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Stereophile March 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.

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United States
AVTech Media Americas, Inc.
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12 Edities

in deze editie

4 min
online sales get personal

It’s 2021, and the audio business marches ever onward. Accelerated by the pandemic, economic transformation continues apace; online sales are burgeoning across all industries. This includes hi-fi, which is under pressure to facilitate more online sales, and—maybe, for some—move away from the traditional dealer-based sales model. As I reported in these pages about a year ago,1 companies including VPI and Bowers & Wilkins (the latter recently acquired by Sound United) have begun selling products online or expanding existing online sales. McIntosh is selling some of its products through online dealers. A little more than a year ago, PS Audio, which had always sold direct and through dealers, dissolved their US dealer network while continuing to sell through dealers internationally. For companies, selling online has obvious advantages: wider customer reach, lower overhead, convenience—plus,…

1 min
j. peter schwalm / arve henriksen

J. Peter Schwalm, pianos, electronics, programming; Arve Henriksen, trumpets, percussion, synthesizer, voices RareNoiseRecords RNR0125 (CD, also available as LP, download). 2020. J. Peter Schwalm, prod.; J. Peter Schwalm, Arve Henriksen, engs. PERFORMANCE SONICS Based in London, RareNoiseRecords is committed to erasing boundaries around jazz. Grab any five RareNoise releases, and you are likely to be alienated by one, thrilled by at least one, and aesthetically realigned by all five. Press notes state, “Neuzeit is not only a sonic commentary on this unstable age but a product of it.” German electroacoustic composer J. Peter Schwalm and Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen intended to go into a studio in the spring of 2020; the pandemic took away that option; they collaborated long-distance. Schwalm crafted compositions in Germany and sent mixes to Henriksen at his studio in Sweden.…

1 min
andrew hill

Hill, piano; Woody Shaw, Dizzy Reece, trumpet; Joe Farrell, saxes, flute, English horn; Robert Northern, French horn; Julian Priester, trombone; Howard Johnson, bass clarinet, tuba; Ron Carter, bass; Lenny White, drums Blue Note (2 LPs). 1969/2020. Michael Cuscuna, prod.; Rudy Van Gelder, eng.; Joe Harley, LP supervisor; Kevin Gray, LP mastering PERFORMANCE SONICS Andrew Hill’s Passing Ships is one of the great lost-tapes albums. Recorded in 1969, it was tossed in the vaults by Blue Note’s new corporate owners and remained unknown for three decades, even to discographers, until Hill, recalling it as one of his best sessions, urged Michael Cuscuna to dig it up. Hill was right: It’s a masterpiece. An astonishingly original pianist and composer, Hill came to Blue Note in the early ’60s and defined its free-jazz era. Point of Departure…

1 min
alaska reid

Terrible Records (16/44.1, Qobuz). 2020. Reid, A.G. Cook, Rodaidh McDonald, prods. and engs. PERFORMANCE SONICS 24-year-old Alaska Reid split her childhood between Los Angeles and a small town in Montana. She started a band called Alyeska, which in 2017 put out an Americana-based album called Crush. She left that band and struck out on her own. Her courage is paying dividends. As a child, Reid adored the storytelling aspect of classic country stars like Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard and the more modern sounds of Lyle Lovett. Her early indie influences were The Breeders and Dinosaur Jr., whose producer, John Agnello, worked on Crush. A.G. Cook assisted in production on Big Bunny, along with Rodaidh McDonald, who has worked with Adele and Vampire Weekend. On the title track, recalling childhood romps with her sister in…

4 min
record reviews

The reviewer venturing to identify the birth bed of heavy metal music risks wrath. So be it. The heavy metal genre has many roots. The idea of power chords and music centered on ominous, mythological, and vaguely threatening lyrics goes back centuries; consider the use of European church music in various eras to literally scare the hell out of believers. But heavy metal as we know it started 50 years ago with Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. A mere three years after the Summer of Love, in less than 42 minutes, Black Sabbath’s second album presented a new kind of rock music, a divergence, a world full of possibilities for those who never bought into peace, love, or anything else hippie except long hair and a sense of rebellion. By 1970, the world had…

3 min

I examined the amount of timing uncertainty—jitter—in the Grimm Audio MU1’s AES/EBU output using my Audio Precision SYS27221 system’s digital oscilloscope function. I overlaid successive snapshots of the MU1’s AES/EBU output, taken over a 60-second time window, to show what’s called an “eye pattern.” To make things as difficult as possible for the MU1, the AES/EBU link was a 45' length of Canare 110 ohm balanced interconnect and the data represented the 24-bit Miller-Dunn J-Test signal sampled at 44.1kHz. With an ideal transmission system, all the pulse transitions in the datastream will overlay one another to produce an image of a wide-open “eye,” with just one trace visible. Fig.1 was taken with the original 44.1kHz data (no upsampling) plotted over one “unit cycle.” The eye is wide open, with no blurring…