Jim Austin

Jim Austin  |  Jun 14, 2024  |  6 comments
Photo: John Atkinson

If buying a hi-fi product from an internet retailer is like an arranged marriage, a hi-fi show is like speed dating. Not everyone, I realize, approaches hi-fi shows (or speed dating, for that matter) the same way, and anyway, the analogy between hi-fi and dating is far from perfect. Speed dating is how this year's AXPONA, America's biggest hi-fi show, held at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center (above) near Chicago in April, often felt to me as I moved from room to room. Every new system I heard had the potential to become a long-term relationship. Could I live with this one forever?

Jim Austin, Ray Chelstowski  |  Jun 12, 2024  |  3 comments
Beyoncé: Cowboy Carter; Various Artists: We Still Can't Say Good Bye: A Musicians' Tribute to Chet Atkins; Old 97's: American Primitive.
Jim Austin  |  May 24, 2024  |  12 comments
My first encounter with an Audiovector loudspeaker was at the 2019 Toronto Audiofest. Driven by colorful (both sonically and visually) Alluxity electronics, the R 3s sounded pure and very fine. As I sat listening to the R 3 Arretés, the R 8 Arreté, their big brother, sat quietly in the corner, seemingly pleased with the performance of its smaller sibling.

I ended up reviewing the R 8 instead of the R 3, which in retrospect hardly seems fair:It was the R3 I heard that day, the R 3 that attracted my attention and got me interested in the brand.

Jim Austin  |  May 16, 2024  |  1 comments
One of my coolest radio-related experiences happened just a few months ago, when, churning through FM stations in my car, I encountered a country-inflected male voice singing "Fast Car," the Tracy Chapman song. Rolling Stone dubbed "Fast Car" the 168th best song of all time. It has audiophile cred because its simple sonics (predominantly voice and acoustic guitar) and good engineering made it an important test track, used, eg, by Harman for listening tests and by others for assessing compression artifacts in MP3s.
Jim Austin  |  May 12, 2024  |  3 comments
Not every exhibit in Munich is colorful, but many are. Walking through the exhibit halls, I was inspired to try and catch some of the most striking.
Jim Austin  |  Apr 24, 2024  |  8 comments
With every passing season, a new audiophile-grade network switch hits the market. These products, which can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, do the same basic thing as network switches bought at Best Buy for $30 or so (except, in some cases, slower), but their manufacturers claim they are built to a higher standard to achieve better sound.

As with all signal-conditioning devices that operate completely in the digital realm—especially those that work at packet level (more correctly referred to as "frame-level" on the local side of the router, but that's a distinction that even few experts make)—the sonic efficacy of audiophile network switches is debated, the debate being, as usual, mainly between those who insist they hear a difference and those who insist, on theoretical grounds, that no difference is possible.

Jim Austin  |  Apr 16, 2024  |  First Published: Apr 14, 2024  |  0 comments

Harmonia—the recently renamed distribution arm of hi-fi company Upscale Audio—had four rooms on the 12th floor at AXPONA.

Jim Austin  |  Apr 15, 2024  |  6 comments

Ever since the announcement some two weeks ago, I've been eager to hear the SVS Ultra Evolution Pinnacle loudspeakers, which, at $2499 each—or, you guessed it, $4998/pair—are cheap in high-end terms but quite expensive for SVS.

Jim Austin  |  Apr 15, 2024  |  First Published: Apr 14, 2024  |  0 comments

In Schaumburg C, Rutherford Audio set up camp—and what a camp it was! Electronics by Accustic Arts, analog by Acoustic Signature and Vertere—two turntables—and loudspeakers by Stratton Acoustics, a speaker line I had not previously heard.

Jim Austin  |  Apr 15, 2024  |  0 comments

When I walked into this room, just before closing time on Sunday, the show’s last day, they were spinning vinyl. Two things are notable about that fact, at least to me.