It seems that I’ve been misunderstood. That’s always a danger when you’re monologuing, but thankfully the SoundStage! Network is more of a slow, ongoing dialog between an incredibly motley crew. To wit: the most recent volley in my ongoing parley with SoundStage! Ultra editor Jason Thorpe is a piece titled “I’m Not an Oligarch!”—which is a response to my January editorial, “The Needs of the Many versus the Needs of the Reviewer.”
Kicking off a relationship with openness and honesty is always a good policy, so I love it when manufacturers don’t try to hide (often economically necessary) offshore manufacturing with “Designed in _____” badging. And to be sure, there is a “Designed and Engineered in Canada” label on the packaging for PSB’s new Imagine B50 bookshelf speakers ($699/pair, all prices USD). But that’s just as quickly followed by a transparent and prominent “Made in China.”
Some years back, my dad and I found ourselves in a bit of a street race: our C7 Corvette versus a Ferrari F12berlinetta. $83,000 of automated-factory-line American plastic against $320,000 of hand-crafted Italian swank. V8 versus V12. Two of the finest front-engine GT cars ever developed going head-to-head. And we won. The F12berlinetta simply couldn’t keep up in the corners.
Remember those old commercials where two people walking down the street in opposite directions—one obliviously carrying an open jar of peanut butter; the other mindlessly nomming a whole chocolate bar—slam into each other as absentminded people will do and invent Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? Swap the peanut butter for a Bob Carver tube amp and the chocolate for something like a solid-state ChiFi amp from the likes of SoundArtist, and I have to think that meet-cute collision would result in something that looks like the Dayton Audio HTA200 hybrid integrated amplifier ($349.98, all prices USD).
I love the missives I receive from readers and listeners, and I give every one of them my individual attention. But it has to be said that they tend to fall into a few distinct categories, and some I like better than others. First are the people who disagree with me or have spotted a mistake (or seeming mistake). I truly love and appreciate those.
It’s funny how quickly certain impressions can take hold in the mind. Say the words “Technics integrated amplifier,” and immediately my mind’s eye is filled with wall-to-wall VU meters recessed behind a panoramic window of glass against a clean, white background. So, for me, the look of the company’s new SU-GX70 amplifier was somewhat surprising, as it does not follow that aesthetic, but I think a quick peek at all of the logos on its packaging gives some indications as to why. This isn’t an integrated amp with streaming capabilities onboard so much as it is a streamer with amplification built in.
As I write this, one of the most talked-about bootleg albums circulating the web is a fan-remastered version of Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version), undertaken to fix some of the odd sonic artifacts of the official release, which dropped on October 27 of this year.
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.