Last year, at the Montréal Audio Fest, I did a solid for Mat Weisfeld, president of VPI Industries. Throughout that weekend I’d been in and out of various rooms that featured VPI turntables, and during those visits Weisfeld and I had struck up brief conversations. Close to the end of the show’s final day, as we discussed VPI’s MW-1 Cyclone record-cleaning machine, as I was picking his brain about the finer points of the Cyclone’s design, Weisfeld asked if I’d mind taking the display unit home with me. “We’ve got enough to transport back to the States -- it’d be a great help if you could look after this for us.”
This year I break with my annual take on the SoundStage! Products of the Year awards -- Doug Schneider gives you the complete list over on SoundStage! Hi-Fi -- to tackle another subject that’s been on my mind lately: the safety -- or, in some cases, the false sense of security -- that comes with shopping by brand.
I received review samples of Esoteric’s Grandioso K1 SACD/CD player and DAC ($31,000 USD) and G1 master clock generator ($26,000) at the same time. Figuring that not everyone would plunk down $57,000 all at once, I first reviewed the Grandioso K1 alone. Now it’s the Grandioso G1’s turn.
It is with intense pleasure that I find myself writing this introduction to the inaugural installment of “For the Record,” a bimonthly column in which I’ll share with you my love of all things vinyl. I’m hoping that -- as a reader of the SoundStage! magazines -- you’re familiar with at least a few of my reviews. As of 2017, I’ve reviewed audio products for SoundStage! for 16 years, and the subjects of a good portion of those reviews have been analog products. And for 40 years now I’ve owned a turntable of some sort, and for nearly all that time have played LPs.
Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2
When Sharon Jones died in November 2016, at the age of 60, soul music lost one of its most dedicated and skilled practitioners. Jones had recorded a series of singles beginning in the mid-1990s when, in 2002, she released the first LP with her formidable backing band, the Dap-Kings. She was 45 at the time, and went on to make six more albums with them. All were recorded in eight-track analog at Daptone House of Soul Studio, in Brooklyn, with no drum machines or synthesizers.
Call me shallow, but I believe that in order to fully perform its job, a turntable must look good. Turntables aren’t like other components. They require constant interaction, for setup, fine-tuning, and daily use. Speakers just sit there, lump-like, and CD players can eject a disc with a push of a button. And don’t get me started on preamplifiers -- in this remote-controlled age, you need never touch a preamp again, and many of them don’t even have knobs. But this inveterate knob twiddler enjoys interacting with his audio gear. I take inordinate and vaguely inappropriate sensual pleasure in gently rocking a tube from its socket and then -- gently, s-l-o-w-l-y -- pushing in its replacement.
Last month I established an upper limit ($10,000 USD) on what I’d spend on a DAC with a built-in volume control. For my present system I can’t justify an analog preamplifier, with its banks of analog inputs of which I’d use precisely one -- though I do miss, on some sentimental level, the very last analog preamp I owned: an Ayre Acoustics KX-R Twenty. But unless you have multiple analog sources (I don’t), there’s no need for the extra box and interconnects an analog preamp would require. But I do have multiple digital sources, so I need digital switching and, of course, the ability to adjust volume.
In February 2015, I reviewed Esoteric’s Grandioso P1 SACD/CD transport, D1 mono digital-to-analog converters, and G-01 master clock generator. At a total cost of $91,000 USD, these state-of-the-art components in five hefty cases of aircraft-grade aluminum are not for the faint of checkbook or rack space.
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2
Joe Jackson’s Summer in the City: Live in New York was released in 2000 to little fanfare. Jackson’s third outing for Sony Classical, it followed Heaven & Hell (1997) and Symphony No. 1 (1999). Those albums had received mixed receptions, but Summer in the City reminded critics that Jackson’s pop-music talents were still intact. Indeed, just five months later he released Night and Day II, which revisited the sophisticated songwriting styles of his popular 1982 album.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Sonus Faber loudspeaker. It was 2002, and I was fresh out of college, broke, and hungry to put the last four years of educational purgatory to good use. I was also in the market for a new apartment. Like many early nesters, when I wasn’t out exploring potential residences, I was window-shopping for potential décor.
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