Since launching in 1995, the SoundStage! Network has developed a reputation as a must-read for hi-fi enthusiasts in Canada and around the world. Founded by Doug Schneider of Schneider Publishing Inc., it is the world's largest group of audio and music websites and resources, with nine audio-related sites covering every aspect of consumer audio.
Given the degree of detail the SoundStage! Network’s publications provide, class-leading accuracy and deep functionality are critical when it comes to the exhaustive measurements they make, and publish, for virtually every type of consumer audio product available. Hence their recent purchase of Audio Precision’s APx555 Audio Analyzer.
For SoundStage!, accuracy and accountability are crucial, not only for their readership’s needs, but to hold manufacturers accountable for the claims they make. “AP”, Schneider says, “is widely recognized as the global leader in test equipment for the audio industry. The APx555 two-channel audio analyzer offers pretty much everything they need now and in the foreseeable future, featuring high performance, an unparalleled range of digital I/O options, and fast, highly intuitive software.
“There are different factions in the audiophile world,” Schneider explains; “people who don’t believe in measurements at all and ‘measurements only’ people. What we try to do is bring both worlds together.” In doing so, a device like the APx555 is vital. There may be other test and measurement technology that do a similar job but, Schneider adds: “The APx555 is the gold standard of measurement gear.”
It’s not Schneider Publishing’s first rodeo with Audio Precision technology; they have used previous iterations of the AP unit. “And it’s not that those aren't good products - they are. It’s just that the APx555 provides more functionality and a lower noise floor than previous models, for more accurate and telling measurements.”
Put bluntly, Schneider says: “Accuracy and accountability are integral for us – our readership demands it. The benefit for us is the AP is a known entity and the measurements we take are split over most of the nine sites we have.”
When measuring loudspeakers, SoundStage! uses the anechoic chamber at Canada’s National Research Council. Like the Audio Precision brand, “It’s well-known. It’s been famous for decades. When it comes to the APx555, I’d say it’s really the only choice we had. Nobody’s going to question the tool itself. You say you’re using the APx555 and that sets the standard right there.” Schneider adds that the APx555 also has the ability to measure and test loudspeakers, a viable option for future use for SoundStage!.
Even though the pace of technological change has ramped up, and continues to, Schneider sees this analyzer as a long-term solution. “For our needs, to verify products, the APx555 is beyond suitable right now, and I believe it will be for years to come. It can test everything we need to test; digital products like CD players and D/A converters, preamps, and amplifiers. We don’t need to do any tests other than what this unit can do. Also, the APx555’s noise and distortion analysis and resolution are class-leading.”
That said, it’s not as widely used as it you might expect, he continues: “There’s no other publication we know of (currently) in the US or the UK that has this model. They have older models, but it’s rare for a publication anywhere, not just in Canada, to have an APx555.” SoundStage! has been using the analyzer since July 2020, initially relying on a loaner unit from GerrAudio Distribution, AP’s Canadian distributor. “Which has really excellent service,” Schneider adds, “because it allowed us to get going right away and not have to wait until our unit arrived.”
With the resurgence of interest in vinyl, combined with the vast amount of information available on line – factual and otherwise, people want and need accurate, unbiased assessments of their home audio technology. Thus, the APx555 not only ensures well-known brands aren’t fudging the details, but it also provides the SoundStage! Network with the ability to highlight innovative, emerging, and potentially future class-leading manufacturers and technology for their readership, regardless of what a potential buyer’s budget is.
In essence, the original online audio magazine, SoundStage! has developed an enviable reputation as a go-to resource for audiophiles of every description, from casual readers to professionals and everything in between. Thereupon, ultimately, making the kind of measurements and running the tests SoundStage! can do now with the APx555 analyzer will only deepen their reputation for excellence.
Author: Kevin Young