I go way back with Shunyata Research, and fondly remember the days of The World’s Best Audio System (TWBAS) events -- gatherings of manufacturers at my home for which I’d chosen and assembled into amazing systems the best audio components then available -- and the sense of discovery we all felt. My first TWBAS, in 2004, included products from Wilson Audio Specialties, EMM Labs, and Shunyata Research. TWBAS 2004 was a watershed for me -- at the time, it was, by far, the best sound I had ever attained in my home. Although that system’s sound would be greatly surpassed by subsequent TWBAS systems, the bar set by that first one was already very high. Shunyata was represented in TWBAS 2004 by their Hydra Model-8 power conditioner ($1995 at the time; all prices USD), various models of power cord from their Anaconda and Diamondback lines, and their Constellation Aries and Andromeda signal cables (these models were discontinued long ago; see archived articles for cable prices).
Format: 2 LPs
Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****½
Overall Enjoyment: ****
By 1991, vinyl had been pronounced dead. But Heinz Lichtenegger, who that year founded Pro-Ject Audio Systems, remained faithful to the format. Although Pro-Ject now makes all manner of hi-fi gear, from DACs and amps to cables and accessories, its foundation remains turntables, and it continues to improve and innovate in a field that has made an impressive and, to many, unexpected comeback. Clearly, Lichtenegger and a few others, such as Roy Gandy of Rega Research, and Harry and Sheila Weisfeld of VPI Industries, believed that the attractions of vinyl would remain strong enough for the format to remain viable.
What most non-audiophiles say when they see my system for the first time -- after “Wow, those speakers are huge!” -- is this: “You still listen to records?” By which they mean vinyl LPs, their implication being digital playback formats are of course superior to analog, and that I should get with the times. As politely and non-condescendingly as I can, I try to explain that, in my opinion, the very best analog rigs reproduce recorded music with higher fidelity than the very best digital rigs. Their response is usually skeptical -- until I prove my point with a demonstration. Most doubters then become converts -- or at least feign agreement.
I cut my audiophile teeth on Krell amplifiers. I loved them and owned many of them, from KSAs to MDAs to FPBs -- even the flagship Krell Audio Standards. Back in the day, Krell amps provided what I wanted from an audio power amp: the control, the sweetness, the bass. To say I held founder-designer Dan D’Agostino’s work in high regard would be an understatement.
Some audio products look downright menacing. I include in this group Wilson Audio’s Sasha and Devialet’s Phantom speakers, and the electronics from Metaxas Audio Systems. But perhaps no other audio manufacturer so consistently produces gear that looks bent on world domination than does Denmark’s Gryphon Audio Designs, whose aesthetic is striking, to say the least: ultramodern, often black, and pure badass.
Blue Note/Slow Down Sounds SDS-84099
Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: ****½
Overall Enjoyment: ****½
Although I’d heard of the great jazz guitarist Grant Green by the time I began collecting jazz albums, in the 1970s, I didn’t begin listening to him seriously until the early ’90s, when there was little available on new vinyl. The last few years have seen the return on vinyl of several Green albums, some through Blue Note’s 75th- and 80th-anniversary reissue and Tone Poet series, others from such audiophile labels as Analogue Productions and Music Matters.
The moment I heard of the death of Neil Peart (1952-2020), sorrow set in. That Peart was the drummer and lyricist of one of my favorite rock bands, Rush, would have been enough to set me into a spiral of introspection, but there’s more to my connection with Peart than the music of Rush. Like me, he was an avid motorcyclist, and many of his explorations of this continent mirror some of my own choices of bike and road. I’ve read a number of Peart’s books, many of which center around motorcycle riding and the mindset it engenders. His memoir Ghost Rider is a painfully honest description of a 55,000-mile motorcycle trek throughout North America, during which he tried to outrun his grief over the deaths, within ten months of each other, of his daughter and his wife.
The year was 1997. I was in seventh grade, and had recently begun asking my older brother for his copies of Stereophile. He’d always talked about buying a pair of Wilson Audio Specialties’ famed WATT/Puppys, and having heard his system, I was eager to see what hi-fi audio was all about. Reviewed in the October 1997 issue, however, was a loudspeaker that would shift the spotlight -- if only for moment -- away from the super-high-end’s perennial heavyweight champ.
“If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life.” My father used to say that, but like so many things in life, it’s easier said than accomplished. I began writing for the SoundStage! Network in 2011, while finishing grad school. I was young, bright-eyed, and naïve. When I took over as Senior Editor of GoodSound! (since rebadged SoundStage! Access), I had a hunger to learn and write as much as possible about the high-end audio industry. Given my consumer-oriented obsession with value for money, Access, the SoundStage! Network’s budget-oriented website, was the perfect fit.
What this world needs is a great loudspeaker costing under $15,000 USD per pair.
Many audiophiles don’t consider a speaker costing 15 grand per pair expensive. My non-audiophile friends consider this amazingly misguided. It wouldn’t take an exhaustive Internet search to find a reviewer somewhere saying something like this: “You can expect only so much for $15,000.”
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