Sunday, November 17, 2019

That Michael Weiss kickstarter is back....get in now

A couple of months after the initial project goal was not met, Michael's stepped up to try it again. I'm in again and you should be too if you care for contemporary jazz artists and great analog sound.  Let's get this going, and thank you Michael for refusing to give up.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Trade-in value? Check this out

The eager-beavers at PSAudio, not content at moving to direct sales only, are offering perhaps the best trade-in program I can remember from a company. Full retail cost on your old gear (as long as it's working) in an effort to tempt you into new products. No doubt some will still complain but this seems to me a really attractive option, especially since they will credit you up front and give you 30 days to try their new product. Check out the video explaining the process (apparently despite approvals I can't embed but you can follow the link)

This is How You Do Trade-In from PS Audio on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Kickstarter - Michael Weiss analog tape to LP didn't make but...

Update -- despite some last min donations, the project fell a little short but don't give up. Michael is rethinking and might relaunch later. I'll share any info I get - this one is an example of the lengths living jazz musicians must go to in order to give the small audiophile community what we crave. My pledge remains.

I've meant to mention this earlier but life got in the way -- it's not to late to get involved and support this effort -- previous experience with Jerome Sabbagh's work through similar projects has been great, so if you want to support living artists not just another jazz reissue of familiar music, take a look, you won't regret it. I'm in. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Beck delivers live in Austin

Enjoyed a great performance by Jeff Beck and band at the Paramount Saturday evening. He may be getting on years but Jeff still surrounds himself (mostly) with great musicians and delivers a level of original guitar playing that is unique and powerful to witness. I tried watching his right hand but it's really impossible to capture how he does this mix of stroking, picking, and turning of knobs simultaneously to create that otherworldly soundscape. Superb.

Slight downside for me was the totally unnecessary appearance of Johnny Depp on guitar and vocals for a few songs near the end. See video proof below (though the venue did try very quickly to clamp down on anyone recording stuff). No disrespect to Johnny and another singer who also appeared (sorry, no idea who it was) but the music definitely took a backward step from there to my ears. No biggie I suppose, most people seemed happy or at least curious at all this but I'd have loved a few more tracks from Beck and the band without any special guests.  Now, if only Jeff could take some gentle wardrobe advice....

Thursday, September 19, 2019

New Miles biopic, fun but fair?

Not sure this is getting wide release but it was here in the wonderful Austin Film Society's cinema for most of a week and made sure to get there last weekend. For those who know and love Miles' music, this is a fine way to spend a couple of hours. For those new to him, I am not sure how you'll feel after watching this.

There's a school of thought that says a musician's (or artist's) output is all you need to experience, anything more is noise, PR or both. Ultimately, I agree with this but that doesn't stop me studying the lives, exploring the personalities, and the context of their work since I feel it brings me deeper into the experience of the art form. And yes, I do spend more than is really reasonable to capture the outtakes, the alternative versions and the unreleased detritus of recording sessions that the artist may never have wanted others to hear.  So, in this way, if you want to experience Miles Davis, you can spend years just listening to his phenomenal official output. Any maybe that is enough.

But if you want to go further, this is an interesting stop on the journey. If you know the music and have some sense of the man, there's little here that will surprise you but you likely will enjoy the old clips of him playing, particularly with some key folks like Coltrane, and you will laugh at the accounts of his foul-language laden tirades at others (mainly white folks and other musicians) but I am not sure you will learn much. If you know nothing of the man but perhaps think Kind of Blue is cool, you may be in a bit of a surprise.
Miles was famously testy, angry at the world, and very, very opinionated. He channeled this mostly in creating incredible music that sounds timeless today, so you can only imagine the reaction in the 50s and 60s. The biopic outlines some of the source of his anger but leaves unanswered many questions. The makers will say they acknowledged the wife-beating, and they do, largely through an incredible interview with the wife who suffered him yet in his words remained the love of his life. But later years of self-indulgence and, by many accounts, cruelty go largely unexplored. I don't know that this is good, a nod to the intelligence of viewers who can read between the lines, or some censorship of the message so that the Davis lustre is not entirely dulled (as if if could be).

If you can, see for yourself. Miles remains an enigma - a restless, searching artist who lived life to the extremes until the end, leaving a remarkable recorded legacy that still surprises and inspires.  My favorite moment, Archie Shepp remarking how he once asked Miles if he sit in with him when watching a club date. 'Archie who?' says Miles..."Fuck you, you cannot sit in with me'.  Who can't smile at that!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Biden’s a vinyl guy!

Did I just hear Joe tell parents to make sure their record players were on at night? Man, he gets my vote for this alone:

Monday, September 9, 2019

Vinyl outselling the fading CD?

In absolute terms, physical media sales suffer from the rise of streaming services, but few would have predicted the time when the humble LP would make a comeback to the point of outselling CDs. Seems we're at that point...

full story here 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

PS Audio going direct to consumers

I'll admit, I have a soft spot for PS Audio --  I own enough of their gear and have found it mostly excellent over the years (a couple of items were not as great but their digital front end and power amps are my references). Given their consistently excellent customer service, I was not too surprised to hear they are now going entirely direct-to-consumer, by-passing dealerships and using the web as their storefront.  The official notice is below. What this means for the industry and the general admonition to support your dealer and 'hear for yourself' (yeah, I know, the usual defense of the old guard in the press but a near-impossibility for most consumers) is anyone's guess. All I can say is that I really have had only excellent customer (as in, I bought it, not review gear 'loaned' to me) service with PS Audio and I hope this means that others will too.  Now, if only the price of that Directstream DAC would come down....

 CEO Paul McGowan today released the following statement:
"PS Audio has a long history of shaking things up in the audio industry, and we’re excited to be doing it again. During our 45-year history, we’ve always sold direct to end-users in the US, and we’ve also had a significant presence in dealer showrooms across America.
"Over the past several years, our call-volume to (800) PSAUDIO and factory-direct sales have increased tremendously.  We take commitments to our customers very seriously, and we’ve taken many steps to ensure that our customers are happy: that they get the right products, that those products are performing perfectly, and that the experience of working with us is pleasant, and satisfying.
"Customer satisfaction is our highest priority. As we continue our efforts to enhance the customer experience, we are moving towards all US sales being direct from the factory in Boulder.
"We will soon be bringing in new features and options so we can take even better care of our customers, whom we really do consider as part of our Hi-Fi Family. Our extensive network of international distributors will not be affected by any changes.
"Buying factory direct has these benefits:
  • Sales always come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. There are no hidden fees or restocking charges.
  • We now offer same day shipping for our US customers, so no need to wait.
  • We buy back any brand of our customers’ audio gear at its full and original retail price. Details can be found here.
  • Two-way shipping within the US is always free. If the unit is returned, we pay for that shipping as well.
  • Expert advice is always available from our Hi-Fi Specialists as well as the engineers and designers of the products themselves.
  • In the unlikely event a problem arises with a product under warranty, we will pay for shipping to the factory, fix the problem, and return the unit within 48 hours of receiving the product. We will pay return shipping, as well. 
"During the next year, we’ll be introducing a number of new products, including our first speakers, and a new integrated amplifier. We look forward to welcoming a new generation to our Hi-Fi Family as we continue to grow!"
We hope to see you at RMAF, and will soon send full details of our exhibit room at the show. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

New Coltrane...who knew?

I'm growing a bit cynical learning about newly found recordings of the greats and have been burned a couple of times with the reframing of Hendrix material or the less than stellar recordings of live performances from some jazz greats but this has been a hell of year for Coltrane fans (Both Directions At Once apparently has sold over 250,000 copies!). It is getting to be one of those 'can I ask for anything more than this?' periods with the news of a yet another Coltrane release.   You might wonder, but take a listen to this and tell me you don't want more:

Read all about it here

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Headphones Lab - review site
Just a quick shout out to Headphones Lab, a dedicated review site for those of you given to cans. Despite my best efforts, I slowly find myself listening on 'phones more and more and while nothing beats my regular rig, it does matter that this alternative offers good sound. Anyway, the site is new one to me, but I think it's likely to be of interest to those of you seeking an alternative or just further phones reading than the otherwise lively HeadFi. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

KL Audio cleaners meet the end of the road....

As an owner, I was saddened to receive the news last night from KL Audio that they were ceasing manufacture of their generally wonderful ultrasonic cleaner. The reason stated was an inability to sell enough to make a profit...basic business really. A reminder, again, of how limited the market can be for some audio products. Over the years I've had a couple of products run out of support, it's quite frustrating. Meanwhile, I'll keep cleaning and hope to get through a the thousand+  LPs still awaiting a clean on my unit. Wish me luck....

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Rory Gallagher lives on..

Been on a bit of a Rory G kick lately. It started with the release of a new compilation of tracks showcasing his blues sensibilities, the somewhat unimaginatively titled Blues release. I bought the 3-CD version in order to have it all but there's a single CD and a vinyl version too for those who don't want to go all in.

Containing 36 tracks of mostly previously-unreleased material, the three CDs are partitioned into studio, acoustic and live discs. I was buying more in hope than expectation given some of my experiences with barrel-scraping efforts in recent years (yes, Hendrix estate, I'm looking at you) but this release proved better than I'd imagined.

For those who are concerned, as we all should be, with the sonics, let me allay your fears. Most of this is of very decent quality and has been handled respectfully by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road on behalf of the Gallagher family (that's mainly brother Donal and his son who took leadership on this one). There's possibly more here than the casual listener would want, in which case stick with the single CD (I've not heard the vinyl release) but this collection is a fine addition to the Rory catalogue which itself has been muddied over the years with multiple versions of his albums on CD confusing buyers.  For me, the early 70s Rory was the peak of his work but his final album, Fresh Evidence, as well as some of the more recent material on this release, give some perspective on where he could be in the blues pantheon had he lived longer.

I'm not really a completist for any artist (despite the evidence to the contrary in my listening room) but there is material on here that makes me wonder just why it took so long to see the light of day and why Rory might have chosen to not put this stuff out when he was alive. The live stuff really gets me, and while it's great to hear him play with Albert King and Jack Bruce, it's actually the magic of hearing Rory play those old familiars I grew up with from the legendary Live In Europe LP, particularly Messin' with the Kid, or Pistol Slapper Blues, here delivered differently from another tour and time that caught my ear.  I remember seeing Rory live sometime in the late 1970s (the memories blur after a while) and he was always on song. But the whole collection is worthy of back to back listening and for once, the 3-cd version is definitely the recommended version to own. It comes with a decent booklet but those cd-sized pages are no fun to read.

To complete the kick, I've been reading a new book on Rory by Julian Vignoles, entitled Rory Gallagher: The Man Behind the Guitar.  This is the second book on Rory put out by Collins Press and while it has echoes of that earlier cut-and-paste job by Connaughton (Life and Times) it is somewhat more substantive in terms of trying to understand this shy and very private man who seemed to only come alive when he played before an audience. I don't think Rory fans will learn much new about the music, the life on  the road or the gear, but Vignoles does explore the personal life, in as much as one can without a willing, living subject to provide details, and gives us some clues into what happened in the end as Rory's health deteriorated.

The tragedy of Rory is that his life seemed to fade before us in real time without anyone able to halt the preventable end. Liver failure induced by a mix of prescribed drugs and alcohol (Rory was not an alcoholic but interactions with medicines he took to overcome anxiety, compounded with some seemingly inappropriate prescriptions by doctors weakened him to the point of his requiring a transplant). As he retreated from performing, doubts about his own abilities seemed to surface, and in the end this incredible talent was lost to us. Had he lived, I have no doubt he would have found a second wind - his final album was one of his best and showed a growing stature as a songwriter - but we'll never know. His life seemed public yet simultaneously lonely,  and Vignoles treats these matters with respect. I gather some fans might not be happy and am not sure the family feel this is authoritative or even particularly original since it relies so much on previously published interviews but there is enough substance in this work to make it a welcome read given the relative paucity of serious writing on Rory thus far. The best book yet is long-time bass player Gerry McAvoy's Riding Shotgun, which might be out of print but is a delight of humor and honesty about the music business. If you want to delve more into what's out there, I think is a useful fan-led web archive of old magazine and newspaper coverage on the man. Ride on.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Been a while...

I've been absent for a few months due to life issues -- but am coming back. Have a ton of new recordings in and am playing around with some new products. Cleaning up the system, shedding some baggage (TAS no more) and getting back into the music. More to come. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Core Power Tech under new ownership - Underwood HiFi purchases assets

Due to health challenges, owner of Core Power Tech, Mark Schifter, has decided to sell to Underwood. Best wishes to Mark as he deals with this and congrats to Walter at Underwood, a company I've dealt with for my own purchases more than once.  From the official announcement:
Underwood Hi Fi Purchases The Assets of Core Power Technologies, LLCpastedGraphic.pngpastedGraphic_1.pngLAHAINA, HAWAII (01/15/19) – Walter Liederman, President and Owner of Underwood Hifi, Inc is pleased to announce the Asset Sale Purchase of Core Power Technologies, LLC of Broomfield Colorado.  
Liederman comments - 'The EQUI=CORE, DEEP=CORE and GROUND=ZERO products have been designed and executed by some of the brightest minds in our industry. Manufactured solely in the USA, the CPT line will continue to expand over the next several years. There is a Product Plan in place that calls for several new offerings this year and next. Currently, all products will be shipped from our facility in Marietta, GA.' 
Core Power Technologies has been an industry leader in the Power Conditioning Segment since its inception in 2017. Liederman comments further – 'I decided to purchase this company as they already have a very good (product) market presence and they simply did not have the funds to operate the business and deliver the new and innovative products they had planned. It boiled down to creating my own brand or purchasing something existing. The opportunity to purchase Core Power really landed in my hands as three previous purchase attempts were unable to fund. I decided to buy this company as I had already sold over 100 of their products including 50 of the flagship EQUI=CORE 1800’s. It made perfect sense for me to buy the assets of this company as I know of nothing close in price that offers this level of performance.'
Winners of multiple Product of The Year Awards, the EQUI=CORE 1800 is the flagship product (pictured above) featuring 8 Hubbell Outlets and protected by a Fast Acting (audiophile approved) Circuit Breaker. Perfect for Audio or Video applications, the E=C1800 provides pure Balanced Power lowering the noise of your AC Mains to vanishing low levels. The 1800 is available in both 120 volt or 220/240 volt variants.  
The EQUI=CORE 1800 will be available in March at $1995 retail with special re-introductory pricing that has yet to be announced. Further product roll-out(s) are planned for later in the year. 
Underwood Hifi has factories working on their behalf in Newbury Park, CA as well as Iowa Park, TX. Underwood also owns companies making loudspeakers and electronics i.e. Emerald Physics and LSA.
Contact Walter Liederman
10am – 7pm West Coast Time

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Crutchfield offer remote listening test option

I was intrigued by the latest catalog I received from Crutchfield outlining a remote listening feature now available on site. As they explain, they've spent a few years developing a test facility that enables them to present sound samples of speakers tailored to the headphones you may have or might get from them as part of a listening kit. The idea being you pick a few speakers, select the headphone model, chose a music track (from metal to mellow) and then switch away to your hearts content as you listen.  Full credit here for trying to solve possibly the greatest obstacle to hi-fi purchasing for ordinary people, getting to listen before buying.

Now there's plenty of problems still to be solved here given the unknown parts of the chain involved but the general idea adds a lot more fun to browsing. I could not resist spending some time here so cued up a few comparisons, chose a pair of Sennheisers that I have for the listening, and gave speakers a run through some acoustic, modern jazz and metal.

My impression? It works better in theory than in practice. Since I am very familiar with Audioengine speakers I chose a pair of those first so as to calibrate my ears before adding various KEF and Focal into the mix. For the life of me, those Audioengines sounded nothing like I've heard from that brand before, and it was the Focals that sounded more like the pair on my desktop. Ok, maybe I need to try a couple of times, or maybe my rig, with it's Audient interface makes for a different response, though experience suggests not so much. Choosing floor standers which I don't own, I compared some $1500 speakers from Martin Logan, PSB and Monitor Audio. These all seemed slightly different and perhaps each slightly better suited to different genres (though it surprised me that I liked the PSB on metal the most).

The interface to all this is intuitive once you set it up, the changes between samples seem rapid though I am not convinced it always happens as you imagine - best to play a sample, pause it, then play another speaker rather than just hitting play on one speaker after another in rapid succession and assuming that a new 'play' just  stops the previous one and switches for you.  Doing just that on occasion gave me the impression nothing had changed (I know, I can hear the ABX arguments now but try it for yourself and see what you think).

Bravo for the attempt Crutchfield. I am sure this will only improve and it will be popular. Give it a try at

Friday, February 15, 2019

McIntosh slimming down and looking good.

Ok, not that slimmed down once you see the details (24" wide!) but there's no denying the new RS200 wears the leaner look well.  I've never quite warmed to McIntosh products. They always seemed too blue, too blingy and too concerned with the brand over the sound, even if I've admired their longevity, loyal following and apparent bullet-proof ability to be serviced and used for decades. Now that I say it, how did I not appreciate them more? Oh well, this still smacks of marketing the 'lifestyle' but as an all in one, (yep, there's speakers built in there) it sure beats Bose. $3000. More info here, no they won't send us one to review but am sure the usual suspects will be covering them soon.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Auris new headphone amp invokes the muse

Puffy PR piece but interesting looking design. New company (to me, they've received some reviews her), tubes, decent specs and a look that seems set domestic use.  This is not listed as of today on their website but it's coming. Priced at 1499, as of today in Europe but I only see two outlets in the US for them on their site so not sure what the price here will be.   See more of their designs here
Auris Audio presents you Euterpe, a new high end headphone amplifier. According to the Greek Mythology, Euterpe was one of the nine Muses, the Goddess of music and a ''giver of delight'' and that's exactly what Auris Audio Euterpe will bring to audiophile community, more happiness.
Designed in a single ended configuration, integreted audiophile asynchronous DAC xMos/ESS Sabre, it allows you to use digital sources such as PC or mobile devices. Integeted in a piece of art chassis, Euterpre ( Headphone amplifier/DAC/PreAmp/Stand ) gives you everything you've always dreamed of.
2 X PL 95 , 1 X ECC 81
Amplifier configuration
Single Ended
Power output
0.9 W RMS
Conversion rate
USB: DSD 64, DSD 128, PCM max 32bit/384kHz
Output Impedance
Low32–80Ohm / High>150Ohm
Power supply
115 / 230 V AC
1 x USB, 1 x RCA
6.3 mm Stereo / RCA Pre Out
Dimensions (WxLxH) mm
270 x 210 x 230
Weight (kg)
4.1/NET ( without PSU )
Weight (kg) PSU
Dimesions PSU (WxLxH) mm
95 x 185 x 55

Saturday, February 9, 2019

NYT Article explaining loudness war and music recording

Interesting op-ed from the Times today, dealing with a topic near and dear to the h(ear)ts of audiophiles. I like how it provides examples but the lack of real comparability (either by using the same tune or explaining what to listen for) meant that well-intentioned readers I shared it with seemed to find it less than clear. Oh well, full marks for effort.  Lively comments too.

Read piece here

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Jerome Sabbagh update

It's been a wait for those of us who backed the new Jerome Sabbagh/Greg Tuohey vinyl but I have few doubts the results will prove worthwhile. Latest mailing to backers indicate the albums are finally ready and will be shipped next week.

It's been a couple of years since the last vinyl release which I've continued to enjoy so much and the coupling of Jerome's playing with a top-notch guitarist in Greg just raises the anticipation. More when I get a chance. Kickstarter page here

Sunday, January 20, 2019

LP counterfeiting plant discovered

I suppose the money involved in special LP releases of old stuff has obviously attracted the criminal element (and no, I'm not talking about endless repackaging of Jimi's recordings). Just read that special intelligence work in the UK led police to a pressing plant in Wales that specialized in niche recordings of Northern Soul. These were sold via Ebay and Amazon and netted enough money obviously for one of those charged to have over $150,000 in his PayPal account alone (might that have been a sign?).

More info here

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

New Music Matters series 2019 plus a Tone Poet series on the way

So, in case you had not heard (where was I that I missed the earlier notice?), Music Matters is embarking on a fresh set of classic jazz releases on vinyl. As a subscriber to the last two series I figured I'd just be on whatever list was mailed this info but if so, the mail went awol. More likely no such list exists. Regardless, these are marketed as the 'definitive Blue Note reissues' on new Silent Running Xperience (SRX) vinyl, apparently a new formulation that runs quieter than previous slabs.

The various records run about $60 a copy (!) and will be limited edition. The full list contains mostly recordings that saw previous light in the 2x45RPM releases (10/12 I think, but don't quote me) so it's not clear how much demand there will be nor why these titles were chosen over others but I have to say my experience with Ron Rambach and co's previous efforts render these very desirable and certainly worthy of attention. See more, including the chance to buy all 12 for a cut-rate $699, on the official announcement page

Coupled, sort of, Joe Harley and Don Was are planning a new series of high quality vinyl releases this year under the 'Tone Poet' title which will (I believe) involve 18 releases from Blue Note's vaults also given the MM-level treatment. This is good news for music lovers but surely a taxing prospect for many people's wallets. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Vinyl sales slightly up in UK 2018?

Latest numbers out suggest vinyl sales continued to rise, albeit slightly, in the UK last year. Not sure how to interpret this as the totals are still pretty small but with CDs sliding further, it seems the LP format will continue for a while longer, despite predictions of death going back decades.

Not entirely surprised or excited by what is selling however...Rumours? Dark Side of the Moon? Still, Arctic Monkeys and Ezra make a bit of a change from the usual suspects over here.  Hard to be too sure of the numbers here but trends are trends...

Full story here