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The Absolute Sound


The Absolute Sound Issue 218 December 2011   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 218, December 2011 table of contents and link to the editorial.


Articles & Reviews In This Issue
05 From the Editor
The Smaller Difference.
Editorial By Robert Harley

8 Letters

12 From the Editor

14 Future TAS

45 Recommended Systems
We recommend six complete high-end systems starting at $1849.

32 Computer Audio Sound Quality
Dr. Charles Zeilig and Jay Clawson report on their groundbreaking project to evaluate and quantify every sonic variable in computer audio. Part One of a four-part series.

146 Cover Story: MBL 101E MkII Loudspeaker
The latest implementation of MBL’s ingenious Radialstrahler omnidirectional loudspeaker technology is the best yet, says Peter Breuninger. 

26 Special Feature: Can High-Performance Audio Help the Performing Arts?
Jim Hannon on a remarkable new technology that brings high-end audio into the concert hall.

16 Start Me Up: Focal Bird System
With its compact size, audiophile-grade sound quality, and ability to stream music wirelessly, Focal’s new $999 Bird soars, says Chris Martens.

22 Next-Gen Digital: Music Players for Apple Computers
Confused about all those music-playing programs for the Mac? Steven Stone evaluates eleven software packages in this head-to-head comparison.


Equipment Reports
68 Bower & Wilkins Zeppelin Air Music System
B&W adds wireless streaming — and improved sonics — to its now-iconic Zeppelin tabletop music system. Wayne Garcia reports.

72 Rotel RCX-1500 CD Receiver 
Neil Gader on a category-defying new component that plays CDs, USB drives, wireless sources, AM/FM, and Internet radio.

76 Sonist Loudspeakers: Recital 3
Our newest contributor, Garrett Hongo, on a highly engaging and affordable loudspeaker from Sonist.

84 Studio Electric Monitor
Down with flat! Steven Stone reviews a compact, ultra-high-quality mini-monitor with a decidedly different frequency response.

90 NuForce Reference 18 V3 Monoblock Amplifiers
NuForce has taken Class D amplification to a new level with its top-of-the-line Reference 18, says Chris Martens.

104 Stillpoints Ultra: Stainless-Steel Feet
Robert Harley discovers the benefits of ultra-sophisticated isolation devices from vibration-control pioneer Stillpoints.

106 Vitus Audio SIA-025 Integrated Amplifier
Can an amplifier priced at a thousand dollars a watt be a contender? If that amplifier has the sweetness and delicacy of the Class A Vitus SIA-025, the answer is yes, says Neil Gader.

110 Spendor SP1/2R2 Loudspeaker
Robert E. Greene reports on the modernization of a classic.

118 Aerial 7T Loudspeaker
This terrific-sounding, beautifully built floorstander hits all the right notes. Kirk Mitdskog on the newest loudspeaker from Aerial Acoustics.

122 Technical Audio Devices (TAD) Reference One Loudspeaker
Robert Harley lives with a contender for the state of the art in floorstanding loudspeakers.

130 The Cutting Edge: Conrad-Johnson GAT Preamplifier and ART Monoblock Amplifier
Jonathan Valin on what are, without doubt, the most neutral, transparent, and realistic electronics the venerable firm of conrad-johnson has yet made.

140 Wilson Audio Alexandria X-2 Series 2 Loudspeaker and Thor’s Hammer Subwoofer
Jacob Heilbrunn takes the Alexandria’s performance to another level with the addition of two massive Thor’s Hammer subwoofers from Wilson Audio.

156 HP’s Workshop: Harry Pearson on the new components now gracing his listening room.

161 Manufacturer Comments


162 Mark Waldrep Knows What He’s Doing
The outspoken Dr. W of AIX and iTrax talks to Andrew Quint about recording techniques, high-res downloads, multi-channel on Blu-ray, and listening from under the piano.

168 Records International
Mark Lehman on a cornucopia for “Type Two” classical music record collectors.

170 Rock 
Audiophile vinyl reissues of Rod Stewart and Jennifer Warnes, new releases from Greg Brown, Maria Muldaur, Michael Murphey, and Gillian Welch, and new settings of Hank Williams lyrics and Bela Bartók miniatures.

176 Classical
Chamber pieces from Marlboro, Christmas tunes from Copenhagen, Bach from Heinz Holliger, and piano music from John Corigliano.

180 Jazz
The latest from Wadada Leo Smith, Steven Bernstein’s MTO, Satoko Fujii, and Alex Hoffman, along with the first-ever commercial issue of the Miles Davis Quintet’s 1967 live recordings from Europe.

183 Five Faves
Duck Baker selects five stellar albums devoted to the music of Thelonious Monk.

184 Back Page
Pioneering Karen Sumner, President of Transparent Audio, talks with Neil Gader.


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