Stereophile December 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.

United States
AVTech Media Americas, Inc.
SPECIAL: Get 40% OFF with code: START40
$10.65(Incl. tax)
$13.31(Incl. tax)
12 Issues

in this issue

5 min
an argument for measurements

In my early years of writing about audio,1 I was known—to the extent that I was known at all—as something of an objectivist. I was, after all, working as an editor at a leading science journal at the time, just a few years out from a brief career as an actual scientist, still in recovery from the physics PhD I’d earned a decade or so before. In those days, I was more inclined to rail against obvious snake oil2 than to defend subjective listening. I even participated in a number of spirited online debates with major industry figures, such as the late, great Charley Hansen of Ayre and the great John Curl, who these days consults for Parasound, iFi, and AMR. Those industry insiders insisted that you shouldn’t dismiss anything without…

8 min

25 years of Michael Fremer I remember reading Michael Fremer’s first column in Stereophile and nodding as he shared his experience of hearing a CD player for the first time. Digital playback has improved dramatically—it only took 35 years—but vinyl still sounds best. That fact is reconfirmed every time I buy an LP of music that I’ve owned for years only on CD. While all of us who love vinyl can take some credit for its continued viability, Mr. Fremer has long banged the drum for our favorite format and called out stupidity in media sources that criticize our passion without, apparently, actually listening to music. He’s prickly, opinionated, irascible, and, above all, passionate. I don’t always agree with him, but I trust him and his writing. Bless him, and may he…

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 (Please note the new email address.) Please note that it is inappropriate for a retailer to promote a new product line in “Calendar” unless it is associated with a seminar or similar event. CALIFORNIA Friday evenings, 5–7pm: The San Francisco Audiophile Society hosts a virtual Happy Hour via Zoom. This is open to anyone who’d like to join them to talk about hi-fi and whatever else is on your mind. They have special guests from time to time; John Curl is a regular. They have also instituted monthly vinyl and digital discussion forums. For more information on this and other…

12 min
industry update

CANADA: PETERBOROUGH, ONTARIO Robert Deutsch I was shocked and greatly saddened by the news of the passing, at age 68, of Brian W. Russell, president and cofounder (along with his brother Chris) of Bryston Ltd. Established in 1973, Bryston’s first product was a power amplifier for the professional market. The company went on to produce just about every kind of audio equipment: preamps, multichannel amplifiers, digital sources, surround processors, speakers, subwoofers—even turntables. I interviewed the Russell brothers and James Tanner, vice president of sales, in 1996.1 A larger-than-life presence with a quick wit and extensive knowledge of audio, Brian was a stalwart representative of Bryston at audio shows. At one such show, the 2013 Montreal Salon Son & Image, Brian was given a Lifetime Achievement Award. In my show report, I wrote, “Brian…

18 min
sat’s remarkable xd1 record-player system

Let’s begin by discussing what SAT’s XD1 Record Player System is not: It is not a Technics SP-10R in a sci-fi–inspired plinth—although the XD1’s engine does begin life as the SP-10R’s basic drive system, which is stripped down to a handful of essential components, reimagined, reengineered, and rebuilt to much higher mechanical standards. Marc Gomez, SAT’s designer, holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and materials science. Before dedicating himself to creating the SAT tonearm—by far the finest sounding and performing arm I’ve yet encountered (as unanimously corroborated by Stereophile readers who bought this very expensive product unheard as a result of my review)—he was involved in a variety of projects for, among others, the European Space Agency and various European automobile manufacturers. Even if it’s not broken, why not fix it? The…

15 min
the first watt f8

Ispent my childhood summers on the Reichert family farm near Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, where, inside the red 1880s barn, my uncle Harold played 78rpm records for his cows. He used a wind-up Victrola sitting on a shelf directly in front of the cows, just below a framed reproduction of an Alpine landscape painting. He said the music and the mountain scene relaxed the cows, causing them to give better milk. Harold played the same Gustav Mahler symphony every day. I remember how quickly each disc ended, how I had to run over and change it, and how cross he got when I played the discs in the wrong order. I remember how the room smelled like hay and wet cow pies, how half the sound from the Victrola was a scrapey,…