Ken Micallef

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Ken Micallef  |  Apr 04, 2019  |  6 comments
"I have an organic approach toward music but I've always been interested in electronics," says Jean-Michel Jarre, whose luxurious electronic pop conquered the world in 1976 with his hit album Oxygène. Even today, Oxygène's bubbling tones and saturated textures provide a blissful sonic experience. "I love jazz because of its organic approach to sound, and I've been influenced by that. I always thought that jazz and electronic music have much more in common than we think."
Ken Micallef  |  Mar 29, 2019  |  11 comments
I first met Pro-Ject Audio Systems' founder and president, Heinz Lichtenegger, in 2016, at the US launch of the Austrian company's The Classic turntable. His passion for all things hi-fi was so intense I thought his head might explode. Gleeful in his mission to bring high-end audio to the people at less than typical high-end prices, Lichtenegger and Pro-Ject can fairly claim bragging rights for their entry-level Debut Carbon (DC) ($460 and up), one of the world's best-selling turntables.
Ken Micallef  |  Feb 21, 2019  |  42 comments
As Stereophile's lone New York City bachelor, I sometimes search for amore on Internet dating sites. One such encounter led me to Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I met a woman who, I soon learned, was at the top of the food chain of Manhattan's gold-encrusted arts community.

The single child of an upper-Westchester family, Jane So (not her real name) assists her employer in curating fine art for the city's premier galleries and museums. Her job also includes gifting her employer's millions to charitable organizations and the like. But in her off hours, when the boss isn't watching, Jane enjoys a bit of kink. As she told me over dinner, "Ken, I'm not looking for anything serious. I have several men who visit me during the week."

It dawned on me: I had stumbled into New York's subterranean sex world.

Ken Micallef  |  Feb 14, 2019  |  2 comments
Only a few months after the extraordinary news and release of John Coltrane's Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album on Impulse! Records, which revealed the tenor and soprano saxophonist deep in transitional mode, comes Universal Music/Verve's attempt to cash in on the Trane fever. Joining music from The Lost Album with selections from other albums recorded by Coltrane in that year, 1963: New Directions brings Coltrane's legacy to our commercially crass, modern marketplace.
Ken Micallef  |  Jan 31, 2019  |  19 comments
In the 1990s, while putting together one of my early hi-fi systems, I'd often visit New York City audio retailer Sound by Singer to gawk at their top-tier wares. On one such visit I noticed a serious-looking gentleman listening to Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring through a pair of Audio Physic's Step loudspeakers (accompanying electronics long forgotten). Sitting on their dedicated, minimalist-looking metal stands, the pint-size Steps were angled up 22° or so, to create a physical time alignment of the tweeter's and midrange-woofer's wavefronts. The Step looked odd—kind of scrawny. But these petite minimonitors projected music that seemed to exist entirely free of their cabinets, pulling off a sort of "disappearing" act I'd never before heard.
Ken Micallef  |  Dec 20, 2018  |  14 comments
One summer in the mid-2000s I purchased a pair of Cambridge Audio components for my red-headed, tango-dancing Texas girlfriend. She quickly saw through my ruse to install some solid hi-fi in her New Jersey home away from home—but eventually she acquiesced, and soon Michael Martin Murphey (she), the Beatles (me), and Miles Davis (us) filled our weekends with music. Inspired by a Sam Tellig column I read around that time, I paired a Cambridge Azur integrated amplifier and CD player with a pair of Triangle Titus XS minimonitors. The sound produced by this quartet was clean, precise, and altogether pleasurable—for a total of about $1300.
Ken Micallef  |  Dec 11, 2018  |  3 comments
Wayne Shorter is 85. His mind moves at warp speed, a million miles from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, who rescued him from Newark, New Jersey—or the Miles Davis's second great quintet, for which the saxophonist wrote the compositions that would establish his genius. Shorter's constellation of classic Blue Note recordings from 1964–67—Night Dreamer, JuJu, The All Seeing Eye, ETC, The Soothsayer, Adam's Apple, Speak No Evil, Schizophrenia—is now but a dim cluster of stars in his ever-expanding musical galaxy.
Ken Micallef  |  Dec 06, 2018  |  6 comments
In the early 1990s, the Compact Disc was all the rage, and vinyl records were being executed en masse. Thirty years later, and oh, how our tables have turned. Mint first pressings of tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley's 1957 album Hank Mobley (Blue Note BLP 1568), which once could be had for $40, now bring upward of $8000. Each. Vinyl continues to enjoy a global resurgence of popularity, while CD sales have plummeted to all-time lows.

What happened? Apparently, yesterday's pops and ticks are today's "warmth," Record Store Day exclusives, and skyrocketing vinyl values. All things old . . .

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 18, 2018  |  28 comments
Even newbie audiophiles can be smitten with the vintage hi-fi bug. Keyboardist and composer John Escreet was once a streaming kind of guy. Then he heard the Fisher 500-C/Falcon LS3/5a-endowed system of bassist Matt Brewer, partner of former Stereophile editorial coordinator Jana Dagdagan.
Ken Micallef  |  Nov 14, 2018  |  3 comments
On the morning of November 9th, 2018, Stereophile's caffeinated crew of Jim Austin, Sasha Matson, Herb Reichert, and myself arrived at the New York Audio Show with the intention to invade each exhibitor's room as an opinion-bearing, glad-handing tribe. ("Hello—we've come from Stereophile to put fear into your heart and a quick step to your cueing finger. Now play me some Nils Lofgren!")

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