Sunday Morning at the 2017 CAF

On Sunday morning, my Capital Audiofest 2017 experience began in the Hilton's Washington Auditorium, as my friend and colleague Herb Reichert (above) and I hosted a seminar titled "The Virtues of Vintage."

Actually, my day as a Stereophile employee started before that, when I went down to the lobby level for breakfast, and to greet our panelists. Blackie Pagano, perhaps the best-known, best-loved tube-amp technician in New York, was first to show up, and while Herb stepped away to deal with some luggage, Blackie and I went into the dining area for coffee and breakfast. A number of people came by to exchange pleasantries, and one of the people visiting our table was a youngish guy who asked if he could set up a camera to film the seminar. I told him that was fine by me.

When breakfast ended, I left to wash up, then made sure to arrive at the Auditorium at 10:25, since the show guide listed the starting time as 10:30. But, as it turns out, other sources listed the starting time as 10:00—and so all the other panelists and a few dozen attendees were there waiting for me, with varying degrees of patience. Whoops.

I tried to greet the panelists, but an attendee blocked my way and buttonholed me, and told me in a combative tone, "I sent you an e-mail a year ago and you never replied. I want five minutes of your time to tell you about my collection of—"

Gesturing toward the growing audience, I interrupted him: "We're about to begin a seminar, and I'm apparently late. I don't have five minutes to give you."

"Then I want to talk to you after it's over. There's a lot of things you don't know . . ."—and he began ticking off details about, I think, Altec loudspeakers and how they are supposed to be set up.

"No," I said, "the minute this seminar is over, I have to go back to work, covering the show before it closes. I do this for a living—this isn't a hobby. I simply don't have time to give you." What I meant was, "If you had introduced yourself and asked nicely, I would have tried to find a few minutes to speak, but I dislike being stalked by contentious audiophiles." In any event, I ended the conversation by taking my seat and beginning to chat with the panelists, and my interrogator took a seat in the front row of the audience.

Left to right: Herb Reichert, Blackie Pagano, Art Dudley, Joe Roberts, Early Bender, and Lenny Florentine. Photo: Michael Lavorgna.

I started by introducing the panelists: In addition to Herb and Blackie and myself, there was Joe Roberts, the founder of the incalculably influential magazine Sound Practices, and Lenny Florentine, of the vintage specialty shop Just Audio, and—and!—there, seated between Joe and Lenny, was the guy who asked me about setting up a camera. I simply didn't know what to say, so I blurted something along the lines of, "I think I'll let you introduce yourself"—and he very pleasantly said, "Yes, I'm Early Bender!"

Omigosh—Early Bender! Proprietor of! Son of the legendary Audiomart founder Walt Bender, and one of the foremost vintage-audio experts in the US, if not the world! Who I've been trying to get on one of my audio-show panels every year for the past five years!

And then it occurred to me: He must have approached us at breakfast and said, "I'm Early," and I probably responded with something cerebral like, "You sure are—I haven't even finished my first cup of coffee." Whoops.

Anyway, Early was a delight—as were all the panelists. And the rest of the event went well, in spite of multiple contentious, haranguing questions from the same guy who wanted my attention when I first arrived. With his fourth or fifth question, I had finally had enough: Pointing at me—and not waiting to be called on—he said, "I've got a question for you: I read all of the magazines, and all of you reviewers always say things like 'midrange bloom,' and I don't know what that means. So why don't you tell me, because all you reviewers keep saying it and other things I don't understand—"

I interrupted, probably a little too loudly: "So why do you keep on reading us?!"

The audience burst into laughter, and he shut up for a while.

Combat pay, JA. I want combat pay.

True to my word, at 12 noon on Sunday, immediately after the seminar ended, I picked up where I left off in my coverage on Saturday afternoon . . .

A couple of years ago, audio-industry veteran Russell Katz was looking for a new project, so he started The Vinyl Revivers—a record-cleaning service that also sells LPs and select playback gear. Depending on the age and condition of the record in question, Katz's cleaning regimen involves spin-cleaning, anti-static treatment, a Nitty-Gritty cleaner, and two different types of ultrasonic cleaners, plus a variety of fluids; the cost is $3 to $10 per disc, depending on the treatment required, and professional flattening is also available.

I spoke to Katz of my fondness for the Audiodesk Pro ultrasonic machine, which he also uses and endorses. But he observed that, on some especially old, filthy, hard-case records, one trip through an Audiodesk isn't enough—and he backed up that claim by sharing with me a video showing him emptying the fluid from one of his ultrasonic cleaners after it had cleaned only 20 especially dirty records: The amount of sludge—yes, sludge!—in the fluid was incredible! Ewww!

TubeDriver's picture

Too bad about your stalker. I could only attend on Sunday and that included working the CAF front desk for a couple hours. Everyone I met afterwords appeared to be in a great mood and friendly too. I guess it only takes one penis in the pickle jar to throw off your morning. :( To put this in some perspective, I ran into an old audiophile buddy from way back who is dealing with a major health issue. He was weak, needed a walker to help him around, but he still went to room after room with a few CDs and LPs. He listened, laughed with amazement and joy, and pointed out the things he liked regardless of the approach used (tubes or SS, dynamic, horn or OB speakers, digital or vinyl). It sounds like your stalker could learn a lesson from my old buddy, in the end, music (and the things that reproduce it for us) should give us joy and make us happy. If that is not the case, for your own good, I suggest finding something other than audio to occupy your time.

Jimtech's picture

Being Canadian , I have been to Montreal and Toronto shows where I have seen Robert, Art , John and others trying to do their job. I always say hello and keep going.People don't interrupt my work and I like to offer the same consideration.This is not a Canadian thing, it is just common decency. BTW, it is Canadians who tend to tick me off where I live. So much for that stereotype.

Glotz's picture

and that look on your face is hilarious. Just precious.

So sorry.. I can only imagine how harrowing and uncomfortable that was.

Combat pay... omg.

rschryer's picture

Like two cowboys facing off, Art against Yul the android.

cgh's picture

Dude's reading this right now and seething. He's saying under his breath that he's "gonna git-chya". And it's not the show report. It's the Altecs. Who doesn't know how to set up Altecs?

13stoploss's picture

I confess. I stalked Art after the panel, and I thanked him for hosting/participating. But I'm (thankfully) not that guy. Art was gracious and accommodating, and even shook my hand. Despite the mouthbreather in the front row, the discussion was an engaging and informative experience. :)

I made a quick iPhone shot from the third row, with description of the altercation:

Anton's picture

The guy thinks he Woodward or Bernstein, everyone else thinks he Travis Bickle.

Love that pic, Mr. Dudley...."The Joy Of Hi Fi!"

DetroitVinylRob's picture

whatever happened to peace, love, and understanding? Too bad Art, guess being a music lover, earning an honest living, and awarding the occasional fuzzy bunny just ain't enough these days... plenty of us are still Listening.