I am very happy to announce that well-known audiophile journalist Ivan Berger is the winner of the Essence Winter 2019 Sweeps to win the HDACC II-4K HDMI v2.0 DAC, a $599 value. Congrats to Ivan and thanks to all who entered but didn’t win, good luck next time. This was a big contest with more entries than any previous Essence Sweeps over the last 5 years.
Ivan was one of the early generation of audiophiles and journalists who covered Hi Fi. I remember growing up reading his columns and product reviews in Stereo Review, High Fidelity, Popular Science, Popluar Mechanics, Audio, Video, and others. It’s fair to say his writing influenced me and inspired young audiophiles everywhere. If there was a Hall of Fame for audiophile journalists, I believe Ivan would make the top 5 of all time.
As a young industry exec back in the day, I remember Ivan stopping by my booth at every CES to see and hear the products I was selling to see if there was anything newsworthy. His presence in a vendors booth meant you were doing something right. He would actually get the demo on the spot, seeking out the sweet spot listening position for best performance and he was usually the first to print for audiophiles around the country waiting to learn about the latest and greatest products of the day from each show.
Below is Ivan’s “My Audiophile Journey”, some of you will remember the early days of the industry through his eyes.
My Audiophile Journey by Ivan Berger:
“I started in audio back around 1949, by spending my birthday money on an RCA 45-rpm changer playing through a jack in the back of our RCA TV–our family’s first phonograph (though we did have an FM radio). The RCA was soon replaced by a Webcor 3-speed changer, so we could play LPs. When I reached high school, my chem teacher turned me on to component audio (I think he had a Pilot integrated amp, Rek-O-Kut turntable, and a Bozak speaker (no stereo yet). By the time I started college, I had a Grommes 10- or 12-watt amp and a Lafayette Radio speaker. By my last year of college, I’d replaced the changer with a Weathers turntable and a Dynaco / B&O arm/cartridge (tracking at an awesomely low 2 g!), replaced the Grommes with a Heathkit preamp and 25-watt amp, replaced the Lafayette speaker with an RJ / Wharfedale system, and added an Eico kit FM tuner and an old Magnecord tape deck.
The phono cartridge was already stereo, and soon after college I replaced the mono Heathkits with stereo Dynakits and added a second RJ / Wharfedale. Those were the days when you could save a lot by building gear from kits—by the ‘70s, manufacturing techniques had made factory-assembled gear cheaper than kits, and kit-building faded away.
Next, I replaced the mono Magnecord with a 15/7.5-ips Tapesonic that took 10-1/2” reels, and bought some B&O ribbon mikes for live recording. Over the years, I upgraded piece by piece by piece by piece, until nothing but the mikes remained from those days. Today, I have SOTA and VPI turntables, Ortofon MC and Shure MM cartridges (among others), a Kenwood CD player and a Krell DAC, Onkyo Integra FM tuner, a variety of amps (currently using a Carver), and Martin-Logan SL3 hybrid speakers. I alternate between a Denon and a Soundstream preamp—can’t decide which I like better. For recording gear, I have a Yamaha cassette deck, Victor (JVC) DAT deck, Pioneer ¼-track recorder and Tandberg half-track. The Essence DAC will be exactly what I need to start bringing this mostly analog system into the digital present and future.
When I started, learning what to buy was an adventure. Finding no book explaining it, I vowed to write one once my research was complete. It took a decade before I got around to that (I wrote another 10 years after), but just one year after college I wrote and sold my first article on audio, the start of a career that led to my writing for Stereo Review, High Fidelity, Popular Science, and more and brought me to editorial jobs at Popular Mechanics, Popular Electronics, Video, and Audio. My research never was complete and never will be–audio keeps changing and progressing.”
My current system:
SOTA star sapphire with Ortofon MC and Shure MM cartridges
Ortofon T-30 NC transformer
Cinepro Studio II line conditioner (also illuminates)
Krell Studio 2 DAC
Onkyo Integra preamp (or Soundstream)
Yamaha KX-690 cassette deck
Onkyo Integra FM tuner
Kenwood DP-M7750 multi-CD player
Victor [JVC] XD-2900 DAT deck
Carver M-1.01 Magnetic Field amp
Pioneer open-reel deck
Tandberg half-track 7.5-15 ips deck
Inttra sound rack
Martin-Logan SL3 hybrid speakers
Ivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org