Barely a day goes by that SoundStage! Network publisher Doug Schneider and I don’t have discussions about the daily workings of the business, and the long- and medium-range goals we have for the SoundStage! magazines. Doug is very much the visionary here, often seeing industry trends early and recognizing openings through which we can leverage our strengths. My role is different: I keep us on track. Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change and other notable books, once said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Yes, we have expanded SoundStage! greatly over the past six years, but we’ve also remained true to our roots: solid reviews of high-end audio components, posted on the first and the fifteenth of every month. That last part is critical.
There are some things I don’t like about the Soulution 711 stereo power amplifier, and the first is the astronomical price: $65,000 USD. That’s far beyond what any normal person could ever afford. You could certainly make the case that something like the Benchmark Media Systems AHB2, at $2995, is far more relevant to the vast majority of audiophiles.
I have come to admire the 711’s understated appearance. It’s certainly built well, with close tolerances, excellent fit’n’finish, and tasteful appearance. It is not, however, the audio equivalent of a Rolex watch -- it lacks enough visual bling. I think the Dan D’Agostino products are the polar opposite -- they demand attention with their gleaming copper and watch-face meters -- but even Boulder Amplifiers, and certainly Gryphon Audio Designs, bring more defining exterior design elements to the fore. The latter are more distinctive.
Blue Note Records B0022593-01
Musical Performance: ***1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Blue Note’s 75th-anniversary vinyl release series continues until the end of October, and one recent series of reissues included this 1965 Hank Mobley title comprising two sessions, one from March 7, 1963 and the other from February 5, 1965. Additional tracks from the earlier session had appeared in 1964, on No Room for Squares, and two others would show up on Straight No Filter, a vault-clearing 1986 release that included work from four different sessions.
As a native son of Pennsylvania, I was thrilled when I learned that I would be reviewing Rogue Audio’s new RP-5 tubed preamplifier ($3500 USD), as soon as a sample was available. Rogue is based in Brodheadsville, 90 miles north of Philadelphia and about an hour from where I live. As sports fans, Philadelphians are typically long-suffering but devoted. With that as my background, it would be easy to be a fan of a local audio company. However, Philadelphians’ familiarity with recurring heartbreak has taught us to view everything with a critical eye. I anticipated the arrival of a new audio component, full of hope that it would live up to the fine reputation of Rogue’s other US-made products. What arrived surprised me in several ways.
This past May, while in Munich, Germany, to attend High End 2015, I was a guest at a manufacturer-sponsored dinner where I was seated next to Stereophile writer Michael Fremer. We talked about a number of subjects, including, unsurprisingly, his love for analog sound. Unless you’ve lived under a rock, you know that Fremer is an LP-and-turntable guy. Throughout our very civil and enjoyable conversation, there were many points we agreed on, and a few we did not. However, one thing Fremer said stood out from the rest: He can’t enjoy digital recordings; it takes analog sound to relax him and get him into the music. That’s a paraphrase, but it captures his gist. I believe this to be his honest opinion, and have no reason to believe he’s shilling for the analog-equipment manufacturers. I trust him on this.
Just over a decade ago, Simaudio introduced their Moon Evolution series: a no-holds-barred line of products representing the pinnacle of what this highly regarded Canadian company has to offer. Within the year, Jeff Fritz had reviewed three Moon Evolution models -- the P8 preamplifier, the Andromeda CD player, and the W8 stereo amplifier -- and awarded each what was then Ultra Audio’s Select Component status (now Reviewers’ Choice). And he kept the P8 as his reference preamp. Shortly thereafter, our founder, Doug Schneider, reviewed the Moon SuperNova CD player, gave it a Reviewers’ Choice award, and made it his disc spinner of choice.
Format: 24-bit/44.1kHz FLAC download available at HDtracks and Acoustic Sounds
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
You have to admire Melody Gardot’s unpredictability. While her first two albums put her firmly in the jazz chanteuse section of the record store with Norah Jones and Madeleine Peyroux, on her third disc, The Absence, she mixed in some bossa nova and other world music. Jones and Peyroux have avoided being pigeonholed themselves, so maybe Gardot does take them as inspiration. At any rate, Currency of Man, her newest disc, has some of the lushness of her previous outings, but the string arrangements more often recall Isaac Hayes or Curtis Mayfield than they do jazz.
When Steve Silberman, AudioQuest’s vice president of development, approached me a few months ago to review their Cinnamon Ethernet cable, I was a bit hesitant to respond. Despite having witnessed notable improvements from using other analog and digital AudioQuest products, I didn’t believe that the cable making an Ethernet connection could make an audible difference. Silberman told me that he was so confident I would hear an improvement that he’d send me both AQ’s Cinnamon and Vodka Ethernet and AES/EBU cables.
While in Munich attending High End 2015, I made a point of taking one afternoon off show reporting to do something we SoundStage! folks struggle to do at any show: listen. We specialize in running around show venues covering new products, but it would be a shame to have so many great speakers introduced in one place and not get to hear them, back to back to back. So on Saturday I set out to listen. By the end of that day, it was these seven speakers that I found most appealing.
My first experience with open-baffle speakers was a few years ago, in Bangalore, India, in the showroom of ARN Systems, which then distributed the speakers made by Emerald Physics. I recall the sound of Emerald’s CS2.3 speakers as being exceptionally dynamic, nearing concert-level realism with a humongous soundstage that filled the large room. The Emerald CS2.3 was designed by Clayton Shaw, who has since moved on and now is the principal of Spatial Audio, based in Park City, Utah. (ARN is Spatial’s Indian distributor.)
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