High-End Dealer Jeffrey Catalano Talks Horns, Tubes, & LPs with Herb Reichert

This video is about Jeffrey Catalano and his shop High Water Sound, located in Manhattan's South Street Seaport, right under the Brooklyn Bridge. Though it was my first time meeting Jeffrey, I had long been familiar with his name—often associated with good sound at audio shows and a true appreciation for music. He distributes a selection of artisanal, analog pieces, including TW-Acustic turntables, Cessaro horn speakers, and Tron Electric amplifiers.

While filming and touring High Water Sound, I learned that Herb and Jeffrey go way back— in fact, so far back that Jeffrey knew Herb before Herb was named "Herb", and that in 1977 they both found and lived in the then -abandoned space that the shop currently occupies, prior to its many renovations. As a proud owner of the Fisher 800-C—less lauded than the 500-C that Jeffrey mentions, but still quite respectable!—and a lusting fiend for all things tube, analog, and horn, learning of Jeffrey's growth from the 500-C to everything you see in this video, I thought to myself: "there is hope for me yet!"

COMMENTS
volvic's picture

After all these years of listening, I still can't wrap my head around the Grateful Dead. I just don't get it and believe me I've tried. Enjoyed the video.

doak's picture

(Flower) Child of the '60s and all, still don't "get" the Dead.

donlin's picture

Same here! I just can't understand the appeal.

volvic's picture

The great jazz musician performed with the Dead in the early 90's and didn't like what he heard, so much so that he turned to the Dead's manager and said "man these guys don't listen to each other when they play". How much of it is true I cannot say, but it is funny to me and reinforces my belief as to why I could never appreciate their music.

Anton's picture

Have you ever seen those videos of the pendulums all lined up swinging at different frequencies?

Sometimes, they seem to have nothing to do with each other, but sometimes they are all briefly synchronized before straying off again. It's pretty cool.

A Dead lover relates to those moments when the pendulums were all in synch and a Dead disdainer focuses on all the other times.

To give them one last try, check out the three CD soundtrack set for the film "Long Strange Trip." The cuts there were chosen as synchronized moments.

Glotz's picture

Discovered that during an acid trip many years ago!

It is akin to a jazz band improvising in a similar space, and coming together musically at the right moments when the music calls for it, or just decides to 'move' in 'that' direction.

volvic's picture

Will seek these performances and give the Dead another chance. Cheers

Anton's picture

I hope you like!

Michael King's picture

Tube equipment has a certain magic, no doubt. The best amplifier I've owned was a mid 2000s MC275 purchased brand new. But it was a pain in the a**. An output KT88 Russian) blew after only six months taking out a cap. Off to the hospital for a month. I ordered a complete set of replacement tubes and one (Chinese) was shipped dead. I sold the amplifier shortly thereafter. My experience is far from unique. We are decades past the time when tubes were manufactured in the US, UK, Germany etc. and the quality of product was excellent. Now it is not. I would never consider going back to any equipment that uses tubes.

avanti1960's picture

I have had a tube integrated for nearly 2 years and would not ever consider going back to solid state. The sound stage is enormous and nothing harsh or offensive is ever emitted from my speakers. It uses KT120 tubes and has been trouble free. Just another side of the street...........

stereodesk's picture

Herb is a supremely wonderful addition to Stereophile, and Jeffrey is always a pleasure to visit when the opportunity arises. Thanks for this insight into High Water Sound and two old friends.

Anton's picture

Which The Meters records?

I am flummoxed as to which two titles it may be.

High Water Sound's picture

"The Meters" JOS 4010 and "LOOK-KA PY PY, JOS 4011. Both on Josie and both in mint- condition.

Anton's picture

I was wracking my mind!

That's a good combo price!

Thank you for that great tour. I also love tales of the vinyl hunt.

It's too daunting, but someday I will make my way through Dick's Picks.

One of the big pluses of Tidal is getting to audition extra Dead material!

Cheers!

tonykaz's picture

Funny that I was just across Water Street at the Steak House and didn't know there is an "actual" High End Audio Dealer right there. Hmm.

Anyway,

High End Audio is all about getting a dopamine "High" from music stuff. People can be totally addicted to it, even specializing in the type of gear they're addicted to. I'm a good example of just that : I was ( no longer, thank god ) addicted to Koetsu and Dynamic Driver loudspeakers.

Of Course,

Wives will have none of the Single Worship that "True" Audiophilia demands ( unless purchases can be hidden, like the tiny boxes of phono cartridges or Wire ) .

$182 for a Vinyl is no big deal, I have a few Wilsons that sell for over $200. But, what's telling, is that the man was eager to spend his last penny for those two albums ( the sign of a True Believer ).

Does anyone know how many of these "High"Water type Audiophiles still exist?, I know of less than 5 in the Greater Detroit Area but they're out there. I think they read 6Moons ( maybe Stereophile & TAS ).

On another note, I just encountered a group of pilots that restore and Fly Cub Airplanes from Flying's vintage past.

A good many of these unique things never quite go-away!, they live-on as a True Love.

I might've become an Apostate.

Tony in Michigan

dburna's picture

Kudos to Stereophile for dedicating valuable space to one of the true visionaries in the audio biz. In addition to being a certified "audio whisperer" (Jeff can set up a kazoo and a tin plate in any room you name and make it sound excellent), Jeff is one of the bestest people in the audio industry. While other dealers emphasize the boom-&-tizz, Jeff's abiding love of music comes through in everything he does. No hype, no marketing gimmicks, just the sublime joy of music. And no, I'm not a shill, just a satisfied customer who bought speakers from Jeff.....about 15 years ago. We still say in touch. Where else can you buy equipment and make a decades-long friend?

I was gratified to visit Jeff's room at AXPONA and hear someone else state "this is the most musical room I've heard". Saved me having to say it.

Congrats, Jeff.....and keep on doing that voodoo that you do so well.

-dB (fellow music lover)

P.S. Jeff also sells the best-sounding gear I've ever heard.

sasami's picture

Tell the truth I only hear noise and vibration pops from tube and vinyl.

Anton's picture

I guess you can at least look forward to the "I only sell and listen to solid state and digital gear" store owner interview!

Vlad's picture

Your kidding right? I dont know what kind of system you may have heard but my vinyl is "pristine" and quiet as a freakin mouse! If your hearing stuff like that, it must not be a very good set up or the records are extremely dirty, etc etc! There's no way in hell, that any digital based system can match the warmth of a tube based vinyl playback system. I dont care what processing device you use. Fact!

jeffdyer's picture

There will *always* be audible noise on a vinyl due to the mechanics of the stylus moving in the groove, which is not present with digital reproduction. And unless you've kept all your LPs in a clean room all their lives, they are bound to pick up a little dust and clicks and pops, it's ridiculous to pretend otherwise.

You might prefer the sound of your vinyls, which is great, but to pretend that vinyl has as low a noise floor as digital is just wrong.

High Water Sound's picture

Thank you, Jana, Herb (Eddie) and JA for the great job you all put into this video. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity and support Stereophile has given High Water Sound with this video and throughout HWS's near 18 years in business. 2 channel with attitude is not a hollow catch phrase. It represents the pure and simple play back of recorded music on a turntable with low powered amps through high efficiency speakers. On a deeper level, it's also about the lives of every musician no matter if recorded or not, who had the will and strength to create their art and the transcendence of the creative spirit.

tonykaz's picture

Thank you for sharing your Salon with us. Years ago, I'd of thought of you as a kindred spirit, certainly you are more than worthy of being introduced to Stereophile's Readership as one of the low power Tube group i.e. PrimaLuna, Bottlehead, Feliks, Garage1217, B.H.King, etc. ( although those 1,200 horsepower loudspeakers seem a riddle )

Following along with HR is a treat, it's the kind of thing that makes JA & Stereophile worth having around. They presenting HighWater is exactly the sort of thing that makes it all worthwhile. ( who needs to see another Magico Showroom ? )

I hope you re-invite HR for a Sofa Chat about Tube Rolling.

Thank you for your efforts

Tony in Michigan

donlin's picture

Another fascinating video. What an amazing space to have great records and equipment. Please keep more like this coming.

TNtransplant's picture

Wouldn't necessarily characterize it as a "rummaging" experience, but listening to Africa/Brass in Jeff's space through his TW-Acustic & Cessaro's is as close as I will ever get to hearing John Coltrane in person.

But Hunky Dory? Personally I'd opt for Aladdin Sane...

Thanks for the video Herb & Co.

Vlad's picture

I have the 500C which was originally my moms. She also had a Dual 1019 and Electrovoice 12" Triaxials. I suppose she was a true audiophile, as she loved quality sound! The vintage "high end" audio hobby is in full force. There was something to be said of those great products in the "golden age" of audio!

Vlad's picture

I watched the video of his visit to this shop and I'm just wondering by something that Herb Reichert said about the Fisher 500C. Was he like trashing it in some way? Because if he was, he is way off line man! There's a reason why the vintage audio market is surging right now. Whether it be Fisher, Marantz or McIntosh. Answer-they sound amazing, are "reasonably" priced (even if totally restored) and as mated with quality speaker systems can rival any "modern day" high fallutin audiophile set up! And I also have a "very" high end modern analog system with tube monoblocks, pre-amp, turntable and electrostatic speakers. So, its not like I'm living in the past!

audiocaptain's picture

Just wanted to say that out of all the exhibitors, and I do try to get to as many as possible during the event, I never miss Jeff. It may be that his sound is great or that it's the music he plays or just to see him but don't miss him at the shows. Thanks for all the great music and thanks to Herb, Jana and Stereophile for making this important interview of a real music lover. Steve

Allen Fant's picture

nice article- Jana.
Keep writing excellent work. Happy Listening!

DaleC's picture

I am not a huge fan of their recordings and I get that the live experience was where they were truly great. I am a musician and appreciate their improvisations and, practically, inventing the genre of "Jam Band".

Where I think the Dead made their greatest contribution was in live sound technology and constantly pushing the boundaries of what was possible to deliver the best possible experience to their fans. There were the famous efforts like The Wall OF Sound, but many were more subtle and a little bit "inside baseball".

- Possibly the first band to carry their own PA on the road. Certainly, one of the first, with systems designed by Bob Heil. This spread to bands like The Who and set the standard for actually being able to hear the band at a concert. Before them, think the Beatles at Shea Stadium.

- Probably the first live sound monitoring system for the band.

- Basically gave birth to John Meyer's Meyer Sound, one of the pioneers of line arrays, powered speakers, phase/time/frequency alignment, etc... still one of the top pro-audio sound reinforcement innovators today.

- Flying the PA, instead of "ground stacking" on the stage MAY have originated with The Dead.
- The popularization of the Gamble mixing console with frequency response of something crazy like 3 Hz to 100khz.... Jim Gamble built the early ones by hand with the best capacitors and carefully designed topology... pioneering features like LED VU meters, fully parametric EQ's on each channel,.. Jim sold his consoles to Crest Audio, which is part of Harmann/JBL I think....

- In ear monitors. I am pretty sure they helped pioneer the elimination of stage wedges and sidefills to use in-ear monitors. This improved the house sound by eliminating the roar from the monitors and helps save musicians hearing. Interesting in that it was the exact opposite of the Wall OF Sound concept.
-
- The band's encouraging fans to tape shows pre-dated file sharing like Napster and led the way to bands making their living by playing live instead of selling albums. Today, mainstream bands like 21 Pilots encourage their fans to record audio and video at their live shows. I think the real love and respect the band had for their fans set the example for artists in this day of social media and the 24/7 availability of artists to fans. You can't be a jerk that makes great albums and be successful anymore, you have to relate to your fans and actually value them.

- Building the model that puts touring and live performances at the forefront, rather than recording/selling the album and touring to support the album.

- Basically, The Dead innovated massive leaps in concert technology and encouraged other bands to do the same. I dare say that, without The Dead, the development of companies like Clair Brothers, ShowCo, Meyer Sound, Crest, Gamble, Crown, Shure, Electro Voice, etc would have been delayed and the competitors they inspired would not have advanced the state of live sound reinforcement to the point we have today.

For all of this, we owe the members of the Dead a huge "thank you" for pushing the envelope, hiring extremely talented people and cutting them loose with the funding they needed to do great things that benefitted everyone else for decades. The enjoyment we get at live performances of pop, rock, country, jazz, etc is increased because of them.

Anton's picture

Great post.