Now On Newsstands: Stereophile, Vol.33 No.6

The June 2010 issue of Stereophile is now on newsstands. It opens with John Atkinson’s “iPad Daze,” an exploration of a print magazine’s inherent value in this digital age, and a piece that JA’s been thinking of writing for at least two years. He figured it’d be controversial, perhaps setting the entire World Wide Web against us, but I don’t think he expected to be criticized for his application of Sturgeon’s Law to today’s popular music:

More music is being made—and, thanks to the Apple iPod, listened to—by more people than at any time in history, yet most of the music is crap.

I have no idea if this is true. Maybe it is. But, if 90 percent of today’s music is crap, I must be living in a world made up of that other 10 percent, because I’m having a very difficult time finding anything I don’t like.

I’m excited. As I write this, I’m listening to Pontiak’s 2009 album, Sea Voids, a beautifully recorded and expertly performed merger of heavy rock and dark folk. The band, signed to Chicago’s Thrill Jockey, has just released a new album, Living, which promises to be even stronger. The LP edition is limited to 1000 copies, pressed on 150gm translucent gold vinyl, and packed in a heavy-stock gatefold jacket. (I’m praying that I get a hold of one.) Awhile back, I predicted that, thanks to the vinyl resurgence, a growing number of young bands would become interested in high-quality sound. I’m happy to say I see it happening. As creative and commercial control of recordings falls increasingly into the hands of the artists, and as mainstream radio becomes all the more irrelevant, quality is destined to rise. Today’s bands are bypassing the doldrums of consumerism to connect, often directly, with their core audiences; and, even better for us all, they are dedicated to providing high-quality work. Ninety percent of everything I hear is good, if not great.

What pieces of gear will you use to enjoy all of this great new music? In our June issue, we offer some ideas, starting with the Spiral Groove SG2 turntable with Centroid tonearm. This is a sleek, gorgeous, intelligently designed machine that sounds even better than it looks. Match the Spiral Groove with a pair of Canton Reference 3.2 loudspeakers, and you’ll have the beginnings of one stunning system. But we’re talking about over $30,000 for just the turntable and speakers, and there aren’t many people who can afford that. So, we’ve got some lower-priced ideas, as well.

Take, for instance, the overachieving PSB Image B6. For just $495/pair, these pretty little speakers provide detailed highs, a natural midrange, and a weighty bottom end. You might want to use them with YBA’s WD202 D/A processor accessing a digital source. At $879, with multiple digital inputs, a headphone output, and great sound, the WD202 is a clear bargain. Speaking of bargains, JA was floored by the CEntrance DACport ($350), a USB D/A headphone amp which operates in adaptive isochronous mode and manages to deliver airy highs and a grain-free overall presentation. Plus: It fits in your pocket and weighs just a couple of ounces. Nice! Tie it all together with some Audience Au24e speaker cables and interconnects.

You can read all about it in the June issue of Stereophile. But, wait: That’s not all! Our outstanding columnists bring us reports on some worthy products. Sam Tellig takes a listen to one of my very favorite loudspeakers, the Gibbon 3XL. Though he can’t get my miscreant friend John DeVore to reveal his design secrets, Sam ultimately does enjoy his time with the speaker. And I’m not surprised: Lovingly made and exquisitely finished in Brooklyn, New York, the 3XL has an uncommonly full-bodied and detailed sound and, at $3700/pair, is a steal.

Meanwhile, in “Analog Corner,” Mikey Fremer gives a lesson on vertical tracking angle and stylus rake angle, and auditions My Sonic Lab’s Eminent EX moving-coil phono cartridge. Art Dudley, in his “Listening” column, gets familiar with the CineMag step-up transformer from Bob Sattin of Bob’s Devices in North Carolina. The CineMag is a sweet-looking and, judging from Art’s review, sweet-sounding product; I hope to listen to one in tandem with the manly Denon DL-103 phono cartridge.

Finally, in “Fifth Element,” John Marks falls in love with the Leben CS600. Can you blame him? Dressed in green and gold and with wood side panels, the thing positively glows, and has a sound to match. In addition, JM takes a listen to the ProAc Response D Two loudspeaker and Oppo BDP-83SE universal Blu-ray player.

Our music pages are occupied by reviews of new releases from Maria Neckam, Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisier, and the Dave Holland Quintet, and reissues from Lamb; John Atkinson brings us June’s “Recording of the Month,” Jeff Beck’s lovely Emotion & Commotion. And Robert Baird talks soul with the inimitable Sharon Jones of Brooklyn’s Daptone label!

Incidentally, while we were working on the June issue, John DeVore held a listening party at his awesome Monkeyhaus. Several Stereophile contributors were in attendance. Art Dudley will report on this in his August issue column, so I’ll just say that it was a lot of fun. You can read a bit about the occasion at Michael Lavorgna’s outstanding blog, Twittering Machines. During the party, I joked to ML that the June issue of Stereophile could very well have been dubbed “The Monkeyhaus Issue.” It wouldn’t be at all out of the ordinary to be seated in the Monkeyhaus, playing the Spiral Groove turntable through a pair of Gibbon 3XLs driven by the Leben CS600, listening to Sharon Jones, having a beer—maybe a Dale’s Pale Ale, maybe a Magic Hat Vinyl Lager, maybe a cold Budweiser—swapping cables and cartridges, shooting the shit about music, girls, and, yeah, VTA and SRA.

Which is to say: Hanging with our friends is like bringing the magazine’s pages to life. We love it, and we hope it’s that way for you, too.

David's picture

I still haven't gotten mine. I fear it may have been lost in the mail and I'll be force to buy it from the bookstore... :(

Stephen Scharf's picture

Still having trouble with the distinction between VTA and Stylus Rake Angle. If the stylus is doing the tracking, which it is, aren't they really one and the same?

Michael Fremer's picture

The VTA and SRA are different, but related. VTA is an angle described by the record surface and a line drawn from the stylus tip to the center of the pivot point in the cartridge. In theory, when you set that angle as specified by the cartridge manufacturer, the SRA, which is the angle described by the contact patch of the stylus and the record surface.You can see this here:ttp://, if everything in manufacturing has been done correctly and if the cartridge manufacturer understands these two angles correctly (don't assume), then the correct VTA setting will coincide with correct SRA.Unfortunately, the USB microscope shows that cantilever/styli assemblies exhibit manufacturing variations so that even if you set VTA correctly there's no guaranty the SRA will be correct.Since the research shows correct SRA has a bigger effect on distortion than correct VTA, it's more important to get the SRA correct (92 degrees) than VTA.Does that help?

Don Crawford's picture

Good explanation of SRA Mikey! Your advice on Turntable setup and record care is "spot on"!I have been adjusting my VPI JMW 10 arm for SRA for the last few years, and with MC cartidges it is absolutely needed to get the best sound!

Alan Kaplan's picture

Great article (and DVDs) Mr. Fremer. I've never been brave enough to make a dramatic change from a conventional setting of one of the key elements in cartridge setup until I read your latest article on SRA. I'm not good with scopes/loops etc. I am okay with trig, however. I've calculated that my VPI JMW 10.5i arm pivot must be raised 9.485 mm above the neutral arm poition to add 2 degrees forward tilt to the stylus. I assumed that my Benz LP S-Class and TR cartridge styli, which are said to have close to line contact patches (which I can't see), have their contact patch axis parallel to the axis of the stylus shank (which I can see with my magnifier). The sound of my music system is much better than ever. Perhaps it would get even better if I trusted my hearing to discern changes in the sound after smaller additional changes to the SRA than the 9.485 mm change which improved the sound dramatically. (I'm sure the great sound will help me adapt to the sloping arm tube.) Your comments would be most welcome.

Jerry's picture

Did John Atkinson or anyone else test if DACport's sound quality is not always the same due to different USB ports?