A few issues back, in my review of the Mark Levinson No.26 and No.20 (May 1988, Vol.11 No.5), I mused on the fact that the preamplifier, being the heart of a system, had a more significant effect on sound quality in the long term than, say, the loudspeakers. It was worth spending more on a preamplifier, therefore, than on loudspeakers. Needless to say, this viewpoint was regarded by many readers as dangerously heretical. I decided, therefore, to investigate the sonic possibilities of budget-priced preamps in this issue, even the most expensive being less than one-tenth the price of the Mark Levinson.… Read the full article
Some audio products deliver truly superb sound of a kind that really makes all the frustrations of building a high-end system worthwhile; they also require exceptional attention and care. The Counterpoint SA-4 is a case in point. With the right speakers, it competes for the title of “Most Transparent Amplifier Available at Any Price.” On the other hand, this amplifier steadily loses output power as speaker impedance drops; it must be carefully matched to the right speaker. Then, and only then, can it produce one of the finest musical experiences available.… Read the full article
The great debate that has long separated audiophiles is tubes vs solid-state. Other topics, CD for example, may temporarily steal the spotlight, but year-in and year-out no other subject is the cause of as much controversy as whether tubed or solid-state circuitry produces the more accurate sound. As is typical with long-standing feuds, the split runs deep, and tempers often flare.
Even if you are among the majority of audiophiles who keep open minds in this matter, making a decision between tube and solid-state electronics is one of the most difficult choices you can face.… Read the full article
Joan Baez In Concert, Part 2
Joan Baez, vocals, guitar
Vanguard VTC-1679 (tape), VSD-2123 (LP). Maynard Solomon, prod., Reice Hamel, eng. TT: 48:00.
Well, we finally got ourselves equipped to review 4-track open-reel tapes, via a slightly modified Ampex F-44. All the tapes we have auditioned had noticeably higher hiss than the average stereo disc, but this was not loud enough to be distracting except when the tapes were reproduced at very high levels. Even then, we found the smooth, even hiss to be less objectionable than the ticks and pops from some discs played at the same level.… Read the full article
By far the most complicated of the three preamps i review in this issue in terms of facilities offered, NAD’s “Monitor Series” 1300 ($398) provides two buffered tape loops, an external processor loop (which can also be used as a third tape-recorder loop), a headphone output, a “null” switch, switchable bass equalization to extend the low-frequency range of small loudspeakers, and treble and bass controls, each with a choice of three turnover frequencies: 3kHz, 6kHz, 12kHz, and 50Hz, 125Hz, 250Hz, respectively.… Read the full article
Japanese audiophiles venerate American high-end audio components, paying huge sums for vintage Marantz tube amplifiers, racks of Levinson ML-2s, and early Audio Research tube preamplifiers. The balance of trade, at the high end anyway, hasn’t been reciprocated: Japanese high-end amplifiers and preamplifiers have not received as positive a reception in the US. Perhaps it was a matter of styling, but the sonics of the Sony Esprit line and the class-A Stax amplifiers did not receive the following they might have, had the products been American.… Read the full article