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The Absolute Sound


The Absolute Sound Issue 198  December 2009   Welcome to The Abso!ute Sound online! We explore music and the reproduction of music in the home. We believe that the sound of music, unamplified, occurring in a real space is a philosophic absolute against which we may judge the performance of devices designed to reproduce music. Our goal is to provide the resources consumers need to judge how a component's sound either honors or departs from the music's truth, and to make sound purchasing decisions that maximize their experience of reproduced sound. Below is our Issue 198, December 2009 contents and editorial.

Read this edition's editorial by clicking here.


Articles & Reviews In This Issue
6 Letters

8  From the Editor
Jim Thiel, 1947-2009

14 Future TAS

18 Industry News

38 Next-Gen Digital
Steven Stone on why everything matters in computer audio.

44 First Listen
Tom Martin listens to the $395k Magico Ultimate II loudspeaker.

28 The 2009 CEDIA Show
Chris Martens previews the best high-end products introduced at this year's CEDIA Expo.

63 Recommended Systems
What systems would TAS's editors assemble for themselves at $1700, $3000, $5000, $10k, $15k, and $30k? Discover how to optimize your hi-fi budget with our expert recommendations.

72 Stocking Stuffers
We pick the 50 choicest gifts for audiophiles starting at $10.


Equipment Reports
20 Start Me Up
Arcam FMJ A28 Integrated Amp and FMJ CD17 CD Player
Arcam hits a couple out of the park with its new line, says Wayne Garcia.

24 Absolute Analog
Nagra BPS Phonostage
Wayne Garcia on the sonic pleasures of battery power in this new Swiss-made phonostage.

92 Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player
The Oppo plays it all: CD, SACD, DVD-A, and Blu-ray and plays it well, for $499! Chris Martens on a great component.

96 PMC DB1i Loudspeaker
Neil Gader reports on a tiny monitor with a huge sound.

100 Rega Elicit Integrated Amplifier
Britain's Rega goes upscale with this new integrated, says Wayne Garcia.

104 Lamm LL2.1 Preamplifier
Our tube maven Dick Olsher auditions an affordable new preamp from the company known for its ultra-exotic designs.

108 Simaudio Moon i3.3 Integrated Amplifier and Moon CD3.3 CD Player
The integrated amplifier is one of high-end audio's strongest product categories, and there's no better example than Simaudio's i3.3. Neil Gader has the details, along with an evaluation of the matching CD player.

110 Sennheiser HD800 Headphones
Is the HD800 the best Sennheiser ever? Tom Martin listens to the company's new flagship.

118 Von Schweikert Audio UniField 3 Loudspeaker
Jonathan Valin evaluates what is essentially a "one-way" speaker, from venerable designer Albert Von Schweikert.

136 The Cutting Edge
NAD M2 Direct Digital Amplifier
Robert Harley considers a radical new concept in amplification and system architecture?from budget-minded NAD, no less!

146 HP's Workshop
HP recounts the history of McIntosh and previews the C2300 preamp and MC2301 power amplifier.

124 Cover Story: Return of the Vikings
Electrocompaniet, the 35-year-old Norwegian company, is back with a vengeance. Anthony H. Cordesman tells you why in his review of a complete Electrocompaniet system.

152 Manufacturer Comments


156 The Beatles Remastered
The Beatles are back on polycarbonate in both stereo and mono. Neil Gader has the inside scoop on the Fab Four now, at last, in good-sounding digital.

158 Rock
New discs from old-timers Levon Helm and Willie Nelson, old-time songs from Ricky Skaggs, and an album of Mark Mulcahy covers. Plus the Pixies on MoFi vinyl.

160 Classical
Reincarnations and rediscoveries from two 20th-century piano titans, modern classics from Bernstein and Shostakovich, and a spectacular new Planets from Telarc.

164 Jazz
Recent recordings by Henry Threadgill, Jan Garbarek, and Masada, along with vintage reissues from Art Pepper and the dynamic duo of Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins.

167 Top Ten
Breaking up is hard to do, but who can resist singing about it? David McGee offers his favorite "breakup albums" from the past six decades.

168 Back Page
James Tanner of Bryston talks with Neil Gader views of our top picks in every category and every price.


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