Analog Corner

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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  |  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 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  |  Apr 11, 1996  |  0 comments

A Consumer Electronics Show is always fun: You see and hear new stuff, greet old friends, and occasionally meet the disenchanted. Since this was my first Winter CES as a Stereophile writer, I was expecting more feedback than I'd previously received at shows, and I wasn't disappointed. Despite an icy shoulder or two, most of it was positive, and some of it was flattering. But one reader I ran into was genuinely pissed at me for "wasting most of an analog column" writing about...digital! He was talking about the January issue's "Analog Corner," in which I wrote about the Audio Alchemy DTI•Pro 32 and the major sonic improvements it produced with CDs. He punctuated the reading of his analog riot act with "Hey, I don't even listen to CDs!"

That was also the column where I wrote, "You think I'm a diehard? There are still audiophiles who refuse to listen to CDs, period." I think that slightly derisive comment is what really set him off. So will this column because it's also about digital—sort of—but I hope all you analog devotees will peruse it anyway, along with the digital-only readers who usually cross the street when they reach the "Analog Corner."

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 20, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2003  |  3 comments
There was a reference to a SOTA turntable in an episode of The Sopranos in the fall of 2002. Tony's son, A.J., and a pal were visiting a wealthy girlfriend when the pal popped out from the hallway and exclaimed, "A mint copy of Rubber Soul! That must be worth a fortune! And a SOTA turntable!" This was in or near the same episode in which Tony was outfitted with a sophisticated front-projection home-theater system. I'd wondered since the first season why a man of his means has been watching a 27", 4:3 Philips analog tube. I'm trying to find out who's the audio/videophile among The Sopranos' cast and crew.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 26, 2018  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2003  |  10 comments
"Why would anyone pay $74,000 for a turntable?" sputtered Peter Panarisi. Aston Martin's product press officer was showing me around the company's V12 Vanquish production facility in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, England. "What does it have to do," he continued incredulously, while showing me how they hand-build the ca $240,000, 460bhp, 190mph two-seater, "but turn the record?"

I'll spare you my retort...

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 07, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2003  |  0 comments
If you'd asked me 10 years ago to predict where a purveyor of mostly analog gear would be throwing a party at the 2003 Consumer Electronics Show, I probably would have said Denny's—not the the elegant Presidential Suite atop the Mandalay Bay, the Las Vegas strip's most formal hotel. Yet that's where Jerry Raskin's Needle Doctor shared the analog wealth with the press and the industry during one cocktail hour at last January's Show.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 12, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 2003  |  1 comments
I first spotted this chrome-trimmed beauty in the UK a few years ago, when Avid still had no American importer. The opportunity to review it finally arose last January, right after CES, and while I still had the SME 30/2 turntable. The $10,000 Avid Acutus is every bit as deserving of a full review as the 30/2—I am reviewing it in "Analog Corner" only because this is my best chance of getting a review into print so soon after my March 2003 report on the SME.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 17, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2003  |  1 comments
Whether it's to offer a "relaxed fit" to make life easier for analog lovers, or because both Scan-Tech and Immutable Music believe that they've found a way to offer better performance with higher output, the Lyra Titan ($5000) and Transfiguration Temper W ($4000) offer considerably higher output than the "statement' models they replace.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 24, 2018  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2003  |  1 comments
When I came upon Giuseppe Viola's handiwork at the 2000 Top Audio Show in Milan, Italy, I said to myself, "Here's a guy with a fabulous machine shop and too much time on his hands." Most designers are satisfied to introduce a turntable. Not Viola. At Top Audio, under the V.Y.G.E.R. name, he introduced a whole line of hand-built, air-bearing tonearms and turntables. When I met the gregarious Giuseppe (aka "Pino") later that day, he came across as a most enthusiastic, gnome-like character, eager to demonstrate his gleaming creations and explain their workings.

Viola had much to be proud of: He'd developed a massive, true air-bearing platter—one that "floated," both radially and axially, on a thin film of air . . .

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 16, 2018  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2003  |  0 comments
Before I write about Music Hall's MMF-9 turntable (above), in my March 2003 review, I wrote that the SME 30/2 turntable's combination of attributes "might just make it the finest turntable in the world." Earlier in the review, I'd said, "The SME 30/2 is perhaps the most tonally neutral turntable I've ever heard. Only the Rockport System III Sirius, which includes an integral tonearm, is in the same league, and it doesn't stand up to the SME's low-frequency extension and solidity." I wrapped up the review with: "Overall, the SME Model 30/2 is the best turntable I've heard."
Michael Fremer  |  Oct 22, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2003  |  0 comments
Every edition of Primedia's annual Home Entertainment show (formerly known as Stereophile's Hi-Fi Show) takes on a life of its own, even if the venue, the participants, and the products are mostly familiar. It has to do with a confluence of factors—the paying customers, the weather, current events, whatever seems to be the hot industry trend, and just "the ether."

Home Entertainment 2003, held this past June at San Francisco's venerable Westin–St. Francis Hotel, was no exception. The contours of this show's personality were drawn in greater relief for those of us who had attended the previous show at this venue, back in 1997.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 29, 2018  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2003  |  1 comments
The innards of the ASR Basis Exclusive phono preamplifier, reviewed in this column.

Press kits arrive at my house almost daily, trumpeting one thing or another, including upcoming hi-fi shows around the world. Recently, none has provided quite the jolt to my system as one sent by Steve Rowell of Audio Classics in Vestal, New York. It's for the New York High Fidelity Music Show, September 29–October 3. Don't worry, you haven't missed it. Well, you have—by 38 years. Rowell sent me a genuine classic: a press kit for a hi-fi show held in 1965.

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