I’d love to see the stats: How many audiophiles in 2016 bought parts of their system -- or their entire system -- online or over the phone, without ever having heard the component(s)? I know from the letters I receive that many of you do, if only out of necessity. The number of dealers stocking high-end audio gear has shrunk over the years, and sometimes it’s just not feasible to hear the component you’re considering buying before you actually buy it. And comparing two different brands side by side -- the two specific brands you’re most interested in -- is often next to impossible. Many dealers carry only a few brands, and typically complementary rather than competing brands.
Audiophiles can instantly tell the difference between a traditional high-end component and a “lifestyle” product. It’s either one or the other, and until recently, their paths did not intersect. In fact, the death knell for a new product’s credibility in the audiophile community was rung as soon as the word lifestyle appeared anywhere in its vicinity.
Music Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Freddie Hubbard left Blue Note in 1965, after having made nine albums for them as a leader. He then made four albums for Atlantic, and this one for the German label MPS, before settling in for a while with CTI. His work for Atlantic hovered between hard bop and the avant-garde, but The Hub of Hubbard (1970) is straight-ahead bebop with a terrific lineup of players.
What is the true foundation of a seriously good audio system? I’ve heard very knowing people say that speakers set the character of the sound. Others argue that the amplifier is the key, as its power range and operating characteristics might also determine everything else. But, to more than a few, the true heart of any audio system is the preamp. Finally, there are those who insist that it’s source equipment -- the turntable, tonearm, and cartridge, or the digital player and/or DAC -- that determines each of our stereophonic fates. Yet before any of these essential components can contribute anything to the audio chain, it’s the power we get from our wall outlets that drives all else. No matter the quality and prowess of our vaunted audio purchases, saith a happy few, we won’t be able to realize the full capabilities of any of them without clean, reliable electricity.
As a longtime audio reviewer, I’ve heard a lot of products in my room -- but not all of them. Nowhere even close to most of them, actually. So when I hear about a new product that I find interesting, I often do what most audiophiles do: I search for it online and see what information I can find. Generally, I come across two types of information: the marketing materials released by the manufacturer, and the reactions to those marketing materials posted by audiophiles on online forums.
When the SoundStage! Network’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Fritz, asked if I’d be interested in reviewing a speaker from Audio Physic, I knew little about the German company other than that they’d been around for a while and had produced some highly regarded loudspeakers. I typically review more modestly priced speakers, primarily from North American manufacturers. And while I knew that Audio Physic was well established, I hadn’t known that they’ve been around long enough to have celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2015.
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 2-455
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: *****
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2
By 1975, when Alan Parsons and lyricist-songwriter Eric Woolfson formed the Alan Parsons Project, Parsons had firmly established himself as a record producer and engineer. He’d been nominated for a Grammy for his engineering of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, which he produced, and had engineered albums by Paul McCartney and Wings, Al Stewart, the Hollies, Jeff Beck, Roy Harper, Peggy Lee, and Ambrosia, among many others -- including the Beatles’ Abbey Road. He was uniquely qualified to handle the recordings he and Woolfson created, for which they brought in various players and singers.
Nearly every audio journalist I know hates to review cables. Aside from their being lazy buggers, there are some good reasons they feel that way: 1) cables sometimes require lengthy break-in, and manufacturers aren’t always helpful about specifying a break-in time; 2) the differences in sound between cables are sometimes minuscule; 3) cables can sound different from a reviewer’s reference cables without sounding better or worse; and 4) cables’ sound may be system-dependent. But occasionally, a set of cables comes along that sounds so different -- and, sometimes, better -- that we find ourselves coaxed into reviewing another set of cables.
Last month, SoundStage! Publisher Doug Schneider wrote an editorial for SoundStage! Hi-Fi titled “Future Sounds -- Sonus Faber’s Sf16 and New Directions in Hi-Fi.” In it, he made some very good points regarding the future of the high-end audio industry, and what it will take for it to thrive into the next generation. In some ways, Doug said, these are bleak times: “Visit as many manufacturers as I do and you’ll hear tale after tale of how sales of traditional hi-fi products -- preamplifiers, amplifiers, standalone speakers (particularly big, boxy ones), etc. -- are way down. These have been -- or were -- the staples of the hi-fi scene for longer than I’ve been part of it; but now, fewer people want them, and no one I’ve talked to seems to think this trend will end. It’s not just a few manufacturers saying this -- it’s almost all of them.”
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