Saturday, February 28, 2015
Colleen and I just returned from Phoenix, where we braved a serious bit of winter weather to present the new Axis VoiceBox S loudspeaker to the Arizona Audio/Video Club. Bill Coomes, proprietor of Sweet Spot Audio in Goodyear AZ, is the first Axis Loudspeaker dealer in the United States, and he asked us to return to the AVAZ--we held a demonstration for the group a little over two years ago. The day before we left Colorado we had a snowstorm that dropped about 20 inches of powder in a single day, so we almost didn't make it. But the day before the event the sun came out and the snow started to melt, so we were fine.
I remembered this ballroom from two years ago--big, square, bare walls, tall ceilings, all the conditions that make it difficult to provide good sound. In addition, we had only a few hours to get everything set up and dialed in at the Airport Marriott. I kept looking over at the tiny Voiceboxes and saying to myself, "Big room, little speakers, and a relatively low-powered tube amplifier...sounds like a recipe for disaster." But within thirty minutes or so Colleen and I had the system assembled and playing music. Much to my surprise, the low frequencies were not only present, but tight and controlled and clean.
We brought our prototype of the Unison Research SH headphone amplifier/DAC, which is about to start shipping to the US in a couple of weeks. Matched with the Unison Research CD Primo CD player, the ADL H128 headphones and Cardas Audio Clear Light cabling, this system impressed many of the audiophiles in the room--so much so that we sold a couple of them before the show was over. We have set the MSRP of the SH at $1695, by the way.
The main system was identical to one of the systems we exhibited at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest last October. It consists of the Axis Voicebox S speakers, of course, as well as a Unison Research Triode 25 integrated amplifier/DAC and the Unison Research Unico CDE CD player, all wired with Furutech. Since the Voiceboxes are relatively inefficient, we had to switch the Triode 25 into pentode mode for 45 watts per channel. Even in this big room we were able to achieve decent sound levels.
Just like the last time we visited, the room was pretty much full with Arizona audiophiles. I played three or four of my usual trade show demo tracks--some Three Blind Mice, some 2L Recordings and, of course, Happy Coat. Then we played a few requests. I know I'm making a few waves in the industry by talking about taking show attendees' requests, but an audiophile club meeting is different--more interactive and more casual. After we finished the presentation, many club members lined up to speak with us afterward. The AZAV has always welcomed us and treated us graciously, and we hope to return in a few months to introduce new products from both PureAudio and Brad Serhan's new company, Brigadier Audio Group.
Finally, Colleen and I snapped this selfie just a few seconds before we went into the ballroom and started our presentation. It was a great, productive trip, and you can see it in our faces. We're planning on hitting the road this May for at least a couple of weeks, and we're going to try to visit as many of our dealers as possible. We hope to do more events just like this one. In fact, this is one of the best parts of our job!
Jason Victor Serinus' "As We See It" column in this month's Stereophile, which partially discussed my Part-Time Audiophile article on attending high-end audio shows, is now available to read online at http://www.stereophile.com/content/play-or-not-play. So far no nasty comments!
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
More than two years ago, Colleen and I visited the Arizona Audio-Video Club at the invitation of our Los Angeles and Phoenix dealer for Opera and Unison, Bill Coomes of The Sweet Spot. Bill is officially the first US dealer for the Axis VoiceBox S loudspeaker, so Colleen and I are returning to demonstrate his new line of Australian loudspeakers for the AZAV members.
We are planning to feature the Axis VoiceBox, of course, as well as a Unison Research Triode 25 integrated amplifier/DAC and a Unison Research Unico CDE CD player. All cabling and power management will be provided by Furutech. We also plan on bringing our prototype of the Unison Research SH headphone amplifier along with the Furutech H128 headphones.
The monthly meeting of the Arizona Audio-Video Club will be held at the Marriott Airport Hotel on Wednesday, February 25th at 7pm. The address of the hotel is 1101 N. 44th Street, Phoenix. You can find out more info on AZAV on their website.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
My latest article for Part-Time Audiophile is now online. I felt a little gun-shy about writing another "controversial" article on the audio industry since my foray into the subject of getting more women into audio went a little pear-shaped, as the British say. But this article about the true role of an audio review in the buying process needs to be said over and over--a in-joke between PTA's Scot Hull and me since he already wrote a similar article--because I see far too many consumers doing these things over and over. Enjoy, and don't be too mean in the comments section!
Friday, January 30, 2015
My latest Vinyl Anachronist column for Perfect Sound Forever, my 102nd, is now online. In this column I recap my rather disheartening experience of writing and arguing about the question, "How do we get more women interested in audio?" I wrote this final recap reluctantly, because I had removed myself from the public debate because I felt so weary--I'd actually been combating an illness at the same time--and I just wanted to apologize for being wrong and for being such a dick about it, and then quietly excuse myself from the conversation.
I took some time off, got healthy, and then realized that I still had mixed feelings about the way everything went down. I finally gained some perspective on the whole debate by realizing this wasn't an issue between the sexes, but rather an issue between my generation and the Millenials, or Generation Y or whatever else you want to call "those damn crazy kids who won't stay off my lawn."
Those younger folks grew up in a world that was significantly more tolerant, where the "old ways" of Baby Boomers like me were frowned upon. So they're much quicker on the draw when it comes to perceiving language that can be exclusionary or discriminatory. Just like my generation rails at the thought of the world in which our parents were raised, and the predominantly racist and sexist attitudes that are still carrying forward, their generation is trying to guide the world, kicking and screaming, to the next big step.
So I'm not trying to open that can of worms again; I'm just trying to focus on the bigger picture. Enjoy.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
It seems like every January I apologize for not blogging enough. I won't do it this year. The truth is, CES keeps getting bigger and bigger for us, and every year I get a little older. That means additional time is required for recovery. It's during this quiet time of the year, however, in the middle of my second Colorado winter, that I really seem to appreciate what Morten Lindberg's been doing for not only the Norwegian recording industry but the entire world. Going beyond all those technical innovations and novel approaches in the studio, Morten chooses music that seems to highlight wintry emotions. These selections aren't stereotypically Scandinavian, all ice and snow and cold, but sturdy and confident and a bit pragmatic--in a good way. It's an underlying attitude of a people who take nothing for granted.
What's utterly amazing is that this subterranean thread of stoicism appears in such a wide range of musical styles. On the latest 2L Recordings release, for example, Morten enlists (pun intended) the help of the Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces, something he's done once or twice before. In each case, this wind orchestra defies expectations for fighting the temptation to be constantly dynamic and startling. The sounds of the band are remarkable in the way they coalesce and expand with the flow of the music; it's more about passion and less about punctuation. That also seems to reinforce the idea that the music of Norway is more about substance than about thrills.
Christianialiv is a simple, unadorned celebration of the "Golden Age of Norwegian Music," a time during the late 19th and early 20th century when the country's prosperity opened the door to a new period of unlimited artistic expression. The fascinating part of the story is that earlier incarnations of the Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces actually played an important role in popularizing these pieces after the were first written. These specific pieces, by Norwegian composers such as Johan Svendsen, Adolf Hansen, Ole Olsen and Alfred Evensen, were actually championed by the SBNAF back in the day--and that's the reason why they are included here.
As with 2L's first two recordings with the SBNAF, the magic element here is to surprise the listener by showing uncommon depth and emotion in the context of a wind orchestra/marching band. There's still that urge to pick out the individual musicians and follow them throughout the piece--the soundstage and imaging, of course, are that spectacular--but the true beauty of this album is found in the way these instruments join together in the air and create a new harmonic tone all their own. There are points in time, especially in the opening Symfoni Nr. 2 by Svendsen and the final two Evensen dances, where it seems preternatural that the band's sounds are created so naturally.
So if your opinion of wind orchestras and marching bands are somewhat colored by those boom/smash/bang audiophile titles from a couple of decades ago, Christianialiv might change your perceptions. Intriguing, fluid and almost cosmic in its reach, this is one of the best-sounding releases yet from 2L.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
My Review of the Audio Intelligent Solutions' Premium One-Step Formula No. 6 Now Online at Positive Feedback!
I was quietly and patiently waiting for my review of the Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions' Premium One-Step Formula No. 6 to appear in the latest issue of Positive Feedback Online, and had no idea that it's been out for a while--just under the "Audio Discourse" section instead of the review section! You can read it here.