Art Dudley

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Art Dudley  |  Jan 24, 2017  |  3 comments
My first attempt at writing this piece began with a list of the Top Ten Audio Products I Wish Were Still in Production. Unfortunately, that proved unworkable. Although some of my selections—the Audio Research SP-6C preamplifier, the Stax ELS-F81 loudspeaker—were straightforward, it turned out that most of the others were burdened with complications. Examples: It's no longer feasible to mass-produce Bakelite headshells for a revival of the original Ortofon SPU or similar phono pickup. It's no longer possible to obtain the precisely correct vacuum tubes and other components required to return to production the Leak Stereo 20 amplifier. And I'm certain that a torch- and pitchfork-wielding mob would prevent the manufacture of an authentic Altec 604B drive-unit, unless those audio villagers were first allowed to "improve" the design.
Art Dudley  |  Dec 27, 2016  |  6 comments
In 1999, when I first heard a Super Audio Compact Disc, I felt certain that the new format was destined for commercial dominance. Ten years later, when I first played PCM music files through a USB DAC, I felt certain that the SACD was deader than Julius Caesar's dog.

In 2016, it's apparent that I'm not qualified to predict how anything will perform in the marketplace. In my defense, I'm not the only industry bigwig who's made those mistakes; on the other hand, one happily notes that technology and commerce, those inseparable sweethearts, carried on anyway, heedless of our thudding wrongness. The results are hundreds of new SACD releases, scads of new downloadable Direct Stream Digital music files—DSD being the technology on which the SACD is based—and at least one new machine that can play them both: Luxman's D-06u SACD/CD player and USB DAC.

Art Dudley  |  Dec 22, 2016  |  11 comments
On a bright, warm day in September, at the memorial gathering for our colleague Wes Phillips, I overheard John Atkinson, in pre-ceremony conversation, discussing men's fashions: "What's popular these days," he said, with a degree of puzzlement that stopped short of disapproval, "is very long hair on just the top, with nothing on the sides and back." Then he added, this time with disdain, "What I don't understand is this trend where men wear dress shoes without socks—which I have actually seen!" The fact that we were in Park Slope, Brooklyn—the very jaw of the hipster possum—may have triggered his observations, which I overheard while chatting with Stereophile alum Laura LoVecchio. I remember reflexively looking down at my own ankles, to make sure I was wearing socks. I was.
Art Dudley  |  Nov 23, 2016  |  16 comments
Was there ever a more stressful election season?

I wished for more choices: choices with less money behind them, choices I wasn't merely expected to make, alternative choices that stood a chance of winning.

I wished for a better sense of the world around me: Why hadn't I strayed outside my comfort zone a little more often? Why hadn't I tried harder to listen as others do?

Most of all, and simplest of all, I wished for more time: Damn it all, I'm too busy! Why can't I have another month to make up my mind?

But no. John Atkinson was insistent: "Please don't abstain," he wrote in an e-mail under the subject heading "2016 Product of the Year Final Ballot." "The fairness of the . . . system depends on everyone voting." I rolled up my sleeves and got busy.

Art Dudley  |  Nov 17, 2016  |  7 comments
I'm a progressive who enjoys the company of his conservative friends, a Catholic who's thankful for his atheist friends, and a carnivore who cherishes his vegetarian friends. I'm also a vintage-audio enthusiast who loves his audiophile friends who aren't so inclined—so I was doubly happy to see, in the September 2016 edition of Michael Fremer's "Analog Corner," a hearty endorsement of Ortofon's latest SPU: a 58-year-old phono-cartridge design that, like the coelacanth, continues to thrive despite expectations.

Mikey is a longtime friend who harbors no love for vintage phonography—yet after playing his first record with the new SPU #1E ($659), he wrote: "I immediately, and much to my surprise, got what the SPU cult is all about."

Art Dudley  |  Nov 05, 2016  |  12 comments
My Friday-morning train from upstate New York arrived in Manhattan ahead of schedule—how often does that happen?—giving me the luxury of walking, rather than taking a subway or a cab, to the Park Lane Hotel, located on West 59th Street: this year's venue for the New York Audio Show. By the time I reached the Park Lane Hotel's posh-minus entrance, I felt as though I'd entered a whole different world—but this time I wasn't sneering. Indeed, I was wondering: what would it take for all these people of means to take interest in our little world of handmade electronics and rare phono cartridges and loudspeakers that were surely meant to be enjoyed in the largest and grandest of rooms? For people who are used to the best of everything, is high-end audio really that big a leap?
Art Dudley  |  Oct 28, 2016  |  21 comments
Keith Aschenbrenner, proprietor of Auditorium 23, based in Frankfurt, Germany, has long been associated with the people and products of Shindo Laboratory: From the early 1990s until the EU's 2006 implementation of the RoHS 1 regulation, which banned the sale of various old-style electrolytic materials—and thus most of Shindo's products—Auditorium 23 was the brand's European distributor and, arguably, one of its most empathetic and enthusiastic retailers worldwide. Throughout that time, and continuing through to today, Aschenbrenner has also worked as a designer and manufacturer of Shindo-friendly ancillaries and loudspeakers.
Art Dudley  |  Sep 27, 2016  |  39 comments
They don't make 'em like they used to.

That aphorism has few fans among people shopping for cancer drugs, contact lenses, GPS receivers, and laptop computers, all of which seem to get better with each passing year. Hell, even I know that.

It earns a more positive reply from anyone who's shopping for an oriental rug, or a fly rod, or a tweed jacket, or a musical instrument—people who will tell you that their fond response to the market for vintage examples of such goods is motivated by two things: older products were better made than their newer counterparts (better designs, better materials, better manufacturing techniques), and some, if not all, of those products, over time, actually improve with use.

Art Dudley  |  Aug 25, 2016  |  6 comments
Approximately 331/3 years after AudioQuest's first phono cartridge, the company announced two new USB D/A headphone amplifiers: the DragonFly Black ($99) and the DragonFly Red ($199). Both have circuits designed by the engineer responsible for the original DragonFly—Gordon Rankin, of Wavelength Audio—and both have the novel distinction of requiring considerably less operating power than their predecessors, so much less that the new DragonFlys can be used with iPhones, iPads, and various other mobile devices.
Art Dudley  |  Aug 23, 2016  |  36 comments
Fifteen years ago, when I was the Editor of Listener, I wrote a response to a reader's letter in which I repaid unpleasantness with unpleasantness: something I justified by flattering myself that my brand of unpleasantness had the advantage of being clever. Not satisfied with making his point sound foolish, I made certain that the writer of that letter would himself be made to look ridiculous. I made fun of his name, too.

Prior to publication, I showed my handiwork to my wife, Janet, as per my usual practice. I expected her to laugh at the funny bits and praise my superior logic, also as per usual.

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