Audacious Audio

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Jim Austin  |  Nov 17, 2021  |  18 comments
The Wilson Audio Specialties Alexx V ($135,000–$151,000/pair) is the biggest, heaviest, most expensive loudspeaker I've had in my listening room. It replaces the original Alexx in Wilson's lineup; Michael Fremer reviewed the earlier Alexx, bought it, and owned it until replacing it recently with the Wilson Chronosonic XVX.
Michael Fremer  |  Oct 22, 2021  |  23 comments
You've got your 2001: A Space Odyssey speaker, which of course is a tall, black, featureless monolith. Then there's your wooden "Who's buried inside?" speaker, your "R-I-C-O-L-A" speaker, your enema bag or double-inverted enema bag speaker, your menacing hooded-Klansman speaker, your "looks like a robot, praying mantis, or Transformer" speaker (mine), and your "Does it leave a slime trail?" speaker (looks like a snail). You've got your "Is that a room divider?" speaker, your "looks like you stepped on a duck's head" speaker, and your "whipped cream dollop suspended in time" speaker.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 20, 2021  |  19 comments
We audiophiles so frequently get caught up in the pursuit of perfection that some have attempted to rebrand high-end audio as "perfectionist audio." But is it even possible for a single piece of audio gear, let alone an entire audio system, to attain perfection when there's no common agreement as to what "perfection" means? It's easier to cue up a Nirvana track than to find the way to audio nirvana.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 28, 2021  |  42 comments
If you're going to spend a year-plus in COVID lockdown, it doesn't hurt to have a million dollars' worth of turntables keeping you company, right? That's been my good fortune. Sounds like a roomful, but it's only three: the SAT XD1, the TechDAS Air Force Zero, and the OMA K3 ($360,000, footnote 1).

You'll find this issue's cover girl either strikingly beautiful or homely. Visitor reactions fall strongly into one of those two camps, with nothing in between. I love the looks. Whatever your opinion, the K3's visual distinctiveness cannot be denied. The innards are equally unique.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 27, 2021  |  91 comments
The Air Force Zero turntable is very large for a turntable, but it is not as large as a house. At $450,000 for the base model, it does, however, cost as much as many houses and more than many others (footnote 1).

This observation will set off howling among some audio enthusiasts of a sort that never happens in the wine world, for instance, where well-heeled oenophiles routinely spend large sums for a short-lived thrill.

Jim Austin  |  Aug 18, 2021  |  6 comments
Many loudspeaker designers are minimalists at heart. They embrace a design aesthetic that says that simpler is better. Based on the evidence of the company's R 8 Arreté, Ole Klifoth, of Danish loudspeaker maker Audiovector, is not one of those designers.

On its website, in the Specifications section for its "R"-model loudspeakers (footnote 1), Audiovector offers a long checklist of technologies, many of them optional, some of them, called "Concepts," assigned snappy names and acronyms: IUC for Individual Upgrade Concept; LCC for Low Compression Concept; SEC for Soundstage Enhancement Concept; NES for No Energy Storage; FGC for Freedom Grounding Concept; and NCS for Natural Crystal Structure.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 22, 2021  |  12 comments
Even as I was admiring some of the handsomest audio gear I'd ever set eyes on, my thoughts kept returning to equipment of a very different sort.

Flash back maybe 40 years to my one-bedroom apartment on Elgin Park in San Francisco during the period when I was whistling for my supper and performing Puccini's "O mio babbino caro" in the Emmy-nominated Peanuts cartoon, "She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown." Cue the constant din of an elevated four-lane freeway, since demolished as a blight on humankind, which I tried to pretend was the sound of water in the accompaniment to one of Schubert's many "water and fish" songs.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 23, 2021  |  22 comments
Brand-fan excitement ran high among consumers and reviewers alike when Wilson Audio Specialties announced that it would roll out a nonfunctioning prototype of the Chronosonic XVX at the 2019 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF). The Chronosonic XVX was rumored to be a replacement for the $210,000/pair Alexandria XLF, offering performance similar to that of the $850,000 WAMM Master Chronosonic system (including two Master Subsonics and a controller) at a less breathtaking price. (You won't catch me writing "affordable" here.) The static unveiling at RMAF intensified anticipation.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Nov 26, 2020  |  13 comments
"Oh goody!" thought self, to self: "Another Gryphon component to review." As eloquent and revelatory as that statement may be, there's an even more illuminating backstory.

I had been aware of Denmark-based Gryphon Audio since the advent of the Gryphon Exorcist, a now-discontinued demagnetizer that cost far more than your average break-in CD, but I only began to encounter Gryphon electronics at audio shows a few years ago. While at first they seemed available for review only as a complete package, Jim Austin was able to arrange for me to review the Gryphon Ethos CD player–D/A processor ($39,000).

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 17, 2020  |  74 comments
Let's begin by discussing what SAT's XD1 Record Player System is not: It is not a Technics SP-10R in a sci-fi–inspired plinth—although the XD1's engine does begin life as the SP-10R's basic drive system, which is stripped down to a handful of essential components, reimagined, reengineered, and rebuilt to much higher mechanical standards.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 17, 2020  |  22 comments
Although it was founded by ex-Siemens loudspeaker engineer Oliver Göbel in 2003, I am embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of Göbel High End until I visited the room hosted by Florida retailer Bending Wave at the 2019 AXPONA. There, I listened to the German manufacturer's ginormous $220,000/pair Divin Noblesse loudspeakers, which were making their US debut. I was impressed by what I heard. I was interested, therefore, to learn that Göbel was introducing a smaller Divin model, the Marquis, which would not be too large for my listening room and would be priced at $80,000/pair.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 14, 2020  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2020  |  24 comments
The two biggest sonic jolts I've experienced involving phono preamps were from two very different ones: the Petr Mares's Connoisseur 2.0 and Boulder's 2008, which was reviewed in the July 2002 Stereophile. The first was hand-built, single-ended, housed in a wooden case, limited to 100 units, and, when I got to hear it in the mid-1990s, cost around $6000, or about $10,000 in today's dollars. The other was a feature-laden, double-chassis monument to flexibility and surface-mount high technology. It featured beautifully finished, flush-mounted mirrored buttons your fingers just wanted to press.
Michael Fremer  |  Jun 19, 2020  |  91 comments
Achieving room-filling, high-quality sound in a hotel room is difficult enough. Getting it in a cavernous ballroom is even more problematic. Yet, over the past few years at AXPONA, RMAF, and most recently at the February 2020 FLAX (Florida Audio Expo), Von Schweikert Audio, in association with The Audio Company of Marietta, Georgia, has managed that—and, other than the approximately 100 bodies occupying every seat in the house, they've done it without any room treatment, or without any that I could see.
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 18, 2020  |  61 comments
VAC's Statement 452 iQ Musicbloc amplifier ($75,000 for a single amp; $150,000/pair mono, as reviewed) is tall, young, and lovely, but unlike the girl from Ipanema, it isn't tan. Nor, at 280lb in its flight case, is it likely to "go walkin'." Getting the pair moved into my listening room required considerable effort—fortunately not mine.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 24, 2020  |  19 comments
Designing and building a turntable isn't all that difficult. All that matters is in plain sight: Start with a base of wood, MDF, or acrylic; add some isolation "feet" for it to rest upon, and a spindle bearing such as any competent machine shop can fabricate, topped by a platter of acrylic or aluminum or suchlike. The motor can be an off-the-shelf AC synchronous type, fed directly by the electricity from a wall socket.

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