Despite having been founded in 1973 and having long produced audio gear in a full range of categories, this is the first SoundStage! Network review of a Linn product in a long time. Too long a time. I say that because the Scottish company is rich in innovation. Famed for its Sondek turntables and early active loudspeakers, and pioneering in its decision to stop selling CD players in 2009 to focus efforts on their network music players, Linn would much rather lead than follow. The Majik DSM integrated amplifier and network music player ($4900 USD) demonstrates just that.
Columbia 88875 08914 2
When I saw the cover of Leon Bridges’s debut CD, Coming Home, I thought I was looking at a compilation of tunes by a little-known regional soul singer from the 1960s whom I’d somehow missed. I expected to find a Wikipedia page that would tell me of his passionate following in England among Northern Soul fanatics. Turns out that Bridges has just turned 26, and hails from Fort Worth, Texas.
“Trust me -- budget equipment is wayyy more exciting than silly-expensive hi-fi gear.”
These were the words of SoundStage! Network publisher Doug Schneider when he suggested that I take the reins of SoundStage! Access. I was then a newcomer to audio reviewing, and my view of the audio universe was akin to Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the solar system: The best equipment was the most expensive equipment. Obviously. To me, that made a deeply intuitive sense. I assumed that Doug was just trying to make me feel good about reviewing what was, from my vantage, super-unexciting gear based on technologies trickled down -- and, I assumed, watered down -- from high-end audio’s loftier slopes.
There are those of us among the Audio Writing Brotherhood -- long since committed to the no-fewer-than-five-speakers-plus-subwoofer realm of home audio and the bigger-is-better onscreen dustup complete with the loudest friggin’ explosion ever -- who yearn for the golden days of yesteryear, when all that mattered was the high-quality reproduction of simple two-channel recordings of music. The gods -- or, in this case, my editor -- have heard my silent prayers and have had delivered, like manna from heaven, this humble little stereo system from SVS: a pair of Prime Satellites and an SB-1000 subwoofer. And while it hasn’t yet transported me to audio Nirvana, this unassuming rig is testament to the amazing advances made in the manufacture of high-fidelity speakers since the days when two-channel stereo ruled our realm with an authority as unquestioned as it was unchallenged.
Rickie Lee Jones moved to New Orleans a few years ago, and the city’s spirit and rich musical heritage have obviously inspired the music on The Other Side of Desire, her first disc since 2012’s The Devil You Know. She recorded it in studios there, with local musicians. She writes warmly of New Orleans in her liner notes and she seems to have been revitalized by her time there -- The Other Side of Desire is Jones’s first disc of all new songs in ten years.
Note: Measurements can be found through this link.
These days, it’s rare for someone to stay with a single company for ten years, especially if that someone’s name isn’t on the company’s front door. But NAD’s director of advanced development, Bjørn Erik Edvardsen, has been with the company since its beginnings, in 1972. In fact, he designed NAD’s first breakout product, the 3020 integrated amplifier, which was introduced to a waiting world and quickly became an international bestseller.
I’m glad to say that Edvardsen is still at it, and that NAD models whose names end in his initials, “BEE,” are the products of his fertile mind. The C 275BEE power amp ($1299 USD) may be one of his greatest accomplishments.
James Taylor hasn’t recorded an album of new songs since 2002’s October Road, although he released a Christmas album in 2004 (reissued by Columbia in 2006), and a collection of material by other songwriters, Covers, in 2008. In his liner notes to his new disc, Before This World, Taylor says he took 2013 off to write. He found somewhere to isolate himself, and began writing lyrics to melodies that had begun as demos he recorded with his band in 2010.
For many listeners out there, there’s a kind of mysticism associated with audio reproduction. Comparing two televisions side by side in a big-box store such as Best Buy, the average consumer shouldn’t have much trouble spotting which one is “better.” But try the same sort of comparison with two different pairs of loudspeakers and things get murky. This is borne out when the same consumer reads a professional reviewer’s assessment of the two pairs of speakers, and discovers that one sounds “warm” and “rich” through the midrange, complemented by a “polite” treble, while the other is more “incisive” overall, with an “extended” and “crystalline” top end. With this kind of parlance being bandied about, no wonder we audiophiles look like absolute lunatics.
NAD calls its C 510 a Direct Digital preamp-DAC -- accurate as far as it goes, but it doesn’t really describe the device. I’d call the C 510 a versatile control center for a multisource digital sound system.
NAD notes that the C 510 ($1299 USD) was designed for the many people who have replaced their physical media with digital files. The company claims that, by
replacing the traditional analog preamp, the C 510 removes the source of noise and distortion that can obscure detail and limit the performance of many systems. By performing preamp functions like volume and source selection in the digital domain, the C 510 shortens the signal path and opens up new system possibilities.
Capitol Records/ATO Records B002282802
My Morning Jacket is the kind of band I tend to like. They are beyond category, encompassing everything from prog to Americana, and the band’s guitarist, Jim James, writes tunes that are both challenging and hummable. For me, the group showed its depth and versatility when it played “Ophelia” and “It Makes No Difference” for an appearance on Love for Levon, a tribute concert to Levon Helm that is available on DVD. While retaining their own identity, they showed an understanding and deep appreciation of the Band that many of the acts on the bill with them lacked.