Over 50 BAAS members braved a rare San Francisco heat wave and Elite’s store renovations yesterday to hear some of the best that vinyl and tubes have to offer.
Thanks largely to the efforts of Michael Woods (our host) and Peter Truce (or Analog Czar and organizer), the event was a great success. Thanks also to Allen Perkins (Spiral) and George and Carolyn Counnas (Zesto) for sharing their knowledge and expertise. (As a special treat, Zesto played the prototype of their much-anticipated tube power amp.)
…and DSD recording session.
BAAS members climbed into the Belmont hills yesterday to observe a live DSD-based recording session and to sample and audition four representatives from the current generation of DSD-capable DACs. The devices were:
- Playback Designs MPD-5 (link)
- Benchmark DAC2 HGC (link)
- Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC (link)
- TEAC UD-501 (link)
Musical selections – some of which were free downloads and available in both DSD and hires PCM – included:
- “Lush Life” and “Freddie” from AJP3 (link)
- Selkye:”Slow Day” from BCR (link)
- Mahler 2/1 from Channel Classics (link)
- Mahler 1/4 from DLN (link)
- Iyer:”Human Nature” from DLN (link)
- Recording from the live session
As to the results of the listening tests, I’ll leave the details to JVS and his report on Audiostream.com. I will say that the most prominent trend was once again sound quality mirroring price. But opinions varied, especially in the second session.
Also, late in the day and at a member’s request, we conducted a brief single-blind listening test. The setup was simple: two 30-sec level-matched excerpts were played on the MPD-5, one hires PCM and one DSD. Pick the DSD track. Consensus a priori was that this task was “easy” and a “waste of time.” The test results suggested otherwise.
Many thanks to Cookie Marenco, Patrick and the Blue Coast team, and Jason McGuire (master of Flamenco guitar). Great job in making this happen.
See this Wired article for a demo and an explanation by the engineer.
OK, so sound quality is about that achieved by Edison. But I predict that it’ll improve – a lot.
Is this the ultimate audiophile DAC?
BAAS members enjoyed a pleasant Saturday at the Oakland HQ of Linn Audio.
David Linn, founder and CEO, played host to an enthusiastic crowd of listeners. Thanks, David!
Comments were heard throughout the day about how dynamic the speakers were and the “honesty” of their tone. They were also capable of sound levels that would fill a stadium.
When asked about the name of the firm and possible confusion with the Scots, Dr. Linn replied that “…Linn is my last name, not theirs….”
BAAS members were treated to a great program at last Saturday’s listen & learn session at Century Stereo in San Jose.
Multiple well-appointed rooms were in play, staffed by knowledgeable experts from the vendors. Highlights included:
- All about room treatments (PMI). Why passive treatments still matter, even when EQ/signal processing are used.
- Power conditioning intro (Furman). Is there a difference? Is the conditioned sound truly better? At what price?
- McIntosh Line Array Loudspeakers and Lyngdorf technology. Ever heard a line array? Ever heard these? 110 drivers! Also, how digital signal processing (DSP) can auto-EQ and adjust/widen the “sweet spot.”
- Audio cable technology update from China (Tributaries/Clarus). Video conference with cable pioneer Jay Victor. Why geometry matters, and where Chinese (and Japanese) manufacturing fits in.
- High Resolution Video/Audio by Kaleidescape. What Bluray brings to digital audio, and how the Kaleidescape technology can make powerful video/music servers easy. amazing system.
A ton of great learning, pleasurable listening, and audiophile camaraderie.
Thanks to Melinda and Century Stereo (link at right)!
BAAS just completed a well-attended (over 50 members) gig featuring the rich product line of Everything But The Box (EBTB) Loudspeakers.
Held at the impressive 1340 Mission building – home of Michael Romanowski Mastering, Coast Recorders, and the Tape Project – the event featured 3 demo systems, a nice lobby for extended member discussions, an open bar, great snacks (loved those brownies!), and an expresso bar. But for me, the highlight of the facility was the acoustic qualities of the main studio. It’s hard to find such a neutral sonic environment.
In addition to the facility itself, we were blessed by the participation of several audio experts, most notably Bob Hodas, Michael Romanowski, and Piper Payne. Holding it all together was our sponsor, Konnie May – North American rep for EBTB. And we all thank Parasound, MIT Cables, and VTL for their support via equipment loans.
The sounds were great, the atmosphere light and collegial, and our hosts gracious. A beautiful thing.
Here are some pics, courtesy member Kevin O, to document things….
For those of you looking for additional Memorial Day entertainment, check out the AVshowrooms web site.
Lots of high definition audiophile video. I found the Audio Note UK tour particularly enjoyable. Old world, minimalist design ethos. The YG Acoustics tour was a nice bookend – new world, high-tech approach and materials.
I like the overall concept. It strikes me as a useful adjunct to the written word, and valid means of getting greater exposure to the brands. I would think that quality manufacturers would value the service as well.
Sample below. Go “full screen” for best effect.
Just lovely. Designed by the inimitable Dieter Rams, it featured a 6-tube amp and cord drive.
Affectionately called the “Snow White Coffin” by some. I wonder why….
This system has been a work in progress Since 1980. I bought my first audiophile gear at Hi Fi Haven, which was a high-end audio dealer in my college neighborhood in NJ. This was not a part of town you’d expect an audio store, on its left was a strip club and on its right was Greasy Tony’s Cheesesteaks, which was open all night and staffed with the shadiest motley crew imaginable. Ah, you gotta love college in NJ when the drinking age was 18. Most of my friends frequented the two latter businesses, I think I was the only one who added HiFi Haven as a point of interest.
At HiFi Haven, a guy named Peter Cuddy took the time to teach me how to listen, not just hear. For that I’m not sure if I am eternally grateful or really pissed off for letting a college kid buy a cassette deck in the 4 figures. I wonder if he’s still around? Can’t blame him, since way before we met, I had (as an adolescent) been putting what my wife calls audio-porn up on my bedroom walls. The one I remember distinctly was a cool Sansui receiver with a lit up FM dial I was drooling over at 14 years old. I also remember enhancing the sound of my crappy plastic all-in-one’s speakers by reinstalling them in, wait for it… empty one gallon cardboard milk containers. They sure sounded way better… By 15, I was totally hooked.
As an adult, I tend to choose very good elements that sound great together and hold on to them for a long time while I enjoy my system thoroughly. Only recently did I sell that first piece of high-end gear, which I admit was a strange way to start my Audiophilia – a Nakamichi 680ZX. All those cool phosphorescent lights and knobs to play with… who knew a source component would have been a better choice?
I love gear, but what I really care about is music. As I write this, I’ve got my AKGs on (wife’s asleep), listening to Dexter Gordon’s One Flight Up on a pristine Blue Note test pressing. The combination of my analog front end (both the Alphason/Madrigal set-up and the Townshend/Ortofon rig), fed through the VAC and driven by the Raptor is producing such gorgeous, live sound that it’s hard to imagine it getting any better.
Stop laughing, I know we’ve all felt this way many times… until we reach the next level, where we are once again slack-jawed and astonished that “we never heard that before!”
Adding the REL subs to the Von Schweikert Unifield 3s made my system able to reproduce a believable and frankly astonishing concert-level experience.
Thanks for reading. Your thoughtful comments are most welcome. Except about the photos, I know they suck. I’ll get to them one day. Cheers!
Components list and more pictures on next page…
Last Saturday, BAAS members were treated to a private sitting with the trend-setting DaVinci DAC.
Impressive in both design and specs, members noted in particular the impressive soundstage that the unit projected.
The music played, all hi-res except for the Montserrat Figueras tribute, was either classical or jazz: excerpts of Haydn and Beethoven string quartets, Mozart, Ole Bull’s very romantic violin, Paul Motian and Vince Guaraldi’s jazz, Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall’s period instrument Monteverdi, and, in the second session, Kumiko’s Steve Reich on marimba. A fine tribute to a pair of fallen artists.
Thanks again to Jason Victor Serinus for hosting. His fine room, system, and expert musical selections make auditions a treat.
And, of course, special thanks to Larry Ho and Light Harmonic for supplying this elegant piece of reproduction equipment. You can learn more here.
This weekend offered something new few BAAS members, who were introduced to one of the first net-new technologies to hit the high-end scene in years. Of course, I’m talking about the Qol (think “coal” re pronunciation) algorithm from BSG Technologies.
Each of the three sessions began with a thorough briefing from BSG CEO Larry Kay. We then tested the transparency of the analog circuits in the Qol device. With Qol in a tape loop of the Wavelength preamp, we switched the unit in and out while playing the Mahler 2 from Classic. Not a single member could hear a difference. Nada. This in itself can be considered a fine accomplishment IMO. In fact, add an attenuator and a little gain to the Qol and a great preamp would emerge,
We spent much of the rest of the time switching the actual Qol processing in and out. This test was a bit tougher to interpret, as the nature of the Qol – adding (“restoring”) phase and harmonic information to the signal – results in a 0.5dB-2dB rise in acoustic power. So everybody heard a big and positive difference when the Qol was switched in. The question was how much of this goodness was due to the effect and how much do to the gain.
It’s not my role here to render a judgement. But I will say two things. First, BAAS members were unanimous that the Qol processing did no harm, i.e., the processed signal sounded at least as good as the raw signal. Second, one minute into the demo, an experienced BAAS listener sitting in the room’s sweet spot pronounced “I’m sure it’s doing more than a gain change!” Beyond that, I’d urge interested listeners to spend time with the unit themselves. (As I understand it, BSG has a reasonable home audition policy, at least in the Bay Area.)
All of our testing was supported by the new Triode loudspeakers from Jim Jordan of Vaughn. Jim also brought a stack of Wavelength electronics, which featured NOS Western Electric 300B tubes. The source was my highly-modified Pioneer Elite universal player.
Many thanks to Larry, Jim, and Shawn Herrara (local Qol dealer) for making the event a success.
Edit: The new issue of The Absolute Sound (#220) contains a seven-page rage of the Qol device by Robert Harley.
Front-and-center in the performance were the small-but-mighty BL-10 monitors (pictured). They not only sounded great, but also measured well using the Goldline MP-30 Real-Time Analyzer that was on hand.
Later in the day, newly-minted BAAS member Baron Lum was informed that he won the event’s house prize – a new $990-list Lindemann USB-DAC 24/192. (Unbiased post-event drawing shown.) Talk about “membership has its privileges”!
Many thanks to Jonathan and One World Audio….
The listed freq response is about the same as I hear in some “high end” systems.
So it might be the way to go… (LOL)
One of the true audiophile highlights of the year will be held on October 1st at Fort Mason in SF – Burning Amp.
Virtually mandatory for do-it-yourself (DIY) folks, I also recommend it for “general” audiophiles.
This year will feature a veritable “DIY God” – Douglas Self. I’m sure that I’m far from the only builder who got major acceleration from Mr. Self’s teachings.
Edit: The BA organizers are looking for help, especially in providing high-end digital and/or analog sources for the event. Contact info is on their site.
See you there,
I’m a digital guy, buy I gotta say this is sexy. Recommended by Yarlung Records (which has released two hot-selling LPs and may release on tape). Get yours here. Note that they are coming out with amps and electrostats!
I will investigate for a BAAS event when the line is released.
These pictures via BAAS member Vince (skeptica).
If other members have pix, let me know and I will post them.
The geometry of Nordost Odin. The circuit-in-a-cable approach of MIT. The static charge on Synergistic shielding. All examples of how audio cables have progressed beyond the twisted pair.
But these are childlike in sophistication compared to the Thunderbolt cable, as featured in new Apple Macintosh products.
T-bolt, which some suspect to be the ‘next big thing’ in computer-audio connectivity, houses a dozen I/C’s in each cable!
Check out the details in this iFixit blog piece.
Fascinating stuff (for a geek).
Sporting a “classic” planar baffle for mids and treble, bass is handled by a clever “W baffle” – a feature that no doubt contributes to the speaker’s fine top-to-bottom tonal balance and soundstage stability.
Also contruting to the overall sound were electronics from Pass Labs, Marantz, Bryston, and Auraliti (whose music server is becoming as ubiquitous at BAAS events as the first movement of “Symphonic Dances).
Indeed, I heard several members comment to each other after the event: “best sound I’ve heard in a long time.”
But that’s not all…. Also on hand were the designer (Siegfried Linkwitz) and builder (Don Naples). In addition to the obvious technical expertise of these two professionals, it was clear to me that both were avid audiophiles and music lovers too. Each describes his path in the audio biz, and the technical goals that were the targets of their efforts on Orion.
A discography of the music played is given below.
Thanks to West Valley College and all the folks that helped make this gig the success that it was.
[Late post, with apologies.]
Late last month, our Jason Victor Serinus hosted an event at his home featuring both a vast array of new audiophile technologies and three guest presenters: Jason Jones of Jones Audio and Ray Burnham and Demian Martin of Auraliti.
Highlighting the equipment demmed were:
- The mighty Eficion F300 4-way loudspeakers;
- The sophisticated and elegant (prototype) Auraliti L-1000 file player; and
- The also-mighty Jones Audio PA-M300 Series II monobloc amplifiers.
Also on hand were the Gen. 8 Series II’s 24/192 (and 176.4) upgrade, Stillpoints isolators, Magico QPods, the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport, Nordost Odin cables Odin everywhere, the Wavelength Wavelink USB to S/PIDF interface, and the Amarra playback software (2.2).
Musical selections included hi-res tracks from the new Attention Screen CD, more Yarlung Records via Linn Records hi-res download site, the ever-present works of Reference Recordings and Chesky Records/HD Tracks, and interesting hi-res content from ECM Records. There was also some funky hip-hop!
A bit of levity was added to the proceeding as JVS demmed how a particular orchestral crescendo could literally blow one of his gym socks out of the rear port on the Eficion’s midrange/tweeter module (a “knock your socks off” recording that indeed)!
In addition to the simple joy of hearing great music on a formidable system, members got yet more exposure to the realities of “why all digital does not sound alike.”
Many thanks to all those who made it happen.
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