Faced with two speakers in need of unboxing, which one do you dig into first? Normally, that would require as much thought as is needed to mutter “one banana, two banana” under one’s breath for a bit. But when a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 603 S3 loudspeakers shows up, and one of the boxes is caved in on the side, with a crumpled top corner, the selection process gets a lot easier.
In 1996, physicist and mathematician Alan Sokal wrote what is perhaps my favorite scholarly article of the late 20th century. That paper, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” was peer reviewed and published in the academic journal Social Text. I’d love to tell you about the contents of the paper, but it was, in fact, sheer postmodern nonsense. Sokal strung together a few appeals to authority with a laundry list of jargon nobody could really define. The editors bit hard, assuming he must know what he was talking about because they didn’t have a clue.
I typically don’t spell this out so bluntly, but one of the things I always try to accomplish with my unboxing posts is to give you a sense of scale. I can tell you a package or an amp or a speaker measures however many inches or millimeters by however many other, and maybe that means something to you. But I think most people look for visual clues. Which is one reason I tend to leave my Leatherman in the frame when taking the first establishment shots if there’s nothing else nearby you can use to calibrate your eyes.
If you find yourself driving through Alabama, up or down I-65, you might notice three exits leading to a little city called Prattville, part of the tri-county River Region area that also encompasses Montgomery and Wetumpka. If you’re a fan of Gabriel García Márquez’s masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, the name might tickle some faint memory buried deep in your brain. But if you’ve never heard of the place, what you’re most likely to notice first is that right off Exit 181 on the north end of town, there exists the most southern of all conjunctions: a Waffle House right next door to a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.
Despite being born in Texas of New Yorker parents, my wife spent many of her formative years in Denmark—and hasn’t stopped talking about it to this day. So there’s always something a bit Pavlovian about the sight of a Danish flag around these parts. When she looked at my stack of incoming packages and saw the box for the Tangent Ampster BT II, her initial reaction was, “Ooh! What’d ya get from Denmark?” When I told her it was an integrated amplifier, I half expected the wind to leave her sails, but she immediately shot back, “They make good gear! Like B&O!”
A few weeks back, Dr. Sean Olive, longtime director of acoustic research and now senior fellow at Harman International and former president of the Audio Engineering Society, paid homage to one of the most enduring audiophile test tracks, just over 35 years after its original release, with a LinkedIn post that went something like this:
Denon’s new DNP-2000NE, which the company markets as a “high-resolution audio streamer with HEOS built-in,” is an interesting beast in a number of ways. For one thing, at $1599 (in USD), it’s on the pricier end of the streamers I normally cover here on SoundStage! Access—at least ones that don’t have built-in amplification, which the DNP-2000NE doesn’t. Honestly, half the reason I requested a review sample was simply to see what Denon has done to justify the price of this thing.
This is an idea that’s been kicking around in the back of my noggin for a bit, but my recent review of Denon’s behemoth gazillion.bajillion-channel AVR-A1H receiver solidified a lot of my thoughts on the subject. It’s a simple question, really, and you’re already hip to it if you’ve read the headline: should you use an AVR instead of a stereo preamp/amp, integrated amp, or receiver in your two-channel system?
I’m such a hypocrite. Don’t worry—I’ll explain why in a bit. But to set that story up, I need to convey my initial reaction to seeing the shipping box for Rega’s new Elex Mk4 integrated amplifier ($1875 USD).
A few weeks back, I was chatting with my buddy Brent Butterworth—former SoundStage! Solo editor and co-host of the first season of the SoundStage! Audiophile Podcast—about the algorithms that drive the streaming music services many of us know and love. Brent and I both subscribe to Qobuz and Spotify for our own reasons, and we both generally agree about the strengths of each service. Where our opinions diverge involves which service does a better job of recommending music that we didn’t know we were in the mood for or that we’ve never heard before, or at least not for a long time.