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.”
ECM 1001 (LP)
ECM 0110 (24-bit/96kHz WAV)
Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Jazz pianist Mal Waldron moved from New York to Munich in 1967, and thereafter, until his death, in 2002, did most of his recording in Europe. He’d performed and recorded as a leader and sideman since the early 1950s, and had found that American -- especially African-American -- jazz musicians were treated and paid better across the Atlantic.
It’s Christmas 2018, and I’m at my in-laws’ for the holidays. Doug Schneider pings me via text and asks if I’m interested in reviewing Audience’s Au24 SX interconnects and speaker cables. They’re in his car, see, and he’ll be driving right past Campbellford, Ontario, the rural town in which Marcia’s ’rents live. How ’bout he just drops ’em off?
As the editor in chief of the SoundStage! family of websites, I’m sometimes pitched ideas by reviewers. Often these ideas are quite good. For example, our resident jazz expert, James Hale, inquired about writing “Best of the Decade in Jazz” for the December 2019 edition of SoundStage! Xperience, in place of his monthly review. I gave him the go-ahead, and the resulting article turned out to be one of my favorites for the year, and one I’ll consult when I’m in the mood to hear a jazz release I might have missed.
For the past few years, McIntosh Laboratory has been refreshing and expanding its product line at an unprecedented pace. The subject of this review, the MC1.25KW mono amplifier ($12,500 USD each), made its debut in late 2017, and I haven’t been able to take my eyes off it since. Imagine my elation when Mark Christensen, McIntosh’s marketing coordinator, offered to send me for review a pair of MC1.25KWs and their flagship preamplifier, the C1100 (review in the works). In discussions with Christensen, I learned that the MC1.25KW is both a replacement for and an evolution of McIntosh’s beloved MC1.2KW amplifier, and offers more dynamic headroom, upgraded parts and connection points, and refreshed industrial design and lighting.
Way back when, before the age of computer audio, about the time of the ascendancy of the Compact Disc, my expanding collection of records became unmanageable. Milk crates no longer cut it. I ended up buying a five-by-five Expedit shelving unit from IKEA and proceeded to at last sort my records.
Musical Performance: *****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Charles Mingus recorded three albums for Impulse! Records, and one of them, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963), is among his masterpieces. It stands with two other Mingus albums, Pithecanthropus Erectus (Atlantic, 1956) and Mingus Ah Um (Columbia, 1959), as essential jazz recordings that belong in any collection of American music. Mingus went so far as to write, in the liner notes for Black Saint, “I feel no need to explain any further the music herewith other than to say throw all other records of mine away except maybe one other.” He doesn’t name the other record.
I’ve reviewed many loudspeakers over the years, and while many were quite good, only a few stand out in my memory. There seems to be a limit to how much pleasure I get from looking at rectilinear boxes made of MDF over the 12 weeks of the average listening period for a review. Some manufacturers, in an effort to stand out from the crowd, might throw in a curve here, a flourish there, maybe a super-high-gloss finish to add flair to yet another box whose primary -- and, for most listeners, sole -- purpose is to move air.
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