Computer Playback Symposium Coming Up

The most comprehensive seminars ever devoted to high quality computer-based playback in the home will take place at the fabled headquarters of Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA the last weekend of June. Entitled Computer Audiophile Symposium: From Performance to Playback, the two "identical" seminars are scheduled for Saturday, June 27 from 3–7pm, and Sunday, June 28, from noon–4pm. Admission to each seminar is $279.00.

Hosted by Chris Connaker, who founded and writes most of the content for, the seminar is the brainchild of Emeryville-based, veteran dealer and audio consultant Timothy Marutani. Over the course of 30 years, Marutani has installed and consulted on projects worldwide, including Winston Ma's recent playback installation at CES 2009.

Since beginning research into computer-based audio over 14 years ago, Marutani has amassed a wealth of information on what combinations of hardware and software define today's state-of-the-art computer playback. His network of fellow experts, of whom a select few will present at the symposium, is a veritable who's who of major names in the field of audiophile and computer recording and playback.

Marutani's co-sponsor is an equally passionate dealer, Maier Shadi of The Audio Salon in Beverly Hills. Shadi's worldwide network includes senior executives, managers and artists at major record labels.

Top-Flight Expertise: It's not as though Marutani, Shadi, and Connaker are doing the seminar alone. The presenters, most of whom have been Marutani's teachers, include such audiophile experts as Reference Recordings' legendary recording engineer Keith Johnson and wife Marcia Martin; mastering engineer Paul Stubblebine; Sonic Studio's Jonathan Reichbach (developer of the Amarra Music Server), Berkeley Audio Design and Pacific Microsonics' Michael "Pflash" Pflaumer, Meridian-Sooloos's Rob Darling (Saturday) and Brad Paulsen (Sunday), and Matan Arazi, a C++ programmer who created the hand-built, all-on-assault music server (aka "the Matan server") currently used by Alon Wolf of Magico.

"The amount of proven hands-on, in-the-trenches music and design experience in the room will be incredibly rich," says Marutani. "Each individual has such an extensive knowledge base that attendees will get an expert answer to every question."

Attendees themselves will undoubtedly contribute additional information. "We want to stress that these seminars are about sharing knowledge rather than gear," says Connaker. "It's about what's available and what sounds best. As a longtime audiophile and an information technology expert who has set up systems worldwide, I have tremendous nuts and bolts knowledge about configuring computers. Tim, in turn, has the audio knowledge and the ears to discern what configurations sound best."

Because the hosts wish to create an intimate atmosphere, attendance is limited to only 40 people per session. Advance registration is essential. So far, the attendee list includes audio dealers from around the world, people in the music industry who are music enthusiasts first and foremost, audiophiles with extreme quality sound systems who want to integrate or switch over to computer-based playback, and avid audiophiles of every demographic imaginable.

State-of-the-Art: Three different playback systems will be in use. The first, in Fantasy's famed Studio A, will house the main system, including a PowerMac G5 equipped with a Linx PCI card, a Matan server, a Mac with a Lynx PCIe card, a custom-configured Zalman Windows XP-based computer with a Lynx PCI card, and Magico M5 loudspeakers. Each computer will have a dedicated Pacific Microsonics Model 2 converter. The lounge system, also excellent, will focus on simplicity and hands-on use. ("A big G5 doesn't work in everyone's living room," says Connaker). Finally, the vocal booth system will focus on ripping vinyl to digital using yet another Pacific Microsonics Model 2 converter. Johnson will also record a live to two-track session in Studio D, which will then be played back on the various systems.

Although this writer is trying to convince the Marutani and Connaker otherwise, there were no plans at press time to make either an audio or video recording of the seminars. Nor have repeat seminars been scheduled. Marutani hopes the two sessions will serve as "Mother Seminars," disseminating knowledge that will spread to dealers and end users, and encourage others to sponsor seminars along the same lines.