Sunday, November 30, 2014

New gear arriving

The upshot of my last 'Zine review on the Purist and Furutech phono cables was to push me further here to tweak every last bit of performance out of my tonearm. Scot, the rep who submitted the Furutech cable offered to send a set of their  La Source 101 headshell leads to complement the SME V arm and I accepted with some trepidation given the rather finicky nature of swapping such leads in and out -- this is no mere cable swap but a task that involves removing the cartridge, at least partly, if only to gain room for one’s fingers and tweezers. Still, enquiring minds want to know what, if any, benefits one can obtain from this so stay tuned.

Dave Thomson, the chief driver behind Raven Audio here in Texas followed up with me post-RMAF to offer his Nighthawk integrated tube amp for review. This was not what we’d originally discussed as he has some great new designs coming but it was available and who am I to refuse such a generous offer. It’s been a few years since I had a tube amp in for review and right now, the surprisingly portable Nighthawk is warming up in one of my secondary rigs (should I have a tertiary rig since I have three different set ups in various rooms?) and reminding me of just what so many people cannot give up on tubes. This is Raven’s lowest price amp (circa $1250 for 20w) but I am really keen to hear how it handles my upper end speakers.

Finally, I have a sample Essence of Sound CD treatment in house. This is a spray treatment that promises wonderful improvement in standard CD sonics -- am usually suspicious of such claims but Robert from Essence is pretty detailed on how his treatment works. Right now I have treated the one CD pair I have to hand (and I’ve another pair on order) so I can keep a couple of  direct A/B comparisons on hand for any visitors. From there, I’m going to give a few of my old favorites the treatment to see if this has the claimed effect. Not sure if my use of the PS Audio PWT memory transport hinders the effect so I’ll try this in a secondary rig too. Who knew that hoarding gear all these years would become such a benefit --- someone tell that to my wife!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Science in favor of analog?

Interesting piece on the merits of analog versus digital listening

As the original article notes: 
"Research shows that musical quality has a huge effect on emotional response. A recent study performed by audio researchers at DTS divided a group of listeners into two groups — one that watched a video accompanied by standard stereo 96-kbps sound (Spotify's default audio setting) and the other group listened in 256-kbps audio format. The responses in the brains of the group listening with the 256-kbps audio were 14% more powerful on metrics measuring memory creation and 66% higher on pleasure responses. And this was just 96 to 256 kbps.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A king is dead: Harry Pearson passes

Though I never met the man, I was saddened to learn this week of Harry Pearson's death. Perhaps the last of a particularly iconoclastic breed, he is of course famous for founding The Absolute Sound and raising the critical evaluation of audio products to the level of serious journalism.  Over the years he gave a start to many budding reviewers and seemed quite happy to entertain and annoy in equal measure. I found his writing compelling if sometimes a bit too heavy on self-promotion (his superlist, his naming of his own 'Pearson's Rule of Thirds' to describe speaker positioning that many folks use, and his constant reminder that he invented words to describe sound, just so we would all know) but there's no doubting that his words mattered.

I expect TAS has some special commentary coming attached to their announcement, but I heard the news first from Albert Von Schweikert's posting on the Audio Circle site where he relates some of his early experiences with HP. Apparently the man had a tendency to rack up expensive dinners on manufacturers' tabs if invited to dinner, an aspect of HP's character confirmed by Michael Fremer in his account of life with the man. Micheal's entry is really the best I've read: personal, honest, and balancing appropriate respect with an acknowledgement of the man's flaws. The end of Harry's tenure with TAS seems to be a sore point and there is little doubt that HP's output over the last few years of his life seemed a tad below his usual standard but that is no crime. His expectations and treatment of some manufacturers might be a different story if we are to accept some accounts but that's for others who actually have to facts to determine.

For me, there are few audio writers who compel one to read on in the hope of some enlightenment, some insight into a new quality in reproduction or some special recording that I needed to hear. This is not a criticism, it is an observation that writing about audio is not high art, but Harry sometimes made it seem so. We who love music and the technologies of its reproduction are all worse off for his passing. Enjoy his legacy.