Just like sportswriters, reviewers of high-end audio equipment are given ample opportunity to get it just right or completely wrong. Like sportscasters, we like to proclaim winners and losers, and we try to understand and predict trends in the audio/video industry. As a regular listener to The Herd with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio, I’ve often enjoyed the Monday segment called "Colin Was Right, Colin Was Wrong," in which Cowherd revels in his sports predictions of the past weekend that have proved correct, and agonizes over where he went wrong. Such forthrightness in freely admitting errors is refreshing and interesting -- it’s something most "personalities" don’t do. It’s even more interesting to track which of Cowherd’s failed predictions he admits to and which he doesn’t -- and there are a lot of the latter. But even with those omissions, I give him credit for the segment for its entertainment value. I thought it would be interesting to do, for your entertainment, the same thing here.
Jeff Was Right: When I reviewed the little-publicized Rockport Technologies Mira loudspeaker in June 2007, I concluded by saying, "Considering everything, the Rockport Technologies Mira is one of the best loudspeaker deals in all of high-end audio -- and maybe the best that I’ve come across." I was super-impressed by the Mira, and perhaps even more impressed, overall, by Rockport as a company and Andy Payor as a speaker designer. I went on to write about Rockport and Payor several more times after that, and today Rockport enjoys, along with very few others, a place at the very pinnacle of loudspeaker design. His products are exemplary, and my 2007 review offered more than a hint of what was to come from his company. Today, any discussion of $20,000/pair-plus loudspeakers invariably includes Rockport as a contender.
Jeff Was Wrong: In August 2006 I wrote a review of the Sound Fusion Luna loudspeaker. I began my review of this then-upstart company’s product by stating: "Sound Fusion is a relatively new Canadian loudspeaker manufacturer, established in 2002, whose core business background is in furniture manufacturing through its parent company, Global Wood Concepts. This bodes well for the end user of their loudspeakers -- Sound Fusion has apparently bypassed the learning curve of how to make a finished commercial product." This did not bode well for the end user after all. The company has gone out of business, and I would imagine that their products now have almost no resale value. Being a good furniture manufacturer does not a good speaker manufacturer make.
Jeff Was Right: In May 2005, when I reviewed the darTZeel NHB-108 Model One 100Wpc stereo amplifier, I concluded my review with this: "There’s a lot to like about the darTZeel NHB-108 Model One amplifier. It shined with smaller-scale recordings, and it sounded silky and refined with whatever music I threw at it. Music flowed through it." I certainly think I was right about all of that. But I also stated that the NHB-108 didn’t have the drive and authority of several more powerful amplifiers I compared it with. I was lambasted for those comments by owners, dealers, and other reviewers. Nonetheless, five years later, when darTZeel introduced their 450Wpc NHB-458 monoblocks, folks said that they retained all the wonderful qualities of the NHB-108 while adding, you guessed it, more drive and authority. Hmm . . .
Jeff Was Wrong: Over the past several years I’ve written about some of the best room-correction systems available. From Paradigm’s Anthem Room Correction (ARC) to Behold’s APU768 system, these super-advanced software programs can dramatically improve the sound of many audio systems. Although I assumed several years ago that I would probably always use some form of room correction in my system, that has not proven to be the case. In fact, the best sound I’ve had in my room of late has been produced without any form of signal manipulation. A combination of good room acoustics, the very best loudspeakers -- i.e., those with generally flat frequency response and controlled dispersion -- and the most transparent electronics is, in my opinion, the best recipe for the best sound.
Jeff Was Right: When I wrote the inaugural installment of "The World’s Best Audio System," in February 2004, it was the beginning of a journey that would lead me to write, to date, 39 of those columns. The "TWBAS" section of Ultra Audio has included original events such as TWBAS 2009 and The Great North American Loudspeaker Tour, along with a bevy of reviews of state-of-the-art stereo components. That brings me to today, and the discovery that some things just don’t change. In that first column I wrote, "I’ve become somewhat harder to please over the years. I’m no longer satisfied with really good, or even really, really good, sound. Once you’ve decided to throw cost concerns to the wind, the quest for the best audio gear extant doesn’t expand your choices -- it narrows them." Boy, was I right. The search for the components that will make up TWBAS 2012 has been difficult, to say the least. I’ve probably turned down inquiries from at least 50 companies around the world because I just don’t think their products advance the state of the art of audio reproduction. There are more mediocre products with six-figure price tags than you could imagine. Yeah, I know -- life’s tough. But hey, it’s my credibility on the line here, and it has got to be right. When it comes to TWBAS 2012, "Jeff was right" is the only acceptable conclusion.
. . . Jeff Fritz