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March 15: Show time coming to Montreal
     It's one of North America's oldest high-end consumer shows, and it remains one of the best. But the Montreal Audio Fest has, over the years, changed name and changed structure.
logo-salon
     What's unusual about the Montreal show is that it is not run by a corporation or a club but by a non-profit organisation. Only two people (Sarah Tremblay et Michel Plante) draw salaries, and a lot of volunteers are called upon. Second, the show is right downtown at the Hotel Bonaventure. You can get there from the M├ętro or the railway station without needing a coat.
     And, one more thing: admission is free. You are asked to register (you can do it on-line), but it costs you nothing. So if you have a non-audiophile friend with an open mind, you know what to do.
     See you there?

Superspikefoot
Superspike feet with built-in spikes
replace the plastic feet on your gear
using the same screw. A set of four, $80 (Canadian).


February 6: HMV becomes Canadian
HMV
     We're not talking about the Canadian HMV record store chain, which went broke more than two years ago, but the original one in the UK, This one, on London's Oxford Street, has been here since 1921, when it was opened by the great British composer, Sir Edward Elgar. But fewer and fewer people buy music in physical form, and the fabled HMV has gone bankrupt...for the second time.
     Enter a Canadian savior, Doug Putman. He's familiar with the HMV brand, because when the Canadian company went under, his tiny record chain, Sunrise Records, took over the leases (though not the name) and filled its new stores with fresh stock, including vinyl.
     This time, Putman is buying the name -- which has more resonance in the UK than elsewhere -- as well as most of the stores. The Oxford Street store is closing, though. The rent is just too high.
     Putnam says that, not long ago, independent bookstores were given up for dead, but the survivors are thriving. He has hopes his HMV stores, well stocked with vinyl, will do as well.

February 1: Vinyl everywhereMcIntoshtable
     You don't need to be an LP collector to want a turntable (although it helps). Perhaps you have 50 or 100 albums you never could decide to abandon, and perhaps you add a disc or two each month. That's why you can buy an inexpensive turntable from the likes of Ion or Audio-Technica. Most come with built-in phono preamps and digital ouputs. You can digitize your favorites and listen to them on your phone...although frankly that's a pain, and the results make MP3 seem pretty good.
     Enter McIntosh, and its new MTI100 turntable. It's a pretty good-looking belt-drive turntable, with a built-in phono preamp (whose tubes are placed awkwarly to the right of the arm rest), a class D power amplifier with speaker outputs (50 watts into 8 ohms), plus analog outputs, a subwoofer output, and a Bluetooth receiver. Just add your own speakers. Oddly, there's no digital output to make digital copies of your LPs. But who doess that anymore?
     This isn't a product you'll add to a hi-fi system, since in fact it is a hi-fi system. And it's priced like that, at $6,500 USD.

January 16: Smaller pixels, bigger screens
SamsungCES
     We're a long way from the smal hotel rooms, or even the display tables we associate with audio at CES. Video is where money is to be made (or lost, as in many cases), and so the corporate displays are the size of a small town. It's much the same with Sony, HiSense, and the others.
     To be sure, Samsung and LG were showing more than just TV sets, though frankly there wasn't much else that caught our attention. Do you want a washing machine that is Internet-connected, and sends a notice to your refrigerator when the load is done?
     The other major TV-makers (LG, Sony, Panasonic) are using OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) for their displays. Samsung uses QLED, which sounds like OLED but isn't. QLEDs are quantum dots, the usual sort of LED used in economy TV sets, but smaller. With the 2019 version, the quantum dots have become even smaller, but Samsung showed an even bigger TV, with a diagonal measurement of 219 inches, or 556 cm. Samsung calls it The Wall, for obvious reasons. But measure your doors and windows before you order one.
     Samsung doesn't want exclusivity on the QLED name. It is encouraging other makers, such as HiSense and TCL to adopt both the technology and the name.

January 11: 4K TV not enough?
     Trouble is, all current TV sets but the cheapest ones offer 4K resolution, with four times as many pixels as HD sets. It seems obvious that prices have fallen to commodity level, and no one is making much money on them. Consumers have to be convinced to upgrade. The answer? Welcome to 8K television.
Sony8K
     Does this make any sense? There actually is 4K material available, but what about 8K? All the major manufacturers showed 8K sets at CES. Except Sony, which showed no consumer products at all at its press conference, concentrating instead on its pro cameras and the technology used to make the new Spiderman animated movies. But if you then went to Sony's giant booth at the LVCC, you got to see its 8K OLED set. And on its Web site, it lays out the case for tossing your old set.
     The image above is from
Sony's own page, and purports to show how much better 8K can be that plain old 4K. Of course, you can's show that on the Web (and you don't have an 8K computer monitor anyway, do you?), and so the difference is shown by making the "4K" side look lousy. Sony claims this set has "up to" 20 times the contrast of previous TV sets. It even has a setting for aligning your TV for Netflix, drawing on Netflix's database of what the image should look like.
     Yes, we know, Netflix has no 8K material, and its "4K" movies are compressed to conserve bandwidth.
     The new sets have four front-facing speakers, by the way, but you probably won't care. We don't.


Issue No. 100 of UHF Magazine is coming soon.
Want issue No. 99 right now?
Maggie has it, for tablet or computer.

January 10: High-end at CES?Nagra
     Well, it's not completely absent. And that's despite the fact that the CES guide no longer has a "high-performance audio" section. What few actual hi-fi companies are present are listed under "home entertainment," and that covers a lot of territory, from semiconductors to gaming headphones.
     But if you were to wander to the 29th floor of the Venetian tower, once the home of hi-fi, you might find some interesting rooms. Nagra is here, though it isn't even listed in the guide, showing its new HD DAC X. It's a converter, obviously, intended to accompany the other "HD" components, the amp and the preamp.
     If you take in the rest of the 29th floor, it won't take you long.
     Lenbrook is here, with its PSB speakers and NAD electronics. You can hear Rogue tube amplifiers, driving Eggleston spealers. VTL is here, exhibiting along with Nordost. Technics, the reincarnated audio brand of Panasonic, is over in room 29-111. Other brands? ATI amplifiers, Dali speakers, and products from Increcable, Kanto and Golden Ear. Don't bother going to the 30th floor.
     It might be worth your while to take the not-very-busy elevator to the 35th floor, to visit B&W, Dohmann and LAMM. After that? The Cirque du Soleil has some shows we can recommend.
     Remember the days when T.H,E,Show had an alternative expo at the same time at CES, and CES was so angry it had the T.H.E. shuttle drivers arrested for trespassing? Come home, T.H.E., the coast is clear.

January 7: New Technics turntable
     We managed to get a few details about the new Technics SL-1200 turntable, the Mk7 version. That was despite the numerous outages on the live press feed from the Mandalay Bay press centre. This will have turned out to be the glitchiest CES since two years ago, when the power went off. But we digress.
SL1200
     At one time, the whole Technics brand was history, but as two-channel hi-fi has put surround sound in the shade, and news of vinyl's return reached the shores of Japan, the brand was resurrected, and so were the turntables. The SL-1200 was always a deejay turntable more than an audiophile product, and that's obviously the focus. The table is made of aluminum and fibreglass, to reduce transmission of vibrations when it must share stage space with high-powered bass bins. The platter can turn backwards, handy for your Beatles records, dicey for most cartridges, and both the power cord and the audio leads can be changed.
     Oh, and the LED strobe light can be changed from red to blue. Did we mention it was a deejay table?

January 7: Rolling up your TV
RollupTV
     It's been known for some time that LG was getting ready to launch an OLED television set that could be rolled up into its console. At CES, LG showed it in action. And it does look impressive, as it rolls up, or rolls down, while it is running. Indeed, you can roll it down partly, leaving a strip of icons still visible. Of course, the console is rather large, and has a much larger footprint than the ever-slimmer flat TV screens.
     But LG had one of those as well, an 88-inch (223 cm) 8K set. Yes, 8K, in case you didn't think 4K was enough, and in case you have access to software we don't know about.
     The newest LG sets are doubling down on image processing, in a way that looks either exciting or worrisome, depending on your point of view. Some Hollywood insiders are going to court to force TV manufacturers to remove some "enhancements" that, in their view, affect their creative vision.


Issue No. 100 of UHF Magazine is coming soon.
Want issue No. 99 right now?
Maggie has it, for tablet or computer.

January 3: Off to Las Vegasmandalay
     Well, sort of. The high-performance audio section
of CES is now pretty much dead, with almost no one going for that reason. However, the video exhibits are gigantic, and we'll be covering the press conferences, starting Monday.
     You may recognize the gold-colored hotel casino at right, if only because that's where the sniper positioned himself in October 2017 to kill people attending a country music festival below. But the Mandalay Bay is also where CES registration booths are, and the press conferences will take place on Monday. We'll have details, but also photos. And, as you know, our coverage has always gone well beyond the texts of the press presentations.
     Vegas was once an economy destination, with cheap hotels and all-you-can-eat buffets for under $5. That was then, this is now, and the period of CES is extra expensive. The top hotels charge a lot, but if you want a block of rooms, they'll also insist that a minimum amount be spent per person on restaurants, shows, and of course gaming tables. That's one more reason that many audio companies, not all of them rich, have passed on CES.

December 29: New UHF covercover100
     We've already mentioned the major review coming in issue 100 of UHF Magazine, and of course you'd expect it to be on the cover, Which is now done. It is, of course, the Gershman Acoustics Posh speaker. Expensive? Sure. Great sounding? We wouldn't waste your time if it weren't.
     As for the fireworks, well...we did mention this will be our hundredth issue.
      We did think about doing a retrospective of the content in our previous issues, but we've done that on other anniversaries. We thought that, instead, we would cover the birth of modern high fidelity, which was born just after WWII, presenting the technologies of higher fidelity, the products, and some of the pioneers who made it happen.
     But we'll also look back fondly on some of the products we're reviewed. Most are no longer available, and in many cases their manufacturers are long gone too. But there's a lively used market in high-end audio, and you may want to look back on some great products of yesteryear.
     There will be a section on a related question: audiophile-quality recordings. As the quality of mainstream recordings got worse and worse (we're looking at you, K-Tel), some producers discovered recordings could sound better.
     As you know, UHF Magazine is now electronic and interactive. That means that, when we mention a recording, you'll be able to hear it with just one click.
     We're working on the final articles, and you'll be seeing it soon.

November 30: Testing a really, really expensive speakerPosh
     It's the Gershman Posh. The full review, now completed, will appear in issue No. 100 (yes!) of UHF Magazine. It's the most expensive product we have ever reviewed.
     It's also one of the best.
     You may already have had a chance to hear them. We heard them at the two Canadian shows, TAVES (in 2017) and the Montreal Audio Fest. Bad rooms (as often happens in hotels and convention centres), but great sound.
     You might expect great sound from speakers with a six-digit price, but you can't take that for granted. At the same shows there was a company presenting systems costing half a million dollars, and sounding mediocre. No...worse than mediocre.
     Of course, there will be other reviews too, as there always are. We expect two amplifiers, and a couple of cables as well.
     And becaue this is our hundredth issue, we have some ambitious articles waiting. We'll look at the high-end hi-fi revolution of the postwar period, and consider some of its pioneers. We'll look back at some of the products that are still iconic today. Some of them we have reviewed, some we have not. Some have modern versions.
     We'll look critically at the improvements that have been made since the early years. They're radical in some cases, but not in all. Of course, we'll look at the multiple revolutions in delivering music: the LP, the stereo disc, tape (good and bad), the Compact Disc, the iTunes store, the streaming services. And the return of the LP.
     We'll look at home cinema, from the 21-inch screen to the Trinitron, to HD, to 4K, to the video projector, to VHS, to the DVD, to Blu-ray and beyond.
     Dare we look at the future as well? We'll try.
     We'll look back at what could be the last days of the 007 franchise...or not. And at the music that made its best (and worst) films such successes.
     We'll have our usual record reviews, but this time with some book reviews as well. We have two novels about audio, and especially vinyl. One of them is a hardboiled mystery that Dashiell Hammett might have been proud of, and which might have been made into films starring Humphrey Bogard or Orson Welles. And we have a book that can teach you everything you may want to know about the electronics that make high fidelity possible...in case you want to second-guess the people who made your system.
     Expect all that and more in UHF No. 100, coming soon.
     As you know, UHF is now an electronic interactive magazine, offering you not less than the print issues, but more. Try one and see.


Want issue No. 99 of UHF Magazine right now?
Maggie has it, for tablet or computer.



 


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