Herb Reichert

Herb Reichert  |  Apr 09, 2024  |  6 comments
I've been to a few bowling parties and passed a bottle around a few fire pits, but I've never watched an audiophile unboxing video. Lately though, I have been paying closer attention to my first impressions of each new audio product as it enters my realm.

I'm finding it interesting to notice how a device previously unseen and unheard declares itself one small step at a time as I open its box, feel its heft, observe its form, study its manual, and, finally, wire it into my system. Those start-up experiences, plus my gut feelings during my first moments of music listening, establish a tone of innocent discovery I wish would last the whole month. It never does.

I mention this because my first impressions for my first-ever review of an ARCAM product, the Radia A25 integrated amplifier, were in that "innocent and receptive" mode from the instant I saw the box sitting outside my door.

Herb Reichert  |  Apr 05, 2024  |  5 comments
It was almost Christmas, a perfect, chilly, blue-sky day to visit the Met Museum and see the Manet/Degas show before it ended. On my way, walking north on Madison Avenue, I passed the uptown branch of Gagosian Gallery and noticed a brightly lit poster behind thick glass announcing their exhibition of American artist Brice Marden's last paintings. The title of the show was "Let the painting make you," which sounded like an invite and a challenge, so of course I had to go in. I was in the perfect mood to ride in Gagosian's swanky private elevator and see how a famously serious painter with a six-decade career chose to communicate his last thoughts.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 29, 2024  |  149 comments
Decades ago, when I was peddling million-dollar sound systems, an astute potential customer asked me: "If I buy your very expensive system, what will I get that I'm not getting with my less expensive system?" Smiling my best fatherly smile, I whispered to his ear, "Goosebumps, tears, and laughter."

With a slightly worried look, he asked, "How much did you say those silver cables cost?"

Thirty years later
Changing audio cables always changes the sound of my system, sometimes a lot but usually just a little. Typically, the sonic effects of cable changes are modest shifts in focus, tone, or transparency. But sometimes during blue moons I've seen a new set of cables turn a blah, dull, fuzzy system into a macrodynamic, microdetailed one. Or turn a cool, mechanical-sounding system into something fierce and mammalian.

Herb Reichert  |  Jan 30, 2024  |  7 comments
I always say I can't find what I'm not looking for, which doesn't mean I always know what I'm looking for. And not knowing what I want is unsettling. Recently, I was reminded of the thoughts of French polymath-philosopher René Girard (1923–2015), who suggested that people are not actually motivated by specific things like lust or capital or power, as major philosophers have declared, but by subtle, disconcerting forces of existential desire for something outside ourselves, never actually knowing what that something is.

Girard explains how this not knowing drives history and invention. His main premise is that we feel desire but, not knowing what we desire, mimic the desires of others. These "others" we mimic constitute a third element, interrupting the lines of force between a person and the objects desired. This, according to Girard, makes desire, and by extension human evolution, a nebulous but powerful anthropological force engaged in forming human cultures.

In other words, you might like big speakers and fat speaker cables, but maybe only because people around you appear to like them. Same with cars and clothes and lovers.

Herb Reichert  |  Jan 26, 2024  |  32 comments
I can roll out of bed and install a $10,000 phono cartridge while finishing my coffee, but I postpone DAC installations until I am in the exact right mood to handle the potential stress—especially DACs with a touch screen and a complex menu. To my delight, Ferrum Audio's new Wandla digital converter was completely stress-free to install. It took only minutes to connect the USB-C cable, the Cardas Audio Clear Beyond interconnects, and 24V DC power adapter.

Connecting the power adapter caused a power-switch symbol to appear on the front panel touch screen. The moment I touched it, I smiled like the Cheshire Cat, because I saw a USB-C symbol, a loudspeaker symbol, three dots in a box, and a volume control bargraph. That told me the Wandla recognized my chosen input and was waiting for a signal. All that remained was for my Roon Nucleus+ server to recognize and enable the new DAC, which it did without prodding or reprimand. For me, that was a wow moment, a good start to what promised to be an interesting review.

Herb Reichert  |  Jan 02, 2024  |  11 comments
Recently I've been thinking a lot about the late Art Dudley and how Art worked humbly and relentlessly to get me to appreciate contemporary bluegrass, especially the work of renowned flat-picker Tony Rice. Back then, my contempt for contemporary bluegrass was equal to my contempt for contemporary country. Both seemed faux and shallow.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 28, 2023  |  8 comments
During my cub reporter days at Stereophile, I was always on the lookout, casting about for midlevel analog components I might latch on to, ones that could join my long-term daily-driver reference system by complementing the character of my midlevel DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 and Falcon LS3/5a loudspeakers. I was searching for these basic traits: alive and vigorous, clear and well-sorted, relaxed and natural. One of my first-ever Stereophile reviews, in the October 2014 issue, was of Sentec's EQ11 phono preamplifier, which featured six EQ choices, selectable from the front panel, Bakelite knobs, Switchcraft switches, and a gray Hammerite-paint finish.

When I reviewed the Sentec, I owned three turntables and about 300 records. But phono stage–wise, I was a beggar and a borrower, hoping a friend's phono pre or some review product would jump out of the deck and become my reference.

Herb Reichert  |  Dec 05, 2023  |  13 comments
My adoptive mother, Lily Mae, was a retired businesswoman and former fashion model turned stay-at-home mom and artist-painter with famously good taste in everything. She raised me to have good manners, an "active awareness of color and texture," and "an eye for form." She expected me to critique her paintings, her decorating, and her wardrobe, urging me constantly to develop "good taste in everything."

In Lil's world, a perfect day was for me to skip school and go with her clothes shopping at Marshall Field's, where it was my job to sit in a plush chair offering comments about which outfits had the best fabrics and best "complimented her form." She always said "form is bones" and fashion is about "how fabrics hang on people's bones."

Herb Reichert  |  Nov 28, 2023  |  11 comments
The pleasures of reviewing a new CD player reside in its light weight, compact dimensions, and, most of all, its ABC-simple installation: no cartridge to mount, no stylus to break, no step-up trans formers or cartridge-load values to explore. No server, no Ethernet switches, no digital processor or outboard clock, no NOS, OS, filter choices, or upsampling (usually), no DSD or DXD, no specialized cables, and-especially-no garish, billboard-sized LCD menu to trigger anxiety. Just plug the player in, connect it to a preamp, and choose a CD to play first.

Yes, folks, digital audio was once that simple.

I'm pleased to be reviewing a new CD player, the Viking from Hegel Music Systems, in part because Hegel's founder and chief engineer Bent Holter appears to feel the same way I do.

Herb Reichert  |  Oct 18, 2023  |  5 comments
If you've read any of my previous Dreams, you no doubt realize that I am an empiricist by trade—that I believe in the value of relaxed, mindful observation, especially if my solitary observances are independently corroborated by others. Whenever possible, I test my observations by getting either the Spin Doctor, the Audiophiliac, or my Russian neighbor to listen and tell me what they notice. If they notice the same things I noticed, independently, I relax. Corroboration is important because when I submit a review, I have an obligation to get it right. I need to be confident that readers, when they listen, will likely hear the same thing I heard, for themselves.

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