Analog Corner

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Michael Fremer  |  Aug 05, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2015  |  4 comments
Using light to read data from a disc sounds a lot like the technology behind the Compact Disc—but you may be happy to hear there's nothing digital about DS Audio's optical phono cartridge. The DS-W1 uses the motions of a Shibata stylus and boron cantilever to modulate the output of its externally powered light-emitting diode (LED). More good news: The DS-W1 optical cartridge plus its associated electronics, which replace the phono preamp, cost only $8500—less than the price of many high-end cartridges alone.
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 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  |  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  |  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  |  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  |  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 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  |  Oct 29, 2018  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2003  |  1 comments
The innards of the ASR Basis Exclusive phono preamplifier, reviewed in this column.

Press kits arrive at my house almost daily, trumpeting one thing or another, including upcoming hi-fi shows around the world. Recently, none has provided quite the jolt to my system as one sent by Steve Rowell of Audio Classics in Vestal, New York. It's for the New York High Fidelity Music Show, September 29–October 3. Don't worry, you haven't missed it. Well, you have—by 38 years. Rowell sent me a genuine classic: a press kit for a hi-fi show held in 1965.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 22, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2003  |  0 comments
Every edition of Primedia's annual Home Entertainment show (formerly known as Stereophile's Hi-Fi Show) takes on a life of its own, even if the venue, the participants, and the products are mostly familiar. It has to do with a confluence of factors—the paying customers, the weather, current events, whatever seems to be the hot industry trend, and just "the ether."

Home Entertainment 2003, held this past June at San Francisco's venerable Westin–St. Francis Hotel, was no exception. The contours of this show's personality were drawn in greater relief for those of us who had attended the previous show at this venue, back in 1997.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 16, 2018  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2003  |  0 comments
Before I write about Music Hall's MMF-9 turntable (above), in my March 2003 review, I wrote that the SME 30/2 turntable's combination of attributes "might just make it the finest turntable in the world." Earlier in the review, I'd said, "The SME 30/2 is perhaps the most tonally neutral turntable I've ever heard. Only the Rockport System III Sirius, which includes an integral tonearm, is in the same league, and it doesn't stand up to the SME's low-frequency extension and solidity." I wrapped up the review with: "Overall, the SME Model 30/2 is the best turntable I've heard."
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 24, 2018  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2003  |  1 comments
When I came upon Giuseppe Viola's handiwork at the 2000 Top Audio Show in Milan, Italy, I said to myself, "Here's a guy with a fabulous machine shop and too much time on his hands." Most designers are satisfied to introduce a turntable. Not Viola. At Top Audio, under the V.Y.G.E.R. name, he introduced a whole line of hand-built, air-bearing tonearms and turntables. When I met the gregarious Giuseppe (aka "Pino") later that day, he came across as a most enthusiastic, gnome-like character, eager to demonstrate his gleaming creations and explain their workings.

Viola had much to be proud of: He'd developed a massive, true air-bearing platter—one that "floated," both radially and axially, on a thin film of air . . .

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 17, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2003  |  1 comments
Whether it's to offer a "relaxed fit" to make life easier for analog lovers, or because both Scan-Tech and Immutable Music believe that they've found a way to offer better performance with higher output, the Lyra Titan ($5000) and Transfiguration Temper W ($4000) offer considerably higher output than the "statement' models they replace.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 12, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 2003  |  1 comments
I first spotted this chrome-trimmed beauty in the UK a few years ago, when Avid still had no American importer. The opportunity to review it finally arose last January, right after CES, and while I still had the SME 30/2 turntable. The $10,000 Avid Acutus is every bit as deserving of a full review as the 30/2—I am reviewing it in "Analog Corner" only because this is my best chance of getting a review into print so soon after my March 2003 report on the SME.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 07, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2003  |  0 comments
If you'd asked me 10 years ago to predict where a purveyor of mostly analog gear would be throwing a party at the 2003 Consumer Electronics Show, I probably would have said Denny's—not the the elegant Presidential Suite atop the Mandalay Bay, the Las Vegas strip's most formal hotel. Yet that's where Jerry Raskin's Needle Doctor shared the analog wealth with the press and the industry during one cocktail hour at last January's Show.

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