Art Dudley Listening

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Art Dudley Posted: Jan 28, 2014 Published: Feb 01, 2014 17 comments
Domestic audio is based on two simple processes: transforming movement into electricity and electricity back into movement. Easy peasy.

Audio engineers have been doing those things for ages. Have they improved their craft to the same extent as the people who, over the same period of time, earned their livings making, say, automobiles and pharmaceuticals? I don't know. But if it were possible to spend an entire day driving a new car from 50 years ago, treating diabetes and erectile dysfunction with the treatments that were available 50 years ago, and listening to 50-year-old records on 50-year-old playback gear, the answer might seem more clear.

Art Dudley Posted: Jan 04, 2014 2 comments
If you travel along Route 20 in upstate New York, you might see the hitchhiker my family and I refer to as the Old Soldier—so called because this slightly built man, whose age could be anywhere from 55 to 90, is always dressed in a military uniform from some long-ago campaign. When we first saw him, his topcoat suggested a recent return from Chateau-Thierry; in more recent sightings, the old man has taken to wearing the trim khakis and sharply creased legionnaire cap of the late 1940s—chronological zigzagging that made me think, at first, that this traveler was aging in reverse.
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Art Dudley Posted: Dec 05, 2013 2 comments
Memory mitigates adversity.—Lucius Lactantius (ca 240–ca 320 AD)

Pity the aging perfectionist, the happy diversions of whose younger days—washing records, oiling turntables, leveling equipment racks, cleaning tube pins—have now become hated chores. And this from a man who used to redo his Roksan Xerxes setup every few months, just for "fun."

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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 07, 2013 2 comments
Whenever I'm moved by an artist whose work I've never before heard or seen, my first impulse is to wonder: What else has this person done while I slumbered in ignorance?
Art Dudley Posted: Oct 01, 2013 2 comments
Whether the subject is hi-fi equipment, films, restaurants, power tools, or condoms (see the April 2005 "Listening"), reviewing should be off-limits to the perennially unhappy. I'm reminded of that dictum by the flap over the recent film Identity Thief, which was savaged by reviewer Rex Reed—not because the film is weak, but because its star, Melissa McCarthy, is heavy. Reed, whose career as the Paul Lynde of film reviewing was punctuated by a starring role in a flop called Myra Breckenridge, mentioned in his review McCarthy's size not once but numerous times, thus exposing himself as a bullying hack who wields his harshest criticisms not when they are merited but as unconscious expressions of his own personal anguish. Hate speech of any sort is the crayon of the unhappy; that is doubly true of people who write for a living.
Art Dudley Posted: Sep 13, 2013 Published: Sep 01, 2013 10 comments
Volti Audio's Vittora, a borrowed pair of which now sit at the far end of my listening room, is a great loudspeaker and, at $17,500/pair, a seriously great value. After a few weeks with the Vittora, I find myself convinced by the naturalness, momentum, and force that it found in every record I played: This is surely one of the finest horn-loaded speakers made in the US.
Art Dudley Posted: Aug 01, 2013 1 comments
Writing is easy. See? I just did it. Three whole sentences, written between breakfast and lunch. (I had to pause and think about one of them.) Payday, here I come.
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Art Dudley Posted: Jul 01, 2013 2 comments
The closest I've come to airing my thoughts about live vs recorded music was in the "As We See It" of the December 2005 Stereophile, "Resistance Is Futile," in which I put as many miles between the two as I could. I described live performances as works of art that exist only at the time and place of their making, variables from which their ultimate impact can never be separated; and music recordings as works of art in their own right, albeit ones that require a great deal more from the listener in order to succeed to their fullest. People respond more positively to live music not because it sounds more real, but because they understand, consciously or not, that any performance is a once-in-a-lifetime event.
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Art Dudley Posted: May 06, 2013 4 comments
Monday, January 14, was a difficult day for the abandoned amusement park that is my body. In the morning, I packed two Lamm ML2.2 amplifiers into their wooden crates and wrestled them outside for collection by some unlucky air-freight courier. After that, I backed up my car to the tiny front porch of our house so I could unload a pair of 1966 Altec Valencia loudspeakers I'd collected the day before: in excess of 100 pounds each, just like the crated Lamms, but considerably larger.
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Art Dudley Posted: Apr 09, 2013 3 comments
Beethoven understood the pathos of the gap between idea and realization, and the sense of strain put on the listener's imagination is essential.—Charles Rosen

Bass, like sex, is something most young men desire in excess: To the novice, quantity trumps quality, and as long as he can hear from his playback system the deepest sounds of an orchestral bass drum or five-string electric bass (low string tuned to B-0 or C-1), he is completely satisfied.

Art Dudley Posted: Mar 07, 2013 9 comments
Let's say you're lucky enough, or just plain old enough, to have bought a copy of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood on January 12, 1966. Let's say you're lucky enough or just plain smart enough to have held on to it and kept it in perfect shape for the past 47 years. And let's say it was one of the first 500 copies, which the author signed. If so, congratulations: For once in your life, even the smuggest collector can't claim that his copy of a book is "better" or more valuable than yours.
Art Dudley Posted: Feb 06, 2013 2 comments
Sad though they may be, Flat Earthers endure in getting two things right: In any music-playback system, the source is of primary importance; and in a music system in which LPs are the preferred medium, the pickup arm is of less importance than the motor unit—but of greater importance than just about everything else.
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Art Dudley Posted: Jan 04, 2013 3 comments
By the end of last month's column I'd invested a total of $290 in acquiring and refurbishing a 55-year-old Rek-O-Kut Rondine Jr. turntable. In the weeks that followed I spent just a few dollars more on some small parts—one of which sprang from a technology that I don't believe existed in the 1950s—that made small but welcome improvements in the performance of this outwardly simple player. I'll come back to those improvements in a moment, but for now let's get started on putting Junior back together again.
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Art Dudley Posted: Dec 12, 2012 7 comments
For the qualities I most value in a music system—impact, substance, texture, color, and, above all, the ability to play lines of notes with a realistic sense of momentum and flow—the venerable Garrard 301 and similar well-made turntables with powerful motors and idler-wheel drive are the sources to beat. Unfortunately, good-condition samples of the Garrard 301 and 401, the Thorens TD 124, and any number of exotic EMTs have become scarce and ever more expensive.
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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 14, 2012 4 comments
Apart from a 2004 column in which I made cruel fun of the angriest (footnote 1) complaints I'd received to that point—an entertaining if lazy template I hope to re-use before long—I've done little to acknowledge the mail I receive every week, most of it thoughtful and positive. I'm especially grateful for the nice letters I get every time I write about vintage audio, as I did in Stereophile's August issue ("Five vintage loudspeakers you should hear before you die"): The art of music is best served by an open-minded approach to playback gear, and I'm encouraged to think that some Stereophile readers actually understand that.

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