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April 24th: Finishing up the magazine, starting the nextmaestro3
     We're rushing around to get UHF No. 96 to the presses, but we're also beginning work on 97. Two of the products that will be featured in that issue are already in and undergoing the usual rounds of run-in. Two of them are DACs, digital-to-analog converters.
     One of them is shown here, the Audiomat Maestro 3, from France. We last reviewed a Maestro DAC years ago, when the available technology was in its infancy, at least by comparison. And our digital systems were primitive too. We listened to it using a CD player as a transport.
     Nowadays, of course, our digital playback is computer-based, and we're eager to hear for ourselves what Audiomat can bring to the table.
     We'll be starting the listening sessions next week. First, we have pages to finish up for UHF 96

BY THE WAY: Speaking of DACs, you won't want to overlook t
his weekend's Flash Sale. You have until Monday at 10 am..


April 16th: Simaudio's 35thdurrant
     We remember when it was called Sima Audio, and it consisted mainly of Victor Sima, designing and assembling mostly pro gear, and not yet having discovered the audiophile world. A lot has happened over those 35 years, and on Tuesday Simaudio, now one of the workd's major makers of high-end audio gear, had a party to celebrate. Juno-nominee Melanie Durrant was on hand to sing.
     We hadn't toured the building since its official opening, and what had changed was its two listening rooms, which have have received major acoustical treatment. The gear is all Simaudio's Moon series, except for the loudspeakers, which are respectively Dynaudios and Wilson Sashas. The latter room sounds especially terrific.
     The Montreal newspaper La Presse chose that particular day to publish a long article on the paucity of made-in Quebec electronic products, and deplored that, except for loudspeaker-maker Totem, there are no high-end audio companies in Quebec. It's called research, people. And there's a little company called Google that could possibly give you a hand with that.

BY THE WAY: On this weekend's
Flash Sale, get a Moon CD player with digital input, plus one of our favorite interconnect cables, all at a bargain price. And Saturday is Record Store Day. We have some special prices on selected LPs.


April 13th: Audiophile Boutique back upLogoaudiophileboutique
     When we finally moved our Web site to WHC after the catastrophic meltdown of our longtime Web host, we concentrated on our main pages, including those of The Audiophile Store. Left for later is our special product section, called The Audiophile Boutique. It features such products as a Thorens turntable, a glorious Mastersound tube integrated amplifier, and a CD player and monoblocks from Simaudio.
     It's now back up
in a new corner of our main site. That's temporary, but then again perhaps it should be permanent. We gave it its own URL way back when because we want to distinguish it from the magazine. But why? When you have a brand, you stay with it.
     Anyway, the Boutique is back on line, and perhaps it will stay where it is.

April 9th: Goodbye Future Shop
     While we were away (because our longtime Web host had closed up), we got news of another closing: Canada's Future Shop big box stores.futureshop
     You might think that this of little interest to fans of genuine high fidelity, but that's not so. Aside from the fact that the stores carried high-end TV sets, such as Samsung plasmas, and even MartinLogan electrostatic speakers, it was also where we bought, at a discount, the Mac mini computer that is at the heart of our reference systems,
     Still, the closing has both more and less than meets the eye.
     Future Shop belonged to the US megachain Best Buy. When that company moved into Canada some years back, it was planning to compete hard against an established Canadian chain, Future Shop. But competition costs money, and Best Buy decided it would be cheaper to buy the whole chain. Which it did. Oddly enough, it then built Best Buy stores within a stone's throw of Future Shop stores, thus giving the illusion tof a competitive market.
     The world is changing, however. The two chains moved on line, but they were then right up against Amazon. In the US, Best Buy is in some trouble, and plans to close some large stores in favor of small ones selling cell phones. (Good move...note how well that worked for Radio Shack!)
     Hence the keelhauling of Future Shop. There's a parallel with the recent closing of Target Canada after little more than two years and the waste of $5 billion. Target is also in difficulty in its home market, and could not carry its Canadian division, whose management appeared to be brain-dead anyway.
     Is this the end of the big box store? Ask Costco, which keeps purring along, despite the relative high salaries it pays its employees. Some executives blame "the economy," when actually they could learn a lot by just looking in the mirror.

April 8th: Montreal show blog finally on line
     By now you know why we didn't blog the Montreal show during the show. Just before the show opened, our Web hosting company closed down. Without warning. We were days with no site.
     First priority was of course getting the main site back on line, and quashing the
inevitable rumours that we were the ones who had gone belly up. We've now caught up with the show blog, and here it is.

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     As you'll see if you didn't know already, it was the smallest Montreal show ever. Unable to go on working with its new owners, Sarah Tremblay, who describes the show as "her baby," resigned.
     Nearly all our site is back up, though one small corner of it is not, and Maggie says her electronic magazine section got thoroughly trashed, and will need work.
     We're on it!

March 31st: UHF back from the void
     It happened Tuesday evening. Our Web site, which has existed since 1996 and has been hosted by the same company for 13 years, just wasn't there anymore. Planet Velocity, which had been hosting it, folded its tent and moved on into the desert.planetvelocityjpeg
     And therefore so did we.
     Planet Velocity was not one of those tiny hosting sites. It had a presence on three continents. We had no idea they would fold, and they didn't give us any warning.
     The timing was not optimum, and that's for sure. We were preparing for the Montreal Salon (held this past weekend), and having no site was not much fun. We signed up with Web Hosting Canada, which also hosts the site of the city of Montreal, Desjardins, etc. As of this morning, our site came back up.
     Depending on where you are, you may not see the site for a couple of days. The worldwide DNS servers, which translate site names into their numeric equivalents, don't get the message at the same time.
     We think we're now fully back on. Our other site, that of the Audiophile Boutique, is not yet up, but it will be shortly. And Maggie (the nice lady who sends out the electronic issues of UHF) says her part of the site got trashed but good. If you're trying to download an issue you've bought from her, let us know, and we'll fix it for you.
     Oh yes, about the Montreal show. It didn't exactly cheer us up in this dark week. More on that shortly.

 


March 25th: Is music streaming really winning?
     You may have seen this in your local paper, or (more likely) the Internet. Revenue from streamed music is now greater than that from physical media, specifically CDs . Surprised? But it isn't true. The dice are loaded.riaalogo
     Let's look first of all at those figures. They come from the RIAA, the Recording Industry Association of America. Yes, the same people who have been known to
claim that you are "stealing music" if you transfer a CD you have paid for to your iPod. Streaming brought in $1.87 billion in 2014, and CD shipments brought in only $1.85 billion. Notice how this figure doesn't seem to cover other physical media, such as Blu-ray or LP.
     Did we mention that these figures are only for the USA? Most mainstream news media seem to have missed that.
     That's not all they missed. What are these "streaming media" of which they speak? Yes, of course they include Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify, Beats Music and others. Some of them are USA-only, but we won't belabor the point.
     The more relevant point is that the total also includes YouTube and Sirius XM. If we're going to include them, why not also include over-the-air radio, which has been around since 1919? Include them, and "streaming" is an even bigger winner. And always has been.
     By the way, the LP's share of physical media shipments is now 14%. That's USA-only, and it's from the RIAA. Would you like salt on those figures?


March 24th: Meanwhile, the Toronto show...
     The Montreal high-end audio show is about to open, and a new show in Vancouver is coming in May. What about TAVES, the Toronto Consumer Electronics Show. Is it still scheduled for the end of October?
     Yes, but not in the same location...and arguably not even in Toronto.
     The show will be held from October 30th to November 1st, but no longer downtown. Last year it was right across from City Hall. This year it's in Richmond Hill.

tavesmap


     This has a familiar sound. Many years ago, there was a Toronto audio show that skipped about different venues, under the wobbly stewardship of organizer Shirley Trotter. The show was small and shrinking, and so it moved farther and farther out of town, where the rents are cheaper. The last one we covered, we referred to as "The Markham Show." Trotter never spoke to us again, and refused to tell us where -- or whether -- her next show would be.
     TAVES will be north of highway 401, and indeed north of the notorious 407 toll road. In putting it so far out of town, the organizers are lowering their costs, but they are also gambling that, as they say, if you build it they will come. Perhaps, but it may depend on where you build it.
 


March 23rd: The Montreal show opens FridaySalonwindow
     This is by far Canada's longest-running high-end audio show. The first one (we were there) occured in 1984. For some years it's been known as the Salon Son&Image. In French it still is, but it has now picked up an English name. That's not surprising, since it now belongs to The Chester Group, a UK company that organizes shows around the world.
     The show opens Friday the 27th at 11 am. You can
visit the show site, and even reserve your tickets on line. You can also see our show blog, which of course will be fleshed out during the show.
     The Toronto show, TAVES, is owned by different people, though there was once an organizational link. However, the Chester Group is expanding its reach to Vancouver. The first Vancouver audio show in many years will run May 8th to 10th at the Hilton Metrotown hotel in Burnaby.

 

March 3rd: A glass optical cablemavrosoptical
     There's a lot to be said for connecting your music source (computer, Airport Express, etc.) to your digital-to-analog converter with a TOSLINK optical cable instead of a copper wire (coaxial, USB, etc.). Our Audiophile Store catalog does in fact include optical cables. We chose them because they're well made and they're good value. But are some optical cables better than others?
     Yes...if they're made of glass rather than plastic.
     This isn't something we've taken on faith. You know us, we actually listen to the products we offer. We'll have a review of the Atlas Mavros optical cable in UHF No. 96, but you can already
read it right here. (a review of the Gershman anti-vibration devices is also included.)
     The glass optical cable costs more than 10 times the price of the plastic version, but it offers performance that can rival other connection methods, even USB.
     In our own Omega reference system, we use an Airport Express to funnel HDCD-encoded music from an Airport express to a Moon Attraction DAC. The improvement was striking.
     The Mavros glass optical cable is available from our cable page in 1.5 or 3 metre lengths.


February 6th: Goodbye Radio ShackRadioShack
     You've probably seen the news: Radio Shack, which has been flirting with bankuptcy proceedings for some time, is coming to terms with the obvious, and is about to disappear. Its hapless management has made mistakes that would put your local convenience store to shame.
     At one time, it was Radio Shack that had the latest and greatest gadgets. Many a letter to santa drew on its bright and colorful annual catalog. Even in hi-fi, it did better than you might have guessed. If you were going to use a receiver instead of an expensive high-end amplifier, you could have done worse than one of its Realistic-branded receivers, the best of which were engineered by Onkyo.
     And if you needed a transistor, a connector or a chip, for a DIY project or a repair, or if your exotic European electronics had blown a fuse, help was as close as Radio Shack. But that was a long time ago. The catalog is gone, and so are nearly all the products that made Radio Shack such fun. A few years back, the management thought it was a good idea to bring in lots of cell phones (because they're so hard to find elsewhere). The stores became predictable and boring. And dirty.
     The fund that bailed out the company a few months back (they don't ask us for financial advice, and we don't offer it) is taking over the stores. Some will be ceded to Sprint, a cell phone provider. Amazon may be interested in turning them into local pickup centres. The rest will get those ubiquitous For Rent signs.
     In Canada, the former Radio Shack stores were long ago sold to the Circuit City electronics chain. When that company folded, Bell Canada picked up the stores, now known as The Source. They have lots of Bell phones, of course, plus the sort of gadgets Radio Shack once had.
     And fuses for your exotic gear, too.

January 30th: Our dropping dollarloonie
     Oil prices have dropped sharply, which has delighted those of us who own cars. But we're in Canada, a major oil-producing country, and cheap oil means a cheap Canadian dollar. Or, from our standpoint, an expensive US dollar. Reality dictates that a number of the products on
our Audiophile Store will be rising in price. We're just giving you a heads-up. Buy now, because next week we'll begin revising prices.
     And if you're in the US or Europe, remember that our prices are in (the ailing) Canadian dollar. If you order with a credit card, the amount will be converted to your own currency on your credit card statement.
     But, just to buck the trend, we've just lowered some of the prices over at our Audiophile Boutique. In particular, that includes the Moon CD3.3 and CD3.3X. Unlike most players, they include digital inputs, so that you can use the 24/192 DAC with your computer or other digital source. This is not a Flash Sale (though we do have a Flash Sale each weekend), but a price drop...while quantities last, of course.

Hundreds of recommended products at The Audiophile Store


Bargains on used, discontinued and specially-purchased products at
The Audiophile Boutique

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