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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Music, analog audio and the art of cooking

Rare, expensive, sought after... but would you eat a raw white truffle? Was thinking about this no-reply question... a no-problem, would say. Why?
As you know I'm an avid music lover and an humble audio experimenter and searcher, (almost) never afraid or worried to try, be wrong first to be right later on... knowing, learning, trying and trying again... and thinking and being curious about things.
My limit, maybe, the words to explain my findings, but tireless and sincere, nonetheless.
The above to be better understood, 'cause something strange is going on, folks... music listening at home and the noble art of analog audio fine tuning isn't sure the bigger problem humanity has these days... Israel, recession, air-wrecks, crisis, wars... yes, I know: world isn't a quiet place and my chatting could prove too light... but I'm sure that like my mother told decades ago, if people love (more) flowers (nature), Music, pets (nature again)and cooking there would not be wars anymore... I love ALL the above and, I'm - pretty sure - not alone.
Cooking: I quoted above... it's a matter of care, luck, science, adventure and art... the greatest recipes came from chefs who tried a lot, worked hard to learn their skill, but most of all, they did their homeworks: respectfully leaerned and loved tradition, then re-reworked it, sometimes combining unfriendly stuffs - i.e. salt and sweet, fruit and vegetables, fish and meat, local and ethnic, too... eating awful, filthy meals, maybe, to find the rarest of rare: haute-cuisine, creative cooking - i.e. best raw ingredients with most proper aesthetic, quantity and perfect tasting, a nectar, a summa, a great dish is able to hint memories of childhood, travels, a love.. and still being palatable to any non-esoteric mouth and wallet. Easy, isn't it?!?
But... what about the above mentioned white truffles?... who in the world would eat such a gem out of the dirt?... a truffle needs a fresh egg, a pasta to be at its best, complete.
... so, analog audio art of fine tuning: arm, turntable, cartridge and related stuffs sound, NOW, much better and noble and "right", isn't it?!? It's not in any given part, but in the sum of them.
I was thinking quite often since some weeks ago to give a try to an accessory I guessed would have improved my 301 Shindo: a Micro CU-180 copper mat, weird, expensive, weighting 1800 grams, or if you prefere 1,8 kilos and costing an arm and a leg.
Must be crazy, I guessed... then my friend Alessandro posted a pix of one of his 301 with... a CU-180!
Beautiful it sure was, but he didn't say nothing about the sound he obtained.... and curiosity kills the cat, pals;-)
I took a pause, then, few days ago, after some WEB surfing, I found the most variable price-tags... say from EUR 300 to 1K... found an affordable deal and I bought it... voilà!
My CU-180 arrived in nice shape, and after cleaning it from fingerprints of previous owner, I gave a first listen, at last.
My 301 Shindo uses a gun-metal 6 kilos platter and a leaded cloth mat weighting 800 grams... I was using one of my piano-red felt mat, then the Shindo mat, then a pig-skin mat, then record... WOW... completely nut, you'll say, but it's like combining a recipe, blending components for a dish... I listened to several combinations and the one I described above was the last and better sounding.
... I began to change mats, like ingredients of a recipe, and newly combine them, with the new CU-180: platter, Shindo's mat, CU-180... blaaaaah... awful results.
OK, I've been wrong and wasted money... it's a cool mat, BUT doesn't work, I guessed... re-try: platter, wool, CU-180 and pig-skin... better, slightly better, BUT still prefering the previously used combo... enough for this evening, I told myself, a couple days ago.
This evening, in the right mood, gave a re-try: here we go... platter, wool felt mat, pig-skin AND CU-180... gave a listen and I'm listening right now...
... I'd must say... EUREKA... always same VTA, so no possiblity to be fooled... it's a matter of materials matching, taming or resonating in a different way, vinyl and cartridge make a lot of... confusion, sometimes.
So what? I'm amazed, I began listening to a couple of well-known records: lute music, Toyohiko Satoh on Telefunken playing Mouton, de Visee and other French composers... recorded in a church in Haarlem, The Netherlands and my beloved "birds and lute" disc... Anthony Bailes on German EMI Reflexe and again french composers... Tonmeister Johann-Nikolaus Matthes did a masterpiece, in transparence and trueness, BUT most of all... the masterpiece is what I'm able to listen to... it's not a merit of a single "ingredient", but an holy, heavenly match found by chance!
I can't describe the TONS of air and inner micro-details appears like new... from a recording I VERY intimately know... the sensation, the feeling is like I'm able to walk behind the musician, I swear, and hear utterly clear birds singing, being able to understand if their singing come from the roof of recording venue or lower, out of the window... and cars and people chatting during a pause in the recording which I NEVER heard before... Incredibile! Staggering! Mind-boggling! Epoustouflant!
Would describe it as a lysergic experience... better: an "open-chakra mode" kind-of experience... the problem, I told you, are the words.
Nothing special, anyway... as a chef I found the right butter and the freshest egg for a magnificient white truffle my dog found in the wood. It's no hype, just hearing... plain and simple as breathing.
What's utterly important is - again - I'm a step nearer to Music.
That's it and nothing matters than this.

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