Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reality TV needs an LP washing show

I know, you can spend a fortune on a record cleaner, but why bother when there are real-world ways of doing this chore that cost nothing but your time (hours of your time). I'm always on the look out for new low-tech audio tips and could not resist sharing this one. Am sure there is a market for ready-made holed tea-towels after watching this. Enjoy

Monday, September 23, 2013

Linn's Anniversary table for $40k

Linn are celebrating the 40th aniversary of the launch of the Sondek LP12 in an unusual manner, a limited edtion 'whisky cask' wonder of a table made from old Highland Park barrels.  Lots of the usual self-congratulatory BS in the press release but let's not be too hard on them (there's plenty of upset folks in various audio forums already), it's just a limited edition LP12. You do get a rare 40 year old Highland bottling thrown in, which is worth a bit too, though I seriously doubt the claim by (aptly named) Mr. Tosh of Highland Park that "the density of our hand selected, Spanish oak casks has also added to the already impressive sound quality".

 Since only 40 of these tables will be released it's hard to imagine too many, if any, finding their way into reviewers' hands, though I suspect there might be some associated gatherings where the whiskey flows and people get to see/hear one. The interesting aspect here (if there is one) is the manner in which high-end audio products, deliberately designed to be limited in production, can generate investment-style interest from collectors. Will we see these products in auction houses in years to come fetching six figure sums? I think it unlikely but one never knows.

Personally, I never owned an LP12 but I have watched friends wrestle through ownership, constantly worried about set up and upgrades. I used to laugh to myself at folks getting their annual 'tune-up' at a Linn dealer in the UK as the 'trained' Linn expert handed it back, packed up, telling the owner to be careful driving it home as the settings were sensitive! Perhaps it was me that over-sensitive, I opted for a Rega. I am partial to a drop of Highland Park though and can see how a special bottling of this might help ease the tension when that bouncing table doesn't spring quite right.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Living la vida reservada

Quiet times at our house as my amp is being repaired and my Von Schweikert VR5SEs are somewhere between Texas and California, en route to VSA HQ for upgrading to the Anni II level. Sure I have other speakers in other rooms but it's not the same. Even the SVS Ultra Towers I had in for review have been returned so I got to thinking about what I would do if I had to start again. It's actually a nice thought experiment as I am relearning what my living room looks like when it has space in the front wall instead of cables, towers, and associated clutter.

Rather than spend good money on speakers that would only be replaced when my Vons return (I always wanted to try a pair of the Revel Salon2s or Studio2s, many of which are finding their way to A'gon these days at attractive prices), I've started to wonder about headphones. And of course, when an audiophile wonders, he finds himself on line reading the collected wisdom, ramblings, and gibberish of other audiophiles. Turns out, head-fi folks (for that is what they sometimes call themselves) are as mad as the rest of us. In fact, given the demographic, I wonder if this sub-group of listeners is even more afflicted. Am used to people with no experience of expensive gear trashing the idea of cables or exotica making any difference, but when I read that the one pair of headphones that I do own (a basic Sennheiser EC350) is described as very detailed, balanced, and high end, I wonder if the warm, mid-bass heavy sonics I hear when I wear them are what these people could possibly be describing, and if they have ever heard  a great stereo or even live music?

And why do owners of one type of headphone seem to act like it's a competition? I know audiophiles love the idea of a bargain, and are susceptible to the suspicion that most high end companies (save the ones whose products they've bought) are out to milk customers, but really, it's possible to like more than one pair of speakers. In headphone-land, such largesse seems seriously disruptive (unless you are selling). And what's with the idea of selling old stuff that's been sitting on your head.....thanks folks, but why does nobody mention the sweat/oil and general unsanitary nature of phone usage when selling their 'barely used' old phones? Is cleaning never an issue? Thanks but no thanks, I think I'll get something new myself.

So, am hoping RMAF has enough samples to give me a taste of the high end phone world (and a selection of wipes). Yes, a dedicated amp is required, I expect this, but I really do want to experience the differences between STAX and the top of the line Beyers and Senns or HiFiMan etc. It's the Stax that have me most intrigued, but then, I am intrigued but yet to be very impressed by Martin Logans or Maggies too, despite their supporters' zeal. Audiophila....you just have to give in and go with the flow.  Meanwhile, those warm 350s are beckoning....

Monday, September 9, 2013

Transparent cables open online store

In another nod to the changing face of audio retailing, cable manufatcturer Transparent now sells most of its cables direct through its new online store. Dealer-only sales remain for some catalog items. What's different here is that by purchasing online, you are also connected with the nearest Transparent dealer in case you need further assistance or wish to upgrade in the future. Nice idea, we'll see how well it works.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Amp back and amp out for repair: when an experiment is not covered by warranty

I received my repaired monoblock from Spectron this week. All works fine. Sadly, it now is also obviously louder than the other half of the pair and causes a balance shift in my soundstage. Back and forth with Spectron suggests that it's probably my other mono that is not performing to spec as the repaired one was tested at the factory. Long story short, my 'conditioner experiment' likely damaged both monos, and while the second one seemed ok, it actually is not firing on all six, as we say. So, a repaired one is back and now I have to send the other back to be brought up to spec. Annoyingly, I am told this repair will not be covered under warranty -- not sure why, something to do with my ''experimenting" with a conditioner, even though the first repair was covered. Can't win here. I'll get these back working as a pair sometime in October I suppose -- lesson learned, but I am starting the search for some new amps. I'll skip any further conditioner reviews for now, thank you very much.