John Atkinson

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John Atkinson  |  Jan 18, 2017  |  8 comments
"Dammit!" No sooner had I praised small loudspeakers while dismissing large speakers as potentially having "large problems," in my review of the Crystal Arabesque Minissimo Diamond in the October issue, than I had to eat my words. Only days after that issue had gone to press, Magico's VP for Global Sales & Marketing, Peter Mackay, and CTO Yair Tammam, arrived at my place to set up a pair of the Bay Area company's floorstanding—and very large—S5 Mk.II loudspeakers.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 17, 2017  |  28 comments
Last July and September I made two loudspeaker-related road trips: first to Rockport Technologies, in Maine, to audition their new Lyra; and then to high-end dealer-distributor GTT Audio, in deepest, darkest New Jersey, to audition YG Acoustics' new Sonja XV. Both speakers offer innovative, proprietary drive-units and heroic audio engineering, especially regarding their enclosures, which are constructed from aluminum. Both experiences took place in superbly well-designed and optimized listening rooms with front-end and amplification components that were beyond reproach. The sound quality offered by the Rockport and YGA speakers was simply superb, both stepping entirely out of the way to offer maximum communion with the music.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 13, 2016  |  10 comments
It's no secret that deputy editor Art Dudley is an anachrophile (footnote 1). After expounding on the virtues of vintage audio gear in his October 2016 Listening" column, he spent no fewer than seven pages of our November issue raving about the sound quality of Auditorium 23's expensive Hommage Cinema loudspeaker, from Germany. (The Hommage Cinema costs $49,995/pair, plus $5495 for the necessary AcousticPlan NT-1 field-coil power supply.)
John Atkinson  |  Nov 22, 2016  |  6 comments
I am sad to report that, 19 years to the day after I recorded her performing Schulhoff's Sonata for Solo Violin for Stereophile's Duet CD, Ida Levin passed away on Friday November 18, after a lengthy battle with leukemia. She was 53. Our condolences to her family, her fellow musicians, her students, and to all who, like me, were thrilled by her playing. As a tribute to Ida, from now until January 1, 2017, we are offering Duet to our readers free of charge (though we will still have to charge shipping and handling).
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  |  Oct 14, 2016  |  3 comments
The last room I visited before the Wes Phillips Memorial, which was hosted in the PS Audio room Friday night of the show, was conveniently, PS Audio's. In my photo, the company's cofounder, fitness freak Paul McGowan, whom his daily email newsletter has revealed to be a talented writer, poses beside the humongous collection of PS Audio gear that was used to drive the Scaena La Maitresse Ultime speakers ($125,000/pair).
John Atkinson  |  Oct 14, 2016  |  4 comments
As you can read elsewhere in our RMAF coverage, the incomplete remodeling of the Denver Tech Center Marriott mean that the CanJam exhibits had to be moved to a tent in the hotel parking lot and the seminars and Classic Album Sunday events were held in temporary housing "pods." I wandered into one of the latter to find Channel D's Rob Robinson (above) playing 24/192 rips of LPs on a system featuring a Lynx HiLo digital converter, a Jeff Rowland amplifier, Cardas cables, and Joseph Audio Pearl 3 speakers.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 13, 2016  |  2 comments
My beat at the 13th RMAF was the 7th and 11th floors of the Marriott Tower, so to kick off my reporting, my first room on the 7th floor was Dynaudio USA.
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.

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