Alex Halberstadt

Alex Halberstadt  |  Nov 23, 2022  |  22 comments
People tend to believe that things are what they appear to be. This turned out to be the case in 2016, when Panasonic introduced the limited-edition Technics SL-1200GAE turntable. It appeared almost identical to an SL-1200—arguably the best-selling and most loved record player series of all time, discontinued in 2010 after more than 30 years—but it cost a whopping $4000. The similar model designation didn't help stem the griping that Panasonic had made a "fancy" version of their legendary DJ turntable at six times the price of the original.
Alex Halberstadt  |  Oct 25, 2022  |  11 comments
The first audiophile I met lived near a sewage treatment plant on the outskirts of Moscow. It was a few months after the Soviet Union collapsed, in 1992, when I was a college senior, and I recall walking with my father to his home past block after block of the identical dingy white tenements that encircle most Eastern European cities.
Alex Halberstadt  |  Jul 27, 2022  |  13 comments
My little corner of Brooklyn happens to have a terrific little record shop. I like it for the usual reasons: well-chosen merchandise, fair prices, fun music on the speakers while you browse. But I like it just as much because great record stores tend to resemble one another in more idiosyncratic ways, and this one has the earmarks of the great record stores of my youth.
Alex Halberstadt  |  Jun 22, 2022  |  18 comments
Sometime around 483 BCE, in Kushinagar, the capital of the Malla Republic in what today is the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, an aristocrat named Siddhārtha Gautama—known better to us as the Buddha, or the Awakened One—passed away. For 45 years, he had wandered the North Indian River Plain teaching a method of overcoming ignorance, craving, and the cycle of death and rebirth to a growing community of followers.
Alex Halberstadt  |  Apr 13, 2022  |  38 comments
One day in the mid-1990s, my friend J and I sat sprawled on the carpeted floor of a hi-fi shop in lower Manhattan, playing records. J, who was employed there as a salesperson, had dimmed the lights and locked the door of the listening room behind us to make sure we wouldn't be disturbed by actual customers. Earlier, he had lugged in a pair of homemade speakers that an elderly woman brought to the store, hoping to sell some of her late husband's gear.
Alex Halberstadt  |  Dec 22, 2021  |  13 comments
"Resolution can be a tricky thing when it comes to digital," my friend Michael Lavorgna recently told me. "Too much, and my focus shifts from music to sound; too little, and I become less engaged." Lavorgna, a visual artist and proprietor of the online audio-and-music publication Twittering Machines, is one of my favorite people to talk to about records, books, art, and hi-fi. We've been doing it for almost 20 years.
Alex Halberstadt  |  Nov 05, 2021  |  7 comments
Playlists embody who we are. We use musical affinities to understand (or at least categorize) others, not only as evidence of their aesthetic discernment but also of their emotional and political affiliations, which amount to an entire worldview. In other words, the database of favorite music that we carry around in our brains is no laughing matter. So, one of the most unexpected—and rewarding—things that can happen in music fandom is a complete and sudden inversion of one's beliefs. Which brings me to the perennially touchy subject of Steely Dan, a band that cleaves the ranks of listeners like a gold-plated katana.
Alex Halberstadt  |  Jun 18, 2021  |  12 comments
If you've ever paused in front of a painting by Peter Paul Rubens, you may have noticed that the canvas seems to glow. Everything in Rubens's paintings celebrates abundance. A golden light bathes his landscapes, and his figures are epitomes of radiant health—the women ample and voluptuous (a body type sometimes called "Rubenesque"), the men vigorous and athletic. Invariably, these expanses of rosy European flesh appear to be in motion, an effect Rubens mastered more thoroughly than arguably any artist of his age.
Alex Halberstadt  |  Feb 23, 2021  |  19 comments
A few months ago, a friend asked me to recommend a record player. This friend knows and loves music as much as I do; when he visits, we spend our time drinking wine and listening to records. Last time, it was Scott Walker, Fela, Joni Mitchell, Jacques Brel, Burzum, and both glorious sides of The Chronic.

"How much do you want to spend?" I asked cautiously. His answer: $500, tops.

Alex Halberstadt  |  Sep 23, 2020  |  13 comments
When I was a child, my father was a dealer in black-market records. We lived on what was then the outskirts of Moscow, in what was then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It was the 1970s, and our nation's record stores only sold discs of domestic manufacture, most of them wooly-sounding classical recordings on the Melodiya label. This meant that a healthy contingent of Muscovites valued records smuggled from what they referred to in hushed tones as "The West" more than just about anything else their rubles could buy.
X