Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rattle, the Berlin Philharmonic, Direct to Disk...

Spectacular effort here it would seem, and a price to boot - nearly 500Euro - but surely a 6 LP signed set that many will cherish. Too rich for my wallet, sadly, but if you have the resources and the love, why not? More here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's all in the wood...why a classic violin sounds like it does

Seems some of the magic of Stradivari violins lies in certain chemical treatments used in the woods back then. More in the NYT science section today:

Friday, December 16, 2016

Genesis announces Maestro

Gary Koh is a deep thinker, and an original one, so when he announces a new product, I tend to take notice. I know, who needs another $30k speaker right? Well....need is rarely the same as want and I'd love to hear these in my room anytime.  Multiple drivers front and rear, built in amplification and tweaking make this a speaker that can adjust to your room rather than the other way round.

 “A new design for the G5 was probably what I’ve been most requested for,” said Mr. Gary Leonard Koh, CEO and Chief Designer of Genesis. “Even from owners of the G5.3! There are many who love the form factor, and how it will fit into a small room. I’ve resisted because why mess with something already great? But after more than 10 years, I guess it’s time.”
“So, how do I re-design what I thought was already a classic and the speaker that got me to fall in love with the brand in the first place –the Genesis V? I already had some new ideas from developing the 5-way crossover in the G-Force launched in 2015, so it took less to persuade me to start a re-design. Still, it took the better part of 2 years.”
“Having listened carefully to the feedback from our loyal end users, many of the greatly admired sonic characteristics and features of its predecessors – the Gen V, G500, G501, and G5.3 – have been reincorporated into the new Mæstro, but updated with the latest technology,” said Mr. Koh. “A ‘no compromises’ approach has been taken to ensure that this speaker can be incorporated into any number of situations producing nothing less than spectacular results. One of the features most requested was the four woofers in the 1994 Genesis V. It’s a bit of an over-kill, but I relented anyway for the 2017 Maestro.” 
The Mæstro is a 5-way loudspeaker with two Genesis Ring-Radiator Ribbon Tweeters (front and back), a single 4.5-inch solid Titanium-cone midrange driver, two 6.5-inch aluminum mid-bass couplers and four 8-inch woofers with an integrated 500W servo-controlled bass amplifier.
The Mæstro features the Genesis Acoustic Suspension system so that it can be used on the many types of flooring encountered throughout the world – including uneven natural stone tiles, smooth granite, deep pile carpet, and suspended wooden floors.  Stainless steel spikes and a suspension frame hold the loudspeaker rigidly for best imaging and bass control. Neoprene decouplers act like shock absorbers, making sure that the cabinet is not affected by floor-borne vibrations.
The three sections of the loudspeaker – midrange/tweeter, midbass coupler and woofers – are housed in three separate cabinets with separate crossovers in each. The result is improved midrange clarity, a cleaner and tighter bass, more precise and pin-point image, and a holographic soundstage.
 “As part of our efforts towards a more family-friendly loudspeaker, the Mæstro will be featured in beautiful real-wood veneers. In the initial launch, we will offer ebony and rosewood veneers a rich, high-gloss finish” said Ms. Carolyn Koh, COO of Genesis. “The larger sweet-spot of the Mæstro means that the wife and kids will no longer be relegated to the ‘cheap seats’ when listening to music at home. It should be noted that the original Genesis V was released at $14,500 in 1995. Time and inflation has taken its toll and the new Maestro with 20 years of improvements and upgrades will retail at a recommended US$30,000 plus taxes” continued Ms. Koh.

The Genesis Mæstro will be available through authorized Genesis dealers and distributors worldwide Spring 2017. Complete specifications for the Genesis 5-series Mæstro loudspeaker can be found at

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

NME reports vinyl outselling downloads

Might be that nothing much is selling but it makes for interesting reading in the light of vinyl's near death experience 20 years ago. Here's the story

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bryston turntable - setting the standard

I had two very enjoyable months to experience the Bryston BLP-1 turntable, and the review is now live at HiFi'Zine.  Any chance they'd make a decent ultrasonic cleaner at a reasonable price next?

Next up, I have a set of power cords from IceAge Audio and Bybee's RCA connectors that have been interfacing with my Spectron amps, both raising interesting questions about value and tweaks. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Why Paypal makes sense

Without paypal, deals involving checks and wiring of funds run huge risks. Check out this rather scary account of a deal gone wrong on A'gon 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

You know you want to touch..

Leaving aside the possible magnetic interference problems for cartridges, this is eye catching and you can pledge on Kickstarter - only $780 if you pledge now.

Samsung acquires Harman International

Not sure what it will mean for Mark Levinson and Revel or JBL speakers. but at $8bn, Samsung are going for it.
Samsung Electronics and Harman International Industries, Incorporated today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Samsung will acquire HARMAN for $112.00 per share in cash, or total equity value of approximately $8.0 billion.  Upon closing, the transaction will immediately give Samsung a significant presence in the large and rapidly growing market for connected technologies, particularly automotive electronics, which has been a strategic priority for Samsung, and is expected to grow to more than $100 billion by 2025 
 Customer Benefits and Significant Growth Opportunities
• Audio:  HARMAN’s leading brands and cutting-edge audio systems include JBL®, Harman Kardon®, Mark Levinson®, AKG®, Lexicon®, Infinity®, and Revel®.  The company also licenses Bowers & Wilkins® and Bang & Olufsen® brands for automotive.  All of these brands will greatly enhance the competitiveness of Samsung’s mobile, display, virtual reality and wearable products to deliver a fully differentiated audio and visual experience for customers.

Full release HERE 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Audioengine new HD3s enter the market

As noted with the Edifiers below, the small speaker market is hot and Audioengine seem to be intent on adding further fuel with the release of their HD3s.

Wireless (bit with a wired option), digital or analog connections, headphone jack, powered, portable and not bad looking either! $399 a pair shipped, sales tax included too as far as I can tell. How's that for keeping it simple?

My experience with their B2 model last year suggests that you get big sound and good reliability from this manufacturer, so these do look interesting.  It's a good time to be shopping for small speakers.  Find out more here.

  • Built-in stereo power amplifiers
  • High-fidelity Bluetooth® with aptX® + extended range
  • USB computer audio input
  • Front panel headphone output + volume control
  • Custom Kevlar woofers and silk tweeters
  • Detachable magnetic speaker grills
  • Hand-built cabinets with furniture-grade finishes
  • Available in Walnut, Cherry, and Satin Black

Monday, November 14, 2016

Edifier offer stereo, powered pair of speakers for $69

The market for cheap speakers is a bit like the wild west, with some companies aiming to be the cheapest decent shot in town. Elac made a big splash in the last year, justifiably from what I heard at RMAF but I was surprised to receive the announcement from Edifier that they are releasing a pair of active speakers for $69.  Specs are a little vague (corrected by a clever reader below, thanks Charles,  I got this wrong) on their website but having found their entry level headphones to be quite decent, albeit a bit warm, I have to wonder how low prices can go for anything sounding half decent? Oh, and that price includes shipping!  Just in time for the holidays.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

New album by Jerome Sabbagh and colleagues

Jerome Sabbagh's The Turn release was my favorite jazz album of the year in 2015 and he's back with a new release, Lean. And it is a bit leaner, lacking the great guitar contributions of Ben Monder, but the atmosphere remains lively and experimental here (and includes Electric Sun, a track that will be familiar to lovers of The Turn).  This is not easy listening in some ways but then again, if you're like me and enjoy music that breaks from predictable forms and considers space a partner in the musical landscape, there's so much that's easy to enjoy here. Give it a listen. Better yet, buy it and support the work of artists who are willing to follow a truly original path. Now this is jazz.


Friday, October 21, 2016

A.J Conti- RIP

I was saddened to learn today of the sudden passing of A.J. Conti, founder of BASIS Audio.  I only ever had email exchanges with him but found him enormously helpful and polite, even as I queried him on an old design of his I was considering buying second hand off Ebay. Not only did he confirm a detail on the table, he actually told me who the previous owner was and how the table compared to his newer designs.  The story of how he demanding he was of the belt tolerances on his tables that he took over the manufacture himself when his supplier baulked at the requirements, has become lore.

You can read more over on TAS but this is very sad news for his family and the audio industry. A great gentleman has left us.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bryston BLP-1 spinning happily

Bryston shipped me one of their new turntables last week and the timing could not have been better as I'd been missing my records. The BLP-1 is a tidy, lightweight design that comes with a solid platter, installed arm, external power supply/speed controller, a record weight, and a hinged dustcover. I had it out of the box and a cartridge installed in less than 1 hour of unhurried and careful work, of which at least some of this time was making sure I maintained the packing materials in an order that would make safe return shipping a breeze come the time. This was probably the simplest new table set up I've experienced since the my days with a Rega 3.

In fact, comparisons with the Rega are not too far removed in some ways. The BLP-1 embodies the philosophy of rigid,  non-resonant lightweight construction with a built in belt-drive motor. What you are getting here for the nearly $4k price is a high-torque motor that gets up to speed quickly and maintains it. The costs also seem to have gone into a hardened bronze bearing, 35mm Delrin platter and a decent tonearm, manufactured for Bryston to their design by Goldnote of Italy. 

Having only a Sumiko Pearwood Celebration II cartridge on hand, itself a $2800 cartridge while I waited for a sample of Charisma Audio's re-bodied Denon 103 to pair with the BLP-1, I naturally had to mount it and give the player a spin. And I'm glad I did. From the first bars of Bucky Pizzarelli and Bud Freeman's Buck and Bud LP, it was clear there was something good happening here. The music flows from this table, with plenty of detail and upper-end life, a very musical mid-range and, surprisingly (I suppose) solid bass. I say 'surprisingly' as it's hard to shake the impression of one's eyes -- a lightweight table is going to sound, well, 'light' is it not? OK, acknowledge the power of one's sight to color one's hearing and try to listen more closely. This table does not make lightweight music, oh no, it has balance, air and resolution to go with the midrange body that makes music come alive for me.

For the last few nights I've been spinning record after record with tremendous enjoyment and am beginning to really get a sense of this table. I still think the arm looks and feels a bit light, and the pressure fit counterweights (with allen screw lock down) would seem like a slightly imprecise way to adjust weight (my years with the SME V have spoiled me) but routine use has shown how expectations can be challenged by the evidence of thoughtful design. Re-checking everything this morning I find all the settings made last week remain, the arm lift works precisely and cleanly, the motor gets up to speed fast, and the table just continues to sound as good as it should for the price. Indeed, as it sits this weekend on a Minus-K platform with a near $3k phono cartridge, feeding an ARC Ref2SE phono stage, the B-LP1 is delivering the type of sonic goods that this partnering gear demands.  Don't think this one is going to be outclassed easily.

OK, this is only a taster, a full review will come when I've had a few more weeks with this and had a chance to install the Charisma cartridge but early impressions suggest that there's a new contender on the block for a one-stop, easy to set up, good sounding analog rig.  Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

For everything else, there's Bryston

Well, with my continuing challenge actually getting a meaningful response from Origin Live or Artisan Fidelity for the wonky arm sold as new and now back there for warranty repair (documented here) I've been at a loss for music.  Imagine my delight then that James Tanner of Bryston offered their new BLP-1 turntable for review. A starker contrast in service is hard to imagine, so of course I accept. Table incoming next week. Any suggestions for a suitable cartridge people would like to hear with this $4k table? Meanwhile, here's a glimpse.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

MusicMatters announces final line up of releases

When the MusicMatters releases started appearing a couple of years ago, I was sort of lukewarm about some of the albums being issued as I already had copies of a few. Then I bought one and was so taken with the quality of the complete package, from sound to packaging, that I ended up buying them all. Ron and co have announced that they are embarking on a final set of 13 titles before winding the series down and I've subscribed in advance. Thad Jones and Lee Morgan kick of the new releases in October, find out more here

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cambridge Audio on the British Sound

Ever wondered what is meant by the term 'the British sound'?  Well, this won't really help but it's got plenty of cultural refs to Daleks, the Beatles and tea.  Marketing eh...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Reviews Interrumpitur

The ongoing problems with my Origin Live tonearm, bought new from Artisan Fidelity, have caused a disruption on many fronts review wise. I cannot run my ARC phono stage to the required 600 hours without a functioning table, and that's impacted some power cords, a tonearm lift and platter mat  I've in for review. Check the ongoing Artisan Fidelity page here for the full story but let's just say, in my view any component bought new should come with an assurance that it works or will be replaced instantly from the dealer or the manufacturer. Not everyone seems to share that view however. Pity I don't write for a mainstream mag, am sure I'd get looked after a little better then.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Another cable interface option - the Muse from Tara

It seems several companies now offer various add-on connectors that sit at the cable/component interface. High Fidelity cables caught my attention first, and then I received an invitation to review the Bybee RCA adapters (currently warming up in my ARC phono stage for review). Today I hear another announcement, this time from TARA Labs who offer their own spin on this, the Muse. To quote from the press release:

"Using The Muse Interface, RFI/EMI is dissipated and absorbed within the Muse technology. This function occurs in isolation from the signal conductors. The signal path is not cut and fitted with additional components. The Muse Interface is extremely effective in eliminating the noise of RFI/EMI without the attendant high-frequency anomalies of filter networks. This translates into a sound that is closer to live than ever before."

$795 a pair (but neater than those big bulky boxes from you know who....). Seems there's a new product category. No, I haven't heard them. More info at the TARA page

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Give to CARE, get gear....Cable Co show the way

This year, there are more than a few products available and if you purchase some from over 50 companies, your full cost ends up as a donation. Yep, not just the regular 50% to CARE but the full sales amount. How do they do this? Well, commitment from partnering manufacturers seems to be the key. 
The hi-end audio industry tend to get lots of brickbats for its pricing and occasional imaginative use of science, but credit where it's due. The Cable Co has annually worked with manufacturers on a fund-drive for CARE, whereby sales  during August generate revenues that in part are donated to the charity. This year is no different, regular audiophiles seem to have come to expect it, but it seems worthy of our renewed attention. 

See the details here
Fancy some new cables? Better yet, a new table from Rega or SOTA, or maybe an Audioquest Dragonfly new edition? Buy it this month and all your money goes to a great cause.  Well done all involved in this. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Little Fwend tonearm lifter

Looks like a very elegant solution to an ongoing vinyl usage challenge, getting the arm off the record without leaving your seat - now from Little Fwend Love to give one a try but $250? Is this what is meant by audiophila being a relentless engagement with first-world problems?

LITTLE  FWEND from on Vimeo.

UPDATE -- Lasse from Little Fwend has offered to send me one to check out....I'll let you know how it works when I get it. Thanks Lasse!

Friday, June 24, 2016

For cryo-ing out loud!

Never quite understood the fanatical desire for cryo-ing cables or components but I know there are real believers out there. Thought of this again when I stumbled across a new cord company (well, new to me), IceAge Audio.  Here's a cord and cable producer that is pretty clear on what goes in to the design and even offers you the chance to build it yourself if you want to save some money. That said, at the prices they charge, I don't see much cost in paying for it all done and delivered.  I was suitably intrigued to ask Rick and Brodie to supply me a cord for review and so, watch this space, one or two are on the way, where I'll be able to compare them to a few other brands I have on hand. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Paypal Inflation?

Since when did using PayPal incur a 4% fee? I always calculate it at 2.9% +30c, or whatever PP lists on their site. But more than few sellers on various audio lists now request 4% for using this service. Is this to cover their own incurred costs? And I've had more than a handful of sellers point me at their own excellent feedback attesting their honesty while suggesting I use the 'gift' option if the fees are to be avoided! No irony there for sure.  Welcome to the reputation economy.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

What fundamentalists want to do to music listeners

So a group of folks in a record store in Istanbul want to have a listening party for Radiohead's release. Apparently they violated someone's ideas of what can and cannot be done during certain calendar periods.  Warning - this contains subtitles (you can defeat, but you should read) which, if accurate, tell you all you need to know:

Fancy a little hologram with your vinyl, sir?

Cool effects....not so sure about the music:

Monday, June 13, 2016

If you regret selling yours CDs, get 'em back

Instant collection for sale on eBay, local pick up only. So this is what 20,000 cds in a pile looks like:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Salk lauch their Desert Island speaker

 News of a handsome  new speaker from Salk, -- always welcome to me given my experience of their qualities. And at a sweet price point too:
The Song3 is a vented 3–way member of the Song loudspeaker family. For an accurate, low distortion treble response, the Song3 employs RAAL Advanced Loudspeakers’ select model 64-10 tweeter coupled to a 4th order crossover network. The 4" midrange driver, with a bamboo fiber reinforced cone and neodymium magnet, is complemented by a 7.5", low distortion high sensitivity woofer with an Egyptian papyrus cone. The speaker’s nominal impedance is an easy to drive 8 Ohms, with an 88 decibels (dB) sensitivity. Despite the slender, decor friendly design, the Song3 achieves a frequency response of 33 Hz to 40 kHz, ±3 dB. The dimensions of each tower is 9.5" wide and 42" in height. Front to back depth is 14.5", and the weight of an individual speaker is 70 pounds. The suggested minimum recommended power is 50 watts per channels. 
Jim Salk, founder and chief designer, is always concerned with balancing capability and cost. Believing that great sound shouldn’t require great expense, Salk initially thought that the design mandate was a contradiction. When asked to design a great 3–way for under $3000, he thought that it couldn’t be done. Now, with advances in driver design “…and our increased manufacturing proficiency, we have delivered an uncommonly smooth and neutral speaker with seamless integration of the carefully chosen components. It plays remarkably low and, as one critic mentioned, throws one heck of a wide and deep soundstage thanks in no small part to the ribbon’s outstanding transient response.”

Per pair pricing for the Song3 is $2895 for the standard curly maple, curly cherry and curly walnut, plus oak, straight mahogany and satin black finishes. Hardwood trim, custom colors and dyed finishes are also available as an option, as are crossover component and bi–wiring upgrades.
For additional information visit SalkSound dot com.

Monday, May 23, 2016

German Physiks back in the US

Was pleased to learn that speaker manufacturer par excellence, German Physiks, have settled on new distribution in the US so it might now be easier to hear these wonderful speakers. Distinctive Stereo of NJ are now handling these speakers in the US and Canada. More information will be available when the website is updated but as I've often said, the German Physiks sound is among the most natural and engaging I've heard at shows over the years so am hoping I get a chance to hear more of their line in the future. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The price of old vinyl....worse than you think?

Sort of surprised to see an early Rollins Saxophone Colossus reaching past the $2k mark on the Bay yesterday. And guess what, not play graded but examined and considered good by looking at it under a light!  Makes those MusicMatters reissues a positive bargain really. Maybe I am just too naive to get it but more likely, I realize now I am really never going to be a serious collector.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Vinyl taking over my life

OK, the Artisan Fidelity is in the house and I don't think I've played a CD for a fortnight as it's been a complete LP fest. I knew this was happening anyway since I starting picking up the Musicmatters Blue Note releases for the last couple of years, despite my doubts about paying nearly $40 for new records. I don't regret this (at least, not until I start to add up the total costs) as the signs are that these releases are close to being sold out and anyway, they mostly sounded fabulous. I'm generally a listener to older music anyhow, so most of my purchasing is for used LPs. In Austin there's a decent supply in various stores (Breakaway is my current fave) but it's always good to learn about new suppliers.

Am hearing positive things right now about Analog Spark, who self-describe as:
 "a new audiophile imprint that is focused on the reissue of classic and acclaimed albums on 180-gram vinyl and SACD. We are using the best available sources, mastering engineers and pressing plants to ensure that our releases are of the highest quality. By doing this, we hope to build a lasting relationship and dialogue with our audience -- so that each time they purchase an Analog Spark release, they will have musical curation and quality that they can trust."

I've not heard a release yet but I'm definitely tempted by one or two of their current listings.  More as we go.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Any heavily used phono cartridges for sale?

If you peruse the audio lists such as AudioMart (the US Audiomart, not to be confused with the other Audiomart) or Audiogon  with the idea of grabbing a high-end piece for a mid-level price, you generally trust that most used goods still work pretty well and that you can make a reasonably informed decision based on the description, the pictures and the seller’s feedback. This is generally true for most audio goods, but I have to wonder about phono cartridges.

Of all the components in your rig that can wear out or generally hide abuse, the stylus has to be top contender.  Most sellers cannot reproduce a close up picture, and then, there’s no knowing if anyone’s idea of sounding fine is the same as yours. However, you almost never see a cartridge for sale that has anything other than a claimed moderate hours of use. Now you’d think, if there was any measure of use that could be applied to a cartridge it would be number of hours, and some folks (like me) use a counter to maintain an accurate estimate of usage. I found that no matter how reliable I believed my estimates to be, only by using a real counter, situated next to my table, was I able to really know my use (which turns out to be quite stable over time and actually fewer hours than I imagined).

Perusing A’gon today (just because) I see many fine cartridges available at prices that attract interest. Fancy an Air Tight PC-3 at 25% off? Only used for ’20 hours’ apparently.  Those spins cost the owner $67 an hour!  Lyra Atlas with ‘very low’ hours. Turns out this ‘low’ means 167 hours, discounting the price nearly $6k, or $34 per hour of use thus far. Some people are giving their gear away, right?

Then there’s the not quite so precise listings, which are the majority. Many listings are for cartridges with ‘low’ hours, ‘barely used’ or are ‘not even broken-in’. One wonders why people are so keen to sell if they’ve not actually heard what the cartridge will sound like when properly settled. Maybe there is a class of audiophile who buys expensive cartridges, gives them a few hours on their deck, then takes a loss by selling them at a discount just to repeat the cycle. No, I didn’t think so either.

Of course, there’s another class too. These are the sellers who don’t actually have a clue how long the cartridge they are selling has left in it. This gets fudged a lot with comments like ‘looks to have little or no wear’ or ‘the guy who sold it to me told me it had low hours’. Convincing, eh?  Do these people ever wonder why their listings run and run?  Does anyone ever sell a cartridge that’s had 1500 hours on it but still sounds ok? Apparently not, but you can read people who claim they found a 20 year old, apparently unused cartridge in the back of their closet when tidying up.

All to say - it would be great if people selling cartridges could keep more accurate hours of usage, or if there were some reliable ways to show cartridge life. I keep telling myself the only sure way is to buy new but the pricing of those Dynavectors and Ortolans that I want to give a try in my own room are in the pain zone, so the used market it has to be. And of course, I sell my used cartridge when the time comes, so what am I complaining about? Yeah, but I’m trustworthy right? And my estimates of usage are spot on.   But that little accident I had with the Clearaudio Concerto cantilever.....hey, accidents happen right? You’d never have known there was damage until the whole thing fell off a couple of plays later.  Caveat emptor.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

B&W acquiired by start-up

There were some groans when Thiel changed hands, now comes that news that longstanding UK speaker company, Bowers and Wilkins has been bought by a US group.  Audioholics reflects the tenor of much of this reporting:

B&W Purchased by Silicon Valley Startup: Cheers or Tears?: It's one of the most lopsided company acquisitions in recent history. An historic hi-fi speaker manufacturer B&W; with over 1000 employees was bought by a Silicon Valley startup with barely a website.
who says there's no money in hi-end?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Maybe it's time to rethink the vinyl is always better argument?

 "If people like to listen to vinyl, do so, enjoy life. But don't say that the sound is better."  A fascinating discussion with audio and production engineers on what we really can record and hear; you can read this LA Weekly feature here.   What say you, PONO owners?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Good summary and intro to Axpona Coverage

OK, two talking heads can wear thin if you try to watch the whole thing through (sorry Peter and Dave) but this gives you a good overview of Axpona and a link into other specific reviews. Though please note -- they incorrectly mention the VSA room using Synergistic cables, not so, it's the Delphi cable that VSA sells. Otherwise,  enjoy

Bennett still the boss!

Had the pleasure of attending Tony Bennett's gig last night here in Austin. I can't say I was ever the biggest fan of the crooning ballad form but let's face it, Tony's the man. He's been there and done it, several times over, playing with some of the greatest jazz musicians of the last century. Well, he's 89, a little more fragile looking of late, and he has to pace himself through songs but when he hit's the stage, you can feel the energy coming through.

Last night he played with a quartet of top guys, including wonderful guitarist Gray Sargent (who was new to me) and Harold Jones on drums, repeatedly described as 'Basie's favorite drummer', and you could hear why. The band opened up proceedings with as short set of instrumental standards commencing with Stella by Starlight,  everyone getting a brief solo along the way, before the man himself stepped out to rapturous applause. Ok, he knows how to milk the moment, from using an old tape of Sinatra eulogizing him, through to hanging in the spotlight pretending to be overwhelmed by the audience, but it's all good theater.

He whipped through a set of songs he's known for, some almost at breakneck pace given his age, a particularly lively 'I got rhythm' comes to mind, and of course he brought the house down with 'San Francisco', before ending with a microphone-less rendition of Fly me to Moon.. The only thing missing was a tribute to Prince, but that would have taken him off script and if nothing else, this performance was heavily scripted. Nonetheless, he's a showman, has a great band, and he knows how to entertain. Catch him while you can.

Friday, April 15, 2016

PranaFidelity fifty90s review now live on the 'Zine

I enjoyed the last few months with the excellent PranaFidelity fifty90s, a monitor that sounds like a floorstander. You can read the review in HifiZine.

These make a great pairing with the Raven Blackhawk actually, which the specs might not suggest but it's great to find two of the smaller company products that match so well. Of course, both also produce far more expensive models and these offer pairing possibilities I'd love to hear.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

North Carolina audiophiles hit by sales ban over HB2

Hard to argue with the stand of some companies and musicians over what's happening in NC with their bathroom and birth-cert nonsense, HB2. Headphone manufacturer 1More now say they won't sell their products in NC. Good for them, not so good for some customers unfortunately.
Is it a surprise that a headphone company takes a lead here? Let's see how some of the more traditional companies serving the richer, older demographic of audiophiles do before we claim moral courage on the part of the industry. For now, well done 1More.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

RRHoF -- does it matter?

I really don't care for the Hall of Fame nonsense when it comes to music, it's a silly US commercial faux-award that is more about business than art, but, and it's a big but, even this slightly cynical observer was moved by Lars Ulrich's induction speech for Deep Purple -- that band really are still special. Thank you people for music, for art, for reminding us of what matters:

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Whetstone Audio hosts Devore and Well Tempered

Some dealers have a right attitude, and some dealers have the right attitude. Whetstone Audio in eastside Austin has the best attitude I've experienced in any audio dealership.  Brian and his wife host regular events to get people in to hear gear in a fun atmosphere, and they provide beer too.  Today they gave the store over to anyone interested in hearing Well-Tempered and Devore Audio demo their tables and speakers. Door always open, beer and food on the patio, vinyl in constant spin-mode, I spent a couple of very enjoyable hours listening, browsing the vinyl racks and kicking back with the amiable folks there. There was plenty of music and zero sales BS, better than most audio shows in fact.

Noteworthy were the Devore Gibbons, a rather elegant floorstanding speaker with side-firing woofers and a perhaps up-there $15,000+ price tag. They did sound good enough however, looked like they would work in most normal homes, and had a detailed but bass-rich sonic quality that surprised many folks there. John himself told me they were selling as fast as they could make them, so clearly the business end is working out for them.  I'd love to try a pair.

The Well-Tempered table (was it the Amadeus?) was specially set up with a super Dynavector arm and Kaitora Rua cartridge, which would bump up the price of that table considerably. Amplification by Leben (I believe) with a Dynavector SUT, all on very elegant Box stand.   Lots of great music, including plenty of 'old shit' as Brian put it, that the rig handled without fuss but strangely, the highlight for me (other than a totally sentimental moment listening to Bowie's last album) was Susanne Vega -- man, I never liked that music but today, on this rig, the mood just caught us all up in a collective moment of intense resonance. I never heard that sound so good, and I asked myself why I had been so dismissive of this music in the past. Guess I just never heard it right.

Hard to say enough good things about this gathering. The crowd were relaxed, the space was cool, with a totally easy going vibe that runs counter to the snobbishness that often accompanies audio demos.  Turn up, tune in and experience audio gear in a way that is likely going to make you feel included. If only others would follow suit.  If you get to Austin and have a passing interest in audio gear, make a point of visiting Whetstone -- this is a space that makes me smile. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

State of the used vinyl market -- Discogs report

Ever wondered what sells the most on Discogs? Know how many people own a copy of that Aphex Twin rarity you covet or what price your spare copy of Dark Side of the Moon might fetch? The creative folks there have summarized the state of the market for 2015 in an interesting, downloadable report. Check it out here:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cary Audio now goes direct

I know they've been selling some discounted units on site for awhile, but this morning I received the official press release to the effect that Cary Audio now has online sales for their entire product line -- though it also includes dealerships, but they will not be called this anymore. Confused? Welcome to the new world of audio retail....

Cary Audio is pleased to announce the launching of CaryDirect (, a direct to consumer webstore, in conjunction with a new dealer program that assimilates dealers into the direct to consumer model.
CaryDirect ( is an online e-commerce webstore encompassing our entire product catalog, making it available directly to consumers. With the changing landscape of brick and mortar showrooms, CaryDirect will offer free shipping and a 30-day return guarantee allowing customers to experience risk-free in-home evaluations of Cary Audio products. 
While our model will be direct-to-consumer, CaryDirect is actually a hybrid model which takes great care to include our current dealer base into the direct to consumer model. Our dealers will now be called Cary Retail Reps or Cary Brokers and will continue to play a key role, as much or as little as they choose. The model incentivizes Cary Retail Reps to continue to have demonstration product on display for sales and promotional purposes within their local markets. Our goal is to make the Cary Audio buying experience transparent and consistent for the end-user customer. This program not only supports our past dealers, but will also generate a much larger base of new Cary Retail Reps and Cary Brokers that can profit from our hybrid model, which is more in-line with how they prefer to do business in today’s market. This is a win, win, win for our customers, dealers, and Cary Audio.
CaryDirect ( is only available in the U.S. and countries where there is no Cary Audio representation. Customers in countries where there is current distribution will be directed to the appropriate contact person for that country. For more information on CaryDirect and/or our new Cary Retail Rep or Cary Broker program, please contact Cary Audio at, or by phone at 919-867-4333.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Artisan Fidelity update and the Platterspeed app

Well, email this week confirmed what I expected, unforeseen problems causing a further delay. In this case it's a finish problem that necessitates some stripping back and refinishing of the plinth. Glad to have it taken care of now but it's par for the course given comments from other owners of Artisan tables.

Still, gives me time to tweak my SME to the utmost. Talk online of various speed checking apps left me unhappy with the output of the IRM app on my iPhone so I looked into the Dr. Feickert free app. It's great but you need to feed it a 3150hz frequency. Despite its supposed prevalence, only one of the several test records I own has this: the Analogue Productions Ultimate Test LP (side note, does it strike anyone else how limited most of the tracks on these LPs are for normal users, i.e., those without dedicated test equipment; purchase such LPs with caution despite their claims for utility).

Anyway, the free Dr. Feickert Platterspeed app takes a listen to your system as you play the track produces a summary image. Here's mine after several rounds of tweaking. It's amazing how much variation is induced by small changes. Am fairly sure that tables need to warm up a bit and stabilize or you can get variation there too.  And of course, the accuracy of your phone or iPad mic is likely to matter too. Try as I may, I could not get it dead on 3150hz, only slightly below and a large bit above....but when I checked with the good Dr, I received a reply that the numbers were so close that it was unlikely there was a living person who could discriminate further. Good enough for me and a fun app. Am going to try on any table that comes my way to see what sort of variation is out there.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Crowd sourcing vinyl releases? Meet Feedbands

Feeedbands invites input, options to learn about bands and the chance to influence releases. Musicians get to retain rights. The music releases right now don't particularly appeal to me but that's a matter of taste; the concept is great. Find out more at

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Potential Audioquest Rigged Demo Exposed

Potential Audioquest Rigged Demo Exposed: Audiophile drama is unfolding as an Audioquest HDMI cable demo,  showing unrealistic changes in sound, was seemingly debunked as fraudulent by Mark Waldrep, Dr. AIX.  It's a bit more complicated than it might appear but read both sides at the link above.

Btw -- Audio Advisor is having a decent sale on Audioquest cables right now!

Monday, February 1, 2016

New vinyl kickstarter....and it ain't cheap

Learned this from the always informative and entertaining Michael Fremer's Analog Planet -- a new recording project for jazz enthusiasts. Backing it could get pricey, 6 LPs cost over $300 in the first year, and from I can glean online, these are sourced from digital files so purists might be perturbed. Still, one has to admire the plan -- and it includes the artists owning their own music too. Check it out:

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Artisan Fidelity table on the way

I've been intrigued by the Artisan Fidelity tables for a long while.  For those who don't know, their tables are a melding of old parts and modern precision tooling to reveal the magic of old Lenco, Garrard and Technics engineering. Reports for the few owners are very positive, and the few comments from reviewers that have heard one confirm that these tables might be quite special. Seems odd in one sense, that something like an old idler-wheel design, discarded over time in the face of newer developments, might be repurposed and tuned up by modern tools, with a dedicated new plinth to create a mix of traditional and modern that some say is the bees knees of analog reproduction.

Well, who would not want to hear one of these creations, especially given the drop dead good looks that the Artisan Fidelity folks seem to deliver.  I mean, look at this and weep, record lovers:

As one dealer told me, you could buy an Artisan Fidelity and just give up worrying about your front-end, it would be the product to get you off the upgrade path. At the prices charged, I'd hope so but then, in audio land, tables prices like Artisan Fidelity might be considered modest in comparison to what lists for Class A in Stereophile.  Still, no one is going to buy one of these on a whim, these are tables for those who love their records. That same dealer (and a few owners) told me that Artisan's estimates of completion time are not very reliable though, and I'm here to confirm this is the case. Three months? Dream already past month four, so a reliable estimate is really more like five or six.

Personally, I like the look of the 401, it captures something of a time (late 60s, sci-fi 'new era' modernity) and the chance to hear this with a 12" arm is too much to resist, so one is coming. Chris at Artisan has even been good enough to send some pics along the way as they go through their construction process which I will be updating here. It's a slow process, we worked out the details last October after several months of back and forth, and the table is only now taking form that allows for pictures, but patience is a virtue, right.  Here's a sample.

First, pick a finish -- I love the reddish wood hues you can see on various table in the Artisan Gallery (here) so, if you have a choice in the matter, why not go for it. This is African Paduak, and in it's raw form starts like this, shown on right.

Of course, once coated, it will take on the lovely reddish hue found in their finished plinths, and for me it strikes the right mix of classic, traditional and slightly modern. Hey, it's all in the eyes of the perceiver, right?. Artisan Fidelity can do a range of finishes, covering numerous veneers and motor car gloss style painted surfaces. I suspect you only have to ask if they don't have something that catches your eye.

Plinth under construction:

Taking shape:

My choice of table is the 401, which to me has the near-perfect look that I prefer to the 301 model -- no logic here, this is purely my taste:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

BENQ treVolo portable electrostatic speaker

I've been having some fun recently with wireless speakers, using them to connect to my laptop, phone and iPads via Bluetooth for music and radio around my home and on the deck, in settings where my normal gear just does not go. BENQ's treVolo is an interesting alternative to the boxy designs of most, presenting an electrostatic, wing-flap design that looks as cute as it sounds.

The electrostatic 'wings' can fold back for storage but when opened allow space for the passive radiators. Specified as a quad-amped design with dual 2.5" front firing woofers that also has power storage for up to 12 hours of use without plugging in, the treVolo certainly is a little different. Throw in line out capability for using it as a feed to your stereo if you want to stream, and three ambience modes (pure, warm, and vivid), ability to have your phone calls routed through it, with automatic music-pausing and resumption for the call duration, and you start to appreciate how feature packed is this little design (though personally, the idea of telephone calls coming through my speakers sends shivers of horror up my spine!).   There's an app available too to change ambience mode and check battery power.

So, that's the basic structure, all wrapped up in small package a little over 6" tall, 5" deep and, with the electrostatics opened up, about 11" wide. Of course, all this is irrelevant to audio fans if the sound is akin to a boombox. Thankfully, what we have here is better, in fact much better than you might imagine. Whether it's the aptX Bluetooth, the active DSP crossover reportedly used or the electrostatic meets drivers combination, the package works to give you sonics to enjoy.

As you might expect from the electrostatic type design, this sonics of the treVolo are nicely airy and detailed. There's a quickness and light touch to percussion is anything but tizzy and and gives the music here a level of realism indicative of better speakers. Vocals and midrange instrumental details come through cleanly. Bass is certainly present but clearly not where this speaker is going to win most admirers. That said, the right recordings indicate that what's provided is well articulated and definitely not a single-note boom.  The Tsuyoshi Trio's Midnight Sugar sounds lively and real, with the stand up bass having real body and detail.  As you might imagine however, this is a speaker that does acoustic jazz, chamber, ambient, and vocal music better than heavy rock, its limitations being apparent on Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell, where the laws of physics make it difficult for the treVolo to deliver the punch and power required.

While the treVolo can go loud and fill a typical room, this is not where it shines. I've had it in the outside screened porch and been happy enough with it, never wanting it louder, but where it works best, in my view, is in nearfield listening. Placed on a table near my chair, controlled from my laptop while I work, this little speaker can give you an extremely pleasing, intimate listening experience that will put you off ever relying on your computers speakers again. Given this application, and the treVolo's elegant form and portability, you can handily carry it with you anywhere your computer goes for a level of sound that's really hard to argue with in such use. The lack of wires and the ability to place it anywhere makes it more enjoyable than decent headphones for me.

Another aspect of this design that works for me is the sound radiation on both sides of the panel, which results in a spatial quality to the sound that works wonderfully when the treVolo is placed on a open table in my sitting room. Moving around the room, the music sounds good in all directions, unlike small box speakers where the soundstaging can collapse when you shift position.

I have only minor quibbles with this product. The user interface is somewhat confusing, I could never remember how to reset the ambience to the mode I wanted and have it stay there when powered off. Since the power button also controls ambience setting, the light code can be confusing. And good luck if, like me,  you misplace the manual and try to locate one online. The BenQ site is one of the most unfriendly I've experienced for occasional navigation. Still, battery life is reliably long, bluetooth pairing is easy, and you can have this unpacked and playing music in a matter of minutes.

At a similar price to the Audioengine B2, it's fair to ask how it compares. I'd give the B2 the nod in terms of room-filling ability and bass quality, it just has the ability to sound much bigger than it looks,  but the treVolo is more portable and a little better sounding in nearfield use with quieter forms of music.  The BenQ also has features such as phone call pass through that also might be of value to some. It looks more dramatic too. Make the choice primarily based on your lifestyle, either will instantly elevate your computer audio experience so it's really how you wish to use them.  At $299, the treVolo is hardly an impulse buy but over several months, I've enjoyed it enough to consider it good value for my lifestyle, offering superior sound and convenience in one very attractive physical form. There really is no excuse any more for putting up with the speakers in your computer. Life is good.  More information here