The Fifth Element #64 Page 4
The 2 Johns Do a Big Listen
I was so bowled over by the performance of the Vivid V-1.5s that, even before the B-1s arrived, I had suggested to JA that he drive up to Rhode Island to measure the V-1.5s in my room. When he learned that the B-1s were on the way, the trip seemed even more appealing (see sidebar for his measurements and comments). John made a flying visit, with barely enough time to drink some excellent Atlas Peak Cabernet and have a very nice Indian dinner at Rasoi, in nearby Pawtucket. (Two days later, JA and Jonathan Scull began their Southern excursion, as J-10 recounted in last month's issue, p.62.)
The first track I played was of a level-setting from one of the recording sessions I did for Pipes Rhode Island: of the Fratelli Ruffatti organ at Our Lady of Grace, in Johnston, Rhode Island. I had asked organist Andrew Galuska to play a brief excerpt at what his maximum volume would be. The track begins with the sound of the carillon outside the church tolling the Angelus at 6pm, quickly followed by the smallish (24 ranks) but very punchy organ ringing out a stately, vaguely Lutheran theme. After checking the level, I called out, "Good enough!"
I later asked Andrew if he could play the same hymn again, to which he replied, "What hymn?" It turned out to have been an improvisation he could not re-create. Ah, me. One of the best tracks I ever recorded was a level check, and I cut it off too soon. A lesson for us all, perhaps.
In the event, I had played that level-setting track quite a few times, and had written down the volume-control setting where the sound in my room was satisfyingly full but not overbearingand certainly not distorted. I cued up that track and it filled the room, from wall to wall and from floor to ceiling. JA rocked back in his chair. "Well!" he said, in a very admiring tone. "See what I mean?" I asked. He nodded.
I then played tracks 1 and 2 of Stereophile's Test CD 2. The die-out of the last note of JA's electric bass was particularly clean and long-lasting. (And demonstrated, as this track is intended to do, that the speakers were correctly wired and phased.) JA later expressed his appreciation that I was actually using the tools he had provided so long ago. I restate that this constant discipline has saved me from embarrassment more than onceeven in matters of right and left channels!
To add to whatever controversy my embrace of Ayre's Irrational, But Efficacious! System Enhancement CD has raised (see my December column): I played Christy Moore's "So Do I" for JA, then replayed the first minute, then used the 45-second IBE glide tone, then played all of "So Do I" again. JA looked sharply at me and muttered, "I'll have to forget what I'm hearing."
He heard it guys; he heard the improvement.
As long as I was blundering in where angels would fear to tread, I then played the opening track of Arturo Delmoni's solo-violin recital of works of Ysaÿe, Kreisler, and Bach from the original aluminum CD (John Marks Records JMR 14), then from the 24kt gold CD (JMR 14G) now being sold online by Stereophile. I'm not sure I can say JA was gobsmacked, but it was obvious that he was hearing things he hadn't expected to. He said that it wasn't so much that he heard "more" ambience, but that the ambience was tied into the violin's sound better than before.
I usually avoid any appearance of blowing my own horn, but in this case I don't think I am. Although the original album concept was mine, Kavi Alexander recorded it, and my reissue was mastered by Bob Ludwig. Suffice it to say that this CD, a Stereophile "Recording of the Month," is an unusually rich feast of musical masterworks. It has never sounded better than on this fin de siècle gold reissue, which has used up the very last of the original tray cards and liner booklets. Grab it while you can; it's highly unlikely ever to be repressed. (But it will continue, in any event, to be offered as a burned-to-order aluminum copy by ArkivMusic.com.)
I then played, quite loudly, three big-gun arias for tenor. First was Brian Cheney's private mike-test performance of "Che gelida manina," from Puccini's La Bohème. JA had been at the recording session, and he said that the sound through the B-1s was the best he'd heard it. Next was a Ben Heppner performance of "Nessun dorma," from Puccini's Turandot loud. Very loud. JA said that he'd been waiting for the B-1s' midrange and tweeter to crap out, but they didn't. Nor did they on the tenor-baritone duet from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, with Andrea Bocelli and Thomas Hampson. I later learned from the B-1's designer, Laurence Dickie, that the midrange and tweeter drivers are 94dB sensitive, and therefore have to be padded down quite a bit by the crossover in order to match the woofer. So they just loaf along, never getting anywhere near stressed. Bravo.
I'm running out of space, and so will cite only the two discs that JA seemed the most newly impressed by. I recommended tenor Michael Slattery's Secret and Divine Signs: The Music of Craig Urquhart (CD, Avie AV2008) in February 2007. JA listened so attentively that I ended up playing four tracks instead of just the one I'd planned to. One of the last tracks I played, at hugely room-filling volume, was Christian rock band Sixpence None the Richer's "I've Been Waiting," from Divine Discontent (CD, Warner Bros. 86010), which I recommended in September 2004. I played it pretty darn loud, and it left JA visibly impressed with its clean, punchy, layered production. But I think that, all things considered, JA was impressed as much by the speakers as by the music.