Last month I discussed how buying used audio gear can be a great option for any audiophile, even reviewers who have access to industry accommodation pricing (usually a discount of about 50%). This month, I put my money where my ears are.
I bought an amp.
Back in May 2012, I reviewed the Raidho C2.1, a smallish, three-driver, floorstanding loudspeaker from Denmark that retailed for $28,000 USD per pair. A lot has changed since then for the manufacturer of that speaker, Raidho Acoustics. The primary designer of the C2.1, Michael Børresen, has left the company to helm Aavik Acoustics along with his partner, Lars Kristensen. Aavik makes some very expensive amplifiers and a DAC-preamplifier.
Blue Note B0027806601
Format: LP (2)
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
The jazz of GoGo Penguin, a trio based in Manchester, England, takes in all manner of influences, from electronica to the atmospheric rock of Radiohead. Hints of Brian Eno and of current minimalist composers, such as John Adams, also pop up, but this music isn’t slapdash or scattered. It has the improvisational excitement of jazz, while using carefully constructed themes and studio technology to create its sound. The group was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2014, and the following year signed with Blue Note France.
Part of the fun of being an audio reviewer is to discover new gear unknown to the general public. Such a device is this DAC from Waversa Systems, a Korean manufacturer previously unknown to me. Their founder, CEO, and lead design engineer, Dr. Collin Shin, draws on 30 years’ experience in developing low-noise, jitter-canceling chips for precision medical and military applications, to design circuits that will allow the listener to be enveloped by digitally encoded music. In designing this version of the WDAC3, Shin was assisted by legendary American audio engineer and SoundStage! Network equipment-measurement engineer Bascom H. King.
In my last “Opinion” article I wrote about some audio lessons I’ve learned over the years, including this one: “newer isn’t always better. In fact, these days, newer might come about only because the product can be made more cheaply or efficiently. I’ve seen that, too. I don’t need the latest and greatest.”
Rethm’s polymath founder, CEO, and designer, Jacob George, is based in Cochin, in southwest India. He brings to loudspeaker design a nontraditional vision informed by his love of wide-frequency-band, high-efficiency, single-driver speakers, vacuum tubes, his trainings as an architect and engineer, and a musician’s ear. His passions for audio and speaker design were driven by his pursuit of a type of sound reproduction that existed in his imagination: fast, coherent, highly detailed, yet nonfatiguing. The products of that pursuit have been steadily refined, and have culminated in the latest Rethm loudspeaker, the Maarga ($9750 USD per pair).
This morning, I polished my turntable with Speed Wax, from Tirox, which makes cleaning and maintenance products for motorcycles. Speed Wax smells like vanilla and, when buffed off with a microfiber cloth, leaves a wonderful, streak-free shine.
Yes, I polish my turntable. I’m proud of the thing. I smile at it. We understand each other.
ECM 2576 5798928
Formats: LP and CD
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Norwegian jazz drummer Thomas Strønen has appeared on more than 60 albums in the last 20 years, in a variety of groups and settings. Three of those recordings are his own as leader and composer, including the newest, Lucus, his second outing for ECM. His previous release for the label, Time Is a Blind Guide (2015), featured 11 compositions he wrote for a unique septet that included two additional percussionists, a violinist, and a cellist.
Over Thanksgiving and the ensuing week, I flew down from Oregon, where I live, to spend time at a retreat for artists (I write poetry) in northern California near the Bay Area. Because I also had friends to visit, I rented a car when I landed at the Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport, splurging on a full-size vehicle: a silver Chevrolet Malibu sedan. It was big and stable, gave good mileage, and had lots of features. It got me around -- to Berkeley and Lafayette, to San Francisco and Santa Cruz. But it didn’t have savoir faire. It lacked that je ne sais quoi that aging guys like me crave on getaways from our humdrum lives.
The months I’ve spent thinking about and writing the series of “Jeff’s Getting a New Stereo System” articles have taught me some valuable personal lessons. For one, I don’t seek out trophy hi-fi gear anymore. I’ve had more than a few manufacturers tell me in private that they make some models priced in the six figures simply because some rich guys want to spend that much. The practice is commonplace, but I no longer aspire to be one of those rich guys, or to own or even be loaned for review the kind of gear designed for them. If you do, more power to you -- but it’s not me.
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