Over Thanksgiving and the ensuing week, I flew down from Oregon, where I live, to spend time at a retreat for artists (I write poetry) in northern California near the Bay Area. Because I also had friends to visit, I rented a car when I landed at the Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport, splurging on a full-size vehicle: a silver Chevrolet Malibu sedan. It was big and stable, gave good mileage, and had lots of features. It got me around -- to Berkeley and Lafayette, to San Francisco and Santa Cruz. But it didn’t have savoir faire. It lacked that je ne sais quoi that aging guys like me crave on getaways from our humdrum lives.
The months I’ve spent thinking about and writing the series of “Jeff’s Getting a New Stereo System” articles have taught me some valuable personal lessons. For one, I don’t seek out trophy hi-fi gear anymore. I’ve had more than a few manufacturers tell me in private that they make some models priced in the six figures simply because some rich guys want to spend that much. The practice is commonplace, but I no longer aspire to be one of those rich guys, or to own or even be loaned for review the kind of gear designed for them. If you do, more power to you -- but it’s not me.
Integrated amplifiers have often been touted as space savers. Combining two components into one, the typical integrated amplifier also does away with a set of interconnects, and results in a smaller package than would be possible with separates. This saves not only on real estate, but on price as well. You’ve heard all this before.
Warner Bros./Intervention IR-015
Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2
With its seemingly effortless flow of great melodies that stay in the head, and witty lyrics that are smart without being too clever or cynical, Marshall Crenshaw’s eponymous debut album was universally praised by critics on its release, in 1982. Crenshaw and Richard Gottehrer coproduced the album, which had a clean but somewhat bright sound, with an old-style reverb that highlighted the music’s debt to Crenshaw’s influences -- Buddy Holly, early Beatles, the Brill Building -- without sounding dated.
Last year, at the Montréal Audio Fest, I did a solid for Mat Weisfeld, president of VPI Industries. Throughout that weekend I’d been in and out of various rooms that featured VPI turntables, and during those visits Weisfeld and I had struck up brief conversations. Close to the end of the show’s final day, as we discussed VPI’s MW-1 Cyclone record-cleaning machine, as I was picking his brain about the finer points of the Cyclone’s design, Weisfeld asked if I’d mind taking the display unit home with me. “We’ve got enough to transport back to the States -- it’d be a great help if you could look after this for us.”
This year I break with my annual take on the SoundStage! Products of the Year awards -- Doug Schneider gives you the complete list over on SoundStage! Hi-Fi -- to tackle another subject that’s been on my mind lately: the safety -- or, in some cases, the false sense of security -- that comes with shopping by brand.
I received review samples of Esoteric’s Grandioso K1 SACD/CD player and DAC ($31,000 USD) and G1 master clock generator ($26,000) at the same time. Figuring that not everyone would plunk down $57,000 all at once, I first reviewed the Grandioso K1 alone. Now it’s the Grandioso G1’s turn.
It is with intense pleasure that I find myself writing this introduction to the inaugural installment of “For the Record,” a bimonthly column in which I’ll share with you my love of all things vinyl. I’m hoping that -- as a reader of the SoundStage! magazines -- you’re familiar with at least a few of my reviews. As of 2017, I’ve reviewed audio products for SoundStage! for 16 years, and the subjects of a good portion of those reviews have been analog products. And for 40 years now I’ve owned a turntable of some sort, and for nearly all that time have played LPs.
Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2
When Sharon Jones died in November 2016, at the age of 60, soul music lost one of its most dedicated and skilled practitioners. Jones had recorded a series of singles beginning in the mid-1990s when, in 2002, she released the first LP with her formidable backing band, the Dap-Kings. She was 45 at the time, and went on to make six more albums with them. All were recorded in eight-track analog at Daptone House of Soul Studio, in Brooklyn, with no drum machines or synthesizers.
Call me shallow, but I believe that in order to fully perform its job, a turntable must look good. Turntables aren’t like other components. They require constant interaction, for setup, fine-tuning, and daily use. Speakers just sit there, lump-like, and CD players can eject a disc with a push of a button. And don’t get me started on preamplifiers -- in this remote-controlled age, you need never touch a preamp again, and many of them don’t even have knobs. But this inveterate knob twiddler enjoys interacting with his audio gear. I take inordinate and vaguely inappropriate sensual pleasure in gently rocking a tube from its socket and then -- gently, s-l-o-w-l-y -- pushing in its replacement.
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