Funny how things come around. Ten years ago, when I first dipped a toe in computer-based audio, I considered using as my reference DAC Weiss Engineering’s DAC2 ($3380 USD when available). At the time, the only way to get digital audio out of a PC was with an add-on soundcard, and the only good way to get digital audio out of an Apple Mac computer was with FireWire -- digital audio via USB was still only a glimmer on the horizon. I was already a Mac user, and the Weiss DAC2 seemed an obvious choice: it had a FireWire input, in addition to TosLink, S/PDIF on coax, and AES/EBU on XLR. However, on hearing that Apple would soon no longer support FireWire, I bought a Logitech Transporter ($1900, discontinued) and began streaming digital audio via Bluetooth. When USB audio became more widely supported, I connected my Mac directly to the Transporter with a Halide Design Bridge USB-to-S/PDIF link ($450), so I could stream 16- and 24-bit PCM files directly to the Transporter. Later, Weiss added a USB input to their DACs -- but by then I’d purchased what is still my reference DAC, a Meitner Audio MA-1 ($7000).
By now you know that since 2017 I’ve been on a downsizing exercise. I decided to divest myself of my Magico-Soulution audio system, which retailed for more than $400,000 USD, and reinvest less of that money -- a lot less -- in my next stereo system. But there was a problem. It’s easy to decide to spend less money -- that proposition is always attractive. But getting less performance than I’m used to . . . well, that was a high hurdle to jump . . . or not.
In the mid-1990s, EgglestonWorks released the original Andra, the loudspeaker that thrust that Memphis-based company into the consciousness of audiophiles. I remember hearing a pair of Andras in New York City in 1996, at Sound by Singer, with Andrew Singer himself playing DJ for me. The Andras had replaced a pair of Wilson Audio’s WATT/Puppy speakers in the system, and Singer was in hard-sell mode. At the time, of course, I had no money to buy the Andras or anything else Singer carried, but I was a youngish audiophile learning about good sound, and Singer was a legend in the world of high-end audio retail. That audition made a lasting impression on me. I recall thinking how utterly powerful the Andras sounded for such relatively compact floorstanders. That was my introduction to EgglestonWorks, and 22 years later, I’m still impressed with the sound of their speakers.
When discussing a turntable, it’s common practice to lump together in that term every bit of gear that precedes the phono stage. The turntable includes the platter and the motor that spins it, and often the tonearm as well. Then there’s the cartridge, which is an honest-to-god system component all by itself. The internal tonearm cable is most often captured -- but unlike the old silver plastic record players of my youth, most modern turntables have some sort of junction to facilitate the connection of aftermarket interconnects. So add an interconnect to the list of components that make up this rigmarole. And I guess we can continue to add to this catalog -- let’s include any item that remains in contact with the turntable while the record is in play, OK?
This is my column, so I get to make the rules.
Dunham DUN1007 (DAP-054)
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****
The last few years have been tough ones for lovers of soul music. Aretha Franklin died last August of pancreatic cancer, less than two years after Sharon Jones, the shining light of Daptone Records, passed away from the same illness. In September 2017, Daptone and soul lost another great when Charles Bradley died, of stomach cancer.
I first met Harry and Mat Weisfeld, of VPI Industries, at the 2016 Montreal Audio Fest. They’d driven north from Cliffwood, New Jersey, with a truckload of turntables, and had proceeded to pepper a number of MAF rooms with them. Over the next two days I ran into the Weisfelds a number of times, and spent an evening chatting with them in the lounge of the Hotel Bonaventure’s restaurant. Harry and his son Mat are exceptionally good conversationalists, and were as enthusiastic while on duty during the show as they were over beers that evening.
There was a time in my audiophile journey -- not that long ago -- when anything but the top loudspeaker in a given company’s line would simply not do. Whether it was Wilson Audio’s X-2, Rockport’s Arrakis, or Magico’s Q7 -- I’ve owned them all -- I felt that chasing state-of-the-art sound automatically meant getting the biggest, most expensive speaker a company made. Looking back, I was partially justified in this notion because my former listening room, the Music Vault, had been designed with monster speakers in mind. Its acoustics had been specifically dialed in for the Wilson X-2s, but the space had been designed and built to handle any megaspeaker I might throw into it.
AVM is one of those companies I discovered at Munich’s High End years ago. Like myriad other German manufacturers that display at High End, AVM annually has a large presence at this audio event in their native land, with a room in which they display their entire product line. High End 2018 was no different -- I saw so many components in AVM’s big room that I wondered how their customers keep track of everything they make. At that moment I vowed to learn more about AVM and their offerings -- and to seek out a review sample of one of them.
ECM 2618 6775896 (LP), ECM 2618 B0029060-02 (CD)
Format: LP, CD
Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Danish jazz guitarist Jakob Bro has recorded 15 albums as a leader since 2003, and has played as a sideman on nearly as many. He’s appeared on work by formidable players, including Paul Motian and Tomasz Stańko; other jazz greats, among them Lee Konitz, have appeared on sessions he’s led. Nor is Bro intimidated by playing with other guitarists -- Bill Frisell has appeared on three of his discs. Bro’s playing has clearly been influenced by Frisell and by Pat Metheny, two strong voices in jazz guitar, but that hasn’t kept him from developing an immediately recognizable style as both player and composer.
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