In my 20 years of reviewing audio equipment, I’ve bought and sold a lot of gear. From the beginning, I took the tried-and-true audiophile path: each upgrade promised better performance than what had preceded it, and usually cost more. Through the years, the total retail value of my system has inched up in price, culminating in my current rig of Magico Q7 Mk.II speakers, Soulution 711 and 560 electronics, Nordost cables, and Torus power conditioner: about $400,000. That doesn’t include my custom listening room, the Music Vault, or all the money and sweat equity I’ve spent moving gear into and out of it.
Founded in Brilon, Germany, a small town some 90 miles north of Frankfurt, Audio Physic has for 30 years been earning accolades for producing high-quality, highly resolving loudspeakers under the slogan “No loss of fine detail.” More recently, AP’s reputation for quality, performance, and unique applications of loudspeaker design and materials has generated a lot of buzz on both sides of the pond -- in fact, their provocative products are one of the reasons I became a reviewer. So when I had the opportunity to review Audio Physics’ latest loudspeaker, the Codex, I jumped.
Format: CD, DVD, BD
Musical Performance: *****
Sound Quality: *****
Picture Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: *****
On June 1 of this year, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band turned 50 years old. Let that sink in for a while. To mark the occasion, Apple and Universal Music have released a lavish boxed set comprising four CDs, one DVD, and one BD. The DVD and BD include a 1992 documentary, The Making of Sgt. Pepper (sic), plus high-resolution 5.1-and two-channel mixes of the album, along with the same treatment given to “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.”
It’s been almost a decade since my last review of Furutech products: their G-314AG-18 and Absolute Power-18 power cords. I noted then that Furutech tries to squeeze every last ounce of performance from its products, not only through the use of innovative technologies, but also with obsessive devotion to detail and build quality. It seems that no improvement in sound quality is too small to be worth achieving, and no product can be overbuilt.
Theodore Roosevelt said that comparison is the thief of joy. It’s a lesson that most of us, at some point in life, learn the hard way. Keeping up with the Joneses is expensive, and not just in terms of money. Comparing your kids, your spouse, your income . . . these comparisons, often constant, lead to a life in which gratitude is in short supply and contentment is always just out of reach. Comparison in audio reviews is a different story. Once you buy something, the comparisons can stop. Maybe they should stop. But while you’re shopping, comparisons are critical to making wise buying decisions.
Vivid Audio’s chief designer-engineer is Laurence Dickie. You’ve probably heard of him -- many reviews of Vivid speakers mention Dickie in the context of the work he did at Bowers & Wilkins years ago. Remember the B&W Nautilus? That was Dickie’s project. Since 2004, Dickie has been designing the loudspeakers manufactured by Vivid Audio, which he co-owns with CEO Philip Guttentag. Vivid speakers are designed in the UK, where Dickie lives, and are made in South Africa, where Guttentag oversees the factory.
Musical Performance: *****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2
If, in 1969, the stomping bass line of “Christine’s Tune” didn’t clue you in to the fact that the Flying Burrito Brothers’ debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, was going to be something different, “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow’s overdriven, fuzz-toned pedal-steel guitar solo should have clinched it. Gram Parsons, who co-led the band with Chris Hillman, had already helped introduce country music to rock with the International Submarine Band, and even more with the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, both from 1968. The Gilded Palace of Sin was a clearer statement of his vision.
In March 2011, I reviewed Audio Research’s DAC8 DAC on SoundStage! Hi-Fi, which used a now-ubiquitous asynchronous USB 2.0 input to play files of sampling rates higher than 96kHz. For a conservative company like ARC, that feature was somewhat innovative, it having only recently emerged as the sonically preferable way to play recordings at what was then the highest resolution available: 24-bit/192kHz. That was before files with such exotic initials as DSD, DXD, and MQA appeared. The DAC9 is ARC’s first standalone, popular-level DAC since 2010 -- in DAC years, an eternity -- and, like most DACs, it doesn’t include the latest development in digital audio playback: the ability to decode Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) files. It can, however, play DSD files; previously, the only ARC component that could do that was the GSi75 integrated amplifier.
I’m at a point in this audiophile thing where my nonsense meter goes off regularly. That wasn’t always the case. I used to buy into the nonsense: I can remember times when a manufacturer would contact me and tell me about the latest, greatest product they were about to release. They’d send me promotional materials and specs and photos, and I’d get all excited about the thing. And there’s no doubt that, more than once, I’ve been the victim of my own expectation bias.
“Arguably, in the last few years, the most competitive segment of the ultra-high-end speaker market has been models retailing for $50,000 to $70,000/pair. This price range includes such prominent models as Wilson Audio Specialties’ Alexia ($52,000/pair), Magico’s S7 ($58,000/pair), and Vivid Audio’s Giya G1 ($68,000/pair), to name just a few. In short, there are lots of tough competitors.”
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