John Atkinson

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John Atkinson  |  Dec 01, 2017  |  11 comments
On Wednesday, November 29, I received the following announcement from Ayre's Brent Hefley: "With heavy hearts, we regret to inform you that Charles Hansen, founder of Ayre Acoustics, has passed away on November 28th, 2017. Those who knew Charley knew that he was a passionate man who always stood up for what he believed to be right. His family knew him as a loving and dedicated father of his two children. With the passing of Charley, the world has lost one of the most creative and innovative minds in the audio industry and we have lost a good friend."
John Atkinson  |  Nov 28, 2017  |  1 comments
Back in May 2014, I reviewed NAD's Masters Series M50 Digital Music Player ($2499) and M52 Digital Music Vault ($1999 with 2TB storage). At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, NAD announced the M50.2, which is almost identical to the original M50 but now incorporates two 2TB hard disks, arranged as a 2TB RAID array, to ensure data integrity, and adds TosLink and coaxial digital inputs, Bluetooth with aptX for streaming music from a smartphone or tablet, and two single-ended analog inputs—all for $3999, or $499 less than the combined cost of the two earlier products. Like the M50, the M50.2 offers WiFi and Ethernet connectivity, and has a CD drive, accessible via a slot on the front panel under the color TFT touchscreen, that can be used to play CDs, or rip them as FLAC, WAV, or high-bit-rate MP3 files.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 20, 2017  |  17 comments
Headphone listening has always been an important part of my audiophile life. In recent years I've been using at home Audeze's large, open-back, circumaural LCD-X headphones, which I bought after reviewing them for the March 2014 issue; and a pair of small Ultimate Ears 18 Pro in-ear monitors, which provide much better isolation on my subway commute to Stereophile's offices in Manhattan. I was intrigued by Audeze's iSine in-ear models, which were introduced in November 2016 and are unique in using planar-magnetic drive-units mounted outside the ear. I thought about reviewing a pair of the affordable iSines, but before I could get around to it, I heard that Audeze was to launch a cost-no-object version, the LCDi4, priced at a substantial $2495/pair. Aspiration got the better of frugality, and I asked for a pair to review.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 12, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1987  |  3 comments
Introduced in 1985 as the smallest model in JBL's "Ti" range, the 18Ti ($590/pair) shares with its larger siblings, like the JBL 250ti (recently reviewed by J. Gordon Holt), a high-tech tweeter that uses a one-piece ribbed titanium-foil dome/surround just 25µm thick. This is both rigid and of very low mass, pushing its first-breakup mode up to the region of 30kHz. The tweeter is mounted above the polypropylene-cone woofer, offset a little to one side to make room for the 45mm diameter port (though the speakers are not supplied as a handed pair). The 10-liter internal volume box is well-constructed from 20mm chipboard, covered in real-wood veneer.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 21, 2017  |  18 comments
Of all the speakers I have most enjoyed in recent years, two were from British manufacturer KEF: the LS50 Anniversary Model ($1500/pair), which I reviewed in December 2012; and the Blade Two ($25,000/pair), which I reviewed in June 2015. Though these two speakers lie at opposite ends of the price scale, they have in common KEF's unique Uni-Q drive-unit, in which the tweeter is mounted on the front of the midrange unit's pole piece, so that the lower-frequency cone acts as a waveguide for the higher-frequency output.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 07, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1987  |  6 comments
666thielcs1.promo.jpgKentucky manufacturer Thiel has acquired a reputation for the coherence of sound presented by its range of distinctive, sloping-baffle, floor-standing loudspeakers. Designer Jim Thiel gives a high priority to linearity of phase response; as a result, he chooses to use phase-linear, first-order crossovers in his designs, the target response being the combination of electrical and mechanical filtering. As the out-of-band rejection is then only 6dB/octave, it places demands on his chosen drive-units to be well-behaved, not only in their passbands, but also outside of them. In effect, the loudspeaker has to be designed as a whole system, the interaction between the drive-units and crossover being considerable.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 22, 2017  |  9 comments
Throughout the summer and fall of 2016, I worked on a project with Stereophile contributor Sasha Matson, recording, editing, mixing, and mastering—for release on 180gm LP, CD, and high-resolution download—an album of works that Sasha had composed for various chamber ensembles: Tight Lines. As you can read in the article we published about this project, for the vinyl release we decided not to master the discs directly from the hi-rez files, but to create an intermediate analog tape master. Feeling that audiophiles would want an LP that at some stage was "analog," we therefore needed to choose a D/A processor to drive the Studer open-reel tape recorder we were going to use.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 16, 2017  |  1 comments
As you can see from the logo above, Stereophile has accepted an invitation to be inducted into the European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA), as the exclusive US member of the EISA's Hi-Fi Expert Group. EISA's invitation came too late for Stereophile to take part in the 2017 awards, but we will be a full participant in 2018. Meanwhile, here are the 2017–2018 winners.
John Atkinson  |  Jul 18, 2017  |  3 comments
Following my review of the floorstanding Magico S5 Mk.II last February, I spent some time with two-way stand-mounted speakers from Aerial Acoustics, Bowers & Wilkins, and Dynaudio. As much as I appreciated the small speakers' virtues, I found myself missing the big Magico's bass extension and ability to play loud; my next loudspeaker review, therefore, would be of another floorstander.

It's been a while since we published a review of a Rockport Technologies loudspeaker.

John Atkinson  |  Jun 20, 2017  |  14 comments
For digital playback, in recent months I've been breathing some rarefied air, pricewise. In December 2016, I reviewed dCS's Rossini Player and Clock, followed in May 2017 by Meridian's Ultra DAC, and in June by Chord's DAVE DAC. The Rossini Player costs $28,499 without the Clock, the Meridian $23,000, and though the DAVE is less expensive than either at $10,588, that's still a fair chunk of change. Even PS Audio's PerfectWave DirectStream DAC, which I bought following Art Dudley's review in September 2014, costs $6899 with the Network Bridge II, which hardly counts as "affordable."

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