Classics and Cults. Bogus Journalism?

Classics endure, it seems, even as technology improves. Regardless of the new stuff, people still seem to agree that the AR SP-11 is a very good pre amp, that VPI TNT turntables are wonderful, that the Levinson 30/31 combination is a great CD player etc. Some, gear however, bursts onto the high end scene in a flash of glory, only to disappear off the face of the earth and never be mentioned again. What's going on here? I was thinking recently of the Crown Macro Reference, an amp that I never heard but I recall that it was briefly the best thing in the world with the high end audio press, only to never be mentioned again and presumably trade at deep discounts. There was another amp -- made in a garage somewhere -- maybe some of you recall the name -- that despite its low cost and simple SS design, was possibly the best amp EVER in the world. It was back ordered forever, only to disappear and never be mentioned again. Can anyone else think of products like this? Are these just spurious reviews or were the writers drinking Krug and Chateau Lafite courtesy of the manufacturers before sitting down at their keyboards?
Again a great thread you are starting. The amp you mention, was it the Rapaport? If the audio writers would not "discover" new stuff to rave over, their rags would bore us stiff, no one would read them anymore, no more advertising. Finito. All this does not have to be bogus. They need new blood to stay alive. I suppose its in the system. Besides, I think its tough for a new design to really reach the market over a longer strech of time. A bright young designer starting from a garage might with luck get rave review somewhere and then be swamped with orders, which he cannot fulfill. So he has to go in search of capital to start his small business in some industrial park and mostly he is heavily into debt. Now he should advertise, what he probably cannot afford, dealers are mostly overstocked, might take in a unit or two, but tend to pay him only, when they have sold them and soon there is a new king, the press is raving over and our friend, disillusioned, is back in his garage, probably cleaning it out, because he has to sell his house to pay his bank. These days, I feel, you need to have a lot of financial backing to start a new line on the market. Sad but true.
Lesson 101 in marketing.Well at least we understand what factors /and how they contribute to the selling price.No wonder they(mfgs) have to do the major "suck-up" to the audio press.You may have the greatest mousetrap in the world,but people have to know about it.
CW,dont be too hard anybody drinking Krug(i prefer Bollinger Grand Anne 83)or Chateau LaFite.If somebody bought me a bottle,i write whatever they wish.
I like wine, too, but I am not so concerned about drinking by the label. I do remember the Rappoport pre amp. There was a used one in my local dealer circa 1980 ish. The amp I was thinking of, however, was a power amp -- more like 1990 -- solid state, I think about 200 WPC, and relatively inexpensive, maybe $2-3000. I think I remember a dealer in New Canaan CT or Bedford NY stocking it and the absolute sound just raved and raved, even though you couldn't seem to buy it anywhere. Greatest thing in life. And then, no one ever mentioned it again. (Doea anyone remember.) I have loved the absolute sound for years and have read it since I was 15 and think some of the people were very smart. Very smart, and very full of sh*t. Fascinating. Any other ideas on over promoted, one hit wonder cult companies?
You're not thinking of the BEL (Brown Electronics Labs) amplifier that TOM raved about in TAS, are you? They are still made and popular, so I wouldn't call them a one hit wonder. The Crown Macro got hit with a controversial Lewis Lipnick pan in Stereophile in late 1993 ("no music") that was probably more a reflection on his listening room and system than the amp but still hurt its sales badly, although they are still big in professional circles, I believe. I guess one product that comes to mind for me is the Don Cochran Delta Mode amplifier, which was an interesting and good sounding design, well received by the audio critics, that may have fallen prey to the market forces that Detlof describes (although for some reason I think I may have seen something indicating that the amps are still being made). Interesting thread, I'll try to think of some others.
Oh there was the Beverdige preamp, a Roger Modjieski design, beautifully made and executed, an early two chassis job and expensive, done and financed by the speaker people, also long defunct. Harry Pearson at the time was so infatuated by the SP 8 that it needed just one review of his, comparing the two, to kill the precariously financed endevour once and for all. For a while you could have them fairly cheap, so I got myself another one and ran one for each channel. I remember a glorious liquid midrange, as soon as I had thrown Roger's Russian ECC83's out. ( I think, there were 12 of them in the thing. )
Correction: Now I'm not sure, probably it was the SP 6 not the SP 8 HP kept on raving about in those old days.
RCPrince -- Excellent recall and thank you. I think is was the BEL. Didn't know they are still around or remain popular so I stand corrected. If it really is one the greatest, most amazing power amps ever in the history of the world (AND they were cheap new), it sounds like the second hand bargain of the century. I will keep my eyes open -- maybe two, four? for bi-amping low frequencies. It is particularly interesting to hear of designers who had great products but lacked capital or marketing expertise. If anyone knows any of these guys, I would be happy to help them finance a new company.
Cwlondon, I recall in one of the recent TAS year-end issues the BEL is up to, I think, a Mk5 version, and continues to be a fave of a few of their reviewers (I think the Mk2 was the original rave). BEL seems to get by on word of mouth, probably a good indicator of their quality. I have heard the original version of the amp, and it sounded excellent in the low frequencies. I ought to contact you about the company which makes the speakers I own, as I'm still the only owner after 2 years of what I, at least, think is an excellent product but which might have a limited market.
Cw; I think Detlof's post is right on-- wish I had written it. In the high end, it seems that even well recognized products/names have a tough time of it. About the time I bought a McCormack DNA-2DX amp, the company essentially folded in a divorce settlement (as I understand it). I was glad to see McCormack picked up and continued by Conrad- Johnson. Sonic Frontiers, another largish company also almost went under after I bought a Line 2 pre-amp, and I was happy to see them purchased by Paradigm, and Paradigm by someone else. Geez. For awhile, I was beginning to think these business difficulties were MY fault. Cheers. Craig.
Anyone remember the Paragon preamp circa 1978? Or the Electron-Kinetic amplifier by Jon Iverson of about the same time? But BEL is definitely alive and kicking.
Oops. The John Iverson (not Jon) amp was called Electro-Research, the A-75 I believe.
Back in the mid to late 70's a company call GAS (Great American Sound Company) presented two power amps to the market. They were called (for those of you that don't remember no laughing, this is true) Ampzilla and Son of Ampzilla. If my memory serves correctly they got some rave reviews then promptly disappeared. I remember seeing a used one advertised about two years ago. Anyone remember them? Anyone ever have one? Thanks, Doug
Garfish, thanks for your kind words and Doug, there was even an amp by Jim Bongiorno, designer and proprietor of GAS called Grandson (of Ampzilla). All his designs carried a huge pair of sexy looking watt meters in front, were full of fairly cheap parts, had plenty of slam and slightly nasty highs when pushed. That's all I can remember. Don't know what happened to JB. RCPrince, I've also owned one of the early BEL's, beautifully made and layed out, the bass of which indeed proved as a revelation at the time, but I also remember sweet and quite extended highs. Used them for a while on Quads and later to drive my Maggie bass panels, where they proved to be a bit underpowered. Drubin, John Iverson's career as a designer and businessman I think, is a typical case in point to my first post in this thread: He was always undercapitalised, was catapulted by positive reviews in the press into a flood sudden demands he could not meet, hence got heavily into debt in building up the necessary production infrastructure, tried to sell direct, when his turnover slowed, annoying his dealers, was understaffed, so that repair turnover time was long, so annoying his customers as well and one day or rather night, the man just disappeared, leaving house, wife, production place and has to my knowledge never been seen or heard of since. But enough of gossip already! Sorry for the typo: Modjieski's preamp was called the Beveridge, not Beverdige, as I had written. Perhaps someone remembers now?
With respect to these talented geniuses blowing up their businesses, do you think any of them were sensible, smart businessmen? Or was the problem that they were passionate but creative and difficult mad scientists? Is the audio business that tough? It seems to me that making, selling and servicing hi fi equuipment shouldn't be as complicated as, say, open heart surgery or putting men on the moon. I remain ready to entertain offers to finance a talented designer/engineer if anyone is interested. Please feel free to write to me directly.
I owned a GAS Son of Ampzilla amplifier and GAS Thalia preamplifier. Along with Magnepan MGIIb speakers, Rega 3 TT, Grace 707 II arm, Sumo II MC cartridge, Marcof PPA-1 step-up transformer, and Monster Cable speaker cables I had a very nice system. Jim Bongiorno went from GAS to Sumo where he again produced some highly regarded products. It would be interesting to hear what he is doing now.
Jim Bongiorno is still alive and well! He has a new website where he preaches the amplifier world according to him.