Adcom GFA-555 power amplifier Lemcoe's System
The only variable in these listening tests was the particular amplifier under evaluation. All other system components remained constant, with the exception of the loudspeaker: I wanted to listen to each of the amps on both electrostatic and dynamic speakers. My Acoustat Twos satisfied the former need; a pair of Spica TC-50s took care of the latter. My front-end consists of the VPI Mk.II with an ET-2 arm/Talisman S combination. Tracking force is set at 1.8 grams, and loading at the preamp is 100 ohms. Straight Wire Maestro interconnect links TT and preamp. My trusty PS Audio 4.5 was used in the "straight wire" position for all listening sessions. With the slider switch of the 4.5 set to MC, adequate volume was achieved with the volume pot between noon and 1 o'clock.
Special interconnects from the Kenwood Trio group carried the signal to either my Kenwood L07-M reference amps or the amp under evaluation. MIT MH-750 speaker cable was used, with termination by either spade-lug or Monster Cable X-Terminator. A Realistic sound-level meter ("C"-weighted) was used to monitor and equalize playback levels. Ancillary equipment included ASC Tube Traps, an AudioQuest electronic stylus cleaner, a Sumiko Fluxbuster, Last stylus cleaning fluid, a VPI record-cleaning machine, legal pads, pens, and lots of strong Indonesian coffee.
Records used in these listening sessions were selected for their musical and sonic virtues. They are not special "audiophile" releases, but regular recordings which may still be available if a little effort is spent in tracking them down. Here in Santa Fe, an impulsive infatuation with compact discs will result in the demise of the LP in one of our major shops. I mail-order most of my recordings from distributors who still love records and the music often found exclusively on them. Each of the records listed below contains many moments of musical joy on outstandingly engineered discs. They convey the musical experience in various styles, moods, and textures, epitomizing the sounds of real flesh-and-blood musicians performing in real acoustic spaces. I consider them treasures.
Tom Waits: Swordfishtrombones (Island 90095-1). One of the most creative musician/songwriters around, at his esoteric best. An acquired taste, but worth it. Side 2, track 8.
Los Romeros: Telemann, Bach, Etc. (Philips 9500 536). The family of guitarists in exquisite performances captured in lovely sonics. Side 1, track 2.
Cowboy Junkies: The Trinity Sessions (RCA 8568-1-R). Ethereal music recorded with the Calrec Soundfield microphone and performed in one of the most "laid-back" styles I have ever heard. Space music for beer drinkers. Entire album.
James Tyler: Elizabethan Social Music (Saga 5479). A world-class lutenist in sprightly arrangements of music from an earlier time. Delightful! Side 1, track 3.
Billy Jackson: The Wellpark Suite (Iona IR008). A Scottish celebration of—what else?—Tennent's Lager. Pensive at times, it explodes into a finale of joy. Side 2, track 3.
Gary Woodward/Brooks Smith: Poem: Works for Flute and Piano (Stereophile STPH001-1). Challenging music presented in one of the most natural-sounding recordings I have ever heard. Entire album.
These albums demonstrate a variety of sonic qualities I value highly. Among these are timbral accuracy, spectral balance, soundstage recreation, focus, frequency extension, low-level resolution, "aliveness," and communication of musical ideas and emotions. These qualities, when captured on disc and conveyed through a music system, remove artificial "veils" and open a window on the performance. A system able to do this begins to approach music reproduction and sound less like "hi-fi."—Guy Lemcoe