Silverman Shocker

Photograph: John Atkinson

Staggering out of the elevator into the lobby of the Marriott at the end of the first day, I was delighted to discover Robert Silverman mid-performance on a 9' Steinway concert grand, thanks to Ray Kimber, who had released Silverman's new SACD set of the complete Mozart piano sonatas, recorded with the IsoMike, at RMAF. Those of us had just spent up to six hours listening to reproduced sound had the opportunity to enjoy the real thing.

The experience stunned me. As I listened to the beauty of Silverman's Beethoven and Mozart, I felt as though I had just spent most of my six hours listening to frauds. Some of those frauds were blatant in their deception, some subtle. But even taking into account the subdued acoustics of the Marriot Tech Center's lobby, which in the piano's location extended up the equivalent of at least four stories tall, the sound had an inviting realism that made a mockery of those harsh-sounding systems I encountered on day one. Silverman's live performance also highlighted the accomplishments of the honest systems (eg, the Magico/Marutani Consulting/Audio Salon room), and even made me grateful for set-ups that were laid back and rolled off on top.

Thank you, Bob and Ray.

Postscript from John Atkinson: A number of people have commented privately that they feel Jason's use of the word "fraud" is insulting, in that it implies dishonesty and/or ill intentions. This was not Jason's intent, nor was it how I read it. My apologies to those RMAF exhibitors who felt they had been so insulted.

The point is that all high-fidelity reproduction is a fraud in the sense that it is an illusion. No matter how good your system, it will always differ from the sound and presence of a real instrument playing in front of you; direct comparison with the real thing, which Silverman's piano recitals at RMAF afforded, threw that fact into sharp contrast.

For more on this subject, read Michael Lavorgna's October 2010 "As We See It" and the readers' letters that follow, as well as my February "As We See It" and Steve Guttenberg's "As We See It" in the new (November) issue.—John Atkinson

Jim Tavegia's picture

I look forward to buy this SACD set of RS as I enjoy the "88 Keys" from Ray Kimber in a previous release from Weber State University. But, more to the point from JVS as considering the expense that most vendors go to in being at RMAF do these dealers or manufacturers not know bad sound when it is clear to JVS that the experience he had in their rooms was very bad? I know that many of the audio demos are in smaller rooms, but most of us have a room(s) of about the same dimensions as these suites the companies are in. I guess this begs the question as to how much effort these companies go to properly display and position their gear? What is troublesome is that do these vendors really know good sound when they hear it? Do they honestly think there rooms sound good when JVS was in there listening? It seems that many do not understand that often you only have one time to make a good impression.

John Atkinson's picture

I have to respectfully disagree with Jason a little. Although yes, there were a couple of rooms with pathologically bad sound, most of the rooms sounded excellent - just not yet as good as the real thing!

buddha's picture

Wait just a cotton pickin' minute!

What the hell happened to "Live as Canned, Reproduced as True?"

A 4 story hotel atrium sounds 'better' with a piano stuck in it than canned high end?

This calls for a "Live beats canned in a Hi End Hi Fi show comparing a hotel lobby to multiple Hi Fi demosntrations!"


Some of us knew all along, bro. Great show coverage. Just yanking your chain a little.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Hi Buddha. At least you call it a chain. Some people think it's a tail that matches my red horns.Love to you,moi

Jim Tavegia's picture

Time to march some Wilsons to the Atrium with Ray Kimber's SACD and let it ride.

RG's picture

Ahh! Now there's a marvelous idea!

JIm Tavegia's picture

Where are the SACDs going to be made available? Off the Kimber web site or various retailers?

Wim's picture

Even if you spend 2 million on will never be as real as live

John Atkinson's picture

Robert Silverman's Mozart SACD set will be available from Kimber and in November, also from the Stereophile e-commerce page.

egidius's picture

Wonderful! As a violinist, I happily subscribe to "fraud", be it on stage, or indeed from a speaker.Striving for truth inherently implies failure, anybody feeling offended by a remark triggered by one of those moments of "truth" does take oneself to fully serious. You cannot be serious!

Bob Meegan's picture

Heard Mr. Silverman playing Beethoven's Appassionata shortly after having heard my 45rpm version ( Ikuyo Kamiya on an RCA recording) played at Highwater Sounds' room and repeated at the Kaiser room. Both rooms gave realistic imitations of Mr. Silverman's playing; not the real thing for sure, but close and enjoyable.