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.
About a dozen years ago, some three years into the hobby, I’d stay up late at night listening to my audio system, finding increased pleasure in the richness and clarity of the sound I was getting and discovering that chimes and bells sparkled all the more somehow on Santana’s Abraxas, that Duane Allman’s guitar solo on “Stormy Monday” had added dashes of crunch and longer tails of sustain, and that pianist Alfred Brendel’s arpeggios rang more sensuously and his trills were exquisite to a degree that made them seem like the paintings of dancing deer in a cave at Lascaux. “It’s the electricity in your line feed,” a close friend said. “It’s cleaner late at night when there isn’t all that crud from appliances and air conditioners backing up into the grid.” Simply put, late night power was like a thinking man’s martini—pure gin unadulterated by vermouth—all kick and no pollutant flavorings. My friend suggested that I get something called a line conditioner. “It’ll clean up your power before it hits your system, and then you might get that late-night performance all the time.”
My neighbor Rob is a vinyl guy. He’s always been a music guy, but over the past few years, the vinyl resurgence has really energized his love of physical media, and he’s enthusiastic and happy to chat about the format—both about LPs and the means by which to store, clean, and play them.
Intervention Records IR-027
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****½
Overall Enjoyment: ****
The Church, formed in 1980 in Sydney, Australia, released four albums that sold well at home and stirred up some interest in Europe and the US, but it was the band’s fifth album, Starfish (1988), that brought an international following. The band’s previous albums had been recorded at studios in Sydney, but Starfish was recorded in the US, with Greg Ladanyi and Waddy Wachtel producing.
Note: measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.
As a 14-year-old kid, I remember poring over my brother’s issues of Stereophile and ogling Bowers & Wilkins’s then-new Nautilus 801 and 805 loudspeakers. Those models were the stuff of dreams to my younger self, who never imagined being able to own a pair, let alone being able to review them. The Nautilus 800 models were legendary and set a benchmark in my mind for what top-flight loudspeakers should look like, with their beautifully curved cabinets, swooping tweeters, and trademark Cherry finish. Sheer perfection. In fact, I’d happily own a pair of Nautilus 802s today if the price were right. So, 22 years on, when the opportunity arose to evaluate a pair of the English firm’s brand-new 805 D4s ($8000 per pair, all prices in USD), it felt like I’d finally made it.
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.
A little over a year ago, I reviewed EMM Labs’ DV2 digital-to-analog converter-preamplifier ($30,000, all prices USD) and concluded that it was the best-sounding DAC I’d ever heard. That remains true, and so in January of 2021, when Meitner Audio—headed by Ed Meitner, EMM’s founder, chief designer, and the brains behind the product lines of both EMM Labs and the lower-cost Meitner Audio brand—released its MA3 DAC-preamplifier ($9500), I naturally requested a review sample.
Rhino Entertainment/Warner Records R1 1935 (LP), R2 655956 (CD)
Format: LP, CD
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****
The Grateful Dead’s eponymous seventh album has no official title. It’s often listed as Grateful Dead, but is better known to fans as Skull & Roses, after its unique cover art. The two-LP set, released in 1971, was the Dead’s second live album in what was then the band’s four-year recording career, and contains a number of tunes that would turn up regularly at Dead shows over the years. Drummer Mickey Hart’s three-year hiatus from the band began with Grateful Dead, and keyboard player Tom Constanten had left the previous year. As a result, the Dead sound leaner on Grateful Dead than on 1969’s Live/Dead, the band’s first live album, which was also a double LP.
I’m an old-school kind of guy when it comes to audio. I like the physical medium, be it analog or digital. I want to see and handle the disc, read the liner notes, and appreciate the artwork or pictures that come with a recording. Luxman is old school, too—literally. Founded in 1925, this Japanese company has been making high-quality audio products ever since.
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.
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