Gramophone Dreams

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Herb Reichert  |  Oct 02, 2014  |  6 comments
My best old friend, "David Ray of Today," dropped out of school when he was 15 so that he could stock vegetables on the night shift at the IGA in a small Illinois farm town. By the time he'd turned 25, he owned five houses, 25 Cadillacs, and a barn full of knickknacks.

David chose to work nights so his days would be free to buy objets d'art at the local Salvation Army store. He bought Fiesta Ware, Bakelite radios, homemade quilts, and locally fashioned tin chicken-feeders. The quilts had to be hand-sewn and in perfect condition, with no stains. The radios had to work, have all their knobs, and their Masonite backboards had to be whole and unbroken. Most important, none of these things could cost over $5.

Herb Reichert  |  May 31, 2016  |  2 comments
This Gramophone Dream is about my continuing adventures as I slowly scale the pyramid of analog audio. I'm still too close to the sandy earth to see the mythical gold tip or enjoy a six-figure super-turntable. However, in this month's episode, I do reach a level where I can relax, play some eternally beautiful music, and peer out over the vast desert of record-player mediocrity.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 26, 2016  |  17 comments
Which record player has achieved international acclaim as a musical instrument in its own right?

Which turntable is revered for its near-indestructible build quality?

Which disc spinner has played more records—and made more people drink, drug, dance, and make out—than any other?

Which turntable has sold over three million units?

Hint: It is not made in the US, the UK, China, or Switzerland.

Herb Reichert  |  Oct 06, 2016  |  3 comments
When you get old and gray and all them shoot-'em-up dudes doe wanna ride wit you no mo, don't fret—you can still have fun. Once you're a geezer, you'll have more time to work in the garden, drink tea, buy LPs, and fiddle with your unipivot.

When I was José Cuervo young, I mocked belt-drive turntables, unipivot tonearms, and teetotalers. "You can't drink, dance, shoot up the bar, and play hot records wit no persnickety belt-drive or wobbly unipivot. You need a masculine, pro-fessional-quality direct-drive or rim-drive turntable with a sturdy a gimbal-bearing tonearm!"

Herb Reichert  |  Nov 29, 2016  |  6 comments
My passion for listening to music through headphones is fueled by the enhanced sense of intimacy and extra feeling of connectedness I experience in rediscovering recordings I already love. You know the old audiophile cliché: It's like hearing my record collection for the first time. High-quality headphones provide a sharper-than-box-speaker lens that lets me experience lyrics, melodies, and instrumental textures more close-up and magnified.
Herb Reichert  |  Jan 31, 2017  |  12 comments
UK, 1976: Upon its release, Rega Research's original Planar 3 turntable became the poor man's Linn Sondek LP12. It opened a gateway of affordability to the exotic world of high-quality British record players. Forty years later, the new Planar 3 turntable and its "light and rigid" engineering aesthetic, as conceived by Rega founder Roy Gandy, still occupy an admirably working-class, pro-music position in an audio world increasingly populated by gold-plated tonearms and quarter-ton turntables.
Herb Reichert  |  Mar 30, 2017  |  32 comments
Some of our readers seem to believe that the essence of high-quality audio is disclosed primarily by science, and not by dreamy, bodice-ripping adventures that take place on plush carpets behind closed doors. Perhaps they're right. Unfortunately, I have had no personal experiences that confirm that hypothesis.
Herb Reichert  |  May 23, 2017  |  8 comments
As much as I delight in pagan dreams of sweetly perfumed garden nymphs, I'm embarrassed to admit that my mind also drifts in pleasant reveries whenever I hear the words research and development in the same sentence. I am by nature a greasy gearhead. The idea of taking well-considered steps of engineering to analyze and possibly improve the operation of any electrical or mechanical system never fails to get my imaginative juices flowing. This is why I've spent decades fascinated by perfectionist audio: I like watching and participating in its edgy, eccentric evolution.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 18, 2017  |  16 comments
Recently, a friend played me a masterpiece: Ike & Tina Turner's River Deep—Mountain High, arranged by Jack Nitzsche and produced by Phil Spector (LP, A&M SP 4178). It sounded terrible: murky, distant, with badly booming bass. Even before the first track was over, we both laughed and called it a night.

Nevertheless, I went home obsessed with Tina's inspired singing and Spector's infamous Wall of Sound production.

Herb Reichert  |  Dec 16, 2014  |  2 comments
• 1947: General Electric introduces a variable-reluctance phono cartridge with a 0.3mil sapphire stylus and 11mV output.

• 1948: Brook Electronics Inc. (Elizabeth, New Jersey) introduces the 12A audio amplifier and 12A3 preamplifier, beginning the era of high-fidelity audio separates.

Since hi-fi's postwar beginnings, hundreds of high-quality audio inventions for the home have thrilled and satisfied music lovers worldwide. But inevitably, no more than a few score companies, and maybe a dozen or so engineer-designers, have defined audio's most creative and enduring achievements.

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 11, 2015  |  20 comments
Before I moved to the boat, I lived in a big old firehouse with a shiny brass pole and a red door. The fire engines were gone but it was still a boy-toy pilgrimage site. The first thing one noticed on entering was a red 356 Porsche coupe. Behind it was a black '32 Ford hot rod with a flat-head V8 and triple Strombergs. Behind that was a 1939 Lincoln convertible from some Godfather movie. On the second floor . . .
Herb Reichert  |  May 27, 2015  |  3 comments
So, audiophiles, riddle me this: What does a DAC actually look like? I don't mean the box it hides in—I mean the little doodad that does the actual converting from digital to analog. Is it bigger than a phono cartridge? Is it made of rain-forest wood, gemstone, or porcelain? Do people show it to their friends, who gawk in awe and envy? Does it have an exotic, geisha-sounding name like Jasmine Tiger, Koetsu Onyx, or Miyajima Takumi? When it breaks, does a watchmaker type rebuild it for a not-insubstantial fee? Do people hoard them in vaults, like NOS tubes? Can you trade a DAC for a rose-gold Rolex Oyster Bubbleback ca 1945?
Herb Reichert  |  Aug 06, 2015  |  2 comments
I believe in historical consensus. I believe in hi-fi gear that reveals its quality slowly and holds it value over time, irrespective of technology. I have never bought into the superiority of one technology over another. The art of audio engineering lies in the wisdom and vital energy of the designer's viewpoint within whatever technology he or she has chosen to work with. I call this the designer's qi or chi. Every audio product's most important specification is who created it, followed by the spirit in which it was fostered—and, of course, how it was made and what it is made of. These are the determining factors for long-term audio relevance.
Herb Reichert  |  Oct 15, 2015  |  11 comments
I used to get invited to these highly secret audio soirées, held in a basement workshop at the end of a dark, garbage-filled alley in Manhattan's Chinatown. There was no street address—only a wire-glass window in a metal door—and if you didn't know the password (ie, if you weren't carrying some type of audio amplification), you weren't allowed to enter. That said, sometimes nonmembers were allowed to attend, but only when a member needed help carrying monoblocks: There was no parking nearby.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 02, 2015  |  8 comments
The golden rays pouring in through the left oculus transport a tiny child carrying a cross: ". . . the devil was vanquished, as if he had just swallowed the bait in the mousetrap." In his essay "'Muscipula Diaboli,' The Symbolism of the Mérode Altarpiece," the late art historian Meyer Schapiro explains how every object, every surface—even the smoke, light, and volume of space—depicted in the famous triptych by Robert Campin (ca 1375–1444) is a coded symbol explicating the mystical underpinnings of Netherlandish Protestantism.

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