Sunday, January 20, 2019

LP counterfeiting plant discovered

I suppose the money involved in special LP releases of old stuff has obviously attracted the criminal element (and no, I'm not talking about endless repackaging of Jimi's recordings). Just read that special intelligence work in the UK led police to a pressing plant in Wales that specialized in niche recordings of Northern Soul. These were sold via Ebay and Amazon and netted enough money obviously for one of those charged to have over $150,000 in his PayPal account alone (might that have been a sign?).

More info here

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

New Music Matters series 2019 plus a Tone Poet series on the way

So, in case you had not heard (where was I that I missed the earlier notice?), Music Matters is embarking on a fresh set of classic jazz releases on vinyl. As a subscriber to the last two series I figured I'd just be on whatever list was mailed this info but if so, the mail went awol. More likely no such list exists. Regardless, these are marketed as the 'definitive Blue Note reissues' on new Silent Running Xperience (SRX) vinyl, apparently a new formulation that runs quieter than previous slabs.

The various records run about $60 a copy (!) and will be limited edition. The full list contains mostly recordings that saw previous light in the 2x45RPM releases (10/12 I think, but don't quote me) so it's not clear how much demand there will be nor why these titles were chosen over others but I have to say my experience with Ron Rambach and co's previous efforts render these very desirable and certainly worthy of attention. See more, including the chance to buy all 12 for a cut-rate $699, on the official announcement page

Coupled, sort of, Joe Harley and Don Was are planning a new series of high quality vinyl releases this year under the 'Tone Poet' title which will (I believe) involve 18 releases from Blue Note's vaults also given the MM-level treatment. This is good news for music lovers but surely a taxing prospect for many people's wallets. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Vinyl sales slightly up in UK 2018?

Latest numbers out suggest vinyl sales continued to rise, albeit slightly, in the UK last year. Not sure how to interpret this as the totals are still pretty small but with CDs sliding further, it seems the LP format will continue for a while longer, despite predictions of death going back decades.

Not entirely surprised or excited by what is selling however...Rumours? Dark Side of the Moon? Still, Arctic Monkeys and Ezra make a bit of a change from the usual suspects over here.  Hard to be too sure of the numbers here but trends are trends...

Full story here

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

German Physiks refresh their site and product line

Always loved the German Physiks room at RMAF over the years. The company has redone their site with much better images of their original designs, plus they announce the introduction (and re-introduction) of amps and cables too. Find out more here

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Audioengine A5+ review live

It took a little longer than I anticipated but my latest review is now live -- the diminutive but large sounding Audioengine A5+ wireless speakers impressed me. You can read more here

Friday, December 7, 2018

Hendrix Box Set Amazon Woes

No, am not complaining about the sonics (yet to critically listen) but the 50th Anniversary Edition of Electric Ladyland started out as a bit of a cash-grab (again!) by the usual suspects. Another version, a new vinyl edition, lots of 'extras', most of which were not actually too new or interesting to many people, packaged in a box that required you to buy the lot for a princely sum. It started out on pre-order at north of $100 but I suspect sales were a bit softer than the protagonists imagined, with Amazon routinely chopping the price. I nabbed a set at $80 but it can be found at $60 shipped since. Tough on anyone who paid full early on (unless of course you got a low numbered set and that matters to you, though my experience with Amazon and the like is that time of order correlates little with actual number received).

Of course, I had many adventures before even receiving my set. I did pre-order, benefited from the assured lowest price, and was told it was delivered the day of release. Trouble was, I never saw it at my door. A check on Amazon told me it might show as delivered late one evening (not a normal cycle for delivery round our parts but Amazon is using all sorts now) so I should wait two days as sometimes the delivery service reports it as delivered before it actually is! How's that? Well, I waited, no sign. Emails to Amazon (never an easy thing to do) got me on chat with one agent who told me he understood the issue. He recommended that I just accept it as lost, buy another copy and have them reimburse me the original payment when done. OK, says I, but the latest price had shifted it upward and a re-order now would cost me $16 more than I originally paid. He seemed to have a problem understanding this and told me I could be compensated with $10 for the 'inconvenience'.

At the end of the exchange, when I reported through the auto-feedback system that my problem was not solved, I was sent another link to have another chat. I'll save you the details, eventually I got someone who agreed to just send a new set. And true to her word, that set came the next week. Now the problem was slightly confused by the missing order also containing another item in the same box,, nothing to do with music, but my important regular delivery of tea. I mention this as the situation had a twist.

Last week, a month after the delivery fiasco, rumbling around the bushes at the side of my house what turns up? A ripped open Amazon package, soiled and damp, but within a couple of boxes of Yorkshire Gold, my daily beverage of choice but clearly not to the taste of the local pilferer. Rather, it seems whoever took the box from my door removed the Hendrix Box Set. Am not sure if I like this mystery being solved -- neighborhood homes have reported some parcel theft recently but until this, I'd imagined our home immune. Well, apparently not. Meanwhile, if you find a nice priced box set in a used record store around Austin, you might have my original copy.  I'm having a cup of tea.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Guy King gives me hope for music

Love this -- great playing, singing, and general good-time vibe. Sometimes it's just enough.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

And it really is goodbye to TAS

After posting my decision to give up on TAS, I listed the 20 years or so of back issues I had for sale on a forum. Within the month they were picked up and gone. Three boxes worth, about 155 issues, and a happy new reader has them for a buck an issue.

And what comes in the next morning, a reminder from TAS that my subscription is ending and it's time to renew or lose....I actually chose to lose, I suppose. There goes a couple of decades.....

Apparently, I won't want to miss :

  • Our expert reviews of top-performing products---in each price category
  • Insightful features on audio components that redefine the state of the art
  • Expert commentary on "what's hot" in high-end audio
  • Upcoming coverage of must-have recordings
  • Guidance to help you get the most out of your system

Yeah, I have to listen to the same old stuff about audio shows six months after the event, or know that everything Magico (what happened to all that love for Kharma?) is great, MQA is the bees' knees, and cable companies can expect their advertising spiel to be repurposed for copy? Don't worry, there's a new Golden Ear award for something, an extract from the TAS History of X being presented, or hey, a manufacturer calling on a reviewer's new house to long-term-loan him another $100k component to enjoy (err... 'review').  Don't worry, don't measure, and don't complain, we mere mortals can't be expected to understand. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Look what's selling in 2018

Discogs latest round of data on what is selling makes for telling viewing. Coltrane still doin' it. As are  Floyd, with DSOTM, The Wall and Wish You Were Here all in the top 6. Guess there's an insatiable demand for some old vinyl, and some old music on vinyl too. Not sure of the demographics but this is a topic worthy of study. Since the most expensive record this quarter was the $13k paid for a Japanese promo copy of Ummagumma, I suspect it's fair to say that those with a certain level of disposable income predominate.  Full details here

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Choosing to invest in listening

Life seems to have been relatively rushed of late, and consequently, serious music listening has been pushed to the back of things to do. I still have the study rig going regularly but it's been some time before I fired up the main rig for no other purpose than to sit an listen, particularly to vinyl. As an aside, one thing I have noticed since tubes, somewhat miraculously, made their way back into my listening room's primary set up, is that I'm listening less. Life demands aside, I think that the thought of firing up the power amps and the phono stage so they are ready to play is mixed in with an inner-calculus of 'how much listening am I planning to do'?

When I had only solid state gear in the main rig I used to leave everything on, all the time. Thus, if I wanted to hear a few tunes I'd just hit play and there they were. Since I moved to an ARC tubed phono stage from a Whest, I find that I need to commit to several hours of listening before I consider it worth hitting the power on button. I don't like this, but I check on that 'hours' button on the ARC's display to see that I'm running down the useful life of the tube set. Perish the thought that I'd lose a few hundred hours of tube life by letting them sit warm but idle. In the grand scheme of things, tube life is relatively long and replacement costs not exorbitant, but still, there's a cost here that you don't think about with solid state.

Well last night I wanted music and I wanted to listen intently while nursing an adult libation. Vinyl it was and man, did it feel good. I'd picked up the latest Paul Simon on LP and needed to give it a listen, and one thing led to another and 4 or 5 lps later I was in a good space. Perhaps that's the commensurate benefit of tubes - by rendering music listening a conscious choice, I committed myself more to the process and in so doing, got more out of it. Not sure, but I do know the rig sounded sweet, no matter what I played. Still enjoying the fun with the Audioengine 5+ wireless speakers in my study, but man, the main rig is hard to beat, especially spinning some vinyl through the ARC. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Scofield's Combo 66 delivering the goods

Had a wonderful time listening to John Scofield and band at the Mohawk club here in Austin last night. Small, outdoor venue, great views everywhere, and a group of musicians that just played the grooves.

Sco' kept the set up simple, played straight into a Fender amp (with perspex screen ) and let his fingers do the work. Man, can he play. Nice boots too!  Keyboard player Gerard Clayton was a revelation to me, simply amazing chops that complemented the music perfectly.

You stand there and just have to recognize that the human ability to make sounds like this is revelatory. Sound quality matters, of course, but music matters more. Long live the passion to play. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Left outside on Audiogon?

Not sure why anyone (other than the owners) think this is a good path forward but Audiogon has initiated a new membership level. For $100 a year, or $10 a month, you can be an 'Insider' to the site which comes with various perks. The most valuable one is access to the Blue Book. I used to sign up for that when making major sales or purchases, I figured the price (was it $49 then?) was easily covered by appropriate pricing levels it provided. Not sure of the current price but for the new price you get access to forums with only other 'insiders', ad-free browsing and some other perks, I think. Really hard for me to see much value in any of these. Still, in an age of free-for-all-discourse on most forums, with the commensurate repetitions of old arguments, maybe (just maybe) this will make a difference. Personally, I don't see it but time will tell. Let me know what it's like if you're on the inside, I won't be paying.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Audioengine 5+ wireless rockin' the joint

These wireless speakers from Audioengine eventually showed up this summer for a review and I've been having a lot of fun with them since. Easy to set up, room-filling sound, convenience, you name it, there's a lot on offer for the price (around $500 depending on finish). I'll be writing a fuller review for the 'Zine but am giving these all sorts of try outs from my main listening room to my desktop, and while I have enjoyed lower end bluetooth speakers, there's something about a stereo pair that just sounds a lot better to my ears. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

RIP Prof Linkwitz

A few times at RMAF I would stop by the Linkwitz Labs room and cheer myself up listening to the great sounds coming from what appeared to be plumbing fixtures cobbled into a loudspeaker. For it was so......

The man himself, Siegfried Linkwitz, together with his wife, engaged attendees with the sort of 'yes we know, it might look odd but just listen' expression of folks who could see much of the high-end audio industry for what it was.

Yes, I vowed to make a pair myself, spoke with owners of his multi-amped top design and generally smiled to myself at the quality on offer. Man, his rooms were fun for all the right reasons. He retired at the end of last year but I was still saddened to hear the news. RIP Siegfried.

More about his work here

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Want a high-end site? pay up

Well, who knew but there's a price. The domain '' is for sale....and the current bid apparently is north of $20k....where did I go wrong?  Hey, I'm available for weddings.....