Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rattle, the Berlin Philharmonic, Direct to Disk...

Spectacular effort here it would seem, and a price to boot - nearly 500Euro - but surely a 6 LP signed set that many will cherish. Too rich for my wallet, sadly, but if you have the resources and the love, why not? More here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's all in the wood...why a classic violin sounds like it does

Seems some of the magic of Stradivari violins lies in certain chemical treatments used in the woods back then. More in the NYT science section today:

Friday, December 16, 2016

Genesis announces Maestro

Gary Koh is a deep thinker, and an original one, so when he announces a new product, I tend to take notice. I know, who needs another $30k speaker right? Well....need is rarely the same as want and I'd love to hear these in my room anytime.  Multiple drivers front and rear, built in amplification and tweaking make this a speaker that can adjust to your room rather than the other way round.

 “A new design for the G5 was probably what I’ve been most requested for,” said Mr. Gary Leonard Koh, CEO and Chief Designer of Genesis. “Even from owners of the G5.3! There are many who love the form factor, and how it will fit into a small room. I’ve resisted because why mess with something already great? But after more than 10 years, I guess it’s time.”
“So, how do I re-design what I thought was already a classic and the speaker that got me to fall in love with the brand in the first place –the Genesis V? I already had some new ideas from developing the 5-way crossover in the G-Force launched in 2015, so it took less to persuade me to start a re-design. Still, it took the better part of 2 years.”
“Having listened carefully to the feedback from our loyal end users, many of the greatly admired sonic characteristics and features of its predecessors – the Gen V, G500, G501, and G5.3 – have been reincorporated into the new Mæstro, but updated with the latest technology,” said Mr. Koh. “A ‘no compromises’ approach has been taken to ensure that this speaker can be incorporated into any number of situations producing nothing less than spectacular results. One of the features most requested was the four woofers in the 1994 Genesis V. It’s a bit of an over-kill, but I relented anyway for the 2017 Maestro.” 
The Mæstro is a 5-way loudspeaker with two Genesis Ring-Radiator Ribbon Tweeters (front and back), a single 4.5-inch solid Titanium-cone midrange driver, two 6.5-inch aluminum mid-bass couplers and four 8-inch woofers with an integrated 500W servo-controlled bass amplifier.
The Mæstro features the Genesis Acoustic Suspension system so that it can be used on the many types of flooring encountered throughout the world – including uneven natural stone tiles, smooth granite, deep pile carpet, and suspended wooden floors.  Stainless steel spikes and a suspension frame hold the loudspeaker rigidly for best imaging and bass control. Neoprene decouplers act like shock absorbers, making sure that the cabinet is not affected by floor-borne vibrations.
The three sections of the loudspeaker – midrange/tweeter, midbass coupler and woofers – are housed in three separate cabinets with separate crossovers in each. The result is improved midrange clarity, a cleaner and tighter bass, more precise and pin-point image, and a holographic soundstage.
 “As part of our efforts towards a more family-friendly loudspeaker, the Mæstro will be featured in beautiful real-wood veneers. In the initial launch, we will offer ebony and rosewood veneers a rich, high-gloss finish” said Ms. Carolyn Koh, COO of Genesis. “The larger sweet-spot of the Mæstro means that the wife and kids will no longer be relegated to the ‘cheap seats’ when listening to music at home. It should be noted that the original Genesis V was released at $14,500 in 1995. Time and inflation has taken its toll and the new Maestro with 20 years of improvements and upgrades will retail at a recommended US$30,000 plus taxes” continued Ms. Koh.

The Genesis Mæstro will be available through authorized Genesis dealers and distributors worldwide Spring 2017. Complete specifications for the Genesis 5-series Mæstro loudspeaker can be found at

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

NME reports vinyl outselling downloads

Might be that nothing much is selling but it makes for interesting reading in the light of vinyl's near death experience 20 years ago. Here's the story

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bryston turntable - setting the standard

I had two very enjoyable months to experience the Bryston BLP-1 turntable, and the review is now live at HiFi'Zine.  Any chance they'd make a decent ultrasonic cleaner at a reasonable price next?

Next up, I have a set of power cords from IceAge Audio and Bybee's RCA connectors that have been interfacing with my Spectron amps, both raising interesting questions about value and tweaks. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Why Paypal makes sense

Without paypal, deals involving checks and wiring of funds run huge risks. Check out this rather scary account of a deal gone wrong on A'gon 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

You know you want to touch..

Leaving aside the possible magnetic interference problems for cartridges, this is eye catching and you can pledge on Kickstarter - only $780 if you pledge now.

Samsung acquires Harman International

Not sure what it will mean for Mark Levinson and Revel or JBL speakers. but at $8bn, Samsung are going for it.
Samsung Electronics and Harman International Industries, Incorporated today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Samsung will acquire HARMAN for $112.00 per share in cash, or total equity value of approximately $8.0 billion.  Upon closing, the transaction will immediately give Samsung a significant presence in the large and rapidly growing market for connected technologies, particularly automotive electronics, which has been a strategic priority for Samsung, and is expected to grow to more than $100 billion by 2025 
 Customer Benefits and Significant Growth Opportunities
• Audio:  HARMAN’s leading brands and cutting-edge audio systems include JBL®, Harman Kardon®, Mark Levinson®, AKG®, Lexicon®, Infinity®, and Revel®.  The company also licenses Bowers & Wilkins® and Bang & Olufsen® brands for automotive.  All of these brands will greatly enhance the competitiveness of Samsung’s mobile, display, virtual reality and wearable products to deliver a fully differentiated audio and visual experience for customers.

Full release HERE 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Audioengine new HD3s enter the market

As noted with the Edifiers below, the small speaker market is hot and Audioengine seem to be intent on adding further fuel with the release of their HD3s.

Wireless (bit with a wired option), digital or analog connections, headphone jack, powered, portable and not bad looking either! $399 a pair shipped, sales tax included too as far as I can tell. How's that for keeping it simple?

My experience with their B2 model last year suggests that you get big sound and good reliability from this manufacturer, so these do look interesting.  It's a good time to be shopping for small speakers.  Find out more here.

  • Built-in stereo power amplifiers
  • High-fidelity Bluetooth® with aptX® + extended range
  • USB computer audio input
  • Front panel headphone output + volume control
  • Custom Kevlar woofers and silk tweeters
  • Detachable magnetic speaker grills
  • Hand-built cabinets with furniture-grade finishes
  • Available in Walnut, Cherry, and Satin Black

Monday, November 14, 2016

Edifier offer stereo, powered pair of speakers for $69

The market for cheap speakers is a bit like the wild west, with some companies aiming to be the cheapest decent shot in town. Elac made a big splash in the last year, justifiably from what I heard at RMAF but I was surprised to receive the announcement from Edifier that they are releasing a pair of active speakers for $69.  Specs are a little vague (corrected by a clever reader below, thanks Charles,  I got this wrong) on their website but having found their entry level headphones to be quite decent, albeit a bit warm, I have to wonder how low prices can go for anything sounding half decent? Oh, and that price includes shipping!  Just in time for the holidays.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

New album by Jerome Sabbagh and colleagues

Jerome Sabbagh's The Turn release was my favorite jazz album of the year in 2015 and he's back with a new release, Lean. And it is a bit leaner, lacking the great guitar contributions of Ben Monder, but the atmosphere remains lively and experimental here (and includes Electric Sun, a track that will be familiar to lovers of The Turn).  This is not easy listening in some ways but then again, if you're like me and enjoy music that breaks from predictable forms and considers space a partner in the musical landscape, there's so much that's easy to enjoy here. Give it a listen. Better yet, buy it and support the work of artists who are willing to follow a truly original path. Now this is jazz.


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.