Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jaton RC2000p preamp: lushness embodied

Jaton's Operetta RC2000P is my latest review for Affordable Audio. I quite liked it as you will see, it has an almost tube like quality to it. At $1300 it provides plenty of competition to preamps in the $2k range but Jaton Corp are offering direct deals on this line now which will bring the price down 30% further -- see Jaton's site for details. At that price, fully warrantied, you are entering the realm of bargains typically found only in the used market, but with trial and return privileges.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Metheny at the Paramount

Went to see Pat Metheny at the wonderful Paramount Theater here in Austin on his Orchestrion tour. Not having heard the new album at the time, I wasn't quite sure what to expect and Pat spent some time trying without much success to explain to the audience how it all worked. He appeared on stage alone, slowly revealing more and more of the accompanying technology surrounding him that allowed him to create the equivalent of a band: drums, synthesizers, other guitar parts, bass etc. It made for interesting visuals too, a drum kit separated out into one stick and one percussive item per frame, stacked up behind him with robotic hands pulsing out the rhythm. He mixed it up and threw in some oldies and some improvisations as well as the whole new album, and as always, he was his charming self who let his playing do most of the talking for over 2.5 hours. Great musician, great venue, decent sonics for an amplified show and a glass of wine made this a far more pleasant experience than some gigs. But, and it's a big but - throw in parking, ticket convenience fees (!), a sitter etc. and the whole evening set me back $200 for two. Live music is essential but who can afford this level of regular attendance?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Elekit amp up and running

Despite the damage to a tube outlined below, the Elekit amp building project proceeded and I'll add pics and details as I get the full story written.

The kit comes with a set of well wrapped parts which are not labelled so you have to spend a lot of time relating these to the packing list to make sure you have all the parts and can identify them accurately. I recommend a thorough review of the instructions to help you accomplish this too as the resulting amp is heavy and densely packed once assembled. Undoing a mistake will prove costly so take your time and really do it one step at a time. Despite reading a review where the the builder put the fuses on the wrong side of the main board, I also made that mistake myself. In part this results from the lack of images in the instructions but also it comes from my own failure to read it all as fully as I might.

First up, you need to separate the circuit board into several parts along precut lines to free up the main board for some resistor installations. The instructions also ask you to solder plate a couple of holes on the reverse side too. No great difficulties here but you need to be sure you get your resistor values clear and don't confuse your 47k with your 33k etc. To make this work for me, I set up a dedicated space for the project which I knew I would not complete in a day or two but which I would return to over the course of a couple of weeks.  Too much to tell in a blog entry -- I'll have the full story in a separate document soon, but rest assured, it's a working amp that's a lot of fun to use. 7 watts of tube glory and a wonderful midrange ease.  Add a pair of sensitive speakers,  a half-decent front end, all joined by some affordable cable and you have real hi-end system. Stay tuned for results.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Virtual Dynamics closes down

Everyone loves to beat up on cable manufacturers, and no doubt Virtual Dynamics fed the fire with uber-expensive lines but I was saddened to learn the company is folding due to economic pressures. In my view, any designer who thinks that applying their skills to improving audio reproduction in the home is important deserves our encouragement. The proof is in the listening but if nobody is willing to try make a better tube, a better cable, a better table or better amp, then we will all be forced to live with what we have. So once someone has developed something new, you can judge it in various ways. You might consider its price relative to others, its parts quality, its claimed benefits, its underlying science, or you might just give it a listen and decide for yourself. It is clear in audio land that just listening is never enough and, in some cases, is not even relevant to forming an opinion.  I heard VD cables and I liked what I heard. If you read around, you'll learn that I was not alone. I did not understand the application of Coulomb Friction that the designer invoked as explanation, but I do know that a set of their lower end David speaker cables made me accept, finally, that cables can make an audible difference.

Few, perhaps none, have copied this principle in their cable designs, preferring instead to work on the metal components, shielding, terminations or some combo of all three in offering their best shot at communicating the signal. What I do know is this company's approach was different, made many people think the designs mattered, and will be missed. On top of this, head honcho Rick Schultz was always a pleasure to deal with and was open to helping. Au revoir, another hi-end company bites the dust.

A footnote -- curiously, a discussion on this topic on A'gon disappeared -- not the first time I've noted this on that forum. Audio Asylum closed one discussion topic on this but left it up for review. Funnily, many people made a big deal of a web review that basically showed the parts in an entry level cable and used it to ridicule the company. I interpreted that whole cable design differently, feeling VD had deliberately put together a cheap cable based on the principles of their more expensive designs as a lure to new customers to try one and see if they would like it, and all at a cost that was entry level (around $100 I think). Well, like everything in audio, interpretation is key. For example, try this review