Monday, January 18, 2010

Lexicon - Oppo = Oops

Buying hi-end goods often means paying a premium for build quality and packaging, along with the hoped-for sonic improvements. What you don't expect is that you are only paying for the packaging, and it seems Lexicon has been caught red-handed by an excellent review in Audioholics of their new Blu Ray player which noted the new BD-30 is nothing other than an Oppo BDP-83 lifted into a specially made outside cover. Lexcon claim that they made 'modifications' but none are visible or reported. Cue outrage on the forums and sudden revisionism in the discussion sections of published reviews. Well done Audioholics.

Home Theater Review published a rather glowing review of the Lexicon and when respondents pointed out what Audioholics had determined, they took the comments down. The beauty of the 'Net is that it's hard to kill postings and one entrepreneurial soul posted these here. It's not good news for anyone who bought the Lex and it's a little embarrassing surely for the reviewer but maybe he really did see and hear those differences because of the extra Lexicon wrapping :)

Turns out, "rebadging" is quite common in the digital player world, take a look at the images in this post on Steve Hoffman's forum (see msg#19). Somehow, honest relabelling does not seem to be at work in this Lexi-Con example. Just as it did not seem right to relabel that Phillips as a Theta. It's all well and good to call 'caveat emptor' but if you want to kill off high end, this seems a pretty foolproof way to go about it.

Lexicon have made some vague statements about their player being built off the Oppo through engineering improvements at their Indiana plant but so far have been strangely uninformative on what any of these improvements might be. Here's what a technical manager from the company posted to one forum last September before the brouhaha broke:

" Short Answer...Built in America...THX certified...Lexicon Quality and Support...Best Video...Fastest transport...Joe Kane likes it...first shipment expected in late October or early November.

· “What are the differences to the OPPO?”
o When we specified the BD-30 we focused on premium video & audio performance, fast response times, and a mechanical construction that upholds the lexicon tradition of excellence – Some parts are similar to the OPPO due to the fact we purchase subassemblies from the same contract manufacturer. We then ship this subassembly to Indiana and complete the manufacturing in the States. We load in application specific firmware

· “why does the Lexicon cost more?”
o The BD-30 is the highest performance blu-ray player available today and when you see the unit, you’ll realize that the product not only is the highest performance player, but is build to the highest standards in the USA. It is then shipped with Joe Kane’s setup disc and supported with world class customer support.

Stereophile's Kal Rubinson has apparently submitted a review on this particular model (in Dec 2009) which, due to the lag in print publishing won't appear until the March issue, so it will be interesting to see how the mainstream media react. Chris Martens Perfect Vision site is taking heat for his review, which he is gamely and politely attempting to address. Of course, at the end of the day, all this points to the problem of hi-end reviewing not being able to demonstrate that sonic differences are independent of labels and sighted auditions. Plus ca change, but it's good to have the blatantly corrupt exposed.

This one will run and run.......except maybe on Audiogon, where posts seem to be censored routinely.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

House of Representatives honors Miles Davis and Jazz

It's difficult to understand what any of this really means but it makes a change from the usual HoR divisions on matters some of us hold dear. Here's the language of last month's honor:

Honoring the 50th anniversary of the recording of the album `Kind of Blue' and reaffirming jazz as a national treasure.

  • Whereas, on August 17, 1959, Miles Davis, Jimmy Cobb, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, John Coltrane, and Julian `Cannonball' Adderley collaborated to record the album `Kind of Blue';
  • Whereas `Kind of Blue' ranks 12th on the list of the `500 Greatest Albums of All Time' published by Rolling Stone magazine;
  • Whereas `Kind of Blue' was recorded in 1959, the year Columbia Records declared `jazz's greatest year';
  • Whereas `Kind of Blue' marked the beginning of the mass popularity of jazz in the United States;
  • Whereas in 2008, the Recording Industry Association of America awarded `Kind of Blue' quadruple-platinum status, meaning 4,000,000 copies of the album had been sold;
  • Whereas in 2002, the Library of Congress added `Kind of Blue' to the National Recording Registry;
  • Whereas `Kind of Blue' was recognized as the bestselling record in the history of jazz;
  • Whereas 50 years after the release of `Kind of Blue' , MOJO magazine honored the Legacy Edition of the album by giving it the `Best Catalogue Release of the Year' award;
  • Whereas `Kind of Blue' both redefined the concept of jazz for musicians and changed the perceptions of jazz held by many fans;
  • Whereas today, the sole surviving member of the Miles Davis Sextet, Jimmy Cobb, is performing and touring with his So What Band in tribute to the 50th anniversary of `Kind of Blue' ; and
  • Whereas `Kind of Blue' continues to be the standard masterpiece of jazz for American musicians and audiences: 

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives--(1) honors the 50th anniversary of `Kind of Blue' and recognizes the unique contribution the album has made to American jazz;
(2) directs the Clerk of the House of Representatives to transmit enrolled copies of this resolution to Columbia Records;
(3) encourages the United States Government to take all appropriate steps to preserve and advance the art form of jazz music;
(4) recommits itself to ensuring that musical artists such as Miles Davis and his Sextet receive fair protection under the copyright laws of the United States for their contributions to culture in the United States; and
(5) reaffirms the status of jazz as a national treasure.