Reviewers have reference audio systems. Audiophiles have reference audio systems. Dealers have reference audio systems. Manufacturers have reference audio systems. Cue up the internet meme: Oprah shouting from the stage, “Reference audio systems for everyone!”
Most of my friends are not audiophiles. In other words, most of them don’t care all that much about the actual sound of the music they play in their homes. Or their cars. Or at the gym. They care about the music, of course, but the sound of it—whether it passes a certain threshold we’ll call, um, audible—is of little consequence to them.
My wife, Andrea, and I have two kids, Abigail, 17, and Ian, 15. The two of them grew up training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), a grappling-based martial art that I studied and taught for many years. Abigail started at age seven, Ian at six. Abigail still trains BJJ—mostly with me—but Ian transitioned to the sport of wrestling at the ripe old age of ten. He wanted to do a sport that he could pursue in college one day, and he loved life on the mat.
I’m writing this on December 15, 2021. Since Christmas is a week from this Saturday, I thought it would be the perfect time to list some of the many things connected to the audio industry and my position with SoundStage!—editor in chief—that I’m thankful for. So here they are (in no particular order).
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.
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.
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.
High-end audio is about the faithful reproduction of music. But high-end audio gear is about other things, too, such as materials and their applications in audio components. If we’re talking about speakers, those materials could consist of anything from wood to composites to fiberglass and carbon fiber, or metals such as aluminum, and even pours such as concrete.
Recently I happened on Herb Reichert’s review of Harbeth’s Monitor 30.2 40th Anniversary Edition loudspeaker, originally published in the April 2018 issue of Stereophile. In it, Reichert states, “Many a day, I think Edgar Villchur, inventor of the acoustic-suspension loudspeaker and the dome tweeter, ruined audio, and that audiophiles will never stop denying how artificially colored the sounds of domes and cones in boxes really are.” I hope Herb’s tongue was planted firmly in his cheek when he wrote those words, but they don’t read that way to me.
All else being equal, newer is generally better—a conclusion I recently came to (and not for the first time) after another round of car shopping. I’d rather have a newer-model car than the outgoing model, if only for the former’s updated infotainment systems: these days, at least for a family such as mine, with two teenagers, Apple’s CarPlay is a necessity. And newer vehicles offer other, more basic advantages: greater fuel efficiency, improved safety features, and better build quality all around.