Gramophone Dreams

Sort By: Post DateTitle Publish Date
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 10, 2016  |  6 comments
Everyone in the room can hear the difference when I swap one phono cartridge for another. Same thing happens with loudspeakers. This is because both of these magnet-based transducer technologies are electromechanical devices, traditionally made of paper, wood, iron, and copper. (Nowadays, polymers, aluminum, and carbon composites are more typical.) Both are motor-generator mechanisms that either convert mechanical energy into electrical energy (cartridges) or vice versa (speakers). As audio devices, they are spool-and-wire simple, but even tiny changes in the materials and/or how those materials are configured can cause easily audible differences in how they transmit or present recordings of music. Why? Because every gross fragment and subatomic particle of these electromechanical contraptions is moving and shaking—shaking everything from the tiny jumping electrons to the wood, metal, and/or plastic containers that fix and locate these motor generators in space.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 28, 2023  |  8 comments
During my cub reporter days at Stereophile, I was always on the lookout, casting about for midlevel analog components I might latch on to, ones that could join my long-term daily-driver reference system by complementing the character of my midlevel DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 and Falcon LS3/5a loudspeakers. I was searching for these basic traits: alive and vigorous, clear and well-sorted, relaxed and natural. One of my first-ever Stereophile reviews, in the October 2014 issue, was of Sentec's EQ11 phono preamplifier, which featured six EQ choices, selectable from the front panel, Bakelite knobs, Switchcraft switches, and a gray Hammerite-paint finish.

When I reviewed the Sentec, I owned three turntables and about 300 records. But phono stage–wise, I was a beggar and a borrower, hoping a friend's phono pre or some review product would jump out of the deck and become my reference.

Herb Reichert  |  Jan 30, 2024  |  7 comments
I always say I can't find what I'm not looking for, which doesn't mean I always know what I'm looking for. And not knowing what I want is unsettling. Recently, I was reminded of the thoughts of French polymath-philosopher René Girard (1923–2015), who suggested that people are not actually motivated by specific things like lust or capital or power, as major philosophers have declared, but by subtle, disconcerting forces of existential desire for something outside ourselves, never actually knowing what that something is.

Girard explains how this not knowing drives history and invention. His main premise is that we feel desire but, not knowing what we desire, mimic the desires of others. These "others" we mimic constitute a third element, interrupting the lines of force between a person and the objects desired. This, according to Girard, makes desire, and by extension human evolution, a nebulous but powerful anthropological force engaged in forming human cultures.

In other words, you might like big speakers and fat speaker cables, but maybe only because people around you appear to like them. Same with cars and clothes and lovers.

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 29, 2016  |  12 comments
"Hail, Neophyte!"

That's what members of the Smoky Basement Secret Audio Society would exclaim in unison at the end of each ceremony admitting a new devotee. It was called the Smoky Basement Society not because everyone smoked (though they did), but because its members believed that whenever an audio designer finally got a design dialed in just right, he or she had metaphorically "let the smoke out." They exclaimed, "Hail, Neophyte!" because they believed that the most important aspect of being an audio engineer was to have a fully open "beginner's mind." In Zen practice, this is called Shoshin, or beginner's heart.

Herb Reichert  |  Jan 08, 2020  |  31 comments
Tell me now: When you're there in the scene, watching Lord Voldemort chase Han Solo through the Cave of the Klan Bear, how often do you notice that the sounds you're experiencing are being pumped at you from five black-painted room boundaries, while the flickering-light images approach from only one? Moreover, in a parallel, more quotidian reality, you're sitting upright in your seat, noisily chomping popcorn while absorbing—and processing—massive amounts of sensory data: Did you ever consider the sensual, mechanical, and psychological complexity of a moment like this, and how fundamentally unnatural it is?
Herb Reichert  |  Oct 03, 2017  |  70 comments
It's get-ting bet-ter all the time (it can't get no worse)—John Lennon & Paul McCartney

Remasterings of recordings make me angry—they mess with my memories of the songs I love, especially songs from the 1960s that I played in my bedroom on a cheap Garrard turntable through Lafayette speakers. Like my first girlfriend, these songs permanently entered my psyche and modified my DNA.

Pages

X