When last we met, I described my experience of building a Roon ROCK (Roon Optimized Core Kit) server and setting up Roon as my music-streaming software in my home. I got as far as installing the ROCK and Roon clients on my laptop and phone, attaching an external drive and cataloging my music, and getting the thing working with my Logitech Squeezebox Touch streamer.
I’ve become dangerously comfortable in my reviewing life. My main system is fed by one source—my VPI Prime Signature turntable. Occasionally new ’tables come and go, and the phono stage changes too. Cartridges flow through here also. But no matter how I take it apart, no matter how I break it down, that single analog source is a consistent feature.
As this editorial goes live, it’s October 1, and that means in a little over three weeks I’ll be on a plane to Warsaw to cover Audio Video Show 2023, to be held October 27 to 29. This will be my fourth visit to this show and I’m stoked.
I really only have one review system, and that’s the big rig down in the basement. It’s LP-based, and I’ve never had a streamer, DAC, or CD player sending those filthy bits down its virginal, analog pathways.
We’re allowed dissenting opinions here, right? Okay, then. In his May 2023 editorial on SoundStage! Access, Dennis Burger threw down a gauntlet, whether he realized it or not. The gist of Dennis’s editorial was how reasonably priced class-D amplification technology, including the Hypex Ncore NC2K and Purifi Eigentakt modules, is finding its way into more and more high-end components. This trend, which Dennis called “trickle-up tech,” has resulted in a growing number of overperforming products, including some of NAD’s recent Classic- and Masters-series amplifiers.
The flight home from Rome to Toronto following my factory tours of Unison Research and Opera Loudspeakers, Gold Note, and Audia Flight and Alare was near-as-dammit ten hours. That gave me plenty of time to cogitate on what I’d experienced at each stop.
I was single at the time. I had two cats, both male, and the Siamese had started to lose its mind. Goddamn thing started pissing in my basement listening room and ended up soaking the carpet. Fortunately, it was old and already in poor condition. Have you ever smelled male cat piss? It’s a horrific ammonia stench that catches in your throat and makes your eyes water.
My first audio review, which detailed my experience with the Wisdom Audio Adrenaline Dipole 75 loudspeaker system, was published in October of 1998 on SoundStage.com—at the time, the equivalent of SoundStage! Hi-Fi. I’ve written hundreds of product reviews since then, along with a bazillion opinion articles, show reports, and features of all sorts. SoundStage!—the network that now includes ten sites, a YouTube channel, busy social media platforms, and measurement and photography labs—has been my professional home for about 25 years. Since this is the last article I’ll be writing for SoundStage!, I thought it fitting to share some of my favorite memories from my career as a SoundStager.
Sears and Realistic
I got hooked on audio gear at an early age. The first stereo system I owned—I was about 12 years old at the time—was an AM/FM receiver with a built-in cassette deck and record player, purchased from Sears, Roebuck and Co. The set came with a pair of lightweight bookshelf speakers that were wafer thin with nonremovable brown grilles. I hooked up the system on Christmas morning and was absolutely thrilled with what I’d received.
I can recall every stereo system I’ve owned over almost four decades of being in the hobby. The first few decades were spent on the seemingly endless ascent to what I thought was audio nirvana. As many have come to learn, it’s not necessary, or in some cases even wise, to attempt the climb. I’ve made some of the mistakes that audiophiles often make. I’ve fitted the wrong speakers to the wrong rooms. I’ve underpowered my system. I’ve shortchanged the source component. I’ve also paired products that I’ve liked on their own that had little sonic synergy when used together. That’s just to name a few.