Rogier van Bakel

Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 17, 2024  |  0 comments
Magico turns 20 this year, but founder and chief designer Alon Wolf isn’t the type for gauzy remembrances. In Magicoland, looking ahead beats looking back, so we’ll have to marvel some other time at how the Californian brand has shot to the top of the high-end heap.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 17, 2024  |  1 comments
On the 12th floor of the Schaumburg Renaissance hotel, visitors found a cluster of Fidelity Imports rooms that highlighted one strong foreign brand after another.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 15, 2024  |  7 comments
During a ferocious storm one recent Saturday, firefighters knocked on my door and urged my family and me to evacuate. The gale had smashed loose a neighbor's large propane tank and plunged it into the choppy waters of the fjord we live on. An explosion was possible, we were told. Five minutes later, our teenage daughters, our dogs, and my wife and I were in the car on our way to safety. (No blast occurred.)

Coincidentally, the last thing I'd read that turbulent morning was the Washington Post's front-page story about the late Ken Fritz (above), a diehard audiophile who'd spent 40 years creating "the best stereo system in the world," and, as I wrote in the April 2024 issue's My Back Pages, alienating members of his family in the process. Both the evacuation and the Fritz tale put me in a pensive mood. If you'll pardon the triteness, each reminded me that life is precious and fragile, as are our relationships with loved ones. We can't afford to take either for granted.

Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 13, 2024  |  0 comments

The amiable and loquacious Jason Zidle is a product manager at Lenbrook, the Canadian company behind NAD and Bluesound. Lenbrook also imports Denmark’s storied DALI speakers. At the Renaissance hotel in Schaumburg, the star performers in the Lenbrook space are a handsome pair of just-launched DALI Epikore 11 floorstanders ($60,000/pair).

Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 13, 2024  |  0 comments
On Thursday night, Chris Shaw, one of Focal’s setup men, was having a tough time. He’d almost finished dialing in the 584-lb Focal Grande Utopias EM Evo speakers, but their bass (14Hz at -6dB) caused a ceiling light fixture in the large Focal/Naim room to rattle. Shaw pushed a printed show banner out of the way to make space for a ladder. A few minutes later, thanks to some sticky tape, the distracting noise was gone.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 04, 2024  |  63 comments
All photos by Rogier van Bakel. Compositing by David Evett.

For Christmas in 2020, a friend sent me a gift: a coffee mug decorated with a one-out-of-five-stars rating for the annus horribilis the world had just been through. The caption on the ceramic read, "VERY BAD WOULD NOT RECOMMEND."

True, the pandemic year and the lockdowns had been no fun, to put it mildly, but that doesn't mean there were no positives. Every day, rain or shine, my 10-year-old daughter and I played soccer on the field behind our house. We—pointlessly, I concede—trained our shepherd to walk backward on command. I savored having more time to read, watch movies, and take naps when the urge struck. Finally, I used the long stretch of weeks, then months, to rekindle my lifelong infatuation with music. Thousands of old and new recordings kept me balanced and tethered me to the rest of humanity during the dark days of social distancing. Rarely had music soothed and comforted me more than during the 10 months before the vaccines arrived.

My musical appreciation—reverence at times—was due in part to the new Tekton Moab floorstanders . . .

Rogier van Bakel  |  Mar 27, 2024  |  23 comments
The late Ken Fritz discusses his legendary audio system, from the YouTube video One Man’s Dream

When Ken Fritz died, many people wondered what would become of his stereo system. Fritz's rig was the stuff of legend. The audiophile from Chesterfield, Virginia, had built much of it with his own hands, including line-array speakers too tall to fit in most people's homes. They took 5400 hours to complete and were appraised at more than $200,000. He also designed and built a three-arm turntable that sat on a unique 1500lb antivibration platform. Fritz felt that his "Frankentable" rivaled or bested record players costing well into six figures.

That was just the beginning.

Rogier van Bakel  |  Jan 23, 2024  |  2 comments
Bluetooth headphones have brought me joy for years—sometimes a little too much. Once, while waiting for a flight at my regional airport, I switched on the active noise cancellation, closed my eyes, and got so sucked in by Elvis Costello's album Imperial Bedroom that I didn't hear the boarding calls. It was no fun texting my client that I'd missed my flight. I fibbed that I'd been stuck in traffic, because blaming Costello for delivering such an immersive triumph would've been uncouth.

For all their convenience, Bluetooth headphones and earbuds have fundamental problems. Take their batteries (please). They're only fully rechargeable 300–500 times, which means that after just two or three years of moderate-to-heavy use, most people toss their depleted wireless ear-fi in a drawer and buy a new pair.

Rogier van Bakel  |  Jan 11, 2024  |  47 comments
What goes into building and outfitting a listening room? One of Stereophile's reviewers found out first-hand—and almost bit off more than he could chew. A tale of white powder, a mummified dog, and various deals with the devil.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Oct 13, 2023  |  30 comments
How do you know you're beyond help as a card-carrying audiophile? For me, it happened during a recent trip to Italy. Several times a day, my thoughts drifted to the Focal Maestro Utopia Evo speakers that had been delivered two days before I left for Europe. At one point, I considered FaceTiming the housesitter to request a live view of the listening room, where the Maestros were playing music, breaking in.

Chrissakes! Couldn't I just enjoy la dolce vita? Savor the belly-busting meals in Treviso and Civitavecchia, surrender to Tuscany's soul-soothing landscapes, thrill to Rome's old-world charms? Ninety-nine percent of the time, I did. The trip was a delight, and I wouldn't have missed it. But yes, I thought of those Maestros several times a day. The heart wants what the heart wants.