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Friday, February 15, 2019

Western Electric 300B... at last.

Hopefully so...

Due to international regulations and high shipping costs, the number of countries included in this pre-order opportunity is limited. For questions about future availability in your country, message

In certain high-demand countries, Western Electric partners with dealers and distributors to improve customer experience. See our Authorized Dealers below.
Authorized Dealers
Carefully review the step-by-step information below to make sure you understand the pre-order process
  • Your pre-order reserves a spot in line for 300B's, which will be shipped at a later date. 
  • You have complete control of your order and may cancel at any time.
  • We do NOT process your credit card for payment until your order is ready to ship. 
  • When charged, you may be asked for approval by your bank or credit card provider. We recommend pre-advising your provider to avoid delay in order fulfillment. Be prepared.
  • In the event that your payment information changes or expires in the time afteryour order is placed, you will be asked to re-enter your information or contact Western Electric to ensure fulfillment. 
  • Western Electric has selected FedEx for safe, trackable shipping from our door to yours. Shipping costs are applied automatically using rates set by Western Electric and reflect world region, package insurance, and additional handling. Duties, taxes, and other unpredictable fees controlled by the country of destination, may be due upon delivery of international orders. These additional import charges are the responsibility of the buyer.
Pre-ordering is for customers who wish to purchase tubes directly from Western Electric. You will not be charged until your order ships. You may update, cancel, or otherwise edit your order at any time using your confirmation email.

Western Electric is committed to meeting renewed, worldwide demand for the 300B. Exact time of delivery is based on a first-in, first-out allocation system and a scheduled ramp in production at the Rossville Works. Quantities will be limited and restrictions apply. Western Electric cannot guarantee that your order will ship within 30 days and is committed to offering up to date information regarding exact date of delivery.

For questions regarding the pre-order process, email

Monday, February 11, 2019

Disc of the Month - Bill Frisell - Music IS (Okeh 2018)

What a disc... Bill Frisell IS!

His guitars and loops and effect-boxes soloing is simply unique.

His almost limitless inventiveness and good taste are awesome... and the recording and mastering (by Greg Calbi at Sterling Mastering) gorgeously serves the music.

The guitar(s) and amp(s) are captured so lively and true to life to make you feel Mr. Frisell is playing in your room.

A truly great record.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A new SUT survey 2019

After getting a Soundaries Audio's Western Electric 618B replica, named SOE-02, I had to tame my strong desire to taste it...

My dedicated XLO Signature phono cable wasn't able to stand the wide RCAs, so I had to use Litz/Eichmann cables... but this is only an excuse... I was busybusybusybusy!

When my daily job sort-of allowed my strength back, again... voilà!

I prepared a quite complex survey, having my superb The Head TX-4 vs. Peerless 4685, Western Electric 618B, Neumann Ktr 147C (made by Beyer) and Soundaries 618B clone... all the contenders were used with my cherry-picked Lumiere DST and Garrardzilla.

It wasn't an easy task, folks... most of all, the above SUTs had different RFI rejection habits: Tim de Paravicini's and Peerless 4685 the most easy and deadly silent of the lot.

I admit I was quite curious about the Thai WE618B clone: the original WE618B is unobtanium and fetching truly high prices on pre-owned market, so having an earthly priced design is such a premium.

... but how does it sound, really?

... and what does it mean "clone"?

Before trying to reply to the above questions, let me point it out the people at Soundaries Audio modeled their flagship SUT after direct comparison with their own original Western Electric's...

As I also did, I compared it to my own 618B and...

I also strongly wished to compare VS. my personal reference - i.e. The Head by TdP, bar none.

The WE618B is amazingly - considering its age - modern sounding: detailed, smooth and unforgiving despite it's not huge headroom and frequency range...

The Head is the winner... it's faaaar superior, in my combo/rig, to highly overrated Tango MCT-999: extremely detailed, 3D, fast and dramatic in dynamics.

The Neumann is quite romantic, very pleasant but slightly forgiving vs. the best SUTs...

Peerless 4685 is... WOW! an humble, industrial masterpiece, superbly performing... something I could live with forever. Lively and full-bodied.

Soundaries 618B is such a surprise!

It keeps the authority, smoothness and 3D of original 618B, with an added sense of breathing (someway) unheard in WE's... more similar to my personal reference - i.e. The Head.

SUT is an audio art-niche: they add or subtract spice with naturality to a good recipe... the best SUT matches with a given cartridge into s system.

When you find the heavenly match, you DO understand it with goosebumps, period!

To find this distilled, Zen-like findings... few words, inversely proportional to the hours spent on comparing the evaluated MC-transformers, and a lot of late-night listening-sessions were needed.

I forced myself to remain focused and decided to only use two records to evaluate the above gears: a Fritz Hauser's solo-drumming 2-discs set on Hat Hut's Swiss label and beloved Gillian Welch & David Rawlings' The Harrow and the Harvest, both true full-analog recordings.

The subtleties, harmonic richness, superb details contained in the above mentioned so vastly different stellar quality discs is infinitely intriguing and inspiring to me... the shimmering cymbals on Hauser's discs and acoustics of recording venue never end to surprise me... Gillian and David's acoustic guitars and voices are just a dream...

The above SUTs give their interpretation: more wood or more strings on guitars, trueness of natural sibilants on voices, right weight on drums skins and cymbals brass and decay.

Worlds of beauty, infinitely heartwarming and untiring.

I herewith give a strong 8/10 to Soundaries SOE-02... confirming The Head TX-4 10/10.

WE618B is, in my humble opinion, 9/10... Peerless 4685 is 7/10 and Neumann/Beyer is 6/10...

The above ranking is just my personal taste, in my system, with my own ancillaries.

Bravo to Thailand's Soundaries Audio for the achievement... my only advice is to improve packaging when commercially dealing with their nice products and shipping.

Fowarder's agents hands can be heavy, indeed!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Silence is gold...

... but also music can be gold, as well.

My pal Leif brewed a gold solid-wire in bleached cotton sleeve with Eichmann RCAs for yours truly...

The AudioDharma Cable cooker...

Will report on the matter in the very next days.

Stay tuned.

A blue violin for the Princess of Thailand

From Cremona, Italy to Thailand...

A one of a kind hand-made violin by Maestro Trabucchi in Cremona, the homeland of Stradivari...

I like it.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Disk(s) of the month - Kamilya Jubran - Wameedd and Makan

I already wrote an appreciation of Wanabni by Kamilya Jubran... nice music, oud, voice, trumpet and live electronics...

... just feel worthwhile pointing out more intriguing titles by this seldom heard and quoted artist whose voice and oud are truly unique.

Her strong voice sings poems by Eastern poets like Rumi, Gibran and others... a world of beauty.

Kamilya and Werner Hasler, like on Wanabni, an heavenly team for heavenly music... just don't expect traditional Arabic music because of oud presence.

Kamilya and her oud, recorded in lively acoustic locations in Grenoble... awesome, intimate, love it.

I heartfeltly suggest everyone into seldom heard mesh-up to find and dig these superb disks... you won't regret.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Telecaster 1968 Replica Relic'd by Trevor Vallis

Got this cheap, rat Telecaster replica from Trevor Vallis, a UK's specialist.

This guitar is modelled on the 1968 Fender Telecaster.
The Guitar Build poplar body has been hand relic'd to give it a road worn look.
Fitted with a Fender ashtray bridge with spiral saddles.
Finished in white nitrocellulose and aged.
Fitted with a black 3 ply (BWB) pick guard / scratch plate.

Genuine Fender 'Twisted' pickups have been installed.
CTS 250k pots on both the volume and tone controls.
Oak Grigsby 4 way lever switch.
High quality PIO .047uf tone capacitor.

The guitar has a good quality Fender Squier maple neck with maple fretboard and Schaller 70s tuners. 
It has been stripped, set up and then finished with a vintage amber tint and several coats of nitrocellulose. 
The neck has been hand relic'd and a 1968 decal applied. 

Excellent intonation, low action, almost no fret wear and a warm smooth feel.

Love it.

Monday, January 14, 2019

JC Morrison's brewing The Yellow Snow Fuzz...AKA the ultimate fuzz box

My pal and acrobat engineer extraordinaire JC is brewing the ultimate, most frippy fuzz box, ever... after Russian Germanium transistors whose fractal qualities... ahem, character is more apt... so much influenced by temperature, humidity and... well, they're almost human devices, moody as they can be.

Kidding around the sound coming from JC's ax when trying the prototype of the fuzz, a name came, Yellow Snow - i.e. the great Frank Zappa's tune about the Eskimos and the wise suggestion coming from these great people... don't eat the yellow snow... acid, brrrr....

Someone DO need an in-deep explanation about the meaning of the above?

Well, laughing like kids, JC and yours truly agreed the "most acid and frippy fuzz on the planet" (tm) would have been a Zappa's sort-of-homage.

It's truly amazing and an honor to see the box taking shape, circuit after circuit, I feel the soldering iron smell and fumes in JC's wooden home, up north... with his ladies around.

Love these people... they're like my enlarged family.

Thanks JC.

Jimmy Page vs. Robbie Williams vs. Jimmy Page...

Music and money... money and music... maybe too much money, involved... what would be a neighbours-fight between a 44 yo and a 75 yo in Central London, becomes a case due to the celebs involved... the weapons used in the fight are also unique: music of other rock groups...
Robbie Williams is "blasting Black Sabbath music" to torment his rock star neighbour Jimmy Page over their bitter home extension row, according to a complaint to their local council.
The Take That singer won a five-year battle when he was granted conditional approval last year to build a basement swimming pool at his London home.
Page fears excavation work will damage his 1875 Grade-I listed mansion.

Williams is also said to be imitating Page's former bandmate Robert Plant.
A letter to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea states that as well as Sabbath, the singer has been playing Pink Floyd and Deep Purple songs at high volume, as "he knows this upsets" the 75-year-old Led Zeppelin guitarist, who has lived at Tower House for more than 46 years.
The two stars live next door to each other in Holland Park - Williams's Grade II-listed home used to belong to film director and restaurant critic Michael Winner.

It is not publicly known who wrote the complaint, which is signed "Johnny".
Talking about the row in the Telegraph on Friday, a spokesman for Williams said the claims in the complaint were "a complete fabrication and nonsense".

Sunday, January 13, 2019

King Crimson's beginning

Exactly 50 years ago, downstairs a pub at 193, Fulham Palace Road, London, Greg Lake, Ian McDonald, Michael Giles, Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield began King Crimson.

... while our heroes are still alive and kicking, despite the above average first disc, which sold less than 500 copies when issued in 1968.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Generations gap

Happy 80th Birthday, Topic Records!

With its origins in the Workers’ Music Association, through the mid-20th-century folk revival to the present day, Topic Records has established itself as not only the pre-eminent British folk music label but one widely respected throughout the world.  Remarkably, 2019 heralds this, the oldest independent label in the world’s, 80th anniversary.
The new year will see the label release a flurry of new releases and deluxe re-issues under the Topic Treasures banner – classic Topic albums re-mastered, re-packaged with exclusive new artist sleeve notes and rarely seen photos.   At the end of May, Topic will release a spectacular album of eminent artists from the folk world covering tracks they’ve chosen from the vast back catalogue.  Participating artists include Richard ThompsonMartin SimpsonJohn SmithSam LeeLankumJosienne Clark & Ben Walker and many more.  Further special events, live performances, exhibitions, documentaries, podcasts will pepper the whole year.
During the past 80 years, Topic Records has built a deserved reputation for not compromising the nature of its work or that of the independent spirit of the artists it represents. Irrespective of fads or fashions, Topic has not simply survived, but it has grown and flourished too – proof, if any were needed, that “grass roots” interest in traditional music, the artists and the label itself, has remained constant and strong.  Topic has released some of the most influential folk recordings of modern times by a host of revered artists, from Anne Briggs (see interview) to Peggy Seeger (interviewed here) to June Tabor to Ewan MacColl to Martin Simpson (see interview) to Nic Jones to Shirley Collins (interviewed here) and many, many more.

Shirley and Dolly Collins
Not content to merely rely on the undeniable splendours of the past, Topic Records continues to look forward to the future with considerable optimism for both itself and the genre to which it has long been central.  The label has recently released acclaimed new albums by Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band (‘Big Machine’), Martin Simpson (‘Trails & Tribulations’), new signing Rachael McShane & The Cartographers (‘When All Is Still’) and Norma Waterson & Eliza Carthy With The Gift Band (‘Anchor‘).   Its new ‘An Introduction To…’ series, launched in 2017 has so far compiled 14 definitive primers of the likes of Topic artists Anne Briggs, Shirley Collins, Nic Jones, Norma Waterson, Martin Simpson, June Tabor, John Tams, Martin Carthy and more.

Topic Records Playlist

Listen to a selection of classic Topic Records songs here

The Official Topic Calendar 2019

Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy
Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy (Photo by John Harrison)
To celebrate their 2019 Anniversary Topic have published a 2019 calendar limited edition A3 size calendar, the first ever of its kind for Topic. It includes 28 pages of classic photographs of Anne Briggs, Shirley and Dolly Collins, The Watersons, Eliza Carthy, Martin Simpson, Ewan and Peggy MacColl, Davy Graham and June Tabor to name a few.
Photographs used in the calendar were taken by Brian Shuel, Tom Howard, John Harrison and from the Peter Kennedy archive. The calendar also includes important Topic Records birthday information and is limited to only 500 copies worldwide.
Available at Topic's site shop, while supplies last.
This release marks the start of the 80th Anniversary celebrations in 2019 of the oldest independent record label in the world.

“I’ve been buying and scrounging Topic Records since 1954. It feels like Topic has always been there, quietly doing good work. Like a backbone.” – John Peel, 1999.

I humbly agree: a personal fave of mine, a label which hosted the very best folk music, ever.

Zavalinka Tapes from Moscow - the Heritage Tapes

Great news from Nikolai Kazantsev...

New Heritage Collection. 
Outstanding musicians playing Russian classical music masterpieces.
These tspes are first generation copies from original soviet master tapes.

Master-dubs from original Melodya's master-tapes.

Great music worth digging... those legendary Melodya's recording are awesome.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

In Sheep's Clothing and Gold Line in LA opens - the American way to (Japanese) kissaten

Gold Line in Highland Park and In Sheep's Clothing in Downtown's Art's District are placing as much of an emphasis on music as they are cocktails.

Among Tokyo's bustling streets, there is an underground collection of audiophile venues, sound-obsessed restaurants and clubs. Following in the footsteps of that model, this year two trendy new hi-fi bars have opened in Los Angeles from some notable members of the city's music scene. In the hip Highland Park neighborhood, Stones Throw Records founder and well-known crate-digger Chris Manak (known professionally as Peanut Butter Wolf) founded the Gold Line in the storefront directly under his label's offices.

Gold Line

"We took over the downstairs space a few years ago and used it for photo and video shoots and pop-up shops," says Manak. "We did an event for Record Store Day in it where I rented a U-Haul and brought thousands of my records in there, crated and stacked them up floor to ceiling and had different DJs spin with them -- the fun I had at that event made me want to build a permanent version."

The idea was cemented in his mind when he learned of Tokyo's kissaten culture centered around bar owners' record collections. "It reminded me of that show we did," he continues, "like, 'We could really do this.'" Now, Manak tells Billboard, he sees Gold Line as an extension of his record label, which has been operating out of the same building for the past 15 years and has churned out releases from acts like Aloe Blacc, Dâm-Funk and Snoop Dogg's 7 Days of Funk.

The bar hosts DJs nightly, spinning selections from behind the bar, creating what Manak calls a "co-curation" between himself and the selector. And they have plenty to choose from: In addition to a thoughtfully curated drink menu, enticing patronage is 7,500-piece vinyl collection, which spans a multitude of genres and four decades to amass. It's attractive to DJs too -- among the many requests Manak receives to spin at the bar, a recent one included Marc Weinstein, co-owner of Hollywood's famed Amoeba Records.

"My second grade teacher introduced me to disco and funk and soul music in 1977 and I was hooked on buying my own records ever since," Manak says. "My mom would give me lunch money every day and I'd skip lunch and save my lunch money and buy a few 45s on the weekend. And by the time I was in high school, I had crates of records all over the floor in my bedroom and couldn't even walk in there."

While the drinks are high-end, Manak says a good portion of his patrons come simply for the tunes. "Adrian Younge owns a record store/recording studio next door and I can say he comes strictly for the music because, one, he told me so and, two, he doesn't drink booze," he says.
Of course music and booze alone doesn't make a hi-fi bar, and Gold Line pairs Manak's vinyl collection with an impressive sound system: A Rock-Ola 442 jukebox filled with 7-inch records plays nightly at opening before the music turns to a vintage Thorens turntable with McIntosh Amps and Altec Lansing speakers, outfitted by Kevin Carney of Silver Lake boutique Mohawk General Store.

Meanwhile, roughly 15 minutes away in Downtown's Art's District, tucked away inside the Brooklyn-inspired Lupetti Pizzeria sits In Sheep's Clothing, a cafe by day and cocktail bar by night, created as an added bonus to the restaurant after owner Bryan Ling decided the space was too large to be kept to pizza alone. For the venture, Ling -- who also owns No Name Bar on Fairfax Avenue, where labels will often host listening parties or artist showcases -- wrangled music supervisor Zach Cowie (Master of None, Forever), to bring the musical component of the bar to life and curate the listening experience.

In Sheep's Clothing features an audiophile's dream designed and maintained by Cowie. The intricacies of which, like those of a high-end Japanese whiskey, are likely lost on the average layman, but still it's worth indulging in the details: At the heart of the system are two Garrard 301 turntables with 12-inch Schick Tonearms in custom Vinylista plinths that head into a custom rotary mixer, handmade by Condesa in Australia. The mixer sends the signal to an Audio Note M5 preamplifier, which sends out two signals -- the first to an audio note Jinro Shochu amplifier that powers Klipsch Klipschorn AK6 loudspeakers filling the front of the house, the other to a Mcintosh 6100 amplifier that powers a heavily modified pair of Klipsch Heresys at the bar.

The in-house record collection is split into day and night sections. Says Cowie, "Daytime features more relaxed ambient, modern classical, new age, folk and experimental records that go well with tea and the evening collection runs the gamut but leans heavily on jazz, funk and soul, which all go well with booze."

Though the records on rotation will vary, Ling adds that the bar typically plays whole sides of albums, not just a track at a time. "This matters when experiencing the albums that are a part of our collection and the ones that our guest selectors bring in to play," he says. Cowie also takes over every weekend to host Classic Album Sundays.

In addition to being open to an array of all-day customers, the establishment has featured a few dedicated listenings where labels, managers and the artists themselves have introduced a new album to those that they've invited to be there. "Our first one was of the late Richard Swift's last album, The Hex -- it was emotional and, thus, the right album to kick off this kind of experience," Ling explains.

Ling says In Sheep's Clothing isn't a big room and so he tried to be cognizant of acoustics when designing it, which he says can work against you when there are those who visit who have a hard time keeping their voice quiet. "So far, the best representation of what our intention for the space has been happens during the day and early evening hours," he continues. "This is when most people who visit do so in order to listen to what we are playing without being disruptive to the sound."

Behind Gold Line and In Sheep's Clothing, there is a similar motivation: To inspire listeners to gather and celebrate music in a cozy urban space. The goal is to captivate an audience into simply being in the moment and enjoying an album, rather than feeling the need to whip out phones and Instagram or live tweet the experience. Founders at both bars describe guests leaving their establishments with more than just a buzz from the alcohol.

Says Manak, "My friend Denny Holloway produced a lot of reggae records in the mid '70s. He told me today that the DJ recognized him at the bar and played one of the records he made back then -- Night Food, which he produced for The Heptones in 1976 -- on our vintage sound system and he told me it literally took him back to the specific memory of being in the studio in Jamaica where he originally recorded it and he admitted that it choked him up.

"That's the best compliment I've heard about the bar so far."

Thanking my pal Zach Cowie for preview on his beautiful place... sure my spot when next time in LA. Best wishes, mate!