Brian Damkroger

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Brian Damkroger  |  May 01, 2005  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2005  |  0 comments
It's not unusual for a high-end audio company to originate in another segment of the high-tech electronics world, but it is a bit unusual when the spin-off is a cable company. That's the case with Empirical Audio, whose founder, Steve Nugent, spent 25 years as a digital hardware designer for Unisys and Intel. The key is that, in addition to standard design work, he chased "the more esoteric sides of design, namely grounding, shielding, ESD (electrostatic discharge), EMI (electromagnetic interference), transmission-line effects, and power delivery." Voilà—cable design.
Brian Damkroger, Michael Fremer  |  Dec 24, 2005  |  First Published: Mar 24, 2005  |  0 comments
Like the $29,000 Boulder 2008 phono preamplifier, the new Whest PhonoStage.20 with its MsU.20 power supply costs as much as a car. Fortunately for you, that car happens to be my first new Saab, which cost exactly $2737 back in 1972. The solid-state Whest costs $2595, so it's a few hundred dollars cheaper. But at only a tenth the cost, it comes closer to the Boulder 2008's performance than it has any right to. That it's good enough to be mentioned in the same paragraph should tell you something about how good I think it is. Nor did it come to me hyped by the manufacturer—it took me by surprise from the minute I first heard it. I began my listening right away, before reading anything about the circuit design.
Brian Damkroger  |  Mar 20, 2005  |  0 comments
I've encountered a number of audio products over the years whose thoughtful design and intricate craftsmanship brought to mind the expression "built like a Swiss watch." As often as I'd thought or even written that phrase, however, I don't think I'd ever stopped to seriously consider what an audio component might be like if actually built by the nation that produces Rolex and Breitling wristwatches.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jun 27, 2004  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2004  |  0 comments
High-end audio has always been a tricky business, and in recent years it's become more so. Home theater is pulling in one direction, and MP3, iPods, and the Internet are pulling in another. And customer expectations—not just of sound quality, but also of usability and integration into their space and lives—are spiraling upward. The companies that are thriving amid these pressures seem to have adopted one of two strategies: either they focus more narrowly and try to convince the world to accept their vision, or they evolve their products in an attempt to anticipate the market.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jun 27, 2004  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2004  |  0 comments
The Placette Audio Remote Volume Control is simplicity itself: a paperback-sized black box with one set of unbalanced inputs and outputs, a toggle switch (and a remote) to change the level, and a row of LEDs that light up to indicate the relative volume level. The signal path, too, is simple, with only a stepped attenuator between input and output. But this is not just any attenuator—it's a 125-step model built entirely with super-premium Vishay S-102 foil resistors.
Brian Damkroger  |  May 16, 2004  |  First Published: May 01, 2004  |  0 comments
The CD-303/200 is a stout, handsome unit with a thick front panel of black-anodized aluminum (silver is also available) and a beefy, epoxy-coated aluminum chassis. Even the remote control—a heavy aluminum unit with multi-function, backlit buttons—screams "Quality!" Curiously, however, the remote is clad in chrome plate, rather than brushed aluminum or anodized black to match the player. The coup de grace is the CD-303/200's transport mechanism, a Philips CDM12, which is good enough as is; Cary addition of a thick, machined drawer warmed this metallurgist's heart.
Brian Damkroger  |  Feb 22, 2004  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2004  |  1 comments
I've been in a nostalgic funk of late. What started it was visiting Golden, Colorado, where I spent my graduate-school days, and seeing all of the changes, not to mention the lecture halls full of kids who couldn't be a day over 12. When I commented on how young the freshmen looked, our host—a colleague of mine from grad school, now a professor—responded, "Those are seniors, Brian." I felt a little old.
Michael Fremer, Brian Damkroger  |  May 15, 2005  |  First Published: Jan 15, 2004  |  0 comments
The $3000 moving-coil (MC) PhD, available from Chad Kassem's Acoustic Sounds operation, is a monumental achievement that, for me, sets new standards for the cleanness and transparency possible in a phono preamp—and I've had a lot of experience with phono preamps.
Brian Damkroger  |  Dec 15, 2003  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2003  |  0 comments
At what point does a high price become exorbitant? When do you start doing double takes, to make sure you haven't mentally moved a decimal point? When do you look at something and think, "No matter how good it may be, it's just not worth that much money"?
Brian Damkroger  |  Sep 28, 2003  |  0 comments
One of the biggest challenges in setting up any new listening room is getting the room to work with your equipment rather than against it. I faced this challenge in spades when Trish and I moved into our dream house in the California hills. What would serve as my listening room was a wonderful, open space with panoramic views of the surrounding hills—a space that bore no resemblance at all to a traditional, rectangular, dedicated listening room. Instead, there was a wall of glass, a huge marble-and-glass fireplace, a 20' ceiling—and did I mention that it isn't actually a "room," but one arm of a continuous flowing space?

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