What most non-audiophiles say when they see my system for the first time -- after “Wow, those speakers are huge!” -- is this: “You still listen to records?” By which they mean vinyl LPs, their implication being digital playback formats are of course superior to analog, and that I should get with the times. As politely and non-condescendingly as I can, I try to explain that, in my opinion, the very best analog rigs reproduce recorded music with higher fidelity than the very best digital rigs. Their response is usually skeptical -- until I prove my point with a demonstration. Most doubters then become converts -- or at least feign agreement.
I cut my audiophile teeth on Krell amplifiers. I loved them and owned many of them, from KSAs to MDAs to FPBs -- even the flagship Krell Audio Standards. Back in the day, Krell amps provided what I wanted from an audio power amp: the control, the sweetness, the bass. To say I held founder-designer Dan D’Agostino’s work in high regard would be an understatement.
Some audio products look downright menacing. I include in this group Wilson Audio’s Sasha and Devialet’s Phantom speakers, and the electronics from Metaxas Audio Systems. But perhaps no other audio manufacturer so consistently produces gear that looks bent on world domination than does Denmark’s Gryphon Audio Designs, whose aesthetic is striking, to say the least: ultramodern, often black, and pure badass.
Blue Note/Slow Down Sounds SDS-84099
Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: ****½
Overall Enjoyment: ****½
Although I’d heard of the great jazz guitarist Grant Green by the time I began collecting jazz albums, in the 1970s, I didn’t begin listening to him seriously until the early ’90s, when there was little available on new vinyl. The last few years have seen the return on vinyl of several Green albums, some through Blue Note’s 75th- and 80th-anniversary reissue and Tone Poet series, others from such audiophile labels as Analogue Productions and Music Matters.
The moment I heard of the death of Neil Peart (1952-2020), sorrow set in. That Peart was the drummer and lyricist of one of my favorite rock bands, Rush, would have been enough to set me into a spiral of introspection, but there’s more to my connection with Peart than the music of Rush. Like me, he was an avid motorcyclist, and many of his explorations of this continent mirror some of my own choices of bike and road. I’ve read a number of Peart’s books, many of which center around motorcycle riding and the mindset it engenders. His memoir Ghost Rider is a painfully honest description of a 55,000-mile motorcycle trek throughout North America, during which he tried to outrun his grief over the deaths, within ten months of each other, of his daughter and his wife.
The year was 1997. I was in seventh grade, and had recently begun asking my older brother for his copies of Stereophile. He’d always talked about buying a pair of Wilson Audio Specialties’ famed WATT/Puppys, and having heard his system, I was eager to see what hi-fi audio was all about. Reviewed in the October 1997 issue, however, was a loudspeaker that would shift the spotlight -- if only for moment -- away from the super-high-end’s perennial heavyweight champ.
“If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life.” My father used to say that, but like so many things in life, it’s easier said than accomplished. I began writing for the SoundStage! Network in 2011, while finishing grad school. I was young, bright-eyed, and naïve. When I took over as Senior Editor of GoodSound! (since rebadged SoundStage! Access), I had a hunger to learn and write as much as possible about the high-end audio industry. Given my consumer-oriented obsession with value for money, Access, the SoundStage! Network’s budget-oriented website, was the perfect fit.
What this world needs is a great loudspeaker costing under $15,000 USD per pair.
Many audiophiles don’t consider a speaker costing 15 grand per pair expensive. My non-audiophile friends consider this amazingly misguided. It wouldn’t take an exhaustive Internet search to find a reviewer somewhere saying something like this: “You can expect only so much for $15,000.”
ECM 1001 (LP)
ECM 0110 (24-bit/96kHz WAV)
Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Jazz pianist Mal Waldron moved from New York to Munich in 1967, and thereafter, until his death, in 2002, did most of his recording in Europe. He’d performed and recorded as a leader and sideman since the early 1950s, and had found that American -- especially African-American -- jazz musicians were treated and paid better across the Atlantic.
It’s Christmas 2018, and I’m at my in-laws’ for the holidays. Doug Schneider pings me via text and asks if I’m interested in reviewing Audience’s Au24 SX interconnects and speaker cables. They’re in his car, see, and he’ll be driving right past Campbellford, Ontario, the rural town in which Marcia’s ’rents live. How ’bout he just drops ’em off?
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