Jim Austin

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Jim Austin  |  Nov 22, 2017  |  9 comments
Years ago, when I was young and foolish (instead of old and foolish, as now), I was hanging out with a friend at a strip-mall strip club in a small southeastern city. A youngish lady approached our table in G-string and pasties and did a tableside dance. My friend's jaw scraped the floor; I, noting her lack of enthusiasm, was unmoved. The stripper noted my impassivity and stated, with irony that at the time I somehow missed, "You're a hard man."

John Atkinson, too, is a hard man, at least when it comes to audio gear. When, in January 2014, he reviewed the Pass Laboratories XA60.5 monoblock amplifier, he concluded, "It is the best-sounding amplifier I have ever used." High praise.

Jim Austin  |  Oct 26, 2017  |  76 comments
Much has been written about the divide in high-end audio between subjectivists, who trust their ears, and objectivists, who believe that anything not scientifically proven is fake news. I respect both sides and am skeptical of both extremes, and I like to think that's how most audiophiles feel. High-end audio is about experiencing music—that's the whole point—but scientific and technological rigor lie behind every real advance, past and future. I regret the cynical snake-oil salesmanship, bad thinking, and clumsy engineering that pervade certain parts of our hobby.
Jim Austin  |  Oct 19, 2017  |  11 comments
It's day five of our planned month-long stay à Paris, late April through most of May. My wife is here for work—for me, it's strictly for pleasure—and we're enjoying Paris's rich, sensual goodness: food, museums, architecture, coffee, people, food. And yet, earlier today, when we were out for a walk—we've been walking close to 10 miles each day, exploring the city—I realized that my life here has been missing something important.
Jim Austin  |  Aug 29, 2017  |  65 comments
Nelson Pass is a consummate engineer, but he got his start in physics, earning a bachelor's degree from UC Davis. As he worked on his degree, he was already an audio designer, focusing on loudspeakers—great training for a designer of audio amplifiers. Soon, in 1974, he cofounded Threshold Audio with René Besne, of audio and folk-dancing fame; their goal was to build electronics, partly because the field is less competitive—it's harder than building speakers.
Jim Austin  |  May 23, 2017  |  5 comments
"Let be."

Those two words, from Shakespeare's Hamlet, express an entire philosophy of life in one of the shortest sentences possible. The quotation may not be familiar, but the concept certainly is—contemporary equivalents, each with its own inflections of meaning, include: Shit happens. Let the game come to you. Keep calm and carry on. (I hate that one.) Paul McCartney wrote something similar, and only slightly less concise, in a late Beatles song.

Jim Austin  |  Dec 06, 2016  |  33 comments
Although I've never tried one, I think "lifestyle" audio systems are a bit of a joke. My in-laws' decade-old Bose Wave Radio sounds good for what it is, although its obvious flaws—boomy, undefined lower mids masquerading as bass, a frustrating lack of sonic and musical resolution, etc.—become grating fairly quickly. These days, there are far more accomplished and expensive lifestyle systems out there, but because I haven't tried them I won't comment on them, except to say that I'm not really interested.
Jim Austin  |  Nov 06, 2016  |  7 comments
The room was small, approximately square, with low ceilings, and—like all the rooms I visited at the show—very yellow…
Jim Austin  |  Oct 29, 2016  |  51 comments
Photo: Jason Victor Serinus

Exactly what did Bob Stuart (above) say at that press event earlier this month at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF)? Stuart—CEO of the company MQA, short for Master Quality Authenticated—made an announcement about the Warner Music Group's (WMG's) transcoding of their catalog into MQA format, a project announced last May. But what exactly did he say?

Eager for answers, I arranged a conference call. Over the course of about half an hour, Stuart (with an occasional assist from Lisa Sullivan, MQA's Director of Marketing) answered all my questions and more.

Jim Austin  |  Oct 28, 2016  |  0 comments
When I moved to New York City about a year ago, I was prepared to dislike Brooklyn. Judging it by its reputation as the apotheosis of cool, I envisioned the borough full of good-looking people engaged in pointless acts of mindless, stylish conformity, from man-buns to single-origin pour-over coffee. (Anyone up for adult kickball?) As I've written before, about Portland, Maine—a hipster place much indebted to Brooklyn—I greatly prefer deeply committed idiosyncrasy to mindless conformity.
Jim Austin  |  Aug 16, 2016  |  33 comments
Most people who have heard music recordings encoded with Master Quality Authenticated agree that it sounds really goood (footnote 1)—but even they recognize that at least one major challenge remains: ensuring that listeners can actually get, in MQA format, the music they most love. I spoke with Spencer Chrislu, MQA's director of content services, about the company's efforts to meet this challenge.

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