John Atkinson

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John Atkinson  |  Jan 18, 2018  |  4 comments
MBL's Corona C15 monoblock has been one of my amplification references since I reviewed it in 2014, and as I've been reviewing DACs the past year or so, it was high time I spent time with one of the German company's digital products.

"Black shiny products are tough to photograph at shows, so trust me when I say the new N31 is dripping with gorgeousness not reflected in this photo," wrote Jon Iverson in his report from the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. And when I unpacked my review sample of the Noble Line N31 ($15,400), I was indeed taken with its looks.

John Atkinson  |  Jan 16, 2018  |  3 comments
When Jason Victor Serinus visited the Bluebird Audio room on the Venetian's 35th floor, he mentioned that Chord was demonstrating its Blu Mk.2 CD transport ($11,788) along with the Dave DAC that I reviewed and was impressed by last June. I chatted with Chord's digital guru Robert Watts (above in photo) about the new transport and he mentioned that it incorporated his latest WTA (Watts Transient Aligned) digital filter with a million taps! (The more taps there are, the closer a DAC can reproduce the timing information in the reconstructed analog signal—see my DAVE review for why Robert feels why this should be so.) I was puzzled, as a digital reconstruction filter belongs in a DAC, not a transport.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 16, 2018  |  1 comments
I was working on our video coverage of the 2018 CES with our resident videographer Jana Dagdagan, and as video is such a time sink, I wasn't able to visit as many rooms as I usually do. But one room I managed to visit and that stood out when it came to sound quality was Constellation's.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 13, 2018  |  72 comments
If there is one thing that raises the hackles of engineers, it is audiophiles' insistence that power cords affect sound quality. But at CES, AudioQuest's Garth Powell (right in photo, with AQ's Alex Brinkmann) was showing how changing just one cable in a system, the one connecting a Simaudio Moon CD player to a Niagara 700 power conditioner, could make or break the system's sound quality. Playing a track from Muddy Waters' Folk Singer, with Moon amplification and Magico S1 Mk.2 speakers, and without changing the volume, Garth compared AudioQuest's new Thunder cable ($700) with AC cables from other companies priced up to $18,000, culminating with the AudioQuest Dragon ($4000).
John Atkinson  |  Jan 13, 2018  |  1 comments
Some manufacturers weren't exhibiting at CES but did have suites elsewhere in the Venetian hotel. One such was Audio Research, who was showing the first amplifier to be designed following the passing of the company's long-time Senior Design Engineer, Ward Fiebiger, who died of a heart attack last March. The Ref160M monoblock offers around 150W into 8 ohms and will cost in the region of $30,000/pair.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 06, 2018  |  71 comments
An economy of information transmitted . . . what was encoded was only what was needed, nothing more. (footnote 1)

As I wrote in the January issue's "As We See It," Master Quality Authenticated (MQA), the encoding/decoding system developed by J. Robert (Bob) Stuart and Peter Craven, has been widely criticized, despite reports in this magazine and others that MQA-encoded files tend to sound better than the PCM originals from which they were derived. Also in last month's issue, Jim Austin investigated the time-domain performance of the MQA reconstruction filter and I examined some of the more general aspects, ending with: "Other criticisms of MQA involve its implications for the recording industry, for manufacturers of audio products, and for consumers. I will examine those in next month's 'As We See It.'"

John Atkinson  |  Dec 19, 2017  |  13 comments
Back in January 2010, in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, I was prowling the corridors of the Venetian Hotel when I bumped into loudspeaker auteur Sandy Gross, cofounder first of Polk Audio and then of Definitive Technology. Knowing that Gross was no longer associated with Definitive, I asked him what he was getting up to in his retirement.

Retirement? He showed me a photo of a plain, cloth-covered, black tower speaker and promised to keep in touch. When next I heard from him, it was to announce that, along with his wife, Anne Conaway, and his former partner at DefTech, Don Givogue, he had started a new loudspeaker company, GoldenEar Technology, Inc., and that the plain black loudspeaker was the first in a line of models to be named Triton.

John Atkinson  |  Dec 11, 2017  |  139 comments
"The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point."—Claude Shannon

Since its announcement at the end of 2014, Master Quality Authenticated, the MQA encoding/decoding system, has spawned outspoken criticism. Some of the more thoughtful negative reactions have come from engineers such as Dan Lavry, Bruno Putzeys, and Daniel Weiss. Others have been expressed by manufacturers of digital products: the late Charley Hansen at Ayre Acoustics, for example, along with Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat at Schiit Audio, John Siau at Benchmark Media Systems, and Jim Collinson at Linn Products. Some have been audio writers: Doug Schneider, at SoundStage!, and Paul Miller and Jim Lesurf, at Hi-Fi News. Most vociferous have been anonymous website posters. As Jim Austin remarks in his examination of MQA's decoding of impulse-response data elsewhere in this issue, "the nastiness online is unprecedented."

John Atkinson  |  Dec 07, 2017  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1989  |  1 comments
666skinny.promo250.jpgOne of the joys of reviewing loudspeakers is that there are always intriguing aspects of any particular design. The problems involved in producing a speaker that has an even tonal balance, well-controlled directivity, good bass extension, and a smooth integration of the outputs from often widely disparate drive-units have what appears to be an infinite number of solutions. The result is often a speaker so different from the norm that it just cries out to be auditioned.

Such was the case with the Delaware Acoustics DELAC S10, which costs $629/pair. Only sold factory-direct, this would therefore have been low on Stereophile's priority list for review if it weren't for two things: first, the fact that the S10 was designed by one Ralph Gonzalez, a name that should be familiar to readers of Speaker Builder magazine for having written a very useful speaker design and analysis program; second, as implied in the first paragraph, the S10 is one of the weirdest speakers I have ever laid ears on.

John Atkinson  |  Dec 05, 2017  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1980  |  21 comments
The problem confronting the magazine reviewer when organising the necessary listening tests to accompany/reinforce the measured behavior of a device under test is complex. There has never been a problem with the measurement aspect; as long as someone has access to the same test gear—and full knowledge of the test conditions—then he should be able to replicate the critic's findings exactly (assuming an infinitely narrow spread of behaviour from sample to sample—a rasher assumption with some manufacturers' equipment than of others). However, when it comes to determining reliably the audible (or inaudible?) effects on music program by an amplifier/cartridge/loudspeaker etc. then the going gets tough.

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