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 'www.highendaudio.com' is for sale....and the current bid apparently is north of $20k....where did I go wrong?  Hey, I'm available for weddings.....


Monday, August 20, 2018

Time to give up on TAS

I've been a subscriber for over 20 years and have the back issues to prove it in my basement. There's no doubt it's a beautifully produced magazine with wonderful photography which I happily browse  and consider too good to throw out when done. But the time has come to recognize that for me at least, the content is no longer there.

I took a look at the last year or so of issues as I got ready to consign them downstairs and, on a whim, took a page count. More than 50% of every issue is an advert, which probably does not surprise anyone, after all it is how they can run a mag of this production quality at a profit. But of the slightly less than half that is given over to content, even this has a recycled quality to it. You know some expensive product will get a dominant position and rave review; that MQA will be advocated, blind-testing devalued, and pricing rarely critically evaluated. I also get that this is part of the process. But what has stretched my patience is the rest.

The regular content now has too many show reviews, with too much cookie-cutter coverage that is too late to matter.  And in these reports I get to read again and again how difficult it is to cover the show, how Jonathan Valin gets to check out the ultra expensive speakers, that show conditions are not great, that the first day is a sonic mess in  most rooms, but the usual suspects get to be 'best of show' anyway.  Rinse and repeat, adding other writers for other product niches but generally sticking to script.

And if it's not shows, we get historical and memorial pieces, apparently lifted from the TAS glossy books produced and sold at great expense a few years back (yes, I paid good money for two vols), repackaged now in the monthly issues which honor the greats of the industry (not only re-using content but presumably keeping certain industrial participants sweet on the mag too).

Sure I wish there was a bit more on music, fewer 'awards', and yes, I also wish some more effort was made to compare 'systems' at price points using audiences (not just reviewers) with no stake in the products to give their reactions. And yes, I wish there was greater acknowledgement of the challenges facing interested consumers in really hearing and evaluating the products covered in the mag (but that's true of all mags where being told to 'go hear for yourself' serves no real purpose other than to protect the writer's opinion). What bugs me further are cartridge reviews without compliance details (matters a lot to me in my rig) and those mega-buck cable reviews where the company press-release is repackaged as part of the review ('croy-alloy proprietary windings' indeed).

Anyway, without malice, and with no little regret, I shall not be renewing my subscription and thus I bid farewell to a reading habit of decades. It's mostly been a lot of fun but life moves on. Anyone want my back issues?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

New (to me) site worth checking out: RealHDAudio

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


Thursday, April 5, 2018

SVS presents video on speaker design

SVS president Gary Yacoubian provides a nice overview of speaker design as SVS see it. I've been generally impressed with their products and value, this is part one of a two-part video, both are worth watching.

Monday, March 19, 2018

New music: Chantal Chamberland - Autobiography, SACD

I received a copy of this from EvoSound, a Hong Kong based company handling global releases and audiophile recordings. A new artist to me, Chantal Chamberland has already released six albums and is well-known in Canada and Asia. The present volume is  compilation, it seems, of  tracks from those releases and I have to trust that the selection is indicative of her music.

If you examine the track listing you'll get an idea of her style, but only an idea. "Feeling Good", "Crazy" and  "Fever" point to the stock middle of the road jazz canon that she seems to favor but it's her treatment of these that catches the ear. Her voice is calm and moody, rarely being raised beyond a smooth crooning level, but in a manner that is highly intimate, personal and present.

Instrumentation is relatively sparse, guitar (which she plays well), bass, drums, piano, with the occasional sax or horn, but the backings are loose, natural and embody the idea of accompaniment rather than competition with the singer. Production values here emphasize a late night club-date atmosphere, a singer, small band, and songs designed to make you relax rather than dance.

For me, I could live without another cover of some songs ("At Seventeen" is just a little too close to the original to be pleasing and I never need to hear "Hit the Road Jack" again really) but then I guess the compiler wanted to reassure new buyers that there was nothing to be afraid of here.  But these are small quibbles, the set is enjoyable, the sonics very good, and Chantal is a musician I'll keep an ear out for in the future.  Her version of the Bee Gee's 'How Deep is Your Love" is the most enjoyable version I've heard (sorry brothers Gibb!), her phrasing on vocals and simple but effective guitar, along with subtle cello and flugelhorn touches, give the tune a truly pleasing groove.  How much talent is out there yet to be discovered? It's endless, so take a chance.

You can find her on Amazon here  and check out her label here

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Audioengine release new wireless speakers

Ever marvel at the ads in the glossies for speakers? Great rooms, tidier than real life, decorated to perfection, and yes, not a cable in sight. If only. Well hold that thought. Audioengine are releasing a pair of wireless speakers with 'everything you need in the box', and assured to work with any Bluetooth device or app you use to stream. The A5 allows for regular RCA or mini-jack connections,  requires no network set up and even has class A/B amps inside. All this for $500? Let's see, I have pair coming in for a listen (and yes, I will be using some wires)

Find out more here


Friday, February 9, 2018

Craft Recordings do it again

This label is pushing them out quickly at the moment. I know,  what jazz fan does not have Rollins' Way Out West but how about a new vinyl edition, with a second disk of bonus material from a late-night session in the studio? I know, it's the 60th anniversary, how many editions can you have of the same recording (don't answer that Kind of Blue collectors!) but this looks gorgeous. Sadly it's a less than gorgeous price (north of $70 on Amazon as I write) but I am sure some will grab it gladly. I'm having to limit my purchases at the moment but it does not stop me wanting....


Find out more here

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Best Buy giving up on CDs

Well, I suppose it had to happen at some point but chain store Best Buy announced it would no longer stock CDs from June 1st. With sales of CDs now about 10% of what they sold 15 years ago, the company considers them unworthy of floor space in their stores.  More here at Consequence of Sound

Ironically, Best Buy will continue to stock vinyl where they sell turntables, at least for the next two years. Bet you would never have predicted this when Queen took out ads in the UK music press back in the 1980s to explain why they would release albums only on CD from then on as vinyl was no longer relevant. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Craft Recordings releasing new vinyl sets

New one to me but worthy of a mention for those who love their vinyl. Craft Recordings have been sending out announcements of new releases, and here's the latest one: Country Joe and the Fish. $80 on Amazon, delivered free for Prime members.


Paying tribute to the band’s prolific output, Craft Recordings is issuing a limited-edition, deluxe vinyl box set, The Wave of Electrical Sound, as well as standalone, 180-gram LP reissues - all hitting store shelves today! A remastered digital collection, offering both stereo and mono formats of each album, as well as two exclusive bonus tracks, is also available on digital retailers and streaming services.

Limited to 2,000 copies worldwide, the deluxe 4-LP box set offers both mono and stereo versions of Electric Music for the Mind and Body and I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die. All four remastered LPs are pressed on audiophile quality, 180-gram vinyl, and housed in old-school-style, tip-on jacketsThe Wave of Electrical Sound also contains a bounty of band ephemera from 1967, including replicas of The Fish Game, a Fish Fan Club book and a Fish calendar designed by Tom Weller. Also in the box is a DVD of How We Stopped the War, a 30-minute documentary, filming the band on their way to an anti-Vietnam War rally, directed by David Peoples (writer of Blade Runner, Twelve Monkeys, Unforgiven), as well as a 24-page book, which features rare photos, artwork and new liner notes.

Friday, January 19, 2018

CES coverage suggests that maybe the end is nigh?

As usual, Stereophile's John Atkinson and Michael Fremer are providing some of the best coverage of audio at CES. The general tenor of reports indicates traffic is high but audio is relegated further and further, to the point that some wonder on camera if it's time for the audio industry to give up on this gathering. Time will tell.

Here's a link to one of  MF's detailed videos, the next best thing to being there as you get a sort of warts and all sense of the rooms, the sounds and the human traffic. And of course, Mikey is always entertaining, but am I the only one cringing slightly at the part where Luke Manley struggles to list the price tag of items in this more affordable system? (not to criticize him, it's the costs not the math).

But check out that new Technics table....phew..

Thursday, January 18, 2018

What's happening with Thiel?

Rumors of Thiel Audio's demise are surfacing online, from a usually reliable source, but their website shows the company still in business. The trouble is, the business they are now in seems to be quite different than the one the late Jim Thiel bequeathed.

I don't object to lifestyle speakers, but I sure do miss the old look and feel of Thiel products.  You decide....

A quick examination of the company's current site seems to suggest they have done away with all the old lines, and the official history of the company makes no mention of the Thiel most audiophiles know. 

A friend once visited the old Thiel company when considering speakers. He was allowed inside and given a tour of the factory. He said that during his tour, Jim Thiel made an announcement and called everyone together to explain a particular assembly issue that required extra care on a new line. By his account, the staff working there were all attentive and interested in what Jim was explaining,  asking questions about the process, and generally into the products they were building. One imagines it's not quite like that anymore.




Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Price increases again

I imagined, foolishly no doubt, that the price of ultrasonic vinyl cleaners would come down over time, perhaps forced by the need to capture new markets once the well-heeled had made their purchases. Apparently not, it seems, based on the latest word from Ultra Systems -- they sent me a note today that the Audio Desk  Pro vinyl cleaner would cost $4499 from Feb 1st.  Better get in there quickly if you're in the market....

Monday, January 8, 2018

CES PR in overdrive

I don't go to CES, I wish I did sometimes but life gets in the way. Still, my inbox gets the PR outpouring from companies hoping to catch someone's attention. Today alone I got more updates on more digital developments than I can shake a stick at, never mind understand.  'Studio sound' quality from headphones via a new Sonarworks thingamajig?  A veritable magic wand to link your wired components into a streaming 'ecosystem' from Riva? Am sure these make sense for some....hard for me to judge. Sometimes a picture is all you need, and to that end, here's the juiciest looking promotion that I received today, the forthcoming table from Music Hall, the MFF-9.3 Wood...price to be determined:


I've only heard MMF tables and speakers at RMAF, and usually then only in party-like conditions (these guys enjoy the shows) but I have always been mightily impressed with the sonics. Let's hope this table sounds as good as it looks.

Monday, January 1, 2018

And you thought you took hi-fi seriously

Forget the utility pole mod, it's the poor guy who can't open his fridge that I feel sorry for...and yes, I bet you too end up thinking..."he HAS a girlfriend?"