John Atkinson

John Atkinson  |  Feb 06, 2020  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1986  |  9 comments
The only one who knows this ounce of words is just a token
Is he who has a tongue to tell, but must remain unspoken.
—Moondog, 1968

The Lockheed 1011 sits dormant on the ground at Chicago's O'Hare airport. "We have a little light bulb problem here" drawls the pilot in the approved Right Stuff manner. "We don't know if it's the bulb or what, we'll let you know."

John Atkinson  |  Jan 27, 2020  |  26 comments
Occasional Stereophile contributor Steve Guttenberg publishes a YouTube channel about audio that has achieved an impressive reach. As Steve told me in a conversation I had with him last December, 22% of his 98,000 subscribers (at the time we talked) are under 34 years old, and, to judge from the comments, most of them don't read Stereophile!!!! "It would nice to introduce you to them!" said Steve, and proposed he interview me and post the video to his channel when it hit the magic 100k number, which it did on January 9.

Steve visited my place in Brooklyn just before the New Year, and we spent an afternoon talking about audio, magazines, measurements, and music.

John Atkinson  |  Jan 24, 2020  |  80 comments
On a snowy day in March 2019, the first room I visited at the Montreal Audio Fest, hosted by retailer Audio by Mark Jones, featured the world premiere of the Magico M2 loudspeaker. The soundstaging produced by these elegant towers was palpable, the full-range tonal balance superbly uncolored. Both aspects reminded me of my experience of Magico's S5 Mk.II loudspeaker, which I enthusiastically reviewed in Stereophile's February 2017 issue. Accordingly, I made a note that the M2 was going on my "must review" list. Seven months later, Magico's Alon Wolf and Peter Mackay visited to set up a pair of M2s in my listening room.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 20, 2020  |  19 comments
Even as digital/analog processors were becoming a hot product category in the early 1990s, audiophiles were also learning that timing uncertainties in the AES/EBU and S/PDIF serial datastreams—jitter—would compromise any improvement in sound quality offered by these DACs. Some companies therefore introduced products to reduce or eliminate jitter—in the November 1994 issue of Stereophile, Robert Harley reviewed three such products: the Audio Alchemy DTI Pro, the Digital Domain VSP, and the Sonic Frontiers UltrajitterBug. I still have Stereophile's review samples of the UltraJitterBug and VSP, along with two contemporary DACs: a PS Audio UltraLink and a Parts Connection Assemblage DAC-1.

As our reviews of these products were published before Paul Miller's and the late Julian Dunn's development of the "J-Test" diagnostic signal, I performed J-Test jitter measurements to bring that 1994 review into the 21st Century. You can see what I found here.

John Atkinson  |  Jan 03, 2020  |  30 comments
When I performed the measurements of the Q Acoustics Concept 500 loudspeaker to accompany Thomas J. Norton's review in March 2019, I was impressed by what I found. The floorstanding Concept 500 offers a high level of audio engineering excellence for its price of $5999.99/pair. When I attended a Q Acoustics press briefing a few months back, where the English company announced the US availability of their stand-mounted Concept 300, I didn't hesitate to ask for a pair to review.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 23, 2019  |  31 comments
High-quality playback of digital audio is evolving in two opposed directions. One is where a smart wireless loudspeaker, like the KEF LSX or DALI Callisto 6 C, needs to be connected to a simple source of data. The other is where a smart amplifier takes the data from wherever it needs and sends it to a pair of dumb loudspeakers. NAD's Masters Series M32 integrated amplifier ($4848 with its optional MDC DD-BluOS module), which I reviewed in May 2018, is a great-sounding example of the latter approach.

In the spring of 2019, NAD introduced the Masters Series M10 ($2749). At first I assumed that the M10 was a stripped-down, less-powerful version of the M32, but the new amplifier offers a unique set of features.

John Atkinson  |  Nov 21, 2019  |  13 comments
Unlike the world of recorded music, where streaming has decimated sales of physical products, book publishing is seeing the reverse trend: sales of eBooks are declining while those of both hardback and paperback books are recovering. I have been a book junkie all my life—the two long walls of my listening room are lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and I have many boxes of books in storage—but these days almost all my book reading is with the Kindle app on my iPad mini.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 14, 2019  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1994  |  23 comments
No magazine can help but concentrate on the present, and tend to downplay what happened in the irretrievable past as being less important than the new and the exciting. I instituted Stereophile's annual "Products of the Year" feature in 1992, therefore, to give recognition to those components that had proved capable of giving pleasure beyond the formal review period.

This is the third year we have given awards. There are six individual categories: "Loudspeakers" (including subwoofers); "Amplification Components" (preamplifiers, power amplifiers, etc.); "Digital Sources" (CD players, transports, D/A processors); "Analog Sources" (phono cartridges, turntables, tonearms, FM tuners, etc.); "Home Theater Components" (other than video, which we don't cover); and "Accessories" (everything else).

John Atkinson  |  Oct 25, 2019  |  91 comments
"Stirring the stew" is what I've heard it called when a company introduces a new version of a product every three or four years. When a new product is launched, sales generally rise rapidly to a maximum and then slowly decline. If the stew is stirred every few years, plotting the product's sales volume against time results in a sawtooth wave, without sales ever dropping close to zero.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 08, 2019  |  18 comments
1019psbbok.promo99% True: Almost a National Bestseller, by Paul McGowan. Lioncrest Publishing, 2019. 364pp. $25.00, hard cover; $15.99, paperback; $9.99, Kindle e-book.

To many audiophiles, high-end audio manufacturers must seem like monolithic entities, enduring for what seems like forever, like cliffs beside a familiar path. But as Paul McGowan explains in this unputdownable autobiography (footnote 1), behind the facade of stability things can be in financial turmoil, with success equally as risky as failure.

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