Up Close with Percussionist Ches Smith through Ollo Audio S4R 1.1 Recording Headphones

May 2022

I have a friend in New York City who shares my audiophile leanings and many of my musical tastes, and we frequently exchange thoughts on recordings I review here. However, as an apartment dweller, my friend keeps his amplifier turned down low, limiting how deeply he can delve into them. He relies on headphones for most of his listening.

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Re-evaluating ZZ Top’s "Rio Grande Mud" through Monitor Audio Bronze 100 Bookshelf Speakers

Note: for the full suite of measurements for the Monitor Audio Bronze 100 loudspeaker performed in the anechoic chamber at Canada’s National Research Council, click this link.

April 2020

As revolutionary as the popular music of the 1960s was, some things didn’t change. When that decade ended, artists were still expected to be from somewhere rather than remaining regionally based.

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Brawling with Vintage Charles Mingus and the NAD Masters M10 V2 BluOS Streaming Amplifier

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

March 2022

A couple of months ago, 2021 was capped off for me by the arrival of NAD’s C 700 BluOS streaming amplifier, which I wrote about in the January edition of “Art+Tech.” As I always do, I turned to the manufacturer’s website to see where the C 700 sat in the company’s product line. I couldn’t help but linger over the description of the Masters M10 V2, the C 700’s grander sibling.

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Cecil Taylor Dances Out of the Vault and into the Emotiva BasX TA1 Stereo Receiver

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

February 2022

Five decades ago, many leading jazz musicians were at a chaotic, crowded crossroads.

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Revisiting the Best of 2021 with the NAD C 700 BluOS Streaming Amplifier

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

January 2022

Over the first year of this “Art+Tech” column, I’ve explored some intriguing new pieces of equipment and listened to a lot of great music in the process. I’ve mentioned some of the music I’ve most enjoyed in 2021 along the way; but not all of it. And of all the terrific gear that passed through my office, the piece that really caught my eye—NAD’s C 700 BluOS streaming amplifier ($1499, all prices in USD)—has only recently landed on my desk. That’s perfect timing for revisiting my ten favorite albums of the past year and seeing how the C 700 treats them.

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Streaming Contemporary Composition Through the EarMen Tradutto DAC

Note: for the full suite of measurements for the EarMen Tradutto DAC from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

December 2021

For a time, about a decade ago, I had this fantasy of promoting a concert that would feature an all-star band of top-flight musicians who held PhDs. As it happens, it wasn’t as far-fetched as it seems; pianist Vijay Iyer and saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa have already collaborated, and the French Moutin twins, drummer Louis and bassist François, would make a great rhythm section.

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Discovering Contemporary Trios Through the Arcam SA30 Intelligent Integrated Amplifier

Note: for the full suite of measurements for the Arcam SA30 from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

November 2021

In 1997, pianist Brad Mehldau, then 26, released The Art of the Trio, Volume One, his second album for Warner Bros. Records. That was followed by four additional volumes, the latest in 2001. The aggressively declarative title was conceived by producer Matt Pierson, who was also the head of A&R for jazz at the label. The idea was clearly to establish Mehldau as the heir to the postwar jazz trio tradition that had been established by artists like Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and Keith Jarrett. Each of these pianists recruited band members who could improvise at a high level and be counted on to play outside the standard role of a rhythm section.

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Decoding Henry Threadgill through Focal Alpha 50 Evo Studio Monitors

October 2021

I have a self-imposed rule when assigning stars for albums I review for SoundStage! Xperience or on my other gig at DownBeat magazine: As a service to consumers, I deduct half a star if the artist provides less than the 45 minutes of music I would expect on a typical album without discounting the retail price.

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Summer on the Porch with Tom Petty and the Audio Pro Addon C5A Wireless Multiroom Speaker

September 2021

Whether the credit is due to his Florida upbringing or his longtime residency in California, singer-songwriter Tom Petty had an incredible knack for writing summertime anthems. Songs like “Even the Losers,” “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” and “The Waiting” had extra resonance when played on a car radio on a sultry day, and there was something related to yearning and the quest for freedom in many of his songs—or those he cowrote—that naturally led to the open road or the beach.

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Time Traveling to Mid-1960s Chicago via AudioQuest's DragonFly Black and Red DACs

August 2021

In 1940, Chicago was home to 278,000 black residents. Twenty years later, that number had climbed to 813,000—the result of a massive northward migration of African Americans, largely from rural parts of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. The institutionalized racism in the South was at the root of much of this migration, but intertwined economic factors also shaped the movement.

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