Wednesday, July 11, 2018

New (to me) site worth checking out: RealAudio

I was drawn to a kerfuffle reported online over a power cord demo at a recent audio society meet. Seems Dr. Waldrep upset some folks with his reporting. Seems to me the organizers of the event are over-reacting. Judge for yourself here

Now while typically on the side of science myself, I remember bringing an 'exotic' cord to a local audio event. When the host switched it into the rig for comparison purposes, we listened to it and his even more exotic cord on the same component, using the same music without further change. Most folks there preferred the more expensive cord and reported it sounded louder. I sort of agreed, the volume did seem to change but when I suggested we might want to level match for sure with an SPL, folks were aghast. "No way" I was told, nobody had changed the volume control so clearly the first (my) cord was inferior and somehow choking the sound. If I had not heard it myself I would not have believed it either. Never did figure it out but I know for sure no shenanigans were involved.  Luckily no egos were damaged in that meet. Meanwhile, I'll be checking the RealAudio site regularly.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Clarus Produces Video Series on Cable Design

Clarus just issued this release -- have a look
 Clarus®, the high-end audio cable brand that is a “sister” company to Tributaries A/V cables, is introducing a nine part series of consumer-informational videos: “Interviews with Jay Victor Cable engineer” that explain, in a straight-forward manner, the intricate processes that are behind the development of their Clarus Crimson and more-affordable Aqua cable lines. The nine videos in the series are viewable on YouTube by clicking here (or see direct links to each one below)
In each video, Jay Victor, the man behind the design of Clarus cables (and Tributaries cables since 2003), describes the application of both scientific principles and “Golden Ear”-based processes that were involved in the patented design of Clarus cables.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Audiogon's new design not impressing regulars

The world's largest used audio gear site (so we're repeatedly told) made a big splash announcing the roll out of their new website design a week ago. I got the PR push, imagined it must be about time, then took a look. Hum...what's with the images? Why is it difficult to drill down to items of interest (am always interested in something)? Maybe it's just me, I figured. I am at the age where changes in design for new platforms and alternative look-and-feel have almost no appeal, so maybe I'll get used to it. Well, I might, or I might have to, but the general response from regulars has been far from positive.

Check out this thread. Feedback describing the new design as 'horrendous',  'terrible' and 'hate it' are about as consistent as any user experience tester might want -- no ambiguity here. I guess the use of those periscope images are designed to make listers cough up more to have their listing favored with a clear picture. Whoever thought this up clearly neither tested it on real people or actually gives a damn about what anyone thinks. I'll be interested to see how this one evolves....is it time to remind people of Audiomart?

UPDATE -- and as I expected - A'gon has announced a few modifications to address the stream of user comments. Not sure everything is solved here but clearly someone made a really bad design decision last week.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Remembering Doc Watson on Independence Day

I never really gave Doc Watson too much listening and tonight I feel like I've missed a giant. NPR's Fresh Air did a beautiful show tonight using archive interview and performance material with him. The music is what matters most (and he could really play) but the life story is truly humbling, as is the man himself when he talks of what he's gone through. Take the time to listen through all of this show, you won't regret it.


Friday, June 22, 2018

Diana Krall getting back to basics?

Caught the show this week at the Moody Theater in Austin. Not my favorite venue, sort of soulless vibe with high pitched banks of seats, but at least you can see the stage from most parts and the sound is better than other venues about town. Krall played with a four piece: drums, bass, guitar and violin, giving the band lots of time to play, and play they could. Anthony Wilson on guitar was excellent and overall, the set seemed to hang a lot on her older releases with the instrumentalists given space to shine. As such, for jazz fans like myself, this was a set I enjoyed though I gather some of the crowd wanted to hear more of her newer stuff and less of the band. I would have enjoyed an Elvis song myself but I figured my shouts for 'Shipbuilding' would not have been appreciated.

The set was a little short of 90 mins with encores, and in parts I felt DK was a little disconnected, seemingly a bit distracted and somewhat tired looking. No real complaints there, the road is a tough life and I like my performers to be human, in all the ways that entails,  but I've read comments from others who caught her recently and this seems to be a common refrain. Regardless, the woman can play when she cuts loose,  and from my vantage point I enjoyed both her piano work and her vocals which are as velvety in real life as on record.

If there's anything to be learned about the industry from the demographics of this audience, I'd say her audience is distinctly middle-aged, white and not too keen on improvisation. This puts her in a position of trying to steer the course between musical exploration and just delivering the hits, but then she won't be the first musician to face this, and she can at least be assured of people willingly paying nearly $100 at least to see her. Not such a tough life I suppose, but I'd love to see her just forget the constraints and play more jazz...she has the chops. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Authentic Sound: challenging classical music on clavichord

I learned recently about Authentic Sound in Belgium, where Wim Winters creates high quality music recordings of a particular type. In what is surely a labor of love, keyboardist Winters has chosen to focus his efforts on the clavichord after experiencing its sound up close. His love of the music and the sound has led to a recording project that embraces sonics and authenticity. In his own words: The name ‘Authentic Sound’ was first chosen in 2012. I believed that the clavichord instrument, as important as this instrument was throughout the whole 18th century, could use some extra help in today’s concert and recording scene. The term ‘Sound’ reflects the sound of his clavichord. The word “Authentic” tied into its voice; which is authentic in every meaning of the word. And so, Authentic Sound it was.”

A large YouTube following has provided encouragement and with a series of recordings under his belt and available for purchase, Wim Winters is releasing a special vinyl release this year. 

For details - visit here and of course - watch this video to get a real sense of this man's passion for his art. Once again, it's a pleasure to recognize the commitment of some musicians to the full sonic arts.



Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Paul Simon - the long goodbye

I don't care for the Erwin Center in Austin. It's large, designed mainly for sports, and hard to remember any intimacy in the musical events I've attended. Despite my reservations, I dropped a large sum (by my yardstick anything north of $100 for a show is expensive, though I clearly must be in a minority given ticket prices these days) and lucked into a decent seat with a good view of the stage for Paul Simon on his Homeward Bound tour.

The acoustics are poor, the sonic results not great, and the use of a large video screen behind the stage so the aging audience could actually see the musicians on stage proved a distraction. I had to repeatedly remind myself that this cinemascope image up front was not the real thing, he and the musicians were the small figures below the screen, but the larger image kept grabbing my eyes. Not ideal, but for all that, Paul Simon and his band transcended the format to deliver 2 hours and 20 mins of magic.

Without fuss, he entered stage left as the band set up the groove that would become 'America' and the poignancy of this song, at this time, was not lost on many of us. Any doubts I had about the cost, the acoustics and the $10 charge for a can of Corona faded quickly and I felt the hairs of my immigrant neck stand up when he sang 'they all come to look for America'.

And from there it barely let up. 14 musicians playing multiple instruments over different songs, this was an evening mainly of Paul Simon songs, with an aging audience moved to dance during classics, at least as much as the confines of a sports center allowed. Simon was animated, talkative and funny. The band were superb, even if their qualities had to fight the venue. Am sure some folks wanted more Simon and Garfunkel, or maybe did not get their favorite song but I got everything I wanted and more, from Graceland to Still Crazy (a moving version), Homeward Bound and even a solo Sounds of Silence as a final (third!) encore.

Yeah, I'd love to hear him play in a small club but it ain't ever going to happen for me, consequently I can't count the cost of hearing him, only imagine the cost of missing out had I not gone. Sonics were not great but the music was, and I leave having felt I saw one of the true stars. I spent today checking out lots of the albums of his that I don't own via Alexa and Amazon and have a new appreciation for this giant of American popular music. If you're on the fence about seeing him on this final tour because of the cost, don't be. Thank you Mr. Simon.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Update on Jerome Sabbagh project

LP taking shape...who knew Jerome had a Garrard 401 like mine...but he has two arms....oooh!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Yanni, Laurel and the differences in hearing




OK, unless you've been asleep this week, you've probably come across the Yanni-Laurel soundbite, wherein different people claim to hear one work or the other when the signal is played. I first heard it in my car, and it was clearly one, not the other. When I got home I tried it on my laptop and heard the other word, again indisputably. Hum......

So, it's really a matter of frequencies and how they are both reproduced in your listening device and your own range of perception, which alters as you get older or otherwise lose hearing acuity. The NYT came up with the best little tool to allow you to play around with this and to shift the sonic signal to hear one or other word distinctly. You can even tease out your own trigger point and submit the data. I am Yanni in the middle, Laurel with a very slight adjustment of the scale to the left, but I can even find a point where both seem to be perceived. Fun stuff, especially when you think about all the arguments you've had with people over who can or cannot hear certain audiophile phenomena. We're all dynamic and aging humans.

Check it out 

(follow link above, not screen shot)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

UK's Musical Fidelity bought by Pro-ject Audio

The end of the road for one British stalwart, Anthony Michaelson now set to retire as his company is bought by Pro-ject. Quite a happy marriage, by the sound of it (ba-dum!)

Read more here

No comment on the amount of Stereophile coverage MF used to receive, please.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Paradigm offering new color options

Odd push from Paradigm to outline the color and finish options on their speakers. Lots of talk and shots about finishes, personality, individuality etc, and of course plenty of images of uncluttered rooms with modern furniture, colorful speakers, and not a speaker cable in sight. Ah, the dreams of marketing pass reality by, again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Garrard brand acquired by SME

No, it's not a flashback or joke, SME, newly energized, has bought the Garrard and Loricraft brands in what one imagines might be a strengthening of their impact on the turntable market. Here's a snap shot of the press release:

Commenting on the acquisition, Stuart McNeilis, CEO of SME, said, “It is with great pleasure that we can announce the acquisition of the Garrard audio brand.  Responsible for true icons of vinyl reproduction with the 301 and 401 turntables, in many ways, Garrard’s legacy mirrors SME’s, with precision engineering, design and manufacturing, based in the UK. Many of these great turntables were paired with SME tonearms and there has always been a natural synergy between the two company’s products.  As an iconic British brand, Garrard deserves to be enjoyed by a new generation of audiophiles.” 
To support owners of existing Garrard idler drive turntables, SME has also acquired Loricraft Audio, the only authorised Garrard service agent.  Responsible in many ways for keeping the Garrard legacy alive, Terry O’Sullivan, Managing Director of Loricraft, and his team has serviced and re-built Garrard products since 1997, along with manufacturing support products, including its renowned range of vinyl record cleaning machines.  “With years of experience and expert knowledge that will be crucial as SME develops the Garrard audio brand, the acquisition of Loricraft Audio was essential, as it enables the continued ability to service and maintain existing products.” added McNeilis.  “We are delighted that Terry and his team will join the SME family and bring their vast experience with them.”

Full details here

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

New Jerome Sabbagh kickstart project open

I loved Jerome Sabbagh's The Turn a couple of years back - it was my favorite release that year and still gets time on my table. Well he's back, with a new project , and you can still get involved by backing it and choosing an recording type that suits you. You can find out more here. I admire the passion of any musician committed to recording new jazz, on their own terms, and ensuring sound quality along the way. Forget another old Blue Note reissue or yet another version of the canon - they're great but there's a living breathing class of musician out there now who needs to be supported.

Here's a taste




Come on folks -- let's make this happen:

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Stereophile magazine changes owners?

Lots of chatter on the newsgroups about the magazine having new owners and some overhauling of the writing staff. Hard to know exactly what this means until the 'new' magazine makes itself known. I don't care for rumors or some of the gloating from various commentators online about people losing jobs (imagine, someone thinks that's a source of satisfaction?) so here's a link to the ever-reliable Bill Leeben's of PS Audio who knows more than most about this industry: Stereophile and What HiFi