Audacious Audio

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Art Dudley  |  Jun 20, 2017  |  3 comments
"As the original L2 circuitry was virtually flawless, it was the emergence of new electronic components that opened up a possibility of [even better performance] . . ."

So begins one of two booklets—one a collection of specifications and interior photos, the other a distinctly thorough user's manual—included with the new L2.1 Reference line-level preamplifier from Brooklyn's Lamm Industries, earlier products from which have impressed me as among the best available. Indeed, coming from almost anyone else, the above quote would strike me as trivial boasting—but I know from experience that there's nothing trivial about designer and company head Vladimir Lamm.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 15, 2017  |  0 comments
Maybe you've seen the widely circulated New Yorker cartoon: Two guys stand in front of a nicely drawn, tubed audio system, under which are shelves full of LPs. One guy says, "The two things that really drew me to vinyl were the expense and the inconvenience."

If you can't laugh at that, you've lost your sense of humor—even acknowledging that, oddly, convenience is the raison d'etre of some recent phono preamplifiers—including Dan D'Agostino Audio's Momentum and the CH Precision P1, both of which offer multiple, switchable, configurable inputs saved in memory. Today's well-heeled vinyl enthusiast might have two or more tonearms mounted on a single turntable—or even two turntables, each with two arms. Zesto Audio's new Andros Téssera tubed phono preamplifier takes aim at that market segment.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 15, 2017  |  11 comments
Three years ago, when I first heard Audionet's Max monoblock power amplifiers, I described their pairing with YG Acoustics Hailey loudspeakers "an absolute winner" and "definitely one of the finer systems at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach." At subsequent audio shows, no fewer than four other Stereophile Contributing Editors enthused about different pairings of YG loudspeakers with Audionet amplification. Herb Reichert, at the 2014 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest: "Everything had a kind of just right quality. Totally impressive!" Sasha Matson, at RMAF 2015: "Marvelous" on vocals, "rockin' and tight" on bass and drums. John Atkinson, at T.H.E. Show 2016: "Duke Ellington's classic Jazz Party in Stereo . . . was reproduced with terrific dynamics." Larry Greenhill at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show on the sound in the YG Acoustics room, which included Audionet's Max monoblocks: "the sound on playback of Jake Shimabukuro's ukulele wizardry came closer to matching his live performance than in most rooms."
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 27, 2017  |  22 comments
Having discontinued the MAXX3 loudspeaker ($68,000/pair in 2009, when I reviewed it), Wilson Audio needed to plug the resulting gaping hole between the Alexia ($48,500/pair) and the Alexandria XLF ($210,000/pair). Company founder Dave Wilson was busy with the limited-edition WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeaker ($685,000/pair), so son Darryl Wilson set about creating a speaker with a retail price of about $100,000/pair. The result, the Alexx, finally came in at $109,000/pair.
Larry Greenhill  |  Apr 20, 2017  |  20 comments
The Mark Levinson No.526 is the first preamplifier designed by a new 12-person team led by Todd Eichenbaum, director of engineering at the Harman Luxury Audio Group's Engineering Center of Excellence (ECOE), in Shelton, Connecticut. Designed to fit the price niche between the company's least and most expensive preamps—the No.326S ($10,000) and No.52 ($30,000)—the No.526 costs $20,000.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 18, 2017  |  6 comments
As I mentioned in my review eight years ago of Meridian Audio's 808.2 Signature Reference CD player, I have long been impressed by the British company's components—in fact, ever since the early 1980s, when I purchased a Meridian 101 preamplifier, followed by my very positive experiences with Meridian's MCD Pro and 208 CD players, 518 digital audio processor, D600 and DSP8000 digital active loudspeakers, and, most recently, the Prime and Explorer D/A headphone amplifiers.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 24, 2017  |  19 comments
"I'm a recording engineer, so I value accuracy," said a panelist in a discussion—titled "How to Read Between the Lines of Audio Advertising"—at last October's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I, too, was on the panel, which was moderated by Brent Butterworth, a writer for the SoundStage! Network of online audio magazines.

"Accuracy is overrated," I interjected from the other end of the dais. "Accurate to what? To your sonic tastes? To what you hear on your preferred loudspeakers? Other than one's personal preferences, I'm not sure the term accuracy has much meaning."

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 02, 2017  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2017  |  4 comments
My 0.56mV-output Lyra Atlas moving-coil cartridge ($11,995) has put in four years of heavy-duty use. But not long ago I began to hear some problems with sibilants from records that previously hadn't given me trouble in that department. Lyra's Jonathan Carr and Stig Bjorge suggested I bring my Atlas to the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, held last January in Las Vegas, where they would exchange it for a new one.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Dec 20, 2016  |  21 comments
Bang & Olufsen's BeoLab 90 is not a loudspeaker to take on lightly. Though its size—49.33" high by 28.9" wide by 29.4" deep—and weight (302 lbs each) meant a major disruption of my listening room, which is also our living room, my wife assented. Its price of $84,990/pair puts it far beyond anything I might consider buying—and the complexity of the BeoLab 90, which has its own dedicated amplifiers and DACs, makes it impossible for a reviewer—or consumer—to directly compare it with any other loudspeaker. So be it.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 18, 2016  |  3 comments
It has been 20 years since I first became aware of the British company Data Conversion Systems, which manufactures audio products under the dCS brand. Rather than use off-the-shelf conversion chips, the groundbreaking dCS Elgar D/A converter, which I reviewed in our July 1997 issue, featured a then-unique D/A design that they called a Ring DAC. This featured a five-bit, unitary-weighted, discrete DAC running at 64 times the incoming data's sample rate—2.822MHz for 44.1kHz-based data, 3.07MHz for 48kHz-sampled data and its multiples—with upsampling and digital filtering and processing implemented in Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). Oversampling to a very high sample rate allows the word length to be reduced without losing resolution, and use of a low-bit multi-bit DAC makes for very high accuracy in the analog voltage levels that describe the signal. (If this seems like voodoo, for a given signal bandwidth, bit depth and sample rate are related. To oversimplify, double the rate, and you can reduce the bit depth by one bit while preserving the overall resolution.)
John Atkinson  |  Nov 01, 2016  |  5 comments
I wrote several issues back that my first high-end headphones were Koss Pro4AAs, which I bought in 1972 following a positive review in the British magazine Hi-Fi News. Although that review didn't mention that the Pro4AAs were relatively fragile (footnote 1), I nonetheless loved their sound. They were the best headphones I'd heard—until, a couple years later, I was playing bass on some sessions for record producer Tony Cox. Tony had a pair of signal-energized electrostatic headphones, Koss ESP-6es, which were heavy and clunky—but they opened my ears to the sound quality that could be obtained from "cans." I didn't hear better until after I'd moved to Santa Fe, in 1986, and J. Gordon Holt loaned me his review samples of the Stax SR-Lambda Pros.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 29, 2016  |  19 comments
I have been an advocate of small speakers since I began using BBC LS3/5a's in the late 1970s, continuing through Celestion SL6es in 1981, Celestion SL600s and SL700s in the late '80s, and B&W Silver Signatures in the mid-'90s. Yes, I do like accurate and extended bass reproduction—but you need a big speaker to be able to provide that, and, as the late Spencer Hughes, founder of Spendor, once remarked, "big speakers have big problems." I don't see the point of extending a speaker's low-frequency performance if the result is compromised soundstaging and midrange reproduction. And there is also the intellectual elegance of a speaker that is no bigger than it need be.
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.)

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 21, 2016  |  10 comments
Simaudio saw disc-based digital audio in its rear-view mirror at least as far back as 2011, when it introduced the Moon Evolution 650D and 750D—two iterations of what it called a "digital-to-analog converter CD transport." These were actually multiple-input CD players, but Simaudio was evidently so eager to distance itself from the spinning disc that it went with a product category that, in spite of its cumbersome, run-on name, drew a clean line between the disc-reading and signal-processing functions—while bestowing upon the former second-class citizenship.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jun 23, 2016  |  37 comments
It would be an understatement to say that in 2001, when Nordost introduced their original Valhalla cables, they were a revelation for me. Their focus and resolution of detail were like nothing I'd ever heard, and revealed in recorded performances a startling energy and realism. Throw in their seemingly absolute transparency, and similarly unique levels of spatial and temporal precision, and the Valhallas established a new standard of sound quality in audio cables. Although their tonal balance was cool, as I reported in my first review of them in the November 2001 issue, they were the only game in town in terms of reproducing the feel of a live performance. I immediately adopted them as a reference cable, and they remain a reference for me today.

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