Saturday, July 25, 2009

Update on the steam cleaning process

Well, a frenzy of vinyl playing (or rather, pulling out old LP's to play and being rather disturbed by their less than pristine condition) forced my hand and I succumbed to the temptation of a steam cleaner. Today I set up the VPI 16.5, grabbed a test LP, and convinced I could do it without warping the life out of them, I proceeded to steam clean then VPI-clean (with final steam rinse) a set of old Who, Waterboys and Deep Purple albums, a mix of original old purchases from younger days and recent pick up's on e-bay. As I write, the Waterboys "Whole of the Moon" is spinning on the Aries and sounding pretty good to my ears. Put simply, I never really felt one go on the VPI did it, I ended uo doing it twice on each clean to make sure I got the benefit. The steam cleaning now replaces the double scrub, and the results seem worth it. OK, none of these LPs are audiophile wonders, but I'm never going to replace them all with new or remastered releases, and they are all recordings I still enjoy. With the new cleaning regime, I can actually enjoy spinning the LP and not feel I am gunking up my pricey new cartridge. Just don't let anyone see you do this or your sanity surely will be questioned, but then, you're an audiophile, it's probably too late anyhow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Live and loving it

Went to a couple of live acts in the past couple of weeks to replenish my ears. Two very different gigs and acts: the Brazil Guitar Duo and then Kat Edmonson. As part of the excellent Austin Chamber Music Festival this past month, The Brazil Duo played an interesting mix of classical and traditional/modern Brazilian music and are among the most fluid interplaying pair of guitarists I have witnessed in a long time (never did get to see Pass and Ellis!). The venue was a fairly large modern church and the pair played without amplification of any kind that I could discern, creating an airy but very localized soundstage which allowed you to hear each line distinctly. I'd swear I watched one of them miss the timing at one point and glance over at the other who smiled and reacted instantly to keep the groove going.

Kat's band played the back porch at Central Market (yes, even some supermarkets in Austin have live music) and it was hot, outdoors, and amplified. That said, she and the musicians created an intimate environment that allowed them all to shine. Kat's voice is distinct yet familiar - sort of Peyroux meets Holliday in places but she has the same voice when she speaks so it's no affectation. I was impressed enough with her treatment of some standards and not-so-standard tunes, including a wonderfully slowed down version of John Lennon's Starting Over, to buy her CD on the spot and it is recommended. I spoke briefly with her during the break and she is pleasant, down to earth, and easy on the eyes :)