Analog Corner

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Michael Fremer  |  Aug 13, 2018  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2003  |  0 comments
Acoustic Sounds' Chad Kassem (right) with viola player Stephen Tees, during the recording of Stereophile's Mosaic CD in Blue Heaven Studios. (Photo: John Atkinson)

Back in the mid-1980s, how many guys do you figure were hauling milk crates full of used LPs around America, from record fair to record fair? Hundreds? Thousands? How many are still doing it now?

That's how and when Acoustic Sounds' Chad Kassem got started—in, of all places, Salina, Kansas...

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 05, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2015  |  4 comments
Using light to read data from a disc sounds a lot like the technology behind the Compact Disc—but you may be happy to hear there's nothing digital about DS Audio's optical phono cartridge. The DS-W1 uses the motions of a Shibata stylus and boron cantilever to modulate the output of its externally powered light-emitting diode (LED). More good news: The DS-W1 optical cartridge plus its associated electronics, which replace the phono preamp, cost only $8500—less than the price of many high-end cartridges alone.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 28, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2002  |  1 comments
Max Townshend's Rock Reference Master turntable (photo: Dan Meinwald).

The day was more unsettling than I'd imagined. Flying the evening of 9/11 to attend Hi-Fi News's 2002 Hi-Fi Show and AV Expo produced more relief than anxiety, though I did have a Rod Serling moment when my room at the Heathrow Le Meridien turned out to be 5911.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 20, 2018  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2002  |  9 comments
I got into one of my snits this morning while reading the "Circuits" section of the New York Times. Michel Marriott was heralding the introduction of yet another portable music format, DataPlay. Each encased DataPlay disc, about the size of a quarter, can hold 500MB vs CD's 650MB. Prerecorded discs will sell for between $18 and $22, blanks for $5, and the first player-burner for $350! I yucked so hard that coffee got up my nose . . .
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 06, 2018  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2002  |  11 comments
Jonathan Carr (above) sat on the edge of an Ekornes Stressless chair, polishing the blades of my system's AC cords with an almost sexual fervor and intensity. Carr, the talented designer of the Lyra phono cartridges, was on a mission. First we played "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio," from an original white-label pressing of Joni Mitchell's For the Roses (Asylum/Atlantic SD 5057). After the polishing—almost an hour's worth—we played it again. The difference was not subtle but enormous—as if we'd changed an expensive component. The increase in clarity and focus and the diminution of grunge and hash were easily noticeable, as was the overall richer, warmer sound.
Michael Fremer  |  Jun 25, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2002  |  2 comments
VPI's Harry Weisfeld shows off the aluminum platter for the TNT HR-X turntable at Home Entertainment 2002.

Was I spoiled by the proliferation of analog gear at the High End 2002 show in Frankfurt, Germany? Nah. Home Entertainment 2002 just wasn't a very analog show. Some new and exciting gear appeared, and there were plenty of turntables playing vinyl. But the agenda of HE2002 was multichannel sound and home theater. That's what the organizers wanted, and, at least on the surface, that's what they got. They also got almost 15,000 attendees—a major increase over last year's turnout at the same venue, the New York Hilton.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 11, 2018  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2002  |  12 comments
A.J. van den Hul's vintage, limited-edition Thorens Reference turntable was a hit at the 2002 Frankfurt Show.

"I was worried about doing it," Speakers Corner's Kai Seemann told me. "If it didn't sell, I'd be out a substantial sum, but I took a chance and pressed 1500 copies, figuring if I did manage to sell them all, it would probably take three years."

Seemann was talking about Ella Fitzgerald's legendary 1950s Gershwin Song Book boxed set, originally released on Verve, which his reissue label had meticulously reproduced on vinyl. "Seven months later, and they're all gone!" he exclaimed wonderingly.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 02, 2018  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2002  |  3 comments
Sign of the times: My local Compact Disc World store in Paramus, New Jersey, now has a vinyl section—a good one. The LPs are selling well enough that some folks I know shop there often so they don't miss out. Even Burger King is in on the action. If the artwork on its new soft-drink cup is any indication, the fast-food franchise has transferred its familiar "Have it your way" slogan from hamburgers to music carriers...
Michael Fremer  |  May 17, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2002  |  3 comments
A recent bid on eBay won me mono copies of Nat King Cole's Love is the Thing and Nat King Cole Sings/George Shearing Plays. The descriptions said that the records had some "marks" but that they "shouldn't affect play." The rest of the wording led me to suspect that the seller knew nothing about vinyl, but since the winning bid was $3.15 ($5.65 with shipping), why not take a chance? I have some mono records that look unsalvageable but play fine—especially using the mono Helikon cartridge.
Michael Fremer  |  May 07, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 2002  |  5 comments
Setting tonearm geometry with Wally Malewicz's WallyTools (see later)

In his "Manufacturer's Comment" response to my writeup on the VPI Aries Extended turntable in March 2002, Harry Weisfeld wrote that, among other things, he wasn't pleased with what I'd set his 'table on. So I tried supporting the VPI with a piece of very heavy slate resting on six of those big AudioQuest Sorbothane half-spheres and made a series of recordings of LP tracks on the Alesis Masterlink's hard drive at 24-bits/96kHz.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 23, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2002  |  0 comments
Classic Records' Michael Hobson announced at the 2002 CES that he is releasing 15 Blue Note mono albums.

My assignment: to cover analog at the 2002 Consumer Electronics Show. Want the bad news first? There wasn't any bad news. The good news started with a flood of new software. Fresh vinyl will help drive hardware sales while preventing the industry from trading solely in nostalgia.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 06, 2018  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2002  |  6 comments
It's a circular mound of semi-gelatinous goop in a box, onto which you gently lower your stylus. After a few seconds, you lift the stylus, and it's as clean and residue-free as the proverbial whistle—or baby's butt. In fact, a baby's soft skin is what manufacturer Onzow likens Zero Dust to. The dirt left on the transparent mound is testimony to the effectiveness of the process.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 26, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2002  |  9 comments
Next time someone tells you that nice guys finish last, tell him or her about Bob Irwin, founder, owner, and president of Sundazed Records. He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, he's currently on top, and odds are he'll finish there—for all the right reasons.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 12, 2018  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2002  |  1 comments
Every fall and spring, Groovy Productions runs a giant record convention at the New Jersey Convention and Expo Center at the Raritan Center in Edison, New Jersey. In 2001, despite September 11 and an unusually warm, sunny day that saw temperatures close to 80°, vinyl fanatics turned out in gratifying numbers. And while attendance was down compared to last year, according to Groovy's organizers, those who came were in a buying mood. I was among them.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 05, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2001  |  0 comments
I sat staring at a blank cursor for a few hours trying to figure out how to begin this column and I still haven't come up with anything worthy, so I won't even try. Coverage of hi-fi shows in the UK and Italy? I don't think so. My flight out was scheduled for the evening of September 11.

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