25 May, 2016

Patti Smith M Train

pic from NYT.

Talk Book: Patti Smith M Train

"...without a doubt we sometimes eclipse our own dreams with reality..."

After reading Just Kids, I lost no time in reserving Patti Smith's newest book, M Train, from the HK Public Library. A month and a half later I got it, and since I knew I cannot renew (others are in the line) I devoured it in just a few days, perhaps not the best way to read this mysterious beast of a creation, but likely just as well as I'd never fully comprehend her dreamscapes and lofty travails.

For her journeys to obscure places, often to honor heroes of the past (concisely summarized by the NY Times review) are awesome; we mere mortals would never entertain such ideas. However, comprehension or not, one has to admire her determined nature.

As words and scenes leap out from every sentence, her colossal spiritual dimension is revealed. In an age when most people spend more time on researching what to do, wear or eat than actually doing things, I can only applaud someone who wouldn't care about fashion, fine dining and most luxuries (surely Patti Smith couldn't care less about hifi, even if she's a musician). In an age when people spend more time rating things, choosing emoticons and giving thumb-ups, in general living the life of others rather than discovering themselves, Patti Smith probes every recess of her psyche, excavates every buried emotion, and crafts a lifetime of words to describe her dreams, premonitions, pain. Indeed pain and loss, her own as well as reflections through others, permeate the book.

Patti Smith knows herself as well as any writer I have read, and the above quote perfectly describes this book.

11 May, 2016

Talk Tweak: Wood Boards IKEA

Talk Tweak: Wood Boards

In NYC, some years ago when I did some renovation for mother, I used this VERY SOLID IKEA wood kitchen counter-top:

Karlby in USD (in HKD)

I had some leftover pieces, and they worked FANTASTICALLY under turntables (especially) and source components etc.

One problem: They cannot be picked up, so factor in delivery charge. Perhaps only when you have other purchases.

IKEA chopping boards also have a good reputation, but I think this unwieldy counter-top may even top those.

10 May, 2016

CD Recommendations - Classical

CD Recommendations - Classical (Click on pic for reviews/details)
CD I am Playing
The name Sokolov is enough. Content also filmed.

Excellent new works comissioned by Gabetta.
Incomparable Dvorak from Panocha Quartet, Suk Trio and friends.
First rate performances from names new to me.

Great pianist at the service of music

Top choice for the War Sonatas
Sterling production from these forces, as usual. Unusual world music material.
Bravura performances highly suited to the genre.

CD/LPs I am playing now
 I have never heard of Gottfried Finger before, but this magnificent Viol disc certainly changes that!


Stylish readings of under-rated music; superb recorded sound.

Best set of Bach's solo violin works I have heard in a LONG time! Watch this name!
Surprisingly mature playing and interpretation from a young violinist!
Superbly played piano CD; never a boring moment! Ranks with the very bests.
One of the most sympathetic Rachmaninov pianists I have heard in a while.
Unknown music wonderfully performed.
A must for violin lovers, in excellent mono sound.
A great example of non-sentimental yet exciting Mahler. Beautifully recorded.
Ultra sophisticated playing that turns these little gems into masterpieces.

The best solo violin disc I have heard in a long long time. A MUST!

Stunning second installment in this double cycle.
Fantastic! Bach on the Accordion and Bandoneon, aided by some friends. Have been listening non-stop.

Hilary Hahn has been contributing to the violin repertoire with comissions and stimulating partnerships. This is not something to go through in one sitting but many pieces are very fine.

CD/LPs I am playing now
Stunningly recorded recital, beautiful playing; must-buy!

Mostly mono, but well re-mastered. Sublime Playing!

Lola Bobesco is much underated. Her fluid playing makes the Viotti surprisingly captive. Wonderful!


Stylish accounts
CD I am Playing
Controversial performance full of details that should be heard at least once.
SACD I am Playing
Wonderful original instrument Beethoven cycle.
Wonderful performance and recording.

SACD I am playing
Good performance and excellent recording. 
Superb! Lucid readings and the usual pristine sound from Channel Classics
refreshing reading of one of my favorite pieces
Gergiev gives his usual pointed reading with his band

04 May, 2016

Rare Cartridges: Nagatron Ribbon, Stax Electrostatic

Smorgasbord: Versa Dynamics 1.0 under Walker Proscenium Gold Signature; Foreground: Technics SP-10/Stax/Electrostatic. Middle, right: Garrard 301/Ikeda 407/Nagatron ribbon; center, amp for Stax; left, Garrard 401/SME3012/Nagatron Induced Magnet. Click pics to enlarge.

Letter from NYC (54) 2016 (10): Heroic Analogue Efforts
Rare Cartridges: Nagatron, Stax

(Article finished in HK). For me, this is a special article. Not many are privileged to get to hear even one rare analogue legend, not to mention several in one morning. But my friend Andy basically did a "presentation" for me, and I am damn impressed! Thanks to the old souls who keep the flame alive! In an era of hyperbole's (generously applied to each new generation of "super" cartridges), re-visits to an older era should be mandatory.
I had first arranged to take my Empire and Shure cartridges to Andy's place for a listen. As it would be a lot easier to have an arm with a removable headshell, I asked Andy to make one available. Imagine my surprise when I walked in to see so many turntables, armed with RARE cartridges. Pics here are indeed worth a thousand words...

We did not listen to the Versa Dynamics 1.0 under the Walker Proscenium Gold Signature (with Stanton 380, reported previously). For associated equipment, see the link.

Garrard 301/Ikeda 407/Nagatron (Jeweltone) HV-9100 Ribbon
Nagatron Ribbon (0.04 mv output) was connected through a dedicated 1:100 transformer (Nagatron Z Coupler).

Garrard 401/SME3012/Nagatron 360CE Induced Magnet
 SME 3012 (converted from SME 3009) with damping trough

About Nagatron I found some of Andy's postings in vinylengine. Attached below.

"...Nagatronics was active in the heydays of the vinyl era. They marketed in America a full line of phono cartridges made in Japan by Nagaoka during the 70s and 80s. Nagatron as a brand is now mainly remembered by their induced magnet cartridges which, imho, can still hold their own sonically against many high-price phono cartridges currently available.

Nagatron's flagship cartridge was not an induced magnet type but was of an "exotic" ribbon design. Instead of a magnet, a piece of iron, or a coil in the magnetic field, there is a strip of ribbon. According to Nagatron, the ribbon design offers the highest degree in linearity of all the magnetic phono cartridges. The penalty, however, is in the output level. It is around 0.04mv, a magnitude lower than the current low-output MCs, therefore, requiring a high-gain transformer or head amp to work properly into a normal preamplifier.

There is also this lencoheaven thread (where the pics of the HV9100 below come from)

Sonic Notes HV-9100 I absolutely adored the Ribbon HV-9100! Although working in a different way, its sound did remind one of the ribbon planar's clear, pristine presentation, but sans the undesirable peakiness. An open window; marvelous! 360CE As for the Induced Magnet 360CE, the sound was softer, but eminently enjoyable. Part of this may be attributable to the more mellow damped SME arm (as compared to the Ikeda). In any case, the sound was still excellent and hard to fault!

Andy told me Nagatron lost its shirt developing the amplification/transformer for the ultra-low output cartridges. Admirable heroes of hifi! I am sure there will be more Nagatron in  my analogue future!

Technics SP-10/Stax UA-7 and CPX Electrostatic Cartridge
Stax CPX electrostatic cartridge is connected to the Stax UA-7 arm via a dedicated arm tube.Stax Electrostatic is fed through the Stax POD-Xe, a tubed oscillator/de-modulator unit with a bypassable 10db solid state booster amp.

More on Stax Here is a vinylengine gallery that has a lot more pics for the Stax (and Nagatron) stuff covered in this article. Enjoy! Personally I am a huge Stax fan. Their earphones are still unrivaled imho. Hence I was very eager to hear this setup. Sound The sound was still very respectable, but the midrange and lower treble were not quite fully fleshed out and not quite as good as the Nagatron ribbon. We even tried bypassing the booster amp with my iFi iTube buffer (6 db gain setting) but there was not much difference. I suspect the more "direct" direct-drive may be a culprit here. But I'd love to hear this cartridge in another setting.