I have a secret. Well, it’s not so much a secret anymore, now that Sonus Faber has let the cat out of the proverbial bag. But for the past few weeks, I’ve been rocking out to the company’s new Lumina V loudspeakers, which it publicly unveiled today.
Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
Cambridge Audio, founded in Cambridge, England, has been making hi-fi audio equipment for half a century now—a mere drop in the bucket compared to, say, Cambridge University, founded in 1209, but a long time in the world of hi-fi.
Exile Productions Ltd./BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd. 538667900
Van Morrison has been pretty cranky about the pandemic. He released four songs last year, one recorded with Eric Clapton, in protest of the lockdowns ordered by the UK government. Morrison, like many of his peers, is a firm believer in the value of live music, but COVID-19 has largely kept him off the road. This has given him a lot of free time, some of which he has spent in the recording studio. The result is Latest Record Project, Volume 1, a 28-song collection spread across two CDs.
There are two people in the world with whom I willingly speak on the phone on a regular basis: my daughter and SoundStage! Solo senior editor Brent Butterworth. My little girl makes the cut for obvious reasons. Brent, on the other hand, is my mentor and sounding board and one of my best friends, but since he lives on the left coast and I live in the armpit of Alabama, I get to see him once or twice a year at most. Hence the reliance on that damned infernal contraption.
Vincent Audio may not be a brand that’s on the tip of every enthusiast’s tongue, but over the past few years, the company’s hybrid integrated amps in particular have been generating a lot of hullabaloo on hi-fi discussion forums. By pairing vacuum tubes in the preamp stage with solid-state circuitry in the amplification stage, the German company (most of whose products are manufactured in China) promises to deliver the best of both worlds: the analog richness of valves and the durability of transistors.
Universal Music Enterprises B0033090-02
In 2019, guitarist Peter Frampton announced that the brief tour he was preparing to begin later that year would be his last. He had received a diagnosis of a progressive muscle disorder that, he was told, would eventually limit his ability to play and sing. He released an album to coincide with that tour, All Blues, which took him back to his roots as a guitarist, especially his stint with Humble Pie in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In 2014, when the vinyl revival had already gained a lot of traction, I reviewed U-Turn Audio’s Orbit Plus turntable (then $299, now an even better deal at $289; all prices USD). I was very impressed by that turntable, one of the first efforts of a young, crowdfunded company based in Woburn, Massachusetts, near Boston.
Blue Note Records
Format: 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC download
It has been nearly 20 years since Norah Jones debuted with Come Away with Me (2002), a record whose total sales (over 27 million) could have led to a series of similarly pleasant, brisk-selling releases. Instead, she moved more firmly into a challenging singer-songwriter role, subtly altering her approach to songs from album to album, and collaborating with musicians as diverse as Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and producer-musician Danger Mouse.
It may seem a bit strange that we’re reviewing Rotel’s CD11 Tribute at a time when the compact disc is practically on life support. We’ve all seen the sales figures. In 2020, the music industry sold a measly 31.6 million compact discs in the US—the format’s worst showing since 1985, just two years after its debut. Overall, physical media represented just 9% of music sales last year, and CDs made up just over 56% of physical media sales in terms of units shipped and 42% in terms of revenue. Let’s split the difference and call it half. 50% of 9% is . . . well, you can do the math. The format represents an ever-smaller piece of an ever-shrinking pie.
In my review of Rotel’s A11 Tribute integrated amplifier, I called it a bit of an oddity, given its near reliance on all-analog physical connectivity, when most of the competitors near its price point have embraced the popularity of streaming and downloads. Oh, and there’s also its Bluetooth antenna, the only input with access to the DAC chip inside. Again, this wasn’t meant as a criticism—merely a recognition of how unusual that is in the current audio market. If the A11 Tribute is a bit of an outlier, though, its companion piece—the CD11 Tribute ($599.99, all prices USD)—is practically a mythical creature.