John Atkinson

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John Atkinson  |  Sep 21, 2017  |  13 comments
Of all the speakers I have most enjoyed in recent years, two were from British manufacturer KEF: the LS50 Anniversary Model ($1500/pair), which I reviewed in December 2012; and the Blade Two ($25,000/pair), which I reviewed in June 2015. Though these two speakers lie at opposite ends of the price scale, they have in common KEF's unique Uni-Q drive-unit, in which the tweeter is mounted on the front of the midrange unit's pole piece, so that the lower-frequency cone acts as a waveguide for the higher-frequency output.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 22, 2017  |  4 comments
Throughout the summer and fall of 2016, I worked on a project with Stereophile contributor Sasha Matson, recording, editing, mixing, and mastering—for release on 180gm LP, CD, and high-resolution download—an album of works that Sasha had composed for various chamber ensembles: Tight Lines. As you can read in the article we published about this project, for the vinyl release we decided not to master the discs directly from the hi-rez files, but to create an intermediate analog tape master. Feeling that audiophiles would want an LP that at some stage was "analog," we therefore needed to choose a D/A processor to drive the Studer open-reel tape recorder we were going to use.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 16, 2017  |  1 comments
As you can see from the logo above, Stereophile has accepted an invitation to be inducted into the European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA), as the exclusive US member of the EISA's Hi-Fi Expert Group. EISA's invitation came too late for Stereophile to take part in the 2017 awards, but we will be a full participant in 2018. Meanwhile, here are the 2017–2018 winners.
John Atkinson  |  Jul 18, 2017  |  2 comments
Following my review of the floorstanding Magico S5 Mk.II last February, I spent some time with two-way stand-mounted speakers from Aerial Acoustics, Bowers & Wilkins, and Dynaudio. As much as I appreciated the small speakers' virtues, I found myself missing the big Magico's bass extension and ability to play loud; my next loudspeaker review, therefore, would be of another floorstander.

It's been a while since we published a review of a Rockport Technologies loudspeaker.

John Atkinson  |  Jun 20, 2017  |  14 comments
For digital playback, in recent months I've been breathing some rarefied air, pricewise. In December 2016, I reviewed dCS's Rossini Player and Clock, followed in May 2017 by Meridian's Ultra DAC, and in June by Chord's DAVE DAC. The Rossini Player costs $28,499 without the Clock, the Meridian $23,000, and though the DAVE is less expensive than either at $10,588, that's still a fair chunk of change. Even PS Audio's PerfectWave DirectStream DAC, which I bought following Art Dudley's review in September 2014, costs $6899 with the Network Bridge II, which hardly counts as "affordable."
John Atkinson, Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 11, 2017  |  28 comments
MQA's Bob Stuart comparing PCM and MQA recordings in the Sunny Components room

Despite there now having been many opportunities for audiophiles to compare MQA-encoded recordings with the PCM originals—as well as comparisons at shows and dealer events, the Norwegian 2L record label has offered downloads of MQA/PCM files for quite a long time—there are still members of the press who insist that no-one, other than some reviewers, has been able to perform such comparisons. At the 2017 LAAS, not only were some exhibitors demonstrating MQA—Aurender, Meridian—Covina, CA retailer Sunny Components devoted the show's Saturday afternoon to specific comparisons hosted by MQA's Bob Stuart and Wilson Audio's Peter McGrath.

John Atkinson  |  Jun 11, 2017  |  1 comments
The first room I went to at the 2017 LAAS was that hosted by LA dealer Optimal Enchantment featuring a system based on Vandersteen's Model Seven Mk.II speakers ($62,000/pair) and M7-HPA amplifiers ($52,000/pair), which I reviewed in May 2016, this time reinforced by a pair of Vandersteen's SUB NINEs operating below 100Hz. It may have been the first room I visited but as good as many other systems sounded, they didn't match what Vandersteen refers as System NINE for its effortless sweep of sound, precise, palpable imaging, and smooth yet detailed high frequencies.
John Atkinson  |  Jun 10, 2017  |  1 comments
I tend to be skeptical of tweaks. Too often in the past, I have heard an astonishingly audible difference when the whatever is demonstrated by its promoter, only for any difference to stubbornly disappear when I try the same thingamabob in my own system. But listening to the difference when Isotek's Bjorn Hegelsted replaced the cheap power strip and stock AC cords in a MoFi Distribution system using the impressive but affordable Wharfedale Diamond 225 speakers ($449/pair) driven by a Quad Artera Play CD player ($2199) and Artera Stereo amplifier ($2299) with a star-wired, 6-outlet Isotek Polaris conditioner ($495) and Isotek Premier AC cords ($149 each), the improvement in image palpability and dimensionality, the elimination of "shoutiness" on female voice, was extraordinary.
John Atkinson  |  Jun 09, 2017  |  4 comments
Following my keynote speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning, my beat at the Los Angeles Audio Show was the Sheraton Gateway's 1st and 5th floors. Even with just the two floors, this was a daunting prospect—considering that this was the show's debut, it had a larger number of exhibitors than any of us had anticipated. So without further ado, here's the first of my three reports.
John Atkinson  |  May 18, 2017  |  21 comments
Fifteen years? Has it really been 15 years since I reviewed what was then the flagship D/A processor from English company Chord Electronics? In the July 2002 issue, here's how I summed up my review of the Chord DAC64: "While the Chord Electronics DAC64 is undoubtedly expensive, it is eye-poppingly gorgeous. . . . many listeners should find its silky-smooth highs seductive, as well as its slightly larger-than-life lows." How times and prices change—the "undoubtedly expensive" DAC64 cost only $3040! I did make a couple of criticisms of the DAC64 in my review, but according to Wes Phillips, in his August 2007 review of Chord's revised DAC64, "the Choral Blu [CD transport] and Choral DAC64 are, together, the CD player we music lovers have long prayed for"—even if, five years after my own review, the DAC64's price had risen to $5000.

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