30 December, 2018

2018 in Review

Click pics to enlarge. To the right, the Grommes flanking and atop the Wavac MD-811; in the middle, the WE 133; to the left, Thorens TD-124 MkI with ad-hoc SME "3012".

2018 in Review

It has been quite a stressful year. Due to my leaving HK, for once, I have sold off far more than I have acquired. Although without many new toys, my experience has not been less vital than in years past.

Best Sound

Western Electric + Horns = Great Sound This is a truth, but of course even WE can get mangled in the hands of users with lesser ears. The WE 41/42/43 heard here was not only the best sound of the year, but also likely the best horns I have heard. However, running it very close is the sweet WE 46 system heard here.

Even without using WE, the horns in my NYC circle, three Altec's and my own YL, which I have written a lot on, have all sounded very good.

Sleepers that have given the Best a Run for the Money

This year is just as remarkable for mostly Rediscoveries!

6V6 Amps My two pairs of 6V6 amps heard at Kevin's (here) are now back in my home. I swapped out the Grommes LJ5 for the Wavac MD-811 and was delighted by the results. With both my recently fired up System I (Manley 300B as preamp) or System II (Shindo Monbrisson as preamp), the sound was just as good, if not better than before. Compared to the SET Wavac, the midrange is just as transparent and sweet, whereas the treble is a tad smoother and the bass a tad more fulsome and rolling. Curiously, in my system, there is none of the overly smooth and somewhat restrained manner experienced at Kevin's. I double-checked with my Mangar Test CD, and everything sounded just wonderful. When I get the chance, I shall take this to Andy's place and give it another sounding. Grommes, like Bell, in an old name that has a solid reputation. But I kinda suspect many other 6V6 amps (though not all, as some are pretty flimsy) will sound great too with horns. For more on 6V6, read my Overview (here).

B&W Matrix 801 Mk II Towards the end of my stay in HK, I got re-acquainted with my B&W Matrix 801Mk II. After writing about it (here), I actually got to listen to it a lot more while cleaning house. The more I listen, the more I was impressed. What a deep sound! I actually heard more details than even my Tannoy Canterbury and TAD TD-3401. And that authoritative bass belies the woofer's relatively modest 12" diameter - it managed to sound like a 15" paper woofer, the best in my book. As this article gets ready, I learned that our friend Kevin has just scored a mint pair, so you can be sure of further reports. I am glad I'll get to hear them again imminently - I miss them!

Lowther TP-1 and VTL Straightline DAC/Preamp These are real gems, not a whit outdated in sound. See the same article for details.

Loudspeaker Placement continues to be an important issue, even for bulky horns, which tend to be left against the wall. Significant improvements were obtained with them further in-room, as witnessed in the Altec Systems of both R and Kevin (here).

Subwoofer Use Many systems would benefit from the addition of a subwoofer. ESL In the case of our friend WSS, the addition of a subwoofer (my REL) for his Quad 2812 was eminently audible, not for more solid bass per se, but for an added vitality, which is quite winning! 47 Labs 4737 Addition of subwoofer utterly transformed the 4737 from a great small loudspeaker to a full system!

Honorable Mentions 47 Labs 4737 This small loudspeaker with alnico magnets works a treat with solid state amplification, less so for tube amps (here), but it is with the addition of a Subwoofer that elevated it to the Pantheon. The result was so persuasive that I sold them to my ESL friend WSS! SMSL SA-36 Pro performed way beyond expectation. At my friend R's place, I'd rather listen to it than his Jadis and Cary (here). I suspect many T amps would do a similar job. Blue Velvet Preamp A cheap Chinese implementation of this (mainly) Dick Olsher design, a known DIY entity, was surprisingly good sounding.

Happy New Year!

23 December, 2018

Season's Greetings

Chez R's, evaluating the latest incarnation of the vinyl setup.

Season's Greetings

Greetings to you all!

It's that time of the year again, when everyone seems to be celebrating. While the younger souls seek fun and parties, it is closer to routine for many older people, without much time for discovery and reflection, sometimes even with burden that come with reality.

But for everyone, one thing is sure - those who think of giving possess the spirit and are the richer for it. And we should all be glad that we get to share and get together with friends, particularly over food. In that sense, my holiday season started early. The right pic shows the wonderful desserts from Brooklyn that I was served at my friend H's house on the last day of Hanukah. The left pic shows the great lunch Kevin served. With the exception of the fried eel, all were take-outs: the other flavored Fried Fish, surprisingly excellent Chicken (蔥油雞) and Spicy Beef with Tripe (夫妻肺片), the last the best I have ever had, better than any that I have had in Shenzhen (HK simply does not qualify), all testament to the prowess of the Chinese chef diaspora. The food was so good that I have forgotten what was on the audio agenda that day.

Chez R The Dining Highlight of my season must go to R's lunch or us last Sunday. The Pork Shank (Osso Buco equivalent) was privately sourced superior meat, brined and cooked to perfection. The fat had only slivers of connective tissue left, melting in the mouth. The garnishing was not to be slighted either: a self-fermented Sauerkraut and Kielbasa (home made by his friend). They looked so good that I forgot to take a pic of the table!

For some reason, this time the great food did not erase my audio memory. In the LR, which I have not reported on for quite a long time, we evaluated the current setup:

Analog: Rockport Sirius II / Jan Allaerts MC2
SUT: Kondo KSL SFz (previously Ortofon T20)
Phonoamp: mammoth Tube Research
Preamp: ARC Reference 2
Amp: mammoth Tube Research monoblocks
Loudspeakers: Wilson Grand Slamm

Most of these have been in the smaller audio room before. For more articles, simply use the search functions in this blog for "R". I'd not mince words - for various reasons I think the first incarnation of the system is still the best. Now it is just too sluggish and tame for me.

Chez Andy After visiting R, we retreated to Andy's place and drank more. Before Andy served us his signature Beef Noodles, VAS Stephen showed us some of the cartridges he had restored/modified for the crowd, including a Denon DL-103 with Ruby cantilever!!!

17 December, 2018

Related imageNancy Wilson

Obituary in The Washington Post (most informative).

Nancy Wilson had just passed away.

In record hunting, I often come across Nancy Wilson's many Capitol albums in the dollar bins. They were highly popular in their days but, as is the wont for pop music, the vast majority of the records are in poor condition. Nonetheless, I managed to score a few that were listenable, and they impressed me.

Nancy Wilson called herself a "Song Stylist" and rather prided herself on her polystylistic breath (the link quoted above is most revealing). Indeed I was most attracted by the way she turned a song into her own, indeed her style. The material was uneven, the arrangements variable, but the total command of the songstress was never in doubt. I just had a conversation with my friend Andy, who also really liked her style, more so than Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington. I can concur and do think Nancy Wilson is most under-rated. If you ask me, she is a finer jazz singer than most, just that her own priorities lied elsewhere.

Many years ago I went to a concert of hers in Carnegie Hall. She was every inch the diva, beautiful, sassy, elegant, just superb. Interestingly, if you study hard the covers of her albums, her image is that of the girl next door, but one who would occasionally reveal her sexiness. Personally, I love her often featured yellow dress.

Nancy Wilson had also been hosts to popular TV and radio programs. I urge you to sample the long running National Public Radio NPR's Jazz Profiles series. Below are pics of two of my favorites, Erroll Garner and Tommy Flanagan.

Tommy Flanagan: Poet Of PianoErroll Garner: 'The Joy of a Genius'

01 December, 2018

Genesis V, EAR G-88, 549

Not anyone's idea of fun: Jumping the car at night and in the rain.

Audiophilia: Rain or Shine, Dead or Alive
Home Visit: Genesis V, EAR G88, 549
Return Visit to VAS

The weather forecast was not promising, but under our great leader's guidance we soldiered on. Andy had organized the New Jersey trip with a visit to composer Han Yong's home in central Jersey as an opener.

With Kevin chauffeuring Andy and I, we started early and made good time but just short of target we were derailed by the GPS. We ended up on the wrong side of a river and the road across was closed due to flooding. It took us quite a while, with the help of Google map and considerable detour, to finally reach destination. By that time, the raining had started. We were met there by James, who had had no trouble driving from Philadelphia.

Home Visit: Genesis V, EAR G88, 549
HY has just recently moved into this very handsome, and cavernous new home. The listening room is not the largest, longer than wide, and with a somewhat low ceiling.

Han proclaimed that he just want a good system to listen to music, but from his compulsive tweaking it seems to us he is also every inch an audiophile.

Analog Rig: Acoustic Signature Final Tool/Benz Micro ACE (temporary)
CDP: Sonic Frontier SFCD
Preamp (with MM/MC phono): EAR G88
Amp: EAR 549 monoblocks
Loudspeakers: Genesis V

Nothing is what it seems. There is quite a bit of studied cabling around. HY likes a particular kind of teflon-coated silver-plated cable and not only his power cords are made of it, he has replaced most of the wiring in his EAR preamp and amps with it too.

Image result for reiner kijeThe sound was very good, clean and with good perspective. Orchestral details were impressively layered and revealing (as on Reiner's Lt Kije), though I found solo piano and violin to be a trifle lean for my taste. Also, I am very particular about the bass - good as it was, it was not the last word in tactile quality, as I'd expect from managed and powered bass (this from a 15" paper cone horn aficionado).

Image result for han yong cantandoWe only heard one CD, and that was HY's own composition. It is a rich and nicely crafted amalgamation of Eastern and Western elements. Importantly, the tonal balance of the digital sound was commensurate with the analog, as I believe is the way it should be. Of course, analog is more involving, and coming from a composer one could hardly argue! Nothing argues the case more than the fairly large collection of LP's in the basement. I love the pics of the composers!

We did not get to hear HY's other rig, said to be very good for CD:

CD Transport: MBL CDP used as such
DAC and (Re-clocker): dCS
Preamp: CAT SL-1
Amp: Canary 300B

I was also intrigued by the disc washing setups. Aside from a VPI 17, HY has a cheap Ultrasound setup, comprising a professional Vevor Cleaner and a Vinyl Stack Record Spinner.

When we left it was raining hard, but we proceeded to Princeton, where we had lunch and visited Princeton Record Exchange, which has a lot less interesting things than before. Although slim picking, I still bought 2 CD sets and 2 LP's.

Return Visit to VAS
In the rain, it took quite a while to reach Steven at VAS (next to VPI; earlier visit here).

The sound was the best we have heard at his place, also the best I have heard from the 802, not a model that I like usually.

Analog: VPI TT (rim drive)/VAS MC cartridge/VAS MC SUT
Preamp: ARC SP-11, heavily modded, with tube PS.
Amps: VAS "Citation II" monoblocks (tube swaps of 5R4, 5755 and 12SX7)
Loudspeakers: B&W Nautilus 802

A very fine day!

16 November, 2018

Horns, Classical vs Jazz Playback

The 3 B's Worth
Bach, Beethoven and Brahms on LP

In this increasingly inequitable world, with each day's passing, space is more of a premium. While the used vinyl market is perhaps still sustainable overall, space-occupying big box sets are understandably least marketable. A few weeks ago, I came across this sign in a store: "All 3 B Box Sets $2". This is regardless of the number of LP's in the box. How could I have resisted. The price is the lowest I have seen, save perhaps for a short period in the late 80's/early 90's, when people were dumping their LP's, and when I bought some Ormandy and Bernstein Columbia LP's (best sellers in their days and hence ubiquitous) for a nickel (5 cents) each.

Bach I already have the Bach box, but could not resist. The recordings and performances (Baumgartner in the Brandenburg's and Karl Richter in the Suites) are very good but the Musical Offering (Richter), a personal favorite, is the standout and perhaps unsurpassed. Beethoven Both Piano Concerto cycles are rarely seen in LP form. The great sounding Arrau/Galliera cycle not only boasts Arrau's pristine pianism but also Galliera's under-rated conducting. The Kempff/Van Kempen is justly famous and better sounding than the pianist's stereo remake with Leitner. The Konwitschny Symphony set is rare and actually more expensive, bought elsewhere for $6 and used here to give symmetry to the pic; it is invaluable for the performances, which I first heard on CD's and rank as among the best. Brahms The Abbado set is not a "real" DG box, rather issued by the subscription International Preview Society, whose Italian pressings have been criticized by some, though I have always found them more than serviceable, even excellent. The Toscanini set is one of the best ever in terms of performances (the mono sound is adequate), much superior to his nervous NBC recordings. This set was deemed good enough for reissue by expensive Testament on CD.

Tally: $16 and countless hours of pleasure.

The Audio Roundtable: One Step to Heaven, Classical vs Jazz, Horns

As the holiday season approaches, it has been kinda quiet lately. But our great leader Andy did the unthinkable: summoning us for a get together with audio on the back burner. The horns played in the background, but all I remember was Ray Nance's immortal violin playing on Ellington Indigos. We brainstormed and talked about everything under the sun.

Classical vs Jazz on Horns We all listen to both jazz and classical's. Andy ("casual listening" Altec A5) and Kevin (Altec A7) maintain that horns are for jazz and suboptimal for classical's. Simon and I demur, as we both listen to everything on our horns (for Simon, a replicated JBL L-300 system). I tend to agree with Simon that it all depends on how one tunes the system - the more excitement for jazz, the less suitable for classical's; a titration. Mark actually used to have horns, but has abandoned them for now.

Horns vs Line Source This is not a coincidence. Although Andy and Mark differ somewhat from me in their views on how encompassing the horns' merits are, we are in agreement that Line Source loudspeakers, when well implemented, are excellent. I think there is a good reason for that (see my article Why are Horns the Best?). Andy's Infinity Beta IRS system (here) is justly famous and much admired. Mark now uses the Genesis V (a bastardized version covered here) and urges Kevin to get the I/II, but I doubt Kevin will - the power needed for all these Line Source models is just too much (and totally against my philosophy, and I personally dislike the bass quality of those with managed bass).

The Day's 3 B's

Actually the day's conversation was almost entirely on non-audio things. Skip this should you like.

Babble: As we were having a lot of food, naturally everyone talks about food, just like everyone else in this world where nothing is edible without peril. Mark believes in a low-carbohydrate Diet, which I am not so sure about. We are more in agreement on cholesterol - one should not worry too much about it, as it may well be protective, according to some theory. No gathering can escape Trump and Religion, but I better not write on these - friends can get around different opinions, which strangers may not. And, of course, being all males, Libido (or lack of) comes up. If you ask me, audio probably acts as a negative feedback! You have been warned.

Binge: Andy actually made us some excellent Lamb stew, but that was not what we mostly ate. Andy had commissioned someone to make extra fillers. When delivered, we were shocked to find two large pans of noodles, one topped with Lobsters! Wow, Andy was "usurped" (his words) but we were delighted.

BoozOur world constantly asks for what is correct, and the more questions the less certain we are in anything. I am a very green person but indulges in a (sole) vice that uses mostly energy-inefficient class-A devices (tubes). Seriously, I am apologetic but am not about to dump it all for class-D/T. Well, what is great food without booz? Surprise! Bloody Mary's started the Sunday brunch. With the noodles we enjoyed Prosecco and an interesting French Riesling. Then we moved on to some reds, Pinot Noir and Argentinian et al, which I enjoyed with the salty peanuts. I was too full to eat the lamb stew, but took home some. Many thanks to our great leader!

08 November, 2018

Book Review: Absolutely on Music, Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

Book Review: Absolutely on Music, Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Knopf

I am a great fan of Murakami, and have read most of his novels. A deep music lover (though not versed in theory nor practice), Murakami has always had references to music, be it jazz or classical, in his works. His taste is quite orthodox and hence all his quotations have never come as a surprise.

In this book, he discusses music with his friend Ozawa. The interesting thing is, basically Murakami sets the framework, often by playing records he knows well, to which Ozawa responds. Ozawa is obviously not that much of a talker and his responses are often quite to the point and literal, not to mention polite. This means insight (whether musical or flight of fancy) is not quite in abundance. As compensation, we get anecdotes on Bernstein, Ozawa's mentor, and many others.

Lovers of classical music, however, will enjoy this book, as I did.

The Guardian

23 October, 2018

Book Review: Maestros and their Music

Book Review: Maestros and their Music

Author: John Mauceri, Conductor
Publisher: Knopf

Author John Mauceri's Official Website and Wikipedia Entry.

Serendipity again! As I am a frequent visitor to the local library, I  chanced upon this book by a solid, though under-appreciated conductor, John Mauceri.

I came to know Mauceri through a few theater work recordings and, most importantly, through his participation in Decca's excellent En'tracte series of Composers suppressed under the Nazi rule.

Here are some reviews of this book: Amazon ReviewsOperaNewsWall Street Journal (this one by no less than a fellow conductor, Leon Botstein).

The cited articles are enough to relay the essence of the book. Suffice to say, I was thoroughly captivated from start to finish, and the author's command of English is superior, his anecdotes plentiful and to-the-point and tasteful. This book actually attempts to visually "illustrate" the importance of even one note and the art of conducting. I'd say, it is a unique book. This book is likely available at your local library, and HIGHLY recommended!

03 October, 2018

Horn Placement, Subwoofer Supplementation

Top Pic: (Case 2) Pic of R's A5 System as of now. My Bell 6V6 amps in center front. Compare with old photo below.

Talk Horn: In-Room Placement, A Tale of Two Horn Systems
HiFi Basics VII: Loudspeaker Placement - Close-to-Wall vs In-Room
McIntosh C-20 Preamp, MC-30 A

Significant Update Oct 5, 2018: Subwoofer Supplementation added. Update shaded in Grey.

Although we are illustrating with big horn systems the size of refrigerators here, I believe the principals are universally applicable, to much smaller loudspeakers, including bookshelves.

There is little question loudspeaker placement is of the utmost importance in a system. Previously, in HiFi Basics III, I detailed my own encounters of Short vs Long Walls. This article examines Close-to-Wall vs In-room Placements.

Close-to-Wall Placement By Design FEW modern loudspeakers are designed to be placed against the wall, as this intrinsically is at odds with the modern hifi values of maximizing imaging and soundstage. But there are a few dedicated designs, like the very good Linn Kan, which needs the wall reinforcement to have useable bass for most people. More recently, there is the Wilson Audio TuneTot, which receives a lot of coverage from the audio press, but to me it is a ridiculously expensive product for what it is, and showcases the utterly hopeless nature of high-end reviewers (The TAS is a particularly serious offender; their eulogies on the passing of Wilson Sr make my flesh creep 簡直肉麻!) Corner Placement This only applies to certain vintage loudspeakers, usually larger horn systems with specifically designed corner cabinets (Klipschorn and Tannoy's) to optimize bass output. The corner has two reflecting surfaces which would cause even greater havoc with most other loudspeakers. By Choice/No Choice Sometimes one has no choice but to place loudspeakers against the wall. In my experience, most loudspeakers sound suboptimal to terrible thus placed. Most would suffer from badly delineated bass and lack of air. In this situation, one would be wise to choose infinite baffle (sealed) enclosures, preferably those with monitor pedigree, as these usually work well in near field situations and have good but never exaggerated bass. As an example, my large Yamaha NS-1000 works beautifully against the wall; there is still a good soundstage and imaging (though not as good as in-room), and my TAD TD-3401 is also good in this way. Ported loudspeakers, even front-ported, do less well. Klipsch Heresy This unusual loudspeaker is actually stipulated to be used (on its own pedestal) against the floor, not the wall, but that is not that different. Without floor reinforcement, the Heresy is lean in the bass. As such, it actually works well close-to-wall.

How should Horns be placed? No doubt the size factor predisposes their owners to put them against the back (front) wall. Also, the ungainly, industrial and utilitarian appearances of many horn systems, such as the Altec's in this article, certainly do not earn them admiration from family members and that is another incentive for relegating them to the back, even in the corners. For many, it just has to be that way, BUT for those who have the room, that is a mistake.

These horns were originally used in large theaters, perhaps hanging, but usually not against the wall; and firing down a huge space (ample space around them) minimizes any anomalies. In our much smaller spaces, one needs to take care.

In my old place in HK, I had my Tannoy Canterbury's (large loudspeakers with small horns) and TAD TD-3401 half way in-room and they sounded great that way. Visitors were always amazed by the depth of soundstage and, even more, the disappearance of the loudspeakers. In NYC, I have my YL horns the same way, with similar results. Like with a lot of more conventional loudspeakers, unless restricted by bass nodes, I like the loudspeakers in-room and with the listener form close to an equilateral triangle. Some would call this near-field, or nearly so, and it should lessen boundary effects. For me, in both HK and NYC, the sweet spot for loudspeaker placement is largely the same for all sorts of designs.

Subwoofer Supplementation What a Difference a Little makes There are many purists out there who are adamantly against subwoofers, but these are mostly people who have little concept of what live music is like. Our hearing is a complicated thing - without a bass foundation not only will the midrange and upper frequencies sound leaner, but the music will lack true sparkle, which most audiophiles mistake to lie solely in the treble. The best example is my friend WSS' Quad ESL, which came to life with just a whiffle of low bass added (here). I always tell people, a little augmentation does not really augment the bass by much, but helps the overall picture, to bring things to life. As in the case of WSS, the important thing is less to hear the difference, but to feel it. When to Use? This is purely by hearing. My modern Tannoy Canterbury, TAD TD-3401 and YL horn system (with Altec 216 woofers) do not need help, but my JBL 4312 and my NYC friends' Altec A5/A7 systems absolutely do. Another case is my Klipsch Heresy, which really is severely limited by its original design (on the floor), but rather should be used "normally positioned," together with a subwoofer (detailed here). Subwoofer vs Other Means When the bass is lean, the problem can lie with the loudspeakers, the equipment or simply the room. Audiophiles have many ways to increase bass, but these should only be used judiciously, as the "remedy" is often worse than the problem. It is one thing to try, e.g., Mogami instead of Gotham (both cheap professional cables with balances close to neutral, though they sound different), it's another to use expensive boutique cables that are basically highway robbery. Case in point: Thick and stiff cables, e.g. NBS, often increase bass, but are highly colored and smear everything. Most of the time, the loudspeaker is the real limitation - it would be wise to spend time dialing in a subwoofer rather than make the bass "fuller" via other means, as one really wants more true extension rather than bumping up the mid-bass.

The owners of these two Altec systems are good friends of mine who should be familiar to regular readers of this blog. Both share a passion for music as well as many other non-musical things, such as cooking! Both are lucky to have a dedicated room. Both had their horns in the back until I came back this time. Both had their horns on wheels so it was relatively easy to move the behemoths forward. As they say, the rest is history.

Pic shows (Case 1) Kevin's A7 System, now way out in front (compare with old photo below). The turntable on the Wall Mount is now a restored Lenco G-75 (VPI relegated to the left, a corner of which can be seen behind the B&W CM5). Below are newly acquired and restored McIntosh MC-30's. On the front stools is one of my C-20's. Click to enlarge.

L pic shows the Dumpling Dinner with side dishes of Pork stewed with Dried Bamboo Shoots, Braised Peanuts and Sliced Smoked Turkey; R pic shows the older against-the-wall Placement. Also roll down to the Blog entry before this one.

Case 1: Altec A7

Since I last wrote about K (roll down to previous post) I have visited him two more times. Unbelievably efficient, over a short time he managed to move the horns forward and clear up the central clutter. All gears are now well behind and there is a clean line of sight to the plane of the loudspeakers.

The sound is totally freed up. As the man himself said, the sound now emanates from the space in front, rather than from the loudspeakers. I cannot agree more, and this also met with the approval of our captain Andy. Now, with the much cleaner and focused sound, Francescatti's tone (which could be grating in lesser systems) in his classic recording of Beethoven's Violin Concerto with Bruno Walter was just marvelously sinuous. Thumbs up! Credit is also due to K's DIY WE cable.

We also really liked the the full McIntosh combo, the Lenco/Decca/Shure M44-7 playing straight into the C-20's phono and driving the MC-30 pair. Everything sounded just right.

Case 2: Altec A5

Then we visited R (last visit). I have long suggested to relegate the HT system to the periphery and bring the horns forward. I was surprised that R was game and K carried it out single-handedly (he definitely earned his lunch)! It was quite a bit of work! Everything was dismantled (the Cary amps were heavy!), the huge HT subwoofer exchanged its space with the large HT center. The result was again a cleaner path to the plane of the loudspeakers.

The effect was much as at K's place, a cleaner sound that is free of the enclosures. The Bell 6V6 amps worked very well in this system. Marvelous!

And the Food!

13 September, 2018

Classical Recommendations

Listening Notes: Comfort in the Same
Classical Music Recommendation: Neglected Gems from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Other Lost Treasures

Weeding Out The first days back in NYC were spent on household chores, chief among which the redistribution of space ("creation" being a misnomer). This shall prove to be a continual struggle for the foreseeable future, a plight most New Yorkers would share in. I had already put away more than half of my wardrobe for donation; the kitchen and living room are to be pared down next.

In anticipation of the arrival of a large shipment of household goods from HK that demands shelf and closet space, which have long been usurped for audio storage, I shall be weeding out my LP collection, some for donation, and some perhaps for sale as dollar LP's if friends are interested. Anyone local?

Books too shall be donated - they used to play a role as vital as music, but I guess all titles of my once-favorite authors, such as Borges and Thomas Mann, can be readily found in the library if needed. As I buy ever fewer CD's, I rarely buy books anymore, instead preferring to borrow from the local library. I enjoy browsing the new arrivals and once in a while check one out to read, just like I'd the New Yorker magazine. As streaming is to music, the library is to books, but better, as what we get to enjoy, albeit not to own, is a hard copy. Reading on the Smartphone or tablet screen? No, thank you. Just try to get through The Magic Mountain on a screen!

The big question is, now that I am without HK's surprisingly excellent library resource for new classical music issues, should I contemplate a streaming service such as Tidal? Not now, as time is very limited, and here in NYC, vinyl is king; but I see the attraction and, having a few DAC's, unused cheap android tablets and a Chromecast on hand, I guess I am always ready to go.

Comfort in The Same
Partly due to jet lag, for more than a week I did not fire up my audio. Then one day, venturing a bit further out I lucked out at a small local thrift shop, where I picked up a few pop records, including Led Zeppelin's Graffiti and Stevie Wonder's Innervisions., as well as a UK EMI of Suppe Overtures. A day later, feeling more energetic, I went into Manhattan and bought more than $500 worth of concert tickets for the season (Carnegie and Geffen Hall) and scooped up more classical LP's and a few CD's along the way.

Despite having likely close to ten thousand LP's, these new acquisitions are the ones that motivated me to fire up one of my stations, then another. That is human folly indeed - what one already has more often than not is not as stimulating as new arrivals.

Astonishingly, despite a long period of disuse, the systems sound even better than I remember from six months ago. This had happened before here in NYC, but not in HK - I'd guess the drier and cooler climate here helps.

First System II, Thorens TD-125/SME 3009i/Denon DL-304 into Langevin 402B SUT into Shindo Monbrisson into Wavac MD-811 driving YL horns. I was pleasantly reminded of the power and ease of reproduction, but found the sound improved, particularly in the bass, which is even more tactile than before. Last time just before leaving I had changed the Gotham GAC-2 interconnect from preamp to amp to Gotham DGS-1, and I think that is what I am hearing. Then I fired up System III, and it too sounded just as I remembered, a trifle leaner than System II.

Unsung Gems from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Reiner is famous among audiophiles for his Living Stereo Chicago recordings - who doesn't have his Scheherazade or Thus Spake Zarathustra, among others? But he was actually even more prolific in the recording studio than we think. Although not known for his Beethoven, I was mesmerized by his Pastorale (White Dog), a reading of singular power, not as mellifluous as Walter's justly famous account, but lean and lithe (almost "HIP" informed) and equally valid, and I'd rank it with other great ones like Karl Bohm's. It is also noticeable for its sound - this must be one of the best Living Stereo's I have heard, cavernously spacious, yet every strand easily audible. The other Reiner gem is his Symphonia Domestica, surely the least known of his great Strauss recordings. The maroon label Victrola sounded absolutely resplendent, and made a convert of me for this score, which had previously eluded my grasp in other versions. I reckon the SACD remastering still currently available should be pretty good too (in general I found them better than the first Living Stereo issues). The best Strauss playing has a sheen, illuminated from within and should never sound forced; so it is here, as good as any (Berlin and VPO included) on disc. Jean Martinon had a hard time in Chicago, but his recording of Nielsen's 4th (Dynagroove) is immortal. Talking about playing with fire! Never equalled, but sadly little known.

Also magnificent is under-rated Dorati's Miraculous Mandarin (Mercury; certainly less known than his Firebird), played idiomatically by the BBCSO. What is equally remarkable is that the system renders hard rock euqally well. In Led Zep's Graffiti - the bass and drumming are just tightly rendered, tactile, purposeful, and the music is moved inexorably along, and this from an MC, not even MM!

System III consists of Thorens TD-309/Denon DL-103, Mobile Fidelity StudioPhono, Schiit Saga and Langevin 102 into the same Wavac amp driving YL horns. It is by character a trifle leaner, but suits Martinu's concertante works to a T. I rediscovered the Concerto for Violin and Piano, and I think it is a neglected masterpiece, impeccably rendered by the Supraphon team here. Even more surprisingly was another neglected conductor, Viennese-born and trained Henry Krips (brother of better known Josef), here turning in stunning accounts of Suppe Overtures (EMI), the best I have heard, by a large margin. How the music breathes and how well the rhythms are sprung should provide lessons for modern conductors. The early stereo sound is good though a little coarse, but in my book it now stands together with Arthur Fiedler's Gaite Parisienne and Piero Gamba's Rossini Overtures as the best of bob-bon's. The system also does well with rock, as Stevie Wonder's Innervisions just sound unpredictable, ecletic, kaleidoscopic and, most importantly, interesting.

Symphony 8In System III, I also played CD's through the Sparkler 303 CDP. The sound is commensurate with the analog. I was totally enthralled with Gergiev's first Kirov recording of Shostakovich's 8th (Philips), which is both sonically and interpretively at least as good as the more current version (orchestra renamed Mariinsky, on its own label), and that says something. Highly recommended.

Afternoon chez Kevin
On a rainy afternoon I visited Kevin (previous visit here) and over a glass of wine listened to his many new acquisitions. Hidden from view in this pic are the turntables. His new 2-armed Lenco GL-75 now sports Andy's Decca tonearm fitted with a Shure M44-7, which he (like me, reported here) is very enthusiastic about; it certainly sounded more lively compared to the Rabco linear tracking arm fitted with a Pickering 380 (too heavy, I wonder...). In comparison, the VPI Prime turntable just sounds, eh, dull.

There is a new Chinese tube preamp (top of front rack), but I still preferred the Citation I. Driving a newly restored pair of McIntosh MC-30, the Altec A7 horns were lovely, but I think all that extraneous stuff in front center, especially the equipment rack, ate away at the sound a bit.

We talked about some projects. I'd like to loan him my Shure SC35C for comparison with the M44-7. Also, it is time to match my McIntosh C20, C22 and MX110 to the MC-30! As usual, watch this space!

The bulk of the article was written around 911, a day any New Yorker would never forget. 17 years ago, I was in a HK bar around 9 pm (12 hours from EST). All of a sudden, the TV flashed the extra, with footage of tower ablaze. The silence in the bar was eery.

We all harbor sentiments of disapproval and disdain, but it is a long way to pulverizing hatred that destroys the life of others as well as self-destructs. In face of so much misery in the world, we all shall be more grateful for our existence. Peace.