Jim Austin

Jim Austin  |  Oct 15, 2019  |  13 comments
One of my biggest surprises since I became the editor of Stereophile—and so started focusing more on all things audiophile—is how often I find myself thinking about the ethics of this hobby. This is unusual for me: I dislike moralism and prefer aesthetics to ethics.
Jim Austin  |  Oct 07, 2019  |  33 comments
In a late-August newsletter, PS Audio announced a major change in how it does business. In the United States, its home market, the company stopped selling its products through dealers and opted for a direct, online-only sales model. Outside the US, it will continue to sell through authorized dealers.
Jim Austin  |  Oct 03, 2019  |  17 comments
The Vivaldi—the four-box flagship product from digital audio specialists dCS—is, in my opinion, misnamed. Vivaldi the composer was an asthmatic priest who worked in an orphanage for 30 years and died in poverty. The Vivaldi stack dedicates four separate products to converting into music digital code stored on silver discs (although you can play music—very well I am sure—on just one box, the Vivaldi DAC, footnote 1). Together, those boxes weigh about 148lb and cost some $115,000. The most expensive is the CD/SACD transport; leave that off and you can save 51lb and $42,000.
Jim Austin  |  Sep 17, 2019  |  26 comments
Yup, you're in a strange position, all right. You're in love with a girl who is no more.—Haruki Murakami

The quote above, from Haruki Murakami's novel Kafka on the Shore, is addressed to Kafka, a 15-year-old boy who has fallen in love with the teenage ghost of an older woman. The woman is still alive, but ever since the death of her lover many years before, she has existed separate from her spirit. Falling in love with ghosts is something I've done often, starting at about Kafka's age.

Jim Austin  |  Aug 27, 2019  |  26 comments
A DAC/preamp/headphone amp from Class A of Stereophile's list of Recommended Components, updated with streaming and network-server capabilities—and it still sells for less than $3000? If you believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. (Har, har!)

Most Americans have heard that line before, but many may not know the story behind it—I didn't. George C. Parker, a real American person born in 1860, is famous for perpetrating audacious frauds, specifically sales of property he did not own and could not possibly have owned. He is reported to have sold the Statue of Liberty, Grant's Tomb, the original Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and—most famously—the Brooklyn Bridge that last one twice a week for several years, at prices ranging from $75 to $5000. Or so some say.

Jim Austin  |  Aug 15, 2019  |  22 comments
If you're a music fan—and if you're reading this, you probably are—you've heard this already: On June 11, the New York Times Magazine published an investigative report about a 2008 fire that destroyed a vault at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.

Workers were repairing a roof on an oft-reused movie set, heating asphalt tiles with a blowtorch. Protocol required the repairmen to stick around for one hour until the asphalt had cooled, to guard against fire. But shortly after they left, a fire broke out. Hundreds of firefighters fought it, pulling water from the lake once inhabited by The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Jim Austin  |  Jul 16, 2019  |  2 comments
By the time you read this, Munich's High End 2019 will be a distant memory. Yet as I write this, having just returned from Munich, the experience is fresh in my mind. It's the most compelling audio topic I can think of, crying out for commentary.

Munich is to audiophiles—to this one at least—what New York's 5th Avenue is to Black Friday shoppers. It's the audiophile version of flying through a canyon with a wing suit on. It's a giant rush, audio cocaine.

Jim Austin  |  Jun 20, 2019  |  27 comments
Mark Levinson isn't known as a budget brand, and most people would not consider $8500 a budget price for anything short of a new car. One could argue, though, that Levinson's new No.5805 integrated amplifier ($8500 with DAC and phono stage) is a budget component—combining high performance and build quality with a price tag that's moderate by hi-fi standards. Plus, there's a lot of functionality in one box.
Jim Austin  |  Jun 18, 2019  |  77 comments
Stereophile's first change in editorial leadership in 33 years calls for a restatement of the magazine's core principles.

Stereophile was founded in 1962 by J. Gordon Holt, on the premise that the best way to review an audio component is to listen to it. Following Holt as editor, John Atkinson turned that premise into a viable concern—a real magazine—and, in 1989, added a regular suite of measurements to Stereophile's otherwise subjective mix.

Jim Austin  |  May 17, 2019  |  63 comments
For those who listen with their ears and not their brain, perfectionist hi-fi offers many surprises.

A friend called me up a few weeks ago and asked if the DAC we both own had received an automatic firmware update he hadn't heard about; something had changed, it wasn't good, and he couldn't figure out what it was. His system's sound was suddenly pale and unfocused.

There had been no firmware update.

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