John Atkinson

John Atkinson  |  Feb 23, 2024  |  31 comments
When standalone digital/analog processors made an appearance a quarter-century ago, they were limited to the CD medium's 16 bits of resolution—at best. These days, almost every DAC can process at least 24 bits, and many models offer between 20 and 21 bits of real-world resolution. Modern models from Benchmark, dCS, Merging, Mola Mola, Okto, and Weiss illustrate not just the skill of the circuit designer but also that of the engineer who laid out the printed circuit board.

One of the first digital processors I encountered that offered 21 bits of resolution was the Weiss DAC202, which Erick Lichte reviewed in January 2012. Subsequent processors from this Swiss company have consistently performed well, not just on the test bench but also in the listening room.

John Atkinson  |  Jan 10, 2024  |  13 comments
Three products were recently subjected to second opinions: I reviewed the revised RS250A version of HiFi Rose's RS250 streaming D/A preamplifier and the optional DC1 DAC module for Audio Research's I/50 integrated amplifier; Ken Micallef wrote about his time with the Volti Razz loudspeaker.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 29, 2023  |  126 comments
When I reviewed the Concept 50 loudspeaker from the UK's Q Acoustics in August 2022, I concluded that the Concept 50 lowers the sweet price spot for affordable tower speakers to $3000/pair. Now I have another pair of Q Acoustics loudspeakers in the house for review. Like the earlier speaker, the 5040 is a slim, elegant-looking tower with a vertical D'Appolito drive-unit array comprising a 0.9" fabric-dome tweeter positioned between the two 5" plastic-cone woofers. But the price is half that of the Concept 50: $1499/pair. Will this be a new sweet spot? We shall see.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 07, 2023  |  2 comments
I first met Musical Fidelity's founder, Antony Michaelson, in 1978, when he was running tube amplifier manufacturer Michaelson & Austin. I still have an M&A TVA-10 amplifier, which was designed by the late, great Tim de Paravicini. Soon after Antony founded Musical Fidelity in 1982, he employed de Paravicini to design the A1 integrated amplifier.

The A1 was a slim solid state design with a class-A output stage that output 20Wpc into 8 ohms. By contrast, the massive, dual-mono Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 800 integrated amplifier, which Michael Fremer reviewed for Stereophile in November 2015, featured nuvistor tubes for its small-signal circuitry, coupled with a solid state, class-AB output stage that could deliver 330Wpc into 8 ohms.

John Atkinson  |  Nov 17, 2023  |  0 comments
When we introduced Stereophile's Product of the Year awards in 1992, we decided that, unlike some other publications' awards schemes, we would avoid what the late Art Dudley once described as the "every child in the class gets a prize" syndrome. We decided to keep the number of categories to the minimum. That way, in Loudspeakers, for example, high-value minimonitors would compete with cost-no-object floorstanders. In Analog Products, turntables would compete with tonearms, phono cartridges, and phono preamplifiers. And in Amplification, single-box integrated amplifiers would go up against separates. In Budget Product of the Year, we lumped everything together, recognizing products from every category that offered the best sound for the buck. The overall Product of the Year, meanwhile, would be the winner of all the winners—a single product, unless the voting resulted in a tie.

To be considered for our 2023 awards, products must have been subjected to a full review or considered in a column published from the November 2022 issue through the October 2023 issue. Each product was subjected by the reviewer to a thorough evaluation over a period of weeks or months—plus, for regular reviews (not columns), a session in my test lab.

John Atkinson  |  Oct 19, 2023  |  15 comments
Loudspeakers from British manufacturer Monitor Audio have consistently received favorable reviews in Stereophile over the past decades. From the R952MD I reviewed in January 1988 to the Silver 500 7G reviewed by Rob Schryer in February 2022, Monitor Audio speakers have offered excellent sound quality and high-quality engineering. So when I was offered the company's Platinum 300 3G for review, I readily agreed. Having lived with standmounts and minimonitors for the past year, I felt it would be good to spend some time with a pair of large, full-range, three-way floorstanders.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 18, 2023  |  15 comments
The first true high-end component I owned was an Audio Research SP-10. I reviewed this two-box, tubed preamplifier in the May 1984 issue of the English magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review. "The SP-10 presented [recorded] information in a more coherent, less distorted manner than any preamp I've tried," I wrote in the review, concluding that "the SP-10 made me realize how many good records I owned." I purchased the SP-10 and brought the preamplifier with me when I moved to the US. Four decades later, I still have that SP-10. "Every now and again, when I want to be reminded of the magic it brings to my music, I set it up, plug in the tubes, and spend an evening spoiling my ears," I wrote for an article in Ken Kessler's 2020 book on the history of Audio Research.

I was planning to review the latest product from Audio Research, the I/50 integrated amplifier, which costs $5500, earlier this year. However, with the uncertainty back then about the company's ownership, I postponed the review. When the news broke in June that Audio Research had been acquired by AR Tube Audio Corporation, a privately owned corporation that includes Valerio Cora of Canadian loudspeaker manufacturer Acora Acoustics as a director—see Industry Update in this issue—I unboxed the I/50 and set it up in my listening room.

John Atkinson  |  Aug 11, 2023  |  12 comments
Four products were subjected to second opinions in recent issues: Herb Reichert reviewed the Mk.II version of Klipsch's Reference Premiere RP-600M loudspeaker (above left); Ken Micallef wrote about his time with the MoFi Electronics SourcePoint 10 loudspeaker (above right); John Atkinson lived with the CH Precision I1 Universal integrated amplifier (above); and Julie Mullins auditioned Triangle's Antal 40th Anniversary Edition loudspeaker.
John Atkinson  |  Jun 02, 2023  |  6 comments
When Art Dudley reviewed the original PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream D/A processor in Stereophile's September 2014 issue, he very much liked what he heard. "For those who've waited for a computer-friendly DAC that offers, with every type of music file, the best musicality of which DSD is capable, the PerfectWave DirectStream may be in a class by itself," he concluded. It was computer-friendly because, with an add-in card, you could connect it with USB or to an Ethernet cable and use it with, for example, Roon or JRiver.

PS Audio discontinued the original DirectStream DAC in 2022, introducing its replacement, the DirectStream MK2, priced at $7999, in January 2023. At 17" × 4" × 14", the MK2 is the same size as its predecessor, and with its gloss-black MDF top panel, it looks very similar.