As I write this, one of the most talked-about bootleg albums circulating the web is a fan-remastered version of Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version), undertaken to fix some of the odd sonic artifacts of the official release, which dropped on October 27 of this year.
How do you follow up a review of a $6499 flagship receiver with 15 channels of amplification and nearly every feature under the sun? If you’re a publication that focuses mostly on affordable hi-fi with the occasional foray into home theater, you might go to the other extreme and review one of the most affordable AVRs on the market. That was the plan, anyway. But as the great Rabbie Burns once pointed out, the best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Wookiees gang aft agley, so here I am reviewing an AVR that makes the Denon A1H look like a budget alterative: the $8000 McIntosh MHT300 (all prices USD).
The name Reloop was vaguely familiar to me as a brand that caters to dance club DJs. Then one day I ran across Reloop HiFi online and decided to investigate. As it turns out, Reloop HiFi is a new division that makes turntables for home listeners. As Reloop explains on its website,
Faced with two speakers in need of unboxing, which one do you dig into first? Normally, that would require as much thought as is needed to mutter “one banana, two banana” under one’s breath for a bit. But when a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 603 S3 loudspeakers shows up, and one of the boxes is caved in on the side, with a crumpled top corner, the selection process gets a lot easier.
In 1996, physicist and mathematician Alan Sokal wrote what is perhaps my favorite scholarly article of the late 20th century. That paper, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” was peer reviewed and published in the academic journal Social Text. I’d love to tell you about the contents of the paper, but it was, in fact, sheer postmodern nonsense. Sokal strung together a few appeals to authority with a laundry list of jargon nobody could really define. The editors bit hard, assuming he must know what he was talking about because they didn’t have a clue.
Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
SoundStage! Network founder Doug Schneider and I have been talking a lot lately about the race to the bottom—specifically, the glut of imported amplifiers with unpronounceable names seemingly cobbled together out of capital letters pulled at random from a hat. All of them seem to boast a gazillion-and-three watts per channel of output for like $50. On the one hand, I’m happy to get gear into the hands of people who might not have felt like they could afford an amp before. On the other hand, my experience with these things, a few rare brands aside, indicates to me that they’re largely disposable.
Despite the enormous popularity of streaming services, radio keeps plugging along. According to a June 2023 report by Nielsen Audio, 91% of Americans 18 years and older use radio weekly, which is more than those who use audio apps on smartphones (87%), computers (79%), and tablets (57%). Radio is certainly not what it was in years past, but a lot of people are still tuning in. And while several home receivers are available on the market and many car receivers (nearly 70% of all radio use on weekdays occurs in cars), very few standalone tuners are still available for home use. Notable examples are those from NAD, Rotel, and Sangean. Some costlier offerings are from McIntosh and Magnum Dynalab.
I typically don’t spell this out so bluntly, but one of the things I always try to accomplish with my unboxing posts is to give you a sense of scale. I can tell you a package or an amp or a speaker measures however many inches or millimeters by however many other, and maybe that means something to you. But I think most people look for visual clues. Which is one reason I tend to leave my Leatherman in the frame when taking the first establishment shots if there’s nothing else nearby you can use to calibrate your eyes.
If you find yourself driving through Alabama, up or down I-65, you might notice three exits leading to a little city called Prattville, part of the tri-county River Region area that also encompasses Montgomery and Wetumpka. If you’re a fan of Gabriel García Márquez’s masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, the name might tickle some faint memory buried deep in your brain. But if you’ve never heard of the place, what you’re most likely to notice first is that right off Exit 181 on the north end of town, there exists the most southern of all conjunctions: a Waffle House right next door to a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.
I think it says something about our hustle-bustle world that one of the most common recipes we see these days boils down to “just add _____.” I don’t just mean cooking instructions. In the world of audio, we often talk about “just add speakers” solutions like the NAD C 399 and Cambridge Audio Evo 150.