Album Review III

Album Review III

Sonny Rollins ‘The Bridge’ ORG 2284

Dexter Gordon ‘Go’ Music Matters 84112

Guest Listener, David Sanchez

These two recordings are some of my favorites and after a healthy afternoon of mouthpiece testing and horn tweaking with David, I was very glad that these were the requests he made to put on the system at the end of the day. ‘The Bridge’ was my personal gateway into Sonny Rollins. I must admit that It took me awhile to come around to Sonny’s playing, I always gravitated towards Coltrane’s recordings from the same era and I’m sad that Rollins was not an earlier influence for me. This recording is so very special, and the band is absolutely amazing behind him. Honestly Jim Hall’s comping on the whole record, but in particular on ‘Without A Song’ represents the greatest of all time to me. He and Sonny are such a perfect balance. Even though the record is mainly standards, it always sounds fresh, always daring. 

There’s not much I can say about Dexter’s playing on ‘GO’ other than I remember several of my early teachers pointing me towards him as someone that was ‘easy to transcribe’. I don’t believe that this was to say that his playing was simple, just clear and straight forward. Never the less, I always associated him with those connotations but listening to the excellent re-issues done by Music Matters of his Blue Note recordings always leaves me thinking how modern he sounds, has anyone ever swung harder on the horn?? The word that sums his playing up to me is ‘joy’ and I think that is an ingredient that has gone by the wayside in a lot of modern jazz.

Ive had the immense pleasure of getting to know David Sanchez over the last few months and it has been an honor to do so. He is a kind and thoughtful man, who very obviously deeply respects the music and the lexicon of his instrument. It always inspires me to meet people who have achieved great success who are both still excited about their craft and project great humility. Here are a few quotes from our conversation while listening:

 

‘THE BRIDGE’

 

‘Ben Riley is incredible man, those brushes, wow!’

‘Its great to hear how much he's (Sonny) moving around while he's playing, he’s got his bell all over the place haha’

‘His sound on this is so special, the Selmer mouthpiece sounds so different than the Berg later on and the Otto Link he played on ‘Saxophone Collosus’

‘Bob Cranshaw…. so underrated’

JF ‘Were you always into Sonny?’ DS ‘Yes absolutely, I mean, I played percussion too growing up and hearing him was like hearing someone play drums on the horn’ 

‘Trane came later for me. I mean they were both so free but Sonny was carefree you know? Like in a more organic way that really resonates with me'

‘I heard this record for the first time and couldnt believe saxophone could be played this way’

 

‘GO’

‘Lets play the B side, that’s my favorite, Love For Sale’

‘The first time I heard ‘Go’ I remember thinking I want to sound like THAT!’

‘You know he really influenced Trane and Sonny and they both openly said that about him. I wish more young played would check him out deeper’

 

 

* David was quietly singing along with both records the whole time, he had all the solos memorized

Album Review II

Led Zeppelin II Shootout

2015 Jimmy Page Remaster vs 2002 Classic Records 200g

It’s really unfortunate that a lot of great classic rock repressing were done in the late 90s and early 2000’s when the market for audiophile quality vinyl re-issues was fairly lean. Many of these have become very valuable collectors items, worth several hundred dollars to the new comers like myself. 

So, when Jimmy Page announced the reissue of the Zeppelin catalogue in 2015 there was a great deal of excitement. He promised that they would ‘be better than the original’ and would be pressed on 180g virgin vinyl and include every detail of the original packaging. 

Ive been a Zeppelin fan as long as Ive been a music fan. In fact, I played drums in a band that covered Zepp in high school. Sadly no pictures exist of our one and only gig, however there is a recording somewhere we made as ‘The Basement Tapes’ which I will someday sell on eBay to pay for my nonexistent kid’s college tuition. Needless to say when the JP reissues became available for about $25 a pop, I bought several as I wasn't ready yet to pay north of $100 for the touted Classic Records pressing from 2002. I lived with jimmy’s re-issues for a few months.

Because of my commitment to the greatest rock band of all time, I have finally pulled the trigger on a mint Classic Records copy of Led Zeppelin II so I could sleep at night and do the comparison. Here are my thoughts:

The Classic Records pressing is undoubtedly from the master tape of the Atlantic session. After exhausting the forums, nobody can prove the the JP remaster is as well. Combined with the fact that the JP isn’t advertised as such, I think it’s safe to say that the JP remasters came from a high resolution digital file. After listening to both records all the way through and then doing track by track comparisons, the differences become more and more obvious. 

I can say the there is a noticeable high frequency boost in the JP remaster across every track. To me, it gives a false sense of detail which leaves Robert Plant’s voice sounding grainy and lean, not god awful but just ever so unnatural. Bonham's drums are recorded a little differently (often very far back in the left channel) on every track of this album and the JP version leaves his already poorly defined cymbal hits sounding like white bursts, his snare lacking depth and the bass drum on the boomy side. The overall mix on this record is tight to begin with, It’s easy to lose Plant’s voice among all the chorus effects and guitar layers which can often sound like a wall of sound. I found myself turning up the volume in a desperate attempt to get more sound staging and separation every time I put this on.

The Classic Records version was quite revealing. While I instantly recognized that it was an order of magnitude better, the more I listened the more I give credit to the JP version for its effort. It gets you 80% of the way there, but here are the differences: Instead of the false sense of detail and harsh highs on the JP cut, the Classic Records just has more body and clarity. On the Classic version the sound staging is significantly better and crisper, the JP gets a little mushy in comparison. Plant’s voice is more present and with the lack of sibilance of the JP, just comes across as more believable and cuts through without being bright and bleached. The cymbals have noticeably longer decay and also the depth of Bonham’s Supraphonic snare is simply just there. During his solo on ‘Moby Dick’ you hear the compression of the drum heads and even sympathetic vibrations of other parts of the kit that aren't present on the JP version. Also, you can actually hear the ceiling of the studio on ‘Thank You’ when Plant is singing without effects which is just awesome. The panning effects on ‘Whole Lotta Love’ are more dramatic on the Classic version and when Jimmy comes in for his solo it’s like he stepped out of the right channel. Overall, its just more fun to listen too than Jimmy’s version, I didn’t find myself straining at all to try and pick up the lyrics or questioning anything I heard, just rocking out with a big smile on my face.

In conclusion, I suppose it’s a question of finances and how just how good your system is. If you don’t have a killer setup, the differences between the two are not going to jump out as dramatically and I’d recommend poping on the $25 Jimmy Page reissue over the Classic Records, which is gonna run you at least $100. The packaging is all there, the 180g is nice and overall it is a decent record that was obviously pressed on solid vinyl and done with care.

But if you want the best, it’s undeniably the Classic Records cut and you assuredly wont be disappointed.

Party On

Album Review I

Miles Davis ‘Sorcerer’ 

Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, AMOB 435

Guest Listener, Billy Pierce

 

My sophomore year of high school I was asked to switch from alto to tenor saxophone. In anticipation of this change, I vividly remember my dad taking me to best buy to get some CD’s so I could hear what a good tenor sound was. I got Giant Steps, Ellington at Newport and Free For All. The latter disks stayed packaged for a while…

 

From Trane, I fell in love with Joe Henderson and then I went off to music school where I short-sightedly didn’t listen to much of anything but modern jazz for six years, history be damned. Thank christ for vinyl, as its brought me full circle, back to the fathers of this music.

 

 I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t spend much time with Miles’ second quintet until the last few years. I just couldn’t get into Wayne’s sound as a saxophonist, and frankly I failed to hear the groove in the band’s playing or their music. I’d usually get through one or two tracks and then just put on Unity for the millionth time. I’m glad that’s not the case anymore, maybe it has something to do with getting a little older.

 

I must say that these particular pressings done by MFSL have really opened my ears to the incredible depth, fragility and beauty of this band. At this point they have released ‘Neffertiti, Sorcerer and ESP’ all of which Id consider the best done LP versions of these albums. This music has quickly become a part of my ‘favorites’ cannon and more and more I feel that it constitutes the highest level of improvisation ever recorded. For five people to embody the level of trust and empathy that it took to play like this is really amazing, and we are certainly talking about some very strong musical and social personalities, making it all the rarer. Speaking with Bill, who has some special tapes of the band rehearsing, I learned just how sparse the amount of information was that they started with, and just how much pure improvisation the band was doing. I always suspected this, with the aid of anecdotes in both Miles’ and Wayne’s biographies and in trying to transcribe some of the tunes, but not to the level Bill describes. To me, this just elevates the music higher. In summation, I believe that the balance of freedom, poignancy (or rather intimacy) as well as the strength of melody generated by these five men really was a pinnacle for jazz music as an idiom

 

I also think it’s very special that this music was recorded on such a major label and so well produced. It is really a minor miracle when you think about it, given the nature of what they were trying to accomplish musically. 

 

With regards to the sonics, I feel MFSL has done an impeccable job. The level of detail and dynamics is phenomenal and I complement them for the choices they made when mastering this in the 45RPM format. I compared both Sorcerer and Nefertiti to their original counterparts in my collection and not surprisingly, it’s not contest. The sound staging of the MFSL pressings is simply cleaner and more open. I can tell that there is a small high end boost, however it brings out details in the articulation of the notes which I can’t hear in the original pressings. On a side note, I really find the recording techniques of Columbia to be very different than Blue Note or Prestige from the same period. Blue Note recordings always sound the most raw in the sense that they give you the sensation that you are sitting right in front of the band and they are typically orientated just like the group would be on a stage, with little reverb or EQ adjustments seemingly. Columbia recordings always feel to me that you are looking down at the band, almost more of an arial view. It adds a bit more drama in the sound staging and even though it’s not as direct, there is a certain refined quality that I find really unique and intriguing.

 

 

Billy Pierce stopped in a few days ago for some minor repairs and it has become a highlight for me to play something for him and get his feedback and the many anecdotes which he can conjure up about almost any musician who comes on the system. Here are a few comments he had while listening to ‘Fall’ off of Sorcerer.

 

‘Man, this music is all Ive been listening too lately’

 

‘Most people don’t realize that the melody of Fall is in Ron’s part, what Miles and Wayne are doing is really just a contrapuntal line’

 

‘You know how Wayne says they were playing ‘without a net’, well this is a perfect example of that…. These guys just couldn’t make mistakes because even the mistakes were just so hip’

 

Me ‘I love how they recorded Herbie on this’ 

Bill ‘I was just thinking that man, this is really special’

 

During Herbies solo, when Tony switches to a straight groove’Tony really could just do anything on the drums man, I mean not only could he do it, but he knew when to which is what made him so great. I think he was really the only guy who could have played with this band at this time’

 

During the beginning of Wayne’s solo ‘You know what? I never realized that Tony switched for brushes here, wow!’

 

‘Really what these guys are doing is orchestrating, its a whole different approach to playing. A deeper approach’

 

Me ‘I think its fascinating that you can still feel the underlying swing even though everyone is playing across the time’

Bill ‘It has forward motion, It’s never stilted. When most people try to play this open there are always moments where the energy dips and then will eventually pick up again. That’s not the case with these guys, it’s always flowing. That’s really what it is; a flow and its super hard to do’

 

‘Musically speaking, it’s about trust. Even though they probably never said that out loud to each other, that’s the basis for everything they were doing here. It was complete trust. I don’t know what music can ever be like this again’

 

 

Thanks Bill, you're the man

 

A Musician On Planet Audiophile: Part III

The ‘Beat The System’ System (Part III)

 

I’ve had some requests for how to set up a budget hifi system so I guess Ill ramble out one more of these diatribes before I review some records. 

 

First off, you need to steel yourself to two things; You can’t get a decent sounding system for less than about $1000 (unless every component is used and mint) and you need to be willing to setup a dedicated listening room. The first part is pretty self explanatory, the second really means that you need to be able to commit a space that will allow for proper speaker placement/adjustability and a center listening position. I find this is actually the more difficult part for most folks. Setting the speaker and listening position in a room is EVERYTHING. You can have $50,000 speakers and they can sound like hot garbage in the wrong position, which may only be the difference of a few feet or a 15 degree toe in.

So, if you just want a turntable in the corner as a piece of furniture then by all means stop reading and don’t waste your money. 

Heres a good primer on speaker placement in case that was your next thought and saves me writing one: http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/insider-with-robert-harley-the-six-rules-of-loudspeaker-placement-1-2/

 

Turntables

Ok, everyone thinks vintage turntables look awesome, myself included. The wood plinths are so damn cool. However they just dont sound that good and I've heard dozens of them. The factors that determine a good turntable can be overly simplified into two things, speed stability and lack of resonance. In the 60s and 70s just about everyone thought that the most important part of a system was the speakers, and therefore turntable design suffered as the average consumer didnt think is was an overly important component and wants willing to drop serious coin on them. The only turntable designer that I'm aware of that was truly concerned with speed stability was Linn. The LP12 model is very sweet, however, it rings like a bell because of the resonant frequencies of the other components of the turntable. Those resonant frequencies color the sound of the record and make for all sorts of tracking problems with the tonearm. Armando and I did a side by side comparison of a beautifuly restored LP12 (because I kept foolishly wanting to buy one) and the lowest end Basis table, the results were laughable.

After demoing most of the lower end audiophile tables there is only one that stands out as a worthwhile investment. The Project Debut Carbon. This has been the gateway drug table for many people getting into high end audio. It usually goes for around $400. Id strongly recommend upgrading to the acrylic platter if you can afford it, which is an extra $120. It’s one of the few cheap upgrades that will actually make a difference. Acrylic is an exceptional non-resonant material and since this turntable has no true isolation base, it will help to get more detail out of your records. 

Make sure it comes with the Ortofon Red cartridge, this is actually a pretty darn good one. Don’t waste your money upgrading to the Blue one, Ive had both and they are audibly identical.

 

Amp

On the cheap, I recommend an integrated amplifier. No need to separate into a pre and power amp unless your budget is closer to $6000 for power. Ive tried a few and found that the Marantz PM5005 came out on top every time. It runs about $500. At this point just don’t mess around with tubes, I know its tempting but don’t do it until you have a bigger stack of cash to blow. Ive heard the new budget tube integrated amps. They are typically super cheesy sounding, overly warm and goopy, really a caricature of a good tube amp sound. Dont waste your time or money.

 

Loudspeakers

Yay! You can buy vintage here if you want. The Klipsch Heresy II. These speakers came out in the 60s and have had a cult following ever since. They are truly fantastic and I use a modified set in my personal system. The best part is that you can pick them up for $400-600 on craigslist all the time! If you don’t want to deal with the hunt, you can just buy the new Heresy III for $1000 a pair. 

Now, if you don’t have room for the Klipsch’s and want bookshelf Id recommend the Paradigm Atom v7, a pair is $400. Smaller speakers can sound really great actually as they dont typically extend into the trouble frequencies like larger loudspeakers, these in particular can reproduce some truly exceptional detail.

 

Cables

One of the biggest scams in the audio industry. Unless you can afford Basis cables (about $1000 a foot) just go buy monster speaker cable from amazon. Seriously. 

 

Furniture

Dont skimp here and put your turntable on an Ikea desk, c’mon now. The best stands I've found on a budget are made by Salamander, check out the archetype line. 

 

 

There ya go! As a closing note, I really mean it about not buying any ‘upgrades’. It’s really the same argument for not buying most intermediate saxophones. You get marginal difference for a crazy mark up. Briefly here’s my list of next level upgrades from the aforementioned setup. Again, anything in between seems like a waste of money in my opinion.

 

Cartridge: Dynavector 10x5 (for high output) 20x2 (for low output)

Turntable: Basis Signature 2200 

Clamp: Basis Reflex

Tonearm: Basis Vector 4

Pre-Amplifier: Audible Illusions Modulus 3B, add the 'gold board' upgrade for a low output MC cartridge.

Power Amplifier: Dynaco ST70 (unmodified) or QuickSilver mono blocks

Speakers: Upgrade the Klipsch Heresy II with Bob Crites crossovers, Klipsch Heritage Series Hersey III or Vandersteen Treo series

Cables: Basis interconnects and speaker cables

 

A Musician On Planet Audiophile Part II

‘Old Vs New’ or ‘Where to put your money when buying your favorite albums on vinyl’

 

I love old things. Im fairly convinced that I am at least 60 years old myself (Im actually 28). To me everything made in mid century America just feels better. Consumers gave a damn about repairability and quality and those values were truly motivators that drove most markets. Sigh.

 

Unfortunately this has panned out not to be true about vinyl records. Ive tried to convince myself so many times it’s a fallacy, but after hundreds of hours of listening Ive got to hand it to the boutique current production pressings 90% of the time over 'original' records for sound quality. I will still go and hunt the record bins at the vintage shops, but at this point its only for that wonderfully unique smell, the thrill of the unknown and occasionally for something rare. Why? Lots of reasons.

 

First it comes down simple economics. Once a record was mastered, the tape was handed off to be mass produced. Remember, at one point vinyl records were how the entire world was listening to music and so the demand to produce was huge across the board. Brass stampers where made from that tape (hopefully the master) and then then it was off to the races. Typically you would have 6 stampers made from each mother (the original plated lacquer cut from the master tape) and these would in turn press up to 10,000+ records. Brass degrades, trust me I know better than most, and as a run of pressing goes on, the wear in those stampers transfers to the fidelity of the vinyl it’s pressing. On top of this, most of the factories were using cheap vinyl for their pressing and even if you find an ideal copy from an early stamping run there could be still be defects just from the material itself. The records were then put in paper sleeves and shrink wrapped outer jackets. Those groves are fragile and even paper will scratch the mess out of it, this is why nice audiophile records are packaged with a rice paper or anti-static plastic sleeve. Lastly they were shrink wrapped. Hey I've got an original unopened pressing of Aja! Big flippin’ deal cause that shrink wrap has undoubtedly warped the record. Great Job.

 

OK so that about describes all the possible things that could suck about a first pressing record that you bought unopened that was stored correctly. You also probably paid a stupid amount of money for it, thats ok I've done it too. However most mortals just go to the local record shop and freak out over a 70’s Liberty repressing of Blue Train saying things like ‘omg I cant wait to hear a vinyl of Coltrane lol’ much to the dismay of snarky assholes like me. Apart from all the above inconsistencies, now you have to take into consideration how to determine if a played record is gonna sound good. I remember reading lots of articles on this a few years ago. Looking for scratches is obvious, scuffs and dust obvious, but there are some other pitfalls. Back in the 60’s and 70’s most people didn’t have precision cartridges as they do today, they had junk for the most part. Records were cheap as hell too, like $7 in today’s money so people were not overly cautious about storage and maintenance. Those cheap cartridges, which were probably not calibrated with the correct tracking force, would absolutely destroy the grooves of a record. Also, good luck seeing if a record is warped without putting it on a turntable. People dont even hold records correctly for christ’s sake. Just about everyone holds a record by pinching the lead-in grove thinking that they aren't touching the ‘music’ groves, which leaves all sorts of fun human crap to be mashed into the record by the needle when it drops. So many times, with a mirthful chuckle, when Id find a beautiful copy of some record devoid of all obvious physical flaws, run back to the shop and then have my hopes dashed listening to the pop-filled, flat sounding record I just spent $25 on. 

 

But what about record cleaners you might say? HELL NO. Total waste of money. I have a VPI commercial grade record cleaner and use a three step proprietary solution system to clean my records. It takes about twenty minutes to do one side. On a good day it will improve the sonics of a vintage record 10-15%. Just buy nice records and save yourself the headache! Ive tried the crazy shit too, covered a nice copy of Bowie’s ‘Ziggy’ with wood glue, waited 24hrs and peeled it off. Stupid.

 

So. New records. First we need to understand the difference between digital and analog repressing. When a record is going to be made we must first start with a source recording which is played into a special machine called a lathe that uses the frequencies of that source recording to cut the signal into lacquer. The lacquer is then plated and eventually is used to make the previously mentioned brass stampers. When someone today wants to repress a record they have a couple choices to obtain that source material, but chiefly it’s done with a master tape or a digital copy of a master. The digital master is much much much cheaper to use and will typically require a lot less legal hoops to jump through. Its also just an easier process to make that lacquer with a digital source. Tape degrades a bit every time you play it, is extremely fragile and flammable and digital is well, digital. Whats wrong with digital? Well it;s going to be more compressed than tape, a lot more. Plus who know where it came from? Typically a copy of the master tape not the actual original, meaning less information for you, the listener on the end, which is the whole goddamn point. At the very best, it’s going to be CD quality fidelity on a LP. These records are made for the people who buy turntables at Urban Outfitters. 

 

Now, getting the analog master tape already shows that someone is going to great lengths to do it right. This could involve contacting estates of deceased artists, digging though archives and typically shelling out a fair amount of money just to ‘rent’ the tape to cut a lacquer. I was told that when Music Matters (a great repressing outfit) gets a tape from Blue Note they actually send a guard with it who watches to make sure they only play it a certain number of times. Secondly these folks are obsessive with the quality. They typically limit the stamper runs to around 1,000 records to ensure that wear does not occur, this also makes many high quality repressing limited editions which are individually numbered. All the original details are typically present in the packaging as well, not that it really matters, its just cool and shows commitment in my opinion. Basically every step of the process is done with care and respect, preservation is paramount.

 

I have compared a lot of great original pressings with the new analog reissues. Most recently a minty original, low serial number, first pressing of Miles Davis’ ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’. I paid a lot for it and it sounds damn skippy. A friend brought over the new Analogue Productions copy and we did the shoot out. It was no contest. There was significantly more detail and dynamics in the AP version, it floored me as I really considered my original to be a bench mark. 

 

So now I live by the $20 rule. If an LP is less than that it's 90% of the time just a digital pressing. Look for ‘produced from the original master tapes’ in the description or label. I like and respect the following labels: Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, ORG, Classic Records, Analog Spark, Analogue Productions, OJC (original jazz classics). Anything that is listed as mastered by Kevin Gray or Bernie Grundman is gonna be good and almost always cut from tape. Not all records are created equal, sometimes I listen to one of these and say ‘well thats just the best its ever going to be due to how it was recorded’ so just keep that in mind. The real show stoppers are the ones Ill be reviewing, at least for now.

 

whew. back to horns.

 

A Musician On Planet Audiophile Pt I

 

Part One: ’Old Man Rant’

As a musician and the owner of a musical instrument repair and retail store, the amount of wonton subjectivity in both industries has become a consistent thorn in my side. Blame for the rivers of snake oil can be conveniently placed on all parties involved, but the fact remains that more often than not it’s the bling factor that wins the sale or the musician with the best instagram game that gets the gig, leaving such virtues as craftsmanship and musical merit far behind in the polls. In both the spheres of professional music performance, the current production musical instrument market and musical instrument repair there is very little hard science and therefore has always been and continues to be rife with ‘gurus’ and false prophets from every angle which has left a lot of unknown greats and talented folks by the wayside. There’s little left of this poor deceased equestrian left to beat, but I implore you to stick with me. 

 

Part Two: ‘Less Ranty, Potentially Informative’

Enter the wonderful world of HiFi. For me, I landed here because of a dear friend for whom I repaired saxophones happened to be the owner of a company that manufactured high end, boutique turntables. As our professional relationship developed, I was eventually invited to his workshop to see what all the fuss was about. I was unequivocally blind sighted by the experience, my ears were serendipitously t-boned and my life changed forever. After studying music at the conservatory level for six years of my life, I had never heard recorded music at any level of quality above that of a CD on my car stereo. Thousands of hours of intense transcription and active listening had all been done with mp4s on my iPod that still had the four buttons at the top. Whoops, you blew it. On top of this, I had just met Armando Conti and didnt realize that he was the most renowned designer of turntables in the world. His company, Basis Audio, has been at the pinnacle of the industry for 25 years.  So basically we’re talking about going from a 71’ Ford Pinto to a Bugatti Veyron in one go.

 

Obviously the next step in my logic after I scooped my brains off the floor from listing to the first record was to find a way to get an analogue playback system into my life immediately. I was overjoyed with the possibility of really ‘hearing’ what the musicians I’d been emulating for years actually sounded like. Nuances in articulation and inflection that had gone unnoticed were suddenly obvious listening on Armando’s setup.The best way to describe it was that the music sounded believable for the first time and by that, I mean that in listening to ‘Somethin Else’ I felt the humanity of Miles Davis, not just the notes I had memorized and catalogued years ago. Miles really woke up one morning, stepped into his pants,went in the studio and played that solo. It sounds asinine but it hit me because it had never sounded like someone was actually playing trumpet standing right in front of me. I could see him, where he was standing, hear him moving on the mic, the reverb of the ceiling, his breath. It was an intensely overwhelming, powerful and beautiful moment for me.

 

  Armando was amused at my reaction, the fact that the biggest impact the experience had on me was the desire to use a system like his really as a research tool, to understand the music deeper. I was also elated because here was a real scientific field i.e. mechanical engineering and acoustical engineering that could create such a great sounding product. There was accountability and logic and objectivity huzzah! What a wonderful reprieve from the world of saxophones. Boy was I wrong.

 

Over the last two years I’ve gotten in pretty deep. Hundreds of records, and a beautiful system featuring one of Armando’s tables. Tragically losing Armando in October of 2016 left me at a loss. While surveying the audio playing field in assembling my personal system, Armando had served as a selfless guide in a new and exorbitantly expensive land.  Armando was a firm believer in the power of ‘word of mouth’ reputation and that great work speaks for itself, thus said he was an enigma and of a rare character these days; honest. He was tired of the exact same bullshit I was in his own industry, customers being snowed over by a nice review in a trade magazine rather than doing their own comparisons. I read the magazines too, it was horribly amazing. Reading some of the reviews was like what it would be like to experience Guy Fieri write a column describing ten different hotdogs weekly. Except that the hotdogs cost $60,000 a pop. I mean, we are talking serious serious money, high end audio is an expensive sport not for the weak of wallet. I couldn't believe people were pulling the trigger on this stuff based on this. The people writing the reviews aren't musicians, most likely they have never stood next to a saxophone or trumpet. Yet they can control the market using words like ‘effortless, punchy articulated bass with clean high register definition’ to describe a dozen different pairs of loudspeakers. In the world of HiFi there is a lot of MyFi, meaning people making things sound like they think they are supposed to, not what they actually do because they dont have a clue. gross.

 

Ok so heres where Ill leave you. I have a lot of friends and clients of my saxophone shop who have come to really enjoy hanging out and listening to records on my system, or maybe its just the fact that this also usually involves a free espresso, but thats another story. Some of these folks are in the process of assembling their own setups and collecting records. Its clear to me now that If I hadn't had Armando, I could have easily wasted a crazy amount of money on records and gear that sounded like a pile of hot garbage. I have now heard multiple systems that cost in total well over $100,000 that are laughably phony sounding to someone who has played a real instrument. So i’d like to start doing some simple reviews. For the moment Id like to review just records, not equipment, things Ive found or have been pointed to that truly sound magnificent and can recommend it being worth spending the money on. If people are interested, ill keep it up. I promise they’ll be shorter than this post and we’ll call it a New Years resolution. 

 

fin