Gramophone Dreams

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Herb Reichert  |  Nov 04, 2021  |  17 comments
In the household I grew up in, telling a lie was a death-penalty offense—worse than murder or leaving crumbs on the kitchen counter. So, believe me when I tell you that way more than a year ago, Musical Surroundings' Garth Leerer sent me DS Audio's lowest priced optical cartridge, the DS-E1 ($2750 with energizer/equalizer, footnote 1). He said, "You need to know about this." Then every few months he would write and politely inquire how I was liking it. Each time I would write back saying, "I'm sorry Garth, I haven't tried it yet, but I'll install it right after deadline."
Herb Reichert  |  Oct 06, 2021  |  5 comments
Today is Monday. Since Saturday, I have changed the amplifier driving my Falcon Gold Badge LS3/5a speakers three times—from the Parasound Halo A21+ (250Wpc into 8 ohms) to the Pass Labs XA25 (>25Wpc into 8 ohms) to the Elekit TU-8600S (9Wpc into 8 ohms). Now I am listening to the Falcons via the just-arrived RAAL-requisite HSA-1b headphone and speaker amplifier. This unusual, made-in-Serbia amp is priced at $4500. It's specified to produce 10Wpc into 8 ohms, 20Wpc into 4 ohms, 40Wpc into 2 ohms, and 55Wpc into 1 ohm, these values from the loudspeaker output
Herb Reichert  |  Aug 24, 2021  |  23 comments
One summer afternoon in Brooklyn, after a sweaty too-long day doing construction, I stumbled upon a hi-fi shop I'd never noticed before. I thought, hmmm, I bet they have air conditioning.

Inside, the air was only marginally cooler, but before I could leave, an excessively happy salesman introduced himself. After a bit of low-level chit-chat, he asked me if I was into British audio. I told him I "Never heard of it."

Herb Reichert  |  Jul 29, 2021  |  2 comments
From my writing chair, I can see about a dozen moderately priced tube and solid state audio amplifiers.

The five stacked next to my desk are First Watt or Pass Labs models designed by Nelson Pass. Across the room is a hybrid tube/class-D Rogue Sphinx V3 integrated. That black Sphinx is standing on its side behind one of the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speakers. Next to the Orangutan is a Schiit Aegir. The most conspicuous amp in the room is my BFF, the Line Magnetic LM-518 IA (footnote 1), which breaks the night's darkness with its tall, bright-emitter 845 triodes. Next to that is Ampsandsound's Bigger Ben KT88/6L6 single-ended speaker and headphone amp.

Herb Reichert  |  Jun 30, 2021  |  19 comments
In my world, the quiet ritual of choosing a record and placing it carefully on the platter is always followed by a sequence of three rough sounds.

With the volume at listening level, I hear the bristle-by-bristle rasping of my stylus brush as it drags across the exposed tip of the cartridge cantilever. Next, as I dip the diamond in Onzow gel, I hear a little suction cup pop and feel the compliance of the cantilever's rubber-tire suspension. Finally, my brain registers that sizzle sound as the stylus contacts the grooved surface. These sounds are tattooed on my brain. They "cue up" my consciousness, preparing it for attentive listening.

Herb Reichert  |  May 18, 2021  |  14 comments
We have inherited an infinitely vast library of recorded musical art, the majority of which is well-recorded but has yet to be fully and completely reproduced. Countless times, I've played an album and thought, am I the first person ever to hear this recording sound this clear and microscopically detailed? Audiophiles understand that in order to be fully enjoyed, great recordings need the finest possible audio reproduction. Reciprocally, the finest audio systems are best enjoyed when playing great recordings. It's a horse and carriage thing.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 27, 2021  |  53 comments
I would now be a prosperous gentleman had I been a clever fellow during the 1980s and held on to some of those Western Electric 300B vacuum tubes I used to buy for nothing and toss around casually (footnote 1). Unfortunately, I have no talent for acquisition or hoarding.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 07, 2021  |  22 comments
At the end of Gramophone Dreams #46, I was lost in the pristine beauty of Decware's 25th Anniversary Zen Triode amplifier driving the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speakers. That was an extremely enjoyable system, and I was hoping to keep it intact for another month. My plan was simply to morph into my long-postponed opus on tube rolling using the Zen Triode as well as Ampsandsound's Bigger Ben headphone and loudspeaker amp. Both are single-ended triode, no-feedback designs and therefore perfectly suited for tube-swapping comparisons.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 25, 2021  |  73 comments
I am not a fan of that amp designer who promoted his products by pointing a condescending finger while scolding audiophiles, like errant children, for preferring their records to sound "pleasant" rather than "accurate."

He reminds me of my least favorite teacher, Professor Grausamkeit, who was just like that and said similar things. Every time I smarted back, "Accurate to what?" he'd whack me with a wooden yardstick.

Herb Reichert  |  Jan 26, 2021  |  27 comments
What I categorize as mainstream, dealer-based, fancy-pants streamers and big-speakers audio is actually only the gold-plated tip of a gigantic asteroid-like monolith that extends (underground) from New York to Hong Kong, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 28, 2020  |  28 comments
Someone once asked me, "If I buy your $90,000, 25W amplifier, what will I get that I am not getting with my $2000, 200W amplifier?" My answer was simple: "Goosebumps, tears, and smirking." Great, well-tuned audio systems, at all price levels, give their owners less of the annoying and distracting stuff and more of the exciting and engaging stuff. Great systems offer more opportunities for smirking pridefully while listening to great recordings.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 03, 2020  |  9 comments
I spent my childhood summers on the Reichert family farm near Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, where, inside the red 1880s barn, my uncle Harold played 78rpm records for his cows.

He used a wind-up Victrola sitting on a shelf directly in front of the cows, just below a framed reproduction of an Alpine landscape painting. He said the music and the mountain scene relaxed the cows, causing them to give better milk. Harold played the same Gustav Mahler symphony every day.

Herb Reichert  |  Nov 04, 2020  |  19 comments
The 1980s was a decade when I needed three jobs to support my wife, infant daughter, and octogenarian dad. My primary job was to make and sell art, and I'm sure you know how that can go. Between exhibitions, I was forced to do construction work and to find, repair, and resell old tube amplifiers.
Herb Reichert  |  Sep 30, 2020  |  10 comments
"Future generations will be able to condense into the brief space of twenty minutes the tone pictures of a lifetime—five minutes of childish prattle, five moments embalming the last feeble utterances from the death-bed. Will this not seem like holding veritable communion with immortality?"—Berliner Gramophone Company ca 1877
Herb Reichert  |  Aug 25, 2020  |  20 comments
I am fascinated by DACs and the shifting sands of today's digital-audio marketplace. This month, I am reporting on two more DACs, both made by Denafrips: the $4498 Terminator, until recently their flagship DAC, and the $768 Ares II, the company's least expensive model. Like the HoloAudio May DAC I described last month, both Denafrips converters employ R-2R conversion schemes, and both render recordings into direct, unprocessed sound.

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