Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Alison Krauss sports big hair on the cover of her new album, Windy City. When I was a kid in the 1960s, my next-door neighbor wore hers in a similar ’do. It must have taken half a can of Aqua Net to keep it in place -- a hurricane wouldn’t muss it. Needless to say, I had a crush on her. Krauss looks elegant and stylish in the photos in the CD booklet, and the music inside matches those qualities.
When I first started collecting LPs, in the mid-1970s, my record cleaner of choice comprised a liquid and brush made by Discwasher. I would place an LP on my Philips GA312 turntable, and apply to it a few drops of the solution in a straight line, from lead-in groove to lead-out groove. Keeping the platter immobile with one hand and holding the brush in the other, I’d then sweep the brush around the record three times counterclockwise -- and my worn copy of Tattoo You would be good to go.
I’m often pitched products for review here on SoundStage! Ultra -- the SoundStage! Network site that covers extreme hi-fi components, and where my writing has primarily appeared for more than a decade. It’s obvious to anyone who reads this site the products we review are often priced far above most audio products. It makes sense: I’ve reviewed lots of expensive electronics and speakers over the years -- it’s what I’m known for in audio circles -- and that writing is the focal point of Ultra.
Who knows why we become enamored of certain material things? A particular automobile may “speak” to us on some level even before we drive it. We know it’s the right SUV for us because, mysteriously, it aligns with our views on, well, SUVs. And often, when you finally get behind the wheel, the act of actually driving it for the first time becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And you buy it.
PJCE Records PJCE 028
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
I first heard Andrew Durkin’s music in 2001, when I received a copy of Hardcore, the first album by the Industrial Jazz Group. Durkin was the group’s leader, composer, arranger, and pianist. I reviewed Hardcore for Planet Hi Fi, and for the SoundStage! Network covered the IJG’s next two albums, City of Angles (2002) and The Star Chamber (2004). Durkin’s music is complex yet accessible, brainy but not coldly intellectual, and often humorous.
Selecting an audiophile equipment rack can be unnerving. Rack makers rarely agree on anything, and almost all assert that their chosen design is the best. Look, for example, at the bewildering number of construction materials used: aluminum, acrylic, carbon fiber, ceramics, glass, granite, steel, and untold numbers of woods, common and exotic, solid and composite -- to name just a few.
I’m probably not going to be the most popular guy walking the halls at this year’s High End show in Munich, Germany, because I’m about to reveal something that a growing number of reviewers don’t want you to know.
I reviewed the Focus Audio Liszt Sonata integrated amplifier in April 2013 on SoundStage! Hi-Fi. To say that I was enamored of it would be an understatement. And just in case anyone hadn’t got the message, I followed up that review with an article that stated just how well suited the Liszt Sonata was to my specific musical tastes.
Prestige/Analogue Productions APRJ 7120
Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2
When Gil Evans & Ten, Evans’s first album as a leader, was released in early 1958, he’d already been working as an arranger for nearly 20 years, beginning with his stint with bandleader Claude Thornhill, from 1941 to 1948. Evans had been one of the arrangers for Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool project, beginning in 1948, and Gil Evans & Ten followed, by just a few months, Davis’s Miles Ahead (1957), for which Evans had written and conducted the orchestral arrangements. He went on to work with Davis on two more key recordings, Porgy and Bess (1959), Sketches of Spain (1960), as well as At Carnegie Hall (1962) and Quiet Nights (1964).
These days, everyone does the Product of the Year thing, and in that regard, we at SoundStage! are no different. What makes us different is our breadth of coverage. Not only do we review traditional home stereo gear, we also have writers who address home theater, Bluetooth speakers, desktop audio, and portable devices, including the increasingly important headphone and earphone markets. I’m proud of the fact that we at SoundStage! cover so many different product genres, and our awards reflect that breadth. Below are my views on this year’s most spectacular products, with links to our reviews of them.
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