Jim Austin

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Jim Austin  |  May 23, 2017  |  5 comments
"Let be."

Those two words, from Shakespeare's Hamlet, express an entire philosophy of life in one of the shortest sentences possible. The quotation may not be familiar, but the concept certainly is—contemporary equivalents, each with its own inflections of meaning, include: Shit happens. Let the game come to you. Keep calm and carry on. (I hate that one.) Paul McCartney wrote something similar, and only slightly less concise, in a late Beatles song.

Jim Austin  |  Dec 06, 2016  |  33 comments
Although I've never tried one, I think "lifestyle" audio systems are a bit of a joke. My in-laws' decade-old Bose Wave Radio sounds good for what it is, although its obvious flaws—boomy, undefined lower mids masquerading as bass, a frustrating lack of sonic and musical resolution, etc.—become grating fairly quickly. These days, there are far more accomplished and expensive lifestyle systems out there, but because I haven't tried them I won't comment on them, except to say that I'm not really interested.
Jim Austin  |  Nov 06, 2016  |  7 comments
The room was small, approximately square, with low ceilings, and—like all the rooms I visited at the show—very yellow…
Jim Austin  |  Oct 29, 2016  |  51 comments
Photo: Jason Victor Serinus

Exactly what did Bob Stuart (above) say at that press event earlier this month at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF)? Stuart—CEO of the company MQA, short for Master Quality Authenticated—made an announcement about the Warner Music Group's (WMG's) transcoding of their catalog into MQA format, a project announced last May. But what exactly did he say?

Eager for answers, I arranged a conference call. Over the course of about half an hour, Stuart (with an occasional assist from Lisa Sullivan, MQA's Director of Marketing) answered all my questions and more.

Jim Austin  |  Oct 28, 2016  |  0 comments
When I moved to New York City about a year ago, I was prepared to dislike Brooklyn. Judging it by its reputation as the apotheosis of cool, I envisioned the borough full of good-looking people engaged in pointless acts of mindless, stylish conformity, from man-buns to single-origin pour-over coffee. (Anyone up for adult kickball?) As I've written before, about Portland, Maine—a hipster place much indebted to Brooklyn—I greatly prefer deeply committed idiosyncrasy to mindless conformity.
Jim Austin  |  Aug 16, 2016  |  33 comments
Most people who have heard music recordings encoded with Master Quality Authenticated agree that it sounds really goood (footnote 1)—but even they recognize that at least one major challenge remains: ensuring that listeners can actually get, in MQA format, the music they most love. I spoke with Spencer Chrislu, MQA's director of content services, about the company's efforts to meet this challenge.
Jim Austin  |  Jun 21, 2016  |  5 comments
Stereophile hasn't reviewed a PS Audio power regenerator since February 2009, when Robert Deutsch tried the company's then-flagship, the Power Plant Premier ($2195). But earlier this year, as I prepared to write my review of PS Audio's NuWave DSD DAC (published in the May 2016 issue), a perfect opportunity to revisit the line came about: I read, in the owner's manual for the PSA DAC, that "power conditioners and the quality of the AC power can make a significant difference in sound quality." Eager to help the NuWave DSD put its best foot forward, I asked PS Audio to assist me in dealing with my AC power, which is marginal here in crowded New York City. They sent me their PerfectWave P10 Power Plant AC Regenerator ($4999)—and John Atkinson asked me to spill some ink on this most recent of the company's clean-power flagships.
Jim Austin  |  May 19, 2016  |  3 comments
I was lying on a mattress on the floor of an empty apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Not as grim as it sounds—it's a nice apartment, and the mattress was new, and had just been delivered—but it was hot (no air-conditioning), and my family and my furniture were still in my condo up in Maine, and I was lonely. I needed some cheering up. Which is how I rationalized the decision to buy an Explorer2, Meridian Audio's tiny, inexpensive ($299) digital-to-analog converter.
Jim Austin  |  Apr 28, 2016  |  0 comments
Researchers at MIT recently discovered a "music channel" in the human brain. These neural pathways respond to all kinds of music—and only to music. "A listener may relish the sampled genre or revile it," Natalie Angier wrote in the New York Times. "No matter. When a musical passage is played, a distinct set of neurons tucked inside a furrow of a listener's auditory cortex will fire in response"
Jim Austin  |  Jan 25, 2016  |  10 comments
Photo: Jim Austin

"'Happy' is our primary product," Elliot Fishkin, the proprietor of Innovative Audio, which is entering its 45th year of business, told visitors early Thursday evening, January 21. "We want you to be able to be connected to the music in profound ways." A small crowd was gathered in the lobby outside Innovative's newly renovated showrooms, in an expansive underground space on the east side of Manhattan, to hear amplifiers by VTL, cables by Transparent, and loudspeakers by Wilson Audio.

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