The winter haze in Eugene, Oregon, where I live, hangs like a veil of thin gray fog over everything, diffusing light, draining color from the landscape, and contributing to my moods a quality of vague gloom for months at a time. But in my nearly 30 years here I’ve grown mildly accustomed to its character, seeking joy and the brilliant colors of life in other things -- cooking soups and stews, reading good books, scribbling essays and poems, growing fanatical about all things audio -- to drive away the clouds of accidie and despair brought by months of winter weather.
By the time you read this, what was the Music Vault will be no more than what you’ve read in the pages of the old Ultra Audio, now SoundStage! Ultra. The new owners of my old house have ripped off its roof and are adding a full second story. The remains of the Music Vault are in some dumpster somewhere.
If those shattered walls could talk . . .
How many people know what a phono stage is? Of that microscopic cross-section of humanity, how many do you think actually own a standalone component whose only job is to amplify the tiny electrical signal generated by a phono cartridge?
Format: 2 LPs
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Neil Young wrote and recorded Tonight’s the Night in the late summer of 1973, shortly after two close friends died of heroin overdoses. Danny Whitten had been a singer and the rhythm guitarist for Crazy Horse, Young’s backing band, and Bruce Berry was Young’s roadie and friend. Young’s studio recording of the previous year was Harvest, which was hugely popular and put him firmly in the mainstream. Tonight’s the Night was a more emotionally difficult album, sloppier in execution -- and one of his best.
For the past few months I’ve been evaluating two products from Balanced Audio Technology: the VK-53SE preamplifier and the subject of this review, the VK-255SE stereo power amplifier. The VK-255SE presents attractive measures of size, mass, gain, and power output for its asking price of $8995 USD, but would its impressive specifications result in equally impressive sound quality? I couldn’t wait to find out.
The T+A Elektroakustik PA 3100 HV integrated amplifier was the last audio product to be reviewed in my Music Vault listening room. In fact, as you read this, the new owners of my old home have probably deconstructed the space formerly known as the Music Vault, and begun renovating it to make it theirs.
The current popularity of the integrated amplifier is unquestioned. This component category has risen in the esteem of audiophiles over the last decade and more, even as it has grown in complexity. On average, integrated amps can now do more than ever before. In fact, if a 2018 integrated doesn’t have at least a built-in digital-to-analog converter, it breaks with current convention. Streaming options, onboard storage for music files, wireless connectivity -- these and more appear on the lists of features of many of today’s integrateds.
It’s embarrassing for me to admit this, but adversity builds character: This year will mark my first participation in Record Store Day. There. I said it. While the idea of dragging buyers back to bricks-and-mortar stores to buy records, find community, and actually look each other in the eye is, in every respect, a great idea, and one that should be championed by all fans of vinyl, with me the concept has fallen flat. I’ve never been fond of crowds, and this event always made me think I’d have to line up in hopes of getting any of those limited editions.
ECM 2577 (578 6780)
ECM 2577 (6730185)
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
British saxophonist Andy Sheppard has recorded extensively as a sideman over the last 30 years, appearing on albums by Carla Bley, Gil Evans, Keith Tippett, and George Russell, among many others. He co-led three sessions with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow, and has released 14 recordings as a leader. Romaria, his newest, is his fourth for ECM. It’s his second outing with his current quartet, which comprises guitarist Eivind Aarset, double bassist Michel Benita, and drummer Sebastian Rochford. Their previous release, Surrounded by Sea (2015), also appeared on ECM.
I’ve said it before: No matter what type of audiophile you are, Furutech probably makes a product you’ve lusted after. In addition to power distributors and filters, and finished interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords, they make DIY bulk cables and component parts, and accessories that include the stainless-steel and silver-plated FI-50 NCF power-cord connectors, the Destat III Static Charge Eliminator for LPs and CDs, the DF-2 LP Flattener, Nano liquid contact enhancer and PC-α (Alpha) cleaning solution for CDs, the SK-III Electrostatic brush for discs and A/V gear, and a variety of AC outlets, cover plates, and fuses.
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