Photograph: John Atkinson
Staggering out of the elevator into the lobby of the Marriott at the end of the first day, I was delighted to discover Robert Silverman mid-performance on a 9' Steinway concert grand, thanks to Ray Kimber, who had released Silverman's new SACD set of the complete Mozart piano sonatas, recorded with the IsoMike, at RMAF. Those of us had just spent up to six hours listening to reproduced sound had the opportunity to enjoy the real thing.
The experience stunned me. As I listened to the beauty of Silverman's Beethoven and Mozart, I felt as though I had just spent most of my six hours listening to frauds. Some of those frauds were blatant in their deception, some subtle. But even taking into account the subdued acoustics of the Marriot Tech Center's lobby, which in the piano's location extended up the equivalent of at least four stories tall, the sound had an inviting realism that made a mockery of those harsh-sounding systems I encountered on day one. Silverman's live performance also highlighted the accomplishments of the honest systems (eg, the Magico/Marutani Consulting/Audio Salon room), and even made me grateful for set-ups that were laid back and rolled off on top.
Thank you, Bob and Ray.
Postscript from John Atkinson: A number of people have commented privately that they feel Jason's use of the word "fraud" is insulting, in that it implies dishonesty and/or ill intentions. This was not Jason's intent, nor was it how I read it. My apologies to those RMAF exhibitors who felt they had been so insulted.
The point is that all high-fidelity reproduction is a fraud in the sense that it is an illusion. No matter how good your system, it will always differ from the sound and presence of a real instrument playing in front of you; direct comparison with the real thing, which Silverman's piano recitals at RMAF afforded, threw that fact into sharp contrast.
For more on this subject, read Michael Lavorgna's October 2010 "As We See It" and the readers' letters that follow, as well as my February "As We See It" and Steve Guttenberg's "As We See It" in the new (November) issue.John Atkinson