Thomas J. Norton

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.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Apr 23, 2019  |  12 comments
Visit any consumer audio show these days and you'll see rooms full of systems costing from six to seven figures. Manufacturers like to put their best foot forward, and demoing systems with loudspeakers designed to sell for $50,000/pair and up (often up) seems an obvious way to go.

It's also common for an audio company to launch its flagship models first, and only later release more affordable products, for a wider range of buyers. The hope is that the promotional shine of the dream products will be reflected onto the budget models.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 14, 2019  |  25 comments
Q Acoustics was founded in the UK in 2006, but has appeared on the radar of US buyers only in the last few years. Until recently, Q has aimed its efforts at the budget sector, earning enthusiastic reviews and commercial success.

But during that time the company also been quietly working on a product considerably more upscale, though still affordable in a marketplace now glutted with products at if-you-have-to-ask prices. The result is the Concept 500 ($5999.99/pair), first seen in the UK in 2017 and recently made available here. But you won't find it at your local audio shop (if you still have one); in the US it's currently sold only online, through Q Acoustics' US website, with a 30-day, money-back guarantee that includes shipping costs—both ways.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Nov 27, 2018  |  35 comments
German manufacturer Elac had a significant North American presence in the 1960s and '70s, primarily with its Miracord automatic turntables. While it eventually disappeared from the US market, Elac never ceased to be a player in Europe, where it eventually shifted its primary focus from turntables to loudspeakers.

When Elac decided to reenter the US market a few years ago, its success was hardly assured. Faced with hundreds of brand names and thousands of models fighting for attention, it hired veteran speaker guru Andrew Jones to improve the odds. In his previous work, first for KEF and then for TAD and Pioneer, Jones had built a solid reputation on designing well-received, cost-no-object speakers as well as high-value budget designs.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 26, 2018  |  9 comments
Stop me if I've said this before (okay, I have): There's much to be said for integrated amplifiers. While separates have long dominated high-end audio, an increasing number of integrated products not only bundle a preamp and power amp, but sometimes add digital inputs of various flavors, phono stages, bass and treble controls (long on life support in audiophile gear), and more.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 25, 2018  |  6 comments
Notwithstanding the twists and turns of Japanese corporate culture, the status of Technical Audio Devices Laboratories, Inc. remains unchanged. Founded in 1975 as a subsidiary of Pioneer to build loudspeakers for the professional market, TAD remains part of that corporation, even after the recent sale of Pioneer's home-audio division to Onkyo.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Sep 05, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1989  |  1 comments
666mc500.promo.jpgThe Genesis 500 ($650) is the baby brother of Monster Cable's top-of-the-line Genesis 1000 cartridge. It is almost identical in physical appearance, differing only in its use of green body trim (the 1000 sports red pinstripes). All of the functional differences appear to be in the stylus and cantilever. The cantilever of the 500 is a hollow sapphire rod tightly attached to an inner aluminum tube (the 1000 has a diamond-coated boron tube cantilever). Its stylus is a 6µm x 35µm line-contact (3µm x 60µm for the 1000). Monster claims a stylus life in excess of 600 hours for the Genesis 500, more than 1000 hours for its higher-priced sibling.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Apr 06, 2017  |  9 comments
The last few years have seen a flood of new integrated amplifiers in an audiophile market traditionally wedded to separate preamps and power amps. That might reflect the fact that integrated amps make a lot of sense, and not only because they usually cost less than equivalent separates. The latter gained a foothold in audio's Paleolithic era, when tubes were the only game in town. Tubes generate lots of heat—an enemy of electronics—and separating the preamp stages from the output devices kept this under control. Yes, there were integrated amplifiers back then, but they were generally of very low power—25Wpc was once considered monumental.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 07, 2017  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1991  |  3 comments
The $499 NAD 5000 looks nothing like most inexpensive CD players. Its plastic trim doesn't look cheap. It doesn't look expensive either, but it certainly won't be embarrassed to show its face in polite company. The front panel is neatly arranged and easy to interpret and use. It's the smallest and lightest of the present company of players—the only obvious physical reflections of its low-budget heritage. Inside, however, NAD has done a lot to put your money where it counts.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 02, 2017  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1995  |  1 comments
When I requested the Snell Music and Cinema Reference System for review, plus the new Snell Type A Music Reference System for evaluation, little did I know what I was letting myself in for. I lost count of the number of large shipping cartons delivered to my garage—though I'm sure the delivery man didn't. Except for the subwoofers, all the individual pieces are relatively small. But together they form a system that definitely demands both attention and a large room to sound its best and to keep it from visually overpowering the space.

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