Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

You wouldn’t think someone from my neck of the woods would have a favorite loblolly pine tree. The things are so ubiquitous, it’s almost like having a fondness for one specific blade of grass. But I do have a favorite: a particularly majestic old Pinus taeda that I reckon is at least 150 years old—perhaps much older. It’s oddly the only pine on my property. It’s also the only tree of mine I can see out my office window. And of all the trees that were here when I bought the house a quarter-century ago, it’s one of only two that remain.

And it’s dying.

As I’ve said a number of times, we all have our biases and blind spots, and the biggest for me is that the more I weigh the pros and cons of vinyl, the more I love my all-digital hi-fi system. As such, there are a number of revered audiophile brands I don’t get to interact with much.

If you buy into Malcolm Gladwell’s interpretation of the “10,000-Hour Rule,” popularized in his book Outliers, I’m a long way from being an expert at audio production. A very long way. SoundStage! Solo editor Brent Butterworth and I have recorded 22 episodes of the SoundStage! Audiophile Podcast to date, and I’ve mixed and mastered about half of them. Each episode takes me anywhere between 16 and 20 hours to produce and edit, which means I’m creeping up on somewhere around 200 hours of experience in the field of audio production. And 200 divided by 10,000 is math.

There are two things worth noting about the packaging of Atlantic Technology’s AT-3 loudspeaker right up front. Thing the first: I’m pretty sure the only things left after the upcoming nuclear apocalypse will be cockroaches and unopened AT-3 speakers. I’m seriously considering turning the crates into a makeshift storm shelter if this autumn’s tornado season gets too squirrely for comfort.

I was recently chatting with an industry colleague who’s reviewing an updated version of a wireless headphone model I reviewed several years back (for another publication). Without knowing the tonal quirks of this new version, I told him the old one had a reasonably flexible built-in EQ, and I’d be happy to share my custom profiles for that version to see how well they worked for the new release.

There have been times in my career when I was certain someone oopsed and shipped me an empty box. Granted, almost all of those times were when I was covering gaming headsets or lightweight gaming mice or custom IEMs or things of the like—never an honest-to-gosh hi-fi stereo amp. Until, that is, the new SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase arrived at my door.

If you’re shopping for new gear—especially as a relatively new audio enthusiast—one of the most important decisions you can make is which songs to use as test material when auditioning an amp or preamp or—most importantly—a pair of speakers. And the choice of which material is most illustrative isn’t always super intuitive.

Normally, the Noachian weather we’re having here in central Alabama at the moment wouldn’t be a matter of concern for SoundStage! Access readers. It seems relevant, though, given that our recent flooding threatened to derail my upcoming review of the Technics SU-G700M2 integrated amp ($2699, all prices USD). Or so I thought.

On a recent episode of the SoundStage! Audiophile Podcast, I mentioned to Brent Butterworth that we need an Audiophile Baloney Detection Toolkit. If you’re not familiar with the reference, it comes from “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection,” an essay by Carl Sagan from his final book, The Demon-Haunted World.

Having written primarily about home theater for the last decade or so before joining the SoundStage! family, I’m still adapting to just how different the two-channel world is in many respects. Take Sound United’s output, for example. Tell a typical home-theater enthusiast that Denon just dropped a new integrated amp, and the first question a cynical AVR guy will ask is, “What’s the Marantz equivalent, and how do the two products pretend to be different?” In the two-channel domain, though, the Sound United sister brands have done a really good job of differentiating themselves in everything from form factor and ergonomics to circuitry and presentation.