Stereophile February 2021

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.
12 Issues

in this issue

5 min
as we see it

Complicated stories In my As We See It column in the January Stereophile, I wrote about stories we tell ourselves to make our lives and music better—personal stories like the one about my relationship to my Thorens TD-124 turntable, or about hanging out with your dad (or mom) listening to records. Also hi-fi stories like the ones about the types of audio components—analog, digital, tubed, solid state—we prefer and how they sound. “Stories deepen our relationships,” I wrote, “including our relationships with our audio systems and the music they make.” Stories are useful like that, but such stories, while they may be based in fact, are never 100% true. At best they’re oversimplified attempts to make sense of a complex world—of real, complex experiences. That’s their virtue. They make sense—some sense at…

8 min

I’m back in Years ago, I canceled my subscription because of the general East Coast urbanhipster vibe and other claptrap that seeps into equipment reviews. Then, today, I read this in Robert Schryer’s review of the Grandinote Shinai: “The Shinai mostly degassed those farts, rendering them drier than I’m used to, more defined and solid, with better attack.” I’m back in. —Tom WrennZelienople, Pennsylvania IsoAcoustics Gaia isolation feet Just wanted to thank Michael Fremer for his enthusiastic review of the IsoAcoustics Gaia isolation feet. After reading his review, I bought them. He was not kidding!! In 45 years of hi-fi, I’ve never heard a tweak to a system have such a dramatic improvement. I have been rediscovering old recordings ever since. Thanks again, and hope to see Michael again at Audio Advice in Raleigh…

16 min
industry update

GERMANY: WUPPERTAL AND MUNICH Julie Mullins It’s no secret that the pandemic has forced an unprecedented number of audio show cancellations and postponements, in 2020 and into this year. Now, High End Munich, which was canceled in 2020 and was slated for May 13–16, 2021, has been rescheduled for September 9–12, 2021. These changes were announced via social media and a press release from the presenting organization, Wuppertal, Germany–based High End Society. (Previously, the High End Society told Stereophile that the show’s alternate dates were December 6–9, 2021, which we reported in our December issue. We were later informed that those dates were “only for unforeseen circumstances” and “not intended for publication.”) The High End Society is the organization behind several European audio shows including the flagship High End Munich and the…

17 min
analog corner

Phasemation, DS Audio, and an upgrade from Audio Research I feel compelled to repeat here an eerie occurrence I related a while back on AnalogPlanet. I reviewed, in the February 1999, Analog Corner column, the Cartridge Man’s Digital Stylus Force Gauge,1 which back then sold for $299. I still have it, but a decade ago, the battery stopped taking a charge. I put it aside, planning to replace the battery someday. One late October afternoon, I looked over at the device and decided it was time to resurrect it. I opened it up and inside found an odd-looking soldered-in battery. I emailed Len Gregory, aka the Cartridge Man, and asked how he was all these years later. Then I inquired about the battery. Instead of waiting for a reply, I took the device further…

13 min
gramophone dreams

T+A Solitaire P headphones and HA 200 DACheadphone amplifier What I categorize as mainstream, dealer-based, fancy-pants streamers and big-speakers audio is actually only the gold-plated tip of a gigantic asteroid-like monolith that extends (underground) from New York to Hong Kong, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica. This immense audio-social mass is mostly invisible to the Madison Avenue mainstream, but simple Google searches expose millions of proletarian audio-gear constructers (DIY’ers) working in shops, basements, and garages, scratch-building everything from turntables to tonearms to phono cartridges, to capacitors and vacuum tubes, to amplifiers, headphones, ribbon and electrostatic speakers. Other Google searches turn over massive intergalactic rocks, exposing worlds teeming with triode-tube tribesmen, DAC-chip hoarders, FET collectors, ham-fest stalkers, OTL activists, irradiated flat-earthers, horn-speaker engineering societies, Klipschorn cults, Western Electric worshippers, Altec-ology converts, Harbeth clubs,…

3 min
linear tube audio z10e (a follow-up)

In Gramophone Dreams No.36,1 I wrote a rave report describing how well Linear Tube Audio’s Z10e 12W power amplifier/preamplifier/headphone amplifier drove my highsensitivity Zu Audio Soul Supreme and DeVore Fidelity O/93 floorstanding speakers. I was especially dazzled by how effectively the Z10e drove the Stax SR-009S and Dan Clark Voce electrostatic headphones. I was equally impressed by how well the Z10e played the relatively insensitive 88dB/mW JPS Labs AB-1266 Phi TC headphones. My only disappointment was the Z10e’s lack of power and gain driving HiFiMan’s glorious—but insensitive (83dB/mW)—Susvara. I wrote, “It did let the Susvaras play most of my difficult, bass-heavy program with reasonable clarity and élan. Unfortunately, there was zero punch, instrumental weight, or get-up-and-go energy. Clipping was noticeable especially on deep plucked or synthesized bass, where the Z10e would…