Mark Waldrep of AIX Records was on hand with Tearing it Up, the Albert Lee performance film that was recently featured in Stereophile’s pages. Waldrep also showed off a processor called the Realiser (ca $3000), from Smyth Research, a listener-adaptive device that, in this demonstration, allowed me to hear surround effects just as Mark Waldrep hears them in his own installation. Even this headphone-phobic monophile was impressed.
Meredith Gabor shows off a Qv2 “harmonizer,” manufactured in Massachusetts by QRT and distributed by Nordost. The Qv2, which contains both passive and active components, is meant to be plugged into an available AC socket in the user’s listening room, as (electrically) close as possible to the system itself, and is claimed to effectively “clean up” the soundstage and improve detail and resolution. Qv2s, the effects of which are said to be cumulative, sell for $350 each.
When Bernard Brien started his company BIS a number of years ago, the refurbishing of vintage electronics comprised the bulk of his businessbut over time, he says, he was struck by the sonic weaknesses of older wiring, and the potential for improvement by swapping it for new. A peripheral involvement in aeronautics led Brien to discover the suitability of that industry’s cabling for audio purposes: “It has low mass, low resistance, high bandwidth, and, especially, low mass,” he says, “and it isn’t very expensive.” Brien also touted the simplicity of his products with a phrase, the alliteration of which is lost in translation: “C’est un fil, pas un filtre.” Bien sur!
Michel Plante, the President of Salon Son et Image, offered a pre-show glimpse of something new: the Personal Audio Zone, where visitors are free to try any of over 150 different pairs of headphones, representing nearly 30 different brands. During this morning’s setup, the ‘phones were being arranged on their tables in order of expense, from the $22 pair nearest the door to the $1600 pair at the far end of the room. Michel Plante said that he’s “trying to create a buzz about headphones, in order to attract younger listeners to the show,” and that he has made it as affordable as possible for headphone manufacturers to participate. (The Personal Audio Zone is staffed by SSI volunteers, not manufacturers or their reps.)
The wigs, that is: The reliably beautiful women of Montreal’s annual Salon Son et Image have, for 2013, traded their signature blue wigs for blue slacks and a trace of blue hair dye. This morning they showed off their fetching new look while looking for and fetching my press badge, just two hours before the start of the show’s trade day. Salon Son et Image, at the Montreal Hilton Bonaventure, opens to the public on Friday, March 22, and runs through Sunday.
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.
Whether one was surprised, in 2010, by the success of Peachtree Audio's iDecco may have more to do with age than anything else. My peers and I wondered, at first, who would want their high-end integrated amps to come bundled not only with digital-to-analog converters but with iPod docks, of all things; at the same time, younger hobbyists wondered who in the world still wanted their integrated amps to contain phono preamplifiers. (Respect for the elderly, myself especially, prevents me from adding "and mono switches.") Color me chastened.
In a perfect world, all a serious record lover would need to enjoy music at home would be a single source component, one or two loudspeakers, and one good integrated amplifier. Speaker wire would be given by the dealer, free of charge, to any shopper who spent x number of dollars on new gear. Cable risers would come in cereal boxes.
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 unitbut of greater importance than just about everything else.
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 partsone of which sprang from a technology that I don't believe existed in the 1950sthat 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.