Sunday, September 28, 2008

New cartridge on the Aries

Brian, the owner of Sound Mind Audio came round today to install a new Benz Wood Body SL on my original VPI Aries w/ JMW 10 arm. I traded up from a Benz Glider that had served its purpose for the last few years and right now am listening to LP after LP, enjoying the extra life and sparkle the new cartridge has brought to the chain. I'm advised to wait 150 hours before making any judgement but seriously, this new cartridge is already showing serious promise.

The beauty of LPs is partly the physical engagement with music: large sleeves, tangible sources,a real mechanically engineered device for spinning the record, a surface of grooves which a stylus intimately mates, the resulting magic of tiny vibration converted to electricity and amplified. It's a very human process.

All this would count for naught if the resulting sound was not good. With this cartridge I feel I have the kind of upper air extension only previously found on CD but with a smoothness lacking in most digital reproduction. Sure there is background noise, but as legendary English DJ John Peel memorably put it, life has background noise too. With good vinyl this background really is deep in the background. Now I just need to worry about getting a better platform for the table, my Lovan rack with self-made top shelf is just not cutting it (and it seems on A'gon there really are only a handful of platform makers out there, none of them very affrodable). But for now, am grooving.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The absolute, in reality, sound

I sat for a few minutes last night listening to an excellent string quartet (from UT Austin's School of Music) playing in an acoustically engineered conference room -- just me and them in a venue designed to allow a person in the back to speak in a normal voice and be heard by another person at the front. Yes, lots of money was spent on creating this space, part of the new AT&T conference center on campus. That aside, I confirmed in this listening what I have experienced on other occasions when I have had the chance to really listen to live playing of acoustic instruments in a public space: soundstaging is not what you imagine. Here, the quartet did sound like four players, but the music was not etched in space with clear delineation between instruments. I could hear four players, and follow individual lines, but in combination the quartet produced a ball of sound that sat over and around the players. There was no wider-than- placement soundstage, beyond the edge of the soundmakers, there was no great height to the music, it just sounded like four instrument combining in a world of sonics that fleshed out but did not unaturally expand beyond the placement of the instrumentalists on the stage. I closed my eyes and tried to invoke my set-up's reproduction, finding that the ultimate test is not detail or placement, but timbre. Real strings, played by real people, in a real room, have a palpability that makes it obvious you are listening to the real thing. My system is good in comparison, but it's clear now to me that soundstaging is not that important if you want to approach realistic reproduction, a cello sounds like a cello because of the auditory sensations it manifests when a bow is placed in physical contact with a string bound at both ends to the wood. Sound should be in the middle, not tied to location of each speaker but anything more might be recording artifice, not high fidelity.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Von Schweikert Audio Circle comes alive

Seems like there is far more interest in VSA than I thought with my last post. After having my poll linked to a topic in Audio Central, the discussion on Von Schweikert exploded, hitting 2000 views and over 90 postings in 7 days. The poll ended early in support of setting up and, as per the rules of Audio Circle, I found myself the facilitator of a new circle. Albert himself promised to join, and we've had postings form dealers and owners around the world. Interested in joining, go here:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

No interest in a VSA circle?

I asked on Audio Circle if there was interest in starting up a circle for owners of Von Schweikert speakers since my suggestion to VSA directly that they host a forum on their site was met with positive responses but no action in six months. Despite getting more than 500 views, only two people expressed interest so no joy there either (yet). There is a VSA thread on AVS Forum but it tends to deteriorate into 'my speakers are better than yours' noise too often. The Audio Circle forum is usually much better managed but the dedicated circles are quite limited, though thankfully they provide a great outlet for loyal customers of some smaller manufacturers. If interested, let me know. If we get a circle going, I'll invite Albert to join us.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wyred 4 Sound review goes live

My review of the Wyred4Sound MC4 amp goes live in the September issue of Affordable Audio. This is a bumper issue and a great example of how collective effort by committed people can yield impressive results.