January 2016 - KIH 30 - Some thoughts for manufacturers, on maximizing their tradeshow exposure.
January 2016 - Underground Japan #1 - With our new Japanese correspondent Chris Sommovigo having settled into his digs in Kanagawa prefecture, it's time for his first instalment on a planned series that will be dedicated to shedding light on hifi's underground scene in the Land of the Rising Sun and related audio adventures. To kick off, Chris' quarry is hearing a pair of the legendary Western Electric 16A speakers.

If you already read Part I, here's the direct link to Part II.
January 2016 - Natural resolution? In the recent S.A.Lab Blackbird review, I'd asked whether one could have too much control. This considered the amp/speaker interface. One school of thought proposes very powerful amps with output impedances which approach zero. This routinely requires added gain stages to offset losses from high NFB. Meanwhile the retro brigade ignorant of such advanced thinking gets away with shamefully low damping factors to express a quite different—more poetic less overdamped—musical gestalt when, where and if the speakers are compadre. In the recent Heco Direkt review, I touched upon the topic of natural resolution. By implication, that must define itself against unnatural resolution. I proposed that playback resolution in excess of what’s encountered in a live venue becomes unnatural; and how this is often counterproductive to the enjoyment of so-called popular music. A lot of unnatural perspective obviously starts in the recording studio where microphones are placed where no human ears would ever go. Compound this with the pixel-count obsessed version of high-resolution playback. The result is an overwhelming level of detail which can only be called overly analytical since, to get anywhere near it, you’d have to expend serious focus and effort during any live venue and sit unbecomingly close...
January 2016 - KIH 29 - Some thoughts for manufacturers, on maximizing their "getting reviewed" experience...
December 2015 - KIH 28 - Some thoughts for manufacturers, on maximizing the free advertising potential that's built into their websites...
December 2015 - Audio Video Show 2015 - Marja & Henk returned from Warsaw with 900 photos and plenty of impressions both good and bad to sort through and out. Here are the final six pages covering the exhibits in the Golden Tulip and Sobieski hotels.
December 2015 - KIH 27 - Some nuts and bolts of audio reviewing, no Zen involved...
 
November 2015 - New York Audio Show 2015 - Steve Marsh booked himself to take the temperature of this event as it returned to the outskirts of the Big Apple...
November 2015 - Soma - Myths tell us that it was the secret drug of the gods. Mystics claim it’s the secretion of higher glands when activated by special yoga. Yet one needn’t get all mystic or mythic to know of pheromones, endorphins, adrenals and other blood-altering substance which our bodies create quite naturally. Anyone who works out regularly knows the quasi intoxication from deep oxygenation which burns off impurities and resultant sluggishness. Now imagine that a Big Pharma Corp., somewhere, somehow, managed to synthesize the exact molecule responsible for workout-induced changes in blood chemistry. It gets marketed as Fitrush©. Take it whenever you feel low and depleted. Popping Fitrush©, would you really expect to feel just the same as after a strenuous workout? After all, the workout effect is earned. And not only physically. You might have had to overcome laziness, emotional reluctance, fatigue or pain to perform your daily routine. This has also booked you psychological and emotional wins well beyond muscle strength and joint flexibility. Pitching a pill places zero demands on you. Only your wallet sees the bill. Hey, doesn’t that sound exactly like ordinary hifi consumption? Replace pill popping with power on and presto: sound without any preceding effort to earn its intoxicating effects...
November 2015 - KIH #26 - Shylock with the Sherlock. Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice character has become synonymous with money lenders and loan sharking. Sir Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes remains the master of deduction if occasionally brain-addled by cocaine, morphine or opium. Featuring both on the same bill—ladies and gentlemen, please welcome--and we get to a certain hifi ill faster still. Drums rolls, please, as our characters square off on stage. Exhibit one. "I wanted to give you an update about how things are with us. Trying to attract distributors with our $X price was getting us nowhere. Despite sending out samples to about a dozen potential distributors, we didn’t get a single preorder and heard a whole lot of ‘too expensive’. On the few occasions when the distributor was interested, the answer came back negative once they consulted with a few dealers. One distributor rightly said how this was bizarre considering that the same dealers sell cartridges for $5 or even $10k. It became clear that a lot of customers interested in hifi are younger than the traditional audiophile. This opens up the industry to a wealth of new customers. However, many of these new customers have different pricing expectations. They're more used to 10-30% margins, not the 60-70% common for audio products....
November 2015 - TAVES 2015 - Glen Wagenknecht prowled the halls of Toronto in a 4-page report.
October 2015 - Ortofon find their mojo in Melbourne - 45 years ago, during post-graduate studies, this struggling student took a job working Friday nights, Saturday mornings at one of the Encel-owned hifi stores. The hours were long, pay was crap and his manager at the time a dullard. He received no favours then and returns none now. In fact, I didn't last long—about a year and a half—but the experience did give me insight into what good after-sales service should entail. Forward to 2015. Richmond is home to the Tigers, a football side under Aussie rules who haven't held the premiership cup for more than 20 years. No farther than a mongrel punt kick away from their grounds are Interdyn, new Australian/New Zealand distributors for Danish cartridge doyen Ortofon. For the elucidation of anyone who might be about to drop $79 to $12'000 on an Ortofon cartridge and ought to care about what service to expect should a cantilever bend or break, rest easy. This firm have been around since before Gilligan came ashore on the island. From memory, Interdyn changes brands as often as that oaf Donald Trump votes green...
October 2015 - HighEnd Swiss 2015 - Our publisher visits this 7th installment of the annual event in the Mövenpick hotel of a Zürich suburb to report on newsworthy items. Key amongst those should be the active Kii 3 speaker which made a superlative impression in Munich but apparently had visitors to the RMAF 2015 show thoroughly unimpressed...
October 2015 - Siegfried. It's a most Teutonic name, with Sieg meaning victory and fried not chips sans fish but frieden aka peace. As it turns out, it's a most apt name for a long since discontinued stereo amp by David Berning. I've been told that less than a dozen were ever made. My friend Dan owns one of that not dirty but glorious dozen. You can see it on his top shelf outfitted with Elrog 300B. It's next to the left Thomas Meyer 300B mono with silver/Finemet transformer and mercury-vapour power supplies. With Dan being a well-off and curious hifi lover who's unafraid to commit to custom commissions to sample unusual tubes or topologies, I've had ample opportunity over the years to hear such one-up valve amps or preamps costing up to €40'000 in his evolving system. Thing is, the stubborn Siegfried with its passive attenuator acting as a basic integrated always kept things irritatingly honest. If memory serves, it sold for ~€6'000 when current. Shockingly, that modest investment has kept trumping or at least equalling separates chez Dan's which in combination might have added a solid zero or more to the bill. And the really embarrassing thing—for the competition that is—is that one can easily lift up the Berning with one hand. Using no traditional output transformers nor a power trafo but a switch-mode power supply, it waves off all the manly obsession with 'heavy iron' as redundant and so caveman...
October 2015 - Xavian factory tour - Our Polish correspondent Dawid Grzyb travels to the Czech Republic for a look-see on the Xavian loudspeaker house...
September 2015 - Thunder from Down Under: Galileo lands in Melbourne - Our Australian correspondent Peter Familari reports on an informal event hosted to show off the new Galileo range by Audio Research...
September 2015 - Dead in the water - It happens all the bleeding time! It thus seemed... well, high time to put it out there once again as a type of preventative action. Consider this recent email. "Could you please change the price of the XYZ in your review to +ç*%? I way underestimated EU and US distributor/dealer margins. They are much higher than we expected." It baffles me to no end—open baffle, no crossover filter—that new manufacturers don't do due diligence before they go into business. They pursue reviews to have pricing published that turns out dead in the water. Depending on just how off they were, their amended pricing might well have altered reviewer opinion relative to value. It might even have influenced an award which wouldn't have been granted at the new higher pricing. I remember living in Santa Rosa/California for a few years. It was long enough to observe the comings and goings of restaurants...
September 2015 - The exotic city of complex - A recent email announced KAT Audio's Terminator T1 footers. It caused a brain swell and subsequent need to drain it off. The plug du jour? Complexity. At a certain part in most audiophiles' journeys, the Big C turns irresistibly seductionist. We have all seen it. Think grotesquely overbuilt mechanical contraptions called high-mass turntables with integral stands, three tone arms, air bladders and suspensions that would do bridges proud. The T1 hides its complexity but still brags loudly on about it. It's called "the most complicated handmade isolator foot in the world!" The exclamation mark is theirs. Really...
August 2015 - What can measurements really tell us? - How much is there about published review measurements which predicts how something will sound like? Srajan attempts to find answers in his latest KIH installment for John Darko's site.
August 2015 - The perfect power amps? - In the wake of our Mola Mola Kaluga review by Marja & Henk and here for John Darko's site, Srajan riffs on what a perfect amplifier would be; and whether, unconditionally, such a thing is even possible...
July 2015 - enCore the 2nd - When NAD originally announced their M22 amplifier with nCore heart, there were ripples. After all, Bruno Putzeys' then top class D power module, NC1200, was only available in ±€10'000/pr monos from various brands including his own. Meanwhile the far more affordable circular NC400 board was reserved exclusively for DIYers even though certain individuals circumvented that regulation and went commercial with stock boards and stock SMPS in plain or even fancy casings. With NAD's M22 getting €3'000, something in the nCore scheme had shifted. Rather than break into the DIY piggy bank...
July 2015 - KIH #23 - Cowabunga. Don't you just luv it when walking your talk struts it to perfection? This recently happened to the unholy trinity of me, myself and I. There I was minding my own business when an already forgotten review solicit from the year prior reignited my inbox to announce that they were ready. Was I? Who were they again? Ah, yes - a new Swiss manufacturer called Eversound. Living in Switzerland, I view such domestic opportunities as special. What other reviewer lives here? But I said yes not just for that. Let’s face it, sainthood isn’t on the ticket. Had it been audiophile fuses, cables or ornery costly tweaks, I’d likely have declined. But this was about a no-compromise computer speaker. Which gets us back at powered/active boxes and the various nice things I've said about their concept and its many advantages in prior KIH instalments. Here was my chance to turn theory into practice. Particularly on the desktop, self-powered is so very sensible. Who wants an altar to hifi separates there? What's more, dual-concentric is the way to go. One sits too close for vertical arrays to fully cohere and act as one...
July 2015 - Moist yet? - Should you go moist over a power cord weighing 25kg? Doesn't that sound like a late-night telly query where a mother is interviewed about having sex with her boyfriend's youngest son whilst lover boy makes a video of it? In short, a little or a lot pervy. Just so, it's emblematic of the extreme hifi sector where shocking pricing and sundry mechanical or other excesses aren't merely tolerated but mandatory. Of course where one draws the line between normal, costly but justified and plain stupid depends. One man's €10'000 power cord is another bloke's compete system whilst for many, that's still one zero too many. Take this post from the Audio Exotics forum in Hong Kong, a distributor/retailer who had just hosted their 3rd annual Super HighEnd show with two big cost-no-object systems for existing and potential clients...

June 2015 - The plot thickens. It's 1976. Philips introduce active home-audio speakers with motional feedback. Here's an advert from those heady days. Note the tag line "simply years ahead". How many - years that is? How 'bout a whopping 39? Let's call it forty for a nice round number. 40 it is. Now it's 2015. Kii Audio use HighEnd Munich to roll out their active Three speaker in an off-site mastering studio launch party. I already made noise about these as my top find of the show both for John Darko's site in my KIH #22 column; and in these pages with sighting bits here and there. There's more even if details remain sketchy and conjecture. Look at the very basic block diagram. You'll surely spot the voltage and current loops between driver and what's called motion control. Infinity and today's Genesis would probably call it a servo. Velodyne subwoofers exploit an accelerometer on their cones to compare woofer behaviour to input signal for on-the-fly auto correction...

May 2015 - KIH #22 - Time delay. When the press release named Kii Audio as the sender, my ears pricked up. When their novel Three loudspeaker promised 20Hz – 20kHz bandwidth from a 20x40x40cm box with six drivers; six 250-watt custom nCore amps; full DSP control and controlled dispersion… my ears got hot and bothered. When I learnt that former folks from Grimm Audio were involved including Bruno Putzeys of Hypex, UcD, nCore and Mola-Mola fame, I got my thermometer out just in case. It pegged. Time for another keep-it-honest installment. As have Devialet with their Phantom, I firmly believe that today’s best active loudspeakers backed by sufficient R&D and out-of-the-box thinking set hifi’s path for our future. By design, that entire motion goes against the current establishment. As a quasi entity, the status quo is far too deeply invested in the past to condone any 180° turnabouts.  Hence it’s been predominantly pros—recording and mastering engineers—who have embraced active loudspeakers (and often not their more ambitious examples). In a studio, their all-in-one convenience, linearity and ability to play very loud and full bandwidth from a compact cab in the nearfield are boss... part 2
May 2015 - Munich HighEnd - It's an open secret. Many in the press and in manufacturing consider Munich's annual HighEnd show the event of the year. Add us to the believers. The event keeps growing without giving up on its under-a-single-roof appeal. Why does word on unhappy manufacturers persist who can't secure exhibit space whilst empty halls and corridors of the giant M.O.C remain closed off? That's a mystery. Being Germanic, it's far less so why the show would be so well organized that by 2015, a free smart-phone app contained the entire show catalogue and maps to make finding things in the sprawling convention center easier than ever. With Thurs-Sun hours—the first day just for the press—a productive individual can cover the lot due to the single location. Bumper to bumper bodies during the three public days do interfere a bit. Any efficient lone wolf keen on doing it all must exercise focus, determination and be in a constant hurry. I've been there and done that more than once. It rather comes at the expense of fun and quality time. This year I'd be far more selective and slow. My focus would be on spending quality time with supporters. After all, 6moons isn't a charity. Ours is an outfit for profit. Here it's the ad sponsors who keep us going. Personal thanks are important... .
April 2015 - iMac - A friend recently gifted me with a factory-sealed Retina 5K 27" fully loaded iMac. In the main music system, it replaced my previous iMac which moved into Ivette's system as combined video/audio/TV front end. That now puts us on the 3rd iMac since I transitioned to computer audio. You can tell that I really like this hardware platform. That doesn't mean I'm a flaming Apple fanboy. On my previous machine, I'd for example never upgraded to iTunes 10 once I saw on a friend's computer how certain display features I fancied had mysteriously disappeared. Wanting to do stuff which Apple in their corporate Overlord role haven't planned for you is a major frustration for people who are used to the greater freedom of Windows. With Apple, it's their way or nothing. iTunes 12.01 which came preinstalled on my new deck looked different again. I'm not sure I'd call it an improvement but one does rather adapt quickly. Again, their hardware particularly for music purposes is a real personal draw compared to a number of 'audiophile' music servers I've had through...
April 2015 - Merging Technologies -Little did I know that our freeway exit marked Chexbres hides a famous audio company. It's just past the roundabout off Route de Chardonne. We take it whenever we head west towards Lausanne or Geneva. As such, Merging Technologies SA in Puidoux turned out be literally down the mountain from us. For me that made 'em a leisurely 12-minute drive downhill across windy country roads through pastoral fields, horse and sheep pastures and woods. Many before had done it. In digital alone, Antelope Audio, Benchmark Media, Berkeley Audio Design, dCS, Lavry, Meitner, Mytek and Weiss spring to mind. Now Merging Technologies the pro-audio experts were primed to merge into upscale consumer hifi with the pending launch of their NADAC. That's shorthand for network-attached D/A converter. My contact Dominique Brulhart, head software engineer of Merging Technologies, cites Geneva in his email signature. Yet their actual manufacturing facility is in a zone industrielle of our 'hood. That likely lowers rent over what Geneva digs like Goldmund's and darTZeel's would charge. Whoda thunk? Robert Kelly of German Physiks for one. It was he who, from his days at dCS, was very familiar with the Merging folks of Pyramix workstation fame. It was he who had suggested that as part of their bridge crossing from pro to hifi...
April 2015 - Montreal show coverage - Tim Smith describes his 3 favourite systems and then follows up with another 14 interesting rooms.
April 2015 - Montreal show coverage - Glen Wagenknecht went on a massive odyssey of picture snaps plus focused commentary on sights and sounds.
March 2015 - Fallen champions, resurrected - War news coverage of the patriotic sort uses special language. Soldiers aren't referred to as having been killed or butchered. They are called the fallen as though they could get back up. Hifi discourse does its own killing by dint of our unending need for the new and presumably better. Reviewer fields of years gone by are littered with the fallen; components which have fallen out of favour or through the cracks of consciousness. Their day in the sun has come and gone. Now they're condemned to the cemetery of the forgotten and nameless. Considering this natural trend—unlike canned goods, news are super perishable and passé in a flash—I thought to highlight two of my fallen hifi comrades. They're actually alive, kicking and in rude health. One plays my desktop. The other serves up tunes in our upstairs room where...
February 2015 - KIH #21 - On audiophile religion, getting some and why that's nearly always bad...
February 2015 - Shipping basics - When it comes to reviews, two-way freight coverage is one of the costs manufacturers have to bear. Whilst you'd think that someone in the business of selling stuff abroad would have an automatic grasp on that, routine experience suggests something very different. So here are some basics to help perhaps newer manufacturers to cross international borders without subsequent heart aches. 1/ you can't just write on your label "no value, review sample, to be returned". If you do...
February 2015 - Goldmund paper - Here is a 6-page PDF disputing the merits of 'high-resolution' music files on scientific grounds. If you've been amongst those struggling to hear differences between 16/44.1 and 24/96 files—or found them marginal at best—now you won't feel so alone...
February 2015 - KIH #20 - Srajan's 20th keep-it honest column installment on DigitalAudioReview.net hit. It's on total harmonic distortion or THD and how it applies to audio reviewing...
January 2015 - Elrog 300B - I'd been invited to an informal presentation that would compare different 300B output and 10Y driver tubes in a custom pair of Thomas Mayer valve monoblocks with Tamura F-5003 amorphous core output transformers. These monos were commissioned around the new German Elrog 300B bottle which follows that brand's earlier 845 and 211 triodes which we've seen in gear from Voxativ and Absolare amongst others. It's not every day that one has opportunity to witness the sound of a new power triode of contemporary German manufacture. Here's what I learnt...