, it's based on a true story.

Anne E. Johnson  |  Apr 27, 2023  |  18 comments
In 1955, Canadian pianist Glenn Gould surprised executives at Columbia Masterworks by choosing J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations for his debut recording. His performance was fast and fluid and sparkling and delicious, and it was an astonishingly big seller. In 1981, Gould came full circle and recorded the Goldbergs again. It was his last studio recording. That second attempt could not be more different from the first: relentlessly intellectual, percussive, insistent.

Late last year, to honor what would have been Gould's 90th birthday, Sony put out a package with a full-color coffee table book and 10 CDs of unreleased outtakes from the 1981 sessions—The Goldberg Variations: The Complete Unreleased 1981 Studio Sessions—with an 11th disc containing the 1981 album.

Sasha Matson  |  Apr 26, 2023  |  1 comments
Columbia Records continues to extend its Bob Dylan Bootleg Series, which began in 1991. The latest edition in this complex warren of burrows brings us to Volume 17, Bob Dylan—Fragments—Time Out of Mind Sessions (1996–1997).

Fragments—the title—feels inaccurate; these recordings are not shards of some missing whole. Rather, they form a single large, varied portrait. To borrow an analogy from art history, what we have here is the result of cleaning and restoring a large canvas, removing layers of varnish and dirt that had obscured the true colors and textures that were there when it was first painted. Now we can experience this masterpiece in a new way.

Robert Baird  |  Apr 25, 2023  |  0 comments
Back in 2003, in an uptown New York City studio, a man who epitomized cool in the 1960s waited patiently for my next question. Well into his 70s but still thin and handsome, Burt Bacharach was casually dapper in his contrasting sweater and polo shirt. In town to perform with Ronald Isley in support of their new record together, Here I Am—Isley Meets Bacharach, the songwriter extraordinaire is warm and approachable, wary but unusually guileless when answering the questions of a lifelong fan of his melodies, a fan who's trying hard to be professional and hide the fact that he's utterly starstruck.

As rhythm has become predominant in pop music and melody has receded in importance, Bacharach and lyricist Hal David's brand of sleek, memorable tune craft has slipped into history. Yet despite Bacharach's death in February 2023, at age 94, their body of work is timeless.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 24, 2023  |  3 comments
Mick Survance of Quintessence Audio in Morton Grove, IL knows his brands well. Wilson Audio, Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems, Clearaudio, DS Audio, dCS, Transparent, Bassocontinuo, Sonus faber, Boulder, Critical Mass Systems, Hana, and Kubala-Sosna: these are among the major, time-honored brands that fill the homes of many audiophiles with means.

Each of these rooms had several elements in common: premium equipment, meticulous set-up, and heavy black draping that, while necessary to reduce multiple issues in narrower air-walled spaces (which were nonetheless larger than my music room), also reduced three-dimensionality and air. It was thus a wonder that individually as well as collectively, Quintessence's showcases produced some of the best sound I encountered at the show.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 24, 2023  |  0 comments
Just as I dashed into the Expo Hall to check out Coherence Systems' ADD-POWR SorcerX4 ($4399.95) and smaller Apprentice ($3299.95) harmonic conditioning devices, Bill Stierhout (above) was packing up. We just had enough time to snap this photo before his booth became a booth no more.