The site's mostly in Japanese so I can't relate much info, but these pictures tell me all I need to know. Oh, and it's not just extreme hi-fi, this guy's into cactus plants, antique lamps, and aquariums. I guess he's not married.
There's a war going on among music critics of a certain age. A few months ago, San Francisco Chronicle critic Joel Selvin mourned the loss of concern for sound quality in the MP3 era. Since then, writers for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have thrown down the gauntlet for the other side, arguing not only that MP3s and other forms of compressed digital music are sufficient, but that audiophiles are delusional--especially older audiophiles, whose hearing has probably decayed to the point where they couldn't even hear all the things that MP3s take out. Slate columnist … Read more
Listening comes naturally, doesn't it? Well sure, everyone with normal hearing can listen, but what do they hear? What I'm talking about is listening as a focused activity--as opposed listening where music serves as background to something else, reading, driving, running, working, or washing the dishes--active listening can be a lot more rewarding. You hear stuff in your favorite music, maybe rhythm guitar patterns, overdubbed vocals, or instruments you never knew were there can suddenly jump out of the mix. It's stuff the band may have put a huge effort into perfecting, that you only notice when … Read more
Like so many die-hard audiophiles I love tube amplifiers. They sound, well, tubey, that is, warmer, richer, and in many ways, more lifelike than transistor based designs. But the other thing about tubes is they look cooler than transistor based amps. Take a gander at these beauties from Emille Labs. Their stunning industrial design, gorgeous machined metal chassis, and solid build quality is altogether lacking in mass market audio components. If you enjoy living well, and like owning well-made products, by all means, check out what high-end audio companies are offering these days.
I met Richard D at the Home Entertainment Show in NYC in May and we immediately connected. The guy's a really intense audiophile, equally passionate about sound and music. He's a Final Cut video editor and producer by trade, so sure, he's a total tech geek. Just like me.
Last week I dropped by his Manhattan apartment to check out his hi-fi, and I have to say, it's pretty unusual. I didn't recognize any of his components, except the Atma-Sphere vacuum tube power amplifiers. The tubes illuminated the room with a lovely warm orange glow, so I felt right at home.
The monitor speakers' sides are covered with an exotic knitted weave, and Richard explained his speaker cabinets are made out of the sort of "ballistic ceramic" material used to make body armor. His speakers are, in fact, two-of-a-kind prototypes that were never put into production, probably because they would have been too expensive to manufacture in significant numbers. Oh, and there was a cool looking Raven turntable on a shelf under the amplifiers.
Richard has around 4,000 LPs, and when he played a Louis Armstrong recording from the '50s or '60s the system sounded amazingly good. Pops' vocal and trumpet were three dimensionally present and the sound was extremely precise. I loved the way the speakers communicated Armstrong's energy and rhythm--he sounded absolutely "live." And the band's acoustic stand up bass' percussive pluck and "woody" resonance were exceptionally realistic. The sound was oh-so high-fidelity, it was truly great.
Richard's drawn to gear that pushes the technology envelope, like his Liquid Ceramic Composite Conductor Audio Cables that are as thick as garden hoses. This level of exotica is really expensive, so Richard buys most of his gear second hand from Audiogon, a great source for used audio. Even so the system is worth about as much as "a nice car." He also prefers to buy from folks who allow him to try the gear at home, so he knows if he's really going to like it.… Read more
Sometime in the last year, equalizers evolved from T-shirts to decor accessories as fashion items. But here's something to consider if you truly want to scream your audiogenic statement: the "On Machine."
When not in use, this French-made piece of techno art looks like a plasma or LCD screen mounted on the wall or wherever else you choose. But simply touching its glossy black surface will activate the giant equalizer, which will reflect whatever beats are within range.
I wish it wasn't true, but most, I mean like 99% of all audiophiles are men. The vast majority of industry's designers and owners are men. During my sixteen-year stint as a high-end audio salesman, I had three or four female customers. That's out of thousands and thousands of encounters, and even away from the job, I can't remember ever meeting more than a handful of female audiophiles.
Men have a thing about things, we get off on the technology, and the look and feel of the gear speaks to us. The mere sight of a … Read more
Ezra Dyer's Ferrari F430 road test in the July 1 "Automobiles" section of the Sunday New York Times had me drooling. The lucky bastard didn't just get to tool around in the dream machine, there was something about the way he gushed about the 479 horsepower V-8's "high-pitched, hard edged wail that's unlike anything else you'll hear from a car with license plates," and later on rhapsodized about the car's ability to deliver a "supersonic whip crack from the exhaust that prompts you to look in the mirror to … Read more
Paul Barton, founder and chief designer of PSB Speakers loves his job. He'd have to--over the last the last three decades he's probably logged more hours at the Canadian National Research Council's facilities in Ottawa, Ontario than any other speaker designer. There he dotes on his prototype designs in the acoustically neutral environment of an anechoic chamber, measuring and evaluating every aspect of their performance. Barton typically spends two to three years designing a new line of speakers.
I met with him in NYC a few weeks ago to check out his latest, Synchrony. After discussing the technical highlights of his new babies he handed me a Synchrony One B ($1,999/pair) bookshelf speaker to look over. PSB speakers have always sounded great, but they weren't the most gorgeous looking things. The new ones are altogether sleeker, slimmed down, and really pretty in an understated sort of way. Their heavyweight extruded aluminum front and rear baffles; and curved, seven-layer composite wood side panels display a new, more sophisticated level of fit and finish. The speakers are available in snazzy real cherry wood or black ash veneers.
The sound, especially the top of the line Synchrony One tower speaker ($4,499/pair) was spectacularly vivid. Bass was not only subwoofer deep, it was also taut, so it rendered pitches of bass with rare precision. Listen to Paul McCartney's bass on the Beatles' Sgt Pepper CD and you'll know what I'm talking about. Rock drummers came off particularly well; the sense of hearing sticks beating skins was remarkably clear and clean. Barton's new tweeter was equally astonishing when reproducing the cymbals' brassy shimmer. Livingston Taylor's folk vocals from his Ink CD had just the right combination of body and soul. That's exactly what separates "good enough" mainstream speakers from high-end models; the best ones make you feel like you're in the presence of live musicians. Ah yes, that's the point after all.… Read more