Stereophile June 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.
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12 Issues

in this issue

4 min
as we see it

Servers, deconstructed Jukeboxes were probably the first music servers to take a form we would recognize: a music-playing device that allows you to choose from several, or many, songs. The first commercial jukebox, Wikipedia says, was introduced in 1927 by the Automatic Musical Instrument Company, which came to be known as AMI. For most of their history, audio servers were public things, providing entertainment in bars, diners, and pubs. Fast-forward decades to not long after the CD’s introduction when CD servers appeared that could hold three, five, or 100 compact discs. They quickly became cheap and plasticky, or maybe they were always that way, but anyway people bought them, and that was the music server’s first serious inroad into the home. CD servers were clunky nightmares: It was hard to find the…

5 min

Thanks and praise for Stereophile I’m not what you’d call a true stereophile, but I do enjoy an eclectic variety of jazz, blues, rock, opera, and classical music, particularly when it’s recorded and engineered well. I managed to get by with a decent system until I started reading your terrific magazine. As a result, I’ve made some modest Stereophile-quality upgrades based on your reviews. I added a Rogue Sphinx v3 integrated amp and a pair of GoldenEar BRX speakers to my Marantz DVD/DAC, Sennheiser HD 800S headphones, and Rega Planar One turntable. As a result, I have improved the sound quality of my system dramatically. Coupled with some of your LP recommendations, I have found renewed joy in my tidy home-listening experience. My thanks for your invaluable insights! I look forward…

19 min
industry update

UNITED STATES: BURTON, OHIO Jason Victor Serinus Recording and mastering engineer Michael Bishop, who received 10 Grammy Awards in a period of 18 years, died unexpectedly in late March. The cause was a catastrophic injury sustained at his home in Burton, Ohio. Michael is mourned by Wendy, his wife of more than 40 years; his two daughters, Brianna and Amber; his son-in-law Rick; his granddaughter Stella; and the huge number of audiophile friends and associates he touched in profound ways. He is missed not only for his contributions to the Telarc catalog and the catalogs of several major orchestras but also for the love and devotion he put into everything he made. After six years at Cleveland Recording Company, Bishop joined Telarc founders Bob (Robert) Woods and the late Jack Renner in 1978. Working…

19 min
analog corner

Hi-fi in the age of COVID-19 Almost exactly a year ago to the day that I’m writing this—March 11, 2020—the WHO officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. If you weren’t paying attention, maybe you didn’t see it coming (incredibly, some still deny the pandemic’s existence), but I had already canceled a March 14, 2020, flight to Atlanta to speak to the local audiophile society. I’d made the plans for that visit at the Florida Audio Expo a few weeks earlier. Remember hi-fi shows? No one in our industry knew what would happen as the world shut down, but within weeks, pretty much everyone was thinking, “I’m glad I’m not in the restaurant business”—everyone, that is, who was not in the restaurant business. Or the travel industry. Or…. I did manage to get…

13 min
gramophone dreams

The bijou sub We have inherited an infinitely vast library of recorded musical art, the majority of which is well-recorded but has yet to be fully and completely reproduced. Countless times, I’ve played an album and thought, am I the first person ever to hear this recording sound this clear and microscopically detailed? Audiophiles understand that in order to be fully enjoyed, great recordings need the finest possible audio reproduction. Reciprocally, the finest audio systems are best enjoyed when playing great recordings. It’s a horse and carriage thing. One of my favorite great recordings is 1994’s Madar (24/44.1 MQA FLAC ECM/Tidal), recorded by ECM conjurer Manfred Eicher and performed by saxophonist Jan Garbarek, Tunisian oudist Anour Brahem, and tabla player/percussionist Ustad Shaukat Hussain. When I listen to Madar with my eyes closed,…

16 min
focal aria k2 936

LOUDSPEAKER The first image that pops into my mind when I think of Focal is of the iconic Grande Utopias and how at one Montreal audio show I couldn’t believe that the gentlest, sweetest music I’d heard all day was coming out of those massive speakers. I saw it as a paradox of sorts. Founded in the City of Lights, Focal has been around since 1979, the year Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now received the Palme d’Or at Cannes and when the average annual income in America was $17,500. Focal started as a twinkle in the eye of engineer and technology journalist Jacques Mahul, who believed he’d built a speaker that would appeal to hi-fi enthusiasts: the DB13. Fast-forward half a century, and Focal, designated “entreprise du patrimoine vivant” (living heritage company)…