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Gearing Up, Getting Down: New Toys for the Changing Seasons

Fall is the time for regrouping, for preparing to hunker down during the more sedate winter season. It’s a good time to see what’s on the market that may be new to us, maybe something worth stashing in our nests for the winter. So, with fall on the way soon, let’s look at a few … Read More “Gearing Up, Getting Down: New Toys for the Changing Seasons”

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Perfect Sound for the Time Being: Behind the Compact Disc’s Sonic Ascent

Sony and Philips painted themselves into a digital corner when, back in the early ’80s, upon the introduction of the compact disc, they declared that their shiny silver invention was capable of “perfect sound forever.” Shame on them: the dismal sound produced by the so-called Red Book digital standard might have been avoided. In a … Read More “Perfect Sound for the Time Being: Behind the Compact Disc’s Sonic Ascent”

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Rocky Mountain High: (Low and Midrange, too!)

One of the recurring questions we get from readers of this column is, “Where can I hear speaker X? Or amplifier Y? Turntable Z?” I was surprised when one such reader living in Chicago was having trouble finding a number of products we’ve recently discussed. I assumed one of America’s largest metropolitan areas would have … Read More “Rocky Mountain High: (Low and Midrange, too!)”

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Speaker Up!: Upgraded Speakers Give Music Lovers Fresh Ears

I have a friend, a true connoisseur of great jazz, who owns a pair of 35-year-old speakers which no amount of teasing, deriding or ridicule can convince him to chuck out the window. He recently had them reconditioned, and I’m sure they sound better now after surgery, but not even a quadruple bypass can bring … Read More “Speaker Up!: Upgraded Speakers Give Music Lovers Fresh Ears”

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Uptown Conversation: Talking Speakers with the Legendary Ron Carter

Last year, bass legend Ron Carter admitted in this column to having become a new convert to audiophilia. He had just purchased a new pair of speakers that allowed him to hear his own playing as never before. Recently, the night after celebrating his 70th birthday in a gala concert at Carnegie Hall, Carter invited … Read More “Uptown Conversation: Talking Speakers with the Legendary Ron Carter”

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Around the World: DIY Systems from the Other Side of the Globe

Globalization. How many times a day do we hear that term bandied about in the news, in advertising, in political rhetoric? As a concept, it may be valid and worth considering, but the word itself is worn out. Too bad, because globalization (read: the world s getting smaller, making it easier to trade ideas and … Read More “Around the World: DIY Systems from the Other Side of the Globe”

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Casting a Net on the Net

I get several e-mails each month from readers seeking help with selecting just the right gear, some assembling a full system and others simply wanting to replace an old component or two. (Please feel free to send in your questions to the email address at the end of this column.) Because much of the equipment … Read More “Casting a Net on the Net”

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New Year’s (Higher) Resolution

Last month we examined a few home entertainment products that didn’t fit into the convenient categories provided by our usual monthly soirees. Since there wasn’t enough room for everything competing for your bucks, we’ll finish up this month with a few other goodies that can greatly enhance the jazz-listening experience in your home. That’s what … Read More “New Year’s (Higher) Resolution”

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2006 Year-end Grab Bag

Where has the year gone? It’s already time to review the past 12 months and choose a few interesting audio products we’ve somehow managed to overlook that can make the at-home jazz experience just a little more satisfying. It’s certainly a mixed bag of holiday toys this year: One employs an old idea in an … Read More “2006 Year-end Grab Bag”

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Switched On: The Future of Amplification

When it comes to amplifying the music that comes out of our various discs, MP3 players, tapes and laptops, we’ve advanced leagues beyond the simple megaphonelike trumpet Edison used to amplify “Mary Had a Little Lamb” as it screeched forth from his early cylinders. Going full circle from tubes to transistors and, for many, back … Read More “Switched On: The Future of Amplification”

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Size Doesn’t Matter

When it comes to loudspeakers, bigger is not always better. What matters most is the way a speaker conveys the essence of the music being played. Does it project the emotion recorded on the disc, and does it provide enough detail to provide a sense of the performers’ individual styles, timbres and idiosyncrasies so that … Read More “Size Doesn’t Matter”

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Deep Listening

Not long ago I developed an inner-ear infection that resulted in temporary but frightening hearing loss in my left ear. For someone who auditions and reports on audio equipment, this was a pretty scary time. Just being able to listen to music again took on new meaning. And I began to remember the long late-night … Read More “Deep Listening”

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Prehistoric to the Space Age: A Brief History of TV’s

Once upon a time, buying a TV meant choosing between a mahogany or maple cabinet. Having to choose between a color and black-and-white picture was not really even an issue until the late 1950s. These days, thanks to emerging technologies, not even experts totally comprehend the act of buying a new television. So where does … Read More “Prehistoric to the Space Age: A Brief History of TV’s”

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CES 2006: Las Vegas’ Annual Electric Circus

Imagine 38 acres of nothing but TVs blasting, stereos booming and a few thousand subwoofers woofing. Throw in about 150,000 gawkers gawking at all this glitz and mayhem and you have the basic scenario for the 2006 edition of the annual electrogizmo dog-and-pony extravaganza called the Consumer Electronics Show. And since it’s in Las Vegas, … Read More “CES 2006: Las Vegas’ Annual Electric Circus”

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…and Twins?: When One Output Device Is Better than Two

Guys often dream about twins. But are two really better than one? If an arrangement with one takes daily work to make things run correctly, imagine trying to coordinate two in just about any situation. Ain’t gonna work–or at least not smoothly. Twins. Nice idea, but not ideal. In audio we have a similar quandary … Read More “…and Twins?: When One Output Device Is Better than Two”

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Hodgepodge: Running Down the Voodoo on Three Cool Projects

John DeVore (devorefidelity.com) first appeared on my radar three years back at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, where he was demonstrating his Gibbon 8 loudspeaker. The following year saw the birth of his current giant, or giant killer, the absolutely stunning Silverback Reference speaker–$14,000 and sonically worth every penny, and then some. DeVore continued to … Read More “Hodgepodge: Running Down the Voodoo on Three Cool Projects”

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Wrapped in Sound: Surround Speaker Systems Make Great Leaps Forward

The very first pancake was made when a crafty cook combined the appropriate quantities of flour, eggs, sugar, milk and some kind of leavening ingredient. Not brain surgery. But the operative words here are “appropriate quantities.” The proto-flapjack was likely either a paper-thin thing made from a far too runny batter or a nasty puck … Read More “Wrapped in Sound: Surround Speaker Systems Make Great Leaps Forward”

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Arcam AVR-300 A/V Receiver

I routinely mention the British Arcam brand (aslgroup.com) in any roundup of high-value, high-performance electronics. This now legendary firm consistently offers some of the best sound for the dollar to be had anywhere. And not only do their amps, DVD and CD players sound great, but they are built for the long haul, like a … Read More “Arcam AVR-300 A/V Receiver”

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Hot Glass: Tube Amps Still Ring True

“Our dying planet will be saved by tubes and some hi-fi nuts,” reads a blurb in an advertisement for the L.A.-area stereo emporium Upscale Audio. The store’s owner, Kevin Deal, has been dubbed the “Tube Guru,” and he’s recognized as one of the industry’s most ardent proselytizers for the renaissance of tube-audio gear. “In a … Read More “Hot Glass: Tube Amps Still Ring True”

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Sounds of Jarrett

I got a call today from a musician friend who recently purchased a new stereo amplifier upon my recommendation. Previously he had been incredulous when I spoke about the differences high-performance audio equipment can make when listening to jazz. “Mike, damn it!” he exclaimed over his crackling Blackberry, “you were right. This new amp really … Read More “Sounds of Jarrett”

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Living-Room Audio

At the recent Home Entertainment Show in Manhattan I fell in love with a musical gorilla and deep-fried pig’s knuckle. No, I’m not crazy. We’ll get to the magical gorilla in due time, but an amazing Filipino dish called Crispy Pata discovered in the wilds of Queens produced some of the best sounds I heard … Read More “Living-Room Audio”

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Sound Bargains: Speaker deals around $1,500

Last month’s Audio/Video Files dove headfirst into the profound mysteries of high-performance loudspeaker design. We learned that speakers are not simply a jumble of drivers and wires in a simple wooden box; they are an artistic effort akin to crafting a fine musical instrument, intended to channel the heart and soul of musicians into homes … Read More “Sound Bargains: Speaker deals around $1,500”

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Best Bets 2005: CES Does Vegas

In true Las Vegas bright-lights-and-neon style, the recent Consumer Electronics Show, annually the largest trade spectacle hosted by Sin City, attracted 140,000 attendees-electronics retailers, industry folk, engineers and press-to its 1.531 million square feet-nearly 300 football fields-of exhibit space. In Las Vegas everything is bigger than life. How about the $500,000 home theater setup that … Read More “Best Bets 2005: CES Does Vegas”

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Surround Sound Secrecy

Put your hands up. You’re surrounded.” That classic line from a thousand westerns and mystery flicks has taken on new meaning in the past several years. The phrase is still in the movie business, but nowadays, the hands going up are those of baffled home theater consumers facing an ever-changing array of choices in the … Read More “Surround Sound Secrecy”

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Sound Pundits

What more irrelevant thing could you do for a living than write about hi-fi? It’s a pretty goofy thing to do.” Wow! I would certainly never make such a flip remark, but the sometimes-controversial audio observer/reviewer Art Dudley did, and he means it-sort of. Dudley-who currently writes for Stereophile, but once served as editor of … Read More “Sound Pundits”

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Holiday Treats

Is it just me or are we jazz fans just a little bit harder to buy gifts for than most folks? As jazz lovers we’ve already proven that we’re much more discriminating than the average Jill or Joe, more than willing to accept that 15-CD box of Monk’s Riverside sessions, or the newest audiophile LP … Read More “Holiday Treats”

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