24 May, 2014

Letter from NYC (29) 2014 (1): Reevaluations and Re-considerations

Fauré: Quintettes
Letter from NYC (29) 2014 (1): Reevaluations and Re-considerations

Friends, it's that time of the year again. In NYC I have (just) a little more time to listen to music. Plus the fact that I buy fewer things now, and it adds up to more time spent on the reference gears that I already have. And that is not only a good thing, it is a necessity!

With so many years of gear rotation and labor (arrrgh!) under the belt, I am usually rather quick in identifying imbalances and deficiencies.But like any mortal I do make mistakes in judgement. There are many reasons for that. Some gears have secrets that do not reveal themselves easily; others even require you to rethink. But more than those, the biggest obstacles are our own day-to-day logic and prejudices that have little to do with audio - as an example, who'd think a given company's less expensive product is better than its flagship brethren?

I have a tendency to write less on my reference gears, instead focusing usually on what triggers my imagination du jour. In the coming articles this shall hopefully be redressed. Many of the gears that I have only briefly written about (like Manley 300B preamp, Shindo Monbrison) shall receive more extensive treatments that they deserve. I shall also dig deeper in worthwhile ongoing projects (like Denon DL-102). Watch this space.

In light of what I have just written about, it is only fitting that I recommend an album that has lately fascinated me. Faure's music is layered, sophisticated and elusive. Few performances are successful, so this album came as a revelation! Not every musician is equipped to convey beauty and unearth hidden emotions. I am sure you can empathize - not every audiophile is sensitive to beauty and the emotional component of music, the essence of which the reproduction equipment must capture to qualify as high-fidelity.


  1. AnonymousMay 24, 2014

    Hello DoctorJohn,

    Great post!

    I have just got my concept MC and iPhono set up. I'm not unhappy with this setup so far. I thoroughly enjoyed Kubelik's Mahler 10 Symphonies LP set. However when playing with some solo piano LP's I have noticed a slight change in pitch. It is mostly noticeable on long, sustained piano chord/note. The notes sound as if they go slightly out of tune. Using my Android app my Concept ran slightly fast, at approximately 33.7rpm, which I think is acceptable. The dealer suggested putting more bearing oil and changing the belt. It did not help. After re-reading yours and other iPhono reviews I have decided to play around with the RIAA/Columbia/Decca switch. Anyway, I was able to rectify the problem a bit by using Columbia (I was using the default RIAA). Can you tell me which setting you are using with the iPhono? I was wondering if you have similar experience with the iPhono?

    BTW the solo piano LP's I was listening to were early 1980 Uchida's Mozart Sonatas under "Philips Digital Classics" label.

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Hello Len:

      It does sound like your TT has a slight pitch instability (which a LOT of TTs have) and you are sensitive to it. I can't say I have noticed it with my Concept.

      The equalization curves should have nothing to do with it, and I found your experience strange to say the least.

      One thing: the Concept platter does not hold on to the LP well - it is too slippery. If you have a TT mat around, give it a try (VTA will change). I wonder whether the possible existence of slippage can cause pitch variation.