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Audio Classics Newsletter
2021-09-03 A Trip Back in Time

A Trip Back in Time- Audio Magazine's December 1958 Issue The website of World Radio History ("WRH"), a non-profit organization, is an enormous, free repository of television and radio broadcast, electronics, music, and technology journals and magazines, some popular, but many arcane, that span from at least the turn of the 20th century to almost current day. Examples of the hundreds of publications on this site are The Westinghouse Engineer ("the technical publication of Westinghouse, covering everything from [the] early generation of power to nuclear power plants as well as radio and electronic equipment," from 1941), Vacuum Tube Valley ("90's and [20]00's magazine about tube technology"), and 73 Radio ("A United Stated-based amateur radio magazine that was published from 1960 to 2003").

Given enough food and drink, I could spend the rest of my admittedly geeky life on WRH website. After admiring the diversity of its publications, I headed to its selection of audiophile rags and selected the December 1958 issue of Audio magazine. Remember, stereo sound had only recently become widely available to the public at the time the issue was released. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2021-08-26 Remember, it's all about the Music!

The line "music hath charms to soothe a savage breast," from William Congreve's 1697 play The Mourning Bride, likely refers to the human heart. Of course, music has the ability to deeply evoke our emotions and it stimulates virtually every part of the brain. In technical terms, when we listen to music, dopamine, a chemical that serves as a messenger between the brain's neurons (i.e., cells), is released. This typically makes us feel good or elated. It's been found that music can also reduce anxiety and the chance of depression. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2021-06-24 Meters, Beautiful Meters

Analog VU meters with bouncing needle displays have long been present on audiophile components, particularly amplifiers and tape decks. Think of the 1970’s and 1980’s vintage gear made by companies such as McIntosh, Audio Research, Luxman, Nagra, Phase Linear, and Accuphase. Simply stated, VU meters indicate the average level of an audio signal and provide an indication of perceived loudness. As McIntosh explains on its website, its familiar blue-panelled amplifier meters protect speakers from overload by “allow[ing] the monitoring of sound level balance and output level. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-03-31 The Power OF Music

Greetings! It is oft said that music has the power to heal. I will go further and say that music has the power to save lives. Case in point: I'm thinking of a guy who writes a music newsletter, and his home is currently occupied by his brother-in-law for a stay extended by the current stay-at-home situation. Currently, his home is mine (Let's face it -- you saw through my thin disguise). The pressure builds as we discover that unlike with his sister, we are not compatible to co-habitate. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-03-24 The Newsletter Continues

Greetings! A few readers raised questions about my reported experience upgrading my amplifier from a McIntosh MC352 to an MC462. And good questions at that. Since the MC352 was traded in to afford the MC462, I could not go back to the MC352 for a proper comparison. Mine was an incredibly subjective observation. Even though objectivity is my goal, I know my perceptions are governed by much more than facts and figures. Mood is major sound component in my book. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-03-17 Best Seat In The House

Greetings! Over the past six months, four out of five concerts I had tickets for were postponed. Half of those were partly my fault for choosing to see people just either side of 80 years old. I have noticed young performers cancelling shows too, but they were going into a different form of rehab. The older guys had leg and back issues. However, last two cancellations were due to the coronavirus outbreak. I expect my one remaining upcoming show to be cancelled shortly as well. So, it seems all performances for the foreseeable future will be taking place in my basement where my entertainment system resides. Suddenly, my audio system is paying for itself. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-03-10 Tuned Out

Greetings! These days you can’t even get a virus without it becoming political. For this, and many other reasons, I wish to stay home and shelter in place. This is where having a good audio system really pays off. Since I don’t have much in the way of canned goods, I suppose I shall face the world sooner or later. The latest inspiration for wanting to hide is a now former reader of this newsletter, who figured out I was a "liberal" by my mentioning NPR in last week’s subversive article about FM Tuners. He writes, "I'm not sure why exactly you would even mention NPR if not for political purposes." I mentioned NPR simply because that is what the writer of the email listened to. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-03-03 Tune In

Greetings! Peter, a reader of this newsletter, emailed to suggest an article about something "old school," namely, FM radio. At first glance, I dismissed this idea based on my having not powered on my home stereo's FM tuner in well over a decade. Even in the car, I have only heard FM radio for a few seconds at a time, when I accidentally hit the BAND button and SiriusXM disappears for a moment. After another moment’s consideration, however, I realized I do have to write about something. I really do like radio. Somehow, hearing a DJ pick a song sounds better than when I choose the same song. There is a randomness and a personal touch to radio, though there is less of both in recent years. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-02-25 I'm Listening

Greetings! There was a tremendous response to last week’s newsletter. Many -- if not most -- felt I should have been harsher towards current popular music. Some suggested language that I have hereto avoided in this space in case a child should happen to read this. I am not above viscous criticism; while hosting a Karaoke night, I told a singer who had just destroyed "My Cherie Amour" that if Stevie Wonder had heard that, he would want to be deaf as well as blind. Soon after that I decided to make a semi-concerted effort to not publicly humiliate innocent people. I try to extend this courtesy to Billboard hit singers and/or people well-armed. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-02-18 This Must Be Wisdom

Greetings! I realized my article last week mentioning hearing loss once again established me as old. It's not a good thing to be old for many reasons, the least of which is it pretty much disqualifies me from writing about today’s music. I have noticed that my wife, who is younger, seems to know the words to songs that I do not even recognize. Songs that surround us as updated Muzak in stores or from passing cars that act as mobile woofers. Being old, (I am 57 -- not old by many standards, but ancient in the terms of popular music’s demographics), I have ready-made opinions about this music that I know nothing about. Realizing that these opinions are just my prejudice of the known over unknown, I decided to critically listen [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-02-11 Good News, Bad News

Greetings! One of the most important -- if not the most important -- parts of an audio system is something that we cannot buy. It is our ears (and our hopefully attached brain). Over time, our ability to hear may diminish. The good news is that our ability to listen can improve. I have no doubt that my range of hearing is considerably less than it once was. I have been scolded by several readers about my love of loud music. My stint in a loud factory took its toll as well. I never want a hearing check to see what my range actually is. I may find I really don’t need those tweeters. But over the years, I have discovered [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-02-04 $16.36

Greetings! It’s all about the music right? The thousands of dollars I (and many of you) have spent on equipment is for the music. Music, the incredible phenomenon that makes it seem less foolish to be moving and twitching on a dance floor. The thing that allows us to say things like "Doo Wah Diddie" or "Ho-la-la-ee-ay Ho-la-la-ee-ay." The thing that thousands have stood in mud and rain to enjoy. Millions of people are employed to bring music to us. Manufacturers, artists, the staff of Audio Classics, all work to bring these pleasing collections of sound waves to our ears. I am happy to have spent my hard-earned dollars for this industry. I am much happier supporting music than many of other life’s necessities. Is it a necessity? Sure, it's not up there with food and shelter, but it can’t be much further down the list. Yes, there are some on this planet that do not care about music, but since it's unlikely that they are reading an audio company’s newsletter [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-01-28 What About Tomorrow?

Greetings! After a couple of weeks, I'm happy to report that I have absolutely zero buyer’s remorse over my investment in a new amplifier (McIntosh MC462). Even my wife, who is somewhat indifferent to the hobby and quite against the cost, appreciates the difference in sound. I don't have much trouble justifying a purchase that I will enjoy for life and that will outlive me. It's harder for me to justify spending a four-digit sum (or what I would call real money) on more temporary products. Music streamers fall into this category. No matter which one you chose, a decade or so down the road, you're looking at the equivalent of a VCR. Or perhaps worse than a VCR. A VCR can still play those old tapes until one or the other breaks. A music streamer is [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-01-21 The Quest

Greetings! I almost earned my one-year chip for not upgrading my audio system. I said I was happy with everything. I even wrote those words in this very newsletter. So last week, I upgraded my McIntosh MC352 amplifier to the MC462. A nice feature of McIntosh equipment is that it holds its value, so the MC352 provided a substantial down payment for its replacement. The remaining balance was paid through a combination of rationalization, optimism and credit. After the transaction, the next obstacle was relocating the 150 pounds from my trunk to my basement [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-01-14 History

Greetings! I appreciate that readers have shared their own personal audio histories with me as I have outlined my own history throughout these newsletters. Last week, Jeff wrote: "50 years ago, I started with my parents' 8-foot-long RCA home console. Since then I have worked my way through a Lloyds stereo system, Olsen Electronics, Radio Shack, Kenwood, Sherwood, vintage Conrad Johnson, NAD, Nakamichi, Hafler, Audio Research, Cary, Rogue, and now McIntosh. Speakers were Celestion, Radio Shack, home-built, Tannoy, Advent, JBL, Polk, and the past thirty years Vandersteen. Don't forget the AR and B&O turntables, more than one each, ending with Clear Audio and Hana." I did forget my own B&O turntable, but I did remember my [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2020-01-07 The Sound of Dreams

Greetings! Yesterday, I took a field trip to Audio Classics. They have a pair of McIntosh’s brand new MC901 Hybrid Tube/Solid-State Mono power amps. The MC901 is a perfect amp for people who wish to bi-amp their speakers. The MC901 combines two amps into one. It has 300 watts of tube power for the high and mids, and 600 watts of solid-state power to drive power-hungry woofers. The MC901 is the first of its kind -- optimizing two different types of amps for bi-amping. The result is a warm tight sound that truly is the best of both worlds: the beauty of tubes with the abundant clean power of solid state. But don’t make me try to describe the sound; a capable poet would still fall short. I recommend taking a field trip of your own to hear them. Though the MC901s would be the perfect upgrade for my home system [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-12-31 In Defense Of The Future

Greetings! If I were writing a national column on the internet with the intention of getting hits and making money through click-bait ads, I suppose I would be tempted to be purposely controversial to try to get as much interest as possible. But I am merely writing weekly introductions to Audio Classics' newsletter. I feel my job as writer here falls somewhere between writing something interesting and not offending any of Audio Classics' beloved customers. Within these reasonable constraints (which I would roughly categorize as decency) I have discovered more than once that it's not possible to say anything without offending someone. Here's part of a response I received last week: "It is interesting that your emails keep getting more and more divisive. Were you a student agitator in the sixties and now reliving those days?... It might help you to not piss off people if you don’t assume undefined words mean the same to everyone and quit writing like you are God's gift. And quit trying to piss everyone off." Let me point out that [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-12-24 Looking Forward

Greetings! Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas! I hope everyone receives the gifts of audio they dreamed of. A great number of you (based on the small percentage of you who have written to me) are happy with the classic system that you put together years ago, but there just has to be a new toy you want for your system. Who wouldn’t like a new diamond? By that I mean a new stylus for your turntable. Even if your system has reached perfection, there's always an endless supply of new music available. Musicians produce more music in one day than we could listen to in a year, and some of it's good. I have a friend who considers new music stuff recorded in the 1980s. He doesn’t even listen to THAT new music. We all have our favorites, but I claim that great music is still being made. (Amazon Music just introduced me to Melody Gardot while I am writing this; new to me.) I will now make an even more controversial claim [..more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-12-17 Living The Stream

Greetings! Last week I got a good-natured response to my talking about getting older: "If you’re old enough to need naps and like socks, then why would anyone trust your ear?" - Andy I wouldn’t expect anyone to trust my ears. I'm not writing this column pretending to be any sort of expert. I'm writing as a guy who has pursued the quest for a great audio system for a great portion of a century. I have found many who have traveled along this road and many can relate to my experiences. I don’t ask for trust, but just hope people enjoy my words. I would caution you not to trust anyone who writes audio reviews. If Magnapan were to give me a pair of their speakers as a "gift," I'm telling you right now, I would give them the most glowing review possible. So far, my opinions have not been influenced by anything but my own old worn ears. So, as an established no-longer-young person, I have approached streaming music with my share of mistrust. In a sneaky way, streaming has become a bigger part of my listening experience. I have used Tidal, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, SiriusXM, Quboz, IHeartRadio, and TunIn. My critical listening still consists of choosing a record or CD to play, but [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-12-10 'Tis The Season

Greetings! There are two changes, besides the aches and pains, that have demonstrated to me that I'm getting older. The first was enjoying naps. This was one of the first signs of advanced adulthood to me. I resisted naps well past the time anyone cared if I took one. The second change was no longer feeling disappointed if someone gave me socks a present. As a child, receiving a present was a moment awash in enormous potential. Was this the toy that would provide instant joy? [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-12-03 Sounds Of Silence

Greetings! I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving. Mine was very nice. It started with a long pilgrimage to Long Island, NY. The time of the journey was evenly divided between the first 180 miles and the last 30. The food was excellent, and the dangerous political conversation consisted of some preaching to the choir and the lone outcast pretending to be deaf. The most provocative attempt at controversy was a statement by the guy who was on his second glass of "water" which I knew for a fact was straight vodka. He called Tchaikovsky a series of insulting names, the most repeatable was “camp.” No one stopped chewing long enough to defend or further defame Tchaikovsky. Speaking or not speaking of music, I took note of the absence of music in the background. I tend towards having music in the background at gatherings [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-11-19 A Loud Response

Greetings! I must start by saying, I appreciate anyone who takes the time to respond to my articles. The emails that tell me they like what I write tend make me feel better, but any response lets me know someone is reading. Last week, I wrote about my preference for playing music loudly, and I noticed a sharp increase in the negativity of the responses towards me. One person called me an idiot. Actually, he used a more profane term which I will generously translate as "idiot." One reason for the negative response may be my choice of using the term "loud." The term has a certain pejorative overtone. Actually, "loud" is an imprecise term. One person’s loud may be another person’s quiet. And loud can be context-sensitive. At three in the morning, it doesn't take as much volume to be loud. Speaking at a regular volume is loud in a library. "Loud" by itself is a vague term denoting no particular volume level. It's like ordering a medium ice cream cone. You can only know that it's between large and small; how much ice cream you are about to receive totally depends on the particular shop’s definition of medium. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-11-12 Turn It Down

Greetings! From the moment I had my first stereo, I heard one phrase more than any other: "Turn it down!" These immortal words were first told to me by my mother. Later, I would be told this by neighbors and -- during college years -- occasionally by the police. I played in many bands and all of these were "too loud." When I ran sound for performances, people would kindly request me to turn it down. I'd yell, "shut up Mom," but they couldn’t hear me over the music. Yeah, I played things loud, but never distorted. Distortion was my enemy. Volume was my friend. Volume is not everyone’s friend. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-11-05 On The Phone

Greetings! For years, my cell phone has been plotting to take over more and more of my life. It started slowly, with an alternative way to make calls, but I know now that it will eventually lead to the point where I'll need my phone to make purchases. Last night, I went to concert where the only acceptable form of ticket was my phone. My phone has made a series of well-intentioned digital camera purchases pointless wastes of money and the barely used digital cameras now keep my old Canon AE-1 company in the closet. There might even be undeveloped film in that Canon. Currently my phone is my calendar and my newspaper; occasionally I use it to speak to people. My wife insists on maintaining a home phone, but I am the only human who knows the number including her. I imagine she does not want to give her phone a monopoly over calling options, and I respect that. In the audio world [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-10-29 12 Records For A Penny

Greetings! Statistically, it makes sense that I still buy CDs. At 57 years old, I am about six times more likely than a 24-year-old to buy a CD. It also makes sense from a habitual standpoint. I have had a lifetime of experience purchasing music from the days of riding my bicycle to Korvettes and picking out an album to experiencing the agony of paying full price for records, to pay for the "free" ones Columbia House sent me. I eventually transitioned from albums to CDs. I know many of my peers have transitioned back, or perhaps never went digital. I occasionally still buy vinyl, but for the most part I have long ago resigned myself to the shrunken artwork of the CD. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-10-22 Sound Argument

Greetings! In last week’s newsletter, I tried to say something as non-controversial as "sound is important to music." I was making the point that just as movie theaters have upped their sound to compete with ever-improving home theaters, concert promoters should pay more attention to their sound systems. Many people echoed this sentiment with their own stories, but a surprising number reacted with a bit of hostility such as suggesting "I should get a life." This prompted me to re-read my article to see that there was not a typo that suggested puppies should be killed or some other heinous thing. As much as music is something that ideally should bring people together, I've found that discussion of music is like discussing religion or politics. It seems easy to offend. I pondered this seeming contradiction for awhile [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-10-08 This Is Only A Test

Greetings! Last week many of you shared your favorite tracks to show off your audio systems. You were kind enough to share despite my reluctance to share my own go-to test track. I should say my former go-to test track since I've played it so many times that I do not want to hear it again. Thankfully, I did not choose a favorite song, but it was an excellent recording. I will not, however, speak its name, but I will share what others told me about. [...more]

Audio Classics Newsletter
2019-09-17 Retiring

Greetings! I've been telling you for months now that I am not Steve, the owner of Audio Classics, but this week's newsletter contains actual news from Steve.

From the real Steve Rowell:
Ernie Schleider -- or, Mr. Magoo -- as those who work with him affectionately call him, is retiring after over 45 years in the audio industry. I met Ernie in 1972 when he was working with the late Frank Gow at the Weeks and Dickinson Stereo Department in downtown Binghamton. He sold me my very first MC2300 amplifier as well as several other McIntosh components. His easy-going personality was contagious, and we quickly became friends. In fact, we tried to purchase the stereo division of Weeks together, but they went out of business before we could complete the deal. We also considered opening an independent store, but the time never seemed quite right. We finally joined forces on November 17, 1997 when Ernie came to work for Audio Classics in Vestal. He fit in like an old shoe and has been here ever since. A true friend to all, his customers often become repeat customers who know they can rely on his extensive audio expertise, disarming dry wit, and engaging smile. He is going to be greatly missed. [...more]

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