Music Business—Show Business

Stereophile is devoted to getting the best sound from a home audio system. But as I have written before, audiophiles don't have access to an absolute sound, only to what has been captured in the pits or grooves of their discs, which is itself the result of a creative process. The playing back and the making of recordings are therefore two sides of the same coin. This is why I get actively involved in recording projects and why I publish articles about those projects, the most recent of which appears on p.50. "Project K622" describes the making of a new recording of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto (work number 622 in the Köchel catalog of Mozart's compositions, hence the article's title), which is being released both on hybrid SACD and on 180gm vinyl. (You can buy both from our secure "Recordings" page.)

For "Project K622" I restricted my activities to those of producer. The engineering skill was provided by Tony Faulkner, that master of capturing the sound of real acoustic music being made in a real acoustic space. My interview with Tony is included in the article, and when I sent him the final text for fact-checking and to ensure that I hadn't inadvertently distorted what he had said in the editing, he e-mailed back: "This all looks excellent. Only small point: can we make a slightly bigger mention for Stan Ricker? Stan is a star, and a vital component in the quality of an LP is the mastering to lacquer. It is an art as much as a science."

I fully agree. Stan, a consummate craftsman, had mastered the 1997 LP release of Stereophile's Liszt Sonata recording, and I had been amazed by his skill at getting the reluctant grooves to accommodate what I had captured on the master tape. So thank you, Stan. One day I will have the space to publish Scott Frankland's book-length interview with you.

And Stan has been doing more work for Tony. Tony may have been an early adopter of digital technology, but he has started his own label, Green Room Productions, to release premium limited-edition LPs of classical music. These are recorded with simple mike techniques and analog tape recorders and produced with as high a mastering quality (Stan Ricker), as high a pressing quality (180gm LPs from RTI), and as high a package quality (extensive sleeve notes and recording notes) as possible. The first Green Room release—a double LP of British pianist John Lill performing works by Robert Schumann, with less than 20 minutes per side to maximize dynamic range (GreenPro 4001 & 2)—is now available from online record retailer AcousticSounds.

I asked Tony how many LP releases he was planning. "Three or four per year, unless the market is so small my company loses too much money in the exercise. Vinyl is a small market, although it is actually significantly larger than that for SACD and DVD-Audio combined, when you have removed from the equation SACD titles that are not available to CD buyers except as hybrid pressings. We shall cherry-pick what looks of interest to audiophile vinyl lovers."

Home Entertainment 2004 East
I am writing this column not too many days after the end of Home Entertainment 2004 East, held May 20-23 in Manhattan. Over the four days of the Show, the New York Hilton & Towers was filled with almost 15,000 enthusiasts, who had come to hear the finest home-audio and home-theater gear from 200 brands spread out over 80 rooms. Art Dudley and Michael Fremer offer their impressions of the Show in this month's columns (pp.35 and 41, respectively), and we will have a full wrap-up of what we saw and heard in our September issue. I would like to use this space to say thank you to exhibitors and showgoers alike for making the event memorable.

One change from previous years was that, while we still put on a full program of seminars and workshops for attendees, it did not prove possible to run continuous live music throughout the Show. Reader John Pluta remarks on this in his letter on p.11, and I agree with him that this was regrettable. I have always felt that audiophiles both need a respite from reproduced music and benefit from an opportunity to recalibrate their ears. However, we still held the traditional after-hours concert on Friday evening, where more than 1200 showgoers enjoyed Joan Osborne, Tom Scott and the New York All Stars, Carla Lother, and the dynamic Nicole Henry. Our thanks to XM Satellite Radio and Delphi, who cosponsored the concert, and to XM for rebroadcasting it throughout the following week.

The Show also ran lunchtime concerts, which were well-attended. Friday featured blues legend Honeyboy Edwards, courtesy of Acoustic Sounds, Saturday small-group jazz from the Mario Rodriguez Group, and Sunday some guitar-based jazz showcasing the Tony Ormond Trio.

Exhibitor Glacier Audio's room also featured some killer live music: Abraham Laboriel gave master classes in bass-guitar technique through Atma-Sphere tube monoblocks driving Gilmore Model 2 planar speakers. Glacier's Harry Blazer introduced me to Abe and explained that I was also a bass player. I had just listened to Mr. Laboriel, in Wes Phillips' words in one of our daily Web stories from the Show, "caressing notes, plucking, slapping, sliding, and punctuating it all with strategic sections of rasgueado—heck, Mr. Laboriel does stuff on the bass they don't even have words for!" and so could only reply, "No sir. You are a bass player."

Saturday at the Show ended with a different kind of virtuosity: a killer performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations, performed by Peter Sykes on a 1977 re-creation of a French harpsichord by English luthier David Rubio. My personal thanks to Stereophile columnist John Marks and to sponsors UK speaker manufacturer Wilson Benesch and their US distributor The Sound Organisation for making Mr. Sykes' recital possible.

Home Entertainment 2005 East will take place in New York City in May 2005, while Home Entertainment 2004 West is scheduled for November 4-7, 2004, at the Westin-St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, California, site of our 1997 and 2003 Shows. See you there.

A new look
The appearance of Stereophile has basically remained the same for the past 10 years, with a minor facelift in 1997. It's high time, therefore, for the old gal to get a makeover. So when, last December, art director Natalie Brown-Baca showed me her rough ideas for how Stereophile should look, I gave her the green light. As you browse this issue's pages, I think you will agree with me that Nat's redesign looks sleek without being over-styled, elegant without being too conservative. Most important, it makes the best use of the extra editorial pages that Primedia has been allowing us to publish since the beginning of the year without leaving anything out. Enjoy.