Sunday, August 3, 2014

My current upstairs living room system

Dawned on me a while back that I have enough stuff laying around that I should set up another system upstairs in the living room. While the Mac 275 is not the best match for the B&Ws, the room is smaller than it looks in the picture. I sit less than twelve feet back, and don't listen that loudly up there. This is strictly two channel, no surround sound. The component list is as follows:

  VPI HW-19 turntable with the optional TNT heavy platter, Syrinx PU-2 gold tone arm with an older Dynavector Ruby cartridge stepped up through a Denon passive transformer.

The Acurus Act 3 is mainly used as a Dac for the Samsung BluRay player, and also for remote volume and subwoofer crossover for everything except the turntable. The table feeds directly into a Dayton Wright SPS mk III preamp directly into the Mac amp.

I also have a Denon Laser Disc player and a HP PC that I use for Internet TV, Pandora, etc. The  Audioquest Dragon USB Dac is used with the PC (see my earlier post). The speakers are the 801 matrix series IIIs. Power conditioner is a Tice Solo. Sub I just a mid priced Paradigm, for serious vinyl listening I don't use it.

Things cycle back.........

  In the hospital last week and bored out of my mind (another story) and checking my email. I have several Ebay saved searches, and get daily email blasts from each. Up pops this classic Kenwood KD-500 synthetic granite table with an SME 309 arm (!) and a Shure V15xmr (!) cartridge.  My first thought was "Doesn't go with, what a waste"!

    Anyway, looked at the ad again, had one of these arms and the cartridge years ago, sold them both too cheap by today's values. The arm itself is still current and sells for $2200. by itself!! Some quick math and I determined his buy it now price was good for just the arm and cartridge. Reading his description, it appears as if this were a project that got set aside years ago and later finished. I could scavenge what I wanted from this and put the table on Dreggslist.

    So buy it now I did, and it was on its way from North Carolina. Excellent communication from a nice guy named Paul with 100% positive feedback.Said he had only played 6-8 records on this.To look at it I believe him, the arm and cartridge are almost perfect!

    He also mentioned he would be including whatever accessories he had laying around, I didn't give that too much extra thought.

  A couple of delays because he wasn't happy with the way he packed it, but it showed up about a week later.Got a little freaked when I saw the stylus guard was up, but no casualties.

   I opened the separately shipped box of accessories first:

  Needless to say I was blown away! Every once in a while you meet somebody like this, and he was obviously getting out of analog (or maybe hifi in general). In the box was a:

               Mint complete discwasher disckit, with the discwasher, SC-2 stylus cleaner, Zerostat static pistol complete with fluids and the solid walnut storage tray /dustcover.

An Audio Technica AT6002 "dust bug", opened, but never used,

A curious Maxell automated anti static device of which I had never seen, new, never used. At first I thought it must be vintage, but it is still available on Ebay and Amazon. Don't think I will be using it.

An Audio Technica    three cartridge storage case

An Audio Technica record stabilizer (weight clamp).

A Decca record brush

StyLast stylus cleaner

A fancy machined LP Gear record level in its case with a nice cloth bag.

Another (partial) large bottle of Discwasher fluid

 Manuals, boxes, all tools and accessories, and literature for the table, arm and cartridge.

 I just kind of stared in awe at all this stuff, talk about surprised!

Anyway, proceeded to mount the arm and cartridge on my Sota Cosmos (this was actually the arm that came on it when I first bought it years ago).

 HUGE difference over the Sumiko MMT that I had on there! I used the MMTs on both my Sotas  for universality (if that is a word) to be able to pop all my cartridges in and out quickly. I still have one on my rosewood Star.

  Every once in a while it goes your way. With the exception of the dustcover springs being worn out on the table (it doesn't stay open}, all is wonderful. I will put the table (a classic) on Dreggslist as soon as I clean it up. Trying to decide on whether to put an arm on it, I think enough people have SME type arms around that it will sell quicker cheaper, without an arm.

                             The Cosmos is now back to its full glory of when I first got it. Never should have sold this arm to begin with!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

What better way to demonstrate the true American pride than having the most American hifi company McIntosh  featured on national news!


Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy VD!

                      Happy Veteran's Day! Or Memorial Day as the calendars would label it. A big thanks to all who serve and have served our country. I had no chance to catch any parades this year, kind of like to see the drum and bugle corps in action. Inspiring, another example of music motivating. Powerful, driving, uplifting.

 I never served, but I had friends that did. Viet Nam. A few perks, but not worth the trauma they came home to. I won't get too political here.

 One of the few good perks was the PX (or BX, depending on what branch of the military you were in). Almost everybody bought audio gear whether they wanted it or not, it was so cheap. Mainly Japanese gear, Pioneer, Kenwood, Akai, Sansui. A friend's brother came home with a monster Pioneer system, table, receiver, four speakers. Cassette hadn't been invented yet, at least as a hifi medium. I was in awe, and spent many hours listening to this.

  The only issue was as it were occasionally models only released in Europe or Asia, repairs could be a problem. I ran into this during my retail days, as I couldn't cross reference some of the models. They had no value in trade, parts were not obtainable. If you were somewhat savvy, you researched this a little before you bought to see if the same models were available domestically. I saw people with huge systems that weren't even into hifi!  Many other products were available at a discount to service people, but Hifi seemed to be amongst the most popular.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ugliest speakers

WAF, or wife acceptance factor was a term I dealt with in the '80s, in the heyday of my career in retail audio. There were certain products then that you knew if the man were going to run it by his wife/girlfriend  you were dead in the water. First and foremost, the Dahlquist DQ-10s. Especially sitting on their optional stands.I always thought they had a classic look, but basically just big square screens.

          What got me thinking about this subject, some of the current highly recommended very expensive speakers covered in the magazines, well I hate to say it- would scare the pants off you if you walked into a room with lights off!

   Vivids on the cover of this month's Stereophile. Honest to God, would you blame your wife for not wanting these? If she did, I would have to seriously re-evaluate her. What are they thinking? No doubt I would nickname these "Casper". Or something from Dr. Seuss..........

  Interesting bit of trivia, one of the designers for the B&W Nautilus is who also designed these.(I have purposely omitted novelty speakers from this entry, there are far too many). These were not designed as novelty speakers, but as a statement product.

 Although not as radical, ugly to me and definitely not something I would spend the $$$ they command are the YG acoustics brand.I'm sure impeccable build quality, wonderful sound, but  aesthetics just leave me cold.

 Now, mind you I'm not saying I haven't owned my share of ugly speakers in the past. Not saying I can't also  be a sucker for marketing and merchandising. 

 I had two or three pairs of DQ-10s. I also had Pioneer TZF- 700s (recently, if you have been following this blog)

    Celestion glass speakers (although I only bought these for the way they looked, I didn't consider them ugly. Some guy in Tennessee had a local relative drive a couple of hours to buy them from me).

                 Other historically love it or hate it speakers have included models from Spica

The Angelus


And my vote for the ugliest speaker of all time- The Plasmatonics Hill Type-1.

Of course, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the the beholder. Aesthetics are waaayyy too important to me. Sometimes they go out of their way to be ugly. We certainly remember them, don't we? Surely at some point you owned an ugly speaker.Be it a Bose 901,Dahlquist,Spica, whatever,not just talking about a huge vinyl wrapped ugly doggie coffin but a truly bizarre speaker.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mordecai B. Lipshutz (1949-2014)

On Sunday March 9th Rochester lost another part of its great musical heritage,former WXXI music host  Mordecai  Lipshutz.

"We are saddened to hear the news of Mordecai, who was the voice of classical music in Rochester for more than 30 years," said WXXI President Norm Silverstein in the statement announcing Lipshutz's death. "His soothing voice, incredible knowledge of Classical music, and his music selections – made him everyone's favorite afternoon drive home companion."

 I can remember tuning into his show when I wanted to seriously evaluate an FM tuner, between the engineering and the quiet,quality  signal WXXI definitely did classical music justice in Rochester.

I can also remember  Mordecai as a customer at JB, he would bring in his personal McIntosh tuner for servicing, and he also had one of the original Linn LP 12 tables. I believe it had an SME arm, I can't remember for sure. Interesting enough, I seem to remember him having the same disdain for digital sound as I when it first came out. Digital was predominately classical music initially.

 He would often show up for the clinics, I remember a Denon tape clinic specifically, we had a huge turnout, cleaned and demagnetized decks, and gave a free sample Denon blank cassette. Mordecai came by near the end of the day and proceeded to talk my ears off! I think he sensed I was tired, but anyway I certainly remember him as being one of the more colorful characters  I have known in the industry.
 He will be sadly missed.
Mordecai B. Lipshutz

Mordecai B. Lipshutz
Mordecai B. Lipshutz
Mordecai B. Lipshutz
Mordecai B. Lipshutz

Monday, March 3, 2014

Audiophile record labels

One of the most exorbitant purchases I can remember in my younger days of playing with this stuff is when I got my first job in it with Lafayette in the early '70s. I would stop at Craig Audio Lab on Ridge rd. on my way home from work.If you were not a Classical music fan Dave would pop on something else, usually pretty obscure. I listened to the Large Advents often there, my favorites but at 17 I just couldn't swing a pair.

  Anyway, he started playing this really bizarre instrumental, and it made the Advents sparkle! It was a new record from a company called Sheffield Labs, and you could buy it for $10. TEN DOLLARS? Mind you this is 1973. You could get a steak dinner for two, let alone three normal records for the same price! It was Thelma Houston and Pressure Cooker. "If they are going to go through all this trouble why not use somebody good?" "They can't afford to."  OK.  

This album kind of developed a cult following, kind of put the direct to disc recording technique on the map, and I can remember walking into Maynard's Sound World on State St. and seeing a budget $300. system with a Garrard changer set to repeat playing this album over and over. Yes, I did buy it.(the record, not the system). I still have it. My original 40 year old copy.

Sheffield was a company that went on to release several more offerings, All great quality, and the early ones were about as all analog as you could get, not even any tape recorders involved! The band played, the cutting stylus was working. Not sure how many of these are valuable today, as none of them were really classic albums. I still have several. Amanda McBroom, Lincon Mayorga, the Dave Grusin above is very good.


The Telarc label surfaced a couple of years later, and had almost exclusively classical music. Featuring their Soundstream digital recording process, they had unbelievable dynamic range, especially for a record! The bass drums slammed! Famous were the cannon shots on 1812 (pictured above). Magnified the groove looked like a Z! Cartridge companies bragged about being able to track it. The better tables I played it on couldn't, the cheap BSRs could. These albums were for the most part hard sounding early digital. Great for demo, though. Made speakers sound great, as long as it was a short listening session!

                                                   MFSL/MOFI/  MOBILE    FIDELITY

Probably the most popular of the audiophile labels, they continue to thrive today. Half speed mastered means simply that a master was made with the cutting stylus traveling at half the normal speed, allowing for more detail and a cleaner mother image. A more expensive way to make a record, but usually better.  I must have played the Dark Side of the Moon and Supertramp Bloody Well Right  a thousand times during my hifi demo days. To this day if I never hear either song again it would be OK. Most of these we sold for $15, outrageous in the day. I would constantly get people returning them for the tinyest little glitch or pop, People would expect them to be perfect. MFSL did not de-hone their records, so you needed to play them a couple of times."For that kind of money....." Whatever. We would just keep it and use it for demo.

 Funny, I went to the Record Archive a couple of nights ago, and most of the off the shelf regular releases were $27-30!

 I probably have 50-60 Mobile Fidelitys, some fairly new (Patricia Barber, Metallica, Grateful Dead Skull and Roses). The Beatles box set pictured above is probably the greatest coulda-shoulda-woulda in the record world. A smart colleague of mine back when it first came out bought two, one to keep and one to play. $300. each at the time, I thought he was crazy. Today they range around $700- 1000. for a clean used set, and even more for ones still sealed! I do not own one of these, but have enough of the other MoFi Beatles releases that I don't feel I need it.

My most treasured  Beatles records would be mint condition monos, a couple dozen or so that a friend gave me a while back,virtually unplayed.  I still look for used MFSLs, often will buy them even if I'm not crazy about the artist (read Air Supply). They probably have the highest resale value of any of the audiophile labels. A word of caution- there have been differences in these over the years. While they were all cut at half speed not all were on good thick vinyl. There was a time when MoFi was more serious about their gold CDs, although they never completely gave up on vinyl. Safe bet- the lower the serial number the better the specimen.  They dabbled a bit in a few other products, a couple models of speakers, accesories, etc.

                                                              Nautilus Super Discs

 Probably the most significant competitor for MFSL, Nautilus had some significant titles. I actually liked  them as well, some of my all time favorites are on Nautilus (Quincy Jones the Dude, Fleetwood Mac). I also will snap these up whenever I can. To the best of my knowledge they are no longer in business. The quality was equal to that of MFSL.

   Other audiophile labels

 A few other companies jumped on the bandwagon eventually, CBS with their Mastersound series, RCA Red Seal, M&K Realtime, Proprius, Gale, Crystal Clear, Reference Recordings,  and others.

There are a number of newer specialty companies popping up today that are releasing new vinyl, Analogue Productions being one of the more prominent. Impex, OGR/ Original Recordings Group, and Speakers Corner being some of the less than well known offerings to recently surface.

The quality of off the shelf vinyl has risen tremendously,as have the prices. There is not as obvious a difference as there used to be in comparing to the audiophile labels. Still, if you get a chance to pick some of these up they are cool.