Rightly or wrongly, Germans have a reputation for being an exacting bunch—often concerned more with function than form. For this car-loving reviewer, automobiles are a prime example of what fuels this stereotype. If you want a high-end sports car that you can run ragged day in and day out, buy a Porsche 911 GT3. This car’s beauty has been honed through decades of refinement of the underlying 911 body shape. If, on the Freudian continuum, you tilt less towards the ego and more towards the id, and tend to forego Teutonic pragmatism in favor of more primal urges, then the sensual lines of a new Ferrari F8 Tributo would be a better choice. While significant engineering resources have been poured into each of these automobiles, the German model is the dedicated workhorse compared to the Italian show pony.
My first audio review, which detailed my experience with the Wisdom Audio Adrenaline Dipole 75 loudspeaker system, was published in October of 1998 on SoundStage.com—at the time, the equivalent of SoundStage! Hi-Fi. I’ve written hundreds of product reviews since then, along with a bazillion opinion articles, show reports, and features of all sorts. SoundStage!—the network that now includes ten sites, a YouTube channel, busy social media platforms, and measurement and photography labs—has been my professional home for about 25 years. Since this is the last article I’ll be writing for SoundStage!, I thought it fitting to share some of my favorite memories from my career as a SoundStager.
I used to be a large-speaker kind of guy. Early in my audiophile life, I figured going bigger would be more satisfying in the long term, not necessarily because size on its own makes a difference, but because speakers tended to get larger as you progressed from the bottom to the top model of any given company’s lineup. Come to think of it, I can’t come up with a single example of a company whose speakers actually get smaller as you move up the line. As a result, I equated bigger with better because, well, that’s what I was told was the case by almost everyone who made speakers.
Heavenly Recordings HVNLP198
Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****
H. Hawkline is the pseudonym of Welsh singer-songwriter Huw Evans. In 2010, Evans released his first album as H. Hawkline, A Cup of Salt, and followed it a year later with The Strange Uses of Ox Gall. Both albums were slightly eccentric and DIY in feel and showed a wide range of songwriting interests and instrumental skills. Evans’s guitar playing had hints of country blues and Welsh folk music, and his songwriting embraced everything from ’60s folk rock to psychedelia.
Sears and Realistic
I got hooked on audio gear at an early age. The first stereo system I owned—I was about 12 years old at the time—was an AM/FM receiver with a built-in cassette deck and record player, purchased from Sears, Roebuck and Co. The set came with a pair of lightweight bookshelf speakers that were wafer thin with nonremovable brown grilles. I hooked up the system on Christmas morning and was absolutely thrilled with what I’d received.
I can recall every stereo system I’ve owned over almost four decades of being in the hobby. The first few decades were spent on the seemingly endless ascent to what I thought was audio nirvana. As many have come to learn, it’s not necessary, or in some cases even wise, to attempt the climb. I’ve made some of the mistakes that audiophiles often make. I’ve fitted the wrong speakers to the wrong rooms. I’ve underpowered my system. I’ve shortchanged the source component. I’ve also paired products that I’ve liked on their own that had little sonic synergy when used together. That’s just to name a few.
Kharma is a brand I’ve admired for a very long time. I first read about their successful Ceramique line of loudspeakers back in the late 1990s, which—as you may have guessed from the name—featured their signature ceramic midrange driver. Way back in the mid-1980s, the pioneering Dutch firm was the first audio company to employ ceramic drivers. And in more recent years, I’ve seen and heard their offerings at trade shows, like Munich’s High End, and appreciated their distinctive designs and fastidious attention to detail.
Right from the very first audio-industry show I attended with SoundStage!, the 2001 Son et Image show in Montreal (now called Montreal Audiofest), I found myself extremely dissatisfied with the music at these events, both in terms of what exhibitors would play and showgoers would request. How can you possibly gauge a system by listening to a solo flute? And why would anyone wish to inflict it on a room full of strangers?
Craft Recordings / Contemporary Records CR00382
Musical Performance: *****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****½
Art Pepper was one of the great saxophonists in jazz and among the most troubled—which is saying a lot. It’s a crowded field. Pepper struggled with drug addiction and did several stints in jail in the ’50s and ’60s. His memoir, Straight Life (1979), which he cowrote with his third wife, Laurie, is a harrowing story of his life in jazz. After reading it, I was amazed that Pepper had been able to make so many good records and be such a force in music.
The first part of the Naim Audio series focused on my introduction to the brand and the launch of the New Classic series of components. This part will focus on my visit to Naim.
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