Saturday, April 30, 2011
I've just heard back from someone at Heed Audio concerning these speakers, which I blogged about a few days ago. Evidently they are almost ready for a US debut, and if I'm good and eat all my vegetables I may actually get a pair in review. If these speakers are anywhere as good as the Heed amplification I'm currently using (courtesy of Dan Muzquiz of Blackbird Audio Gallery), then I know I'll be impressed.
By the way, I think these speakers may be called the Enigmas. Or maybe the gentleman from Heed was referring to the fact that these speakers are "enigmas" to me...
Jon Catuccio of Stereolist.com just sent me these photos from this year's AXPONA show. This is the Eurolab Premier turntable with either a Schroder or a Scheu Tacco tonearm. I didn't get a chance to hear this particular 'table in action, but nevertheless it's beautiful and deserves to be seen.
I remember first hearing about Eurolab several years ago when Michael Fremer reviewed it for Stereophile. Back then the Eurolab was a very minimalist open-architecture 'table that seemed to be little more than a platter, a bearing and an armboard. The Premier is a much more substantial-looking 'table, and I like the copper accents on the motor and the clamp.
I do know something more about the Schroder tonearms, however. I had a chance to interview Frank Schroder a couple of years ago, and he offered more than his share of illuminating insights into the world of tonearm design. His tonearms are so good (along with Breuer, I think his are the finest in the world) that the waiting list for one is months, even years.
If this is the Scheu Tacco tonearm, then Scheu is the company that offers that beautiful pink turntable I blogged about a few months ago. Someone let us know for sure!
UPDATE: I've confirmed it's the Scheu Tacco tonearm.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
I reviewed this TTVJ phono preamp earlier in this blog (at http://thevinylanachronist.blogspot.com/2010/02/ttvj-hybrid-phono-preamp.html), and while I kind of picked on it for its looks, I thought it was a great bargain at $899. Now Todd of TTVJ (which stands for Todd the Vinyl Junkie) has reduced the price to a mere $550. For that price, it's the proverbial steal.
Snap one up today by contacting Todd by email at email@example.com or call him at 1-866-444-3910. He offers a two-year warranty on this model and each unit is tested before it's sent to you.
Someone recently emailed me and asked me about Kuzma turntables in general, and the Kuzma Stabi S model in particular. I've always been a big fan of this Slovenian turntable, and I've heard it on several occasions. Despite its bare-bones looks, this is a serious turntable that offers serious performance. I can't find a current price on it, but a 6Moons review from 2006 lists the price of the Stabi S as $1750, and its matching arm as $1000.
It looks striking for several reasons, but one feature I've always found intriguing is its oversized platter, which is slightly larger than the circumference of an LP. It reminds me of some of the older professional tables that DJs used to use (check out the album cover of Donald Fagen's The Nightfly for an example).
Kuzma has been popping up at recent audio shows I've attended, and I think it's time to give this 'table the love it deserves. If anyone owns this 'table, I'd love to hear from them.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Dan Muzquiz of Blackbird Audio just posted these pics of these Heed Audio speakers on his Facebook page. I've been using the Heed Audio Obelisk SI integrated amplifier and X2 power supply for a month or so, and I have to say this Hungarian company really knows how to make great hi-fi.
These Heeds use Morel drivers, and Dan reports that they "imaged really big (tall) and were really forgiving with the sweet spot too," adding that they were really fun to listen to. There's no price on these yet since Heed is still trying to figure out these can be marketed competitively in the US. Since the Heed amps I'm using sound utterly fantastic for their relatively modest price, I bet these will wind up being bargains.
They remind me a little bit of Shahinian speakers. I'd love to hear them!
NOTE: Dan just informed me that these are just older pics from about two years ago that he's recycling on his Facebook page. I'll try to get an update on whether or not these will be available in the US.
Here's another gorgeous AR turntable courtesy of Vinyl Nirvana. This one has all of the Merrill-Scilia mods as well as some extra ones from Vinyl Nirvana. And yes, that's an SME 3009 arm mounted on it.
It's going for $2295 shipped. That may sound like a lot, but this one looks nearly perfect and I'm sure it sounds great.
If you're interested in it, check it out at www.vinylnirvana.com.
My friend Margaret Craig, who's an artist and chair of the printmaking department at the Southwest School of Art and Craft in San Antonio, sent me this YouTube video of fellow artist Jeanne Lorenz and how she uses LPs in her work. I love her art, but I have to admit that I winced whenever she made comments such as "everyone's throwing their LPs in the garbage," "no one's listening to vinyl anymore" and "people are fetishizing vinyl."
Compare this to the work of Jon Ragel (of Boy Eats Drum Machine) who buys old records from used record stores, hand paints the covers and puts his own LPs inside--all for $15. Jon has a true love for vinyl as a playback medium, and that love shows in his art. I'm afraid that Lorenz's pieces may capture an ennui that really doesn't exist, at least in my world. At any rate, I wouldn't mind owning a couple of her pieces. Maybe I'll shoot her an email and tell her about the love (not fetishism) we all have for vinyl!
Here's the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYOJir0DddE
You can check out more of her work at her website: www.jeannelorenz.com
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
AXPONA, like most audio shows over the last two or three years, featured a lot of turntables. I didn't see more than a handful of CD players in the entire show--either you were playing music off of a turntable or you were playing it off of a laptop. These are just a few random shots from Ross Bennett. Above is the stunning yet affordable TD-309 with its "Tri-Balance suspension." This may have been the best-looking TT at the entire show.
Below that, we have a couple of VPIs: an HRX and a Classic. While I've never been a huge fan of the VPI sound, I'm hearing great things about the Classic and I'd love to give one a spin.
My sleeping room at the Sheraton Gateway was only a couple of doors down from the mbl room, and I was tempted to go down there, pound on their door and tell them, "Could you guys keep it down?" If you've ever seen mbl at an audio show, you know they like to crank the volume up to rave levels. Still, I'm a big fan of mbl products because they offer astonishing sound quality (albeit at astonishing prices). AXPONA was no different, and I was treated to several obscure pieces of music that were all emotional and downright bombastic, yet incredibly detailed and very listenable.
I heard a lot of buzz about these little single-driver speakers from French audio company Supravox, which are currently being distributed by Audio Mercury. These little speakers are called the Carlas, and they're 95 dB efficient and feature a frequency response of 50-18,000 Hz.
Mated with a modest tube amplifier and a mid-fi Marantz CD player, they imaged like crazy and were able to sound realistic and dynamic while playing the Nojima Plays Liszt CD from Chesky. Even though they are diminutive in size, they are big in sound. I was even a little surprised that they retailed for only $1999.
I want to avoid awarding any kind of "Best Sound of Show" prize for this year's AXPONA show in Atlanta since there were so many great exhibits, but the most surprising sound I heard was from the Channel D room, which included the Joseph Audio Pulsar speakers. I reported on Jeff Joseph's new Perspective speakers back in January when he showed them at CES, and I felt they produced an excellent all-around sound. Well, the Perspectives won't be released into the high-end audio market until early this summer (Jeff says he's still finalizing the design of the pedestal on which the Perspectives will sit), but he did show off his wonderful Pulsar speakers.
The Pulsars are part of the same line as the Perspectives. While the Perspective is a floorstanding speaker with two woofers and a tweeter, the Pulsar is the one-woofer, stand mounted version using the same drivers and the same style of enclosure. (The Perspective will retail for about $11,800, and the Pulsars are currently $7000 a pair.) While that may sound like a lot for a pair of fairly small--albeit gorgeous--"bookshelf" speakers, you'll forget about the price tag when you hear the sound. Quite frankly, the Pulsars have the best low frequency response of any small speaker I have ever heard. They sound huge!
Jeff Joseph put up a black curtain behind the Pulsars, and I just had to look behind it to ensure there was no hidden subwoofer in the room. That's how big the Pulsars sound. These are really fantastic speakers in every way.
Jeff was also using a sweet-looking turntable from Artemis Labs, which I didn't get to hear. That's because the real news was the digital sources Jeff was using to show off the speakers for the folks at AXPONA. The Channel D Room was my first exposure to the Pure Vinyl software package they offer, which allows you to download analog files that sound identical to music flowing from a first rate analog rig. The software even shows a graphic of a spinning LP, and the grooves are actually accurate renditions of the tracks you find on a vinyl copy. It was also my first exposure to 384 Hz downloads, which sound absolutely pristine through the high frequencies. The Channel D software even won the Computer Audio Product of the Year award from Stereophile.
I spoke briefly to Rob Robinson about the Channel D services and products, and I promised him I would give the Pure Vinyl software a try. He's an extremely nice guy, and he supplied my favorite quote at Axpona while he delivered his seminar on downloading music: "We are stewards of our record collections. After we've gone, someone else will be listening to our LPs." This quote underlines the durability and desirability of vinyl LPs more than any other statement I've heard--I wish I'd said it!
To read more about Joseph Audio, check out their website at www.josephaudio.com. To find out more about Channel D and Pure Vinyl, check out www.channld.com.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
On an un-AXPONA note, I thought I post more pics of the Funk Firm Vector turntable from Dan Muzquiz of Blackbird Audio. It's mated with the Funk Firm FXR-II tonearm, Transfiguration Axia cartridge and powered by VivA electronics from Italy. He just posted these pics on his Facebook page, and I couldn't resist. I love the look of this TT.
I wish Dan could have been at AXPONA...I missed him!
I wish Dan could have been at AXPONA...I missed him!
Yesterday was National Record Store Day, and for the second straight year the Vinyl Anachronist has failed to participate. I would use the excuse that I was busy at AXPONA yesterday, but there was plenty of great vinyl to be had. I planned on buying a copy of the MSFL pressing of Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth, one of my favorite albums of all time. This new pressing is supposed to be an incredible improvement to an already great-sounding recording. There were two copies available at the Elusive Disc table, and I told myself to grab one as soon as I had a minute. I came back to the table with my credit card in hand, and they were gone.
I told myself to buy something at AXPONA, but alas...I'm back here in Kyle, empty-handed. I suck.
It's kind of a crazy connection, but my friend Christie Smith, owner of The Quotable Quill right here in Kyle, Texas, is responsible for all of that cool signage at AXPONA in Atlanta! Christie did a great job of getting the signs done quickly and at a great price. She's also the one who did our website at Blue Computer Solutions, which you can see at www.bluecomputerstexas.com.
If you need graphic design, web design or writing services (especially if I'm too busy to handle the latter!), check out Christie's services at www.quotablequill.com.
This year's AXPONA show had one feature I thought was unique to audio shows in general: the local audiophile society had a huge part in pulling everything together. The Atlanta Audio Video Club volunteered to help with the event, and their members were all over the Sheraton helping attendees find their way to all of the events. The Sheraton is a huge hotel, and the A-VCOA volunteers made everything easier to navigate.
I spoke with John Morrison, the head of the A-VCOA, at length last night. (He's the one seated at the far left of the photo, and AXPONA founder Steve Davis is the one talking at right.) I have to admit that I saw John all over Axpona, talking to everyone in sight, and I kept wondering who he was. Well, John is one of those audiophiles who loves to talk about gear and music, and it was fun listening to him talk about his vision for AXPONA as well as A-VCOA.
First of all, A-VCOA has only been around since 2008, but they have 64 active members and many more as part of their mailing list. He even spoke to me about the possibility of guest memberships for people in the southeast US who may not be able to get down to Atlanta for the meetings. I think that's a great idea...the more audiophiles the better. John told me that the A-VCOA does more than just hang out and listen to music. They've designed a small two-way loudspeaker that the group uses as a reference to evaluate gear. They plan on designing a tube amplifier in the near future as well.
The A-VCOA's true motivation for volunteering for AXPONA is trying to attract more audio shows to that part of the country. They DEFINITELY want AXPONA to return to Atlanta next year, and I hope Steve Davis seriously considers it. Axpona was a genuine delight to attend, a truly friendly gathering that is a much-needed antidote to the all-business attitude at places like CES.
To find out more about the Atlanta Audio Video Club, check out their website at www.A-VCOA.org.
I stole the above photograph from Jon Catuccio, who runs the Stereolist.com website. I got to hang out with Jon quite a bit during AXPONA; I've been writing reviews for him over the last few weeks and it was great to put a face to the name. Jon's a fairly young guy, which gives me hope for the future of high-end audio. Like Lance Kimmons of the Austin HiFi Society, Jon is extremely knowledgeable about audio--much more so than when I was his age. Jon also loves a good Cuban cigar, which makes him aces in my book.
The above photo is of the YG Acoustics speakers. (His photos are much better than mine, so I'll use 'em.) YG earned a bit of consternatation among the audio industry when they first appeared a couple of years ago for saying they made "the greatest speakers in the world" in all of their ads. Usually this type of hyperbole is greeted with contempt because most knowledgeable audiophiles feel that there is no "best," only differences in preferences. Many attendees I talked to (along with a few of the bigwigs at Stereophile magazine) are starting to think there may be something to YG's claim.
I first heard the YGs at CES ealier this year, and I felt that they were definitely among the finest speakers I've heard. They sound so precise and so coherent throughout the frequency extremes that they are able to achieve an unbelievavble level of realism. Well, word has it that they've made a few modifications to the upper section of their speakers (the one with the midrange-tweeter-midrange array), and they're even better. While I don't think I prefer them to the slightly more organic and warm balance of the Trenner & Friedl Dukes, they certainly make a compelling case for themselves. The YG room was consistently the most crowded room at AXPONA, and for good reason.
This second photo, also from Jon, is a wider shot of the Audio Power Labs 833-TNTs I just blogged about. This will give you a better sense of the size of these BIG tube amps (although I still love Ross Bennett's more romantic shot of the massive, glowing tubes).
Saturday, April 16, 2011
...are pretty darned good. But before you think I took a course in digital photography before I headed out to Atlanta, the reason that most of these images are so strong is that they're being taken by a professional. And that professional is Ross Bennett of ImagePro Productions. Ross is a high definition cameraman and television production specialist who literally travels all over the world to record video for broadcast. He was at Ground Zero right after 9/11, and he was just in Japan to record the devastating effects of the earthquake and tsunami.
Steve Davis, who is in charge of AXPONA, gladly gave me access to Ross' expertise. Thanks Steve, and thanks Ross! Too bad I can't afford to hire you to take all the Vinyl Anachronist photographs from now on, because I kinda suck at it.
If you need an experienced high definition cameraman or TV production expert, email Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've actually been wearing an Audio Power Labs t-shirt for a few months now without knowing who they were or what they do. Well, now I know. Audio Power labs makes one of the most beautiful, hefty and expensive tube amplifiers ever made. The price of a pair of these giant monoblock beauties is $150,000 or $175,000 (I heard both prices during AXPONA).
After an extended listening session with the TNTs, I have to admit that they recreated the essence of live music with uncanny precision. I know a handful of $10,000 amplifiers that play in the same ballpark as the TNTs, but they're shagging balls instead of playing in the starting lineup. With a piece of gear of this caliber, it's hard to determine if you're getting your money's worth unless you spend a lot of time listening to them, and ensure that you've hooked up the best possible system around them.
For what it's worth, I think they're pretty special.
I've met bass guitarist Dean Peer on several occasions, and yet I've never seen him play his bass live. "I'm really not that interesting to watch," he told me in San Diego a few months ago. "All of those crazy sounds you hear from my bass? They're all done through microscopic movements of my fingertips, so you don't really see much."
Well, I just watched Dean's AXPONA seminar where he discusses his complex recording techniques, his equipment configurations and even his background as a music teacher. And yes, he plays his bass. And no, he's very interesting to watch.
Dean is the first to admit that he's a shy person (isn't that stereotypical for bass players?), but his relatively quiet demeanor actually adds to the enjoyment of his presentation. In other words, he isn't an arrogant, in-your-face rock star who wants to talk about why he's as great of a musician as he is. Dean's response to questions about his unbelievable prowess with the bass guitar are thoughtful, modest and self-effacing. He's isn't reluctant to give credit to engineers and mixers, and to the complicated recording technology he sometimes employs to achieve those amazing sounds.
And then Dean plays. It's almost unnerving to watch the music explode from such minute movements of his fingers. Dean's performance is effortless but hardly uninteresting. The audience on hand, including me, was mesmerized by his performance.
Dean's repeating his seminar later today at AXPONA. If you're here and you're reading this, get on over and treat yourself to Dean's seminar.