Audacious Audio

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 26, 2010  |  First Published: Oct 26, 1988  |  0 comments
Snickering was heard from the major consumer electronics purveyors when California Audio Labs came out with the original Tempest, their first CD player using tube output stages. But not from the audiophile community. It was, all things considered, an inevitable product; I'm certainly not the only one who wondered—before the emergence of California Audio Labs—who would be the first to build such a unit. The obvious candidates were Audio Research or Conrad-Johnson. But those companies apparently read the audio tea-leaves and, perhaps perceiving the early high-end hostility toward the new format, apparently decided to bide their time. (With regards to tube players, they're still biding it, though C-J has had a prototype player up and running for some time.)
Anthony H. Cordesman  |  Oct 23, 2012  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1987  |  2 comments
One of the most striking aspects of high-end audio is that you can never take any component for granted. Most of the radical change in audio at present takes place in new front-end and speaker technologies, but other components are changing as well—and with at least as much impact in making recorded music seem believable.
Martin Colloms  |  Jun 18, 2014  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1987  |  0 comments
Four years after its launch, the CD medium would appear to have come of age, at least in production terms. Annual player manufacture is now big business, and there is hardly a major audio brand without a CD machine to its name—even such analog stalwarts as Audio-Technica and Shure have succumbed.
Steve Watkinson  |  Nov 13, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1986  |  0 comments
The great debate that has long separated audiophiles is tubes vs solid-state. Other topics, CD for example, may temporarily steal the spotlight, but year-in and year-out no other subject is the cause of as much controversy as whether tubed or solid-state circuitry produces the more accurate sound. As is typical with long-standing feuds, the split runs deep, and tempers often flare.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 06, 2009  |  First Published: Aug 06, 1986  |  1 comments
Before launching into Stereophile's first-ever report on a Mark Levinson product, an important point needs to be clarified. Although Mark Levinson products were originally made by Mark Levinson, they are no longer. Au contraire, Mark Levinson products are now being made by Madrigal, Ltd., which bought Mark Levinson Audio Systems' assets and trademark two years ago. Mark Levinson's products, as distinguished from Mark Levinson products, are now being manufactured by a company called Cello. But the subject of this report, the Mark Levinson ML-7A preamplifier, is a product of Madrigal, Ltd., not of Cello. Now that I've made that all perfectly clear, we may proceed.
Anthony H. Cordesman  |  Nov 15, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1986  |  4 comments
Some audio products deliver truly superb sound of a kind that really makes all the frustrations of building a high-end system worthwhile; they also require exceptional attention and care. The Counterpoint SA-4 is a case in point. With the right speakers, it competes for the title of "Most Transparent Amplifier Available at Any Price." On the other hand, this amplifier steadily loses output power as speaker impedance drops; it must be carefully matched to the right speaker. Then, and only then, can it produce one of the finest musical experiences available.
Dick Olsher  |  Apr 10, 2014  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1986  |  0 comments
Very few products exude opulence as do the Rowland amplifiers: the massive chassis, the gold finish, those sculpted handles on the front plate. For some strange reason the amp reminds me of Brutus Beefcake, the golden boy of professional wrestling, upon whom I stumbled one night while flipping through the myriad channels of our cable TV. The visual impact is the same: beefy. And then there's the price: also beefy.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Apr 10, 2014  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1985  |  6 comments
Those of our readers who are still anti-CD are going to be offended by what I am about to say. Partly because they do not want it to be true, but mainly because it is. I shall utter the heresy anyway: the Compact Disc is, right now, doing more for the cause of high-end audio than anything that has ever come along before!

There, I've said it. Now I shall explain it.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 02, 2010  |  First Published: May 02, 1985  |  0 comments
Although the idea of a $1000 moving-coil cartridge no longer shocks audiophiles, it is still not exactly what I'd call "Mainstream Hi-Fi." Audio magazine's 1984 Equipment Directory—the most complete such compendium published in the US—lists only 10 models in this price range, not counting the Kiseki Lapis Lazuli at a whopping three-and-a-half grand! I have not tested most of these, nor have I tried any of the current models from the Japanese Koetsu firm, which was first with the gall to put a $1000 price tag on a cartridge. But I have tested a couple of one-granders during the past few years, and was sufficiently unimpressed to be hesitant about testing any more samples of what were beginning to look like nothing more than monumental ripoffs. So when Ortofon sent us the MC-2000, I was naturally less than enthusiastic about trying it.
Anthony H. Cordesman  |  Jul 24, 2009  |  First Published: Jun 24, 1984  |  0 comments
It says something for the state of technology that, after a quarter of a century, there still is no authoritative explanation for why so many high-end audiophiles prefer tubes. Tubes not only refuse to die, they seem to be Coming back. The number of US and British firms making high-end tube equipment is growing steadily, and an increasing number of comparatively low-priced units are becoming available. There is a large market in renovated or used tube equipment—I must confess to owning a converted McIntosh MR-71 tuner—and there are even some indications that tube manufacturers are improving their reliability, although getting good tubes remains a problem.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Sep 17, 2014  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1984  |  12 comments
We wrote a long, rather unkind report on the HQD, pointing out that, if that was typical of the way it was supposed to sound (And why not, after Mr. Levinson had installed and tweaked it?), then it had to be the most expensive bomb ever to be made available for civilian use. Mr. Levinson responded with a phone call during which he:

1) Told us we had not heard it at its best, but refused to address himself to our specific criticisms;

2) Claimed that many practicing professional musicians felt the HQD to be "extremely realistic";

3) Informed us that, since he sold very few HQD systems and would soon be discontinuing them anyway because Quad had ceased making those speakers, the "sensible" thing to do would be to kill the report; and

4) Mentioned, just in passing of course, that he was currently writing a feature article for Time on the subject of "underground" audio magazines.

Larry Archibald  |  Sep 10, 2014  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1983  |  3 comments
No, we made no typos in the specifications sidebar. The weight of the Wilson Audio Modular Monitor (WAMM) speaker system is enough to make you consult a structural engineer before dropping it on your living room floor—fragile, 300-year old New England frame houses are probably out. And the recent price increase from $32,000 to $35,000 is enough by itself to buy a pair of Quad ESL-63s—which is not a bad speaker system. The WAMM represents an all-out assault on both the state of the art in speaker systems and on the limits to which wealthy audiophiles will go in order to have the best.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Jun 09, 2014  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1980  |  21 comments
Dr. Alan Hill, president of Plasmatronics Inc., was previously employed by the US Government in laser research. His assignment: To increase the efficiency of lasers so that they could do something more impressive than produce holograms, mend leaky retinal blood vessels, and punch pinholes in steel blocks. Dr. Hill earned his keep, thus advancing laser technology a giant step closer to Star Wars, and then retired from government service to design. . . a loudspeaker?!!!?
J. Gordon Holt  |  Dec 08, 2015  |  First Published: May 01, 1978  |  4 comments
This is an electrostatic column speaker, 6' tall and costing $6000/pair. An integral, fan-cooled amplifier is located in the base. The 2SW is said to cover almost the entire frequency range and is based on a patent, number 3,668,335, issued to manufacturer/designer Harold Beveridge on June 6, 1972. Internal acoustic lenses in front of the electrostatic panels widen the speaker's dispersion: In the Beveridge literature, it says "This 6-foot high device consolidated the entire frequency range into a vertical line source, and uniformly disperses it over a horizontal pattern, 180 degrees wide. The beaming characteristics of the high frequencies are ingeniously translated into the same dispersive pattern as the low frequencies, creating a perfectly balanced cylindrical sound wave front."
J. Gordon Holt  |  Sep 06, 2016  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1973  |  1 comments
666kossesp9.1.jpgThe top-of-the-line model from America's leading headphone manufacturer, these are bulky, heavy, very business-like in appearance, and very, very good.

The ESP-9 is dual-powered: from the AC line, or from the input signal itself, The power supply is rather large and heavy, and appropriate in appearance to the phones. Amplifier connections are via wires with spade lugs attached, and speaker connections are made to the rear of the power supply. A front-panel switch selects speaker or headphone operation, and terminates the amplifier outputs with 10 ohms in the Phones position.

Construction is typically top-of-the-line Koss: Rugged, nicely finished, and apparently very durable, and the phones are easy to handle. (Many headphones are so loosely pivoted on their headbands that they swing into impossible positions whenever you pick them up.)

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