Friday, August 12, 2022

MoFi speaks..sort of..

There's a short interview in The Absolute Sound editor Robert Harley's blog with MoFi president Davis over what will always be known as 'The Debacle'. You can read it here. It's not exactly an exploration of the major question concerning MoFi's misleading marketing. Is this what real journalism looks like?

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The debacle keeps on giving

So, perhaps I was too understanding of MoFi's use of DSD in their much touted One Step releases. As the fall-out continues, am now reading customer service notices that buyers received which apparently assured them there was no digital step. MoFi seems to be making an effort to rewrite earlier social media postings, stating earlier messages or replies to customers were 'unauthorized' etc. This whole mess seems like a case study in mismanagement.   Meanwhile, folks are having a field day posting videos of claimed all-analog processes from a couple of years ago, or quoting 'expert' reviews that raved about the sonics being evidence of all-analog superiority, sharing promotional material that touted the MoFi process and in which there is not a single mention of a digital step. Ah, the internet, history is there if you know where to look.  Am even seeing  reports of price drops on the used market for some of the MoFi collection  (though given the asking prices from before the news broke, any adjustments are hardly at the fire sale level). 

It all has the hallmarks of a road crash. You hate to see it but can't look away. And in there are other nuggets -- like Analog Planet's tour of Music Direct's record storage where the company head not only pushes the party line on all analog goodness, but when Mikey Fremer mentions that he does not have a copy of one record there, the owner basically says he must have it as they send a copy of every release to him. Now that's music direct!  Not a dig at Mikey, he has been an advocate for good sound, and let's face it, who would say no to such a deal?   But I am less impressed with his response to the mess in this next video where he basically argues Mike Esposito, who exposed the story, did not sufficiently act "like a journalist" and was "rolled" by the MoFi team. That's not how I view it. And the comments about Esposito's background? That reveals more about Mr. Fremer's personality than it should. Mikey does admit on camera that he basically covered up for MoFi in some of his columns though! Oh dear. Is that how a real jourmalist should act? I suspect some rewriting of history is actively ongoing, and not just on the MoFi website.

In the end, I feel for the engineering guys at MoFi who are doing their best to release great sounding records. And I have sympathy for people who did spend tons of cash for a form of record they feel was misrepresented, often directly and in response to inquiries they made prior to purchase. This is not a scenario that makes the audio industry or even the press look good. I still feel that if you love the sound of your MoFi LPs, and many people do, then that's what ultimately matters but I don't expect everyone to feel the same. We can but hope that going forward, all releases will clearly describe what you are buying and maybe the pricing will adjust accordingly. I wonder sometimes if history will view the limited edition LP craze of our time as another tulip moment. In 50 years, will any of this seem more than a silly old guy's indulgence? Thoughts for another time...

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Mobile Fidelity - just where is the debacle really?

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth happening right now on audio forums over the apparent revelation that Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs vinyl might actually not be quite as analog as imagined. What? You paid a shitload of money for the Santana One-Step or whatever (or you bought two copies in the hope of making a killing, er, I mean just to make sure you had a back-up) and now you find your prize product is not as 'pure' as you imagined? Hmm..many collectors seem to be taking to the forums to rant, to call it a 'debacle', to claim they were tricked into overpaying by promises of an all-analog production etc. 

I understand some of this purist-disquiet. The marketing of many releases certainly suggested you were paying a premium for an all-analog release, but how often have we heard analog fans saying something like 'I don't know why but I just find the sound of LPs to be better'?  So now it appears that some releases may sound better because of a digital step in the process. Does that make it sound less impressive? Apparently for some it does and it devalues in their minds their expensively curated collections. But what if one didn't know? Does a record by any other name sound as sweet? 

So confusing....see if this helps (clue, it won't much but at minute 41 you get some explanation). So is it all about the quality of sound at the end of the day, not the marketing? From the sound engineering side, it makes sense to go with what works. But, were buyers deceived intentionally? You have to wonder just what the marketing folks and management were thinking here. Who in the industry knew about this and kept quiet?  Welcome to 2022. Transparency is in short supply. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

Dick Sequerra RIP

Not sure how I missed this but I've only just learned of the passing of Dick Sequerra, another audio legend with a long history of work with Marantz before forming his own company. Most people of my age will associate his name with FM tuners, and his were among the best. He also produced several lines of speaker that owners still cherish. Here's the obit that I found from someone who had met him, but it does make me wonder how such a life passes unnoticed in the mainstream audio press (of course I might have missed it but a quick search turned up little). Read this

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Blue Note release new Charles Lloyd albums

A trio of trios no less from master Charles Lloyd....and wait, there's brilliant Bill Frisell and Julian Lage among the players. Purchase separately or as a 3 lp boxed set (will cost you $100 plus tax after shipping for the set but I'm in). Yes, there's a cd release too, if you must. Had the pleasure of seeing Charles in concert last time he was in Austin, he was magnificent, as were his band. Here's a taste of the new release. Find out more here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Three guys talking about audio

I sort of smile usually at Bill 'made for radio' Parrish's video postings, lots of talk and good vibe but not always so much content. That said, he delivers it all in an amiable manner that draws you in. Here's an interesting one, if you have the patience, that sort of says a lot about our hobby. Three guys, of a cwetain age, talking at length about one turntable and arm combo. The actual designer hardly gets a word in (you'll have to jump to around the 20 min mark to hear him talk about the 12 month lead time on Kronos products). For the rest, Dabid Robinson (who we are reminded has a PhD) spends a lot of time saying little other than 'this is the best' about the Kronos Discovery (11 actually sold in the US!) It does feel like you joined a conversation with a few guys drinking scotch who are begining to repeat themselves as it kicks in. I get the feeling Bill (conspicuously the only one without a drink) is smiling and slowly realizing it's time to cut them off. This video really does go better with a drink.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Affordable vacuum based record cleaning

 Lots of options out there for those who want to clean their records, most seem a bit pricey for what you get (audiophile reality I suppose) but this one caught my eye. Still $125 and you have to add a shop vac but it looks decent enough. If you have one, let me know.

Friday, June 17, 2022

McIntosh and Sonus Faber change ownership again

 Story of modern business I suppose, and no particular reason to worry, but both McIntosh and Faber are lifestyle brands and for some, that's attractive enough to make companies acquirable. Here's a brief PR blurb, and a link to the official announcement:

June 15, 2022 – Dallas, TX – Highlander Partners, L.P. (“Highlander”), a leading private investment firm, today announced the acquisition of McIntosh Group, through a newly-formed holding company (“the Group” or “the Company”). McIntosh Group has been a leader and innovator in the high-end audio category for decades and today manufactures and globally distributes the world’s finest amplifiers, speakers, turntables and other audio products under several renowned brands. The Company is driven by its dedication to quality performance, sophisticated technology, refined design, and artisan manufacturing. These tenets have resulted in brands known for incomparable design, product quality and consumer experiences.

The Group is anchored by the legendary McIntosh brand. Since 1949, McIntosh amplifiers have been engineered and handcrafted in Binghamton, New York and have undergone an incredible history, having powered events ranging from presidential inaugurations to Woodstock ‘69. McIntosh amps are globally renowned both for their iconic signature design – classic tubes, knobs and the beloved blue metered faceplate – as well as their unparalleled, powerful audio quality.

More details here

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

When a new release is just not enough

 Blue Note are now in the auctioning business, offering selected test pressings of the generally excellent Tone Poet LP series for auction. Kicking off with Wayne Shorter's Etcectera, your winning bid gets you a sealed, authenticated, unplated test pressing and a copy of the regular release. Tempted? You have 4 days, there's been 10 bidders so far and you need to top $500 as of tonight. I'll be keeping an eye on this and no, I definitely am not getting involved. 

More info here

Friday, May 27, 2022

Michael Fremer returns?

 News broke yesterday on a few audio forums that Mikey Fremer, the longtime contributor to Stereophile is returning to The Absolute Sound. Am not sure that was supposed to be announced but it seems to be out now and the cause of some discussion online. I am sure there are good reasons he is doing this (allegedly) but I can only say I will miss him. For me, the best part of Stereophile in recent years has been Mikey, Herb and Art (RIP). John Atkinson stepping aside might have been more damaging but he's still involved and the results remain solid, it's the best audio mag by a mile, in my view. I gave up on TAS a few years back as it seemed to be little more than endless show reports, special awards issues (which threw such a wide net that one might imagine not winning was more honorable), and way too much from a couple of old writers who seemed to dial it in. Mikey will give TAS a shot in the arm.

I won't take out a new subscription just for this but I will miss him. Michael Fremer brought so much energy to the vinyl world that you could hardly resist reading him. People complain about his claims, his somewhat brash style, and even his political jokes, which I could never understand. I mean you live in this country and watch what is happening and you don't think politics is f'd up? Give me lively, opinionated but ultimately music-loving audio reviewers anyday, especially if they are prepared to say to the ridiculing masses, 'hey, this actually sounds better so deal with it'.  

I won't be reading TAS unless I see it lying around in a bookstore (remember them?) but I certainly wish Mr. Fremer well and in the current media world, I am sure I'll still be hearing him.

Friday, May 13, 2022

"No reason to make record-playing any %4#k!@ harder than it has to be.“


Never a truer word, thank you Roy Hall.   Not built for tweakers, Roy's company, Music Hall just announced the introduction of a very interesting phono stage, the Analogue A3. Both MC and MM compatible, (60db gain and 100ohms impedance for MC, like it or lump it),  12AU7 tubes, small footprint (10"x7") and it comes with its own flight case so you can travel around with it presumably too, just in case (ahem) you spot a table that could use a little improvement. But seriously, this looks very interesting, and true to the Hall philosophy, it is priced reasonably (audiophile scale that is)  at $1200. Anytime I've heard Music Hall gear I've done a double-take at the value on offer so expectations for this one are high.  More info here

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Sounds Grimm?

Pic of speaker

Grimm Audio introduces a new variant of the LS1 loudspeaker system: Nano Legs. Nano Legs  means an LS1 can be placed on top of a side table or dresser. This is an advantage in for instance small rooms where every square meter counts - the acoustic properties of the LS1 make it function great in large rooms as well as small rooms. 

The eye catcher of the LS1 Nano Legs edition is the ‘Acoustic Mat’ that sits on top of the foot plate.Eelco Grimm, Creative Director of Grimm Audio, explains: “When placing a loudspeaker on a hard surface such as a side table, reflections occur that color the sound. The Acoustic Mat absorbs the reflection and keeps the sound clean from this discoloration.” The Acoustic Mat comes in two sizes: standard and large. The picture shows the standard size. Eelco Grimm adds: “The LS1 with Nano legs is a development based upon a ‘special edition’ LS1 we designed for the Concertgebouw Amsterdam studio. Speakers in this small control room need to be placed on top of a bass trap and the ‘Nano Legs’ version facilitated that.” T

Little more yet on the Grimm site about this but if you are interested (they are priced at the same level as the regular LS, that is near 20k last time I looked)) start here:

Vladimir Lamm RIP

Sorry to learn that the talents and contributions of Vladimir Lamm will no long be with us. He death was widely announced this week though I understand he died on April 18th. Born in Ukraine, his products really were cherished by many music lovers and audiophiles. Lots of discussion and memorials online about the man and his designs, keep an eye on the Lamm site for further details.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

International Jazz Day

Who knew? April 30th is officially International Jazz Day, as officially declared by the UNESCO after some prodding by the one and only Herbie Hancock. I don't know if you celebrated or even acknowledged it but here in Austin we had a wonderful event at the Long Center. Four area jazz societies (the Austin Jazz Society, the Women in Jazz, the Texas Jazz Society and the Austin Traditional Jazz Society -- I know, your thinking there must be a society for every jazz listener round here!) pulled this event together. Every act was enjoyable but two in particula, the Pamela Hart Quintet and the Austin Jazz Royals (with Ephraim Owens, Elias Haslanger and Andre Hayward) tore the roof off the place. Three hours of music, two stages, seamless transitions, and a backdrop view of downtown Austin made it a late Saturday afternoon to savor.
Look out for this next year, I hear a 2-day event might be in the offing....Austin is getting jazzed! For updates, keep an eye on this site Austin Jazz Society

Improving your $2k speaker the Danny Richie way

Always enjoy watching these though I know he gathers the ire of some. Seeing what's inside is not always a good clue as to how something sounds but it does raise some interesting questions.