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April 17th: New home for our LPsKallax
     We told you the sad story of what happened to an IKEA bookcase holding hundreds of our LPs (it's the March 5th entry in this blog). We also told you the story of a revolt of LP lovers against IKEA's decision to discontinue the Expedit shelves, whose square sections are LP-friendly.
     We already have an Expedit in fact, and we are fans too. But the unit that collapsed was a Billy, some 30 years old, and wider than the current version.
     We wandered down to IKEA, and saw a few Expedits, but not in the format we needed. So, with trepidation, we bought the new Kallax unit you see here.
     It's pretty good. The external walls are thinner, and they're hollow too. IKEA says it uses 1% of the world's wood production, and it is trying to reduce its footprint. We made sure the bolts were extra tight, as you might suppose.
     We wish they made the Kallax taller, with five or even six vertical cells. We expect to pick up a two-cell unit and fasten it securely on top.
     With that out of the way, we'll be concentrating on finishing up review sessions for our next issue. On the menu: two high-grade tube integrated amplifiers, the Moon MIND music streaming system, and some new cables we're quite excited about.

BY THE WAY: This is a long weekend, and so we'll be closed through Tuesday the 22nd. And Saturday is
Record Store Day, a day to urge people to buy recordings from an actual store. And are we not a record store? Yes indeed. And so we are offering an all-music extended Flash Sale. You can get surprising bargains on recordings from Chesky, Opus 3, Proprius and Sheffield.

April 4th: Are Pioneer TVs back?Kuro1
     Perhaps you're familiar with Betteridge's law: when a headline ends with a question mark, the question can best be answered by no.
     And that's a shame, because Pioneer's Elite Kuro plasma TVs, one of which is shown here, were the best available (except for the 42", which appeared to have been designed by someone else). But Pioneer doesn't make TV sets anymore, and in recent years its stands at CES in Vegas have been limited to car audio.
     However, some new Pioneer TVs are about to appear...or are they? This is where Betteridge's Law kicks in. (a) They are not Kuro sets, nor are they plasmas. (b) They are not designed or built by Pioneer. (c) To get one, you need to live in Norway, where the Lefdal chain will be stocking them.
     If they're not really Pioneers, what are they? It seems they're from TCL in China. TCL makes those "RCA" TV sets that aren't really RCA's,
seen in discount stores,.
     In North America, you'll recall, Pioneer licensed its Elite brand to Sharp. But those "Elite" sets aren't designed by Pioneer, and they're not plasmas.
Caveat emptor.

BY THE WAY: Our
Free Advice section has been updated. Want Free Advice? Write us.


Have you dropped by our Audiophile Boutique?
It's loaded with new and refurbished Moon products from Simaudio.
Amplifiers, preamplifiers, monoblocks, DACs, CD players,
all with factory warranty.

 

April 2nd: The Salon: smaller, but funRegaZylon
     Montreal's now venerable Salon Son&Image is over, and the rooms are all torn down and packed up. It seemed obvious that, after a long period of growth (plus some ups and downs, it must be said), the 2014 edition was smaller, with some big names missing. Still, the crowds were dense, despite the continuing wrath of winter, and the exhibitors who were present expressed great satisfaction.
     What you see at left is one of a series of Rega turntables painted by a one-name artist, Zylon. There will be 300 limited-edition Zylon-Rega tables. The mannequin legs? Well, a table should have legs, should it not?
     You can see some of our coverage of the Salon on
our show blog. More to come in the magazine, of course.
     For us, we're moving forward with our next issue, UHF No. 95. We have some review sessions to do: two integrated tube amplifiers, a wireless digital streaming system, and some cables. Some of those cables, we may as well tell you right off, could wind up in our Audiophile Store, but of course that depends on whether they earn a pass from us. We'll let you know.
     We can already say that there will be some major changes to our Audiophile Store. Some products will disappear, either because they are no longer available, or because we are taking the initiative to discontinue them. However, some new products — accessories and music — will be replacing them.
     And of course we're putting together our comprehensive guide to incorporating a computer into your music system as the major digital source. We've been writing about it in our pages, but we want to bring together what we know on the subject. Or at least what we know so far.

March 26th: Montreal's Salon opens FridaylogoSalon
     It's that time again:One of North America's most successful audio shows is about to open its doors. The venue, as it has been for several years, is the Hôtel Bonaventure, right downtown. We will of course be covering the Salon, as we have been since its inception back in the 1980's.
     
Our show blog is already in place, and we will be updating it during the three days of the show, and after it closes. You can visit the Salon site and reserve your ticket.
     See you there, perhaps.

March 12th: TAVES on Hallowe'enSheratonCentre
     Not that it matters to us, because it's been years since we dressed up and extorted candy from the neighbors. If you're still in that category, though, cancel the costume rental, because TAVES, the Toronto high-end show, begins on October 31st. It runs three days, as usual.
     The first three TAVES were at the King Edward Hotel, a classic high-end hotel on King Street East, right across from a subway station. The 2014 edition is moving to another high-end hotel, the Sheraton Centre. It's on 123 Queen St. West, across from Toronto city hall (perhaps you'll get a glimpse of the mayor -- you can't miss him).
     Of course there will be another show even nearer us taking place well before October, Montreal's Salon Son&Image. It runs March 28th to 30th, at the usual venue: Hotel Bonaventure.
     But although the venue remains the same, there have been significant changes in the Montreal show since 2013.
     The Salon's CEO, Michel Plante, stepped down last year to join the marketing team at Plurison/Audio Plus Services. Subsequently, the Salon was purchased by the Chester Group, which has been running high-end audio shows in the UK, Australia and New York. Michel Plante's colleague at the Salon, Sarah Tremblay, is staying on, and will pick up responsibility for the New York show (in Brooklyn in late September).
     We'll have more news on both shows, and of course we will be covering them.

March 12th: Flash Sale extended
     There was actually a glitch that prevented the past weekend's extended
Flash Sale from being updated in timely fashion. And so we've extended it through the next weekend.
     We're pleased with the response to our new offerings at The LP Store. A reminder: most of these are available in limited quantities.

March 5th: LP Store expandedNoFrontiers
     
Have you heard this recording? Mary Black is an Irish singer, and No Frontiers, recorded in 1989, was her masterpiece. All these years later, we continue to use it as a reference.
     At one time our
Audiophile Store used to sell the LP version, too. But we hadn't been able to get it for years, either on CD or LP. Don't think we haven't tried. We even had Mary's personal e-mail address...for all the good it did us.
     But now we have it again. And it is one of many LP titles we have added to the store section called The LP Store. We have the LP version of Jennifers Warnes' album The Hunter. We have the double album Soular Energy, with the Ray Brown Trio, another favorite in our equipment reviews. We have the moving Misa Criolla, featuring tenor José Carreras. We have vinyl re-releases of recordings by Frank Sinatra and Patricia Barber. And there will be more coming.
     But do remember that the 21st century is not the 20th century. LPs are no longer pressed half a million at a time. We have limited quantities of each title. When a title is gone, we might be able to bring in more. Or we might not.

March 5th: IronyBrokenBilly
     A few days ago we mentioned in this blog that vinyl fans were ready to mount the barricades because IKEA was phasing out the Expedit, a bookcase uniquely suited to LPs. And we included a picture of someone whose LP-filled bookcase, supposedly an Expedit, had come to a bad end.
     So what happened to us just three days later? The sad news is at left. Our own IKEA bookcase (actually one of a number, to be clear) gave way, with a scary crunch. The bookcase is also from IKEA, the ubiquitous Billy bookcase. It was an old Billy, what's more, considerably wider than the modern ones, with shelves that are less resistant to heavy loads. Sigh!
     So it's over to IKEA, to get some Expedits while the getting is good.
     Speaking of LPs, we're filing some new vinyl over at
T
he Audiophile Store, and preparing to update our site. Some of the titles are new arrivals, including titles we had not seen for years, while others are special purchases, often at bargain prices. We'll get the update up later today.
     The reality, however, is that today upscale LPs are pressed in very small numbers, and we run out really fast. What's more, once we run out of a title, we may not ever see it again.
     We've also received a considerable inventory of CDs and SACDs, and we're preparing to update our other music pages.

February 21st: Vinyl lovers vs IKEAExpedit
     IKEA has always had certain items you couldn't seem to find elsewhere, and one of them is the Expedit bookcase. Why? Because, as you can see, its format is perfect for storing LPs. Even box sets fit comfortably. The square partitions give your collection lots of lateral support, too. We use one of these ourselves. They come in different sizes and configurations, and they can be placed vertically, horizontally or even hung on the wall. With the rise in LP sales, you would think IKEA would be exstatic.
     But it's not. It will, in fact, be dropping the Expedit.
     Reaction has been swift. There's actually
a Facebook page dedicated to saving the Expedit. IKEA's reply: don't worry, we have a replacement, the Kallax, and it's almost the same. It just has less wood, so it will save us money.Expeditfail
     Less wood?
     Vinyl fans (count us among them) didn't like the sound of that. As it is, you need to be sure to follow IKEA's often-enigmatic pictorial instructions, or risk the fate of the unhappy vinyl lover whose Expedit (at left) didn't survive. (But is that an actual Expedit, and if it is, did its assembler not leave off some essentials?). Less wood doesn't seem to promise more solidity.
     It's almost enough to drive one back to the days of bricks and boards. Or orange crates...if they still made those.

BY THE WAY: Speaking of LPs, coming up next week is a massive update to our LP store, with some selected vinyl. In the meantime, here comes the weekend, and thus here comes the Flash Sale (starting, as usual, Friday at 3 pm).


Have you dropped by our Audiophile Boutique?
It's loaded with new and refurbished Moon products from Simaudio.
Amplifiers, preamplifiers, monoblocks, DACs, CD players,
all with factory warranty.

 

February 20th: Heating problem at Château Hi-Fi
     We refer to UHF's premises as Château Hi-Fi because, by local standards, it is. Once the residence of the engineer who built the first bridge across the Saint-Lawrence river, it stands magnificently tall, with three storeys. Built in 1851, it got central heating (hot water, of course) 114 years ago. And that, we figure, is when they put in this amazing Warden King furnace, which, until Monday, provided heat to the whole château. Originally designed for coal (the black stuff was shovelled in through those two little doors), it ran proudly on heating oil, in tandem with an electric furnace and a bienergy control system.
     It was supposed to last forever, or so service people have told us over the years. But Monday night its tank ruptured, and water poured out. Time to close all the valves and call emergency service.
     The furnace is still there, if only because it weighs like a Brinks truck, but we're all-electric now. And we've put away the portable radiators. Actually, we would rather have paid all that money for audio or home cinema stuff, but heating comes first.
     None too soon, because now we can get on with the listening sessions for the next magazine. We have two integrated tube amplifiers lined up, one of them the Focus Audio we've already mentioned. We'll be trying the Moon MIND audio streaming system. We'll have our Vegas report. And we're preparing a complete guide to using a computer as one of your audio sources. Kathe Lieber is working on another major music article, and all will be revealed shortly.

February 19th: New Free AdviceFreeAdvice
     We've been a few days without updates to any of our Web pages, as we've been running in new software. Our site was long maintained with Adobe GoLive, an especially flexible program (Adobe bought it rather than creating it, which is why it worked so well for so long). After Adobe bought DreamWeaver, GoLive was killed off. Which left us with...
     Well, with DreamWeaver, one of the buggiest pieces of major-brand software we have worked with. The pain is not reduced by the fact that DreamWeaver is now part of the Adobe CC suite, which is rented, not purchased.
     For some time, therefore, we were using an open-source program called KompoZer. It's also buggy, but not in the same way, and it won't ever get any better, because it is "abandonware": its creator has gone off to a paying job.
     What else could we find? There were several candidates, but they were template-based, meaning that our site would have to look the way the programmer thinks it should. We could go to a database system, of which there are several.There are also excellent HTML editors such as Coda, but our original site from 1996 was hand-coded, and we have other things to do.
     Enter Freeway. Hard-core coders hate it, because it is divorced from the HTML and XHTML of normal pages. It works much like our magazine design software, generating HTML code only once a page is done. It's fast, and we anticipate having far fewer problems. We will gradually be shifting the whole site to Freeway.
     But back to
Free Advice. This is a new batch, but we have a lot more ready to go, and you'll be seeing them soon. In the meantime, you can write us for Free Advice.

February 7th: Tubes in UHF No. 95LisztPrelude
     We've mentioned that a major set of articles in the next issue of UHF No. 95, now in preparation, will describe in considerable detail what we know so far about using a computer as a source in a high-fidelity music system. However, it won't be an all-digital issue by any means. Nothing is more analog than tubes, right?
      The amplifier at left is the Liszt-Prelude, a large (and heavy!) tube amplifier from Canadian loudspeaker manufacturer Focus Audio. We've heard it at a couple of shows, and it is now undergoing the needed break-in period.
     And it is actually one of two tube integrated amplifiers to be reviewed in the issue. More on that shortly.

January 16th: CES wraps upCESice
     International CES, as the former Consumer Electronics Show now wants to be called,  is well over, and we're back at the office

     Notwithstanding a small case of food poisoning, it all went well, and we'll be getting caught up on the Vegas show blog shortly.
      That huge thing at right, by the way, is an ice sculpture, placed next to one of the open bars at CES Unveiled, the show's inaugural event. Those ice sculptures (we presume they all come from the same company, possibly even the same person) are omnipresent at major events in Las Vegas. Where do you find ice in the desert? Good thing Boulder Dam is nearby to provide the electricity.
     Orders have kept flowing while we were away (the usual skeleton crew took care of urgent things, such as providing Maggie's electronic magazines). Now we're getting caught up.
      And, incidentally, we're laying out the next issue of UHF. We'll have lots to announce in the next few days.


 

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