Jim Austin

Jim Austin  |  Dec 17, 2020  |  76 comments
Stereophile has discussed the pandemic occasionally because of its relevance to our industry and our listening lives. But for the most part, I've steered the magazine away from politics and current events, and I will continue to do so. In this essay, though, I will engage, glancingly, not with politics or current events but with an idea that's drawn from them. I'm doing it to make a point about audio.
Jim Austin  |  Dec 14, 2020  |  29 comments
(Photo by Mary Kent)

Of late, Stereophile has written a lot about vibration-isolating footers under loudspeakers. The idea of isolating loudspeaker vibrations from floors is controversial. Many (perhaps most) designers believe that dynamic loudspeakers in particular—those with significant moving mass in their cones—should be rigidly connected to the floor as is typically done with spikes. A rigid connection of the speaker to the floor reduces the Newton-1 reactive motion of the cabinet in response to the motion of the cones, heavy woofers in particular. Cabinet motion could be expected to smear the loudspeaker's sound.

Jim Austin  |  Nov 20, 2020  |  18 comments
This is Stereophile's 29th Product of the Year issue; the first appeared in 1992. That was the year I finished grad school. It seems like a long time ago.

That year, the Loudspeaker of the Year was the $14,000/pair Sonus Faber Extrema. The winning digital source was the legendary Mark Levinson No.30 DAC—also approximately $14,000. JA later bought one, upgraded to 30.5, then to 30.6 status. He still has it.

Jim Austin  |  Nov 18, 2020  |  51 comments
In my early years of writing about audio (footnote 1), I was known—to the extent that I was known at all—as something of an objectivist. I was, after all, working as an editor at a leading science journal at the time, just a few years out from a brief career as an actual scientist, still in recovery from the physics PhD I'd earned a decade or so before.
Jim Austin  |  Oct 21, 2020  |  3 comments
Last month, I received so few vinyl reissues that I had to invite a guest writer—jazz critic and political commentator Fred Kaplan—to fill in. Fred had managed to grab an early copy of the excellent Analogue Productions 45rpm reissue of Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival. I didn't get mine until a week or so after his review was submitted.

This month, I have a tall stack to choose from, so I'll mention several.

Jim Austin  |  Oct 15, 2020  |  39 comments
I've written before in this space that to me the most wondrous aspect of our avocation (apart from the music) is the way it exists at the intersection of logic and emotion, of science and art. The equipment we use is made by engineers applying scientific principles, yet its goal is to deliver sensual pleasure. Both viewpoints are valid.
Jim Austin  |  Sep 24, 2020  |  13 comments
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania–based hi-fi dealer Now Listen Here is holding a real, live, non-Zoom event this coming weekend, September 26 and 27, 2020, at the Hyatt House in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, next to the King of Prussia mall.
Jim Austin  |  Aug 26, 2020  |  10 comments
My first exposure to Manger Audio loudspeakers, which are based on the "bending-wave" technology invented years ago by the company, was to the Manger p2, their passive flagship speaker, at the 2019 AXPONA. I heard it again a month or so later at High End Munich. I was impressed both times, especially by its transient and spatial performance.
Jim Austin  |  Aug 21, 2020  |  19 comments
Used copies of Sonny Rollins's classic 1957 record Way Out West are easy enough to find. The album has been reissued some 30 times on vinyl, most recently in 2018 on Craft Recordings (but read Michael Fremer's take on that reissue before buying). You can still buy Original Jazz Classics reissues from 1988—sealed —for about $20.

If you want an early pressing, though, your opportunities are limited. If you want an early pressing in collectable condition, expect to pay real money. And if you want that early pressing in pristine condition, good luck with that.

Jim Austin  |  Aug 12, 2020  |  21 comments
Listening rooms are real, imperfect places. Their character arises from their defects. I like real, imperfect things (footnote 1).

Not that there's such a thing as a perfect listening room. Every domestic listening room shares the same basic problem: Its most fundamental nature—its size and shape, the amount of space it carves out—results in resonances that can profoundly alter the sound of reproduced music, especially in the bass.

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