On October 20, 2021, Stereophile published a review of the Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems Progression M550 monoblock power amplifiers ($44,950 USD per pair) by Jason Victor Serinus.
Totem Acoustic is a company whose products I’ve long admired from a distance, but never had the opportunity to review. When I first became acquainted with the brand 15 years ago, its design aesthetic of simple, clean lines and veneered wood finishes appealed to me. Several of their current models—like their Arro and Forest floorstanding models, as well as their Sky and Signature One bookshelf speakers—continue this tradition.
Blue Note Records/Universal Music Enterprises BST-84323/3808954
Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Jazz pianist Duke Pearson spent most of his recording career with Blue Note Records, where he also arranged and produced for other artists. One of his later recordings for the label was a Christmas album, Merry Ole Soul. He recorded the album’s nine well-known seasonal songs in February and August 1969, with Bob Cranshaw on bass, Mickey Roker on drums, and, on three tracks, Airto Moreira on percussion. Blue Note released the album later that year.
One of the great things about hi-fi is that there’s something for everybody. Like in any other industry, the big players care less about pleasing the eccentric fringes, and more about capturing as large a slice of the “average” audiophile base as possible. There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s good business. But it doesn’t exactly encourage risk-taking, or flourishes of design and engineering ingenuity, because the goal is less about enticing the most audiophiles, and more about discouraging the least. The older I get, the more mundane that notion seems to me. Life is short. And while affordable hi-fi should be all about performance per dollar, the more boutique nature of the high end demands that a loudspeaker be both performant and provocative.
The jaded among us will tell you that being an audiophile is mostly about “playing” with expensive audio equipment. I’m here to tell you—and my experiences with Sonus Faber’s Maxima Amator have strongly reinforced this notion—that being an audiophile is mostly an ongoing journey of discovery.
About a dozen years ago, some three years into the hobby, I’d stay up late at night listening to my audio system, finding increased pleasure in the richness and clarity of the sound I was getting and discovering that chimes and bells sparkled all the more somehow on Santana’s Abraxas, that Duane Allman’s guitar solo on “Stormy Monday” had added dashes of crunch and longer tails of sustain, and that pianist Alfred Brendel’s arpeggios rang more sensuously and his trills were exquisite to a degree that made them seem like the paintings of dancing deer in a cave at Lascaux. “It’s the electricity in your line feed,” a close friend said. “It’s cleaner late at night when there isn’t all that crud from appliances and air conditioners backing up into the grid.” Simply put, late night power was like a thinking man’s martini—pure gin unadulterated by vermouth—all kick and no pollutant flavorings. My friend suggested that I get something called a line conditioner. “It’ll clean up your power before it hits your system, and then you might get that late-night performance all the time.”
My neighbor Rob is a vinyl guy. He’s always been a music guy, but over the past few years, the vinyl resurgence has really energized his love of physical media, and he’s enthusiastic and happy to chat about the format—both about LPs and the means by which to store, clean, and play them.
Intervention Records IR-027
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****½
Overall Enjoyment: ****
The Church, formed in 1980 in Sydney, Australia, released four albums that sold well at home and stirred up some interest in Europe and the US, but it was the band’s fifth album, Starfish (1988), that brought an international following. The band’s previous albums had been recorded at studios in Sydney, but Starfish was recorded in the US, with Greg Ladanyi and Waddy Wachtel producing.
Note: measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.
As a 14-year-old kid, I remember poring over my brother’s issues of Stereophile and ogling Bowers & Wilkins’s then-new Nautilus 801 and 805 loudspeakers. Those models were the stuff of dreams to my younger self, who never imagined being able to own a pair, let alone being able to review them. The Nautilus 800 models were legendary and set a benchmark in my mind for what top-flight loudspeakers should look like, with their beautifully curved cabinets, swooping tweeters, and trademark Cherry finish. Sheer perfection. In fact, I’d happily own a pair of Nautilus 802s today if the price were right. So, 22 years on, when the opportunity arose to evaluate a pair of the English firm’s brand-new 805 D4s ($8000 per pair, all prices in USD), it felt like I’d finally made it.
Last month in “Material Obsession: Sonus Faber’s Maxima Amator,” I detailed my unboxing of the latest entry into the Italian company’s Heritage Collection of artisan-crafted loudspeakers. In that article, Sonus Faber’s VP of product development, Livio Cucuzza, described the values and processes in place at the storied brand’s headquarters in Arcugnano, Italy, that led to the new model, the only floorstander in the series. At the time, I shared my initial reactions to unboxing my pair of Maxima Amators—the product inserts, including the photobook, were greatly appreciated, as were the details of the design and construction of the loudspeakers themselves. I had already developed a keen interest when the model’s press release hit my inbox, but I was absolutely smitten with the actual set of loudspeakers that showed up at my door.
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