Friday, October 21, 2016

A.J Conti- RIP

I was saddened to learn today of the sudden passing of A.J. Conti, founder of BASIS Audio.  I only ever had email exchanges with him but found him enormously helpful and polite, even as I queried him on an old design of his I was considering buying second hand off Ebay. Not only did he confirm a detail on the table, he actually told me who the previous owner was and how the table compared to his newer designs.  The story of how he demanding he was of the belt tolerances on his tables that he took over the manufacture himself when his supplier baulked at the requirements, has become lore.

You can read more over on TAS but this is very sad news for his family and the audio industry. A great gentleman has left us.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bryston BLP-1 spinning happily

Bryston shipped me one of their new turntables last week and the timing could not have been better as I'd been missing my records. The BLP-1 is a tidy, lightweight design that comes with a solid platter, installed arm, external power supply/speed controller, a record weight, and a hinged dustcover. I had it out of the box and a cartridge installed in less than 1 hour of unhurried and careful work, of which at least some of this time was making sure I maintained the packing materials in an order that would make safe return shipping a breeze come the time. This was probably the simplest new table set up I've experienced since the my days with a Rega 3.

In fact, comparisons with the Rega are not too far removed in some ways. The BLP-1 embodies the philosophy of rigid,  non-resonant lightweight construction with a built in belt-drive motor. What you are getting here for the nearly $4k price is a high-torque motor that gets up to speed quickly and maintains it. The costs also seem to have gone into a hardened bronze bearing, 35mm Delrin platter and a decent tonearm, manufactured for Bryston to their design by Goldnote of Italy. 

Having only a Sumiko Pearwood Celebration II cartridge on hand, itself a $2800 cartridge while I waited for a sample of Charisma Audio's re-bodied Denon 103 to pair with the BLP-1, I naturally had to mount it and give the player a spin. And I'm glad I did. From the first bars of Bucky Pizzarelli and Bud Freeman's Buck and Bud LP, it was clear there was something good happening here. The music flows from this table, with plenty of detail and upper-end life, a very musical mid-range and, surprisingly (I suppose) solid bass. I say 'surprisingly' as it's hard to shake the impression of one's eyes -- a lightweight table is going to sound, well, 'light' is it not? OK, acknowledge the power of one's sight to color one's hearing and try to listen more closely. This table does not make lightweight music, oh no, it has balance, air and resolution to go with the midrange body that makes music come alive for me.

For the last few nights I've been spinning record after record with tremendous enjoyment and am beginning to really get a sense of this table. I still think the arm looks and feels a bit light, and the pressure fit counterweights (with allen screw lock down) would seem like a slightly imprecise way to adjust weight (my years with the SME V have spoiled me) but routine use has shown how expectations can be challenged by the evidence of thoughtful design. Re-checking everything this morning I find all the settings made last week remain, the arm lift works precisely and cleanly, the motor gets up to speed fast, and the table just continues to sound as good as it should for the price. Indeed, as it sits this weekend on a Minus-K platform with a near $3k phono cartridge, feeding an ARC Ref2SE phono stage, the B-LP1 is delivering the type of sonic goods that this partnering gear demands.  Don't think this one is going to be outclassed easily.

OK, this is only a taster, a full review will come when I've had a few more weeks with this and had a chance to install the Charisma cartridge but early impressions suggest that there's a new contender on the block for a one-stop, easy to set up, good sounding analog rig.  Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

For everything else, there's Bryston

Well, with my continuing challenge actually getting a meaningful response from Origin Live or Artisan Fidelity for the wonky arm sold as new and now back there for warranty repair (documented here) I've been at a loss for music.  Imagine my delight then that James Tanner of Bryston offered their new BLP-1 turntable for review. A starker contrast in service is hard to imagine, so of course I accept. Table incoming next week. Any suggestions for a suitable cartridge people would like to hear with this $4k table? Meanwhile, here's a glimpse.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

MusicMatters announces final line up of releases

When the MusicMatters releases started appearing a couple of years ago, I was sort of lukewarm about some of the albums being issued as I already had copies of a few. Then I bought one and was so taken with the quality of the complete package, from sound to packaging, that I ended up buying them all. Ron and co have announced that they are embarking on a final set of 13 titles before winding the series down and I've subscribed in advance. Thad Jones and Lee Morgan kick of the new releases in October, find out more here

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cambridge Audio on the British Sound

Ever wondered what is meant by the term 'the British sound'?  Well, this won't really help but it's got plenty of cultural refs to Daleks, the Beatles and tea.  Marketing eh...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Reviews Interrumpitur

The ongoing problems with my Origin Live tonearm, bought new from Artisan Fidelity, have caused a disruption on many fronts review wise. I cannot run my ARC phono stage to the required 600 hours without a functioning table, and that's impacted some power cords, a tonearm lift and platter mat  I've in for review. Check the ongoing Artisan Fidelity page here for the full story but let's just say, in my view any component bought new should come with an assurance that it works or will be replaced instantly from the dealer or the manufacturer. Not everyone seems to share that view however. Pity I don't write for a mainstream mag, am sure I'd get looked after a little better then.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Another cable interface option - the Muse from Tara

It seems several companies now offer various add-on connectors that sit at the cable/component interface. High Fidelity cables caught my attention first, and then I received an invitation to review the Bybee RCA adapters (currently warming up in my ARC phono stage for review). Today I hear another announcement, this time from TARA Labs who offer their own spin on this, the Muse. To quote from the press release:

"Using The Muse Interface, RFI/EMI is dissipated and absorbed within the Muse technology. This function occurs in isolation from the signal conductors. The signal path is not cut and fitted with additional components. The Muse Interface is extremely effective in eliminating the noise of RFI/EMI without the attendant high-frequency anomalies of filter networks. This translates into a sound that is closer to live than ever before."

$795 a pair (but neater than those big bulky boxes from you know who....). Seems there's a new product category. No, I haven't heard them. More info at the TARA page

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Give to CARE, get gear....Cable Co show the way

This year, there are more than a few products available and if you purchase some from over 50 companies, your full cost ends up as a donation. Yep, not just the regular 50% to CARE but the full sales amount. How do they do this? Well, commitment from partnering manufacturers seems to be the key. 
The hi-end audio industry tend to get lots of brickbats for its pricing and occasional imaginative use of science, but credit where it's due. The Cable Co has annually worked with manufacturers on a fund-drive for CARE, whereby sales  during August generate revenues that in part are donated to the charity. This year is no different, regular audiophiles seem to have come to expect it, but it seems worthy of our renewed attention. 

See the details here
Fancy some new cables? Better yet, a new table from Rega or SOTA, or maybe an Audioquest Dragonfly new edition? Buy it this month and all your money goes to a great cause.  Well done all involved in this. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Little Fwend tonearm lifter

Looks like a very elegant solution to an ongoing vinyl usage challenge, getting the arm off the record without leaving your seat - now from Little Fwend Love to give one a try but $250? Is this what is meant by audiophila being a relentless engagement with first-world problems?

LITTLE  FWEND from on Vimeo.

UPDATE -- Lasse from Little Fwend has offered to send me one to check out....I'll let you know how it works when I get it. Thanks Lasse!

Friday, June 24, 2016

For cryo-ing out loud!

Never quite understood the fanatical desire for cryo-ing cables or components but I know there are real believers out there. Thought of this again when I stumbled across a new cord company (well, new to me), IceAge Audio.  Here's a cord and cable producer that is pretty clear on what goes in to the design and even offers you the chance to build it yourself if you want to save some money. That said, at the prices they charge, I don't see much cost in paying for it all done and delivered.  I was suitably intrigued to ask Rick and Brodie to supply me a cord for review and so, watch this space, one or two are on the way, where I'll be able to compare them to a few other brands I have on hand. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Paypal Inflation?

Since when did using PayPal incur a 4% fee? I always calculate it at 2.9% +30c, or whatever PP lists on their site. But more than few sellers on various audio lists now request 4% for using this service. Is this to cover their own incurred costs? And I've had more than a handful of sellers point me at their own excellent feedback attesting their honesty while suggesting I use the 'gift' option if the fees are to be avoided! No irony there for sure.  Welcome to the reputation economy.