In late 1972, Audio Research Corporation released what would become one of ARC’s bestselling preamplifiers of all time: the SP-3. While available, the SP-3 earned praise for its low noise levels, wide soundstages, and awe-inspiring transparency. More than one audio publication described its overall sound character as “a straight wire with gain.” ARC sold thousands of SP-3s at $595 USD before discontinuing the model in 1976, but what I find interesting is how much of the SP-3 remains evident in more recent ARC models. By today’s standards, the SP-3’s faceplate of brushed bronze over satin black, rotary analog controls, and big pushbuttons look dated, but the three-box segregation of the faceplate and orientation of controls aren’t all that different from those of ARC’s SP-20 preamplifier ($9000, recently discontinued). Then there was the SP-3’s tube complement: six 12AX7s in the analog stage with two 12AX7s in the tone control circuit. This arrangement in the analog stage, albeit with different tubes, can be found under the hood of the subject of this review: ARC’s Reference 6 preamplifier.
Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ***½
Vinyl’s health -- it’s grown in sales every year since 2011 -- continues in a physical media marketplace that’s otherwise shrinking. In 2018, LP sales in the US alone totaled nearly 17 million units, and close to one-third of revenues from physical recording formats. So it’s a little surprising that some record labels have been slow to take advantage of this revitalized segment of the market. Verve’s foot-dragging is especially puzzling given the fact that the label is, with Blue Note -- now committed to reissuing much of its catalog on vinyl -- part of Universal Music.
I was so impressed with Rethm Audio’s Maarga loudspeakers, which I reviewed last year, that I spoke to Mark Sossa, of Rethm’s US distributor, Well Pleased Audio Vida, to arrange to buy a pair of Rethm’s magnum opus, the Saadhana. My timing was serendipitous -- Jacob George, the sound architect at Rethm, told me he’d made some improvements in the Saadhana, and that I’d be sent the first pair of units to incorporate them. The changes included a complete redesign of the bass chamber and driver configuration, improved woofers, and new isolation footers -- George promised substantial improvements in the already excellent bass reproduction.
Adults face many issues every day, some of them deadly serious. It would be easy for me -- or you -- to draw up a long list of them, but as that list would include issues typically batted back and forth in political circles, I won’t. On the SoundStage! sites, I’ve always tried to stick to writing about audio -- it’s not within the purview of a family of publications dedicated to the pursuit of great sound to include the latest political talking points.
Gryphon Audio Designs’ very first loudspeaker was the Cantata, a stand-mounted two-way, released in 2002. But the Danish company had been founded 17 years before, in 1985, by Flemming Rasmussen, who retired in 2018. Until the Cantata came along, Gryphon had been known only for their massive class-A power amplifiers and other electronics. With the Cantata, an all-Gryphon system had become a reality, and to this day, many of their customers have systems in which every link in the audio-signal chain, cables included, is a Gryphon product. The Cantata was produced until 2008, and in 2009 Gryphon launched the original Mojo, which remained in production until 2016. By then the Mojo had been joined by several other Gryphon speakers, all rather large floorstanders. The Mojo S, reviewed here, was debuted at Munich’s High End in May 2016, and is the only minimonitor among Gryphon’s four current speaker models.
Last February, my mother died. Her passing wasn’t unexpected -- she was 84 and not in good health. Still, it took me by surprise, and shook me up far more than I’d anticipated. The two years and more that I’d had to prepare myself didn’t mean squat. I’d thought I was ready, but -- there was no way to be ready for the death of my last remaining parent.
Blue Note B0029413-01
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
When saxophonist Sam Rivers began recording as a leader for Blue Note Records in 1964, he’d played briefly in Miles Davis’s quintet, and had also played in sessions led by Tony Williams, the drummer in Davis’s band. Rivers was a bit too avant-garde for Davis, who replaced him with Wayne Shorter. The four albums Rivers made for Blue Note between 1964 and 1973 were cutting edge, but still accessible enough for the label’s loyalists.
Discontinued well over a decade ago, Synergistic Research’s quantum tunneled X-series cables ran with the best in terms of soundstaging, three-dimensional imaging, transparency, speed, leading-edge detail, noise reduction, and dynamics. However, as I wrote at the time, those cables could sound a bit harsh and grainy in the upper frequencies. And given the great amounts of detail they could convey, and their somewhat forward sound, they could be fatiguing in some systems.
Although I can’t pinpoint the exact date, the last time I was satisfied with my stereo system was sometime in early 2017. I had a pair of Magico Q7 Mk.II speakers driven by a Soulution 711 stereo amplifier. My digital source was a Soulution 560 DAC-preamplifier, and interconnects and speaker cables were Nordost Valhallas. That ca.-$400,000 system was assembled in my listening room, the Music Vault, and tweaked with excruciating attention to detail. The sound was all that I could hope a system of that pedigree could produce -- it was sublime.
I sit and read with sadness as insecure audiophiles on various audio forums denigrate each other’s six-figure stereo systems. Grown people ought to know better. If you’re used to watching Vikings and The Walking Dead, well, the carnage can be just about as gory.
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