Thursday, July 23, 2020

SDSU receives great jazz collection as a donation

Bram Dijkstra, retired literature professor, is a jazz fanatic and has or had the record collection to prove it. He's just donated more than 25,000 LPs, among other items, to San Diego State University. You can read the full story here

The beauty of this is not only that he ensures a wonderful collection is made available to others, but in creating through this gift the John Coltrane Memorial Black Music Archive, he enables SDSU to become a major player in the world of special collections, which, in case you did not realize it, is the main way university libraries can distinguish themselves in a world of digital access and duplicated holdings. 

As Dr Dijkstra says in the article, hearing Coltrane changed his life and now he's passing the gift on. Now that's what I call music to my ears. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Underwood/CorePower release USBe Perfect

Press release includes the following info:

Underwood Hifi and Core Power Tech A/V 

Introduces the USBe Perfect –

THE ANSWER to USB Signal Transmission

Walter Liederman, owner of Underwood Hifi and Core Power Tech A/V had these comments when asked about the USBe Perfect - 

" Now that USB has become the transmission medium of choice, we saw a need to create the absolute best connection for the Highest Fidelity result. 

Carefully designed and meticulously Alpha and Beta Tested, the results were unanimous. USBe Perfect improved every system it was placed in. We decided to bring this product to market with an Introductory Price of $299. This is a special offer during these difficult times – the actual retail price is 499 dollars. "

USBe Perfect Technical Highlights

The USBe Perfect is designed to minimize signal degradation effects such as crosstalk, jitter, and inter-symbol interference (ISI) that negatively affect audio quality. This is achieved with a comprehensive set of features that optimize the entire USB signal transmission chain:

    • Integrated Regeneration of the USB 5V power from the source. 
    • Input stage equalization. Each input channel re-equalizes the signal gain with transmission frequency to compensate for cable losses.  (assumed to be 1 to 3 meters)
    • Output stage matching. The outputs stage provides tailored de-emphasis to compensate for impedance mismatches at the signal termination.

More info:

Contact Walter Liederman / 770.667.5633

Monday, June 15, 2020

25th anniversary of Rory G's death

And it was acknowledge in style yesterday with an online tribute show including various contemporary acts and a few show-ups from old band members. For now it's still available online, as is the Eagle Rock remastered presentation Taste-Live at the Isle of Wight, which is a cracking live performance of Rory and the boys when he was just 22 years old - recommended.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Octave Records aims to support the artists

PS Audio announced the formation of a new record label, Octave Records, which they launched this week with the release of Don Grusin's album Out of Thin Air. This is an interesting development from an audiophile company known for it's digital gear primarily and I hope it works.  Pure DSD recording, dual layer release with SACD, and a DVD-A, it's already backordered but you can still buy for $29 plus shipping. The music is not exactly to my taste but you can sample some of it on site. Well done all. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

And more pertinent to now

Experience Vinyl signed Burn edition

Do love the Burn album which I've played since I first got a copy by in the 70s, for me perhaps the best stuff Hughes and Coverdale did in their careers (sorry chaps). Was seduced by the idea of a souvenir signed copy that Experience Vinyl were issuing so plunked down the cash. I don't actually need a new copy of the LP, even on colored vinyl as my original sounds decent still, so the attraction was purely sentimental, a trip down memory lane, but more likely a gift for a Purple-loving friend who I know would be delighted. Yep, how easily we aging vinyl lovers are duped into buying the same stuff repeatedly.

Here's the sales site pic:

And here's what I received (below). Guess ol' Glenn was running out of steam near the end. Not quite the souvenir but at least Experience offered to take it back and sell on to others since it's sold out apparently. Am I too fussy? Maybe..

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Rogers High Fidelity now factory direct

Rogers announced they now are selling direct to customers, following PS Audio's earlier move in this direction. Hard to argue with this though it means even more challenges for audio dealers. In many ways, it's inevitable. Magazines constantly defend their reviews by telling readers to go hear for themselves before buying but it's becoming harder and harder to do so. I've remarked here before how even in an urban market, the availability of audiophile products is limited, even when a dealer apparently exists. Esoteric gear, and let's face it, all audiophile gear is esoteric to the masses, is not amenable to convenient audition. What this means for the long-term health of the industry is anyone's guess but I think manufacturers have little chance of growing their market by proceeding with business as usual.

Rogers also announced a factory-reconditioned listing space on site too, offering a chance to get a used item with some assurances, another nice touch.  So, never heard Rogers gear myself but their phono stages and integrated amps were always of interest. I hope this works for them.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Friday, May 1, 2020

The joys of a record collection

So much is said about the value of streaming services and how you can explore at will, lucking onto great music you might not have otherwise heard. I don't disagree. But there's also something about having your own material collection that is hard to quantify. Case in point - tonight I was just doing some record playing and for no particular reason, pulled out an old chestnut - the Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago

I looked at the cover, thought that might be fun to spin, pulled it from the sleeve and knew I'd cleaned it so it was ready to go but looking at the label and the vinyl I expected a somewhat rough sound from this 60 year old slab of history. Well, what do you know? Sure, a couple of clicks and pops on the run in grooves but then the music kicked in, and I sat back with a nice drink and just listened. Phew...what a delight. Sax oozed from the left, drums from the right, and yes, that was a classic case of real stereo separation (maybe a little too much, if you know what I mean) but what fun. 

A couple of tracks in, I'm reaching for the sleeve. Yep, Cannonball for sure but what else do I see....Coltrane, Kelly on piano, Chambers on bass, Cobb on drums. A small note underneath saying 'this session was cut while all the above were sidemen working with Miles Davis at the Sutherland Hotel in 1959!'. Oh now you're talking. Absolutely glorious sonics in a sort of 'to hell with frequency extension and detail, this is the pulse of a band playing in front of you'.  Then, in the lower right corner, a note entitled 'HiFi Information'

"This epochal jazz session was recorded in Feb 1959 at Universal Recording Studio B, Chicago, with Bernie Clapper, president of the firm, at the audio controls. In order to achieve the spitome in cohesive sound and coordiantion, the group was set up very tight, the way they worked in personal engagements,. Microphone sets were worked out to make for the most possible directivity of sound with very little crossover, because this is fundamentally a session which featured solos by these outstanding progressive jazzmen. Mike (sic) pickups included: Solo Reed Telefunken U-47;  Reed accent mike-RCA 44BX; Bass-Telefunken U-47; Piano-Telefunken U-47; Drums-Telefunken U-47; Rhythm accent mike-Telefunken U-47. The entire session was recorded at 15 inches per second on Ampex 350-2 modified tape recorders."

And the kicker -- the sleeve notes about the musicians has the following, written in 1959: 

"Cannonball Adderley looks forward to the future of jazz with great enthusiasm. He expresses justified confidence that his co-worker and prominent tenorman, John Coltrane will have much to do with the opening of new horizons"

Time travel indeed -  a small capsule of music, history and perspective, sitting on my shelf just waiting for the moment to remind me of what it all means. Try that Spotify!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Art Dudley - you are missed already

I was horribly surprised by the news today that Art Dudley, audio columnist for Stereophile and former chief of the Listener has died from cancer. In a small way it makes no sense that a stranger with whom my only interactions were as passive recipient of his monthly articles should have such an  effect on me but tonight I cannot help mourn the loss. Many audio writers are dull, a few are entertaining, fewer still are also informative. Stereophile in recent years seems to have cornered the market on the subset who provide fun with insight, but even still, Art was in another league.

I don't quite know if it was the turn of phrase, which undoubtedly was delightful, or if it was the love he communicated for great music and great design, regardless of fashion, time, or supposed relevance that made him feel like a friend, a couple of drinks in, telling you what he really felt about life, art and why the two matter. His was the column I both turned to first and yet put off reading immediately so that I could savor it at leisure. And many of his writings I've read more than once because the strength of his work ensured that it warranted and rewarded multiple engagements. I've sold old copies of Absolute Sound, but I keep back issues of the Listener and Stereophile largely because of him. An edited collection of his work would not be out of place.  And yes, even this week as I considered the value in refreshing my old Naim Nait, it was Art's piece from a few years back that I referred to when weighing the cost. Was his presence felt in those final days?

I never imagined the death of an audio writer would reduce me to tears but this evening, when I read the news while I worried if my stereo was sounding as good as it should, my breath stopped for a second and I genuinely felt a deep loss. To his wife and family I send my deepest sympathies, but to all of us, the world is a little dimmer now that Art is no longer among us. A name was rarely more appropriate, he was indeed Art.

Lots of comments and videos out there - this is one of my favorites as it's the nearest we'll all get to sitting down with him to listen.

Monday, February 10, 2020

How an LP is made

Lots of confusion I suspect about how the Apollo Masters fire will impact record production. It's not about pressing plants, it's the actual supply of the nitrocellulose lacquers that is disrupted. Seems the industry was super-reliant on this one plant and developing a new supplier or hoping Apollo can make a quick comeback ignores many of the issues involved in manufacturing this stuff now.

The following video might be helpful:

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Blow for the resurgent vinyl industry

If it makes the WSJ then it's probably big news. A fire at Apollo Masters, one of only two plants in the world that manufacture lacquers for pressing (and the other has no spare capacity) will likely impact the industry negatively. Some are calling it a catastrophe, some the death knell for a fragile niche product, and while we have no way of knowing what's ahead, you can certainly expect the cost of records to rise. Oh, and if you were tired of the same old titles before this, expect it to be even worse going forward.  Fortunately nobody was injured it seems but for those of us who love our records, the future just got a little darker. Here's hoping someone with resources can see an opportunity here. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Schiit release new headphone amp

Am not the most active headphone user but Schiit seemed keen to share this news with the world.

And as always, the company does tend to rock the boat with their price-performance ratio. In their own words:

Schiit Audio announced the availability of Jotunheim R, the first and only direct-drive amplifier for the Raal/Requisite ribbon headphones. Jotunheim R eliminates the need for a speaker amp and interface box to drive the very low impedance ribbons, substantially simplifying a Raal/Requisite system and offering the potential for higher performance. Jotunheim R can be ordered as “Just an Amplifier,” for $799, with an internal True Multibit DAC card at $999, or with the external Bifrost 2 DAC at $1399.
“Jotunheim R is a dedicated amp designed specifically for Raal/Requisite ribbon headphones,” said Jason Stoddard, Schiit’s Co-Founder. “Unlike conventional headphones, the Raal ribbons are extremely low impedance, which requires extremely high current output.”
Previously, Raal/Requisite provided an interface box to be used with speaker amplifiers to drive the headphones. This meant that systems were large and cumbersome, requiring the interface box, a speaker amplifier, and a preamp and DAC. Jotunheim R replaces all of that.
“Choose the internal True Multibit DAC and it’s a complete one-box system,” said Jason. “Plug your source into the DAC, plug the Raals into the Jotunheim R, and you’re done. All in one box that’s less than 110 cubic inches.”
This one-box solution is ideal for professionals who want to use the Raal/Requisite headphones for portable mastering. It also provides professional-level protection, with overcurrent and overtemperature shut-off. 
Jotunheim R also provides an extremely high level of performance for high-end listening. “We’ve had many early listeners say this is actually better than high-dollar speaker amps and the interface box,” added Jason.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

New Rory Gallagher on the way.

The goodies keep coming -- am trying to find out more but here you go:

Following on from the highly successful ‘BLUES’ album, Chess/UMC are proud to be releasing ‘Check Shirt Wizard- Live In ‘77’. The album is available to pre-order  HERE
This 20-song, previously unreleased, set is culled from four shows (London, Brighton, Sheffield and Newcastle) during an early 1977 tour across the UK in support of Rory’s then latest album 'Calling Card'. Featuring fantastic live versions of tracks from that album as well as songs from the 1975 'Against The Grain' album and other live favourites.