As We See It

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John Atkinson  |  Jul 09, 2007  |  First Published: Jun 09, 1998  |  0 comments
"What the heck is that icon trying to tell me?" I had switched on Denon's new DVD-3000 player—a cute "Welcome to DVD World" message scrolled across its display—and put a disc in its drawer. The icon, which looked at best like a Japanese character and at worst like a child's drawing of a house (complete with windows), was lit up in light blue on the display. But the game was given away by the magic words "96kHz 24 bit" illuminated in red below the mysterious icon. For this was no DVD movie, but a test pressing of Chesky's new Super Audio Disc, The Super Audio Collection & Professional Test Disc, which makes use of the DVD-Video specification's provision for including a two-channel, linear-PCM signal encoded with a 96kHz sampling rate and a word depth of up to 24 bits. (Contrary to what you may have read in the popular press, using DVD-Video to carry high-definition sound quality does not introduce a new and incompatible standard.)
Jim Austin  |  May 15, 2005  |  0 comments
In his "From the Editor's Desk" in the March issue of Stereophile's e-newsletter, John Atkinson recounts how, years ago, "erstwhile audio scribe Enid Lumley" demonstrated her pizza-box-tripod tweak at a hi-fi show. Lumley, JA writes, "placed the tripod atop a CD player and convinced her audience—including me—that the sound was better."
Art Dudley  |  Jul 25, 2012  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2012  |  7 comments
I was recently reunited with an old friend from high school. My best friend from high school, in fact. Our families got together, everyone got along, and as the dust of conversation settled toward the rug of companionable silence, talk turned to work. And when the inevitable happened, and my old friend and his wife—classical-music lovers both—asked how much a person had to spend these days in order to get a good music system, I answered their question with a question—a question that, crazily enough, just popped into my head...
Jim Austin  |  Mar 09, 2003  |  0 comments
There's a widespread myth that writers who get published are more talented than writers who don't get published, and that musicians who make records are more talented than musicians who don't make records. But anyone with any talent who has ever tried to earn a living as a writer, a musician, or any other kind of artist understands that the correlation between merit and success is, at best, loose. Some successful artists are talented, and some talented artists are successful. But for every talented artist who manages to make a living there are a dozen more, equally deserving, who have no choice but to keep their day jobs.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 18, 1999  |  0 comments
The audiophile in the plaid shirt and gray Dockers had his hand up. Moderator Jonathan Scull handed him the roving microphone, and the Stereophile writers on the podium at HI-FI '99's Sunday afternoon "Ask the Editors" session shifted in their chairs. "This one's for John Atkinson," came the windup. The other writers relaxed; I started to sweat. Then the pitch: "How come Stereophile issues are so small these days?"
John Atkinson  |  Mar 12, 2019  |  51 comments
The dichotomy between what is measured and what is heard has resurfaced in recent months. Jon Iverson discussed it in his "As We See It" in our December 2018 issue, and I followed up on the subject in my January 2019 "As We See It." These further thoughts were triggered by an e-mail exchange I had last December with Stereophile's longtime copyeditor, Richard Lehnert.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 14, 2007  |  0 comments
It's called the "Cocktail Party Effect." You may be immersed in the middle of a crowd of audiophiles all talking at once, but when someone says something that catches your attention, such as your name, you can focus on the sound of that person's voice and exclude the babble. The noise suppression can be 9–15dB; ie, the sound being concentrated on seems to be three to four times louder than the ambient noise, according to Wikipedia. The exact mechanism of the Cocktail Party Effect is not known, but it is conjectured that it has something to do with the binaural nature of human hearing: the fact that we have two ears allows us to apply spatial discrimination to what would otherwise be a jumble of sound.
John Marks  |  Aug 18, 2009  |  0 comments
There's an old Russian folktale about a farmer who goes to a fair. He buys a bread roll from a vendor. He eats it, but he's still hungry. So he buys and eats another roll, and then another. Still hungry. Next, he buys a donut from a different vendor. At last, he's no longer hungry. The farmer then says to himself, "I wasted the money I spent on the rolls—I should have just bought the donut first!"
Steve Guttenberg  |  Oct 27, 2014  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2014  |  27 comments
Classical and jazz notwithstanding, an awful lot of new music is highly compressed, processed, and harsh, and it's about time we got used to it. Musicians, producers, and engineers are, in large part, on board with the sound, and any suggestion of making less-compressed recordings, with a wider dynamic range, is met with confused stares, or worse. One superstar producer didn't take kindly to my suggestion that he make two mixes for his new project: the standard compressed one, and another, less-crushed version. That didn't fly; he said there could be only one, the mix approved by him and the band, and that to them, a less-compressed mix wouldn't sound better. This producer is an audiophile, but he's not the least bit interested in making music for audiophiles. Harshness, it seems, isn't just a byproduct of compression; it's an integral part of the sound of today's music.
John Atkinson  |  Mar 13, 2009  |  0 comments
I was having breakfast in my hotel room on December 13, 2008, finally getting down to preparing the presentation I was to give at the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society scant hours later (footnote 1). I procrastinated a little more by checking my e-mail one more time. The message from Ivor Humphreys, once my deputy editor at the UK's Hi-Fi News & Record Review magazine (now just plain Hi-Fi News), and for many years technical editor at Gramophone magazine, was typically terse: "John Crabbe has died. He had a fall on the wintry ice a few days ago and broke an arm. He died at home yesterday. He was 79."
Jim Austin  |  Jan 14, 2021  |  19 comments
In my As We See It column in the January 2021 Stereophile, I wrote about stories we tell ourselves to make our lives and music better—personal stories like the one about my relationship to my Thorens TD-124 turntable, or about hanging out with your dad (or mom) listening to records. Also hi-fi stories like the ones about the types of audio components we prefer—analog, digital, tubed, solid state—and how they sound. "Stories deepen our relationships," I wrote, "including our relationships with our audio systems and the music they make."
J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 30, 2009  |  First Published: Sep 30, 1984  |  0 comments
Ever since Stereophile took up the cudgels for subjectivity, and had the temerity to insist that even the best products have certain colorations, we have stressed compatibility in choosing components. By compatibility we do not mean merely matching impedances and signal levels, but mating components whose sonic peculiarities tended to offset one another.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 16, 2018  |  63 comments
"At what price does a high-end product cease to exist for the 'normal' audiophile?" This question, which I asked in the February 2017 issue, was a follow-up to one I'd asked in our April 2011 issue: "If all someone is offered is a $150,000 pair of speakers . . . that person will walk away from this hobby, or build his or her system by buying only used equipment. Either consumer choice turns the price spiral into a death spiral for manufacturers."
John Atkinson  |  Dec 05, 2007  |  First Published: Apr 05, 1995  |  0 comments
Conventional wisdom has it that the perfect sculpture is present, but hidden within the raw material. And the same conventional wisdom similarly applies to magazine editing: all it needs is careful chipping away at the extraneous material in the raw text files we receive from our authors—sometimes the barest degree of reshaping, repointing, and restructuring—and you have a finished product that both maximally communicates the writer's message and makes the anonymous artisan-editor proud of a job well done.
Jonathan Scull  |  Nov 19, 2000  |  0 comments
Not too long ago, the word "convergence" had everyone in the High End ready to duck'n'cover. Asia was on the ropes, and a shakeout was thinning the ranks of high-end audio manufacturers. Some US companies were marketing and selling most of their output to the Pacific Rim. The writing was on the wall: High-end was dead, and we'd all just better get used to listening to music on our computers.

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