The Absolute Sound

  1. The Politics of MQA

    The codec known as MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) is clearly in its ascendancy. The Big Three record labels have signed on, Tidal is streaming hundreds of MQA-encoded albums, and there’s a steadily expanding amount of audio gear capable of handling MQA, at all price-points. So it’s perhaps surprising that MQA has been met with a continuous flow of skepticism, derision, and outright fury by some audiophiles, both consumers and seasoned industry hands. Or maybe it shouldn’t be surprising. The technology was developed by a team headed by Bob Stuart, an acknowledged authority on digital methodology—and experts in general are viewed...

  2. Sony NW-WM1Z Portable Player and MDR-Z1R Headphones

    Sony has been creating cost-no-object “flagship” components since early in its history. And while never intended as big-sellers, these models have often provided benchmarks for future, more affordable designs. The new Sony NW-WM1Z portable player ($3199) and MDR-Z1R headphones ($2299) are two of Sony’s latest top-echelon portable audio devices. This review will look at each product individually and then as a unified system. While not perfect for everyone’s needs (nor are they meant to be), the NW-WM1Z and MDR-Z1R boast several unique technical accomplishments that make them special and noteworthy—not to mention their top-end sonic performance. Both the NW-WM1Z and...

  3. Soundtracks Series Vol. 4: Jim Hannon's Top 10

    The LP reissue phenomenon has introduced audio enthusiasts and music lovers to many of the world’s great recordings on high-quality vinyl, with some featuring mixes that are even better than the originals. Movie soundtracks have benefited significantly from these re-releases. My soundtrack recommendations cut across several genres, from classical to classic rock, funk, disco, folk, bluegrass, big band, and ensemble jazz. While I love my original copies of Miklós Rózsa’s soundtracks to Ben Hur and Quo Vadis and James Horner’s Glory, these have not yet been reissued on LP, so they are not included below. I have purchased all of...

  4. 2017 Golden Ear Awards: Anthony H. Cordesman

    Paradigm Persona 9H loudspeaker $35,000 Along with Legacy, Paradigm is one of the two manufacturers I’ve found that can really do room compensation well. Its Persona 9H is truly flat, goes very deep, and is still quick and detailed in the bass. Its low end is matched by a superb new beryllium midrange and tweeter with a great deal of life and resolution but no hardness. With excellent driver integration and something much closer to a point-source presentation than most complex speaker systems, the 9H provides some of the best imaging and soundstage performance around. Although it is pricey at...

  5. McIntosh Announces MA7200 Integrated Amplifier and MAC7200 Receiver

    The following is a press release issued by McIntosh. Binghamton, NY – September 13, 2017 – McIntosh, the global leader in prestigious home entertainment and ultimate-quality audio for over 65 years, is proud to announce the MA7200 Integrated Amplifier and MAC7200 Receiver. MA7200 Integrated Amplifier (Available exclusively for countries outside the US and Canada) Offering 200 Watts per channel and 14 total inputs, the space-saving MA7200 Integrated Amplifier can easily become the core of a 2-channel home audio system. Making up its 14 inputs are 8 analog connections (5 unbalanced, 1 balanced and 1 each of Moving Coil and Moving...

  6. TAS Legacy: Bowers & Wilkins 801 Loudspeaker

    Introduced in 1980, the B&W 801 almost overnight became the speaker for top-shelf recording studios and mastering suites. EMI, which later became Abbey Road, adopted the 801 as its reference monitor. Many other studios followed suit. To this day you will find B&W 800 series speakers used in quite a few pro monitoring environments. According to the first 801 brochure, “The B&W 801 represents the first commercial effort to develop and produce a loudspeaker that would reflect the highest standards attainable without regard to any of the so-called ‘practical considerations’ that inevitably compromise conventional designs.” To achieve these sonic goals...

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