John Atkinson

John Atkinson  |  Aug 30, 2018  |  60 comments
A highlight of my visit to AXPONA, held last April in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, was the Dynaudio room, where the two-way, stand-mounted Special Forty loudspeakers ($2999/pair) were being driven by a tubed Octave integrated amplifier. "The stereo image was superb," I wrote in my show report; "even more impressive [were] the solidity and believability of the softly struck bass drum that punctuates the Ramirez Misa Criola." I concluded that this dem "illustrated how matching a relatively small speaker to a smallish room can produce optimal and excellent sound quality."
John Atkinson  |  Aug 21, 2018  |  19 comments
The dingy green-and-ochre poster on the subway-station wall, advertising events at Queens's Forest Hills Stadium, didn't draw attention to itself. But what else is there to do on a subway platform but look at posters? I looked at it. There, near the bottom of the left column, I read: "SEPT 12: VAN MORRISON AND WILLIE NELSON & FAMILY."

Van Morrison. In concert. In Queens.

John Atkinson  |  Aug 14, 2018  |  47 comments
In a series of recent feature articles for Stereophile, Jim Austin has examined how the controversial MQA codec works: "MQA Tested, Part 1," "MQA Tested Part 2: Into the Fold," "MQA Contextualized," "MQA, DRM, and Other Four-Letter Words," and, most recently, "MQA: Aliasing, B-Splines, Centers of Gravity." I doubt there is a Stereophile reader who is unaware of the fracas associated with MQA, and I have been repeatedly criticized on web forums for describing its underlying concept as "elegant."

But elegant it is, I feel.

John Atkinson  |  Aug 09, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1988  |  4 comments
Introduced at the 1988 Summer CES, this preamplifier from San Francisco-based Parasound costs $395 and is manufactured in Taiwan. It does away with mechanical switching for source select and tape functions, replacing it with CMOS integrated-circuit switches similar to those used in the British Linn LK1 and Quad 34 and 44 models. Construction is to a good standard and the circuit is carried on two main pcbs and three small ones. Following a signal from the phono inputs, the MM-only RIAA amplifier is based on discrete FETs, its output joining the line-level signals at the switching ICs, these controlled by DC voltages controlled by front-panel pushbuttons.
John Atkinson  |  Jul 17, 2018  |  22 comments
Sssssshhhhhh—I forget what music was playing, but as the sound faded away, I could hear a loud hissing coming from the 2011 i7 Mac mini I was operating headless with Roon 1.3 to play files over my network. Checking the mini's shared screen on my MacBook Pro revealed that it was completely unresponsive, so I yanked its AC cord, after which it wouldn't boot up.

This was the second time the Mac mini had died. The first time, in 2015, the local Apple Genius Bar had repaired it. This time, the hipster at the Genius Bar turned me away: "We don't offer repair work on vintage computers."

John Atkinson  |  Jul 03, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 1981  |  40 comments
The author demonstrating stereo microphone techniques at an English audio show in 1981.

For most people the terms hi-fi and stereo are synonymous, and yet it is clear that there is still a great deal of confusion over what the word "stereo" actually means. There isn't even a consensus of opinion amongst producers of records, designers of hi-fi equipment, audio critics and music lovers as to the purpose of stereo, and considering that the arguments show no sign of diminishing in intensity, it is instructive to realise that 1981 sees both the 100th anniversary of Clement Ader's first stereo experiments and the 50th anniversary of Alan Blumlein's classic patent on stereo.

John Atkinson  |  Jun 14, 2018  |  106 comments
One of the benefits of being a reviewer is that, of the large number of products that pass through my listening room, occasionally there are those that I really would like to see take up more permanent residence. One of these was Wilson Audio Specialties' Alexia loudspeaker, which I reviewed in December 2013. "Its clarity, its uncolored, full-range balance, its flexibility in setup and optimization, and most of all its sheer musicality, are, if not unrivaled, rare," I wrote, and concluded: "If I were to retire tomorrow, the Wilson Alexia would be the speaker I would buy to provide the musical accompaniment to that retirement." Nothing I subsequently heard disabused me of that dream, though a couple of other speakers, in particular Vivid Audio's Giya G3 and KEF's Blade Two, joined the Alexia on my bucket list.
John Atkinson  |  Jun 07, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1989  |  0 comments
The Acustik-Lab SR Bolero loudspeaker ($1580/pair) debuted at the 1988 SCES in Chicago. I must own up right from the outset that I know nothing about the Swiss SR Trade (Acustik-Lab) company. I do know, however, that Audio Advancements' Hart Huschens was getting an intensely musical sound from their little Bolero speakers, driven by the German Klimo Kent tube amplifiers, at the 1988 Summer CES. I immediately asked for a pair for review; in addition, Mr. Huschens sent along a pair of the matching Bolero Forte woofers ($920/pair).
John Atkinson  |  May 07, 2018  |  22 comments
Photo: Corrina Jones

When JD Events' Liz MiIler invited me to give the keynote speech at the 2018 AXPONA, in Chicago suburb Schaumburg, I was at first not sure what to talk about. But then I realized that not only was 2018 the 32nd anniversary of my joining Stereophile as editor and the 42nd anniversary of my joining Hi-Fi News & Record Review magazine as a lowly editorial assistant, it also marked 50 years since I bought my first audio system!

John Atkinson  |  Apr 26, 2018  |  3 comments
When I asked NAD for a sample of their Masters Series M50.2 digital music player, which I reviewed in the December 2017 issue, they also sent me a Masters Series M32 DirectDigital integrated amplifier, which had also been introduced at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. Costing $3999, the M32 offers a continuous power output of >150W into 8 or 4 ohms. The M32 is the same size as the M50.2, and its smart-looking combination of matte black and gray-anodized aluminum panels make it look identical to the player, except for the black volume-control knob to the right of the front panel's four-color touchscreen, and the ¼" headphone jack at bottom left. It even has the same eight ventilation grilles inset in the black top panel.

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