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Publication type: ONLINE MAGAZINE
Publication frequency: IRREGULAR
Year of establishment: 1995




images TOM LYLE | press materials

No 227

April 1, 2023

“THE EDITORS” is a series of interviews with editors of audio magazines from all over the world – both printed ones, as well as online magazines and portals. It started on January 1st 2012, and 35 interview records have been published so far – the one below is No. 36. Our aim is to make our readers more familiar with the people who usually hide behind the products that we review. It is the “WHO IS WHO?” of specialized audio press.

HE EDITORS” SERIES STARTED on January 1st, 2012, with an interview with SRAJAN EBAEN, the editor-in-chief of the “6Moons” magazine (more → HERE). Browsing through the archive, we will find interviews with seven other audio journalists from the same year, out of which one (SRAJAN EBAEN) is living in a totally different country now, CAI BROCKMAN from the German “Fidelity” magazine is not with us anymore, another one has changed the magazine he is writing for (MICHAEL FREMER ⸜ “Stereophile” → “The Absolute Sound”), yet another has given up his career as a journalist (STEPHEN MEJIAS ⸜ ex. “Stereophile”), KEN KESSLER (“Hi-Fi News”) has written four important books about audio brands, and MARTIN COLLOMS (“HIFICRITIC”), who was just a publisher at the time of the interview, has now become both a publisher and an editor-in-chief. Let us add that JEFF DORGAY shortened the title “TONEaudio” to “Tone” in 2012. To cut a long story short, there have been many changes.

⸜ TOM LYLE against the background of his vinyl records collection

Another change was that for some time, around two years, I carried out tests for the “Enjoy the Music” magazine. For example, it featured the world premiere of my test of the NAIM STATEMENT amplifier. I also interviewed the editor-in-chief of the magazine, STEVEN R. ROCHLIN (→ HERE). It also happened that, together with other audio magazines, “High Fidelity” became the founding member of the ASSOCIATION OF INTERNATIONAL AUDIOPHILE PUBLICATIONS. Last year, “The Editors” series celebrated its 10th anniversary. It’s “just” (or rather “already”) been ten years.

The next interlocutor I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing is thus, in a sense, an element that staples the last decade. TOM LYLE, the person in question, is a journalist working for “Enjoy the Music”, where he has the function of the Senior Editor.


WOJCIECH PACUŁA Tell us something about yourself, please.

TOM LYLE I was born in New York, but when I was a teenager, I moved to Washington DC and lived there for the next 30 years, although I’ve been back in the New York area for quite a while. I suggest one read my biography in “Enjoy the Music”: (→ HERE). This brief biography will explain my involvement in the music business and my life as an audiophile. Many say: “music is my life,” but in my case, it truly is! (all the bolding has been added by the Editor)

WP When did you start listening to music?

TL I was 4 or 5 years old when I first heard “popular” music. This was in the 1960s, so this included The Beatles. Already at this very young age, I said to myself, “This is what I want to do”!

⸜ TOM LYLE in the past, at the time when he was playing in a band

WP When did you start paying attention to sound quality?

TL I attempted to put together something better than an average system in high school. I was very lucky, as I was working part-time for an audio installation company, and I was loaned a pair of MC-30s, 30-watt McIntosh monoblocks. I was also able to build a simple preamp and phono stage. It was the late 1970s by then. The speakers I used were mostly assembled from PA (public address – Editor’s note) speakers from the garage band I was in.

During college, I began spending my summers working as a salesperson at an appliance store that also sold audio equipment. During my first week, I sold a multipurpose audio system to a man who was deaf! After hearing that I did this, the management immediately moved me to the audio component room. It was in the late 1970s, the days of Pioneer, Sansui, and similar component brands. The best speakers we sold were the Klipschhorns, which I would use to punish the rest of the staff by spinning LPs of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Pink Floyd at maximum volume.

WP What was your first audio system? How did it evolve?

TL As I mentioned above, my first system was assembled by mixing and matching any equipment I could get my hands on. Only after I began working at the audio store, I could buy some “real” equipment. It was better than the stereo equipment that most of my friends had, but it was still far from what anyone would consider high-end audio.

During the 1980s, I was in an underground rock band. We weren’t a major success, but I could still record and release records. We were constantly touring; we traveled all over the western world, the US, Canada, and Europe as far east as the former Yugoslavia, so my home stereo wasn’t evolving much. However, I could go record shopping much more than I would if staying at home and at various record stores – in just about every city and country we visited!

Nowadays, my record collection is quite large, and many of the records I acquired back in those days are still there. But it wasn’t until I left the band in 1990 that I was able to rejoin the high-end community. As you can imagine, much changed between 1980 and 1990!

My first system in the very early 90s was built around a vacuum-tube Conrad-Johnson preamplifier, I think the PV-10. I don’t remember which power amplifier I used, but I had a pair of Snell loudspeakers. My turntable at first was a classic AR (Acoustic Research – Editor’s note), but soon I was able to get my first very real high-end turntable, an early Oracle model. I don’t remember the tonearm or cartridge; it was long ago. I also had a CD player and went through quite a few of them. I was never satisfied with the “early CD” sound, though! My cassette deck was more important to me back in those days, I’d make tapes for my car rides all the time with my Tascam tape recorder! Things sure have changed since those days!

⸜ “The Sensible Sound”, the first audio magazine that Tom worked for

WP Tell us about your career – I mean, when did you start to write about audio and why?

TL As I said, I landed back on planet Earth in 1990. That was the first time I started to assemble an audio system that could be considered high-end or “audiophile.” I needed to make up for the time lost while I was away during the 1980s! I took this new exploration of high-end audio very seriously, even though I was quite shocked by the price increase between 1980 and 1990. Of course, to me, it was all about the music, but the thrill of replicating the intentions of the producers and the musicians on the recordings, either new or ancient, was thrilling.

It was 1992 or early 1993 when I was asked to submit a sample of my writing to a high-end equipment review magazine, a print magazine called “The Sensible Sound”, which prided itself on considering cost as well as sound quality. I think the editors contacted me because they were not only impressed with the fact that was I a former recording and touring musician, but with the wide variety of musical genres I listened to, from hard rock to classical music and jazz, and everything in between. I like to joke that there are only two genres of music, good and bad. I naturally listened to the good type :)

They were obviously also impressed with my passion for recreating the best sound that was possible in my home. Of course, this was limited to the funds that I had on hand. After a while, reviewing high-end equipment allowed me to assemble a system that perhaps wasn’t state-of-the-art, but full-range and transparent. And ever-changing, too! At the end of the 1990s, “The Sensible Sound” went out of business, and that was when I started writing for “Enjoy the Music”, where I’ve been ever since, although I also wrote some reviews for other online magazines at the beginning of the 2000s.

WP Do you prefer analog or digital?

TL Since I have such a large vinyl collection, one would assume that I prefer analog over digital. But, during the past few decades, I’ve amassed quite a large CD collection and also many terabytes of high-resolution files stored on hard drives attached to my computer-based music server.

Reality and transparency are the most important qualities of audio components to me, and it hardly matters whether they are digital or analog. The music lover in me prefers analog, perhaps only because I’m more likely to sit and listen to an LP than a digital file. When digital is the source, I can travel with it, and I’m more likely to perform other tasks. This is not written in stone; I often sit and listen to high-resolution signals converted by an upper high-end digital converter, which can be quite fulfilling.

⸜ The home page of “Enjoy the Music”

WP Are files an important medium for you, or do you value physical media as well? Do you have any thoughts on the future of this duopoly?

TL My main interest is music, not equipment. It doesn’t matter to me how the music is reproduced. As long as reality, or something approaching reality, comes through my speakers, I’m happy. However, I take advantage of the portability of digital. I love the fact that I can take a digital audio player which can store and read DSD and high-resolution files and listen to them through the best headphones I can acquire. If analog could perform this magic trick, I’d be all for it!

WP What do you think about DSP used for correcting acoustics?

TL I’m sure there are situations where it must be very useful. But I'm lucky that my main system is located in a dedicated listening room. This room is treated with acoustic panels on the back, front and side walls. I have no need for digital processing or any processing of the sound that comes through my speakers. It is clear that less is more when it comes to signal that comes from the source. Transparent sound is very important to me. I’m lucky that I don’t have to change that signal to correspond to any irregularities in the acoustics of my listening room.

WP What do you value in both online and printed magazines?

TL I think that is not for me to say. Each reader will have their preferences. I know many who will not read a newspaper online but insist upon a paper copy! Same when it comes to books!

⸜ Tom’s vinyl records and his two-chassis Pass Labs amplifier; a guitar collection in the background

I don’t care. Online magazines are much more convenient, aren’t they? And they don’t require paper, produced with the use of natural resources. On the other hand, the largest American high-end audio review magazines are in a hard copy form. So, the public must still revere the printed word, I suppose.

WP Tell us about your system.

TL I am very lucky, as I listen to music from two systems. One is my main system, located in the dedicated listening room with two power lines supplying it – both go directly to the circuit box in our basement. However, I’ve been using battery power supplies to feed my line stage, front-end, and power amplifier in this system.

My analog front end is a Basis Debut V turntable with a Tri-Planar 6 tonearm and Top Wing Suzaku Red Sparrow phono cartridge. The phono preamp is a Pass Laboratories two-chassis XP-27. The digital front end is based around a computer-based music server. Its USB port is connected to an EMM DA2 digital converter using a Wireworld Platinum USB cable. I also use an Oppo BDP-203 Blu-Ray/universal disc player for 5” silver discs.

The line stage is either a vacuum-tube-powered Nagra Classic Preamp or a solid-state two-chassis Pass Labs XP-22. The power amp is a Pass Labs X250.8 250 WPC power amplifier that feeds its signal to Sound Labs Majestic 545 full-range electrostatic speakers. Behind them are a pair of SVS SB16-Ultra subwoofers with 16” drivers. I use Kimber’s Carbon series interconnects, speaker cables, and power cables throughout.

⸜ Tom’s system, with a Revox reel-to-reel tape recorder in the background

WP Tell us about ten albums you could recommend to our readers and say why they are worth listening to./p>

TL Only 10?! In my music collection I have about 10,000 LPs, hundreds of 7” 45s, and about l5 TB of digital files, and I’m only allowed to choose ten? Well… I’m giving the titles in a random order and I’m not considering their price or availability! I assume the reader has unlimited resources because it is fun to dream :) And all of these are in my collection.

˻ 1 ˺ ERIC DOLPHY Out To Lunch
Either the new Blue Note Tone Poet 33.3 rpm vinyl, or the Music Matters 2x 12” 45rpm reissue copies. Both all-analog, brilliant modern jazz!

˻ 2 ˺ IGOR STRAWIŃSKI, The Firebird
The London Symphony Orchestra/Antal Dorati – The Firebird on Mercury Living Presence. Either the SACD, the DSD file, or the vinyl reissues on Classic Records, Speakers Corner, or others. Excellent music, excellent sound quality!

˻ 3 ˺ DAVID BOWIE, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
There are many fine versions of this title on LP and digital. The most recent remastering is awesome, but my vinyl copy on Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, released in 1981, is practically flawless. Both this copy and the recently remastered versions make this music come alive!

˻ 4 ˺ PINK FLOYD, Wish You Were Here
The Analogue Productions SACD and an all-analog vinyl reissue. After listening to this recording all my adult life, I’ve known these reissues as the ultimate audio system demonstration discs, especially the title track of the album.

This is Kraftwerk’s “best of” re-recording of their classic material recorded in 1991. Even though the digital version is “only” CD-quality, this recording is excellent for testing the frequency extremes of one’s system. Plus, it is great music! The vinyl pressing is also excellent and, in many ways, better.
Both the analog and digital versions are available, with the vocals sung in English or German. I love listening to the first track, The Robots, with its two bass lines simultaneously playing; it is an excellent test of the resolution and transient response of one’s system’s lower frequencies!

˻ 6 ˺ FRANCIS POULENC, Concerto for Organ, Strings & Tympani
The two best-recorded performances of this piece are both on EMI LPs recorded and pressed in the 1970s. The best performance is with George Pretre conducting the French National Radio Orchestra, with Maurice Durufle on organ. The best-sounding recording is with Andre Previn conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, with Simon Preston on organ. Both are fantastic, and there are other versions available; it is the music that is the star, the combination of the powerful pipe organ combined with a large orchestra is thrilling!

˻ 7 ˺ LED ZEPPELIN, Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy
Both reissue vinyls pressed by Classic Records. There are many opinions about which are the best-sounding Led Zeppelin pressings. To me, there is no question that these are the best. Some argue that they are not, likely because they were not available to those Led Zep fans when they were released, so now they are difficult to obtain.

During the CD years, the 90s and early 2000s, when these Led Zeppelin titles were originally sold, was during the time when many had switched their allegiance to CD. I was one of the rare listeners who stayed loyal to LP. And so, I was able to build quite a collection during that era! I purchased many Japanese and other pressings on eBay and acquired many other fantastic-sounding records for very little or no money because vinyl was shunned by so many!

The Peter Gabriel era recordings pressed by Classic Records. The same things I said above about the Led Zeppelin pressings are true with these classic progressive rock Genesis titles such as Nursery Chryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. These records are tough to find in good condition because of the era in which they were released. I have the entire catalog.

Too many albums to choose from! Of course,Kind Of Blue LPs on Classic Records, Mobile Fidelity, or Analogue Productions. Or on a broadcast over a 1965 Panasonic transistor radio. The fidelity doesn’t matter; the genius will come through, regardless. But I can also listen to albums from his blasphemous electric period; the Mobile Fidelity version of In A Silent Way will do just fine.

˻ 10 ˺ THE OBSESSED, The Obsessed
This doom metal self-titled album, reissued on Relapse Records, adds the totally unnecessary early demo and a crummy-sounding live show. Still, the genius of the guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich comes through loud and clear on the band’s debut album.

WP Tom, thanks for the interview and see you soon.
TL Warm greetings to “High Fidelity” readers!