Tuesday, March 26, 2024

A new (to me) local company -- Introducing Austin AudioWorks

 Happy to learn of a local audio company producing headphone and phono amps (with more to come). Austin AudioWorks. In truth, they've been around a bit longer than I realized and have at the help both Barry Thornton (formerly of Quintessence Audio Group among others) and Bill Leebens (whom I last met when he was overseeing reviews for PS Audio). Since it's common to see new companies launching nose-beed priced products, what fun to find Austin AudioWorks launching a $1600 phono stage that covers MM and MC cartridges, balanced and single ended outputs,  with front facing controls for resistance, capacity and gain.   And it's made in Austin too, apparently. This little 'do-it-all' might just be a vinyl lovers dream.   Find out more at https://austinaudioworks.com

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Times must be getting tight at Blue Note!

I took advantage of a Blue Note Records sale to grab some Tone Poets last month, their special offer besting all prices I could find and, of course, encouraging me to pick up one or two I might otherwise have let slip by this year.  Yes, I do have that Joe Lovano album on CD from back in the day but when you start browsing and adding up all the money you're saving, resistance is somewhat hard to muster. 

I waited til today for delivery to have them all shipped in one package. I knew this saved me some costs for both me and Blue Note but I was rather surprised to see how a box of 7 LPs arrived on my doorstep from UPS. 

One small, single layer cardboard box, with no internal padding or support, left at my front stoop with a visible split and bend on one corner. As is so often the case, the UPS driver was off and away before I even opened the door.

As I picked it up and the cardboard folded in my hands, I expected the worst but fortunately, the records all seemed to survive without damage. But compared to the packaging provided by Music Direct, Acoustic Sounds, or hell, even Amazon when shipping most LPs, this felt downright flimsy. I expect better shipping from individuals selling via Discogs. I do understand companies want to reduce costs but this seems to me to be asking for trouble and a lot of returns if it's the new normal. Thank goodness it was not raining.  Hopefully this is a one off, but be careful when ordering more than one or two records at a time here.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Hey boomer....New music?

When you get an email from Music Direct entitled 'New music arrivals' you might be a little surprised to see what that actually means to audiophiles. And only $60 for SuperVinyl....If ever there was a sign of an aging demographic...



Monday, January 15, 2024

Jim Winey of Magnepan, RIP

 Sorry to hear this but not entirely surprised, time keeps on moving. Never owned but was always fascinated by Magnepan speakers, and let's be clear, Maggie owners tend to have a rather fanatical connection with these designs. Always enjoyed listening when I came across them at shows, even if you had to sign up or wait outside to get a chance to join the room.  Anyway, this video says more than I ever could. RIP Jim. 

Friday, December 22, 2023

What's changed at Audiogon?

I used to frequent Audiogon regularly back in the day, checking out new listings, piecing together deals on components, even selling a few items, including two high-end turntables. Always had good experiences. I checked out the discussion forums recently and they seem to have become very heavily policed.  Tempted to join a conversation to share some experience dealing with PayPal on a deal gone south, I naturally logged in and hit reply. Well, not so fast there fella!  Seems now I have to hand over my telephone number to be able to reply. Odd, I thought, so I checked my profile there. I've been a member for 17 years, have extremely positive feedback, and they have my mail and email details, login name and password, but I can no longer post without adding my phone number?   I decided not to bother.   I don't frequent the discussion forums there much so I presume something happened that made them apply this requirement but what's next? A credit card number?   I'll remain a passive reader.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Speaker shipping done easy?

If you've experienced unpacking new speakers in your home, especially when you are on your own, boxes, packaging and wrestling are no simple task.  Enter the new PSAudio Aspen 10s, or FR10s to be technically correct, and the most ergonomic packaging I've ever seen. Man, I'd like to give these a listen but I'd also enjoy trying that packaging Lots of thought seemingly went into making these easy to receive and set up. I mean most of us never get dealer or manufacturer help (might be nice).   More here

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Jerome Sabbagh new vinyl on the way

 It's been a long ride on this Kickstarter project but Jerome is coming through again with his latest album on vinyl.  Details and history here. I can't remember when I signed up (a year ago?) but after very positive experiences with his earlier offerings, starting with The Turn, I had no hesitation backing this one. Fascinating to see the budget for all this  -- inclusing recording sessions for $9k, $4k for 2" multitrack tape to record on etc., but he had a proposed total budget of $30,700 for this -- sounds small in the recording scheme but you are looking at one jazz musician taking on this in the hope of producing a great sounding vinyl recording of his own music while paying musicians and engineers etc to get this done. He even took delivery of the lps in his apartment and oversees mailing himself. Now that's commitment.  Head on over and check it out.


Monday, November 20, 2023

Now that's a record collection!


The ARChive of Contemporary Music, which houses more than 90m songs and is supported by names such as Martin Scorsese, is in need of a new home

Sunday, November 12, 2023

MQA....maybe quiety attenuated...

 Is it finally dead? Lots of arguments online suggest that it's over but like a good horror movies, the ending has to be extended with a few unlikely comebacks before sanity is restored. I secretly enjoyed the discourse on the Steve Hoffman forum where the 'Is MQA dead?' thread started 6 years ago and continues (spoiler alert, the answer seems to be 'yes') but I'll leave it to Wikipedia to proffer a more disinterested account. Best part of the latter report is the historical context it provides, including some choice quotes from major audiophile writers who predicted MQA would change the world. Hey, Lenbrook just acquired the assets so that horror movie scenario remains.....

Friday, July 28, 2023

Oh Sinead

I don't know why it affected me so much but the passing this week of Sinead O'Connor guts me. Lots of comments on many forums about her, largely (justifiably) positive but as Morrissey noted on his blog, the industry tributes are insincere and late. I never met her but I followed her with interest since she shot into my world with Mandinka all those years ago. I bought the Lion and the Cobra on LP back then and still have it. I was 25, moved to a new country and pining a little for something of home. She represented a different Ireland then, and always did in the years that followed.  I care little for what religion she chose at various points but I'll never forget that she was at the forefront of exposing the corruption and how she paid for that in a most public manner.  

Oddly, Nothing Compares to U is not the song I most associate with Sinead, but somehow, of all the videos posted on line this week, this one makes me smile and cry at the same time.  Her defiance was and remains inspiring, but above all she was a great performer and a true artist.  That little smile at the end of this captures her essence. Farewell brave soul.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Need some new isolation feet

 And at a price that can't be beat?  Monosaudio have you covered (see Amazon). I was particularly taken by the following image for their subwoofer isolation set. In fairness, these might actually be reasonable, the so-called science of isolation is hardly clear,  but I have to wonder who produces the advertising copy.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Service matters - thank you PS Audio.

If you monitor audio forums it won't take you long to find people complaining about the service and support they have often failed to receive from one company or other. There's always two sides to every story, sometimes companies are short-staffed, sometimes they oly want your money at the point of sale, and in an age of continual bargain-hunting online it might be there is a disconnect between price and reasonable support.  Regardless, a simple shout out today to PS Audio. Depending on your perspective they are either innovators or scammers, but for me, they are a company I always like to do engage. Why? Forget the prices for their upper end DAC or cables (and conveniently forget that they also offer a lot of affordable options) but this company has always given me great support. I've had a few problems over the years with their amps and digital front-ends but they never left me hanging without help or reasonable options. I can't spring for the latest Directstream DAC at $7k, much as I'd like to, but they have repaired my old PerfectWave DAC when it had a problem after 9 years. How many companies who sell DACs can you say that about? 

Anyway, feeling the sound of my system was not quite what I expected last week, I figured the tubes in my BHK 300 monos were due a replacement, and since I had a set on hand, why not do it.  Well, the answer to that became obvious as soon as I tried to wrestle the amps off the racks so I could access the rear.  I know I've aged since I bought these but man, those amps weigh a ton. Worse, the feet on which they reside seem to have decided to meld with the shelf making a simple slide off to a conveniently positioned support impossible (I'm still not sure how I am ever going to break that seal).. Anyway, I did the swap, sweating and breathless, and telling myself that this amount of heavy gear belonged in the past, before having the ultimate horror, one channel popping sharply and dying on boot up.  Uh oh.....

In a mild annoyance at the stupidity of audiophile life, I considered my options. Do nothing and sulk? Not the most reasonable. Go online to figure out what might be happening and if I had damaged anything?  This is my natural response...but I supressed it. Instead I visited the PS Audio site, and, even while contemplating an email to support, decided to do what I almost never do -- phone them. Well, you might call everyone and anyone, but I despise phone calls and the disembodied communication involved. Nevertheless, keen to have an answer, I dialed. What a pleasant surprise to get through to a human (Tyler? Taylor?) within a few seconds. I explained what was happening and asked what my options were. Nobody wants to hear that they need to ship a boat anchor of an amp but What I heard was far more positive. The pop was probably just the shut-off safety kicking in, if I kept the volume down on my preamp I'd not have heard it (duh!) but most likely, I had not fully seated one of the tubes. Better, no damage was likely done and I could safely try it again (volume suitably muted of course). More, this positive voice told me to go ahead and try this and to let him know..  I did, checked the seating by removing and reinserting both tubes in the right channel amp and booting up. Success. Wonderful sounds ensured. Yes, my tubes had gone to the point where the sonics were deteriorated. Better yet, a simple call had reassured me, gave me options, and solved the problem.  I called back just to say 'thank you'.  And that is why I like this company's way of dealing with customers. Kudos.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Mobile Fidelity to pay up for fraud?

Color me surprised at the amount but MoFI, the company whose claims for an all-analog recording chain in their ultra high end vinyl releases were exposed as 'less than truthful' last year, have apparently agreed to pay $25m in settlement.  Not entirely sure how this will work but all buyers who screamed foul can return their purchases for full refund or take a 5% refund if they want to keep them. So it would seem very unlikely that MoFi end up paying out even close to that headline-grabbing sum.  No word on what the folks who bought at greatly inflated prices on the secondary market feel about all this but as always, prices will reflect this.  Most folks used to think these sounded great until they learned the facts. Fascinating stuff -- read more here

Monday, May 1, 2023

Audio Research in trouble? Maybe or maybe not.

Lots of chatter online about Audio Research filing for bankruptcy. As luck would have it, I was enjoying my AR phono stage the very evening the news broke. I think the news has been interpreted in a doom-laden manner as poatings over the weekend from those inside the company suggest the company is operating as normal and a new buyer is anticipated shortly. Check out, for example, this thread on A'gon.

Am sure there's a good story behind all this, and hopefully it will be told in the weeks ahead. For now, my fellow AR owners and enthusiasts, keep calm and listen to some music.  

Friday, April 7, 2023

MQA dead or alive?

No real dog in this fight but seems there's something afoot with MQA. According to various reports on line, the company is winding down either because it's in trouble or because it's preparing for a change of ownership.  Here's What HiFi? has on it today:

The statement from MQA reads:

"Following the recent positive reception to MQA’s latest technology (SCL6), there has been increased international interest in buying MQA Ltd. At the same time, MQA’s main financial backer is seeking an exit. In order to be in the best position to pursue market opportunities and expedite this process, the company has undergone a restructuring initiative, which includes entering into administration and is comparable to Chapter 11 in the US.

"During this process, MQA continues to trade as usual alongside its partners.

"We won't be commenting further while negotiations take place."

more here: What Hi Fi news