Robert Harley

Robert Harley  |  Nov 08, 2019  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1992  |  10 comments
Looking at the Digital Link II's build quality and circuitry, it's hard to believe that it can sell for $499 at retail. The Digital Link II shares the same appearance as PS Audio's SuperLink and UltraLink processors, but has a 4"-shorter chassis. The ¼"-thick front panel uses PS Audio's familiar touch-sensitive switches that turn the unit on and select between coaxial and optical inputs. LEDs above these switches indicate when the unit is locked to the digital source. A third LED illuminates when power is applied.
Robert Harley  |  Sep 12, 2019  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1992  |  1 comments
The $799 Theorem was originally shown at the 1992 WCES in a very small chassis that prohibited adding features or upgrades. Sumo has since become more ambitious, putting the Theorem in a full-sized chassis and offering several upgrade options that would have been impossible in the truncated version.
Robert Harley  |  Sep 11, 2019  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1994  |  14 comments
One measure of a high-end product designer's talent is the musical success of his top-of-the-line product. This is his statement to the world of what he can accomplish—a kind of "personal best" that defines the upper limits of his talent. Because he knows of no way to make the product better, the component stands as the ultimate testimonial to his skill.
Robert Harley  |  Jul 11, 2019  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1993  |  2 comments
American audiophiles have long had a love-hate relationship with British integrated amplifiers. On one hand, they often provide superb musicality, sell for a moderate price, and don't take up much room. On the other, these British alternatives to Adcom or B&K separates often have low power output, nonstandard connectors, idiosyncratic appearance (footnote 1), and dictate the kind of speaker cable and interconnects you can use.
Robert Harley, Shannon Dickson  |  Jun 14, 2019  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1995  |  0 comments
Some high-end audio companies develop reputations for having a particular "sound." This reputation develops when every product the company makes has a similar sonic flavor. These products appeal to certain customers who like the company's sound, and who therefore tend to stay with that company's products year after year. Unfortunately, such an approach can limit a manufacturer's appeal to a broader audience.
Robert Harley  |  Jun 13, 2019  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1992  |  8 comments
His background may have been in tubed audio product design, but Theta Digital's Mike Moffat is now at the forefront of computer-based digital processor development. His Theta D/A processors are among a handful of products that use Digital Signal Processing (DSP) chips and custom filtering software instead of off-the-shelf filter chips (footnote 1). I recently visited Mike at the Theta factory to get his current ideas on digital audio reproduction and what goes into designing a good-sounding processor. I began by asking Mike if he had always been an audiophile.
Robert Harley, Lewis Lipnick, Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 06, 2019  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1992  |  1 comments
A visiting manufacturer recently expressed the idea that digital processors and transports are the worst value in high-end audio. He contended that, because they all sound bad, their differences and degrees of imperfection are meaningless. In his view, the very best digital differed very little from the worst. His advice? Buy a moderately priced CD player and enjoy your LPs.
Robert Harley  |  May 28, 2019  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1994  |  0 comments
If there's one buzzword in high-end audio for the 1990s, it's undoubtedly jitter. "Jitter" describes timing variations in the clock controlling the ones and zeros that represent the analog audio signal. If that clock isn't stable to an extraordinarily precise degree, the sound quality of the digital processor will be degraded.

A CD transport/digital processor combination introduces jitter in three ways: 1) the transport puts out a jittered signal; 2) the S/PDIF or AES/EBU interface between the transport and processor creates jitter; and 3) the digital processor adds its own jitter to the clock. These additive factors are largely responsible for the great range in sound quality we hear from different transports and interfaces.

Robert Harley  |  May 16, 2019  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1994  |  0 comments
Thomas R. Marshall's famous phrase, "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar," should be modified for the 1990s to be "What this world needs is a good $1500 preamplifier."

It's hard to find a good full-function preamp (ie, one that includes a phono stage) at a reasonable price these days. There are plenty of great preamps on the market, but they tend to be expensive or line-stage only—or expensive line stages. Moreover, many manufacturers are omitting phono stages altogether, on the assumption that people don't listen to LPs anymore.

Robert Harley, J. Gordon Holt  |  Apr 09, 2019  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1990  |  6 comments
In 1988, Bob Carver set out to design the best amplifier he possibly could, without regard for cost. It was more of an ego exercise than an attempt to build a product with wide commercial appeal. The result was the four-chassis, $17,500 Silver Seven.

Interestingly, Bob Carver chose vacuum tubes to realize his dream of building the ultimate power amplifier. The Silver Seven uses fourteen KT88 output tubes per channel, and puts out 375W into 8 ohms. Bob built three pairs of Silver Sevens, not expecting to sell many at the $17,500 asking price. When those sold quickly, another 10 pairs were manufactured. Now, demand is so great that Silver Sevens are built in groups of 30 pairs.

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