The Audio Traveler

  1. Looking at price tags at audio shows quickly can start your head spinning. Yes, this hobby is called the high-end, but really? That’s why I always enjoy finding rooms where the rig sounds great, but might not require a second mortgage. One of those systems at the Los Angeles Audio Show was put together by Springfield, Virginia-based distributor Well Pleased Audio Vida. It indeed was pleasing to add up all the equipment and get a total of around $20,000 USD. Granted, that’s still a very significant amount of money, but I also visited many rooms where just one piece or gear – or even a 10-foot run of speaker cable – cost more. You can spend a lot less, of course, but what you are chasing as you plunk down an increasing tall stack of big bills is the 10 per cent to 20 per cent improvement that brings goose bumps. What is impressive is when you can find gear that gives you a taste of those mega-systems, but costs far less. The components may not be rock-bottom bargains, but they are overachievers. That’s just what Well Pleased brought to LA. The speakers were a model I had not auditioned [...]
  2. The synthesis of music, art, and technology by Eric Franklin Shook Their mission: “Grow a community of futurists who explore emerging sound technologies and design radical instruments for change.” Seems simple enough. A writer friend of mine, Cheyenne Noelle asked me if I was going to Moogfest ‘17, a music festival that moved to Durham in the last few years from our very own Asheville, North Carolina, and I confess with due shame that I had no such plans. If you grew up in North Carolina you were part of two camps of locals. Those who live in Durham, NC, and those who fear going to Durham, NC. I was of the latter. Durham’s statewide reputation for crime, poverty, and white flight had well preceded my birth. In truth, you could say it was our parents who scared us from venturing into that nether region east of Interstate 40. Yes, there is the odd moniker given to the area, “Raleigh-Durham” which I think has something to do with the airport. Regardless, you just don’t go to Durham. Fast forwarding to the present decade and you’d be a blind local not to notice that Durham, NC has become the ready backdrop [...]
  3. Nola speakers don’t look like anything else. In my experience, hearing hundreds of different transducers at shows each year, they don’t sound like anything else, either. Visually, putting Nolas in your room is something like installing a pair of wooden, scale-model bell towers. With these speakers, the upper portion of the cabinets is open on three sides — left, right and back. In fact, if you were playing AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” on Nolas, you might be forgiven for getting up to check for ringers hanging in those towers. Instead, though, you’d see the backs of the ribbon tweeter and midrange that are attached to the upper part of the front baffle. Accent Speaker Technology Ltd. was showing its Nola Metro Grand Reference Gold 2s ($40,000/pair USD) at the Los Angeles Audio Show. The remainder of the system included a Synthesis A40 V integrated amplifier ($6,395 USD), Déjà Vu Audio/Aldo D’Urso Western Electric preamp with vintage parts ($25,000 USD), Déjà Vu/Aldo D’Urso Western Electric DAC ($25,000 USD), Esoteric P-05 transport and Nordost Odin 2 cable. A demo that began with Milt Jackson performing alongside the Monty Alexander Trio showed the Nola’s strengths. These speakers don’t just create a soundstage that impresses [...]
  4. By Marc Phillips As an agnostic progressive, I’ve learned to keep my own counsel when herfing with strangers or casual acquaintances. I don’t want to perpetuate any stereotypes about knuckle-dragging cigar smokers, but I also don’t want to get my butt kicked in the back alley of a cigar lounge for suggesting that La La Land and Moonlight are far superior to the latest Jack Reacher film. With my regular herfing buddies at Tismart Cigar Shop in Brewerton, New York, everyone knows where I stand on the issues—because I’m Facebook friends with most of them—and I’m constantly in awe of our ability to have spirited discussions that do not erupt into fights, mostly because we all understand that herfing is supposed to be relaxing. As a stranger in a strange land, I know better than to start shit—precisely because I have watched those Jack Reacher films and I know what happens when you say the wrong thing to the wrong stranger. What’s really strange is that for most of my life I’ve considered myself more of a moderate. I haven’t really changed that much over the last twenty years but the political landscape has, and I now find myself well [...]
  5.   Through the Looking Glass. This is the Lewis Carroll sequel to the much more famous Alice in Wonderland. In it Alice again acquires entry to a magical world, this time by climbing through a mirror. The title instantly sprang to mind after spending a few minutes in the High End Zone room at the Los Angeles Audio Show looking through a pair of the transparent-glass cabinet Perfect8 Technologies Point Mk III loudspeakers being driven by Ypsilon Electronics amplification, and being fed the ones and zeros from an Aurender W20 music server. When I first saw the Mk III loudspeakers I thought they looked gorgeous, but I was skeptical that glass speakers with dipole drivers were going to be capable of great sound reproduction. I thought this would be a demo session where talk of sonic trade-offs was brought up again, and again… was I wrong. Listening is very different from looking, and what I was hearing sounded like a blend of the best simple wooden-box, and the cabinet-as-cement loudspeakers I’ve heard over the years. Seems glass doesn’t maintain it’s sonic-ringing qualities when a completely invisible anti-resonance layer (called Super Silent Glass) is sandwiched between two layers of the stuff. Instead [...]
  6. by Brian Hunter This is a tale of three whiskeys. All damn good whiskeys in their own right, mind you, but this trifecta happens to land very close to each other in price as well as origin (as do most American bourbons). Basil Hayden’s, Four Roses Single Barrel and Michter’s US*1 Unblended American Whiskey should all hit around the $40 price point at your local grocers, give or take a few dollars. Both Basil Hayden’s and Michter’s rein in at 80 proof, while the Four Roses has about 10% more alcohol per volume. So if you are looking for the quickest way to drown your sorrows you can stop reading now, cause the Single Barrel is your choice. For the rest of us, please read on. None of the bottles were retrieved from an old collection, they are new and “as is” from the store shelf as you pick them up currently. Michter’s as a whiskey brand has been around for quite a while, with the distillery holding the rights having gone through name several changes over the years including Shenk’s and Bomberger’s. The modern-day Michter’s name actually comes from the combination of letters from owner Lou Forman son’s – [...]
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