Alex Halberstadt  |  Aug 23, 2023  |  6 comments
Alex Halberstadt (front) listens to the BAACH-SP Adio system at High End Munich. (Photo: Jason Victor Serinus)

If you're going to Germany to immerse yourself in big-city excitement—churning dance clubs, matterful contemporary art, visitors and food from around the world, and street life that goes on all night—you'll probably find it in Berlin. Though rents have been climbing and there's no shortage of dirty sidewalks and petty crime, the German capital remains one of the most youthful and vibrant cities in Europe, an art and culture center with large expatriate communities and endless things to do. For urban thrills on a smaller scale, you can make a case for Cologne and even Leipzig.

Just maybe don't go to Munich. As soon as you leave the airport, you know you've reached the epicenter of German burgherdom—a place where manicured lawns, public safety, tidy storefronts, and respectful revelers in Tyrolean costumes are the norm.

Tom Fine  |  Aug 22, 2023  |  2 comments
The wall of Gold and Platinum Disc Awards, as displayed at the Gateway Mastering website.

In Part 1 of this interview, which announced that famed mastering engineer Bob Ludwig was retiring, Ludwig discussed his early days as a music-loving student, as a trumpet player, his graduation from Eastman College with a Master's degree in music performance, and how working with legendary engineer and producer Phil Ramone at A&R Studio awakened his interest in how records are made. In this second part, Ludwig talks about how he moved to Sterling Sound, then to Masterdisk, and finally how and why he set up his own studio, Gateway Mastering Studios in Portland, Maine.

Tom Fine  |  Aug 21, 2023  |  7 comments
Photo: Peter Luehr

If album sales, longevity of career, position on the leading edge of audio technology, reputation in the music business, and involvement in many of the most important albums in history are the measurements, Bob Ludwig is the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) of music mastering.

"I'm an old goat, anyway," he joked during our multiday, many-hours conversation, centered around his recent retirement announcement and his five-plus decades as a mastering engineer.

If Bob Ludwig is the Michael Jordan of music mastering—and the case can definitely be made—then this is big news. I'll repeat it for emphasis: Bob Ludwig is retiring. Ludwig stopped taking new work on June 30, 2023.

Robert Baird  |  Aug 21, 2023  |  2 comments
If music reflects the life of the person who created it—if, for example, we can hear Mozart's inner turmoil in his operas—then Warren Zevon's song catalog is uncommonly revealing. Headless mercenaries, killer rapists, and yes, impeccably dressed werewolves with a taste for pina coladas are all part of the colorful world of WZ's twisted imagination and especially of his masterpiece, 1978's Excitable Boy, recently reissued by Mobile Fidelity on two 180gm LPs cut at 45rpm.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 18, 2023  |  13 comments
The first true high-end component I owned was an Audio Research SP-10. I reviewed this two-box, tubed preamplifier in the May 1984 issue of the English magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review. "The SP-10 presented [recorded] information in a more coherent, less distorted manner than any preamp I've tried," I wrote in the review, concluding that "the SP-10 made me realize how many good records I owned." I purchased the SP-10 and brought the preamplifier with me when I moved to the US. Four decades later, I still have that SP-10. "Every now and again, when I want to be reminded of the magic it brings to my music, I set it up, plug in the tubes, and spend an evening spoiling my ears," I wrote for an article in Ken Kessler's 2020 book on the history of Audio Research.

I was planning to review the latest product from Audio Research, the I/50 integrated amplifier, which costs $5500, earlier this year. However, with the uncertainty back then about the company's ownership, I postponed the review. When the news broke in June that Audio Research had been acquired by AR Tube Audio Corporation, a privately owned corporation that includes Valerio Cora of Canadian loudspeaker manufacturer Acora Acoustics as a director—see Industry Update in this issue—I unboxed the I/50 and set it up in my listening room.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Aug 17, 2023  |  9 comments
When I got these new speakers for review, they were so new that, at the time I unpacked them, no official user manual was included or posted on the manufacturer's website, and the promised matching stands didn't exist. Yet, I have the abiding feeling that I am getting to the party long after it has started. The Mobile Fidelity SourcePoint 8 is the newer, smaller sibling of the SourcePoint 10 reviewed by John Atkinson in Stereophile's February 2023 issue, with a follow-up by Ken Micallef in June.
Thomas Conrad  |  Aug 16, 2023  |  0 comments
Henry Threadgill Ensemble: The Other One
12-piece ensemble; Threadgill, conductor
Pi PI97 (CD, available as download). 2023. Liberty Ellman, prod.; Stephen Cooper, Eric Shekerjian, engs.
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

At 79, Pulitzer Prize winner and NEA Jazz Master Henry Threadgill is one of the last men standing among the founding fathers of the jazz avant-garde. Because his output of recordings is not voluminous, every new Threadgill release is an event. The Other One is more of an event than most because of its ambition (it is an album-length suite) and its scale: It introduces a new 12-piece ensemble.

Jim Austin  |  Aug 15, 2023  |  16 comments
In the excellent My Back Pages essay that closes this issue, Londoner Phil Brett writes, "I bought my first albums in my teens for £2 then sold them off years later for 50p each."

Why did he sell his records? "[I]n those days, most vinyl had the thickness of a butterfly wing without the quality. As I grew older, I went through—ahem—several relationships hence several changes of residence. The hassle of carting boxes of records around grew wearisome; CDs were so much lighter, and often, they sounded better."

Phil predicted Stereophile readers would be horrified by what he did those many years ago. Maybe so—but for many, the horror will arise from regret—at the memory of doing the same thing themselves back in the day. As I did.

Stereophile Staff  |  Aug 14, 2023  |  0 comments
EISA, or the Expert Imaging and Sound Association, is an organisation representing 58 of the most respected special interest publications and websites from 29 countries that cover Hi-Fi, Home Theater Video, Home Theater Audio, Photography, Mobile Devices, and In-Car Electronics. Every year EISA's Expert Group members, including editors from this publication, test a very wide range of new products from their field of expertise before comparing results and voting to decide on the cream of every product category.
Phil Brett  |  Aug 14, 2023  |  1 comments
I was surprised to see, in the window of my local charity shop in a corner of north London, a display of 1980s Melody Maker magazines featuring some of my favorite bands. Nestled alongside second-hand frocks and pieces of crockery were The Redskins, Scritti Politti, Johnny Marr, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

The Redskins produced one rather fine album, which attempted to marry left-wing politics with northern soul. Frankie was seen as outrageous in its day; "Relax" was banned on several radio shows, and some record shops refused to stock it. Now both appeared proudly in the window of a second-hand shop that raises money for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Intrigued, I went in to find out what the story was. I was in luck: The person responsible for the display was working behind the counter. It wasn't, as I had assumed, a middle-aged bloke reliving his youth, reminiscing about a time when he had a full head of hair (that was me), but a young woman, probably born 20 years after those Melody Makers were published.