Phil Brett  |  Mar 01, 2023  |  5 comments
A few weeks before Christmas—the time of year when all public spaces are required by law to play Mariah Carey on an endless loop—this writer was pushing a trolley idly around a London supermarket. I was over by the fresh veg when the distinctive, Hammond-driven intro of the Specials' "Ghost Town" was piped through. Heads nodded. Some shoppers started to sing along.

Weeks later, I heard that Specials front-man Terry Hall had died, of pancreatic cancer. Memories came flooding back.

Herb Reichert  |  Feb 28, 2023  |  5 comments
In Gramophone Dreams #51, I flat-out raved about Feliks-Audio's made-in-Poland "Arioso" integrated amplifier ($6999). This black, stealthy looking, single-ended 300B stereo speaker amp mated extremely well with my Falcon Gold Badges. During the months I worked on my review, I tormented engineer-designer Lukasz Feliks with at least 100 questions via email, but I didn't meet him in person. So what a joy it was to see the face behind all those emails—he's on the left in the photo above—and the smiling faces of his two partner-brothers, Piotr (center), and Michal (right). I like meeting the minds behind the gear I review.
Ken Micallef  |  Feb 28, 2023  |  6 comments
Decades after their deaths, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday loom large over the American music landscape, inspiring every jazz vocalist, especially the women. Fitzgerald and Holiday's contributions are vast, their work timeless, their joys and sorrows expressed in songs both thrilling and crushing.

Jazz as a form of popular song has largely faded from America's music culture, but Fitzgerald and Holiday's brilliance lives on, a beacon to their artistic excellence. Much evidence for that excellence can be heard in two new vinyl sets, both produced by Ken Druker.

Herb Reichert  |  Feb 27, 2023  |  0 comments

CanJams are about much more than skull-testing the newest headphones. They are the best places for all audiophiles to audition innovations in amplification, file servers, and digital converters and to jabber and bond with students, hipsters, gamers, and brainiacs from every part of the demographic spectrum. When the Jam is in New York, at the Marriott Marquis, it's like a being in a secret stadium lit neon-purple with white, vinyl-covered lounge chairs sheltered from the 100dB cauldron of Times Square tourism.

Robert Baird  |  Feb 27, 2023  |  1 comments
At this point in the vinyl revival, it's hard to believe there are many undiscovered masterpieces left that are worth discovering. Record Store Day (RSD), a much-ballyhooed source of unique and unreleased music on vinyl, has been a major spur in the drive to plumb the vaults, but even though it has an excellent reputation, most RSD unearthings have turned out to be less than essential.

The increasingly rare exceptions are to be celebrated. Here's one. Just before the year turned to 2023, on what would have been Donald Byrd's 90th birthday, a smoldering, untapped artifact surfaced after 50 years in the can.

Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 26, 2023  |  2 comments
It was bound to happen sometime. The day after my return from the Florida Audio Expo, I tested positive for COVID. I'd worn a facemask on the plane, but not during the three days of pressing the flesh, listening, and reporting. (In fact, no one at the show did.) I suppose I paid for my lack of super-caution with several days of chills, headaches, violent coughing, and brain fog. This also accounts for the delay in getting the final batch of show reports out to you. Apologies!
Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 25, 2023  |  1 comments
A real drum kit at the Florida expo? Standing in the second-floor hallway, I could've sworn I heard just that. Five seconds later, reality set in when Dave Brubeck's famous piano chords joined Joe Morello's 5/4 jazz groove. It was the recorded sound of Morello's drums on "Take Five" that had emanated from the Embassy Suites' Kennedy Room, where High End by Oz, a Connecticut distributor, was demoing its wares. (I sincerely love it when my brain gets tricked like that.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 25, 2023  |  1 comments
"There's a party going on in Room 713, and only true freaks are invited!" That's the promise of a bawdy little book called Room 713, about four friends who travel to another city and indulge in outsized carnal pleasures.

No such titillation was to be had in room 713 of the Embassy Suites in Tampa, but other delights abounded. To wit: a pair of Triangle Magellan Quatuor 40th-anniversary speakers ($20,000/pair), plus three Electrocompaniet components: the new AW 800M NEMO 2 monoblock used as a stereo amplifier (800W in mono, 300Wpc in stereo, $22,500), the EC 4.8 MkII preamp ($4900), and an ECM 1 MkII streamer ($5700). Wireworld took care of the cabling.

Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 24, 2023  |  7 comments
Last year, on the hunt for high-quality espresso beans, I visited some specialty coffee websites. On one forum, I came across this description of a particular roast: "I tasted mild acidity and bitters with hazelnut, bourbon, and a hint of dark cherry. As it began to cool, there was a hint of black raspberry syrup or cordial. Then a dominant note emerged of nuts with mild distillates, walnut bitters, cacao nib and something between 82% dark chocolate and baker's chocolate. ... Further cooling offered the surprise of dark piecrust and a bitter cherry liqueur. The piecrust then rounded to a slightly sweet dark rye. There was a lingering aftertaste of single malt scotch that eventually faded to baker's chocolate with a hint of ashiness."

I had enough self-awareness to realize that in the hi-fi world we sometimes prattle on about hi-fi in ways that, to outsiders at least, must seem just as fustian and florid.

Michael Trei  |  Feb 24, 2023  |  1 comments
Luxman occupies an unusual place in the hi-fi world. While many of the brands chasing ultimate performance will battle it out in the bleeding-edge design stakes, Luxman makes what I like to call luxury equipment. Everything they produce is beautiful, not just to the ear, but also to the eye and hand. Their design aesthetic keeps one foot firmly planted in the style of classic audio equipment from decades past—for example, many of their amplifiers have tone controls and big power meters, features reminiscent of topflight gear from 40 years ago—while the other foot is up to date with the latest technology...

The PD-151 MkII record player ($5695) is an excellent example.