I like Acoustic Sounds for their Mercury Living Presence remastered classical stuff. I also buy certain titles from their inventory when something catches my attention. I get a lot of new releases in LP format of obscure & hip bands that usually have a limited run of 1000 or less. It's at least as good as a test pressing which often costs between $500.00- $750.00. The cost of those limited run LP's is between $13.00 - $18.00. :) I'm still waiting on Beatles remasters- someday....
I agree that writing an engaging, descriptive, experiential narrative is important for a successful review. Without that, I may start reading a review, but I’m not going to finish it. But we are talking about machines and transducers that interact with other machines and transducers to recreate music. So how technically adept should a reviewer be?
When the technical description of the product is either obviously wrong or significantly misunderstood, I feel embarrassed for the reviewer. On the other hand, being snowed over with an avalanche of engineering detail in the narrative of the review is no fun either (sidebar please). Worst case is a technical avalanche that is obviously wrong. Poor writing can simply be dismissed as such. Publishing misunderstood and/or potentially harmful technical information can put the product and reader at risk.
I think of Doug Schroeder’s article(s) about op amp rolling. As a DIYer myself, I think it’s great that he wrote about swapping op amps and how it impacted the performance of a particular product. But he didn’t do enough homework on what he was doing and he published some recommendations that could wreck the product. He and/or his editor should have cross-checked what he was doing (swapping single op amps for dual op amps and vice-versa) with the manufacturer or a competent circuit engineer before publishing that piece.
I like what Doug set out to do. I’m embarrassed for Doug that he didn’t know what he didn’t know. I’m upset at Doug and his editor for not cross-checking a potentially risky practice and publishing harmful advice. I’m proud of Doug and his editor for publishing a follow-up article to correct the issue. Unfortunately, the credibility of the reviewer and the publisher took a hit over the incident.
So from a technical perspective, what is the reviewer’s responsibility? What is the editor’s responsibility?
For me it is without a doubt, the legend himself...George Massenburg (Listen to Little Feat, Linda Ronstadt work form the last 15 years or so, and a killer example is Lyle Lovett's Joshua Judges Ruth), followed very very closely by Don Murray who does all of Lee Ritenour's projects, he is brilliant. These two guys engineer like no one else...the space around instruments is extraordinary. The resulting recordings are text book examples of how to record and mix.
@ed: You are bang on target!
And thank you for sharing your experience in detail. And yea, its not easy to recreate the magic... sub-consciously, every upgrade has been because some piece of equipment brought me closer to a powerfully etched sonic experience from the past... but its never been quite like that unforgettable 'first time'! Lol....
Other than making sure the price fit within the family budget, the decision has always been mine alone. Until this past year, I always had a dedicated room, so other family members didn't really care what I did there!
I know of many that feel expensive parts equal the best performance. In hi fi I know that this is especially not true. I only care about good sound, how this acheived is unimportant to me. Tech specs, designs, parts used, glowing reviews ect, are for audiophiles & engineers in my opinion. For music lovers like me only the sound matters. :)
I love vintage. Not just in hi-fi but cars, houses, furniture ... I just like classic design. HOWEVER, I'm probably with Dave on this, in that if I was starting from scratch I'd definitely go with high resolution digital files. I will never part with my treasured classic pieces, but I'm excited by the possibilities that lie ahead as this technology matures.
@Greg: Tandberg!!! Wow, my moms had a stack of Tandberg gear that her dad left her when he passed (he left me his Mac gear). That stuff was VERY cool looking, Euro slick, I remember the stuff was wider than other audio components.
hmmm, I also love the look of vintage McIntosh (like my grandfathers MAC1700 with all the lights on, which I use in the bedroom).
I also loved this Bow Technologies CD player that Harry had once, but I can't remember the model number.
The Goldmund Reference stuff from the early 90's.
Russ - very good point. I have some old recording from radio (1970's) of some cherished concerts that could really do with proper equalisation. I do have quite a few CD's that are obviously badly mastered. Some of them have been re-released with better mastering aat a later date (equalisation being the main thing corrected). What it won't do is change the mix if there are overlaying frequencies. We often forget there are 2 sides to reproduction and expect the recording to get it right. Actually the quality of mastering is as much limited by the quality of equipment used to assess the sound as the skill of the engineer. My biggest bug-bear is the use of those small clip-on microphones that are so readily hidden from view. Ok it makes for good visuals, but very poor vocals - tizzy and lack of body. Probably not an equilisation issue though - more of a distortion, dynamic one.
Sure, the design of bespoke and non-standard boards/components is very expensive and the cost has to take this into account. The man hours and thought that goes into them is substantial. My father was (and still is) a bespoke electronics designer and designed digital clocks well before they were available in the shops. The cost comes down with time and scale and that is really why such 'basic' products now were once seen as 'exotic' are dirt cheap. Exotic is really bespoke and if it works it takes off and becomes commonplace over time. Metallised Polyester film capacitors were seen as exotic when they were developed, now they are the norm in audio and produced by the tens of millions. There are alot of incredibly exotic components and materials in flat screen TV's but these are now becoming commonplace and relatively inexpensive.
What a small company (or indeed one that started as DIY) can do that a large one often cannot is see things from a new perspective and continuously work at the leading edge, while the larger companies have become more entrenched in the older technologies that still offer good markup if properly marketed and produced in bulk. The smaller companies are often more focussed (and have to be) to break into a well established market. The products also have to offer a considerable advantage to offset the high production (and hence selling) costs. When a company's direction is more dictated than the accountants ather than the designers, this is when it begins to stagnate technologically. This is not to say alot of the smaller companies will fail as well, but they are riding the wave and that is where you find the 'audio action' and all the fun.