Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - NAD Viso HP50 Headphones (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - GoldenEar Technology's Anechoic Chamber (May 2016)

ECM 2608 (6025 675 16187)
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

The Norwegian jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen has released eight recordings on ECM since 2003, the first three of which were trio sessions. The most recent, The Other Side, returns him to the piano-trio format after leading two quartet albums, and two ensembles featuring singers. Drummer Jarle Vespestad has played on all of Gustavsen’s recordings, but this is bassist Sigurd Hole’s first appearance on record with the pianist. Hole’s interest in Norway’s folk music as an inspiration for jazz is something he shares with Gustavsen, and makes him a good choice for this trio.

Sony Legacy 19075841402
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Gary Louris, the guitarist, singer, and leader of the Jayhawks, has collaborated over the years with other songwriters on songs recorded by them or other artists. Nine of the 11 songs on the group’s new album, Back Roads and Abandoned Motels, fall into that category, yet the result is more stylistically consistent than the band’s last album, Paging Mr. Proust (2016), for which Louris wrote most of the songs himself. Proust took the Jayhawks into new territory while reinforcing their strengths. But if on first hearing Back Roads seems less exciting, it soon becomes clear that this album further confirms Louris’s compositional talents even as a co-writer, and that the Jayhawks remain the best band for his work.

Blue Note B002843502
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

At age 80, tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd is going strong. He’s done an album almost every year since 1989, and is still challenging himself and his listeners. In 2016 he released I Long to See You, featuring guitarists Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz, who introduced elements of folk and country into Lloyd’s jazz. That group, which also included Lloyd’s regular bassist and drummer, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland, was named Charles Lloyd & the Marvels, and returns in Vanished Gardens.

Parlophone 0190295730260/CDBB 7782
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) is a two-disc live set from David Bowie’s Isolar II: The 1978 World Tour, which drew heavily from two albums Bowie released in 1977, Low and “Heroes”. Those recordings were part of what Bowie would later call the Berlin Trilogy, which concluded with Lodger (1979). The three albums were another shift in direction in an ever-changing career.

Perro Verde/Fantasy FAN00235
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

The Prodigal Son, Ry Cooder’s 17th solo studio recording (not counting his many film scores), is his first such outing since Election Special (2012), and the first since Chávez Ravine (2005) that doesn’t overtly address political themes. While on his last five albums Cooder was the primary composer, on The Prodigal Son he returns to his role as interpreter of songs from America’s past. The emphasis is on old blues and country gospel, but Cooder also includes three of his own compositions that fit well with the vintage tunes he’s chosen.

Grant Green: “Funk in France: From Paris to Antibes (1969-1970)”

Resonance/INA HCD2033
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality (disc 1)
***1/2

Sound Quality (disc 2)
**1/2

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Grant Green: “Slick! Live at Oil Can Harry’s”

Resonance HCD2034
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***

Grant Green (1935-1979), like his near contemporary Wes Montgomery (1923-1968), died while still in his 40s, and like Montgomery’s, Green’s later recordings are sometimes scorned by jazz purists. While toward the end of his life Montgomery leaned in the direction of easy listening, Green played funk. Beginning in 1969, when he returned to Blue Note after a few years with other labels, Green’s jazz showed the influence of then-current soul musicians James Brown and the Meters, both of whose compositions he covered that year on Carryin’ On.

Planet Mu/Timesig TIMESIG008CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

In 2016, Daniel Lanois used his pedal steel guitar as the basis for Goodbye to Language, a series of ambient compositions that recalled Brian Eno and Harold Budd, two composers he’s worked with. His collaborator on that album was Rocco DeLuca, who played lap steel. The complex, layered compositions revealed new sounds and evoked new emotions with each hearing. Tracks that had at first seemed contemplative and calming later opened the way to deeper, sometimes darker territory.

Geffen B0028266
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

“At the end of the tour, in early April [1968], the Who recorded their show at the Fillmore East,” Dave Marsh writes in Before I Get Old, still the definitive history of the band. “The tape of the Fillmore East concert is extraordinary,” he continued; “a remarkable burst of sustained energy.” Unfortunately, when the Who listened to the tapes, enough flaws jumped out that they decided not to release them. Nonetheless, over the years, bootlegs of those New York City concerts of April 5 and 6, 1968, enhanced the band’s reputation as a powerful live act.

Matador OLE-1123-2 LC 11552
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

The 15 tracks of Belle and Sebastian’s latest release were originally issued on three five-song EPs titled How to Solve Our Human Problems, Pts. 1-3. Does that make this latest edition a coherent album or a compilation? After the first listen, I found that the music made sense either way, though on repeated hearing I found myself pausing after each quintet of songs. At 70 minutes, How to Solve Our Human Problems is a lot to absorb; listening to these songs in three groups of five each gives this listener more space and time in which to digest them, and has let some tracks that at first sounded like filler come into their own.

4AD LTD 4AD0035CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

The Breeders reunited in 2013 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their second and best-known album, Last Splash, and soon decided to record music for a new album, their fifth. All Nerve took a few more years to complete, but the same lineup that appeared on Last Splash has produced a record that embodies the qualities that made them unique. The strangely likeable, almost hummable melodies and hooks are slight reminders of Kim Deal’s other band, the Pixies, but the Breeders use dissonance and buzz-saw guitars in ways that set them apart from everyone else.