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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Feb 28, 2016 4 comments
Ever since I encountered Wilson Audio Specialties' Peter McGrath (above) playing his own digital recordings at audio shows, hanging out in the Wilson Audio room has proven the consistent highlight of my show coverage experience. Nor is it simply the quality of the musicianship that continues to draw me to McGrath's rooms. As anyone who has heard his work can attest, the man's ability to capture the unique characteristics of a performance venue, as well as the natural sound of voice and instruments, is second to none.
Robert Baird Posted: Feb 02, 2016 1 comments
"With all due respect, what the hell is the matter with you?"

Over the years, I've felt obligated to ask this question of several friends who somehow concluded that their life's work involved founding a record label.

"That is the best question isn't it?" Shane Buettner said with a big laugh. "Why do I want to hurt myself this badly and spend a lot of money doing it?" He smiled again, with a mild shake of the head.

"Actually, yes—that's exactly what I mean."

Robert Baird Posted: Jan 04, 2016 2 comments
Let's face it: If you're one of those sedentary audiophilic types or you have a genetic disposition to growing pear-shaped later in life (genetic . . . right, that's it: nothing to do with couches or hooch), it's wise to adjust your fashion sense accordingly. And nothing says "portly gentleman in disguise" like a guayabera—a shirt that, I have just discovered, blues guitarist Bob Margolin and I both love. He even wears one on the cover of his new record, My Road.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Dec 07, 2015 8 comments
"I'm still in shock," Reference Recordings recording engineer Sean Martin blurted out during a conference call with his recording engineer stepfather, Keith O. Johnson. "When Jan Mancuso woke me up at 5:30 or 6 to tell me the news, I couldn't imagine who would be calling so early," was Johnson's follow up.
Robert Baird Posted: Dec 02, 2015 22 comments
Talk dirty to me!

"I had to master this record 11 times to get it to sound the way I wanted," Joanna Newsom growled with the knowing grit of someone who's worked through a sonic ordeal.

"Instead of test pressings, we had test lacquers for this one."

"I have no way to listen to music digitally in my house."

Oooh, baby!

At a time when the future of print is troubled, Newsom can make even a magazine editor feel slightly more secure.

"I love your magazine. I love your publication."

John Marks Posted: Oct 15, 2015 3 comments
A mastering engineer's job is both to act as the final quality control before a recording goes out for manufacturing and, just as important, to apply to that recording the requisite technical finishing touches. Over the course of his career to date, mastering engineer Robert C. Ludwig has racked up more than 7500 album credits.
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Robert Baird Posted: Sep 08, 2015 1 comments
It had been years since Stereophile's last San Francisco Hi-Fi Show, when we'd hired him as a solo act, and yet the conversation was once again instant vaudeville, and I was again the straight man.

"The last time we saw each other, I think I just shook your hand and handed you a check."

"What, you didn't bring a check this time?"

"So this is your 16th solo record?"

"Is that all? Bach was doing a cantata a week. How many songs did Schubert write?"

"But he didn't do the words."

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Aug 20, 2015 3 comments
It's a rare day when famed amplifier designer Nelson Pass leaves his bench to deliver a seminar. It's even rarer when that seminar is geared toward consumers rather than what he calls "specialists." In fact, at the start of his talk, Nelson confessed that after almost 50 years building amplifiers, his CAS seminar was his first ever tailored specifically toward consumers.
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Robert Baird Posted: Aug 04, 2015 11 comments
Is it because no one takes pot shots at you unless you're on top? Or are the most recent criticisms of Klaus Heymann and his diversified Naxos Digital Services empire on to something more?

To refresh: Heymann, a German entrepreneur who began selling cameras and stereos to American GIs in Vietnam, and later become the Hong Kong distributor of Bose and Studer audio gear, launched Naxos, a classical-music label specializing in budget-priced CDs, in 1987 (footnote 1). The label's name is also easy to pronounce in any language. Heymann began to build the Naxos catalog—now one of the largest classical labels—by recording young and often unknown artists and orchestras, most from Eastern and Central Europe. Soon, displays of Naxos CDs, all of their covers conforming to a uniform, instantly recognizable design, became to crop up in record stores large and small.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jul 24, 2015 5 comments
The most refreshing music I encountered at the huge 2015 Munich High End Show was an excerpt from David Chesky's children's ballet, The Zephyrtine, which Paul McGowan played in the PS Audio room. Hence it comes as no surprise that another of Chesky's recordings, his Rap Symphony, has just won the Independent Music Award (IMA) for Best Contemporary Classical Album.
Robert Baird Posted: Apr 15, 2015 4 comments
Violet- and orchid-colored LED banks shimmer across the room. Green and pink spots radiate out and back. A steady stream of beats and keyboards from other electronica luminaries rumbles out of the speakers. Let's dance! Or maybe just listen?

Onstage, Dan Deacon is busy tweaking his gear. Out on the floor, the audience is oddly antsy. To fight the waiting, one woman hangs on her boyfriend. Clumps of hipsters conviviate. Very strong drinks (a sponsorship deal?) flow for seven bucks a pop. Anticipation thickens. Impatience turns to pacing. Young men make solo air grooves.

Robert Baird Posted: Jan 29, 2015 8 comments
For famously civilized and jaded New York City, the crowd at the resplendent Beacon Theatre is uncommonly involved. Loud requests, many in tangled liquor dialects, boom from the balcony:


Onstage, Jackson Browne smiles and shakes his head.


"I could do that, but it would have to be the rehab version." [crowd roars]


Oh, wait—I'm yelling that.

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David Lander Posted: Jan 21, 2015 1 comments
Aerial Acoustics, the speaker firm that Michael Kelly conceived a quarter-century ago with David Marshall, is headquartered north of Boston, not far from the Merrimack River Valley region that once produced textiles and shoes by the trainload. Kelly, though, is quick to equate Aerial with far more distant firms. His industrial models are in Germany, where he lived for a while when his father, a US Army officer, was based there, and where he later spent time as a vice-president of a/d/s/, which had been founded by a German-born and -educated scientist, Godehard Günther, who died last October. They're small-to-midsize specialty firms that together constitute a category called Mittelstanden, and they're as accomplished as they are narrowly focused. They're artisan enterprises, and it's only natural that someone as dedicated as Kelly is to building state-of-the-art loudspeakers would embrace them as examples.
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David Lander Posted: Oct 21, 2014 3 comments
Both Chesky Records and HDtracks have a pair of co-founding partners, but the music-minded press has perpetually focused on one of them, pianist and composer David Chesky, while ignoring his younger brother, Norman. Mainstream reporters and photographers did converge on Norman Chesky once, when they spotted him rolling a bulky, rough-hewn, wooden artifact from the 2009 auction at which Bernard Madoff's personal effects were sold for the benefit of bilked investors. Leading newspapers ran photos of Norman with the tree-trunk table he'd bought after happening on the sale, and the New York Times identified him as "a music executive from Manhattan." As the exchange that follows shows, that description was a glaring oversimplification.
Robert Baird Posted: May 06, 2014 Published: May 01, 2014 0 comments
Making a recording is always a personal journey—everyone has a story to tell. Jazz violinist Regina Carter's latest, Southern Comfort, is an eloquent musical expression of Carter tracing the roots of her paternal lineage back five generations. For the project's sound engineer, Joe Ferla, it's the final project of a engineering career, and the beginning point of his new life as a practicing musician. The entwining of these journeys gives the album's music and sound a rare honesty.