John Atkinson

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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.
John Atkinson, Art Dudley  |  Apr 14, 2017  |  2 comments
It has been six years since we last released a recording on the Stereophile label—a jazz album featuring Attention Screen, the late Bob Reina's free-jazz ensemble. This dry spell was mainly due to the increasing demands made on our editorial team's time by social media and the magazine's website, but also by John Atkinson's recording activities with the Portland State Chamber Choir, who issue their recordings on their own label. Nevertheless, we've been keeping our eyes and ears open for suitable opportunities.
John Atkinson  |  Feb 21, 2017  |  4 comments
Long-lived loudspeaker models are rare. So it's surprising that the two-way, stand-mounted Model 5, the smallest speaker made by Massachusetts-based Aerial Acoustics, was revised just once between 2015 and April 1997, when Robert Harley favorably reviewed it and it cost $1800/pair. The revised 5B was equally favorably reviewed by John Marks in July 2009. This kept the original's 1" titanium-dome tweeter and sealed-box woofer loading but replaced the 7" polypropylene-cone woofer with a 7.1" laminated-fiber–cone woofer. Despite more than a decade's worth of inflation, the price rose only slightly, to $2400/pair.
John Atkinson  |  Feb 16, 2017  |  22 comments
I have had a long relationship with Bowers & Wilkins. The first B&W speaker I spent serious time with was the DM-6, the infamous "pregnant kangaroo," which was reviewed by Allen Edelstein in December 1977 and which I borrowed for a while after interviewing the company's founder, John Bowers. Ten years later, when I met the woman who was to become my third wife, she already owned a pair of B&W Matrix 801s, a speaker reviewed by Lewis Lipnick in December 1987.
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.

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