Listening #134 Page 2

Except for the modest aluminum plate to which the tube sockets are fastened, the D'Yquem's casework—the mass and stiffness of which are also elements in the voicing of this and other Shindo models—is formed from steel and finished, on all surfaces, in the company's trademark shade of green. The transformer cover and tube cage share a distinctly sculpted look, with neatly curved edges and ventilation openings that manage to be both functional and attractive. (Unfortunately, the D'Yquems sound considerably better with the tube cages removed: something that's true of every Shindo amp I've heard so far.) As with few other brands in perfectionist audio, the Shindo D'Yquem's good-looking casework is free from overkill and tacked-on artifice; just as uniquely, it is engineered and built with such precision that tube cages, lids, bottom plates, and the like all fit precisely. One needn't bend, twist, pry, or pray when reinserting a Shindo amplifier's machine screws in their threaded sockets.

Unparallel
With their thoroughly reasonable size and weight and their individual level controls—the latter allow the user to operate his or her preamp within its optimal range of volume-control settings, along with providing a means of adjusting channel balance—the D'Yquems were easy to swap into my system, replacing my own (very slightly smaller) Shindo Corton-Charlemagne monoblocks.

The D'Yquems performed brilliantly at that most important and challenging of all domestic-audio tasks, preserving and bringing to the fore all of the strengths for which 78rpm records are cherished: superior touch, impact, and presence, plus exquisitely realistic musical flow and momentum (footnote 2). The voice of Enrico Caruso, singing the Crucifixus from Rossini's Petite Messe solennelle (acoustic 78, Victrola 87335), had an amazing sense of the forceful propulsion of sound from the singer's chest; and the exceptional presence and clarity of the lap steel guitar in Montana Slim's "Shoo Shoo Shoo, Sh' La La (Daddy's Lullaby)" (electric 78, Decca 29384) had to be heard to be believed.

The D'Yquems were no less impressive with stereo LPs. With Ravi Shankar's 1971 recording, with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra, of Shankar's colorful Sitar Concerto (LP, EMI ASD 2752), the new Shindo amps rose to the challenge and presented the record's almost uniquely wide palette of timbral and textural signatures with exceptional color and touch. Most noteworthy, perhaps, was a conspicuous harp arpeggio in the second part of the work's first movement (Chhed): Through the D'Yquems it was, forgive me, a holy shit moment, the instrument sounding immense and deeply, beautifully impactful. And throughout the work, each single drum tap, set against the rich carpet of the sitar's drone strings, was a delightful experience. (The liner notes say "bongos"; I don't know if that's an error for "tabla" or if it's literally true.) In fact, the D'Yquems made all percussion instruments sound wonderful, regardless of setting—as in Big Star's "Life Is White," from the indispensable Radio City (LP, Ardent ADS-1501): Jody Stephens's remarkable drumming never sounded less compressed or more colorful than through these new Shindos.

Now: All of the qualities I've described so far—the color, the texture, the impact, and so forth—have been offered, to different degrees and in different combinations, by all of the Shindo amplifier models I've heard at home so far: the Montille, the Lafon GM 70, the Corton-Charlemagne, and two distinct versions each of the Haut-Brion and Cortese. Where the Shindo D'Yquem departed from those and other amplifiers was in the warm, colorful clarity it brought to musical sounds in the lowest octaves—and especially to the sound of the double bass. I had a roomful of friends on hand while playing, through the warmed-up D'Yquems, Dexter Gordon's wonderful One Flight Up (LP, Blue Note/Cisco 84176/BLP-4176). After listening through the side-long "Tanya," we all described, wide-eyed in astonishment, the same experience: hearing, in Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen's bass lines, an instrument that was physically large, made of very old wood, and played with considerable human force and nuance. Cliché it might be, but the truth was undeniable: We all reported seeing that big string bass right there in the room.

It was then that I knew: These amplifiers had to go. Preferably by the next day. They were evil—evil,, I tell you—because my little rat brain had already started to gnaw at my soul, suggesting that, Hey, no problem, I can find a way to afford a pair of Shindo D'Yquems. Sure. With a teenager headed for college, looming medical-insurance bills to pay, a house whose wood siding is starting to rot in a few places, a car that needs new tires, and a desperate sense that, in my present financial state, I won't be able to retire until age 90, I can nonetheless find $25,000 for a pair of magnificent, peerless, unparalleled, and altogether green amplifiers. Sure.

They went back to importer Jonathan Halpern, aka Tone Imports, the very next day. And, yes, I remain thankful for all the blessings—including the less-expensive Shindo amplifiers—that I already have.

This is easy
After a stretch of dull adolescence in which the social enjoyment of rock'n'roll was perversely mirthless—my friends and I were among those denim-jacketed cretins who thought that music, whether live or recorded, was best enjoyed with arms crossed and scowls firmly in place—I finally got over my bad self and danced.

The change was occasioned by countless live bands and a few seminal records: the Clash's London Calling (1980), Rockpile's Seconds of Pleasure (1980), and, especially, the eponymous debut album of Marshall Crenshaw (1982). Throughout the 1980s, even in my cramped New York City apartment, Crenshaw's first LP almost never failed to get visitors on their feet.

That and his later records rewarded closer listening, too: a distinction that applies equally well to the music that Crenshaw is making today, some 30 years and 13 albums later. Marshall Crenshaw continues to write, sing, and play some of the most sublimely perfect rock'n'roll songs of our time—and vinyl continues to be his medium of choice. In 2012, Crenshaw began offering his newest recordings on a series of 10", 45rpm discs, each containing three tracks: a new Crenshaw song, a reworking of a classic Crenshaw song, and a cover. The EPs are individually available for $12 each, or as part of a $30 subscription in which the subscriber receives three records, released about six months apart; each record comes with a coupon redeemable for a free digital download.

The title track of the first EP, I Don't See You Laughing Now (Addle-Ville MC1), is one of Crenshaw's most topical songs. The lyric, he says, was written about "a composite of greed-driven villains—Madoff, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, etc." The melody and chord sequence are more complex—and arguably much more engaging—than the power-pop norm, and the arrangement draws the listener in with rich chord voicings and a fine, Chilton-esque guitar solo from Crenshaw, a superb player who seems to be getting even better with age. It's a brilliant, memorable song from start to finish, and surely among Crenshaw's best.

224listen.crenshaw.jpg

The first EP also includes a live version, with the St. Louis band the Bottle Rockets, of "There She Goes Again"—the track that opened Marshall Crenshaw—and a lovingly faithful cover of Jeff Lynne's "No Time," from the Move's Message from the Country, an early-'70s pop masterpiece that remains in my Top 10 exactly 40 years after I bought my first copy. Speaking of terrific covers, the second EP in the series, Stranger and Stranger (Addle-Ville MC2), contains a performance of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Close to You" that you'll enjoy in spite of your bad self—plus an acoustic reworking of Crenshaw's early song "Maryanne," and the compellingly wistful title track. The last is beautifully arranged, with congas and vibraphone, and Byron House, late of Nickel Creek, on double bass.

Sound quality, though never bad, is variable across the two EPs I've received so far (footnote 3) reflecting the different recording settings and techniques: "I'm doing a lot of the recording at home," Crenshaw says. "I have Pro Tools and a 1" eight-track machine, so it's a kind of a hybrid digital/analog thing." That said, throughout all the tracks there endure the warmth, presence, and impact that come only from vinyl—and in this case, great vinyl. I strongly recommend visiting marshallcrenshaw.com, where you can buy these lovingly made EPs and subscribe to Year Two.

A few miscellaneous record-release notes
• Recently out on Tompkins Square Records is the three-CD boxed set Live at Caffä Lena: Music from America's Legendary Coffeehouse (1967–2013), a collection of memorable performances selected from the 50-year history of the upstate New York café, which continues to do business on Phila Street, in Saratoga Springs. The new set offers previously unreleased performances by Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Rick Danko, Arlo Guthrie, Dave Van Ronk, and a host of others. A must for any serious folk fan.

• The distinguished German LP-reissue house Speakers Corner has released another three titles in what is described as their final wave of classic Decca titles: Ernest Ansermet and L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande performing Prokofiev's Classical Symphony and various shorter works (SXL 2292); Stravinsky's Symphony in C by the same conductor and orchestra (SXL 2237); and Dame Joan Sutherland's The Art of the Prima Donna, Vols. 1 and 2, with Francesco Molinari-Pradelli conducting the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra (SXL2256/57). All are fine, the Prokofiev especially so: For sheer color, texture, and you-are-there presence, not to mention the dead-silent surfaces for which the company is known, this ranks with the very best work Speakers Corner has ever released.

• After the astonishing release, by London's Electric Recording Company, of Johanna Martzy's legendary recordings of J.S. Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin (see "Listening," August 2013, and "Records for Which to Die" in this issue), my favorite new mono LP reissue is Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers' Charlie Parker–inspired Hard Bop (Columbia/Impex CL 1040). As with the above-mentioned German and British firms, the US-based Impex uses an analog—never digital—delay loop in mastering their records; as Madison Avenue once said of an altogether different sort of product, don't you wish everyone did? Speaking of ERC, I have a test pressing of their forthcoming reissue, in stereo, of the famous recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto by Leonid Kogan, Constantin Silvestri, and the Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris (Columbia/ERC SAX 2386). It is very much worth waiting for.

• In their recent LP reissue of Nick Drake's Pink Moon (Island 1745697), Universal Music Enterprises offered vinyl lovers the richest, most detailed, most human-sounding version available of that brilliant record. I bought my own copy in August, but it wasn't until several weeks later that I actually listened to side 2—and when I did, I heard an annoying series of clicks throughout "Know." I returned it to Music Direct, who, in typical fashion, sent a replacement copy without hassle. Imagine my surprise, on listening to side 2 of my new copy, at hearing the same clicks in the same places! I endure in recommending this reissue for its fine musicality, but noise-sensitive buyers are forewarned, and Universal is advised to audition their test pressings—and, if necessary, to replate their lacquers—with a level of care befitting a $25 LP.



Footnote 2: Which do you think sounds more impactful and dynamically nuanced: a CD played on a high-end audio system, or a YouTube video of someone playing a 78, heard through your computer? For the answer, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WmCKuy9vZE.

Footnote 3: The third Crenshaw EP, Driving and Dreaming, will have been released by the time you read this.

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COMMENTS
tnargs's picture

What a deluded and generally insane opening few paragraphs. Clearly you are no philosopher, Mr [Dudley] (puerile insult deleted by John Atkinson].

 

It's got nothing to do with audio engineers that today's audio is where you say it is. It has more to do with people like YOU, Mr [Dudley].

 

I know car enthusiasts who drive 1950's and 60's Alfa Romeo's around, proclaiming how much more soul they have than modern vehicles, and how they hate to drive modern vehicles. They wail about no progress in auto engineering, or progress in the wrong areas. These people are YOUR soulmates, Mr [Dudley]. I bet they look across at our hobby and clearly see the wonderful progress in audio engineering, and and they look back to their beloved cars and philosophically ask why cars didn't start flying 30 years ago, like we did with digital audio. Meet your mirror, Mr [Dudley].

 

When you write about what "the majority of engineers in today's audio industry put their greatest efforts behind ", I realise that you have probably never met a real audio engineer, nor have a clue what they do or what they are working on. You seem to be so disconnected from everything audio (apart from the retro-luddite arm, and the products of marketing psychology applied to the high end market) that you think backwards is forwards, up is down, and the sky is never blue. This article, and it is not alone in your output, is a litany of lies, proclaimed as truth, as absolute truth in fact. Your articles resemble nothing as much as they resemble a TV evangelist, loved and adored by his fans, derided and ridiculed by everyone else.

 

This magazine is a case in point. I remember about 20 to 25 years ago, Stereophile magazine was reporting on multichannel audio, led by articles by erstwhile visionaries like Holt. Then suddenly that disappeared from the pages and we were back in the 40's: it had to be 2 channels only. Was this change driven by a realisation that multi channel audio is worse or no better? Not a chance: magazine content is driven by advertisers and commercial business boards. Then about 10 to 15 years ago, Stereophile was reporting on room and speaker correction (was it Greene?), then poof! Gone! Because it doesn't work? Not a chance: magazine content is driven by advertisers and commercial business boards. Instead, the magazine brought in columnists like Fremer and Dudley. I rest my case!

Doctor Fine's picture

Goodness knows I have on occasion myself questioned any claim by Mr. Dudley as to the philosophical certitude he ascribes to his own peculiar attitude toward our hobby.  The man is unapoligetically infatuated with all things arcane, obscure and most importantly---antique.  And he sometimes in the distant past would annoy me with his condescending sense of superiority---when I knew all the time it was I who was superior!

Be that as it may,  Artie is unflinchingly dedicated to QUALITY and for that quest alone he shall find me defending his right to writ as he shall see fit.  A few years ago this was driven home when I found myself taking his advice on how to use his arcane knowledge concerning phono cartridge step up transformers. 

I was wrestling with the totally modern incarnation of a modified and hot rodded Technics 1200 direct drive turntable which did everything right except SOUND good.  Art was at that point recommending phono transformers as a lost art deserving of inclusion in the quest for tone.  And he was spot on.

And who but Art to come to the rescue when I was in search of add-on high frequency super tweeters to extend my playback into bat range (50,000 cycles per second in fact)?  The man is nothing if not a source of all things necessary to a MODERN audio user.  Even as he dwells several decades behind what is fashionable.

There must be room in our hobby for specialist knowledge and the arcane or we shall all simply buy Wilson Sophias, solid state moose amps and be done with it. 

I say all in favor of Art stand with me as I pour a steep drink of aged Scotch whiskey and proclaim---THIS is the year of the ART!

John Atkinson's picture

tnargs wrote:
I remember about 20 to 25 years ago, Stereophile magazine was reporting on multichannel audio, led by articles by erstwhile visionaries like Holt. Then suddenly that disappeared from the pages and we were back in the 40's: it had to be 2 channels only.

You must be thinking of a different magazine. Yes, Gordon Holt was a very strong advocate for multichannel audio and one of the reasons he left Stereophile in 1999 was my refusal to eliminate the magazine's coverage of 2-channel audio components and recordings. After he left, Kalman Rubinson took over our coverage of of multichannel audio and does so to this day in his bimonthly "Music in the Round" column.

tnargs wrote:
Was this change driven by a realisation that multi channel audio is worse or no better? Not a chance: magazine content is driven by advertisers and commercial business boards.

As there was no change, your point is moot. And please note that Stereophile's editorial content and policies are not decided by advertisers or by "commercial business boards" (whatever they might be) but by me. While multichannel audio has a strong following, the reality is that the majority of the magazine's readers listen to two-channel systems.

tnargs wrote:
Then about 10 to 15 years ago, Stereophile was reporting on room and speaker correction (was it Greene?), then poof! Gone!

Again, you appear to be confusing Stereophile with another magazine, most likely The Absolute Sound, for which Robert E. Greene writes. Again, Kalman Rubinson continues to cover room correction technology for this magazine. I have no idea why you are not aware of that fact, unless you don't actually read the magazine you criticize.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Regadude's picture

[insult deleted] Mixing up Stereophile with The absolute sound...

That's just as bad as mixing up Playboy with Hustler! Shame on you!

John Atkinson's picture

Regadude wrote:
Mixing up Stereophile with The Absolute Sound...

The more I think on it, the more I believe the poster was indeed confusing the two magazines.

After Gordon Holt left Stereophile, he signed up with The Absolute Sound to contribute a  column on multichannel audio to that magazine. That column ran irregularly in TAS but ended when Gordon was let go. As far as I can tell, TAS has not covered multichannel in any systematic way since Gordon left, which correlates  with the original poster's statement.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

tnargs's picture

Dear JA, when you say "puerile insult deleted" (which in my defence readers should know was nothing more than an abbreviation of AD's surname, and hence anyone should realise is purely in fun, and to do so in my Great Southern Land is a common means of mocking endearment -- maybe such is not in the American lexicon?), when you say "puerile insult", you should consider this one that you let AD get away with and is surely ten times worse: "Compared to the advancements achieved by their colleagues in other fields, audio engineers might as well have spent the past 50 years stripping the leaves off branches and dipping them into termite hills."

If you think that is anyting less than an insult, then I say you aren't qualified to assess insults competently.

John Atkinson's picture

tnargs wrote:

when you say "puerile insult deleted" (which in my defence readers should know was nothing more than an abbreviation of AD's surname, and hence anyone should realise is purely in fun...)

Except that you repeated the abbreviation and used it to mock Art Dudley. Didn't seem like "fun" to these eyes.

And given that you have neither acknowledged nor addressed my response to your orginal point, I suspect it will soon be time to reach for my can of "Troll-B-Gone" :-) 

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

tnargs's picture

If you treat me as a troll, then you are treating as a troll a person who evidently has greater respect for the field of audio engineering than do your own columnists. I have been an enthusiastic audiophile for thirty-something years, and I try to be both passionate and balanced in my opinions. I look at audio engineering and I see a lot of things that were not in service of better sound quality, but I also see a lot of serious advancement in the pursuit of sound quality. I take a rather dim view of claims that no such advancements have occurred, and that the best audio engineers of the past 50 years may as well have stayed in the trees they descended from to pick up a degree in audio engineering and then evidently use it only as toilet paper.

Regarding my response to your response, I was actually waiting to see if Art Dudley had anything further to say, and hopefully unlike you if he would be so kind as to comment on the main assertion of my post, not to over-emphasise that I made an ill-advised illustrative case in point. On the matter of the content of Stereophile coverage over the years, I defer to your greater knowledge of course. I am a subcriber, although I think it may be due for renewal. I am aware of Kal's articles, although I tire of too much proportion of limited space being spent on pre-pro reviews, and not enough on the superiority of multichannel and how best to realise it at home. I also see a specific absence of Kal's product type from the full review section of the magazine, unlike Art's product type.

Like I keep emphasising, my original comment was not primarily on Stereophile content.

John Atkinson's picture

tnargs wrote:
I remember about 20 to 25 years ago, Stereophile magazine was reporting on multichannel audio. . . Then suddenly that disappeared from the pages . . .i t had to be 2 channels only.

tnargs wrote:
I am aware of Kal's articles...

Do you really not see that these two statements of yours in successive postings are contradictory?

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

tnargs's picture

In reply to "Do you really not see that these two statements of yours in successive postings are contradictory?" :--

Not really. My second posting refers to a later time, hence the use of present tense. I *am* aware of Kal's articles. In fact I posted a comment on #61 last month. I am *not* aware of every one of them, of how long they have been running, or whether they flowed on seamlessly from the departure of Holt such that there was no cessation of multichannel coverage in Stereophile. That would be one for you to answer.

Hence no self-contradiction by me myself I.

Meanwhile, audio engineers of the world await, with bated breath, any clarification on their mass incompetence, irrelevance and non-achievement over the last 50 years. (Not really. I doubt that they look to Stereophile for competent assessment of their craft.)

kafo's picture

I'm sure this is a fine amplifier, but the price seems to be quite high. Lundahl transformers, Solen caps and electrolytics are OK, but anyone who knows the prices of these parts must wonder where the very high price comes from.

Metalhead's picture

I listened to a 300b SET and former Klispch turned into a super type speaker with TAD driver with wooden horn and some exotic super tweeter with special crossover and it was magnificent. I also got to hear a 55 w push pull in triple monoblock pairs in the same system and although dynamics and authority increased it could not match that magic (best term I can think for my reaction) of a 300b.  

As a former owner of big ass JBL's (and still friggin love em and miss em). I GET where Art is coming from.  I had to send my wonderful cj 12's out for some work after a 300b made them sound (Almost God forbid solid state sounding).

Plus Art is smart enough to live in Upstate NY, one of the most beautiful places on earth and all I can say is preach on brother Dudley.

Peace Out

Regadude's picture

25 000$ big ones for this!?!? Seriously? You can buy 5 Naim Supernait 2s for that amount! You could have a Supernait in each room of your house! 

Hey, but its got tubes....

jimtavegia's picture

Knowing that the silence of thousands huddles around you and enjoy your writings should bring you some comfort. We may never own the things of which you write and that it brings us closer to knowing what ownership might mean, that is enough for the day.  

Knowing that I spin my 2 turntables while the 3rd awaits a new replacement tonearm due to my desire to upgrade its performance, friends talk about "getting back into audio" and marvel at how much vinyl I listen to, and yet weeks go  by as they "still consider the investment". They still dream of  something other than internet radio and streams and listening in their cars. I don't bother them weekly about "what they have done" to enjoy music more, even when enjoying music is more affordable than ever. They can spend a lot or a little. 

I also don't begrudge what others buy or what they enjoy. I just hope that others can either make music or enjoy listening to it in the best possible way. Yet, they go on endlessly about their next cruise and have planned their next two for the year. You can always tell what people are into by what they spend their money on and either a love of music moves you to purchase gear, concert tickets, or both.  Otherwise it is empty rhetoric.  

At one time I did carry in my pocket some round wood 1" coins that had that spelled "TUIT" on both sides. I  would give them out when someone said they would do something when they got a "round TUIT".  Most would laugh, but they got my point. So much great music and so little time. 

Regadude's picture

Good post Jim (I like your posts on Analog planet as well). I agree with you on many things. My point was not that it was foolish to spend a lot of money on audio equipment; but rather, is this the best way to spend 25 000$ on audio equipment. 

Obviously, I don't think so. Others will disagree. Since I am one of those with a fixed income, I do tons of research before buying something, and I want to get my money's worth, or more. I would rather pay for a 1000$ amp that competes with 1500$ amps, than own a 25000$ amp, that is equalled by 15000$ amps. Yes, I look for the best I can afford, but I also want value and not overpay.

That is why I used the 5 Supernait 2s as an example. For most people (me included) a Supernait 2, Rega P9 with a decent cartridge, Naim CD5X and Paradigm or PRoac speakers, with cables and accessories, would cost no more than 25000$. It would be a complete system, and an excellent one at that. 

Then again, some people buy Nordost Odin speaker cables at 40 000$ a pair!!! My dealer sold a pair recently. I guess different people (with different incomes) have different perspectives. 

volvic's picture

As someone who is rapidly approaching the big 50, "So much great music and so little time" rings truer with each passing day.....the rest is noise.  

stereodesk's picture

How much energy is wasted defending or attacking approaches to music reproduction. There are any number of reviewers who assume different tacks.  Shindo-san wisely chose wine as descriptors for his works of art.  One can easily think of hifi in that fashion.  If you know you're a Bordeaux guy (Parker), don't frustrate yourself by reading a Burgundy guy (Coates).  The truth is that among the great stylists, music wins...

I once had the pleasure of demoing a system for Art at the Capital Audio Fest.  He knew, (as did I after reading him for a decade and change), that it wasn't his kind of system.  The beauty was that during his ample stay, his feet pumped and his hands were drumming.  In short, he was loving the music.  Would he have rather heard that music on our other system (Type 50 Triode SET and 100db efficient monitors)...damn straight he would have, but for me it was a win.  There's room for all kinds of artists and engineers in this wide and wondrous realm...reviewers too.

I'm so happy that you were able to hear these amps.  (even if you didn't buy them)

In 1855, when the First Growths of Bordeaux were established d'Yquem was given the designation of Premier Cru Supérieur...or First Growth Superior.  It is the only wine designated as such.  Throughout the long and incredible history of that Chateau, they've never felt compelled to make note of it or put it on one of their labels.  I feel like Shindo-San had a similar feeling about his accomplishments.  He did what he did.  It was his singular expression, and he couldn't have done it any other way.  Those who heard his work in a proper system,(hopefully all Shindo) whether transistor acolytes or birthed under the soft glow of a tube, will likely remember it.  I certainly will.  

Our condolances and deep thanks go out to the Shindo family, friends and colleagues.

Fred Crane

 

 

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