March 22: Montreal Audio Festaudiofest
     This show has had different names across its 31 years (yes, 31 years), but it has been a consistent success. That was true even two years ago, when its owner abandoned it with 10 days warning, and it was saved only by the people who cared. It's looking good — nay, great — for this new edition.
     The picture at right was taken at the 2017 show, and we might as well tell you that it's a tradition that it snows on the show weekend...as it did last year. Even the year it was scheduled in mid-April, a freak storm paralyzed the city.
     Well, not this year. It will be cloudy Friday, and then bright and sunny for the rest of the weekend. So what you'll see from the windows of this walkway is not snow but the ducks that make their home on the rooftop of the downtown Hôtel Bonaventure.
     The Audio Fest opens at 11 pm Friday (see the rest of the schedule on
the show site). Remember that admision is free, because the show is now in the hands of a non-profit organization dedicated to audiophiles and the industry. That means you can invite a curious friend to come and have a look, and a listen.
     Of course, several of us from UHF Magazine will be there for at least two days. Watch for us.

March 18: Music of the Resistance
     We're grateful to the many readers of UHF's print edition (nearly all in fact), who have migrated to the new interactive electronic version. Some have done it reluctantly, but have told us that they would rather have the electronic edition than not have it at all.
     We're busy putting together issue No. 99 of UHF. It will include this article.
     You probably know that music, and its reproduction at home, has been more important to us than mere hardware. This article by Kathe Lieber, The Music of the Resistance, is about the (so far unsuccessful) effort to put an end to war, and the power of the music enlisted in the cause.

The 20th century dawned with such great hope. Surely the world was destined for a bright future, full of peace and prosperity and science and technology, as exemplified by the Paris Exhibition in 1900, where the future belligerents displayed their brilliant new discoveries side by side. But history proceeds at its own peculiar pace, unbidden.

     How could the murder of an obscure aristocrat in Sarajevo in June 1914 lead to a declaration of war just a few weeks later, on August 4? What was going on here? The class system was starting to crumble and the union movement was rising, strongest in France and Germany, to some extent in Italy. Why, the workers asked, should I be sent off to kill people just like me, people who, by some accident of geography and birth, live in a country that’s supposed to be our enemy?

     The jingoistic message and the propaganda finally won over. And off the young men marched to war, millions never to return.

     Music became a potent weapon for protest. There had been no real recording industry before the first world war, but families would gather around the piano in the parlour and sing long into the night. Fast forward to the 1920s, when radio became widespread and affordable, taking music into many living rooms and democratizing music as a new tool in a movement that yet had somehow failed to stop one of the greatest tragedies in world history.

     By the way, the artists in the page spread above are: Buffy Sainte-Marie, Paul Robeson, Joan Baez, John Lennon, Peter, Paul & Mary, and the cast of the musical Hair.

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March 1: UHF 99 listening tests underway
     We have a good lineup of products for review in the next interactive issue of UHF Magazine. We spent Wednesday with a phono preamplifier, the Moon Néo 310LP.
     This is by no means the first Moon phono preamp we have experience with. We've reviewed the LP5.3, and an earlier version of the 310LP. Like the others, it has no external controls. There is no on-off switch, since Simaudio recommends keeping it warmed up and ready to go There is no switch for MM and MC cartridges, when it comes to that. You need to open the unit and set jumpers to what you need (there is, of course, the obligatory warning on the back panel not to do that).
     What's new? Simaudio says that the power supply has been beefed up, and accordingly it has discontinued the optional outboard power supply, the 320S. Power supplies matter, and we get that.
     The whole story will be in our next issue, comng soon.
     Got issue 98?
Pick it up here and download it.

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February 8: UHF's next reviews
     With issue No. 98 of UHF Magazine in the hands of most (but not yet all) subscribers, we are bringing issue 99 together. And it will include, as usual, a number of equipment reviews.
     Among the products to be reviewed are a new speaker from Totem, a phono preamplifier from Simaudio, high-end cables from Russia, and...this gadget.iRig
    What is it?
     You may remember that, years ago, we had reviewed the Edirol UA-25, a compact box you could attach to your computer, Mac or PC, and make your own digital recordings. Since then, we reviewed the ADL GT-40 Alpha, a kind of Swiss army knife that included a DAC, a phono stage, a preamplifier, a headphone amp and — yes, an analog-todigital converter. You could use it to make your own recordings.
     This device, from iRig, can do the same thing, but it has another trick up its sleeve. It can run on batteries, and you can do the actual recording on your tablet or your phone. And it includes pro features, such as 48 volt phantom power for a pair of professional microphones.
     Of course you'll want to know how good it sounds, and...well, you know us. Quality sound is what we're all about.
     The same issue will include an article on the ways music is important to humans. (We know it is to you, and of course to us). Paul Bergman will review the history of getting sound from a groove (Edison did it first, and we still do it today). And Kathe Lieber is working on a major article tentatively titled The Music of the Resistance. It's about the role that music has played in the (as yet unsuccessful) struggle to put an end to war.
     If you're a subscriber and you do not yet have issue No. 98, drop us an e-mail.

January 25: Record launch at Simaudionameless
     The well-known Canadian audio manufacturer is not new to sponsoring recordings. You can see Simaudio's Moon logo on early recordings by singer Anne Bisson, for instance. Last night, a new singer made her debut at the Simaudio lounge, Dominique Fils-Aimé.
     Her music could be classified as rhythm and blues, or as urban music, but last night she was accompanied by a small jazz group, piano and bass. After she had done some numbers from the recording (which will be out in CD and streaming next month, LP in March), we were invited in small groups into the Moon listening room to sample the Nameless CD.namelesscd
     The effect was quite different, with more instruments, and with a plethora of impressive studio-conceived perspectives. The Moon setup showed it to good effect, with a pair of Rockport speakers driven by Simaudio's impossibly large (and expensive) Moon 888 monoblocks. There is certainly lot of bottom end on this recording, provided by the bass and the percussion. The phase effects give the music a wraparound sound that draws you in. Happily, though, it doesn't obscure Fils-Aimé's voice, nor the emotion of her lyrics. This is a very good first album. More on it in UHF No. 99, coming soon.
     We were interested in lending an ear to the 888 monoblocks, and we wondered what makes a pair of them worth over $160,000. Well, they're large, much larger than they look in photographs, and theirs gigantic power supplies allow them to feed several horsepower into very low impedance loads. Simaudio recommends getting a pair of 240 volt circuits installed for them.
     Amplifiers this large typically sound closed off and opaque, loud but not loud enough to let you hear everything you think you should hear. Not these. Simaudio has sold several pairs, mostly in Asia, but of course they're not meant to be a mainstream product.

January 19: Turntable back in actionlp12
     It's no secret that we enjoy listening to vinyl and to everything else too), so our two reference turntables need to be operational. That's doubly true because we are about to do the listening sessions for UHF No. 99, and a phono preamplifier is on the list of products.
     But the turntable we use most, our Linn LP12, had serious problems. Was it the cartridge? Was it the lead wires on our Alphason tone arm? We installed new lead wires, and listened again. No, it really was the cartridge, putting out a strange, low-energy out-of-phase signal. It's a London Reference, and it will need a factory rebuild. So be it...it has had a lot of use, and we love it.
     So we installed a Goldring Excel, the same one that is on our other turntable (an Audiomeca J-1). The verdict? Our Linn sounds glorious once more. Frankly, we had missed it.
     Oh yes...the light over the turntable.
     It was originally a quartz lamp. with a transformer right in its base. But we couldn't leave it on while playing music, because the transformer's magnetic field got into the audio. The new lamp uses cool LEDs, and its own transformer is down on the floor. Much better.

January 13: After CES


     The record may belong to Saxe Brickenden of Canada's Evolution Audio. He says this was his 46th consecutive CES. Granted, CES used to be a twice-a-year event (the "summer" one was in Chicago), but even so...
     VPI turntables were at CES 2018, but VPI's Mat Weisfeld was not. The reason: he and his wife Jane were expecting any day. So Mat is holding his own Micro-CES in New Jersey, along with a few friends who brought along their own products: Joseph Audio, Totem, Rogers Hi-Fi, Transparent Cables, etc.


     It's not uncommon for companies to have demo suites off-site (typically, the Mirage, Caesar's Palace, the Golden Nugget), but rarer to have it on the other side of the continent.

January 12: CES 2018 is over


     The Consumer Technology Association, which organizes a number of shows, and notably CES, is going to say that this year's edition was the biggest version yet. They always do, except for the period following the 2008 crash. For high-end audio, however, CES has been shrinking more and more each year. This year the exhibits were almost entirely on a single floor of the Venetian (the palace above). And there is no longer a T.H.E.Show, the alternative exhibition that CES was trying to shut down.
     We've covered this year's CES at a distance, because the number of exhibitors was so small. Even worse is that so many of the people we would have wanted to meet weren't there.
     So how was the Venetian this year? Better than might have been expected. Bill Leebens (of PS Audio) was touring for what he said was the last time ever, and initially found the crowds thin. He reported bigger crowds later, perhaps because by now his expectations were low. Ray Kimber was delighted with the people he met and the business he wrote up, but then you'd expect that. With so few exhibitors, visitors have few places to go.
     Half a dozen years ago, there was a rumor that, with Vegas no longer the bargain destination it once was, CES was looking for somewhere new. Orlando was mentioned, though it wouldn't have the facilities for this huge show. Singapore was also mentioned. We think the rumor was put out by CES itself, to put pressure on some of the greedier hotels and casinos. But it could still happen.

January 11: Laser television
     And so...the contest seems to be between OLED television (Sony and LG) and microLED. But there's a third system: laser.


     Sony was of course first to show a Laser TV projection system. It was expensive, but the wow factor was breathtaking. There's a second entry, this one from China, HiSense. This projection box can sit just 19 cm from the screen. The heavy keystoning of the image is corrected electronically. This year's HiSense projector has built-in sound as well, from Harman/Kardon.
     The price? Well, last year's version cost $10,000, and we know that TV technology keeps dropping in price.

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January 10: Sony televisions
     The Sony presentations was a lot less dramatic than those from Samsung, LG and Hisense, but in part that's because Sony, long lagging in TV technology, was leading, in at least some categories. Sony has been building OLED sets (buying panels from their competitors, it should be said), and it has been able to claim leadership. The new OLED sets, including the one shown here, uses Sony's X1 Extreme Processor, offering (says Sony) unprecented brightness but also deep blacks.
     It's impossible to gauge image quality at a show, of course, and we're disturbed that Sony, like its competitors, continue to use images like this flower array rather than real-life scenes. Can we please see a human being on your screen? One with plausible skin tones? Flowers and flowing liquids look wonderful, but that's not what any of us will buy a high-end TV display to watch.
     Among other products Sony was showing was a full-frame camera with a silent shutter. The silence means the camera can be used at such events as golf tournaments. Of course, the silence may also be an advantage shooting in the dressing rooms...
     The worst thing that can happen at CES is a power break. And there was one at the Last Vegas Convention Center in the middle of the day Wednesday.
     It lasted about two hours, but its effect was felt throughout the day. CES evacuated the south and central halls, and by the time power was restored a lot of people were enjoying their third margaritas. It seems Vegas had been three month without rain, and then got a flash flood that took out a major transformer.
     But don't mention, climate change. That's a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

January 10: Technics SP-10 turntable returns
     Two years ago, Panasonic drew the attention of audiophiles by bringing back one of its classic direct-drive turntables, the SL-1200. It was a limited edition, which has since gone into full production. But there was no sign of the top Technics table, the SP-10. That turntable was used in radio stations (for one thing, it could hit full speed within an eighth of a turn). Some audiophiles loved it too, and would mount it in a special base, made from granite or some other dense material. Well, Panasonic is at CES, and the SP-10R is the latest incarnation of the famous turntable.


     You'll notice that there's no space for a tone arm. That means whatever arm you choose will have to be mounted on the base. Unless you choose a base that is absolutely rigid, you'll be losing musical detail hand over fist. The picture doesn't show a record mat, probably so you can admire the brass platter. Technics tables usually came with thick rubber mats, and they lost a lot of detail as well.
     We don't know the price, but the original SP-10 wasn't cheap, and the new SP-10R probably won't be either. Despite that, we expect there will be a waiting list.

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January 10: Samsung goes even bigger

     LG tried to upstage its major competitor (that is, Samsung) by launching its monstrous 88-inch OLED set before CES had even opened. But now CES is on, and Samsung has done some upstaging of its own. This new set, aptly named The Wall, has a diagonal size of 146 inches. That's about 371 cm.
Of course, that's absurd. You couldn't bring a TV that size into anything smaller than a château...or a ballroom at the Mandalay Bay. This is another "mine is bigger than yours" moment.
     But that's not truly the point. The new Samsung is an LED set...a real one. That means it's not just a standard liquid crystal set backlit with light-emitting diodes, like nearly all current TV sets. Rather, it uses arrays of tiny LEDs to form the actual image. Is that the future? It might be. It is, at any rate, the likely alternative to OLED.
     Samsung, as usual, drew laughter for its increasingly ridiculous refrigerators. Not content to have fridges whose contents you can view on your smartphone when you're at the store, it now has a model that "knows" what it contains, knows the taste and food allergies (if any) of family members, and suggests recipes.
     Stick to TV sets, Samsung. You may be on to something.

January 6: LG at CES
     CES is about to get underway in Las Vegas. No, no one from UHF is going. The hi-fi section of the show has been shrinking year by year, and can now be thoroughly covered on the first day before lunch.
     One aspect of CES we miss, however, is the launch of new TV technology. There may not be a lot of money in retailing TV sets, because they’re now such a commodity, but a lot of money is poured into the displays at CES, especially by such companies as Samsung, Sony, HiSense and LG.
     But why wait? CES opens on the 9th (with press events on the 7th and 8th), but LG has already shown its latest and biggest TV set. This is it.
     It's billed as an 88-inch set. That seems an odd size, and its not a much rounder figure in its metric equivalent, 223.5 cm. That's big, big enough that you’ll probably need to remove a window to get it in. And if it breaks down, you won't want to hear a technician says he has “to take it in to the shop.”
     It’s s an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) said, of course. LG is the world's biggest manufacturer of OLED panels, and it sells them to its competitors as well, including Sony and Panasonic. But that's not all. It’s no mere 4K set, but an 8K set. That's 4,320 pixels high by 7,680 pixels wide. That's a lot of data. So where do you get an 8K signal?
     Well, if you're in your living room you don't. Some studios do master their material in 8K, but there’s no medium for getting it to you.
     Which may not matter, because we don't expect this gigantic set to turn up at your local Best Buy or Costco. It's a statement, to convince you that if you're looking for the manufacturer with the goods, LG is it.

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