Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef  |  Sep 24, 2021  |  16 comments
In May of 2019, I heard about a promising jazz vinyl and hi-fi estate sale happening on New York's Upper East Side. Little did I know then what treasures the dig would yield.

Jazz Record Center's Fred Cohen had called from the UES apartment, the former residence of late CBS Records and Sony Entertainment mastering engineer Harry N. Fein. Fred said, "The records are kind of beat, but the apartment is jammed with tape decks, turntables, cartridges, tubes, midcentury modern furniture—get up here."

Ken Micallef  |  Sep 02, 2021  |  20 comments
No one taught me more about the heralded tone of Ortofon SPU cartridges, the magical pacing of idler-drive turntables, or the dynamics and speed of horn-loaded speakers than Art Dudley, Stereophile's late deputy editor. His equipment reviews and monthly Listening columns weren't merely tutorials on how to review audio equipment with insight and an individual voice; they were also an entertaining, informative immersion into the kind of hi-fi he loved. We also shared many conversations, though too few.
Ken Micallef  |  Jul 28, 2021  |  8 comments
In 1957, Switzerland-based Thorens introduced the TD 124 turntable, a record player destined to become a classic. (TD is an initialism for tourne disque, French for turntable.)

A Thorens brochure from that same year itemized the TD 124's "11 main elements that result in 41 advantages." It noted the turntable's "strongly ribbed, solid chassis, crafted in cast aluminum," and its two-part platter including a "flywheel [subplatter], crafted in stabilized cast iron, [which] possesses excellent characteristics for the magnetic shielding of the drive system, as well as great inertia." Continuing, it lauded the TD 124's "main bearing, fitted with a 14mm spindle made of hardened, mirror-polished steel," its braking system, leveling dials, surface-mounted spirit level, and four "mushroom-shaped, rubber dampers [that] guarantee smooth suspension in a built-in frame as well as decoupling from the base."

Ken Micallef  |  Jul 01, 2021  |  9 comments
Founded in 1995 by Uwe Bartel, Vincent Audio is owned by Sintron Distribution GmbH. Vincent launched its LS-1 preamplifier and D-150 hybrid stereo power amplifier the year the company was founded.

Vincent "offers two 'electrical concepts,'" states the Vincent website. "One side is solid state transistor products. The other is a hybrid technology featuring vacuum tubes on the input stages combined with solid state transistors in the output stage."

Ken Micallef  |  Jun 25, 2021  |  10 comments
When Pat Metheny was growing up in the small Missouri town of Lee's Summit, his family's home stood within can't-even-hear-yourself-shouting distance of the Missouri Pacific railroad. trains, tornadoes, freezing winters, hot summers, small-town isolation—all fed an imagination that (combined with plenty of practice) fed a legendary music career.
Ken Micallef  |  Jun 02, 2021  |  4 comments
My friend Courtney Grant Winston has led a storied life. A photographer by trade, Courtney has a gift for revealing his subjects' spirited personalities. He has photographed actor Morgan Freeman, Le Bernardin co-owner Maguy Le Coze, and celebrity chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Alain Ducasse, and Anthony Bourdain. Courtney took the iconic cover photo for Bourdain's 2000 breakout biography, Kitchen Confidential. Courtney's father was a Tuskegee Airman during World War II and a childhood friend of Billie Holiday. The voice of Courtney's mother, Dorothy, can be heard in Billie the recent documentary, speaking about the celebrated jazz singer's final days.
Ken Micallef  |  May 05, 2021  |  4 comments
In her reworking of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from my Friends," on the 2018 tribute album, A Day In The Life: Impressions Of Pepper (impulse records), Brooklyn guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson reinvents both her instrument and the song.

Most baby boomers can hum the tune of the Beatles' classic, from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, in a handful of notes. It might take longer to recognize Halvorson's joyous, angular version. A master of jazz phrasing, guitar technique, avant-garde discourse, and effects pedals, Halvorson bends the Beatles song to her 21st century will.

Ken Micallef  |  Apr 29, 2021  |  18 comments
Big changes are afoot at Mytek. First up: The Mytek Brooklyn AMP+, the newest version of the compact, class-D Brooklyn AMP. The AMP+ is already in production.

In my 2018 review of the original Brooklyn AMP, I wrote that the class-D amplifier exuded "a consistent sense of truthfulness, striking resolution that was never analytical, spacious soundstages, superb dynamics, and some of the 'blackest' backgrounds I've ever heard...with the right recordings." I continued, "The AMP let me revel in its reproduction of the low end, with zero overhang or bloat, and profoundly impressive retrieval of micro- and macrodetail—but in doing all this, its touch was always light and never surgical."

Ken Micallef  |  Mar 03, 2021  |  10 comments
Many established audio manufacturers owe their success, at least partly, to their components' signature sound. Consider the laidback "pipe and slippers" mien of my 1978 Spendor BC-1 loudspeakers, the rich tonal palette of my Shindo Laboratory amplifiers, or the celebrated drive and timing of late-'50s era Thorens TD-124 and Garrard 301 turntables.
Ken Micallef  |  Jan 22, 2021  |  3 comments
What sort of audiophile are you?

I think of myself as a critical listener, perhaps a purist, definitely an enthusiast, of music and audio, who enjoys both the journey and the nuts and bolts. I like my hi-fi direct, simple, and personal. Also, I guess I'm a little bit old-school: tube-driven amplifiers with point-to-point wiring; vinyl, preferably early pressings; spun with belt-drive or idler-drive turntables. I listen to digital audio, too—and when I do, I prefer nonoversampling DACs. I like high-efficiency, high-sensitivity floorstanding loudspeakers and prefer them horn-loaded.

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