Stereophile August 2020

Every month Stereophile magazine offers authoritative reviews, informed recommendations, helpful advice, and controversial opinions, all stemming from the revolutionary idea that audio components should be judged on how they reproduce music.

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12 Issues

in this issue

4 min
hoisted on your own petard?

After completing a PhD in electrical engineering at Imperial College London, Floyd E. Toole joined Canada’s National Research Council (NRC), where he would stay for more than 26 years doing audio-related research. He continued his research at Harman International after leaving the NRC in 1991. When Toole left Harman in 2007, Harman kept the work up under NRC alum Sean Olive—which fact surely has much to do with the excellence of their current loudspeaker lineup.1 The importance of Toole’s project is hard to overstate. His goal was to provide a scientifically rigorous foundation that could inform choices made by audio designers, especially designers of loudspeakers. He succeeded. Drawing on his own research and the research of others, he established a template for what I call the “classical” loudspeaker: flat frequency response;…

8 min

Cleaning up the sound I recently ordered a balanced headphone cable from my cable guru, Surf Cables. The cables arrived in the midst of the current corona epidemic. Some disinfectant pads were included with the cable. After the first hearing, I wiped down the cable with the disinfectant pads, and the second hearing resulted in these improvements: tighter bass, forwarded mids, and sparkling highs. This comes from a professional musician and 30-year audiophile. —Danlee Mitchell San Diego, California Percussionist Danlee Mitchell was a friend and longtime associate of Harry Partch until Partch’s death in 1974. He has contributed to several recordings of Partch’s music. He is a professor emeritus of music at San Diego State University and the head of the Harry Partch Foundation. ‘Caster master Thanks to Ken Micallef for his lengthy piece on Jim…

1 min
calendar of industry events

ATTENTION ALL AUDIO SOCIETIES: we have a page on the Stereophile website devoted to you: If you’d like to have your audio-society information posted on the site, email Chris Vogel at It is inappropriate for a retailer to promote a new product line in “Calendar” unless it is associated with a seminar, show, or similar event. Unless listed here, readers should assume that meetings listed in previous issues have been canceled. Because of the fluidity of the COVID-19 situation, readers considering attending an event should check in with the organizers first. CALIFORNIA Sunday, July 26, 1–4pm: If public health policies allow, the Los Angeles & Orange County Audio Society will hold its monthly meeting at Common Wave Hi-Fi in Los Angeles (1451 E. 4th St., Suite 106). Host Wesley Katzir and…

10 min
industry update

US: SEATTLE Julie Mullins Amid many audio show cancellations and resultant complications in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis comes some good news: A brand-new audio show has been announced: the Pacific Audio Fest in Seattle. The presenters are Show Director Lou Hinkley, founder of Daedalus Audio, and Show Manager Gary Gill, who is also founder and director of the Capital Audio Fest. (CAF’s end-of-October 2020 show, its 10th, will probably be canceled due to COVID-19, Gill told Stereophile, but a final decision has not yet been made.) Per a recent press release, Pacific Audio Fest’s inauguration is slated for August 6–8, 2021, allowing time—hopefully—for the pandemic to pass. That timing, though, is coincidental: Hinkley and Gill have been planning to present the show in that time frame for about a year,…

16 min
to bouldly go

The two biggest sonic jolts I’ve experienced involving phono preamps were from two very different ones: the Petr Mares’s Connoisseur 2.0 and Boulder’s 2008, which was reviewed in the July 2002 Stereophile (Vol.25, No.7).1 The first was hand-built, single-ended, housed in a wooden case, limited to 100 units, and, when I got to hear it in the mid-1990s, cost around $6000, or about $10,000 in today’s dollars. The other was a featureladen, double-chassis monument to flexibility and surface-mount high technology. It featured beautifully finished, flush-mounted mirrored buttons your fingers just wanted to press. A friend had brought over the Mares. Before we hooked it up, he insisted we look inside. There, I found the electronic equivalent of the game “Twister” (which, for those of you unfamiliar, is a form of institutionalized-hence-acceptable…

14 min
bitstream realms: the “may” dac by holoaudio

In contrast to phono cartridges and analog tape recorders, digital audio converters distinguish themselves by the fact that they can be fashioned in an almost infinite number of ways. Therefore, the odds against two manufacturers’ DACs or ADCs sounding exactly the same are extremely large. Nevertheless, I’ve heard countless audiophiles say that “bits are bits” and that today’s digital-to-analog converters sound mostly the same. Some go as far as to declare today’s DACs blameless—neutral—when debating issues of audio-system sound quality. In my view, such opinions deny the likelihood that widely varied methods for reclocking, format conversion, oversampling, interpolation, currentto-voltage conversion, and reconstruction filtering affect the sound character of the music files being rendered. My experience suggests that many budget DACs do sound the same: slightly blunt, unsupple, noisy, processed. A lot of…