Analog Corner

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Michael Fremer  |  Jul 12, 1995  |  1 comments
It was big. It was ugly. It looked unfinished. It resembled some kind of industrial mistake, which is pretty much what it was: a prototype CD player rolled out by Sony at the 1982 AES Convention in Los Angeles. The inventors didn't care what it looked like, they just wanted you to hear it. Why, I don't know; it sounded awful.

I'd just spent a week's worth of tweak time optimizing my turntable using a Japanese pressing of Roxy Music's Avalon, squeezing every last cymbal rivet of musical detail from my Dynavector Ruby/Lustre GST-1 combo, and they're trying to pass off this flaccid noodle as Avalon? Oh, headless chickens!

Michael Fremer  |  May 11, 1996  |  0 comments
Can't we all get along?" Long before Rodney King, I was posing that question in Los Angeles—in 1983 to be exact. One big difference: I was the one doing the head-bashing. No, I wasn't in an LAPD uniform at the time, though a hyperventilating, mucous-snorting LA cop once did put a revolver to my head. But that's another story.

This story is about collectivism in the age of rack systems. I relate it to you because even though I failed then, I hope to succeed now. If you keep your Stereophiles—which I hope you do—read Ted Lindblad's letter in the January 1996 issue (p.29). Mr. Lindblad, a Connecticut retailer, calls for a high-end marketing collective in response to my observation that high-end audio is an invisible industry in the country leading the charge—the good old U.S. of A!

It is as if Mr. Lindblad had been reading my mind, or thumbing through my filing cabinet to be exact, for back in 1983 I had tried to set up the very sort of cooperative advertising campaign he called for in his letter. This was before I had any involvement in the industry. I was a full-retail–paying, card-carrying audiophile just like you.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 05, 2018  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2003  |  7 comments
The Mørch DP-6 tonearm's pillar

This is the 100th "Analog Corner" I've written for Stereophile. Thanks to all for reading the column, and for taking the time to send me and the magazine so many letters, complimentary and otherwise, over the eight years and four months it's taken to reach 100 installments. In that time we've witnessed one of the greatest resurrections since...well, I don't want to get into John Lennon's trap, so let's just say the unlikely survival and rebirth of analog in the age of digital everything has been one of the most gratifying phenomena I've witnessed in my life as an audiophile. If I've played some small part in that, all of the hard work has been worthwhile...

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 12, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2003  |  10 comments
Like the LP itself, the dream of a turntable that could read grooves with a laser beam would not die. The Finial Technology laser turntable has been resurrected as the ELP Laser Turntable by the ELP Corporation of Japan. ELP is headed by Sanju Chiba, an analog true believer and ELP, which has been building and selling the Laser Turntable since 1997, recently announced three LT models with improved sonic performance and user interfaces, including CD-like programmability and remote control.
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 26, 2018  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2004  |  13 comments
Sumiko's Blackbird phono cartridge

Bose ran a full-page ad for its Wave radio a few weeks ago in the New York Times. The headline was "Proof That Great Ideas Get Heard." The company patted itself on the back for winning a technology award for the radio from "Forbes ASAP." The award cites the Wave as being one of 15 "world-changing" technological breakthroughs, on an equal footing with Bell's telephone, Edison's light bulb, and the invention of the CD.

When I read that, my morning coffee went up my nose and back into the cup.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 08, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2004  |  10 comments
"What's this? The new Thorens turntable? It doesn't look like a Thorens turntable."

That's what I thought as I unboxed the new Thorens 850—part of the new 800 line from the rejuvenated company. Sure, I'd seen mockups at trade shows, but until I get the finished product in my hands, I really don't pay careful attention.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 16, 2018  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2004  |  14 comments
If you're looking for something completely new and/or different in a turntable design, you won't find it in Musical Fidelity's new $5000 M1 turntable. The M1 uses tried and true mechanical concepts, design strategies, and materials, with an emphasis on precision machining. The goal, according to MF's press release, was "very low mechanical and electrical noise, excellent mechanical isolation, speed accuracy and stability, [and] pitch control."
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 01, 2019  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2004  |  1 comments
"Attention K-Mart shoppers! America is open for business." With the dollar sinking to record lows against foreign currencies and deficits rising to record highs, overseas buyers looking for bargains flocked to the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show in larger numbers than I've seen since I began attending the show in 1978. I have never seen the Alexis Park Hotel as crowded as it was on the show's first day. Usually, attendance is sparse the first two days as West Coast dealers stay away, preferring to tend to retail business. But this year Thursday was packed, and the following days even more so.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 08, 2019  |  First Published: May 01, 2004  |  2 comments
Sonus Faber's graceful-looking factory.

"Do you want to see how they build Pro-Ject turntables?" It was Sumiko's John Hunter, phoning me out of the blue.

"Sure!" I've reviewed a few Pro-Ject designs over the years, along with the Music Hall 'tables, which are built in the same factory, and I've long wondered how one small company in the Czech Republic can manufacture such a wide array of products while making almost every part in-house. When Hunter added that the visit to Pro-Ject would be bracketed by stops at Vicenza, Italy and Vienna, Austria to visit (respectively) Sonus Faber and Vienna Acoustics, I was ready to pack. Besides, between the lunacy of January's Consumer Electronics Show and the assembly line of products arriving at and departing from my listening room, I needed a break, hectic though the five-day trip would be.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 21, 2019  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2004  |  2 comments
reviewed in this column: Clearaudio’s Emotion turntable and Satisfy tonearm.

A friend of one of my wife's high school friends e-mailed recently asking for help in setting up his turntable. The guy, in his early 40s, is not a hardcore audiophile and doesn't read the magazines. He just got it into his head one day not long ago that he'd like to start collecting vinyl. So he went to eBay, got himself a Thorens TD-165 for $150, and started buying LPs online. Now he's hooked.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 28, 2019  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2004  |  4 comments
Origin Live's Resolution Modern turntable and Encounter tonearm

Hand-wringing audiophiles' tales of equipment malfunctions regularly litter my e-mail box. "Why can't this stuff be more reliable?" It has been my experience that most gear is incredibly reliable—or that was my experience until April 2004.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 03, 2019  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2004  |  0 comments
Not quite a meeting of the minds at Home Entertainment 2004: Michael Fremer (right) explains to Ken Kessler (left) why LPs sound better than CDs. (Photo: John Atkinson)

It wasn't exactly heroic or even particularly daring, but has anyone ever attempted to install a phono cartridge while facing a room full of audiophiles at a hi-fi show, as I did during my "Analog Clinic" at Home Entertainment 2004 in May? Not that I know of.

Despite the Clinic's being scheduled at 2:30 Sunday afternoon, the butt end of the Show, the seats were filled.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 11, 1996  |  0 comments
The VPI HW-17 record cleaner.

I'm always surprised when I read a letter saying that this column helped convince a reader to invest in a good turntable and start enjoying analog. I shouldn't be, but I am. And I'm also amazed by how many such letters I see published, or receive via fax from the home office in Santa Fe, or by e-mail on CompuServe (Footnote 1). Ditto when I run into people at record and hi-fi stores who tell me the same thing.

I even meet newly converted analog devotees at the Toshiba-sponsored Home Theater seminars I've been participating in over the past year and a half. Although my name isn't used to promote these events, inevitably one or two Stereophile and/or Stereophile Guide to Home Theater readers are in attendance, and after the three-hour presentation (it is comprehensive) they come up and tell me how much they appreciate the fact that I've pushed them over the top and into the groove. That's about as good as it gets for a writer/advocate. It's clear proof that the old and new technologies can happily coexist.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 10, 2019  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2004  |  3 comments
Reviewed this month: Kuzma's Stabi Reference turntable

A young reader who's been a Stereophile subscriber since junior high, and an "Analog Corner" fan for nearly eight years, sent me a copy of "A Vinyl Farewell," by David Browne, which appeared in the October 4, 1991 issue of Entertainment Weekly. In the article, Browne kisses the LP goodbye, lovingly, nostalgically, and not at all dismissively. Accompanying the article is a photo, perhaps unintentionally suggestive, of an unusually large stylus floating above a record and about to make contact with a hairball of dust. The caption reads, "Playing an LP suddenly feels as foreign as a druidic ceremony."

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 17, 2019  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2004  |  7 comments
Phono preamps from Ayre, Krell, NAD, Parasound reviewed

There are more choices in outboard phono preamps today than there have ever been, and they're lining up here like planes waiting to take off from Newark/Liberty.

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