Next Wave Audio

An overview to enable novices and shy audiophiles alike to move ahead with hi-resolution music playback.

Have you heard of Pono? It’s the soon-to-be-released, portable high-resolution music player from rock legend Neil Young, and it’s one of many “hi-res” players that are all the buzz. Some months back, the media was flooded with reports of Pono’s Kickstarter campaign, which raised an unprecedented $6.2 million dollars from supporters. That’s a lot of money from people whose enthusiasm for better quality playback via high-resolution sound has led them to endorse Young’s efforts to “rescue an art form” from the throes of sonically degraded MP3s and the limitations of red book CD sound.

You may think that Pono, LH Labs’ forthcoming Geek Wave, and the portable high-resolution players currently available from Astell&Kern are relevant only to young, headphone-toting, pop music diehards. They’re not. Rather, Pono and crew are the market response to demand for higher quality audio at affordable prices. <snip>

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 Jason Comments Off

THE Show in Newport – Jason’s Blog

Friday morning, May 30, was Day One of T.H.E Show Newport Beach. With the opening bell struck, as it were, by a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the lobby of the Hilton that I miss due to a very slow kitchen at the adjacent Atrium hotel, I dash from hotel to hotel to discover, instead of a frayed red Mylar ribbon or a row of hot, class-A amplifiers, a line of audio hot-rodded classic and contemporary cars….
60 reports later:
The show is over and here’s Kurt Hopke of the San Diego Audio & Music Guild helping his friends at Audio Revelation pack up their gear. As I made my way back to the Atrium Hotel where superb musician William Artope Jr. was wishing us all adieu, I was already reflecting on the fact that, as Stereophile‘s sole reporter at the show, I had no choice but to arbitrarily skip a bunch of rooms, some of which, to my deep regret, premiered new equipment. My apologies to everyone whose accomplishments I passed over.
I was also reflecting on the past, present, and future of T.H.E. Show Newport Beach….


Sunday, June 8th, 2014 Jason Comments Off

Working with Dealers


Having returned from the big audio show in Newport, my mind is buzzing with excitement about where we could go with our group of dedicated Bay Area audiophiles.

In my conversations with manufacturers, dealers, reviewers and audiophile society presidents from all over the world, I realized once again that we have an amazing opportunity at hand. Yes, our events are fun and educational and interactive, and we’ll keep doing them– but aside from Audio Gear Smackdowns and blind comparisons, to keep the buzz going we will need to stay on the cutting edge of the industry and be some of the first to learn about new technology and innovative products (like the Van Alstine ABX box we recently acquired and will debut on the 14th).

For this, we need to work much more strongly with our local dealers. Dealers need us and we need them. I’m working towards the goal of having contact with every high-end dealer in the bay Area. Maybe you can help…

Help Request: Who’s your dealer? Please post the name and location of your favorite local high-end dealer and the person you deal with if possible. If you could help further by speaking with them about using their venue for visits by manufacturers, demonstrations, events, etc., that would be a good warm-up for my call with them.

Thanks in advance for your participation!


Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 Alón's Posts 2 Comments

Audiophile Music Reviews and Stories
(This is what will occupy all my time for the next 7 or 8 days)
No sooner has the Munich Show ended than T.H.E. Show Newport Beach is set to commence. Running from May 30 through June 1 in the Hilton/Atrium hotel complex that lies directly across the street from Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, Southern California’s installment of T.H.E. Show promises well over 300 exhibitors in 180 active sound rooms, 40–45 additional headphone exhibits scattered over two Headphoniums and other locations, and at least 15 vendor booths crammed with goodies galore. <snip>
Wilson Audio Specialties’ Sasha Series 2 loudspeaker ($29,500/pair), which began shipping in March, celebrated its formal California debut on Saturday, May 24, at Music Lovers Audio in San Francisco. Handsomely accompanied by recording engineer Peter McGrath (above), Wilson’s Director of Sales for North America, and Rich Maez of Boulder Amplifiers, whose electronics joined a dCS front end and cabling from Shunyata, Transparent, and Synergistic Research, the Sasha Series 2, aka Sasha 2, more than lived up to its promise in a less-than-ideal room whose set-up included Synergistic Research’s HFTs and FEQ and Grand Prix Audio’s Monaco equipment racks.<snip>
Resplendent in impeccably tailored designer tails, complete with sequined lapels, white-maned, buffed Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky proudly strode onto the stage of Davies Symphony Hall on Sunday evening. Appearing as part of San Francisco Symphony’s Great Performer Series, the 51-year-old artist smiled graciously through prolonged applause before demonstrating what too many years of singing heavy Verdian roles can do to an essentially lyric voice. <snip>

West Bay Opera brings its season to a triumphal close with a production of Mozart’s Magic Flute, which showcases what a company on a tight budget can achieve. <snip>


Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 Jason Comments Off

Upcoming Event: Amp Smackdown with ABX Box

Screenshot 2014-05-12 09.07.53Our next event – the third in the BAAS Audio Gear Smackdown series, will be held on Saturday June 14 at 10:00AM at David Levine’s beautiful Belvedere home (I hear the view alone is enough to want to attend).

The response to this idea of having an event exploring the wonders and capabilities of the ABX Comparator Box has been very strong. I’ll be sending an email invitation for members to register for the event, with details, maps and directions.

There will also be a place on the invite to tell us which amp you’re proposing to bring. Please note that although many of us have more than one amp we could bring, it is impractical considering the limited time of our events. Choose one candidate amp, but keep in mind that we will likely only be able to audition/compare no more than 6 amps from the list of submissions. We’ll give you ample notice if we cannot fit yours into the schedule, so that you don’t have to lug around a lot of metal.

The registration email will follow soon!


Saturday, May 17th, 2014 Alón's Posts 2 Comments

ABX Comparator Event?

Screenshot 2014-05-12 09.07.53Hello everyone,

This is a request for direct feedback from you. Yes, this unit is potentially a game-changer for our industry – but unlike previous events, some of the audio gear we would be testing (power amps) may be more physically challenging to bring with you without hiring a moving company!

So, before scheduling a Power Amp Smackdown, I’m reaching out to ascertain if you would be willing and able to bring your wonderful amplifier to this gathering, or if this is just not realistic.

This event will only work if we have a bunch of different amps in all shapes, sizes and power profiles to demo, so please chime in and let us know if this is compelling enough to you to merit the extra effort. Please post your thoughts by writing a comment to this post (click below).

Looking forward to hearing from you on this.

Cheers,  Alón

Monday, May 12th, 2014 Alón's Posts 23 Comments

Now, Bach to You…

Screenshot 2014-05-09 22.40.10This past Friday, Bob Walters made my day. I don’t think he knew I was a big fan of Bach… but the little link he sent me rocked my world.

A chamber orchestra in the Netherlands is attempting to play all of Bach’s 1008 works and offering their spectacular performances over as many Fridays as it takes (at least a few years worth)!

The performances available online are so beautiful, so graceful and emotional that even with horribly low streaming resolution (including the HD), you can definitely get caught up in the music. The passion and skill of the musicians made me forget everything and just stare into the screen with my headphones on, in total trance mode. Seeing amazing performances makes me wish I played a stringed instrument (so much to do. Just one lifetime. I think).

This is no small endeavor. They don’t seem to be asking for donations or support (at least not openly), and watching the performances, at least right now, is free. For my first viewing, I selected a Cantata named Nun Komm, BWV 61. It took my breath away.

If you’re a Bachophile, don’t miss this… click on the violin to access this beautiful web page – or go to



Sunday, May 11th, 2014 Alón's Posts Comments Off

The SmackDown Report: Tweaks, Voodoo and Magic

Impressions Submitted By BAAS Member Dan Rubin

Screenshot 2014-05-10 17.38.17BAAS members met on Saturday, May 3, at Leslie’s excellent digs in Orinda to listen to a selection of audiophile tweaks. If you are anything like me, you have a drawer full of tweaks you’ve tried over the years. Some may have stuck and others were quickly abandoned. I’m often unsure of whether the change is an improvement or just a change, but it’s part of the fun of the hobby, right?

Attendance was healthy and I think I can confidently say that everyone had a very good time. The system was Leslie’s Vandersteen 3 speakers driven by a Conrad-Johnson Premiere 140 stereo tube amp, Premier 17LS tube preamp, and Ayre QB-9 USB DAC fed by Transparent USB cable from a PC running JRiver and playing WAV files. Leslie’s room has some Synergistic Research HFT devices in place.

Alón treated us to a surprise warm-up exercise, which I will get to later. First, the tweaks we considered:

  1. Synergistic Research ART system, consisting of 1 Vibratron, 3 Bass Stations, and several Satellites, as well as the HFT dots that were in place. Leslie also has a Synergistic FEQ device, but my notes don’t show any evaluation of that.
  1. SHAKTI Electromagnetic Stabilizer (aka “the Stone”) and the VPI DB-5 (aka “Magic Brick”)
  1. Supports/Cones:
  • Synergistic Research MiGs
  • Nordost Sort Kones (titanium and bronze models)
  • Stillpoints Ultra Minis
  • Magico QPods

We used a few musical selections, but for various reasons one selection got a lot of play, especially in first half or so. That was Suppé, Light Cavalry – Overture, Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Karajan (on DG).

The results below reflect what I heard from the vocal members of the audience. As always, nothing was unanimous. We were careful in our methods but not overly rigorous.
Screenshot 2014-05-10 17.27.41
Synergistic ART system. There was a generally positive response to this collection of products. Listeners stated they heard more top end, greater presence; the system seemed louder (levels were identical per the preamp) and there was a better-organized soundstage. Some of you will recall a session at Jason’s a few years back with Ted Denny of Synergistic Research. That demo of the ART may be been more illustrative of the ART’s effects. It impressed Jim Forte so much that he purchased the products, which he supplied for this demo.

Next up: the SHAKTI Electromagnetic Stabilizer (aka “the Stone”) and the VPI DB-5 brick. The VPI brick is a wood-encased ferrous metal block designed to absorb stray electromagnetic radiation. The SHAKTI has three internal trap circuits (Microwave, RF and Electric Field) to absorb the broadest spectrum of EMI. With both of these products, you place them in contact with a component’s chassis, typically directly above the transformer. We used them with the Ayre DAC and also gave them a try with the CJ gear, though we had only one of each device to test.

My impression is that a fair number of attendees did not hear a difference with these products, or did not care about what they did hear. One change that was mentioned was a shift backward of the Streisand vocal selection we were auditioning.

Screenshot 2014-05-10 17.26.38An illustration of how challenging it can be to evaluate tweaks as a group exercise with someone else’s system: BAAS member Drew, who is a musician, had some very keen observations of what he was hearing. After sharing his thoughts on the SHAKTI-VPI products, Jason suggested that Drew move to a different seat location in the room. We listened some more, after which Drew basically said that all bets were off with respect to his earlier impressions. Moral of the story: there’s no substitute for hearing things in your own home and system, and evaluating over time. My $.02

Last up were the supports/cones, which were provided by Jason. We used these products under the DAC and preamp. Here the differences seemed to be more obvious to the group. I think most preferred the Nordost Sort Kones to the Synergistic MiGs and the Stillpoints, citing bass definition, cymbal bloom and decay and other improvements. However, the Magico QPods stole the day, presenting the greatest change to the sound of the system and the most enthusiasm for what that change was.

With this last set of tweaks, there were a lot of combinations to play with. For example, Jason tried substituting one of the Titanium Sort Kones with a Bronze version. We preferred the Titanium (lucky for Nordost; see pricing below). The last thing we tried was putting the Stillpoints and then the MiGs under Leslie’s CJ power amp. And then Jason experimented with the orientation (up or down) of the MiGs. The conclusion? It’s worth the effort to experiment with these variables; system synergy and personal preference will be huge factors in the outcome.

Back to Alón’s warm-up surprise. He played us an early Dave Brubeck Quartet recording on LP, but we didn’t know anything about the vinyl system (Leslie doesn’t have a vinyl front end). Alón asked us to close our eyes, listen deeply, and then made a switch of some kind and played the same selection a second time. Most attendees preferred the second test, with comments such as less stressful, easier, more open soundstage, fuller, richer, perhaps not as emotionally engaging. There were a couple of people who preferred the first version (the above-mentioned Drew and yours truly): the first play had a woody/wooden sound while the second seemed plasticky. And then…the reveal: Alón was playing this LP on an ION Quickplay LP USB turntable, tone arm, cartridge, and phono stage bundle, which listed for $49.99 (!) and which he purchased at Bed Bath & Beyond (!!) for $25 (!!!) during their after-Christmas clearance. The switch he made was moving the ION’s wall-wart from a direct-to-wall connection to plugging it into his PurePower 1050 AC regenerator. Whether or not you consider that a tweak, it certainly was audible. My takeaway on the ION was not anything like “giant killer,” but I did feel that – remarkably, somehow – some of vinyl’s virtues came shining through.

Screenshot 2014-05-10 17.27.01After the main event, we had lunch on the deck and then came back inside. Alón did a show-and-tell with the ABX evaluator he recently purchased for BAAS from the legendary Frank Van Alstine. We’re all looking forward to taking it through its paces in a BAAS session sometime soon.

I hope you will share your impressions of the Tweak Smackdown in the comments below.




  • Synergistic Research ART System: around $3K for a basic room treatment, but the components can be purchased a la carte and there is a lower-priced system also available
  • Synergistic Research HFTs: $299 for 5-pack
  • Synergistic Research Frequency Equalizer (FEQ): $995
  • Shakti Electromagnetic Stabilizer: $230
  • VPI DB-5 “Magic Brick”: no longer in production
  • Stillpoints Ultra Minis: $125 each
  • Synergistic Research MiGs: $150 for set of three
  • Nordost Sort Kones: BC (Bronze) $140 each, TC (Titanium) $365 each
  • Magico QPods: $1310 for 3-pack
  • Ion All-in-one plastic Turntable, with Arm, Integrated Phono Stage and Ceramic Cartridge: $50
Saturday, May 10th, 2014 Alón's Posts 2 Comments

BAAS Audio Gear SmackDown #2: Tweaks, Voodoo and Magic

Our next event on May 3rd, 2014 at 10:00am

at the beautiful Lundin Castle in Orinda

Step away from Psycho-Acoustics For Dummies and put your tweaks up!

Now, this should be fun.

Screenshot 2014-03-31 19.32.56

Let’s face it, we’ve all experienced that confused sinking feeling of resignation when we accept what our trained and discerning ears are telling us. Sometimes, it’s really bad – standing there dumbfounded that this ridiculous voodoo-snake oil tweak you just auditioned is having you reach for your credit card, because, dammit, it should not have worked, but, unbelievably, it did… You’re thinking, “Crap. I certainly can’t tell my spouse about this.” Well, we’re here for you. Be proud, or not – but do bring any tweak you own that worked, or you think worked (Oh boy… did I mention psycho-acoustics yet?). It doesn’t matter how much it cost or even if it’s your own prototype! The more unusual, the better… as long as you know, or believe, you heard some difference!

Many years ago, not quite when the earth was flat, but right around the time of the introduction of Audiophile Cones that drained away or turned spurious vibrations into heat and blew open walls as the soundstage widened – a product that would have engendered jeers and been quickly relegated to Voodoo scam status by knowledgable critics who never heard it. Now, of course… well, you know. The problem with being ahead of your time, even slightly, is that you’re likely to be ridiculed before your innovation is self-evident – and then those same critics will say, “…of course, it was obvious all along!” We will blind demo to the best of our ability. Our first submission is from our very own First Chair of Events and the Queen of Lundin Castle herself (Leslie, if you have yet to meet her).

Here’s the line up so far:

1. Synergistic FEQ and HFTs – Leslie

2. Synergistic Research MIGs and Big MIGs – Lynn Bailiff

3. Passive AC line filters  – Ori

4. Shakti Stone – Mike Tucker

5. Weizhi Footers, Solid-Tech Discs of Silence & Feet of Silence – Gundam (?)

6. Gajik will be doing something tweaky with an Oppo BDP-105 he’s bringing, all shrouded in mystery

7. Audio by Van Alstine ABX Comparator switch box – Alón

X. Your Tweak here (please submit)

OK, we have a fairly good assortment, but it’s time to bring out your craziest tweaks – you know, the Rice Paper Cable Wraps; or that tube thingy that hangs off your speaker’s binding post; and how about some Holographs, or Tibetan Bowls, or the CD edge shaving and coloring device you got for Christmas?

Only 2 weeks to go before our Smackdown #2, so, please, if you’re planning on coming, sign up now as it helps us coordinate the flow of the day and tweak the order of tweaks. A reminder email will go out today as well.


Monday, March 31st, 2014 Alón's Posts 4 Comments

2014 Schedule of Events

Screenshot 2014-03-31 16.56.20

Here are our upcoming events in California for 2014. More may be added as we move through the year. We did our best to also avoid dates that conflict with audiophile events outside California, but no promises there. More information on each will be published well before the event date:

Saturday, May 3rd: BAAS Audio Gear SmackDown #2: Tweaks, Voodoo and Magic (more crazy fun with your BAAS friends)
Friday, May 30th: THE SHOW Newport Beach (If you haven’t been, make the pilgrimage… it’s dizzying!)
Saturday, July 19th: BAAS Albert Von Schweikert (One of the most successful speaker designers in the world)
Friday, August 15th: California Audio Show Burlingame (This one is on our home turf and not to be missed!)
Saturday, September 27th: BAAS DIY Audio Cable-Making workshop (Many requests for this after SmackDown #1… and here it is)
Saturday, November 15th: BAAS Audio Gear SmackDown #2: Digital (stay tuned for details)

Put these dates in your calendars. They should be reliable, but as always, unforeseen changes are possible. Updates will all be posted here.

See you soon!



Monday, March 31st, 2014 Alón's Posts, Events 1 Comment

Digital Mini-Smackdown in Marin

 By Guest BAAS Blogger Dan Rubin

1009ayre.1 1Synergistic-usb

Leslie Lundin, Peter Truce and I spent a delightful few hours at Lee Mincy’s in Kentfield on Saturday, March 15. The excuse was a casual shoot-out focused on USB DACs with sidebar consideration of USB cables.

Lee had the new Chord Hugo on loan ($2395), I brought my Chord QuteHD ($1795) with Paul Hynes linear power supply ($550) and Leslie brought her Ayre QB-9 ($2750, not yet upgraded to latest DSD version).  We were careful to change just one variable at a time and we made a modest effort at level matching, but there was otherwise not much rigor to our method. We listened to digital files played from a Mac Mini running Amarra, playing though Lee’s DIY Randall tube linestage (2 Telefunken EF 804S) into a newly rebuilt/cap-upgraded Threshold S-500 amp feeding floorstanding Hales Transcendence 5 loudspeakers. This is a clean, high-resolution, full-range system but with minimal tweaks, fancy cables or the like.

In Lee’s system, we all generally preferred the Ayre DAC. It sounded warm and smooth with rich tone color, dimensional images and a vivid, organic quality. The Chord DACs, which sounded quite alike, were perhaps more resolving but less complementary to the system, sounding leaner and less interesting.  The Chord Hugo was disadvantaged in this comparison by not being able to use any of the upgrade USB cables (see below for why).

I will add when I was evaluating DACs a couple of years ago, I did a shoot-out between the Metric Halo ULN-8 and the original Ayre QB-9 and ended up purchasing a Metric Halo LIO-8 when it came out. I subsequently sold it when I got the Chord, which I preferred. My takeaways from this: system inter-dependencies are critical but, nevertheless, Ayre is back on my list of DACs to hear in my own system. (Lee liked the Ayre so much that he bought one after our session!)

As for the USB cables, we listened to these:

  • Mapleshade Clearlink ($95)
  • Synergistic Research Basik USB Active ($395)
  • Synergistic Research USB Active SE ($595)
  • Light Harmonic Lightspeed ($999)

No surprise, but worth mentioning that we all heard meaningful differences between these cables. The differences tended to be mainly in the areas of harmonic richness and ambient information. The better the cable, the more engaging was Lee’s system, with a greater “being there” quality. I brought both the Mapleshade, which I consider a value champ, and the Lightspeed, which has been widely and very favorably reviewed in the ne plus ultra realm. Nevertheless, the Synergistic USB Active SE won the day while the others offered varying degrees of “just okay” in this shoot-out.

The Chord Hugo, which was designed for mobile/portable use but is getting attention for other applications, could not participate in the USB cable evaluations because it only accepts a micro USB connector, not the USB B-type connector on the downstream end of all of the cables we tested.

We had a lovely time, highlighted by delicious lasagna from Comfort’s in San Anselmo and an excellent Kosta Browne Pinot Noir.  I love hanging with audiophiles who have good taste!

Personally, while I very much enjoy these shoot-out sessions, I prefer longer-term evaluations when making buying decisions. I want to balance the sonic differences between components – which are highlighted in shoot-outs –­ with how I experience and enjoy music over the longer haul. But that’s a luxury we don’t always have.

I think it would be great if, as members of BAAS, we could get a few people to bring over components for listening sessions like this one in our own systems. Not as a formal BAAS event, which needs to accommodate a lot of us, but as an informal, personal audition with a few guests bringing along components of interest.

Dan Rubin

March 30, 2014

Monday, March 31st, 2014 Alón's Posts, Member Posts, Member's Systems Comments Off

Digital Tools for Vinyl addicts

 Screenshot 2014-03-29 12.16.46Warning: Highly Opinionated Rant Ahead

Audiophile Streaming Music. An oxymoron if I ever heard one… at least for now. One day, the internet pipes to our homes will be fat enough to provide something more than low rez background music. That said, is there a good reason to subscribe to one of these $10 a month music streaming services? Yes. Because if you’re a avid record shopper, it can save you money. Really. A lot.

I am a bit of a fixture at my local record store. I like to wander randomly from genre to genre, just following my feet and browsing through bins and piles of albums. I can’t count the number of LPs I’ve purchased over the decades when I “took a shot” on an artist I’ve never heard of, or one I’ve heard of, but never heard… only to break the seal at home and hear marginally satisfying, poorly recorded and severely compressed crap coming out of my speakers. Same holds true for my online purchases of new vinyl, an experience that admittedly is getting better overall.

The analog renaissance has been amazing and yet, also frustrating with all the hype about the mostly unnecessary re-mastering (often ruining) of a great LP by introducing a clandestine digital element into the re-issue chain. It is so obvious to my ears that something sounds not quite right, somewhat hollow, thin, utterly lifeless compared to the original. There are, as always, exceptions, and yes, there are a few really great re-mastering engineers, as well as really careful pressing plants as well as new studios that are getting their old tube analog recording suites operational again. The demand is high for good quality vinyl, and this is just the beginning! So what digital tools could possibly help?

Enter, Spotify (or Pandora, or iTunes, etc.). On my smartphone or iPad, I search Spotify for the exact album I’m holding in my hands, or, worst case, the same artist doing the same song on a different album… and, voilà, I put in my earbuds and I can hear a 320K stream of what I would otherwise purchase blindly. Many times now, for different reasons, I’ve put the album back because even in low-res, I can hear the general quality of the performance, recording, and any re-issue re-ruining used (don’t get me started about the last Beatles effort).

For years it’s been a lot of trial and error in finding those musical gems that can really reach us with their emotional impact. It’s been worth it, but now it’s easier.

On some shopping occasions, those times when I hit the musical jackpot (which is apparent usually in the first minute or two), discovering something new (to me) and well recorded, I get a feeling of anticipation – getting the LP home, running it through a ridiculously expensive and equally amazing ultrasonic record cleaner and sitting down for a listen.

Sometimes, when I’m really taken by the music I’ve found, I punch that artist or conductor or soloist’s name into a very visual (and free) app called Discovr Music (spelled just like that) and in a heartbeat I can see that recording artist’s influences, teachers, or collaborators, opening up a whole new world of fresh music for me. Its algorithms are based on the music genome project and it is fascinating and fun and has already saved me time, money and effort in this exciting time in analog audio’s history.

Any thoughts, challenges, ideas or questions you have – or, if you want to share your own tools, please make a comment to this post.




Saturday, March 29th, 2014 Alón's Posts Comments Off

Montreal Show

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Such is the story of the Montreal Audio Show akaSalon Son et Image (SSI), which takes place this coming weekend, March 28–30. The Chester Group may be sponsoring the show for the first time, and longtime show organizer Michel Plante may have ceded the reins to his partner/wife, Sarah Tremblay, but both the location (the Hilton Bonaventure Hotel) and the show structure are pretty much the same.

Tremblay expects about 80 exhibitors—the same as last year—holding forth in 80–100 rooms. To please up to 7000 attendees, <snip>


Friday, March 28th, 2014 Jason Comments Off

Universal Music Group’s Blu-ray/Hi-Res Initiative

Part 1:
Thumbing their collective nose at pundits who predict the imminent demise of physical media, Universal Music Group has begun reissuing select back catalog and new releases in Pure Audio (audio only) Blu-Ray 24/96 and/or 24/96 download formats. The first of the classical titles appeared in February, with more rolling out all the time.

To get the skinny on UMG’s plans for Blu-ray and hi-res, I conducted two separate interviews with folks in the UK. The first, with Barry Holden, the extremely committed and highly articulate VP of Classical Catalogue at Universal Music, appears below. A second discussion with Joshua Phillips, High Fidelity Pure Audio Product Manager for UMG’s pop catalog, and Olivier Robert-Murphy of the Pure Audio Association, will follow <snip>

Part 2:

Universal Music Group (UMG) is currently fulfilling its promise to release hundreds of 24/96 High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-Ray (audio only) titles in 14 countries by the end of 2014. While many of these titles are from its rich back catalog, a few are new. These include, on the pop front, George Michael’s Symphonica, and for classical, one of my 2013 R2D4s, Jonas Kaufmann’s Wagner.

To fresh your memory, the data on Red Book CDs is limited to a sample rate of 44.1kHz—44,100 samples of data per second—and has a word length of 16 digital bits per sample. This yields a range of 65,536 possible values. UMG’s High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-rays, on the other hand, are sampled at 96kHz—96,000 samples of data per second—and have a word length of 24-bits per sample, which yields 16,777,216 possible values. Among the sonic benefits of this increase are richer tonality, truer timbres, increased air and depth, and a greater sense of “you are there” reality. Utilized at their full sonic potential, Blu-rays up CD’s dynamic limit of 96 decibels to 144dB. Not that anyone who values their hearing would want to listen to 144dB

One of UMG’s slogans for its 24/96 High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray initiative is “No compression • No video • No compromise.” While there’s more than a fair amount of hype behind the claim that listening to 24/96 material, whether on High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray or via uncompressed downloads, delivers music just as the artist intended it to be heard, there is no question that, with material originally recorded and mastered without compression in 24/96 digital format, that 24/96 has the potential to get you close to what the recording and mastering engineers heard on their studio monitors or through headphones.


Friday, March 28th, 2014 Jason Comments Off

Good-Bye and Good Buy

Most of you know by now that one of our favorite Audio dealers, Bob Kehn, is shutting down after 20 years ion the East Bay. He will be missed – not just as the nicest guy in audio, but also for the amazing systems he put together for audio shows. He has a golden ear, maybe even two of them.

Bob  has asked for our help is letting everyone know that he’s liquidating the remainder of his inventory. Here’s a sheet of some great gear priced at his cost. Please click on the page to enlarge.

We all wish you the Best, Bob. Maybe we’ll see you at one of our fun events?

Screenshot 2014-03-28 16.59.33Screenshot 2014-03-28 16.59.56

Friday, March 28th, 2014 Equipment Comments Off

An Afternoon with Neil Gader, Associate Editor TAS

Screenshot 2014-03-25 01.15.27

Elite Audiophiles Gather in San Francisco

By Special Guest Blogger, James Forte

Two of  “my favorite things” are music and coffee.  Elite Audio Systems offered them both in an inviting and collegial atmosphere this past Saturday.  The event, jointly sponsored with BAAS was attended by perhaps twenty-five mostly BAAS members to discuss all issues audiophile.  Neil Gader from the Absolute Sound was the cordial guest speaker and we all carried on for the entire afternoon.  Many thanks to our new intrepid leader Alón for promoting this and to Elite Audio Systems owner Michael Woods for being a great host and well-tempered moderator.

Think about how many periodicals you subscribe to and which ones you most look forward to arriving in your mail box or computer.  I know the answer for me is hands down The Absolute Sound and Stereophile.  Maybe I have a problem, but then if you’re reading this, so do you.  OK so now, how often do you wish you could speak directly with the writers and reviewers, either to thank them or take them to task for what they’re presenting.  Well, we all had a full afternoon to hear about the predilections, trials and tribulations of this veteran reviewer over his long career, and to question him on the many issues we all obsess about.  Add some java juice to the mix and it made for two great afternoon sessions.

Neil took us back to the very early and formative days of TAS and its founder Harry Pearson.  (Did you know that Harry was a prolific environmental reporter prior to starting TAS?)  Do you remember back when the mag had no advertisements?  Neil took us back through some of the early designs and equipment. Neil shared with us the challenges he and his colleagues face as reviewers in a difficult industry.  He discussed how each reviewer brings to their work their own skill sets, preferences and listening environments that often dictate what and how they review.  He shared how they work to stay “fresh” and keep up with the demands made on them by their readers, manufacturers and the magazine itself.

Other topics and questions covered included recording references, generational and demographic issues facing the industry, the vagaries of the recording industry and consumer preferences.  During intermission, we were treated to some music through the Genesis 2.2 loud speaker being featured at Elite Audio.  Genesis CEO, Gary Koh was on hand to share his insights about the recording industry.  It was interesting to learn that some recording studios, making multi format releases have been putting their best productions on vinyl.

As the coffee buzz wore off, we all agreed the event or something like it was deserving of an encore.  Thanks again to Alón for putting this party together.  He whispered to me what was in the works for the next BAAS event.  So if a little bird were to “tweet” to you about what it is, promise you won’t tell.  The little birdie goes tweet-tweet-tweet…  Sounds like…;-)

Thanks to all,

James Forte


Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 Alón's Posts 1 Comment

Local Audio Happenings

Greetings Audio Tribe,

Coming up at Audio High in the South Bay (unfortunately right on my 54th birthday, so I don’t think my wife will be OK with my coming to this event), as well as at Elite Audio in SF, is a great and rare opportunity to meet an industry legend, Bob Stewart of Meridian Audio.

Tuesday, April 8 at 3:00pm - 8:00pm at Audio High. 165 Moffett Blvd, Mountain View, California 94043
Thursday, April 10  from 6:00 to 9:00pm, at Elite Audio, 893A Folsom St. SF 94107
A very special one-day event to let you hear the new Special Edition Digital Active Loudspeakers. Bob Stewart, CEO of Meridian, will be making a rare appearance to do a presentation on the new speakers.

Marking 25 years since Meridian Audio introduced the world’s first DSP Digital Active Loudspeaker, these Special Editions promise to be milestone products.

Enjoy and take good notes (so you can share your experience on this blog),
Audio High's photo.
Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 Alón's Posts Comments Off

Biography: Leslie Lundin – Entrepreneur, Mom, Audiophile.

If you haven’t met the delightful host of our first Smackdown, make sure you don’t miss the next one! There’s a lot more to her than can be expressed in these pixels, but here’s a humble CV directly from the desk of our First Chair of Events, Leslie Lundin:

I was born in Chicago and raised in Wisconsin: the daughter of an audiophile, whose speakers (of course) I blew out in high school at a party I had while my parents were out of the country.  We always had music playing in the house and I still have some of the old albums from my youth.  Could never let them go.  Being in Wisconsin, we used to see a lot of live blue grass.  My dad had a wonderful operatic voice and used to serenade my mother with “I’ll take you home again Kathleen”.   She’s Irish. We had instruments hanging on the walls as part of our fine art collection.  My parents force fed all of us live Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances at a young age, believing that it was a necessary part of life.

I always had a decent system, better than pretty much everyone I met and a very large music collection.  I used to have a lot of parties in high school and college and after graduating (pretty much always) so needed a big system, a house with a lot of open space and good mix tapes.  I bought/sold and renovated houses during college so had pretty nice digs.

I have three teenage sons who are also musicians and performers. Their father was in a band and also plays several instruments.   He has his living room set up for jam sessions (drum set, mic’s, etc.).  I’m in the process of building a media room for pre-recorded media so I can free up the living room for live music playing as well.  Music is a really important part of my life and always has been.

Professionally, I develop and re-develop commercial real estate.  Been in CRE since I graduated from UW-Madison in 1990.  I founded LBG Real Estate Companies, LLC with two partners, right now primarily focused on value add shopping centers in the Western US.  See for more.

Thank you, Leslie. We’re honored that you want to hang out with us and do audio stuff.



Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 Alón's Posts 1 Comment

Smackdown #1: Preliminary Recap

Smackdown room

Well, I haven’t heard of any fatalities, so I assume all attendees survived our first (full, sold out!) Audio Smackdown! Feedback is starting to come in, and well, well… you guys actually had fun!  Just like we pictured it.

(Note: I just figured out that if you click on the image you get the full size version! Did everyone know that but me?)

This report is a preliminary post to give members who couldn’t make it to the event a sense of the general feeling of the gathering, and give attendees an opportunity to chime in with their impressions by commenting on this blog post. 

Before going any further, I believe I can speak for everyone in saying a gargantuan “Thank You” to Leslie – not just for graciously hosting and reconfiguring her home to accommodate that many members – but for being the superhero queen of cable swapping! I say that because just lifting some of the exotic cables we auditioned was hard work, let alone bending these pythons and finessing the plug into the socket!

Before the event, Leslie’s system was tweaked first by Jason and then just a day before our gathering, by Ted Denney, owner of Synergistic Research. We both would like to say how much we appreciate your efforts and the improvements they made!

Screenshot 2014-03-09 17.30.10

So, here’s a brief recap – which I’ll preface by saying it won’t do the event justice. Not that it was perfect (hardly… but the perfectionist in me did learn a lot about what not to do next time!), however, the buzz in the room was high, with lots of interaction and conversation and we kept the pace fairly brisk to keep everybody awake. It seemed to work.

My apologies in advance if any of the facts are inaccurate. If so, please submit a comment on this post with the fix or additional info you’d like to share about the event.

We auditioned 12 cables, but I’ll only focus on the top four, the ones that won the most battles before being eliminated (except for our winner, of course).

Smackdown Lively

The “Sudden-Death” style of instant elimination A/B comparison is not always fair to all contenders, but life just isn’t always fair… even if you’re a cable. However, it sure works to keep the energy up in the room – and if we didn’t pull that part off, it wouldn’t have felt much like a Smackdown, now would it?

Smackdown Virtual Dynam Genesis

Pictured above is a Virtual Dynamics Genesis power cable that was bought used for $2000 by member Paul, who shared that it was actually a good deal, since the retail is around $10K! This cable won 2 battles, which earns it a 3rd place ranking.

Smackdown Elrod Silver Statement

This, above, is an Elrod Silver Statement, a huge heavy monster that costs $3000, and I’m not sure whether that was used or new! Its owner, (or should I say Snake Charmer?) is Tracy S. This cable won 2 battles, which also earns a tie for 3rd place.

Speltz AC PC Level 3

Apologies to whomever brought this cable above… wait, that was me! OK, apologies to myself that somehow in the commotion I didn’t get an on-site action shot of this Paul Speltz designed Anti-Cables Level 3 Power Cord, so I pulled this photo off his website. Retail cost: $330 for 5 ft. This cable won 5 of its battles, which earns it Second Place in our take-no-prisoners elimination Smackdown.


Screenshot 2014-03-09 20.00.47

And Now, the big question: What cable won? Well, it seems to be more mysterious (and embarrassing) than expected. We finished auditioning and had our Smackdown winner… We were wrapping up the event by revealing the identity and price of each power cord by asking its owner to talk about their cable… but, the winner wasn’t there. He had to leave early, and not only do we not have photo of our winner, we’re not exactly sure who it is because the cable doesn’t match up with anything on our list.

We did have some people/cable no-shows, but we had extra cables so we swapped in some of those on the fly, but there wasn’t an opportunity to find out much about them. We expected to get the full details at the unveiling of all the cables and their owners.

So please, if you belong to this last minute winning cable, step forward and I’ll be happy to adjust this post and give you the kudos your cable deserves… especially because, get this, people – it’s HOME MADE! Doesn’t even have a name. I remember a brief discussion early in the event about the cord being silver and copper, but only $0.77 a foot (that can’t be right, can it?) and that it had decent Furutech plugs, but that’s about it.

This DIY cable won 3 of its battles (the last three rounds). Cost:?

We would have loved to have a playoff between these top four cables, but we didn’t have time.

So, that’s it for now. Now you know what I mean by preliminary (yeah, Alón, you can’t even tell us what cable won. Good job, new guy!). Obviously, I need help. Please post a comment on this blog and let’s juice up a conversation and get some answers!

Thank you for appreciating this imperfect first effort. A lot of work went into this event before its debut, and we’re pretty happy about how it turned out. Remember, this should be the beginning of the conversation about the event, not the end. We really want to hear from you! Post that comment while it’s fresh in your mind.


Note: instead of writing over this last section (with all its attendant mystery and intrigue), I’ve decided to continue on this same post with the new information. Thank you to all for posting your thoughts and excitement about the event. This is just the beginning! Much more fun and thought provoking stuff to come. Here are the photos of the winning cable, from its owner and builder, Larry Deniston, who reveals his secret tweak, below:



Hi Alon,

Attached find a couple of pictures of the cable – kept the shoot out cable number label on for posterity!  A funny note is that when I was looking at the label on the cable to let David know what it was and I noticed that it had directional indicator that I hadn’t seen before and then noted it was hooked up backwards – there’s the secret to the sound quality!
Thanks again for setting up the shoot out, it was great fun and I apologize for having to leave early.  Am looking forward to events in the future.
Best, Larry

So, for our winner, it seems the wrong way was the right way. Congratulations Larry!

We’ll do another cable Smackdown soon and have a playoff between the cables that placed in this first event. We’ll schedule fewer contestants and spend more time listening to different music genres for every cable in every battle. By then, chances are, a few of us will probably have built a cable based on the same successful design. Maybe someone will build two of them, one in each direction! Thanks everyone for making this a great first event.



Sunday, March 9th, 2014 Alón's Posts, Events 13 Comments

Everest Records Rebirth

Over half a century after the creation of the prized Everest Records catalog, most of whose 78 classical titles were recorded between 1958 and 1961 on 35mm magnetic tape in three-channel stereo, 61 titles have now been remastered and released in multiple formats. In addition to physical CD and downloadable Mastered for iTunes versions, a still-expanding, luscious hi-res treasure trove of Everest titles may be downloaded from HDTracks’s Everest Records pages. All HDTracks titles, remastered from the master tapes in 24/192, are available in both 24/192 and 24/96 versions.Among the gems of the Everest catalog are the very first recording of Aaron Copland conducted of his own work, <snip>


Friday, March 7th, 2014 Jason Comments Off
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