Rogier van Bakel

Rogier van Bakel  |  Mar 07, 2023  |  16 comments
You won't see many Apple products in these pages, and for good reason. As Stereophile Editor Jim Austin wrote to me recently in an email, "Apple may have the best acoustic-design facilities in the world, but its products are designed by engineers who don't seem to respect perfectionist sound—which is appropriate for a company that aims for the vast middle of the bell curve." Has that changed?
Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 26, 2023  |  2 comments
It was bound to happen sometime. The day after my return from the Florida Audio Expo, I tested positive for COVID. I'd worn a facemask on the plane, but not during the three days of pressing the flesh, listening, and reporting. (In fact, no one at the show did.) I suppose I paid for my lack of super-caution with several days of chills, headaches, violent coughing, and brain fog. This also accounts for the delay in getting the final batch of show reports out to you. Apologies!
Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 25, 2023  |  1 comments
A real drum kit at the Florida expo? Standing in the second-floor hallway, I could've sworn I heard just that. Five seconds later, reality set in when Dave Brubeck's famous piano chords joined Joe Morello's 5/4 jazz groove. It was the recorded sound of Morello's drums on "Take Five" that had emanated from the Embassy Suites' Kennedy Room, where High End by Oz, a Connecticut distributor, was demoing its wares. (I sincerely love it when my brain gets tricked like that.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 25, 2023  |  1 comments
"There's a party going on in Room 713, and only true freaks are invited!" That's the promise of a bawdy little book called Room 713, about four friends who travel to another city and indulge in outsized carnal pleasures.

No such titillation was to be had in room 713 of the Embassy Suites in Tampa, but other delights abounded. To wit: a pair of Triangle Magellan Quatuor 40th-anniversary speakers ($20,000/pair), plus three Electrocompaniet components: the new AW 800M NEMO 2 monoblock used as a stereo amplifier (800W in mono, 300Wpc in stereo, $22,500), the EC 4.8 MkII preamp ($4900), and an ECM 1 MkII streamer ($5700). Wireworld took care of the cabling.

Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 24, 2023  |  7 comments
Last year, on the hunt for high-quality espresso beans, I visited some specialty coffee websites. On one forum, I came across this description of a particular roast: "I tasted mild acidity and bitters with hazelnut, bourbon, and a hint of dark cherry. As it began to cool, there was a hint of black raspberry syrup or cordial. Then a dominant note emerged of nuts with mild distillates, walnut bitters, cacao nib and something between 82% dark chocolate and baker's chocolate. ... Further cooling offered the surprise of dark piecrust and a bitter cherry liqueur. The piecrust then rounded to a slightly sweet dark rye. There was a lingering aftertaste of single malt scotch that eventually faded to baker's chocolate with a hint of ashiness."

I had enough self-awareness to realize that in the hi-fi world we sometimes prattle on about hi-fi in ways that, to outsiders at least, must seem just as fustian and florid.

Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 22, 2023  |  1 comments
In Tampa, Latvian brand Aretai made another very good impression with its 100S speaker, a 2.5-way standmount in a sealed box ($9000/pair). Visually this speaker was among the more arresting offerings at the Florida expo: a neodymium-magnet tweeter in a handsome white horn sits atop a 16"-tall, matte-black enclosure. (The 100S is also available in piano gloss and various wood veneers.) Each speaker has two 6" drivers that deliver bass down to about 32Hz.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 21, 2023  |  6 comments
Although TAD is a Japanese brand, there's something dry, almost German about the name, which stands for Technical Audio Devices. It's comparable, in my book, to T+A, one of Germany's leading high-end companies, whose initials mean Theorie + Anwendung—that's Theory + Application. I like this just-the-facts approach, as long as the products leave room for emotion . . . maybe even a spot of sorcery. On that score, no worries about either brand.

After a years-long absence, TAD is back on the US market, represented by Dave Malekpour of Massachusetts' PAD Hifi Distribution (PAD stands for Professional Audio Design. Were these two made for each other or what?)

Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 21, 2023  |  0 comments
One new Focal product was present at the Florida show, sitting on the floor in a corner: the Littora 200 OD Stone 8 outdoor loudspeaker ($799 each), shaped like a roughly 17" pebble. Littoras are "designed for listening in marine, coastal and wet settings," says Focal. Oddly, an indented band of indeterminate function runs around the back of the speaker's faux-stone enclosure, doing nothing to make the model 8 seem like a naturally-occurring object. Humph.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 20, 2023  |  0 comments
While my collection of personal audio is pretty much complete (with high-end entries from HiFiMan, Audeze, Focal, and Sennheiser), I'd consider an addition from Britain's Warwick Acoustics if I were currently in the market for further headphone bliss. Warwick's Aperio Black (above)—a $32,000 combo of a balanced electrostatic amp/energizer plus an accompanying open-back headset—is near the top of Mount Olympus.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 20, 2023  |  0 comments
A friend had advised me to go listen to the single-ended Auris Nirvana IV headphone amplifier ($5700), deeming it "in some ways" an improvement over Auris's beloved Headonia model. Mission accepted.