Audio

Atmel Launches AT73C240 Audio Companion IC

Audio quality gets a big reprieve as Atmel has launched its AT73C240 Audio Companion IC for portable multimedia applications. Manufactured on Atmel’s low-cost mainstream CMOS process, the AT73C240 integrates an audio quality 20-bit Stereo DAC and an up to 1W audio power amplifier. read more…

Wilson Audio Sasha WP Speaker Systems

Here is something that can surely place your audio setup to the next level. The product is the this new Wilson Audio Sasha WP speaker system. The high-end speaker manufacturer has launched successive versions of the WATT/Puppy for over 20 years, but instead of resting on its past glory, Wilson Audio has decided to impress the audiophiles with a radical re-imagination of the company’s signature WATT/Puppy concept (the picture featured here is based on the Alexandria speakers). read more…

Roth Audio OLi Series Loudspeakers

Roth Audio OLi Series Loudspeakers Roth AV has introduced its second series of OLi speakers that focuses on delivering excellent music quality, stylish looks and all these at attractive price. After the first set of Roth AV OLi speakers it has now lined up the second generation speakers named OLi10, OLi20, OLi30, OLi40 and OLi50. read more…

Polk Audio Hitmaster Speakers

The Polk Audio Hitmaster Speakers were meant to cater to the gamers but from the looks of it, it will not be surprising to find this being used for something else. Perfect to enhance the audio requirements of demanding consumers, the Polk Audio Hitmaster is a single-point stereo design that includes two 2. read more…

TTWeights Audio Kit

TTWeights Audio Kit

Specifications:

  • TTSuperWeight Stainless Version 1.8 lbs Internally dampened $289
  • TTCopperCarbon ULTIMATT – 1.570 KG/3.5lbs $469
  • TTOuter Stabilizing Ring 600 Gram Version Solid Copper Nickel Plated-Silver Finish $569
  • Package deal at $999

Vinyl playback just never seems to go out of fashion among audiophiles and it’s often remarked that this is in fact a golden era for turntable design with new models reaching previously unimaginable heights of accuracy and musicality. It’s certainly a golden time for expensive tables, some can cost more than a house or a luxury car, but one lives in hope that the engineering insights gained eventually trickle down. While there are mods and extras one can add to almost any component in the audio chain (see my Aug review of HAL’s special dampers for interconnect cables), tables and vinyl reproduction generally have always been a playground for those who want to eke out the last bit of performance from their electro-mechanical toys. Mats, cleaning fluids, anti-static guns, software set-up tools, counterweights, VTA shims, motor controllers, vibration-killing rubber balls and so forth, from stylus tip to plinth, there’s a product somewhere to help you fine tune your table’s ability to trace those grooves. I don’t know who invented the first periphery ring but it’s not unusual now to find tables with these extras, most noticeably the higher end VPI tables, but their application still seems in its infancy. Adding a ring to my rig has intrigued me in a way that simultaneously made me a little uncomfortable. Just what could adding a weighty ring to the circumference of an LP actually accomplish? I understand the possibility of flattening a slightly warped record, though I am not sure this is really the best way to do it, but I could not easily overcome my anxiety about piling on weight to a spinning motor, or worse, the possibility of having my precious stylus find itself in intimate contact with unforgiving and non-compliant metal. read more…

Eva Cassidy: The Voice Of An Angel

You may have heard the name Eva Cassidy; you may have even heard her story, but unless you’ve heard her sing there is no way for you to comprehend the enormity of her talent and the rich legacy she left behind. Yes, Eva Cassidy died, in 1996 at the age of 33 from a form of skin cancer. She was unable to get a recording contract in her lifetime because she was so versatile that the record company geniuses had no idea how to market her. It wasn’t until after her death that her “career” took off. The tragedy of all this, beyond the obvious “she died too young,” is the fact that she was one of the finest singers of popular music to come along in many a year. I personally think she was the greatest new singer of the last 30 years. That’s not to take anything away from the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Norah Jones, Jeff Buckley, Diana Krall, Shelby Lynne, Alison Krauss, Loreena McKennitt, Martina McBride, et al – they’re all great in their own way – but Eva could sing any kind of music (and did) and had a way of communicating the emotion of a lyric that was truly special. read more…

Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills and Others

Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills and Others

Sundazed has recently released this double play: The Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills Super Session and the related double album Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper LPs. It makes eminent sense to review these together, since the live album is a natural outgrowth of the earlier studio sessions.

Super Session grew out of a working relationship between Kooper and Bloomfield forged while supporting Bob Dylan in concert and on Highway 61 Revisited. They booked some studio time with the specific intent of creating a session album. The first day of the session featured Kooper and Bloomfield, along with Barry Goldberg and Harvey Brooks. Incapacitated by his drug habit, Bloomfield could not attend the second day, so Stephen Stills sat in. On this LP, side one features Bloomfield, side two Stills. read more…

Tweaking the Vibes: Herbie’s Audio Labs Component Feet and Stabilizers

Tweaking the Vibes: Herbie’s Audio Labs Component Feet and Stabilizers

Specification

  • Component feet: 4 x Tall Tenderfeet, 16 x Tenderfeet,
  • Speaker decoupling feet: 8 x Large decouplers Stabilizers x 2 component top weights
  • Interconnect stabilizers, 2 pairs XLR and 2 pairs RCA HAL-) Jrs.
  • Various prices, $12.38 to $22.95 each, discounted for multiple purchases.

There is a large number of after-market footers, weights, clamps and treatments for the serious audiophile to tweak a system, each aimed at reducing or removing the incessant and pernicious vibrations that diminish the performance of those specialized audio circuits you paid for with your hard earned cash. To reduce this product niche to its basic philosophical camps there are two extremes: the incredibly costly or the more affordable types; those based on engineering we can appreciate or on some voodoo or ‘special proprietary process’ that nobody can adequately explain; those that produce marked effects instantly and those that you have to strain to hear, and if like me, you give up on quickly. The only such tweaks I’ve bothered with since my early steps into audiophilia were Vibrapods, which are cheap, seem to be based on simple principles of isolation, and proved their worth to me by curing a stalling CD transport that seemed always to get upset when the volume of the necessarily nearby speakers reached a certain level. I had sent the transport back to the (major) manufacturer whose engineer replied that the symptoms I reported were “impossible”, so presumably I was just imagining it! So much for customer service. Popping two pairs of ‘pods under the returned and still stalling transport allowed it to play on where it had previously halted, presumably due to the Vibrapods delivering on their promise to give the player improved isolation from its surroundings, and all for under $25 the set. Since then, I’ve added a very few treatments only when I was comfortable that my system was sounding pretty good already and I had no money for a major component upgrade. Most recently, after the repeated testimony of other owners on their virtues, I’ve added Aurios bearings under my amps to great effect. Even then, it still took a special sale price and return privileges on these to tempt me. Now, knowing that such additions can cure problems or just enhance a system to the point that my ears miss them when they are not there, I decided to explore further what was out there for the more economically-sensitive audiophile, and that is how I discovered Herbies Audio Lab (HAL). read more…

Vizio 2009 LCD HDTV Lineup Now Out with SRS Audio Solutions

The complete line of Vizio LCD HDTV solutions will now come out with a new feature. While everyone is impressed with the displays that these new Vizio HDTVs have to offer, you can add another key feature as far as audio quality is concerned as SRS Audio Solutions will now be another key feature among Vizio LCD HDTVs. read more…

Harry Belafonte, Belafonte Sings the Blues

Harry Belafonte, Belafonte Sings the Blues

OK, first things first: This isn’t really a blues album. At least, not in the sense of a Muddy Waters, or even an Eric Clapton blues interpretation. It’s a mix of some blues songs and some old standards, nicely accompanied and featuring the super-smooth voice of Harry Belafonte.

Back in 1958 when this LP was released by RCA (then available in both mono and Living Stereo—it would prove to be Belafonte’s first stereo release), Belafonte was riding high on his calypso wave. To some degree, the typecasting of the singer as a singer of songs such as the “Banana Boat Song” and “Day-O” must have contributed to his desire to release something a bit more down tempo and “serious”. I’ve read, but can’t confirm, that Belafonte Sings the Blues was the singer’s favorite album…perhaps precisely because it was a break from the usual fare.

This LP is a Classic Records reissue, which had gone out of print some time ago. The company has recently repressed the album, and it merits a listen. While not pure blues by any stretch of the imagination, it is probably what middle America was willing to accept in 1958: Smooth, middle-of-the-road music, performed with sensitive and skillful arrangements by a known singer with a really outstanding voice. read more…

Dusty Springfield – The Look of Love

Dusty Springfield – The Look of Love

Dusty Springfield’s voice is intoxicating: Smooth, sultry and sexy. On the audiophile old chestnut, Casino Royale Soundtrack, “The Look of Love” is a standout track for me. In fact, it’s thestandout track on the album in my view. This view is shared with others: The Bachrach/David song was nominated for an academy award for best song in 1967. I don’t know when I first heard “The Look of Love”, but I do know that I can’t remembernot recognizing the tune. In fact, I’m listening to the track as I write this (though sadly on my iPod, not my turntable, since I’m many feet under the English Channel in a Eurostar train).

Some time ago I bought the Classic Records 33rpm reissue of the Casino Royale soundtrack and put it aside for “later”. More recently I received from Classic this unusual 12” single, consisting of “The Look of Love” at 33rpm on one side and 45rpm on the other. A rather unusual release, yes, but this tune is one that in my opinion justifies such an “excessive” format. read more…

Villa-Lobos, The Little Train of the Caipira/Ginastera

Villa-Lobos, The Little Train of the Caipira/Ginastera

When I was a boy, my parents would often take us—in the Spring, of course—to Symphony Hall to hear Arthur Fiedler conduct the Boston Pops. We’d sit at a table, and the waitresses would bring us “Pops Punch”, cheese and crackers, and other treats. The music that we would listen to was excellent stuff, and the spectacle was impressive.

Listening to this LP brought back fond memories of childhood evenings at the Pops. (I’ve only returned once since Arthur died; somehow it’s never been the same for me.) The Little Train of the Caipira is exactly the sort of music that would have been played: Telling a story, straightforward, dynamically “out there” and—let’s admit it— fun.

The Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, is probably the best known classical composer from Latin America. (A cynic might say that this is like being the tallest Munchkin in Munchkinland, though a listen to Villa Lobos’ music should quiet any cynic.) Villa Lobos died in 1959.

Alberto Ginastera was an Argentine composer of classical music of Italian and Catalan background. He passed away in 1983, but not before one of the movements from his piano concerto was covered by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Toccata, from Brain Salad Surgery). Reportedly, Ginastera both permitted ELP’s use of his music and approved of the final result. read more…

Frank Zappa, Hot Rats

Frank Zappa, Hot Rats

In many ways, Frank Zappa was an enigma. Somewhat clown-like in his personal presentation, this persona masked a kind of creative genius that—to the detriment of Zappa’s fame and, probably, financial success—refused to bend to the strictures of popularity. He just wasn’t a middle-of-the-road kind of guy…his music was usually challenging, not surprising from the man who, as a boy, chose the avant-garde classical composer Edgard Varèse as his favorite.

Entitling albums Hot Rats and Weasels Ripped My Flesh (among others) was not a move calculated to ensnare the masses. Nor was naming songs “Willie the Pimp” or “I Am the Slime”. (At least you can’t accuse Zappa of inconsistency: Naming your kids Dweezil, Moon Unit and so on evidenced a certain follow-through.) It is perhaps Zappa’s unwillingness to compromise (he might call it “refusal to self-censor) that led to Hot Rats only charting at 173 in the US, but at 9 in the UK, following its October 1969 release on the Barking Pumpkin Records label. read more…

Stephen Stills – Just Roll Tape

Stephen Stills – Just Roll Tape

This LP, which is very much worth owning, is desirable for reasons that are, perhaps, different from those of other LPs that I’ve reviewed recently. More than new issues, or reissues, Just Roll Tape is a historical document. Classic live concerts (Woodstock, various Grateful Dead concert issues) come close to this LP in terms of their importance, but for those of us who grew up listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, this LP is a revelation. read more…

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