Michael Trei  |  Jan 24, 2024  |  2 comments
In 1985, I visited what was then known as Soviet Estonia with my family. My paternal grandparents, Mimi and Pop, had emigrated to the US from this small Baltic country in 1929. Fifty-six years later, after more than a decade of rejection, the family was granted permission by the Soviet authorities to visit our ancestral homeland, and the whole family, including Mimi, made the trek. (Pop died in 1962.)

Once we were there, we were more or less free to move around in the capital city Tallinn, but leaving the city was strictly forbidden, except as part of a planned group excursion with our KGB minders—er, "Intourist guides."

Rogier van Bakel  |  Jan 23, 2024  |  2 comments
Bluetooth headphones have brought me joy for years—sometimes a little too much. Once, while waiting for a flight at my regional airport, I switched on the active noise cancellation, closed my eyes, and got so sucked in by Elvis Costello's album Imperial Bedroom that I didn't hear the boarding calls. It was no fun texting my client that I'd missed my flight. I fibbed that I'd been stuck in traffic, because blaming Costello for delivering such an immersive triumph would've been uncouth.

For all their convenience, Bluetooth headphones and earbuds have fundamental problems. Take their batteries (please). They're only fully rechargeable 300–500 times, which means that after just two or three years of moderate-to-heavy use, most people toss their depleted wireless ear-fi in a drawer and buy a new pair.

Stereophile Staff  |  Jan 19, 2024  |  10 comments
As I was preparing our annual Records to Die For feature for 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it occurred to me that at such a moment, "Records to Die For" didn't evoke the same feelings it once did. That name—for what has become Stereophile's most popular feature—had started out light-hearted, derived from a 1980s pop-culture idiom, which eventually found expression in several book and movie titles as well as at least one Death-Metal band. In late 1990, as the 1991 feature was being prepared, it didn't seem so light-hearted at a time of so much death and suffering. At such times, music is a salve, a source of encouragement, perhaps even a means for survival. Records to Die For officially became Records to Live For.

Today—knock on wood—the worst of COVID well behind us, the new designation seems exactly right. This feature is all about music that inspires, that makes life rich—that gives us a reason to live, in times troubled and joyous. These are records that, if you knew you didn't have that much time left, you'd be eager to hear one last time. At least.

Jim Austin  |  Jan 18, 2024  |  4 comments
Jerome Sabbagh: Vintage
Sabbagh, saxophone; Kenny Barron, piano; Joe Martin, bass; Johnathan Blake, drums
Sunnyside SSC 1698 (LP). 2023. Jerome Sabbagh, prod.; Ryan Streber, Pete Rende, Bernie Grundman, engs.
Performance ****
Sonics ****½

This is an album with serious audiophile cred. It was recorded to analog tape on a Studer A800 MKIII at 30ips, by Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio in Mount Vernon, New York. It was mixed, also at 30ips, on a custom, tubed Ampex 351, by Pete Rende. Bernie Grundman mastered it for vinyl and cut the lacquer, direct from the analog tape, on an all-tube system. The executive producer for the vinyl version is Hervé Delétraz of darTZeel, who, Sabbagh told me, helped finance the mastering and pressing. Sabbagh listened to the acetates and test pressings at Ana Might Sound in Paris.

Jim Austin  |  Jan 17, 2024  |  97 comments
Morten Lindberg of Norwegian music label 2L.

On this page in Stereophile's December 2023 issue, contributing editor (and mastering engineer) Tom Fine and I described a press event at which Apple Corps (the Beatles umbrella corporation) presented the news about the (at the time) forthcoming new Beatles single and the forthcoming "remixed" reissues of the "Red" and "Blue" Beatles compilations. Tom attended the event—which, notably, was held at Dolby headquarters here in New York City, reflecting, apparently, Apple Corps' interest in Dolby Atmos. At the event, demos were presented in the Atmos format only—no stereo.

A key point of that column was that Apple Corps, at least—and who knows how many others in the music industry—are abandoning high-quality Atmos in favor of that streamed by Apple Music. Tom and I criticized this development in no uncertain terms, concluding that if Apple's lossy-compressed version of Dolby Atmos is what we're being offered, "we should hope for its demise."

Julie Mullins  |  Jan 16, 2024  |  8 comments
Before and since the pandemic, many traditional hi-fi dealerships evolved to expand the products and services they offer—into custom install and home integration, in particular. There has also been a bit of a multichannel/home theater resurgence.

Shifts in the market and personal interests led to changes at Adirondack Audio & Video, an established company with locations in upstate New York and—as HiFi Loft—in Manhattan. The company recently split into two separate entities. Under new ownership by a former partner/employee, just before Labor Day, 2023, HiFi Loft spun off from Adirondack and opened a new second location in Glens Falls, New York, about 45 minutes north of Albany. By all accounts, the separation was amicable, even favorable for each party.

Robert Baird, Phil Brett, Ray Chelstowski  |  Jan 12, 2024  |  3 comments
Grateful Dead: Wake of the Flood, 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition; Betty Davis: Crashin' From Passion; X-Ray Spex: Conscious Consumer; Cat Power: Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert.
Thomas Conrad  |  Jan 12, 2024  |  0 comments
Adam Birnbaum: Preludes; Simón Willson: Good Company; Joshua Redman: Where Are We.
Jason Victor Serinus, Stephen Francis Vasta  |  Jan 12, 2024  |  3 comments
Weinberg: Dawn, Op.60, Symphony No.12, Op.114; Nielsen: Violin Concerto, Flute Concerto, Clarinet Concerto; Walker: Sinfonias 1–5.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Jan 11, 2024  |  47 comments
What goes into building and outfitting a listening room? One of Stereophile's reviewers found out first-hand—and almost bit off more than he could chew. A tale of white powder, a mummified dog, and various deals with the devil.