Musicians As Audiophiles: Jed Levy Page 2


"I'm back from Europe, I'm listening to the system, everything is sounding great, then all of a sudden I hear a loud pop," Levy explained. "I see smoke coming out of my AMC CD player! I knew that was going to be the next thing to go, but I'd hoped it wouldn't be in such a flamboyant manor. Anyway, I found an Audiolab 6000CDT transport on eBay for about $450 new in box. Wow, I just wanted something to spin CDs, but holy s*** it really upped the game tremendously which I wasn't expecting at all. Pretty much in stereo nirvana over here!"


The Music Hall MMF-5 with Goldring 1042 MM cartridge is a solid, entry-level analog machine. "The 1042 is Goldring's top-of-the-line moving magnet cartridge," Levy said. "The beauty of the Goldring cartridge is you can replace the stylus when it's time, just slide it out. I wasn't sure I was going to hear much of a difference between the two analog rigs, but I was pleasantly surprised. I'm not sure if it's because of the moving coil cartridge on the Ariston versus the moving magnet on the Music Hall, but the Ariston brings out much more detail and it's warmer and fuller sounding. The Ariston is a fully suspended turntable, which makes a big difference. It sings like an instrument much more.


"The Ariston is from the 70s. It's basically a Linn Sondek LP12," Levy continued. "I wasn't sure how technology had improved on analog, but the Ariston sounds great."

Levy also owns a CD burner, the Philips Audio Compact Disc Records CDR 760. But his digital pride and joy is the Schiit Yggdrasil DAC. "I had the Cambridge Audio DacMagic for years and was quite happy," Levy recalls. "Then something happened in the output stage and it started sending way too much signal. I called John Chen again, and he recommended the Yggdrasil."


During my first visit to Levy's listening crib, the Audio Research / Aronov combo powered his Spendor / ProAc speakers. My return visit found a used Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum integrated amplifier in their place.


"The Audio Research/Aronov combo was very good, and it wasn't replaced because I thought the Cronus was better," Levy said. "The Aronov blew a resistor and possibly a tube and I was looking around for a repair shop. ... Between the two, the Audio Research and the Aronov have a bit more detail and are more refined, but not by much. I went from 60 watts a side with the Aronov to 100 watts per channel with the Cronus. The ProAcs love that power, while 60 watts was plenty for the Spendors.

"If I have to mix a recording or listen critically, I will definitely bounce back and forth between the Spendors and the ProAcs," he continued. "I may ultimately get rid of the Spendors. The ProAcs definitely have a more open soundstage. The Spendors don't exactly do imaging, but you can walk around the room and they sound good from any spot. But when the ProAcs are dialed in, it's like people standing in front of you singing Puccini."

Why did he replace the Snells?

"The Snells were great, but they added a little extra flavor in certain registers," Levy replied. "The midrange was delicious, but not realistic. The bass had a tendency to boom. When I got the Spendors home, at first they sounded flat compared to the Snells, but then I realized they're closer to being balanced and correct to what I would hear live. The Spendors only go down to 60Hz, so the REL Strata 3 subwoofer seemed to be the best choice to fill out the lower registers from what I've read. It was $250 on Craigslist."


Perhaps the oddest element in Levy's chain is the power conditioner. "It's a Powervar power conditioner, made for hospital diagnostic equipment," Levy explained. "It's got a giant toroid inside, about 30 pounds of toroidal transformer. Because it's not part of the audio world It cost nothing, like 30 bucks."


On The Road
When not spinning black discs, rehearsing tunes, or practicing downstairs, Levy maintains a busy performance schedule. The Robson-Levy group toured Europe not long after our first interview, followed by stateside dates at New York City's Birdland (with Robson, drummer Clarence Penn, and bassist Peter Slavov). There's an engagement at Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village August 23 and 24. The Robson-Levy group will play the Bay area in September. On the horizon, there's a tour of Italy in November ,with Levy and drummer Jason Brown joining two Italian musicians for a week of performances and workshops. In August, Levy will perform in the Chicago/Milwaukee area with his old friend, pianist, Jeremy Kahn, including a weekend (August 9 and 10) at Winter's in Chicago. Levy is also working in Peter Leitch's New Life Orchestra, featuring the leader's arrangements of Levy's original material and jazz standards.


Jazz musicians never have it easy, but Levy counts his blessings. "There are still jazz clubs in the states, but it's hard to weave gigs together because the distance is so great," Levy noted. "And in the states, they don't understand that they need to pay for transportation to get musicians to the date. But the clubs in Europe understand, so it's built into the budget. I don't look at music in a corporate way, my business sense has never been great. I just want to play good music, and I'm fortunate enough to do that. I'm grateful."


monetschemist's picture

Jed Levy, thank you Ken Micallef, for this fine article / interview. I'm listening to Weather Report's Sweetnighter while I'm reading this (I'm sorry Jed I don't think I have anything of yours - yet - and enjoying that lovely vibe I get from people who are turned on by good vintage equipment.

So fine!

tonykaz's picture

but he always had pretty good gear, all the way around. Plus, he has ears he trusts, so he doesn't have to read TAS to find out what gear he has to buy.

I've sold ( and owned personally ) much of the gear he relies on .

He lives in a nice place, he is musical with musical friends, he has a nice basement paradise. What more could anyone want?

Jed Levy won Life's Lottery !!

If you have everything Jed has, ( ProAc ) you probably don't need $58,000 loudspeakers.

Richard Gerberg rip.

Tony in transit

ps. more Schiit creeping into High Level Audio , this time Audiophile/Pro levels. I wonder if Jed's Yggy is a Loaner or did he buy it at full boat Retail. ( of course we "All" know the answer to that semi-ranty Sarcasm , don't we ? )

dalethorn's picture

I purchased a Schitt Fulla headamp once and passed it on to a friend. The stream of puns alone ("You're fulla schitt" etc.) were worth the price.

tonykaz's picture

just for say'n stuff like this

Tony in transit

ps. you do realize that you dull the edge of my attacks by silly nonsense. Schiit stuff is not to be trifled.
If you wan't to trifle, help me Trifle Chinesium gear on it's way to the Waste Management Land Fill.

dalethorn's picture

Now, now - you realize they (our friends on the other side of the world) have special exemptions...

tonykaz's picture

from what ?

Tony in transit

dalethorn's picture

Ahem! Well, erm, certain disposal regulations and stuff. Not to worry. I hear they've agreed to clean up by 2040. Or was that 2050? Well, what's another 10 years? I won't be here.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Excuse me for asking ....... Are you going back to the native planet? ........ Just kidding :-) ..........

dalethorn's picture

Perhaps this isn't what you're asking, but you do realize that there are still 2000-y.o. Roman waste dumps still leaking toxic substances.... But do check back around 2040-2050 or so, and we'll see if we can find an agreement on the matter signed by one of the emperors. Someone to blame....

ken mac's picture

...everything he has used off the intrawebs or Craigslist as stated in the story. Why assume everything is on loan ?

michaelavorgna's picture

Because some people prefer to view things through their fictional narratives than deal with reality.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Great review of the Dynaudio Focus XD active speakers .......... You (ML) may also be interested in reviewing the new B&W Formation Duo wireless, active speakers ........ They are supposed to be totally wireless, except for the power cord connections :-) .........

michaelavorgna's picture

I'd prefer it if we keep TM related communications to email. They don't belong here.

The reason I post comments here is to talk about issues raised. . .here ;-)


Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ok ..... I apologize ....... It may help the readers to visit TM website and also, bring attention to B&W new wireless speakers :-) ........

michaelavorgna's picture

No need to apologize.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Why not have a comments section at TM website, similar to Stereophile website? ....... Readers could have an ongoing conversation about audio matters :-) .........

michaelavorgna's picture


ken mac's picture

on the block.

Ali's picture

upgrading 1.2 to new 1.2R2 but latest version can dramatically increase transparency as I have it. Its Wonderfull traditional BBC-school with low coloration studio monitor sound.

pcoffino's picture

Most telling quote in article: Perhaps the oddest element in Levy's chain is the power conditioner. "It's a Powervar power conditioner, made for hospital diagnostic equipment," Levy explained. "It's got a giant toroid inside, about 30 pounds of toroidal transformer. Because it's not part of the audio world It cost nothing, like 30 bucks."

So do your shopping in the real world, not in audio fantasy world.

ken mac's picture

...there's no Audio Research, ProAc, Ariston, Snell, Spendor, or Music Hall in your "real world." Awwww

Ortofan's picture

... $1K if you buy it new.
Getting one for $30 has less to do with the "real" versus "fantasy" worlds and much more to do with shopping in the secondary markets.

Metalhead's picture

Amen brother!
Imagine what the retail on that conditioner would be if put out by PS, Shunyata, or Nordost!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cool article, cool cat, and I love reading about those with true talent and what gear they are grooving with.

Jace's picture

Jed is not only an incredible musician and audiophile gearhead, he's also an incredible human being! He once told me about the hospital grade Powervar and I snapped one up from ebay and I have to say it's probably the best purchase I made for my setup! Thanks Jed! Great setup by the way!

ken mac's picture

Jed and his lovely wife showed me much kindness and were thoroughly delightful to hang with. And Jed is a soulful cat, if you catch my drift.

Allen Fant's picture

Great article- KM.
I enjoy reading this particular series on Audiophile musicians. Give me more!

dalethorn's picture

It's good to read where Levy buys carefully and makes his purchases count, because he's budget-limited on the one hand and very conscious of fidelity on the other hand.

helomech's picture

If those Spendors "don't exactly do imaging," there's something wrong with them, or some very poor system synergy. Maybe the crossovers are due for overhaul. I've heard an old pair like those. They're capable of excellent imaging (nearly as good as some coaxial mini-monitors) in the right conditions.

foxhall's picture

Ken, these are my favorite articles published on Stereophile.

I really get a feeling for how Jed Levy approaches music and his stereo gear.

I recently borrowed a REL Strata3 and was surprised how amazing it sounded.

ken mac's picture

dead chuffed.

allmeads's picture

shit doesn't match, cables all over the place, super tall rack (which can go taller!), Craigslist refugees and it all works beautifully. high-fi nirvana if you ask me.

rchilders214's picture

Ive been watching high end since 73 and at 13 was so thrilled to buy my pioneer sx-828 and klh-5 "watt drinkers". That was back when 60watts wasnt 30 watts. Still today i never forget the B&W speakers I heard in dallas at HHF (no names).
In your opinion , because I dont have the time to check out more, do you think it would cost a considerable amount to get a considerably better speaker, or less? Who knows, you may not even like B&W, LOL. RC