Art thou troubled? Music will calm thee . . .
—G.F. Handel, Rodelinda
“You need to harden up,” SoundStage! editor-in-chief Jeff Fritz told me a few years back. At the time I was complaining about the rigors of reviewing. My complaint at the time possibly centered on having to move a heavy amp. Or maybe it was because I had to actually visit the post office to mail a component. I forget the exact scenario.
Impulse! Records B0036068-01
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****
The saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings has played with a number of bands and musicians, including the Sun Ra Arkestra, Polar Bear, and The Heliocentrics. Those bands are genre-bending—Sun Ra, after all, stretched the definition of jazz—so it’s not surprising that Hutchings is currently part of a musical trio that has hints of jazz but defies categorization. The Comet Is Coming was formed in London, England, in 2015, and the members of the band appear under pseudonyms. Hutchings is King Shabaka, keyboardist Dan Leavers is Danalogue, and drummer Max Hallett is Betamax.
In my first article describing my visit to Sonus Faber, located in Vicenza, Italy, this past July, I left off in the leatherwork area of the factory. This article picks up on Europe Tour 2022 in a room where a small group of experienced SF technicians creates the crossover networks for the various Sonus Faber loudspeaker models.
The city of Vicenza, Italy, is situated just west of the popular tourist destination of Venice and about 200km east of the bustling city of Milan. It’s famous for its historic buildings and architecture, including works from 16th-century architect Andrea Palladio. We—my wife, Andrea; our son and daughter, Ian and Abigail; and I—arrived on a Sunday evening after a four-and-a-half-hour train ride from Lake Como, in Italy’s north. After sitting on a train for almost half a day, we were ready to explore—on foot.
I’ve been in this game long enough to know that something special is arriving when it comes in flight cases the size of telephone booths. I half expected to see “Pink Floyd, Wembley Stadium, London” stamped on the side. Ben Lilly, ATC’s cheerful sales director, read my mind as he flung open the rear doors of the firm’s smart blue van. He smiled and said, “Don’t worry, it’s not too bad, they’re on casters.” When I was younger I thought it would be great fun being a roadie, traveling the world, getting drunk with rock stars, getting laid by groupies, and sharing the camaraderie of the tour bus at 4 a.m. as the sun rose over the Nevada desert. Nowadays, my aspirations are more limited—managing to haul these ATC speakers into the house without my feeble spine crumbling into a mixture of dust and broken sinews would do. I reckon I could still manage the getting-drunk-with-rock-stars thing quite well, but I’m not sure I could keep up with the groupies anymore.
Blue Note Records BST-84221 / Ume 4579754
Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: ****½
Overall Enjoyment: ****½
Jazz organist Larry Young died too soon—in 1978, at the age of 37—but he had played on many notable sessions throughout the ’60s and ’70s, both as sideman and leader. He appeared on Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew and John McLaughlin’s second album, Devotion, both in 1970. He was a member of the Tony Williams Lifetime from 1969 to 1971, alongside McLaughlin and Jack Bruce. Young recorded as a leader for a number of labels, but his best-known album under his own name was Unity (1966), his fifth album and his second for Blue Note Records.
As I walked around the AVA Group’s facilities in July with Hans-Ole Vitus (CTO) and Alexander Vitus Mogensen (CEO), it became clear to me that both father and son were well equipped to answer any question I had, explain any technical process associated with the construction of Vitus Audio or Alluxity products, and walk me through the machines AVA has invested hundreds of thousands of euros in, on which they rely heavily. It was also quite obvious to me that before Alexander took over as CEO earlier this year, he had learned the business from the ground up—he knows the products and what goes into them from the inside out.
Vitus Audio has been a staple of the high-end solid-state electronics realm since Hans-Ole Vitus established it, under the umbrella of AVA Group, in 1995. His son, Alexander Vitus Mogensen, started AVM-TEC—primarily a manufacturing and measurement firm—at the ripe old age of 18. Around that time, Alexander also launched Alluxity, a high-end brand that makes design-conscious—but still very high-end—electronics, including integrated amplifiers, power amplifiers, and preamplifiers. This year AVA Group and AVM-TEC merged, and they operate out of a shared building in Herning, Denmark. It took roughly an hour and a half to travel from Aarhus—our home base at the time—to Herning to tour the factory and learn more about the new AVA Group.
If you click through any high-end publication today, you’re bound to find advertisements for many alluring turntables and tonearms. If you look a bit closer, you may notice that despite looking very different, most turntables and tonearms appear to be exorcizing similar demons: induced vibration and improper stylus alignment.
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