Art Dudley Listening

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Art Dudley Posted: Jul 01, 2014 2 comments
It's going to happen very soon.—Leonard Cohen, "The Great Event"

With a parts list that includes 18 new-old-stock Black Cat capacitors, 16 vintage-style Cosmos potentiometers, two Tango chokes, one Tango power transformer, and some of the loveliest steel casework I've seen on a contemporary product, no one could accuse Noriyuki Miyajima of skimping on the build quality of his company's only power amplifier, the Miyajima Laboratory Model 2010 ($9995, footnote 1). Then again, because the 2010 is an output-transformerless (OTL) tube amplifier, Miyajima-san spent considerably less on iron than would otherwise be the case. Think of the money he saved!

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Art Dudley Posted: Jun 06, 2014 7 comments
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.—William Morris (1834–1896)

The Arts and Crafts movement, which took root in England in the late 1800s, was more than just a reaction to the poor working conditions and the soulless, shoddy, superfluously decorated wares associated with the early days of mass production. It was a rejection of Victorian attitudes toward class: of a mindset that promoted a chasm, in industry as in society, between the designer and the craftsman, the architect and the stonemason.

Art Dudley Posted: Apr 24, 2014 Published: May 01, 2014 0 comments
Except for a few titles I've combined with the ones in my listening room, and a few others that I intend to sell, the record collection I bought last year remains in three rows of boxes on the floor of our guest room. Because that room is spacious and comfortable, and equipped with a small refrigerator and a flat-screen TV, it is also the place where my 16-year-old daughter and her friends have their slumber parties and Dr. Who marathons. Thus, as you can imagine, I must sometimes explain to our young guests the Tao of collecting records.
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Art Dudley Posted: Apr 07, 2014 0 comments
"Perhaps we can shed some light on your problem in a new segment exploring pre-adolescent turmoil. I call it . . . 'Choices.'"—Sideshow Bob, The Simpsons

"For us, unlike other manufacturers, there are not degrees of clean. Our entry-level machine is as good as our top of our line when it comes to cleaning records; in between, it's just a matter of choices." Thus spoke Jonathan Monks, who inherited from his father, the late Keith Monks, an audio-manufacturing legacy built upon the world's first commercially produced record-cleaning machine.

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Art Dudley Posted: Mar 12, 2014 4 comments
In the wake of my October 2013 "Listening" column and its negative take on the Pete Riggle Woody tonearm (footnote 1), I was surprised and gratified by the offer of another new arm: a gesture of trust not unlike sending one's children to a sleepover at Casey Anthony's house. The supplier was Phillip Holmes, of Texas-based Mockingbird Distribution (footnote 2), and the new tonearm was the Abis SA-1, the design and manufacture of which was commissioned by the Japanese firm Sibatech, itself a distributor of dozens of high-end audio brands, including Zyx, Mactone, Zerodust, and, perhaps most famously, Kondo.
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 9 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: Jun 19, 2013 1 comments
Swiss Precision: The Story of the Thorens TD 124 and Other Classic Turntables (2007), by Joachim Bung (reviewed in April 2008) also tells the story of Fritz and Marie Laeng, the couple who founded Lenco, Switzerland's other turntable company. Thanks in equal parts to Fritz's engineering talents and Marie's business acumen—her idea to sell turntables through a popular book-and-record club is remembered as the company's turnaround point—Lenco swiftly became one of the most successful and well-regarded makers of hi-fi turntables through the 1960s and early '70s. Then, almost as swiftly, Lenco went from having three factories in two countries to vanishing from the scene with scarcely a trace . . . but that's another story for another day.
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Art Dudley Posted: May 06, 2013 3 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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