CHAIRMAN AT THE BOARD: RECORDING THE SOUNDTRACK OF A GENERATION, by Bill Schnee. Backbeat Books, 2021. 219pp. $24.49, hardcover; $21.49, Kindle e-book.
NAD C 298
ELAC Alchemy DPA-2
Fun with Moose and Squirrel
’Cause, it’s hard to say what’s real / When you know the way you feel —Flaming Lips, “One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21,” from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Marten Parker Trio Diamond
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.
Clearaudio Concept Active Wood
Focal Aria K2 936
DCS BARTOK DAC/HEADPHONE AMPLIFIER
THIS ISSUE: Herb Reichert on the dCS Bartók; Ken Micallef reprises his Schiit Sol review, trying it out with some better ancillaries.
Classical Rock / Pop Jazz: Record Reviews
In its sixth year, International Anthem seriously stepped up production. 2020 saw the Chicago label releasing a fast succession of rewarding albums, including a standout disc by Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and adventurous jazz by Rob Mazurek and the collective Irreversible Entanglements.
The magnificent eight
The Story of the Grateful Dead, a 14-LP, 8-album collection of Grateful Dead recordings with booklet and deluxe packaging, from Vinyl Me, Please (VMP-A006, 2020), is intended as a curated sampling of the high points in the Dead’s extensive catalog. The first seven albums were cut from analog tape, while Without a Net comes from the original digital master. The sound is breathtaking.
T+A Solitaire P headphones and HA 200 DACheadphone amplifier
What I categorize as mainstream, dealer-based, fancy-pants stream-ers 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.
MAKE MORE NOISE!
The title of this set—4 CDs and a book—comes from British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst’s call to arms for women to fight for their rights: “You have to make more noise than anybody else,” said Pankhurst, who died in 1928.
EDITOR’S PICK - RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Landscape into music
It says something about the power of music that some individuals fading into dementia can still recognize the music they knew earlier in their lives. Not to denigrate new music, or music one hasn’t heard before, but our mental jukeboxes award top chart numbers to music that we have lived with over time. Those DJs making their playlists in our brain are the toughest of critics. They don’t care what anyone else might think, “Close to You” is staying in the rotation. Music and memory are linked.
Some great new reissues
For jazz fans, a new batch of releases in Blue Note’s Tone Poet series—vinyl reissues remastered with care and cut from the original analog tapes—is the reason for celebration.
PS Audio Stellar M1200
MONOBLOCK POWER AMPLIFIER
Marantz Model 30
KEF LS50 Meta LOUDSPEAKER
Cambridge Audio CXA81
FIVE YEARS AFTER THE ICON’S PASSING, A FAN REVIEWS THE POSTHUMOUS RELEASES
Acora Acoustics SRB
Some truly affordable phono cartridges
Someone once asked me, “If I buy your $90,000, 25W amplifier, what will I get that I am not getting with my $2000, 200W amplifier?” My answer was simple: “Goosebumps, tears, and smirking.” Great, well-tuned audio systems, at all price levels, give their owners less of the annoying and distracting stuff and more of the exciting and engaging stuff. Great systems offer more opportunities for smirking pridefully while listening to great recordings.
THIS ISSUE: A new ultrasonic record-cleaning machine and a very pretty cartridge with a body made from Blue River Agate.
MBL NOBLE SERIES N31 CD PLAYER–D/A PROCESSOR
In Stereophile’s February 2018 issue,1 I reviewed the MBL Noble Line N31, a baroque-styled CD player and D/A processor from German manufacturer MBL.2
Gryphon Essence Mono
LOOKING BACK AT FLEETWOOD MAC
TWO REISSUES SHOW THAT THE BAND WAS GREAT BEFORE IT WAS FAMOUS.
SAT's remarkable XD1 record-player system
Let’s begin by discussing what SAT’s XD1 Record Player System is not: It is not a Technics SP-10R in a sci-fi–inspired plinth—although the XD1’s engine does begin life as the SP-10R’s basic drive system, which is stripped down to a handful of essential components, reimagined, reengineered, and rebuilt to much higher mechanical standards.
When I first started writing for Stereophile, John Atkinson brought me a speaker to review. The shipping box was really beat, and it had some other reviewer’s name on the UPS label. After a few days of trying to get it to sound good, I speculated that John and at least one other reviewer already knew this speaker did not sound good. Flummoxed, I wrote JA a simple email (he likes simple emails), “Is this a test?” He replied, “Everything is a test.”