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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Audio Empathy



Exactly eight days after Le Solstice arrival, today...



Last Tuesday, after having a quiet, pleasant music evening with my pal Edo, when saying goodbye after a couple hours of music, played both on smaller system and on Gotorama, he asked, almost exclamed: "Hey, Stefano: are you planning to also listen to the Le Solstice in larger system?"

Well... no, I wasn't planning to do so, immediately... but...

You know: Gotorama is a complex beast and when changing something, a cable or a tube, it needs time to re-balance as a whole.

That's something happening on many - all? - systems, of course.

Anyway... the suggestion reached me as I also got curious about the injection of another Jean Hiraga-made (on Kaneda-san's project), with the four Le Classè A 30W amps as used in Gotorama.

I disconnected the Actinote cable between Thomas Mayer's line-stage and crossover and connected Le Solstice...

Then disconnected the XLO Phono Reference between Mayer's LCR phono-stage and the Peerless 4685 SUT, now in use, and connected to Le Solstice, of course...

Same with Telefunken M15A and Studer B62 and Studer A 730 and... and...

...........





...........

I'm someway reluctant... no, maybe better saying I'm reluctantly happy to say what happened...

I'm absolutely confident about my senses and honesty, so... let's go ahead...

The solid-state preamp is very, very, very quick, solid and organic.

Mayer's 4-chassis combo is very, very silky sounding, luscious and unforgiving... so precise and musical.

I don't need a winner... like in love, there is no winners... and music is so similar to love!

Le Solstice is like a young man coming home from the war, meeting again his brothers and sisters... his family.



I've been jaw-dropped since last Wednesday, indeed... almost unable to think about the overall sound coming from Gotorama... I'm only listening, at its purest form.

... no need to judge, when doing so... and the mind stand still and quiet.

I'm still sure is my system, yet I find some almost disturbing positive variations vs. the very near past:

- I've to change volume-settings many times, with every track and disc, much more times than I used to do: that's something which happens when detailing improves.
- very same happened when coming from Marantz 7C to Mayer's, back in 2009 - i.e. the more you have to change volume settings, the more life-like is the sound, more transparent and various, always different from track to track, disc to disc;
- sound is very modern, yet you cannot say it's a solid-state sound, same as you cannot say about the Class A amps they're solid-state... they're superbly natural sounding, period.
- highs are more extended and smooth than ever, very natural and true to life;
- low end is going very low... I mean very low;
- the sense of untiring and music flowing is very high, excellent, I dare... reminding to me the mighty & cute Jordan Watts' in their ability to let the music come to the ears... straight to the soul, I'd say!
- I must force myself to shut off the system, not an easy task!!!

What else?

I could sum it up like Le Solstice makes a great matching with Gotorama, but it's something more: I listened to about 12 hours, now and I'm still so impressed, pals!

I continue to listen to every music I like and everything comes from the Gotos' so free and solid, smooth and... beautiful.

I listen to more details, more ambience, more unconstrained power and sheer beauty.

The Mayer's will be part of next project - i.e. the possibility to swap between multi-amped Gotorama and Gotorama with a classic passive crossover which is in the making by the skilled hands of my pal Lo (with some wise suggestions by Luca Chiomenti): I'll be able to listen to a full Hiraga rig (Le Solstice and four Le Classè A amps) or to an all triode/tube system with Mayer CX310/WE 437 preamps and 300B Partridge mono-blocks... or the RK-50 The Joke or... whatever my wishes will like to taste and enjoy.


the candies, as Lo call them;-)



everything is measured and coupled... 

the tweeters caps...


As I'm noticing these days, Gotorama allows to try and try more solutions, always themselves, yet always brand new, ever changing depending on what's feeding them.

Such a joy!





Friday, January 29, 2016

Writing about music




"How to Write About Music isn’t a manual. It’s a crystal ball worthy of any aspiring music writer’s gaze. It doesn’t hold your hand from concept to copy, but arranges tools you’ll need to get there on your terms."




Thanking my pal Tyran Grillo for endless inspiration.




Thursday, January 28, 2016

Understanding...





... the relationship between music choices and audio tasting, sound and noise, pleasure and obsession, aural memory, absolute inner ear and ideal DNA music of spheres. 

Is it possible to really understand all the above?

Everyone chat with everyone sharing same our virus;-) about the above, sometimes.

We, music lovers, are someway more exposed to this mystery.

I won't tell you about my habits when making adjustments, new gears insertions or parts swapping, or what I experienced around the world, at audio fairs or at friends places.

Too various, yet similar... I can easily say I always, ALWAYS know when things sound right.

Some considerations: I noticed that during my several music afternoons and evenings with pals or hosts, not a single meeting was focusing on same music playlist...

I sort-of rejected the approach of prior music choosing... making a list of discs or tracks to be played in that sequence.

I tend to do not have - say - Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and its pan potting helicopter or Hugh Masekela's Coal Train as a demonstration disc... I hate demo discs, period.

Every music demonstrates how deep and far the artists or the composers went, so, let me ask: what is the average audiophile demonstrating about their audio systems?

The boom-boom, the 1812 blast, the highs... the songs text, the soloist dexterity, the virtuosity, what....?

The music is beyond my own... I dare: human comprehension.

It is, hic et nunc... you know: "There is no scientific proof of existence of music"... just think about this.

Human mind is both endless, boundaries-less and very limited, when we think we're the best in the universe, you know... music is simply not only human: think about blackbird endless variations and you'll get the idea... or sperm-whales deep water singing... and music is democratic and supremely money unrelated, at its best.

Music and math and anarchy... surprise and ABA form, minor and major, showing landscapes and suggesting streams of consciousness, moods... ever changing moods.

This mood of the moment was - IS - guiding my choices... and not only: the chemical between or among my hosts was and is deeply influencing these choices.

Some requests are able to bend the listening session stream...

An example: from The Grateful Dead's Nobody's Fault but Mine from Dick's Picks # 1 I choose to begin with a session, I could easily think about the beauty of the classic blues, the song itself... so why not going ahead with, say, John Renbourn's version from Another Monday disc...

Maybe this will be followed by, say, Bert Jansch Moonshine, 'cause, you know, The January Man Dave Goulder's little masterpiece song sounds appropriate... hey: it's January.

This kind of alliterations may goes on and on and on... freewheeling'...

... another example: sometime, while lazily reading the record cover liner notes, I read the recording was held that very date, maybe 10, 15 or more years before... a rare evenience, but it happened to me three times...

Like listening to a passed away artist in the very same day when this happens... a far too often happening, recently... and so sadly.

It's a quite pagan homage, a time warping choice which blends souls, unconcerned about life facts, but more hinting to higher and deeper beauties.

... the above it's only an example, of course, yet true and being one of the infinite choices, like stars in the sky.

Incredibly and out of my imagination, music and human creativity are beyond my knowledge, so an interchangeable compass is necessary to sail in this immensity.

You know Quabaala? The ancient, eons old number discipline dating thousands years ago... to my flawed mind, label prefixes are a pleasure in itself... Deutsche Gramophone, ECM, EMI, Decca, Island, RCA... the beauty of numbers and combinations.

Sometime the sum of the discs prefixes I'm listening to makes a definite grand total, say 15, 20, 27.. or my birthday date or my wife's... or the exact time showing on the wall clock... little, innocent pleasures.

Stupid I am... everything does... just consider I no more read anything, nor I digit on the laptop when listening to music... it's a very personal mind game, also when not listening alone, and I love loosing myself in the notes, colors, layers, interactions and intersections, contrasts, dissonances and assonances in a feverish laziness, an hidden, secret world.

A tourbillon



I like chatting during a listening session, but sparingly, not a thick, heavy and dense kind of chatting... the best meeting with my pals are usually a random mix of pauses and words, laughing and deadly seriousness, long and short tracks, comments and silences.

... and not by chance, when I deeply enjoy the evening, I say almost unison with my hosts, thanking and bowing to each other like old times gentlemen.

Pure bliss at their best... but not always happening.

Sometimes, friends of friends come with their own music, vinyl discs or disks... yes, of course I agree in playing this or that, but the flow is someway not working like when a first track or disc is chosen for pleasure or beauty-sake and then followed and chosen by a stream of memories, both aural and personal or mutual.

Music, time, present and past are linked and thanking music my mind goes freely, I see colors, smell scents, feel happiness and sadness.

Also when alone, I smile or am in tears, like a perfect lunatic.

There is no an ending, folks... music, like life and death, are infinitely and ever-changing looping.

... yet, if you insist in reading a closing... try to variate your "demo" records, insert between Radka Toneff's Fairy Tales and Jazz at Pawnshop, Nick Drake's Pink Moon or John Martyn's Solid Air... or Piers Faccini's... or... or...

Special discs... sounds BS, to me, as everything good is special.

Just give your whole discotheque a chance... understand music, explore it and demonstrate,  yes, truly demonstrate - at fairs and at your place, to yourself and friends - how deeply and sincerely music hits your truest, most inner and pureest, truest you.


Humbly said: every gears is just a Stargate... Music is both the journey and the destination.




RPM - a cool app for precisely measuring your turntable platter speed




... I'm using this cool app on my iPhone... RPM by Philip Broder.



It uses the smartphone gyroscope and - well: it's for free and working flawlessly, precisely, safely... a true no brainer.

Just near to the spinning platter... no need of test discs, pilot tone frequencies, etc...







Just turn your cellphone ON and press the app button... and voilà!

That's it.

Love it.




Monday, January 25, 2016

John James & Pete Berryman - Sky in my Pie



Always a pleasure quoting this GREAT album!

It was 44 years ago and acoustic guitars playing was so different from these days hyper-technicism and generalized slapping and copy-catting... melody was always a feature, every tune was something to whistle for days.

Have a listen to a recent dueting of Quiet Days by John and Pete... fondly remembering when I met him, years ago.



Such an humble and kind gentleman.





Site of the Day - Oleg Rullit's PhotoBucket portfolio




Oleg is a personal fave of mine: his good taste and knowledge about paper cones and field-coils are a well kept secret... old world technologies... better, artisanal skills and workmanship.

Paper cones aren't really and only paper: it's a mix of rabbit-fur and other fibers, depending on wanted stiffness and size of the speakers.

I always fondly think about those Japanese paper masters when looking at Mr. Rullit's beauties... paper looks so organic and right in color and texture.







Oleg's creations are - reportedly from people I know who listened and owned the VERY best, cost-no-object - among THE VERY best sounding speakers on the planet.

Take your chance and browse this nice portfolio... I plan to meet him, soon and at last.




Sunday, January 24, 2016

On Consignment Dept. - Ohm "F" omni-directional speakers for sale




... ho, hooo... a new dept... yes, on consignment: a friend asked for my support, so here I am.

He's selling a VERY nicely kept, undented and perfectly working... ahem: singing Ohm "F" speakers.









These speakers are Made in USA and very, VERY rare in Europe.

Very elegant and - as a plus - having a quite high WAF ratio - i.e. our beloved wives won't blame such a speaker in any living room.

Their omni-directional pattern will make listening to them very comfortable from a very broad sound window... the sweet-spot is HUGE, yet the size of speakers and the correctness of scene are top quality.

Asking price is - IMO - very honest for such a sought-after pair.


If interested, please PM at stefanocello-AT-gmail-DOT-com and I'll give you full details.




Saturday, January 23, 2016

Le Solstice by Jean Hiraga




Searched for this elusive preamp many, many, many years, now... found it, today: it was sitting unused on a shelf, only about 800 m from my home… so goes the world.











Used with Cabasse Dinghy and 300B Partridge mono-blocks it's a truly rare pleasure: it's just a tad darker than I was used with Luxman Ultimate AT-3000 passive, but it is very natural sounding and much, much more dynamic than the latter... something which truly justify the wait and expense, indeed.


... from my personal collection...


The 36V battery XLR feature will have to be further investigated… a Zener Diode and 3 x 12V gel or lithium batteries and here we go!

Thanking Flavio, the seller, Kaneda-San for the project and Jean Hiraga for this sought-after almost unknown little masterpiece.


P.S. - anyone willing to share a scan of the user's manual and schematics? Thanks in advance...



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Syrinx



I've been a fond and loyal user and follower of Scott Strachan's Syrinx company: his arms, the PU2, LE2, PU3 and PU3 Ipsissima were - years ago - a must and an alternative to ubiquitous SME... a sort-of underground almost cottage industry including Zeta arms, Alphason, Mission Mechanic, KMAL and... yes: Syrinx were all parts of this movement.







I still own a brand new boxed PU3 Ipsissima which - now or later - will be mounted on one of my B55 Lenco-on-steroids (new bearing and matching new, heavy - 5 kilos - non-magnetic platter)... but when eons ago I owned a belt-driven Basis Debut, my previous PU3 used with a Koetsu Rosewood Signature or an Accuphase AC2, with Stax F81, Convergent Audio Technology SL-1 and Futtermans H3AAAs... well: I was VERY satisfied and, maybe, wealthier than I'm now;-)

Scott Strachan sure knew his business, folks.

I remember he suffered of an heavy horse fall or something, if I'm correct... this and the resulting disease stopped his success worldwide...

PU4 project was abruptly aborted and never saw a true, wide commercial spreading... really too bad!



Decades ago, when I was into audiophilia nervosa, I got two of the three recorded and produced and marketed Syrinx' vinyl discs, 002 and two discs-set 003... Kreisler/Beethoven and Schubert's, both recorded using an Ambisonic Calrec's stereo microphone and Nagra T tape recorder... music and recording, well... were glorious and beautiful as they go!




A joy for the ears and soul, as well.

I searched for years for the elusive 001... without success!

Few days ago... ha!

Found a sealed copy in Germany... and got it!



Another circle is closed, like when I completed the whole Astree AS series, only few days ago... musically, Syrinx 001 is superb, and sound-wise is even better than 002 and 003... a full Mark Levinson ML5 (an heavily modified Studer A80) and matching microphones are used.

I'm in tears... of joy, of course.




Then came Audio Origami PU7 arms... but I'm not aware of the connection with Scott Strachan and his Syrinx heritage, so apparent with above mentioned exotic arms.

I can only trust and hope he's going better and still strong.

Hopefully so...





Monday, January 18, 2016

Ozu, Mu and Music





I’m reading, better: sipping and digesting, Wim Wenders/Mary Zournazi’s book “Inventing Peace: a dialogue on Perception” (2013).




It’s a great, little book, unassuming and very human, I’d say… Wim Wenders is a director – i.e. a visual artist, of course, and not by chance it’s also very fond of music; remember the Ry Cooder’s "Paris, Texas" OST or his seminal  "Wings of Desire" (Der Himmel uber Berlin)’s OST or "Buena Vista Social Club"?


… but all Wim’s movies have very nice and well chosen music commentaries.



The book, now…





It’s well written in a conversation-like form and it’s a sort-of mosaic about perception - as title suggests - and very inspirational at hinting at its several declinations.


A chapter – i.e.  “Lasting images” – is really moving, enriching and illuminating: it’s devoted to Ozu’s “Journey to Tokyo” B/W movie…  about how Yasujirō Ozu built his peaceful screen family scenes and the like.


Reading Wim Wenders’ descriptions, I strongly felt a communion with what I’ve been doing for the last thirty-something years… visual or aural, it’s perception and as Gertrude Stein once wrote, nothing's better than using our own ears as our eyes… an always wise suggestion.


Judge by yourself…


The Author so describe himself during the vision of “Journey to Tokyo” in an essai cinema in NYC's Upper East Side: “The story was slowly and peacefully rolling on the screen, surprising and shocking me; I was more and more quieter, breathing slower, I opened myself and felt like part of the family shown in the movie.”

and


“There was a rhythm on the screen nicely blending with my attention and heartbeat: there was a clarity and a simpleness which also gave clarity to my feelings. The beauty and economy of every frame made me to forget about NYC noises, outside. Time was flowing in such a way to make thinking about beauty of life and its hidden secrets in every aspect, if only we would be able to enter in that flow”.

and


“It was cinema heaven: pure being and essence. No difference among role & actor and character & spectator: all parties were part of same story, all together going to Tokyo on same journey, sharing same existence moved by same forces ” 


and


“There is no mistery: no filigree, cinical or just hinting-images or scenes, irony - better an ironic distance between the movie itself and everyday life - exists, anymore. 


Ozu’s movies aren’t hinting to the conventional “filmic distance” – i.e. hey, let’s do not worry, it’s a movie, isn’t real.


It’s ingenuity, a childish approach where real and unreal are without boundaries and blending randomly together; like when we were younger, the movies were an experience, dragons, monsters, flying super heroes and giants were real and scaring for real!


I still remember Jules Verne’s Journey at the Centre of the Earth and its giant crabs… it was feverishly dangerous and shocking to a younger me… and going to be, in the dark was painful, as I was fearful to find them in the corridors.


Silly me… and lucky me.


It’s the lacking, the absence of defense which gives a pure approach… no pre-concepts, no cinism or irony… just naked truth remains.


Like Ozu’s camera was placing two characters during a conversation in a seldom seen, different perspective vs. modern aka Western, Hollywood or European, approach – i.e. when each character talks to the other, both… no back, torso views: BOTH look at the camera – i.e. at the Director’s eye – i.e. at the spectator eye.


You feel part of the scene and of the movie, to some extent!


Why all the above?


I feel that Ozu’s visual Mu - the void emptiness which can be filled - which permeates things and life as they are,  in their no-frills nudity and trueness - and my own (humbly said) Music and the related listening pleasure are connected, bonded… I mean that when listening to my system I sort-of made a layout which makes me both the listener, the artist, the microphone and sound engineer and the orchestra director.






I'm into the music, not simply listening to it!




That’s why the involvement I so strongly feel - something which is also shared with friends or occasional visiting people in my studio -  it’s unique and very, very, very seldom heard somewhere else…


I made my system to perform in such a way, where no boundaries exist, anymore: the large auditorium or studio, the blasting, roaring thunders and the whispers, the emotion and the almost visual holograms so beautifully and truly reach a me in awe.



It’s like if I learned by scratch to bring  the essence of music to my ears in my room… and everything is so true to life.

Hearing a timpani thundering in the orchestra I truly see the percussionist.



I’m not so clever to do so knowingly… it just happened, day after day after day… layers by layers of truth and self-knowledge blossomed in a very humble and natural way.



Ingenuity was, and still is, in the recipe.



Like when meditating, it’s something – listening in such a deep and involving way – related to reaching an inner silence, stopping thinking and speculating about lesser life-facts.



Yet, Wim Wenders and Mary Zournazi, much more skilled thinkers and higher-minded, so cleverly pointed it out in the above mentioned pages.



Childish… being pure, illuminated children in our truest, inner soul: this brings a light which outlasts our mortal body and makes living worthwhile, as this is purest nectar for our truest being. 


... ahhh, forgetting: what about the a.m. peace? 


You're right!


Peace to me (and Wim and Mary, as well, so I'm in good company, indeed;-)) isn't the absence of war - i .e. a rare evenience...


Peace means beauty and well being, enjoying life... a time which flows smooth and satisfying, unboring and always various... and Music is a BIG part of this condition.


More music should and could means more peace... let's think about it!  

Thanking Wim Wenders and Mary Zournazi... and to Alex de Grassi, who made a very nice musical commentary to an Ozu's movie, which refreshed my interest for  these b/w masterpieces.




Sunday, January 17, 2016

A new audio system birth





Made some room in my tiny studio for a new system: ear speakers and small monitor-speakers for intimate, late night listening and razor-sharp monitoring and editing.







The speakers... secret-secret, or so... more to come (see here below).






The turntable will be the classy Lenco Goldring G 88 in white slate plinth, with matching white slate/bronze arm-base and 12" Ortofon RMG 309 or old vintage, first batch Thomas Schick arm and Decca III and Decca SC4E cartridges.

Preamp will be my old, trusty Marantz 7C.

Tuner? Marantz 10B, of course.

The amp? Marantz 2s

Cassette-deck? Nakamichi 600

Open reel... Revox/De Paravicini's G 36

Earspeakers: Stax SRX and amp adapter.

It's all gears taken from my shelves... using stuffs instead of leaving them in storage, that's something I strongly wish...


Collecting audio is so boring if gears remain silent...



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

AccuTractor precision cartridge alignment jig by Studio Alchemist




From Taipei, Taiwan...

My pal River Yu conceived and built this very cool cartridge mounting and fine tuning jig.

The AccuTractor is a very carefully crafted precision instrument, not a toy: its precision goes down to an impressive 0,08 mm resolution.



Seldom seen, indeed.


Well made, River!



Lyrita - The Treasures of English Music





Moeran, Rubbra, Bax, Machonchy, Berkeley, Ireland, Bliss, Holst, Still, Parry, Benjamin, Finzi, Bush, Baines, Alwyn, Williamson, Howells, Arnold, Coates, Parry, Walton, Rawsthorne, Bridge, Leigh, Grainger, Britten, Lloyd, Warlock...


The above are some of the - sometimes obscure and neglected, but most of the time superb - English composers which were covered, cocooned and recorded in glorious analog sound by Richard Itter, Lyrita Recorded Edition's founder and proprietor, and painstackingly engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson and pressed by Decca and later Nimbus.

Sir Adrian Boult (at left) and Richard Itter

I'll be forever in debt - owing to him a world of musical enjoyment and bliss - with the late HP aka Harry Pearson of TAS fame.

I bought - since I found for one dollar my very first Lyrita's (Howell), decades ago - about 70 SRCS' which I still enjoy immensely.






SRCS 109, Malcolm Arnold's - one of the most famous, sought-after and prized, BUT not the best of Lyritas' 




Please find here the whole Lyrita catalog and - as I'm listening to it right now - a great sampler - Lollipops, as they used to call'em - music selection in loop form.


Great, GREAT music... pastoral, impressionistic and poetic as it goes... conducted by the very best English maestros and, sometimes, by the composers themselves... Del Mar, Handley, Finzi, Elgar, Arnold, etc.


Please do you a favor... browse the impressive catalog and when shopping for Lyritas' on the web, don't simply stop to TAS' List titles... most of the SRCS series are sonic and musical spectaculars!


At Nimbus, you'll find the CDs of some Lyritas and here more infos about the history of this label, a true goldmine of musical pleasures and a safe harbour for our soul.







Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie dies!!!





My heart is bleeding!


One of the strongest heroes of my musical life died of cancer, aged 69.


I just heard it and well... one of his timeless songs surfaced to my lips and I found a puzzled me whistling, with a tear in my eye.


Cruel life... as also Heroes die.




His chamaleon-like persona, all his incarnations are jumping in my head: Ziggy, the yellow eyes alien, the Tin Machine man, the Diamond Dog, Aladdin...


His melodies and blasting personas will out-survive him, forever.


RIP dear Thin White Duke and condolences to his family... cannot stop whistling his songs and being in tears.


... while listening to Blackstar... after Bert Jansch's The Black Swan...  I'm bleeding... life is tough and heavy... black it is!







Friday, January 1, 2016

My next turntable




The mighty Lyrec AG 40... asked for it to Santa...






Hopefully I'll get it...

... one day.