Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Summer Newsletter

Hello Listeners!
Welcome to the new, shiny, fully revised Hawthorne Stereo newsletter! We've tried to make it more attractive, easier to read and fully compatible with Blue-Ray, HDCD, DVD+R, and 8-Track. We'd welcome your input on the new design so use the contact link at the bottom to let us know what you think!

We've been quite pleased to get favorable mentions lately in local press. Firstly the Seattle Weekly has been interviewing local musicians about their day jobs. John, as you may or may not know, heads a fine rock'n'roll band called The Hands and, in his interview, got to give the music cogniscenti a little rundown on the world of hi-fi.

Secondly, the owners of Sonic Boom, one of our favorite record stores, gave us props as the only place they'd shop for hi-fi. We're blushing and encourage all you record lovers to check out the new Sonic Boom General Store, their vinyl only space on Fremont Avenue next door to the main (cd oriented) Sonic Boom. We've found many a great record there and at reasonable prices!

Musings on a question we've heard a couple times recently... Why, in 2007, do we still call ourselves a stereo store? Why not Hawthorne Audio/Video or, looking forwards, Hawthorne 3D Auditory and Visual Imaging Systems, or somesuch? A decade or so ago, it seemed only a matter of time. We were selling much more A/V gear than we ever had, new formats were keen to incorporate video options, music was being recorded in surround sound, and everyone wanted a home theater. After years of competing successfully in the A/V market, we realized that, while we do design and sell very competitive and highly regarded home theater systems, our real strength is our deepest passion: two-channel audio for music playback. So Hawthorne Stereo we remain. While we don't sell TVs, we certainly speak audio for home theater and many of our brands make superb home theater electronics owned by many of our customers, but we won't forget our roots and the first question we still ask is, "Is this system primarily for music or movies?" If the answer is music, many of you know we'll try to talk you into a two-channel system. The reason is simple. A well designed stereo system will be satisfying for music and movies and generally be well built, reliable, better sounding and longer lasting than most comparable AV syststems. Music lovers, whether they listen on LP, CD, DVD, 8Track, iPod or anything else that plays back one or two channels of recorded music, will always feel at home at Hawthorne Stereo! On to the news...


Sunday Hours at Hawthorne Stereo are now 12-5pm. We're into brunch now.


News of the impending demise of Naim Audio's superlative ARO unipivot tonearm are apparently exaggerated. Naim reports the ARO is still in production and available. If you own a Linn LP12 or Roksan Xerxes and want to take it to the best possible level of musicality, get your ARO while you can! We are of course happy to do the complete installation for you.

Last month, Chris Koster from Naim Audio dropped in to show us Naim's new SUPERNAIT and we were considerably impressed. Rated at 80 watts per channel continuous into 8ohms, the SUPERNAIT has such a beefy power supply it can more than double that output on transients. Suffice to say, the S'NAIT is a superbly capable integrated amplifier that offers the performance of high quality separates in one box. Naim rounds out the package with some very interesting features including both digital and analog inputs, optional phono, and upgradeability. Analog inputs are via RCA or DIN and digital inputs accommodate co-axial SPDIF or optical TOSLINK. Cleverly, Naim has included a front panel combination mini-Toslink jack for quick connection to game systems or devices like Apple's Airport Express. Naim feels that connecting devices with noisy digital power supplies via optical isolates their ground from that of the SUPERNAIT and prevents them from adversely affecting the Nait's performance. A clever solution for mixing high-end sound with the convenience of today's micro-sources, we think. SUPERNAIT (we like it without "the") also includes a powered socket for Naim's Stageline phono stage and allows you to upgrade its performance via attachment of an outboard power supply such as the HiCap2 or Flatcap2. Most importantly, the SUPERNAIT sounds fantastic. It's got the resolution of the 122x/150x preamp/power combination with an extra helping of bigness and impact. The SUPERNAIT retails at $4950 and units are now available.

We hear rumors of a new analog product brewing in Salisbury! We can say no more. Well, how about a little more? Naim are prototyping a new phono preamp called, tentatively, the Superline. It's in a Hi-Cap-style half wide case, and can be powered conventionally (Aux2 or HiCap) or via a Burndy cable from a Supercap! We're giddy.

Readers of Stereophile will have noticed an enticing preview of an upcoming phono stage coming from Rega. We've asked those "in the know" and can confirm prototypes have been shown. The new phono pre will be designed to match well with Rega's revolutionary Apheta MC cart, it uses transformers throughout, and sounds very good. Further bulletins on that exciting product when we know more.

The new 24v motor powered P3 will be in our shop and available very shortly. It may be worthy of a special bulletin when it arrives! Sadly we're told colored plinths, due to the new laminiate used, may be a ways off. Like Henry Ford said...

UK turntable legends Roksan - also producers of quality components - have released a table we suggest you take a listen to. Known for their LP12 rivalling Xerxes, Roksan also make the affordable Radius series, now appearing as the Radius 5. The Radius 5 has been out for a few years now, but a couple small refinements have made it a strong favorite of ours and highly recommended. The Radius is a work of art housing some very clever and thorough engineering. The two part plinth uses their sorbothane isolation mounts and the motor is gymbal mounted to allow decoupling from the main chassis but maintain exact spindle to spindle distance.

The Radius 5 comes with an semi-opaque acrylic platter and the chassis is available sculpted from veneered mdf or crystal clear acrylic. The table is complemented with Roksan's Nima unipivot arm, upgraded with new arm wiring and easy to use with its new transport lock.

The table has a rich and articulate sound described by one Hawthorne vinylphile as "Juicy" like an old Linn. $1500 plus cart. On display now and highly recommended.

NIMA Unipivot Tonearm
Roksan's Nima Unipivot tonearm is available separately and I'd love to put one on your LP12. Price is about the same as Rega's RB700 which is itself an outstanding arm so I'll try to compare and contrast. The Nima, being a unipivot design, relies on a high pivot point and low center of gravity to maintian proper azimuth. Once properly set-up, it's as easy to use as any arm and easily locks in place for transport or cartridge installation. While not as extended in the bass as the Rega arm, the Nima has a fluid, open musical sound that we like a lot. Should be considered as an upgrade from a Linn Basik, Akito, or even Ittok and entry level Rega arms. $695 + armboard.

Roksan makes a great little digital stylus force gauge. It's $150 and makes setting your tracking force and calibrating your arm a cinch. We were skeptical of it's worth at first, having been of the opinion that the old Shure balance is enough and your ears should do the rest. Your ears still matter most, but the digital wonder makes the the set-up so easy. Accurate to one one-thousandth of a gram. Hopefully that's enough for ya!


Mordaunt-Short is a famous UK speaker manufacturer with a prestigious history and several amazing models. They've recently released a couple new lines and we're most impressed. Our favorite model is the Avant 902i

Those looking for an affordable and good sounding hi-fi stand will be pleased to know we're carrying the Target hi-fi shelves again. Target UK folded but the name and design was purchased and the racks were re-introduced by May Audio. We carry a 4 and 5 shelf model at $350 and $400 respectively. They're available in silver and black with glass shelves. Though they're now a bolt-together design, they're substantial, very rigid and good sounding!

Some picks from the Hawthorne Used Room

VPI HW19 -- with Linn Ittok tonearm -- A legendary sweet sounding table with one of the best arms in the business. Bass is amazing on this deck. $1295 complete.

Thiel CS 1.5 -- A very nice sounding set of famous speakers. Very compact floorstanders with nice wood and great sound. $989/pr

Bottlehead Straight 8 -- Need a high sensitivity speaker for an SET amp? This local design wins our award for best overall sound from 3 watts at an affordable price. This set has gorgeous professionally crafted maple cabinets and the upgraded outboard x-overs. $1195/pr.

Linn Keilidh -- Famous Scottish floorstanding speakers. If it ain't Scottish... $889/or

ADS Bonanza!!
A little explanation. A/D/S (Analog and Digital Systems) were a US manufacturer of fine speakers in the 80s and 90s. Their designs were by and large two and three-way acoustic suspension monitors. They remain favorites of ours, esp the L-series.

L-400 $239
L-470/2 w/stands $219
L-780 $339
L-780/2 $359

Spotlight on Thrill Jocky. Thrill Jockey Records is an independent label out Chicago founded by Bettina Ritchards in the early '90s. With releases by the Chicago art-pop elite such as Tortoise and Sea and Cake as well as exploratory sounds from Trans Am and Oval, Thrill Jockey quickly established themselves as one of America's premier champions of independent and new music.

With a few exceptions, Thrill Jockey has focused on pop music, although long-running Chicago groups Tortoise and Sea and Cake have incorporated strong jazz, lounge and experimental influences. With Chicago underground duo and trio, TJ has even released a few out and out jazz records, but, with the release of From The River to The Ocean by jazz veterans Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake, we see a crucial crossover happening that's very exciting. Modern instrumental jazz is by and large released by a handful of smaller labels around the world. While their dedication and output is of very high quality, their exposure tends to be a bit limited. Here's hoping review sites that don't normally investigate the output of jazz labels, give some attention to this outstanding release.

Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake - From the River to the Ocean
Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake's respective biographies, associations, and discographies could fill this entire newsletter, but a brief summation is in order for the uninitiated. Both are jazz musicians with roots both in traditional music and the avant garde. Fred has been recording since the 60s and was a founding member of Chicago's AACM (the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), of which Drake was also a member. Fred is a highly regarded tenor player and, despite nearing 80 years of age, his association with drummer and percussionist Drake is rich, powerful, modern and intensely creative. Backed by a full band including two bassists and fellow Chicagoan Jeff Parker on guitar, Fred and Hamid, explore the territory of mellodic in/out jazz that inquires and experiments without losing its repeated listenability or melodicism. In fact, repeated listens only highlight new facets of Fred's outstanding rich tone and relentless inventiveness and Drake's incredibly deft, open drumming style. This is an absolute favorite here and fans of 60s avant-jazz as well as modern instrumental music would do well to explore this release and others by these two outstanding players.

Thanks for reading!
As usual, check our website for more goodies and stop in for tunes and a cup of tea anytime.


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Name: Hawthorne Stereo
Location: Seattle, WA, United States

I sell music systems to music lovers

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