Gramophone Dreams

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Herb Reichert  |  Oct 04, 2018  |  2 comments
The days were long, the strawberries ripe, but it wasn't quite summer. It was, however, a perfect night for Otis Redding and Carla Thomas singing the Lowell Fulson–Jimmy McCracklin classic "Tramp," on a 7" 45rpm single (Stax 45-216).

Otis: What you call me?

Carla: Tramp! You don't wear continental clothes, or Stetson hats.

Herb Reichert  |  Dec 13, 2018  |  5 comments
I needed one black tiddledywink (not provided) to use Dr. Feickert Analogue's three-speed, two-motor, two-armboard Blackbird turntable. The tiddledywink was for covering the Blackbird's painfully bright power-on LED so that it didn't blind me when I cued up a record. The first night, in my dark listening room, this tiny indicator sprayed the wall behind and the ceiling above with more light than a bright-emitting 845 vacuum tube.
Herb Reichert  |  Jan 29, 2019  |  20 comments
Every time I fly to California, my brain gets stuck on the lyrics of that Arlo Guthrie song: "Coming into Los Angeles / bringing in a couple of keys . . ." Even landing in San Francisco, I'm always smiling, because I've never been busted in California.

Which means that I'm a lucky guy. In this life I have acquired nothing of material value, but I did see Howlin' Wolf and Little Walter in Chicago in 1962, at Theresa's. I spent the whole Summer of Love (1967) in San Francisco listening to music. And because I lived only a few blocks away, I witnessed the Ramones' first gig at CBGB, in 1974.

Herb Reichert  |  Apr 04, 2019  |  17 comments
I will never forget.

In 1988 I had my first experience with Western Electric 300B tubes. It took place on a quiet, streetlights-and-snow night at my friend Ryoichi's apartment on Riverside Drive, in Manhattan.

I had never heard of the late Japanese amplifier designer Ken Shindo, of Shindo Laboratory. But that evening, Ryo's audio system was all Shindo: a hammertone gray Shindo-restored, grease-bearing Garrard 301 turntable sitting on a Shindo plinth of glossy wood, with a Shindo-modified Ortofon tonearm and SPU cartridge, a Shindo moving-coil step-up transformer, and a Shindo preamplifier with a moving-magnet phono stage.

Herb Reichert  |  May 23, 2019  |  3 comments
Every time I review a digital-to-analog converter, my memory drifts to the spring of 1983, when the first Compact Discs arrived at Tower Records in New York City. They appeared in the opera section. Sitting next to big, thick boxed sets of opera LPs, these new discs looked truly compact. A few months later, boxed sets of popular opera LPs, in almost untouched condition, began selling in the Tower Annex for $1/disc.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 30, 2019  |  4 comments
We were playing some old, cherished black discs when my partner, bb (the 6'-tall Aries artist), declared, "With records you hear touch, and you are not alone." Long pause. "Just holding the cover brings back memories—that's their humanity."
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  |  Oct 11, 2019  |  40 comments
Let's talk about management styles. If you want to run a successful small business, you must first be happy. If your personal goals are to learn and to discover, and you combine those with an intrinsic need to share your achievements and connect with people in your chosen field, you are likely to succeed. Given those qualities, if your business goal is to provide desirable goods and needed services, you will not fail.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 04, 2019  |  9 comments
My current romance with audiophile-quality headphones began in earnest with the appearance, about 10 years ago, of Audeze's LCD-2 planar-magnetic headphones—these predated the company's patented Fazor elements, said to guide the sound around the transducers' magnet structures—and Schiit Audio's original Asgard headphone amplifier. Together, these groundbreaking products rekindled my interest by making headphone listening into something new and exciting—something less distorted, more dynamic, denser, and more intensely lifelike than what I was getting from my speakers on the floor. Best of all, I could listen while lying in bed with my eyes closed.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 07, 2020  |  71 comments
When I applied for this job, I wrote a pretend review of the Rogue Audio Sphinx integrated amplifier and emailed it to Stephen Mejias, then Stereophile's deputy editor, who printed it and put it on John Atkinson's desk.

Before I sent it to Stephen, I showed a rough draft to my business agent, Sphere, who said, "Herb, you can't turn this in like this."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because you speak as if you are not an audiophile and think you're superior to audiophiles."

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 04, 2020  |  44 comments
The image above is not a modernist oil painting. It's an airport x-ray of my friend Jeffrey Jackson's backpack.

Can you identify its contents? Did you notice the red rectangle alerting the inspector of a suspicious object is, or what it's worth?

That ominous-looking black silhouette is a 1930s-era Western Electric 555W "receiver"—ie, a compression driver for use with a horn. It's about 10" in diameter and weighs around 15lb. It requires a 7V DC/1.4A power supply for its field-coil magnet and would cost about $8000 to replace.

Herb Reichert  |  Apr 02, 2020  |  11 comments
Almost a year ago, a headphone pal loaned me the Zach Mehrbach–designed ZMF Auteur LTD headphones. He said, "Herb, see if you like these." I took them home and right away thought, Wow, these headphones really disappear!

Nothing about their sound attracted my attention. The only thing I noticed, casually, was how relaxed and unbelievably transparent they were.

Herb Reichert  |  Apr 29, 2020  |  7 comments
I hope you can tell how grateful I am to be writing a column every month. A column makes me feel like a reporter or raconteur, both of which I aspire to become. In a column, I can be more me. I can evolve, think out loud, and speculate, right in front of you. I can pass on crazy stories from a lifetime of audio. When I write about products in a Dream, I try not to form it as a review, per se, but rather as an informal chronicle of discovery.
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.

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