Thursday, December 30, 2010

Did I screw up?

I did screw up!

I posted my top 10 albums for 2010, and I forgot to include Dean Peer's amazing Airborne album! It belongs in there, near the top.

Sorry, Dean! Please forgive me!

Music Night at Blackbird Audio with special guest Dean Peer!

Right on the heels of the Comsumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, Dan Muzquiz of Blackbird Audio Gallery in San Diego will be hosting a very special event. Dean Peer, the extraordinary bassist who just released the amazing Airborne CD, will be on hand to sign the limited edition LP copy I announced just a few weeks ago. Limited edition? How about just 500 copies? This will definitely be a collector's item and I will be lining up to get my copy with everyone else.

The event will be held at Blackbird Audio gallery in Santee, California, just outside of San Diego. I will be there along with Colleen Cardas of Cardas Audio, and possibly even her father George Cardas, the guy who designs all those amazing cables. Bob Clarke of Profundo will also be there. This event is quickly filling up and availability is limited, so you will have to contact Dan (at if you want a place.

For more information, check out

The Trenner & Friedl Dukes...the whole story!

I've already mentioned the Trenner & Friedl Dukes here several times. As the owner of their ART monitors, I can't wait to hear their "state-of-the-art" loudspeaker at the Consumer Electronic Show next week. Bob Clarke of Profundo, the US distributor of T&F, just sent me the official press release for the Duke that should tell you everything you need to know about these behemoths:

"According to their US importer Profundo, Austrian loudspeaker manufacturer Trenner & Friedl will premier the most ambitious undertaking in their history at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, January 6-9th. The culmination of designer Andreas Friedl's knowledge, skill and experience in loudspeaker design, “Duke,” named in honor of the great Duke Ellington, is a modular design incorporating numerous innovations, all of which contribute to a unified goal of absolute naturalness and musical insight in an ultra-resolution, ultra-bandwidth, high-sensitivity “last word” in loudspeaker design and construction.

"Originally conceived as the first project of the company, six years passed and numerous other models appeared before the first Duke was ready in 2000. Planned as an acoustic “electron microscope” for the production of the company's recordings, Duke 2000 still maintained a high level of musicality and “fun,” the two main standards of all Trenner & Friedl's offerings.

"Duke 2010, while bearing a familial and philosophical similarity to the original version, represents a leap forward in both technical and musical areas, incorporating all that Friedl has learned in his pursuit of truly profound musical insight and emotional connection with the recorded performance. After dedicating his attention almost exclusively to this project for the past year, it is safe to say that Friedl has achieved his high goals.

"From the ground up, Duke 2010 sets itself apart from other “statement” speakers, by eschewing the usual “high-tech” design novelties and materials, in favor of natural materials and time-proven concepts, above all, symmetry and golden-ratio proportions. The cabinets are constructed from a unique sandwich of bamboo and birch-plywood, resulting in a very stiff, yet relatively low-mass cabinet. Cabinets are faced with leather from the supplier of several top automobile manufacturers. Such high-tech materials as aluminum, steel, plastics and woven fibers are avoided wherever possible out of tonal and musical considerations.

"The bass modules, of which there are two per channel, represent an in-house development of a hybrid form of horn-resonator and bass-reflex design. This is comprised of 14 individual channels that create a sandwich-structure, which then also reinforces and stiffens the sidewalls of the cabinet. The calculations and computations of simulations for this system alone were so complex that each required almost 30 minutes to complete (a process normally requiring only a minute or two), and Friedl went through hundreds of steps on his path toward the final result.

"These 14 channels are arranged such that they greatly amplify the effective radiating surface area of the 12” bass drivers and enable an optimal coupling to the listening room. The cabinet interiors are fully symmetrical and dimensioned in golden ratio, in order to minimize any non-linearities in back-pressure on the driver, which can cause wobbling-motions in the driver membrane.

"The 12” woofers are a cooperative development with SB Acoustics. The cones are comprised of fiberglass-reinforced paper-cells which, compared to the usual aluminum honeycomb (such as with Eton), reduce weight (moving mass) as well as significantly reducing internal resonances. The large voice-coils are wound at 12 Ohms each, in order to create a tube-friendly load when paired together. The massive generator alone weighs 22 lbs., contributing to precise control and tremendous power.

"The mid-/high-frequency module is coupled to the bass modules with an adjustable assembly that makes it possible to precisely set the time-alignment of drivers for the exact listening position in any given room. Mr. Friedl will personally install, measure, and align the system on-site for the purchaser of Duke.

"The Modules are coupled via three spheres of varying hardness, in order to dissipate/drain vibrations at differing points with varying speeds. The cabinets have hardwood inserts at the points of contact, to further enhance the dissipation of vibrational artifacts.

"The mid-/high-Module employs a special papyrus-cone midrange driver, manufactured specially for Trenner & Friedl by Seas, with proprietary, lower-mass voice-coils, installed in the symmetrically dimensioned cabinet (indeed, even the magnets of the tweeter have been designed for the purpose of symmetry). The magnet system for this driver is AlNiCo, the tonally best and most powerful (and expensive!) magnet material. The basket spider is acoustically completely transparent, which aids in the free movement of the cone. Even the phase-plug is turned from elm wood, to keep Duke a “NoMetalspeaker” as much as possible.

"The cabinet has a special “acoustic sink” made specially for T&F out of felt from locally raised sheep. This prevents reflections of backwaves from passing back through the thin cone-membrane and into the listening room.

"The tweeter is also developed in-house and is manufactured in Italy, exclusively for Trenner & Friedl. It has an ultra-rigid, rather large titanium-nitride diaphragm, coupled via a proprietary tractrix horn assembly. A large neodymium magnet assembly provides a powerful and dynamic magnetic field. This is all in order to have a high-frequency driver that does not fade dynamically, relative to the midrange. On axis, this driver delivers distortion-free to above 40,000 Hz.

"Above all this sits a super-tweeter with 360 degrees of radiation. Anything that radiates above 15,000 Hz. beams so strongly that we can really only perceive it at a single point.. therefore, it became quickly evident that an omnidirectional radiating driver was needed. And since it is the Duke, it should be able to reproduce frequencies to 100,000 Hz. Thus T&F had Thiel (Accuton) build a small 19 mm Diamond membrane tweeter which is oriented vertically into a leaded-crystal jewel from the Austrian firm Swarowski, which disperses the output in a circular pattern. The particular shape of the jewel (also in golden ratio, of course) has proven itself exceptionally well-suited to the task.

"After protracted experimentation with this topology, the passive crossover section of the mid-high module is also of symmetrical design, which costs twice as much, but truly works and allows for the circuit to remain surprisingly simple. All internal cabling is via Cardas Clear, setting industry reference points for transparency and musicality.

"The active crossover section, which feeds the bass modules, was designed by and with Trenner & Friedl. Symmetrical, naturally, it is extremely low-noise and low-distortion, while maintaining a very, very broad bandwith. It will also be available separately in order to be able to “activate” other models in the line."

The details/data, at a glance:
Frequency response: 20-80,000 Hz. (-3dB)
Average Impedance: 8 Ohms
Mid-High module 92dB (above 200 Hz +- 1.25dB)
Bass module summed 93dB
Dimensions: 50cm wide, 80cm deep, 150cm high
Weight: 126 kg, excluding active crossover

I can't wait to hear these!

Another visit to Whetstone Audio!

I stopped by Whetstone Audio again today to visit Brian DiFrank and to find out what was new. He had this orange "University of Texas" Rega P3-24 set up with a Dynavector 10X5 cartridge running through the new LFD phono stage. He had a red felt mat on the platter which really matched well with the Dyna. I can imagine how striking this would look if it was one of the red P3-24s.

Brian, a fairly new Harbeth dealer, finally had a pair of the Compact 7-ES3s to demo. For those of you who have never heard this speaker, it is one of the best all-around monitors in the world. I couldn't believe how big and open the Harbeths sounded in Brian's big room. The bass was very impressive for what are basically a medium-sized pair of bookshelf monitors.

Since my brother Mat was with me (his first visit to Whetstone), Brian found the perfect music to audition (see above). We also listened to the new Grinderman album and even the Ohio Players. We were able to crank the volume up on this system to party levels with almost no strain. So much for the idea that British monitors are polite and reserved. The Compact 7s rocked!
I'm going to drop by again after the first of the year and give the new white Rega turntable belt a try. I've talked to a couple of engineers concerning how a mere belt can affect the sound of the Regas so dramatically, and there's some very sound reasons why. For every skeptic who may balk at the idea of a $59 rubber band, there will be others who will find that this is one of the most cost-effective upgrades you can make to your analog rig! I can't wait to give it a try...I've heard it once before and it does make a huge difference. In fact, Brian didn't even have any in stock because they're flying off the shelf. I've had no less than three Rega fans asks me why I haven't bought one already. 

I will, I will!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Global Audiophile Network's new look

If you haven't checked out The Global Audiophile Network yet, give it a try at I wrote about this forum a couple of months ago and highlighted the fact that this is a kinder, friendlier place for audiophiles to hang out and talk about gear and music. The whole website has recently been revamped, and you can see the new, cooler logo above.

While it's headed by my friend Sid Trehan who lives in India, he wants to stress the "global" aspect of his site and encourage people from all over the world to participate. Some months ago Sid and I discussed his plans for extending his forum worldwide, and he expressed his interest in forming partnerships with other audiophiles, webmasters and music lovers to help this become a truly global effort. If you like what you see, contact Sid through the site and assist him in realizing his vision for GAN.

As for me, I enjoy seeing pictures of systems all around the world. Audiophiles in India are surprisingly well-versed in set-up and system matching, and I've seen some truly enviable music rooms. (Another slightly amusing observation is that Indian audiophiles LOVE Marantz, which is a good thing because this legendary manufacturer has been making great gear over the last few years.) You'll also see plenty of rooms in Europe, America, Australia and the Far East...all hotbeds for audio activity.

Check it out...I'll be there!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Vinyl Anachronist visits The Movie Junkies!

I'll be visiting my friend Michele Schalin on The Movie Junkies webcast tomorrow night (December 28) from 8 to 9pm Central Time. No, I won't be talking about vinyl...I'm a movie buff too. So check in and see me weigh in on my 10 favorite films for 2010 at

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Vinyl Anachronist's Top 10 albums for 2010!

My Top 15 list will be published on the Perfect Sound Forever website (, but that list will be slightly different because a) I'm only offering only my Top 10 here and b) I submitted my list to Jason Gross a few weeks ago, and there have been some changes that reflect some of the gifts I just received for Christmas!

Without further ado, here is my Top 10 for 2010:

10. Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise

I upgraded this one from my PSF list because I grabbed the vinyl version on the day after Christmas and it sounds superb. This album is spread across two LPs despite the fact that there are only 10 songs on it, which means there's only around 10 minutes of music on each side. That means no inner groove distortion on a nice, unhurried pressing. Add the fact that the great Bob Ludwig did the mastering and you have one of the best-sounding folk/Americana recordings of the year.

9. DJ Dus Soy Yo

This one, from my DJ friend Dusty Oliviera, is only available as a download from his website (, but it reminded me of just how inventive he is in terms of mating a modern turntablist sensibility to traditional Cumbia folk music. For me, this was the party album of the year.

8. Campfire OK Strange Like We Are\

It may not be fair to include this on a 2010 list because it isn't available until February, but I'm getting y'all ready for this band. A mix between Fleet Foxes and Death Cab for Cutie, this LP is full of mystery and beauty and has great sound quality as well. This has been stuck in my car CD player for the past week.

7. Big Boi Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

For me this is the best hip-hop album of the year and an antidote for the malaise that comes whenever I consider that we may never see another OutKast album. It's playful, funny as shit and I've never heard another rapper that has such imaginative phrasing and rhythms.

6. Boy Eats Drum Machine 20 Beats

I have to give credit to my buddy Jon Ragel, the genius behind Boy Eats Drum Machine. He's the one who showed me what turntablists are capable of in the 21st century, and this collection of beats puts distinctive images in my head like no other release this year. Plus, it's my favorite album cover of the year. Bunnies!

5. Morrissey Bona Drag 20th Anniversary Edition

This takes me back 20 years and reminds me of just how much I really love Morrissey and The Smiths. Great package, great bonus tracks and great sound quality.

4. Ben Harper Pleasure and Pain

This remastered version of Ben Harper's first album is the first vinyl release from Cardas Audio, and the sound quality is breathtaking...easily the best-sounding new recording of the year. This one isn't available until early next year as well, but it will be released in limited quantities so scoop it up when it arrives.

3. Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street deluxe edition

By now you might have guessed that a lot of reissues made it on my Top 10 list, but this is the granddaddy of them all. What a huge, comprehensive package of one of the greatest rock albums ever made. And Mick Jagger even re-recorded some of his vocals for a more clear presentation. I disliked this album when I was young, but as an adult I appreciate this album more every year. I think I listened to "Rocks Off" more than any other single song in 2010.

2. Black Keys Brothers

Where have these guys been all my life? Why did it take me so long to discover them? THE rock album of the year, and the one I've listened to almost non-stop since this summer.

1. Janelle Monae The ArchAndroid

Was there ever any question this would be my #1 album of 2010? I think not. What a mammoth talent she is. What an ambitious album this is. Not only is this my album of the year, but one of my two or three favorites from the last decade. If you don't already have this, buy it. Listen to it a few times from beginning to end. Let it sink it. And then love it like I do.

Here are some honorable mentions from the last year:

John Mellencamp No Better Than This
Brian Eno Small Craft on a Milk Sea
Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Tom Jones Praise and Blame
Deerhunter Halcyon Digest
Arcade Fire The Suburbs
Sufjan Stevens The Age of Adz
Cee Lo Green The Ladykiller
Mavis Staples You Are Not Alone
LCD Soundsystem This Is Happening
R.E.M. Fables of the Reconstruction (25th Anniversary Edition)

What a great year for music 2010 was! Someone told me last week they thought it was an off year...and they hadn't heard of most of the music on my list. What this year taught me more than any other was that if you've been stuck listening to the same music genres for most of your life, it's time to shake things up. Listen to something new. Explore and enjoy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Morrissey's Bona Drag...20th Anniversary LP

I'm sorry, Morrissey, for picking on you!

Last week I lamented the rising costs of specialty LPs and targeted the newly remastered 20th anniversary of Morrissey's Bona Drag, one of my favorite albums of the '90s. While shopping at Waterloo Records here in Austin, I was very excited to see it on the shelves but hesistated when I saw the $37.99 asking price. Well, someone just gave it to me as a Christmas present, and I have to say that it's been spinning on my Rega P3-24 ever since I got it in the mail.

First of all, Major Minor Records has released this as a 180 gram double-LP set, and the sound quality is fantastic. It isn't jam-packed with bonus materials like I previously thought--mostly there's just a GIANT poster of Morrissey that I won't be hanging in my bedroom. But the pressing itself is quiet, and the sound quality is much better than my old CD. You also get six bonus tracks that take up side 4, and it's great stuff such as "The Bed Took Fire" (which later became "At Amber"), "Let the Right One Slip In" and "Please Help the Cause Against Loneliness." (You gotta love Morrissey's over-the-top song titles.)

But it's the familar songs that really surprise. "November Spawned a Monster," my vote for the greatest of all Morrissey songs, is so clear and detailed that you can hear every single guttural sound from the subject in question--a handicapped girl who just wants to be accepted and loved. You'll also marvel at the great guitar work in songs such as "Hairdresser on Fire" and "The Last of the Famous International Playboys" (perhaps my second favorite Morrissey song of all time). Who needs Johnny Marr? (Well, I do.)

So yes, this is well-worth $37.99, or even more. If you love The Smiths and Morrissey, this new pressing is absolutely essential.

The Greatest Cigar in the World?

In my dozen or so years as a cigar smoker, I've enjoyed some of the best sticks in the world. I was introduced to cigar smoking by a former in-law who started me out on a Cuban Bolivar--not a bad way to kick off this hobby. Since then I've smoked a few Davidoff Anniversarios, a Padron Family Reserve No. 45 or two and a smattering of superb cigars from makers such as Don Pepin Garcia, Rocky Patel and a few others.

So when Jim Harrison of Habana House here in Austin raved about the LFD Litto Gomez Small Batch you see above, I had to run down and treat myself to an exquisite Christmas smoke. Only a few thousand of these were made (200 boxes in all!), and I feel privileged to have given this cigar a try earlier today.

First of all, this cigar is beautiful to look at. You can't really tell from my crappy cell phone photo, but the wrapper is almost reddish with black accents. It's one of those dark, oily wrappers that exude quality and rarity. Once I lit it up, I was surprised at just how smooth and consistent the LG is. That smooth, rich characted stayed with the stick until the very end--and I smoked it down to the last inch or so.

Jim told me that the LG was such an expensive smoke that he couldn't really afford to corner a few for himself, but some of his best customers bought him a handful as Christmas presents. That's a loyal customer base, something that Habana House deserves. If you're in the Austin area, stop by Habana House in SoCo (South Congress) and give one a try. Treat yourself like I's the holidays!

Trenner & Friedl Dukes at CES

I just intercepted a message from Andreas Friedl of Trenner and Friedl, manufacturers of my incredible ART monitors, about their room at CES. Here's the message:

"Ladies and Gentlemen! This year, we will show an Audio system, which might have no comparison at all…!
Together with Cardas Audio and the Jeff Rowland Design Group, we will proudly present our completely redesigned DUKE. We warmly welcome all of you who will join this happening with us!

"It will be one of the most sophisticated systems ever; Jeff Rowland will bring a brand new digital analog converter (!), his heavenly Preamp Criterion, the genuine Model 625 and the new reference mono blocks Model 925! The incredibly Cardas Clear and Clear Beyond cables will connect the system to our partly activated Dukes."

In other words, this will be one heck of a reference system. I'll be at CES, so I'll have a chance to listen and meet with both Andreas and his partner Peter Trenner. And as always, I'll report my findings right here!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

78s in the House!

Last weekend Margaret brought me a couple of surprises from an estate sale. She thought she was just bringing me a few old albums in really good shape, but what she didn't know that these were actually 78 lacquers. While my Rega P3-24 doesn't play 78s, I still really appreciated owning these pieces of history.

It's really something special to hold lacquers, rather than vinyl, in your hands. You know that feeling you get when you open a 180 or 200 gram vinyl LP in your hands and are amazed at the heft? Well, triple that feeling for 78 lacquers!

In my next Vinyl Anachronist column for Perfect Sound Forever, which will appear in April, I will talk a little more about 78s. I'll be visiting Terry Combs who owns Sound Mind Audio up in Dallas, and he has a stae-of-the-art rig for playing old 78s.

As I told Margaret, it's not that 78s sound anywhere near as lifelike as vinyl LPs. But what 78s do to an amazing degree is open up a clear window into the original recording and let you really feel the history. It's an almost visceral feeling to experience that sort of connection to the past.

So I now own two 78 recordings. Whether or not I pursue this any further remains to be seen, but I do feel like a TRUE record collector now!

Campfire OK - Strange Like We Are

A lot of comparisons are being drawn in the press between Campfire OK and the Fleet Foxes. Both bands are from the Seattle area, and both bands put their distinct mark upon that rather nebulous music genre known as Americana. Sure, Campfire OK skirts along the peripherals like their more famous counterparts and deliver a sound that is very unlike the basic primers most artists provide when they want to dip into the "American music" songbook. But apart from a very fox-like title cut, the debut CD from this quartet blazes its own trail and sounds rich, calm and mature in a way that few new bands do.

Strange Like We Are, on the Ana-them label, is filled with the sounds of banjos, brass and delicate harmonies, but it's the vocals that will remind you more of Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie--another band that hails from Washington--than anything. Add a living, pulsing piano that provides nearly all of the momentum to these songs (mostly notably in the opener, the dreamlike "We Lay in Caves") and you have a band that isn't sloppy or threadbare, as is the current fashion. With rolling, intricate percussion, Campfire OK achieves an overall sound that is much like a river flowing with steady density, richness and power.

The band members only go by their last names--even on their Facebook page. Van Der Speck plays bass and vocals, Dagworth plays percussion, Hannigan plays banjo and brass, Goodweather plays piano and vocals and Exworthy is on keyboards and vocals. In one interview, the band members made a point of saying that while they all studied musical instruments when they were younger, they wound up playing completely different instruments as Campfire OK. I'm not sure what that adds or subtracts to the music since this quintet is clearly accomplished, but it's certainly an interesting little tidbit. If anything, these guys are cultivating an enigmatic vibe.

So if you're hanging on tight for the next Fleet Foxes album (which should arrive early next year), this album will help you get your fix. But that shortchanges Campfire OK in the long run. This band is distinctive enough to merit its own place in the folk/americana/indie world, and hopefully they'll make it based upon the music of this superb album. Personally, I put it on my top ten for the year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Collector's Frenzy

My friend Brian Weaver just turned me onto the Collector's Frenzy website. Collector's Frenzy (or CeeFrenzy, as fans call it) is an online resource for rare and collectible LPs that offers the latest prices based upon recent eBay statistics. It's designed for both buyers and sellers so that market prices remain fair and up-to-date. Simply type in a title or artist in the search field and the most recent price estimate appears. The home page also features a running scroll on the latest noteworthy auctions on eBay.

This is a valuable resource for LP collectors, and it should be used by anyone who spends a lot of time (and money) on eBay, Audiogon, etc. Check it out at

Sounds By Design Sedition review at Positive Feedback

Randy Kunin isn't a speaker builder or designer. He considers himself an artist, a sculptor. He just happens to make some of the most beautiful speakers I've ever seen.

I've been Facebook friends with Randy for a few months now, and I've had the privilege of seeing him build his latest speaker, the Sedition, through a day-by-day photo album journal labelled "My Art." Using a Lowther PM6A as his treble/mid driver, Randy has taken the traditional single-driver-loudspeaker-in-a-big-giant-box recipe and has added a couple of 8-inch Dynaudio drivers to handle everything under 350 Hz.

Well, after a few months the Sedition is finished, and it just received a review from Kent Johnson from Positive Feedback Online (which you can read right here: It's a very positive review that suggests that not only is Randy's one-of-a-kind design one of the most intriguing Lowther-based speakers ever, but it's also a bargain at $7000. Honestly, after watching Randy toil over this speakers for months, I thought it would easily be twice that.

Congratulations, Randy! And here's to future, sculptures from Sounds By Design.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Buy Peacehouse

I just received an email from Therese at Peacetown in Youngstown, Ohio. The charity organization is facing foreclosure, and the only choice Therese has is to sell four of her rare and valuable Mobile Fidelity UHQRs to get the money in order to halt the sheriff's sale in two weeks. She doesn't have enough time to go through eBay...Peacetown needs the money NOW.

Three of the four UHQRs are SEALED. That's right...SEALED. Therese has had them over 20 years. They are The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Clubs Band, Supertramp's Crime of the Century and Earl Klugh's Fingerpaintings. The fourth UHQR, Cat Steven's Tea for the Tillerman, has been opened but it is in great shape. It is serial number #1133.

Therese wants to sell all four for $1700. This is roughly half the price she could get right now on eBay, judging from recently sold items. It breaks down like this: $200 for the Cat Stevens, $600 for the Beatles, $500 for the Supertramp and $400 for the Earl Klugh, but she will only sell them as a set. If you or anyone you know is interested, email me immediately at


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lookie what Gene Rubin has...'s a Naim NAIT 2 and a NAT 02 tuner. He just got it from a customer who bought them new from him back in the day. (I joked that the NAIT was probably my old one, but no.)

Man, they're beautiful.

Scheu Analog Cantus tonearm

I'm not a huge fan of acrylic turntables, but this new acrylic tonearm from Scheu Analog is a looker. This is the same company that carries the pink Diamond turntable I talked about last month. The Cantus is available in both 9" and 12" versions, and it differs from other tonearms in that arm tube is a mechanical framework rather than a mere wand to carry the cabling.

I wonder if you can get it in pink...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Cost of LPs: A Rant

While shopping in Waterloo Records here in Austin, Texas, I spotted something I truly, truly wanted--the newly remastered 20th anniversary LP of Morrissey's Bona Drag. I hadn't heard anything about this LP prior to this encounter, and it was noteworthy because I asked my brother earlier that day to rip me a copy off our music server. Released by the resurrected Major Minor label, which was active primarily in the 60s, this 2-LP set is pressed on 180 gram vinyl and includes bonus tracks, unreleased photos, a booklet and a pull-out poster. The price? $37.99.


Now that the vinyl renaissance is truly gaining unprecedented momentum, it seems that the prices are steadily going up. While I won't begrudge Major Minor their $38 because they have attempted to make this reissue truly special, this boutique pricing has trickled down to the garden variety selections. For instance, I trotted on down to Waterloo a few weeks ago to buy Ray LaMontagne's God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise, and I was confronted with the choice of buying a 2-LP set for $22 or the CD for $10. I hate to say it, but this hardcore vinyl lover went with the CD.

These days it's difficult to ascertain whether or not the vinyl is sourced from the same digital masters as the CDs. If it's a analog production, such as John Mellencamp's excellent No Better Than This, the extra $$$ for the LP version is more than worth it. But when the vinyl and CD is sourced from the same digital masters, it's probably going to sound pretty much the same either way. And that information isn't always on the album cover, so it's tough to make an educated decision.

Now I'm not complaining about companies like ORG, Mobile Fidelity and Blue Note who charge $30 to $50 for an LP that has absolutely phenomenal sound quality. I will always pay extra for that. But it seems the current trend is to pad out a reissue or a new release with as much bonus material as possible and then charge a very high price for it. I really don't need posters and a booklet. I think getting a CD or an MP3 dowload with the LP is a value-added feature, but I don't need photos of the artist. I'm a music lover, not a collector. I want MUSIC.

I'm also not complaining about the fact that many of these LPs are being released in a 2-LP format. That's generally a good thing, a result of CDs generally containing more music than a single LP. Spacing the tracks out onto two LPs ensures that there's a reduction of inner-groove distortion on the last songs of the side. And yes, pressing two LPs costs more than pressing just one. That cost should be passed on to the consumer.

But the simple fact remains that CDs are becoming outstanding bargains compared to their vinyl counterparts. (And MP3 downloads are even cheaper, if you don't mind generally crappy sound.) I think that's going to slow down the momentum of this vinyl resurgence. I know that record plants are disappearing and the cost of pressing LPs is becoming more expensive. I know that the business models have changed. And I know that the music industry overcharged for CDs for decades. But I think we're screwing the pooch here. If we truly want younger generations to discover analog playback, we need to stop making this a luxury hobby.

It can be done. Sundazed still charges $14 to $20 for most of their LP releases, and they usually sound excellent. By the way, I did get the Morrissey, but only after bugging one of my secret industry connections, something the normal consumer can't do. But I also got the 2-LP version of Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid for half the price. I think $20 is a good price for LPs. If you want to pay extra for bells and whistles, that's long as there's a basic version for the music lovers like me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Michael Romanowski Mastering on MIX TV

I just found this rather fascinating video on MIX TV where mastering engineer Michael Romanowski discusses state of the art techniques for recording digital, analog tape and vinyl. For those of you familiar with The Tape Project, you'll know who this gentleman is. He offers a tour of his newly-equipped studio and it's downright fascinating to listen to him talk about his gear which includes such audiophile favorites as Focal speakers and Pathos amplifiers.

You can view it at Enjoy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shindo Garrard 301

I just received an email from Brian Walker, a fellow audiophile and longtime Vinyl Anachronist reader. He asked me, "Marc, if you could own any turntable in the world right now, what would it be?"

Well, Brian, it would probably be this Garrard 301 from Shindo Laboratories, a Japanese manufacturer who specializes in very high-end tubed amplification (not to mention loudspeakers based upon the legendary Altec Lansing 608 and 609 drivers). This extensively modded Garrard isn't cheap (it's about $19,000, depending upon exchange rates, but it does include an Ortofon-based SPU arm and cartridge), but you did say "any" turntable!

I've heard this 'table just once, but it made a huge impression. First of all, it's absolutely breathtaking. Second, it offers sound quality that equals if not surpasses state-of-the-art modern designs!

Final pics of the Trenner & Friedl Duke