Analog Corner

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Michael Fremer  |  Feb 25, 2019  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2004  |  2 comments
Reviewed this month: the T+A G 10 turntable from Germany

Manufacturers of audio accessories are an odd bunch: they show up at your door, pucks, cones, platforms, or balls in hand, eager to demonstrate the enormous sonic effects their products will have on your system. After inserting their isolators, energy drains, or what have you, they sit down for a listen.

But do they even hear the $40,000/pair loudspeakers you're reviewing? Your $15,000 turntable and $4500 cartridge? Your $7000 phono preamp or $30k worth of other electronics?

No.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 11, 2019  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2004  |  1 comments
Richard Vandersteen at the 2004 THE Show in Indianapolis, where Audio Research demmed their MP-1 six-channel preamplifier and 150M multichannel power amp with a Vandersteen speaker system. (Photo: John Atkinson)

CEDIA's annual late-summer Expo, held this year (as in most) in Indianapolis, came just in time for me this year. I hate the excruciating noise at the Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association's gathering, but I get the same charge from high-resolution video as I get from great audio, and the Expo is all about the highest-quality images. Audio? If it's loud, surrounds you, and goes deep enough to massages your innards, it seems to be good enough for most home theater aficionados—and if the source of it can be hidden in the walls or ceiling, so much the better.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 28, 2019  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2005  |  0 comments
Graham Phantom tonearm

The prospect of a four-day fall break at a rustic, dog-friendly ski lodge in Vermont had me scrambling for an audio system. My Apple iPod was an obvious choice, but what about an amplifier and speakers? I considered schlepping a vintage Scott tube amp and a pair of ADC 404 loudspeakers I got at a garage sale, but that seemed like too much of a hassle.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 29, 2019  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2005  |  0 comments
Shelter 90X
This was supposed to be my report on analog gear at Home Entertainment 2004 West. The San Francisco show was canceled because of a hotel-workers’ lockout, but my column wasn’t! Fortunately, I’d gotten an early start on what was to be next month’s column because I wanted to actually get ahead on the audio-reviewing assembly line. No such luck.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 03, 2019  |  First Published: Mar 03, 2005  |  4 comments
van den Hul Grasshopper Condor Gold (Photo: Michael Fremer)

On November 17, 2004, Shure Brothers announced the discontinuation of its legendary V15VxMR moving-magnet phono cartridge, bringing to a close 40 years of V15 cartridges, beginning with the original V15, introduced in 1964 at the then-outrageous price of $62.50.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 29, 2019  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2005  |  1 comments
What if they gave a CES seminar titled “Can You Hear Me Now? Where Has Audio Gone?” and almost no one showed up? That’s pretty much what happened in January, “they” being me.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 03, 2019  |  First Published: May 01, 2005  |  3 comments
I’m driving around the outskirts of Salt Lake City, where any city’s used-record and bookstores and antique shops and Methadone clinics are usually found. Sure enough, around the corner and down the block from the biggest used-book store is Randy’s Record Shop, billed as having “Utah’s best and largest selection of vinyl—LPs/45s/78s.”

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 16, 2019  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2005  |  9 comments
Here’s more proof that sound quality—or its factual representation—is no longer on the radar screen of the mainstream press. I recently sent this letter to the Wall Street Journal’s corrections editor:

“Sarah McBride’s assertion in today’s lead story that satellite radio offers ‘higher quality sound’ than FM radio is demonstrably incorrect. This is not a matter of opinion. While satellite radio is ‘digital,’ it is a highly compressed digital format. . . . I believe were you to speak with the chief engineer at Sirius or XM, and were they to be honest and candid, they would agree too that while satellite radio is a fantastic innovation and offers ‘noise free’ sound, FM offers demonstrably better sound than current satellite technology provides. I know if you spoke with the chief engineer at WGBH in Boston or [W]FMT in Chicago, they’d tell you the same thing.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 11, 1996  |  0 comments
Times Square is home of Virgin's new, atply named MegaStore.

There's news on the Exabyte front: In my April column ("Now the Bad News," p.58), I reported rumblings in the mastering community about the growing use of the Exabyte computer backup system in CD production. The 8mm tapes allow glass masters to be cut at double speed, thus halving production time, and time is money so "look at the clock!"—that's for all you My Little Margie fans.

No sooner had the ink dried on that story than I received a call from a Marv Bornstein, who consults for Cinram, an Indiana-based CD manufacturing facility. Bornstein worked at A&M for many years, back when sound quality was job number one there, and Bernie Grundman ran Herb Alpert's cutting lathe. An ex-girlfriend of mine worked at A&M when I lived in Los Angeles, so I got to hang around the lot a lot and I'd actually met Bornstein (and Grundman for that matter)—it's a small platter ain't it?

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 21, 2020  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2005  |  0 comments
Car stereo as high-performance audio goodwill ambassador got another boost recently, when Audi announced a partnership with Bang and Olufsen to develop a new, high-performance sound system for Audi’s luxury A8 model. The Lexus–Mark Levinson trip I took recently and wrote about in the May “Analog Corner” paid another kind of dividend: a writeup in Motor Trend that included a sidebar about the sound, quoting my assessment of the Levinson system and mentioning Stereophile.

Michael Fremer  |  May 08, 2020  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2005  |  1 comments
Heart Attack on a Plate
Sundazed Music’s Bob Irwin was angry—and not because the corned beef at the Carnegie Deli was fatty (a given). A bunch of grizzled industry veterans, among them John Atkinson, AudioQuest’s Joe Harley, and David Chesky, were gathered for the annual pre–Home Entertainment Show high-cholesterol blowout organized by Ken Kessler at the famous New York eatery, and Irwin was explaining what the nice folks at Universal Music Group (UMG) had just done to him.

Michael Fremer  |  May 20, 2020  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2005  |  9 comments
Record Haul Weighs Down Minivan

“Records? You want to talk about records? I have at least 7000 and you can have them! But you can’t come over and cherry-pick what you want. You have to take them all,” said the gent who’s sat next to me at Avery Fisher Hall for the past four years. Somehow, the subject of LPs hadn’t come up till then, maybe because he shows up at every New York Philharmonic concert with a bag full of CDs from Tower Records.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 29, 2020  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2005  |  14 comments
Hagerman UFO (no longer available)
Record weights and clamps cause a sonic difference that’s difficult neither to hear nor to explain. A stylus coursing through the grooves stamped on a slab of vinyl releases a tremendous amount of mechanical energy, some of which does not exit the system as it’s supposed to: up the cantilever. Instead, it gets reflected back into the vinyl, where it can cause the record to resonate unless it’s damped in some way. There is also potential vibrational energy coming the other way—from the tonearm, the motor, and the bearing—but the better your arm and turntable, the more likely that the problem that needs solving is that of vibrations coursing through that thin slab of vinyl.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 11, 1996  |  0 comments
Shure Stylus Pressure Gauge

First, some good news. Allsop has just announced that it is once again stocking replacement pads for their late, lamented Orbitrac record cleaner. For those who don't know about it, the Orbitrac was an inexpensive rotary cleaning device once considered a joke plastic product strictly for vinyl plebes who couldn't afford vacuum-powered record-cleaning machines. (See Wes Phillips's "Industry Update," April '96, p.39.)

But, used as a pre-vacuuming device to clean surface dust and to get schmutz up from the depths of the grooves before vacuuming, the Orbitrac has proven to be an indispensable weapon in the war on dirty records.

Until now, those lucky enough to own the discontinued Orbitrac have had to hand-wash their pads in an elaborate ritual of diluted laundry detergent followed by multiple hand rinses, diluted fabric-softener baths, and still more rinses. Kind of makes you want to switch to CDs....not!

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 11, 1996  |  0 comments
Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable with Stogi Reference arm

"Hey! First you said the hi-fi show was like the auto show, then all you've talked about is vacuum tubes and turntables. I got news for you: when I go to the car show, I don't go there to see old technology and old cars, I go to see what's new!"

I was on Leonard Lopate's WNYC radio show promoting HI-FI '96, and this irate caller was right: I had talked a great deal about tubes and analog. But why not? I figured it would add some color to the story. I figured even the uninterested would find the resurgence of tubes and vinyl fascinating. And if it incited some folks into calling in, isn't that what talk radio is all about?

But this guy was really ticked, and he'd backed me into a corner. "Calm down!" I told him. "There's plenty of new solid-state gear at the Show too, and CD players and processors. By the way, didn't you say you're from Westchester? Well, there's a company in Westchester called Mondial and they make solid-state gear right here in the United States—I've reviewed some—and their Acurus line is basically no more expensive than the mass-market junk you find at chain stores. You ought to come to the Show and hear it!" That shut him up but good.

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