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The Absolute Sound

October 2006
By Robert Harley

From The Editor


  We're pleased to unveil in this issue the new graphic direction for The Absolute Sound. We think you'll find that our look is fresher and more stimulating and makes what we have to say more accessible. The design was created by Art Director, Torquil Dewar, who will be putting together each issue of the magazine in the future.

We've also just given our sister magazine, The Perfect Vision, an editorial and graphic update. Concomitantly, we've increased the publication frequency of TPV to ten times per year (up from six) and are offering the magazine in electronic form absolutely free at www.avguide.com.

While you're at avguide.com, he sure to join our reader forum and get in on the discussion with other readers and TAS editors. Jonathan Valin's review of the $22,000 MAGICO Mini in the last issue sparked quite a controversy on the forum over the concept of value in high-end audio. Read Jonathan's insightful ideas and contribute your own thoughts on the avguide.com forum.

This issue features our 35-page Editors' Choice list of every product we recommend. We determine the final list by taking last year's recommendations, removing discontinued products, and then considering for inclusion every component we've reviewed in the current year. We poll the writers who wrote the reviews, asking whether they would e products themselves with their own money. The next step is a series of conference calls among the magazine's senior editorial staff in which we discuss, debate, argue, cajole, and hash out whether or not a product should be given an Editors' Choice Award.

To call these conference calls "lively" would bean understatement. There's heated though always congenial debate about whether certain products should be included. An important criterion is whether the candidate product is equal to, or better than, a similarly priced product. If the answer is no, the product doesn't make the final cut. In some eases, however, we allow for differences in design, such as stand-mounted vs. floorstanding loudspeakers, or tubed vs. solid-state amplifiers. Of course, some products are so outstandingly good that we reach unanimous agreement immediately We also consider whether an idiosyncratic product that perhaps isn't our cup of tea would, nonetheless, perform well in certain systems. We'll include some such products, but point out in the write-ups that they fit into very narrow niches.

Our Editors' Choice list is the single biggest feature we publish all year. It represents the collective wisdom and experience of out writers and editors. Not ever\ product worthy of recommendation is on the list (we don't recommend what we have not heard), but every product on the list is worthy of recommendation.

I was having dinner with Bob Carver in Austin, Texas, the other night when a funny thing happened. As you probably know, Carver is the founder of Carver, and more recently of Sunfire. He is one of the few truly innovanve thinkers in audio design. Many designers have created great-sounding circuits, but very few have invented entirely new circuit topologies (and loudspeaker concepts) from a clean sheet of paper.

Carver's innovations include the first high-powered solid-state amplifier (the 350Wpc Phase Linear 700 in 1972), the Auto-Correlator circuit, Sonic Holograph); the Magnetic-Field Power Amplifier, and the Asymmetric Charge-Coupled Stereo Detector, a circuit for improving FM reception. Carver's ingenuity extends to loudspeakers, as well. His Amazing Loudspeaker, introduced in 1986, employed a 60-inch ribbon with four 12-inch woofers in a large, open panel. When set up correctly, the Amazing lived up to its name. In addition, before Carver developed his True Subwoofer in 1994, you simply couldn't get low bass from a small box, but the True Subwoofer delivered extremely high levels of very low bass from an enclosure about a foot square. was nothing short of revolutionary.

Anyway, back to my dinner story The young waiter overheard us talking and asked incredulously "You're Bob Carver?" Bob modestly replied that he was. After dinner, another waiter, who must have been about 22 years old, approached the table and told Bob that his father owns the pair of Phase Linear 700s that he bought in 1972, and is still listening to music on them to this day How gratifying it must be to know that something you created 34 years ago is still being enjoyed in the here and now and to be recognized by a generation who wasn't even born when some of your creations were developed.

It was a wonderful moment.




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