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Friday, May 28, 2010


There is a disc which stayed with me since early '70s... it's "U" a double records-set by Incredible String Band.

I collected over the years ALL I.S.B.'s discs, an immense production spanning four decades, several members turnovers, BUT always with Robin Williamson and Mike Heron at the head of the rooster.

For that very record, the original I.S.B. merged with a theatre/dance group, Stone Monkey, whose Malcolm LaMaistre was to become a member 'til the very end of the group, years later...

Why, ohhh why am I talking about "U" and not one of the 35+ other records they produced?

Because "U", so named after the fabled kingdom, also called Shambala, in the Hymalayas, contains musical anthems and chanting, more than "songs" or "tunes"... some critics and reviewers expressed in the past some sort of blaming when talking about this disc(s) - i.e. lacking of cohesiveness, excessive weirdness, unmusical - while I consider these very same caveats as a plus... strange world: I like the subtle pleasure of the apparently "wrong" note, of the unexpected melody, of the strange tonal palette and tone colours - i.e. shenai, fiddle, oud, irish harp and kazoo!

Songs like Bridge Song, Time, Puppet Song, El Wool Suite, Bridge Theme, Invocation are, they truly are, masterpieces... it's not classical music, but beside being played and composed by young, brilliant minds, they ALL have an ancient patina, like a time-induced burnishing... also when I wsas younger, I was captured by those superbly "different" melodies and soundscapes.

It's like listening to something "wrong", as I wrote... alien - songs too lengthy or short, "wrong" beats blues, wrong, weird time-signatures, too slow jigs and reels... BUT after some careful listenings... voilà!

All make sense and it's like breathing fresh mountain air in a clear, bright morning.

It's heavenly food for the ears, the soul and the mind.

Give "U" a try, folks...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Horns fundamentals

In the early days of sound reproduction, amplifiers supplied extremly modest powers and loudspeakers were not very efficient at all. But genial, yet simple, idea had accoured, like cupping your hands to your mouth to shout, a horn increases sound pressure of not very efficient driver. In 1928, the wider bandwidth of the Rice-Kellogg direct radiator loudspeaker and availability of higher-power amplifiers all but removed the horn loudspeaker from home audio systems. After 1928, horn loudspeakers were only found in theater PA systems, until the introduction in the late '40s of the Klipschorn, which spawned a revival of horn loudspeakers in the '50s. The introduction of high-power solid-state amplifiers and small bookshelf speakers in the '60s removed horns from home audio systems. In the early '90s, the hipe of SET tube amplifiers spurred a new interest in horn designs.
A horn can be seen as an acoustic transformer that couples the air at the surface of the diaphragm with the air in the listening room, thus matching high pressure/low volume to low pressure/high volume.The name acoustic (impedance) transformer derives from this model of description.

Another explanatory model of horn behaviour exists and, by my opinion, describes functioning of a horn, equaly well. Horn can be seen as guideing path to the driver's output radiation, preventing it from going to other areas. This ability to control (reducing radiation from full space or half space to horn mouth area) loudspeaker's dispersion pattern is a reason for high efficiency.

Even though modern amplifiers can power cone and compression drivers to very high output levels, increasing a driver's efficiency through horn-loading reduces strain and minimizes distortion. At the high output levels demanded by today's loudspeaker standards, harmonic distortion remains a problem for poorly designed drivers and systems.

A horn will be effective in any given frequency range depending only on the size of its mouth and the rate of its flare. Bass reproduction from a horn is NOT bassless by default. Usually this happens when the designer compromises to much, and foreshortens the horn in order to get the physical dimensions down. Because wavelengths in the lower octaves are so large (allmost 7m at 50 Hz), the construction of practical and "mobile" horn is not very possible.

A horn system is a lot more efficient than any other type of enclosure. At the same SPL driver in horn design has smaller excursion than in other type of boxes or in open air, thus horn driver will operate linearly, producing less distortion. The horn permits the driver displacement to be small without sacrificing acoustic output, this means lower distortion and/or higher power handling.

very dynamic
extremely low THD, IM, and FM distortion
excellent impuls (transient) behaviour
high efficiency and ease of drive
steep cutoff characteristics at both ends of the frequency range
problems with impulse response, diffraction, and smooth dispersion

Contours/flare rate

The horn contour is the expansion (flare) rate of a horn. There are few curves appropriate for audio application; these are conical, exponential, hyperbolic, tractrix contour and permutations between them dependant of designer's needs. Parabolic horns are so inefficient that they are really of no practical use.
Of these, the conical is the easiest one to calculate and stuff into a box, but it's also the least efficient. Conical contours are never employed for bass horns, because of the poor response and the impossibly long horns that result.

The exponential is the most commonly used, and is easy to calculate. It is probably the best flare trade-off high efficiency vs. low distortion. This is why a very large number of commercially produced horns feature exponential contours.

The hyperbolic contour is a variety of the exponential, and is the most efficient type. A hyperbolic horn by comparison is pretty much like a trumpet stretched out, a tube that flares very little until it gets to the end where it flares suddenly. The trade-off is more distortion in the deep bass region. The problem with such a tight flare is that as sound pressures increase, the restricted passage for the air causes it to begin to compress. This causes distortion - not good. You don't want to compress the air, cause it gets hot, etc, etc - and the sound starts to sound really bad. Hyperbolic horns are also somewhat longer than exponential horns.

The tractrix is sometimes called the tractory or equitangential curve. It is a curve well-known in the world of mechanics. The tractrix was first studied by Huygens in 1692, who gave it the name ``tractrix.''. Later, Leibniz, Johann Bernoulli and others studied the curve. P.G.A.H. Voigt "reinvented" and applied to horn speaker acoustics in 1926. The tractrix contour has characteristics similar to the exponential, but has the advantage of being shorter (the curve expands faster). The disadvantage is that it's somewhat awkward to calculate, since you can't directly calculate the area A(x) at a distance x from the throat. This should not be problem today, since computer software is accessible through net (

Flair rate (T) - from conical to hyperbolic curve:
the gain of a horn depends upon its shape

Mouth size

The mouth size of a horn determines the lowest frequency at which there still is any significant reinforcement of the sound.
Graph shows output of two horn with same throat size and contour, but with different lenghts, therefore different mouth size

In the end the Final Rolloff of the Horn will be 18db/Octave as cancellation and horncutoff combine. This together defines the absolute available low-end cutoff and it is obvious from what is said, that a small horn cannot go very low.

Throat size

The throat of the horn can be as big as the transducer cone or smaller. Maximum efficiency is achieved when they are the same size, but the bandwidth is decreased. To increase the bandwidth, mouth must be smaller. The ratio of the cone to the throat is known as Sd/St. Of course, as you increase Sd/St (or reduce the throat size) the efficiency drops. The improved efficiency of the horn is gained at the loss of bandwidth. So, it may be louder but it will drop off in frequency at the upper end sooner.

Front loaded horns

Front horns are primarly used for high, mid or higher bass freq. regions. They can be used as bass enforcement especially at PA loudspeakers in multi-way configurations, where one unit covers only limited frequency range.
They don't sufffer from combo effect of rear horns (two different sources (a driver and a mouth) which are missaligned in phase) and are great partner for full range drive units, which tend to loose efficiency around 1kHz and below.

The front horn will (again depending upon it's profile) give a certain reinforcement to the lower midrange, so ideally this horn is designed to raise the lower midrange to the level of the "bump" in the drivers frequency response.

At higher frequencies the coupling of the Driver to the Horn will become "looser" and the direct radiation of the Driver will dominate the Frequency Response. Again skillfull blending of these two will result in a very flat frequency response.

Rear loaded horns

A rear loaded horn radiates acoustic energy from two separate sources; from a driver fireing directly and horn's mouth. Regardless of horn's path lenght it radiates 180 degrees opposite in phase with a driver. Horn's lenght adds additional phase difference between two sources.
Because of this dipole action there is a frequency below which the driver's rear and front action will cancel. This frequency is dependent upon the length of the horn. The longer the horn, the lower the frequency at which the the cancellation set's in.

Real life tricks

A horn-loaded cabinet has to be large to have smooth frequency response. This is of course dependent on the lowest frequency response the cabinet needs to reproduce. One of the old rules of thumb said that you need a horn with an opening of 10 metres in diameter to reproduce frequencies down to about 30 Hz with smooth response - a touch or two larger than your average vented cabinet. In fact, those huge bass bins at the rock venue are usually useless below about 50 Hz or so - even though it feels like the sound pressure will crush your body.
There are only a bunch of people who can afford monstrous no compromise bass horns and not be thrown out by their living partners. Because physical dimensions of unfolded bass horn are so nonpractical, horn contour must be folded. This building condition makes actual horn response unpredictable. Instead of smooth, uniform contour, we have an array of resonating chambers. Functioning of this relatively weak resonators can be noted as resonance peaks and dips in impedance and frequency response plot. This could be rendered to certain degree with an aid of computers, thou it would not be easily covered mathematically.

Even when size of a horn is reduced with foldings, they are still pretty big. There are few tricks which can be used to reduce horn size without loosing to much low bass performance.

Hornmouth is placed near the floor, so reduced radiation by the floor allows reduction of hornmouth to 1/2 the orginal, with a theoretical 100Hz hornmouth effectively offering a response down to 60Hz.
Hornmouth is placed into a corner. Now it radiates only in 1/8 of full space and increases the accoustical output of the hornmouth. This is the case with classic fullrange horns a'la Klipsch and Voight Horn (1936) or majority of conteporary horns.

Flag Counter - a cool new feature

WOW... A busy world

I added it to my Blog today... I'm impressed.

Thanks, Flag Counter;-)

... and thanks, A BIG one, to the several friends from 42 different Countries who kindly visited my Blog in less than 24 hours...

Records length and quality...

Muddy Waters' Folk Singer is about 32 minutes long... Gregg Allman's Laid Back 35... Bert Jansch and John Renbourn's Bert & John... 29 minutes... Martin Carthy's first on Fontana about 35 minutes...

All the above are - plainly said - seminal, music lighthouses discs and no one in the decades argued they've been too short and content-shy...

So what?

Quality or having a message is most important than giving to the market super-packed 70 minutes+ sometimes boring, overwordy, busy disks.

Gregg Allman's Laid Back

Laid Back (Gregg Allman album)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Laid Back

Studio album by Gregg Allman
Released 1973
Genre Southern rock
Length 35:27
Label Capricorn
Producer Johnny Sandlin and Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman chronology
Laid Back
(1973) Gregg Allman Tour

Laid Back is a 1973 album by Gregg Allman and was released on the Capricorn Records label. It peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Pop Albums charts in 1974.

Allmusic stated: "Recorded in the same year as the Brothers and Sisters album, this solo debut release is a beautiful amalgam of R&B, folk, and gospel sounds, with the best singing on any of Gregg Allman's solo releases." In Rolling Stone, reviewer Tony Glover said "Laid Back isn't quite what you'd expect from Gregg's work with the Brothers Band. Instead, it's a moody LP, often tinged with grandeur, and maybe just a little too rich and one-colored in spots. But on the whole, a moving look at another side of a finely charismatic singer/writer."

Track listing
"Midnight Rider" (Gregg Allman & Robert Kim Payne) – 4:28
"Queen of Hearts" (G. Allman) – 6:17
"Please Call Home" (G. Allman) – 2:48
"Don't Mess Up a Good Thing" (Oliver Sain) – 4:13
"These Days" (Jackson Browne) – 3:56
"Multi-Colored Lady" (G. Allman) – 4:55
"All My Friends" (Scott Boyer) – 4:32
"Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (Traditional - Arranged by G. Allman & Johnny Sandlin) – 4:49

Gregg Allman – vocals, organ, acoustic guitar
Bill Stewart – drums
Chuck Leavell – acoustic and electric pianos, vibes
Tommy Talton – acoustic, electric and slide guitars, dobro and tambourine
Scott Boyer – acoustic, electric and steel guitars, electric piano
David Brown – bass
Buzz Feiten – guitar
Charlie Hayward – bass
Paul Hornsby – organ, keyboards, clavinet
Jai Johanny Johanson – percussion, conga
Carl Hall – background vocals
Hilda Harris – background vocals
Cissy Houston – background vocals
Emily Houston – background vocals
June McGruder – background vocals
Helene Miles – background vocals
Linda November – background vocals
Eileen Gilbert – background vocals
Maretha Stewart – background vocals
Albertine Robinson – background vocals
Jim Nalls – guitar
David "Fathead" Newman – saxophone
Johnny Sandlin – bass
Butch Trucks – percussion, cabasa
Ed Freeman – strings
Max Cahn – violin
Tony Posk – violin

Production notes
Johnny Sandlin – producer, arranger, engineer
David Boyd - personal manager
Ovie Sparks – engineer
Buddy Thornton – engineer
George Marino – engineer, mastering
Jim Reeves – engineer
Retrieved from ""

As always, after Wikipedia's cold facts... a question: what brings an artist to begin an album with the most beautiful song available at that moment?

What would you do in his shoes?

Solid Air for John Martyn... Midnight Rider for Gregg Allman... Leather and Triad on Jefferson Airplane's Crown of Creation (ok, ok: they're 2nd and 3rd tracks, BUT soooo perfect songs;-))))... everything you'll listen after these masterpieces in the following tracks will be lesser...

... but this quite uncommon practice - i.e placing the strongest cut at the very beginning says also... "Hey, listen to my very best stuff!"... it's a generous act.

BTW... a sonically superb disc, as well...

The most perfect song - Solid Air - John Martyn

The first time I listened to the first take of John Martyn's album bearing same title, his seldom-heard, weird voice gave to a younger me the same feeling as when I sipped for the first time a Laphroaig single-malt, turfed Islay's whisky... oh, oh... what's wrong with "that": ten-to-be Islay's nectar was, at first, perceived like a medicine (...) and John Martyn's voice as a... broken cartridge/turntable by-product.

I was young, I told you... as years passed, both the above became part of my life...

Solid Air was written and composed and dedicated to John's friend, the late Nick Drake.

John Martyn claimed several times to be a John Coltrane's music lover and, indeed, his voice reminds in some passages, the deep tone of a puffing tenor sax, that cool air-column which is so similar to an old pipe-organ...

His "S" which sounds like "ZZZ" - i.e. SZZZooolidddaiiirrr is sometimes so painfully beautiful and remains carved in every listener memory; the vibes, a superb, reverbed Rhodes' electric piano, a sax solo and that cheap Yamaha acoustic guitar with a white DeArmond pick-up producing those plucked, percussive strings attack, all this contrributes to transform a song in a world.

A perfect world of classy balance and beauty.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Marty's place - another useful link

TAS' list and other goodies

Collectors Frenzy

Whatever your tastes and interests,
Collectors Frenzy gives you an insight view of Ebay prices reached, so, like Goldmine used to do, it's virtually impossible you'll auction your most prized waxes below par.
An useful tool, indeed.

Sexy blues - Howlin' Wolf Chess LP 1469

The most sexy blues album I'm aware of... lots of jokes in titles and text... DON'T ask what "Red Rooster" means;-)))

A great disc.

Blues auction of the year

Anyone interested?!?! Ebay # 170489347902

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is it time for a Decca cartridge?

Someone loves it, someone hates it...

Sure worth some interest...

Thanks to David from Hong Kong for the superb pictures.

Don McLean's American Pie and the record shops

Reading last Mojo music mag issue, I had the pleasure to know the behind the curtains story of one of my heroes, a man who grew up in New Rochelle, NY state and read about Buddy Holly's untimely death during his morning job as a kid, delivering newspapers... a poet and sensitive human being who wrote Vincent after Van Gogh's life and facts and... American Pie.

This very song, 8 minutes+ long, I heard at the radio in 1971 when it was issued... I remember - hey I was quite young, and had had my very first LP (Le Orme - Collage) as a Christmas' gift from my dad, that year - I saw that 45 rpm strange cover on a... sewing machines shop which also sold some records!!!

It was the only record they had behind the window glass and looked so powerful... I still remember I looked at the painted thumb, very impressed.

Entered the shop and asked for a listen to that record side one and two of the song, splitted in two parts, one per side...

I bought it... ottocentolire (eighthundred italian lira) and it stayed with me for almost my life - I still have it - and it still seems strange to me listening to "American Pie" as a single shot... "my" American Pie is splitted in two, like on "my" 45 rpm...

Forty years ago, I fondly remember, in my hometown, Padua, there were plenty of record shops... tiny, large, franchising groups, alternative, specialized (disco, second-hand), discount/remainders/cut-offs, in every shopping-mall there was a records corner; there was also a Decca group wholesaler with zillions discs where I purchased AMAZING records, then MUCH sought-after collector's items...

I remember, when about 15-16 years old, I used to browse with some insistence at a newly opened "strange" record-shop, Il Ventitre Dischi, (twentythree records, so named after the street number, Via Soncin, 23...) - the owner was a musician who toured South America for months with a singer, then to become a famed soundtracks composer, Pino Donaggio, and returned with money enough to open a London-styled records shop: no small records-bins, BUT a pipe-line-like tube, Lenco turntables like in a disco and some cool, multicoloured cubes where to listen to music, seated...

This place soon became a gathering place in town where youngsters met to chat of music and the like...

Maurizio Boldrin, the former drummer and owner of the shop knew where to shop for import-records, not alone in Italy (Carù, Nannucci, Buscemi): every town had his "right" place for records shopping...

It happened after some weeks I was hired as a part-time clerk and counter seller... this fact someway changed my life... I was paid in discs;-)))!!!

Jefferson Airplace, Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna, Moby Grape... Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Martin Carthy, John Renbourn, John Fahey... the complete discographies augmented... on and on...

Cool music, people, girls.... GIRLS.

Then, years on... after my shop knowledge, I wrote some little review on "The Wild Bunch" and "L'Ultimo Buscadero" music mags... and music was, definitely, in my DNA, like records and collecting.

... then they arrested the owners of a freaky record shop for dope and, shortly after one, two, many tiny suburban records shops closed... only larger shops survived... but the Magic was gone.

.... woooooooooooooooooooooshhhhhhhhhh...

... entered the digital disks... then it was the Web and downloads era...

... but I'm still purchasing vinyls like in the '70s and smelling inside the covers like I used to do in my teens... to try to replicate the emotion of Miles Davis' SIESTA OST and Joni Mitchell's For the Roses which smelled of patchouli (!!!) and first Windham Hill's discs, which scented so good and... I still cherishes my "American Pie" single.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The most perfect song - Moon in June - Robert Wyatt and The Soft Machine

When I purchased "Third" - the seminal double-record set by Soft Machine - decades ago, I sure wasn't prepared to The Beauty of "Moon in June".

I was already aware of Robert Wyatt's voice, from that "Hope for Happiness" on SF's first effort on Probe label, a voice which was able to stop the clocks in all house... BUT, nonetheless, "Moon in June" was, still is REALLY too much for everyone's mind!

Its length seems changing depending on the listener mood, on weather and colour of sofa and room walls... it's a fractal, tesseract-like "thing", where this heavenly voice is an instrument, where the simple melody is also ever changing and, myself as many others, after a whole life spent listening to it, well, you cannot surprise in finding always new, unheard and hidden notes and nuances.

The time changes are so often performed you can consider it as a liquid variation, a movement-structured piece, Andante, largo, minaccioso, calmo, presto...

... but this voice, beside every word and the rivers of ink which has been used to describe it, THIS very voice tells all and everything.

It's like re-re-reading "Siddharta" by Hermann Hesse or some Khalil Gibran's book; you feel quite stupid when you pick up the worned out book from the shelf, because, hey... I'm not eighteen years old anymore... BUT, after first pages, like at first "Moon in June"'s notes... you simply breathe, and let life and beauty of creation flowing... simply, as misterious as life itself... simple as a flower, yet sooo complex: I'm whistling it right now, and also a lone, humble whistle gives to that song it's full glory , uniqueness and dignity.

A love for life, folks... as a gift, I'll give you a true gem of an hint, for free: Robert Wyatt could sing Great London telephone directory and the result would still be Music!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

WJAAS - Kurashima Labs and the making of a tube

Amazing, old timey vacuum-tubes workmanship

Toshiaku-san masterpieces... worthwhile looking at WE 171A irons re-winding and Toshi's amps layout

Thanks to Orrin for hinting this.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Audio Hooligans?

Was considering... it seems audio, audio owning and ownership, is akin being an adept to this or that church or faith.

Also... maybe, say MAYBE, only (European style) soccer is on same par in squeezing out from people their lowest human instincts as violent behaviours against this or that (so-called) "foe" - i.e. the owner/aficionado of a given "different" gear or team.

Any Ducati, Guzzi or BMW motorbike owner/user does not shot each others, but usually flashes lights when finding a fellow - riding any make - motorbiker on a Dolomites' panoramic route... not the same at a Champions' League event between followers of X vs. Y teams or on a typical audio forum.

Audio-related Taliban-like behaviours are so common on WEB I almost do not surprise myself anymore...

I tried - also in my limited philosophical knowledge and skills - to figure out "why" this happens: I sort-of recognized some well established patterns...

The "IKA" - i.e. I know all: they are universal expert in digital, analog, building, DIY, designing, tweaking... inventors and (someway) selfish people... am I among them?;-))) Maybe, who knows...

Then, the "wannabes" - they dream about the magazines audio-systems, but they inherited a ghetto-blaster and never applied any saving discipline or whatever to reach any goal whatsoever, so they simply, blindly blame and disregard everything, but their beloved/hated ghetto blaster, period.

The "penny-pinchers"... sometimes wealthy people with short arms;-) - they pollute the forums asking for advice and pat-patting about the purchase of a DL-103...

The "I own the best, period"... among the most dangerous: they try to sell a cheap Philips disk player for 4-digits amounts... because, "hey, I pre-owned this!"... and every piece of gear they own is, simply said, the best ever built, bar-none!

The "violent dudes"... they're not interested in audio or music or whatever... they only love their own ego, period. You can find them, using different nicknames and avatars, in rose-breeding, audio, boats, mountaineering and stamps collecting-related forums... and they're ALWAYS angry with the world... an angriness maybe caused by some sexual harassment and abuse they suffered when younger!

The "trans-genders"... yes, folks... there are, as I'm aware of, a couple of audio-buffs who sign themselves as ladies... it's amusing seeing them signing as "Judy" while being a "Dick";-)... and, amusingly, Web audio-machos overly galant and supportive and kind... and they, the bastards, having lotta ill-fated good-time.

The "gamblers"... I know some double-faced guys who claim they own this or that, but their digital-camera is always broken and the computer pixes folders always in troubles, so impossible to "see" any actual pictures of their stuffs... and they will NEVER invite you to have a listen to their ALL Western Electric systems because, in ten years or so, their children are always having a bad flu (...)

The "pro-offender"... so you own a DL-103, you motherfucker, s.o.b.?!?!? You still use a Thorens TD-125?? ... you, father-raper... you little dicky... you... you... etc. etc. etc.

Seriously... the patterns are as various as the difference you can find in a crowd; what I feel confortable to suggest is the following: I prefere arriving to audio chatting after a live concert, if the case... the audio-lover in a music-lovers audience is far, far more enthusiast about music and its message and meaning than the average audio people attending to any audio fair on the planet.

Also if an amp or a turntable isn't a BMW 740 or a Lotus Elan, it's, nonetheless, something which still gives some space to ego & power-games - i.e. as a 2 litres car has to give route to a 4 litres on an highway overtaking lane, the owner of a Rogers LS 3/5A should surrend, hands-up, to a Grand Utopia owner!?!

I deeply disagree and blame it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Western Electric - myth and reality

An interesting discussion is happening at Roman Bessnow's always great forum, concerning the real sonic value, pros & cons, of old cinema Western Electric's large baffles, horns and field-coils drivers based systems.

I had several exposures to WE sound (and some G.I.P. replicas, hand-made in Japan) in both mono and stereo configurations: Paris in the '80s, Tokyo in 2009, Munchen in 2008, all using WE 15A-555W mids/597 highs and Jensen's 18" boomers - ALL field-coils/Tungar's P.S.U. - and, IMO, yes... WE's sound means something to ANY serious music/audio lover: impressive, natural, life-like... but someway subtleties shy and "romantically" forgiving...

Have a read to Romy the Cat's threads: enriching thoughts a go-go.

... and, why not, some WE porn

The Art of Mastering - Stan Ricker

From his early days at RTI in Menlo Park, CA and his collaboration with the young Will Ackerman and his new-born Windham Hill record-label to MoFi and UHQR glory to present days, Stan has always been the VERY best of the crop.

Have a read to an interesting interview
here - part 1, here - part 2,
here - part 3, here - part 4,
here - part 5
etc. etc. etc.

Just scroll at the end of the pages to arrive to an end of interview...

An artisan: skill, passion and genius, without loosing the target... Music.

F.I.M. - First Impression Music

Stan Ricker and Winston of F.I.M.

Why do FIM CDs sound superior?

How is a FIM CD born?

The audiophile community knows that FIM CDs sound audibly superior!

But do you know why? Please take a minute to find out the answer.

A normal CD is generally produced through three major steps:
A producer finds the music.
An engineer records the music, and another engineer masters the recorded material in a format that is suitable for production.
A replication plant manufactures the discs in quantity.

How FIM does it

We seek out music that has special quality and uniqueness, and arrange for its performance by unsurpassed artists.
We find the best engineers available. Winston Ma often works with engineers who are professors in recording technology, and chief engineers of mastering studios. Winston works with the engineers throughout the process and attends all master sessions to ensure that the sound quality meets the standard he wishes to achieve.
The normal replication process follows this pattern: the mastering engineer sends a CDR/CDCR containing the mastered music file to the replication plant for glass-stamper making, then CDs are pressed with the stamper, packed, and shipped to the label company.

From the viewpoint of FIM, this process can create uncertainty in several areas of quality control:

The music file is dubbed from the hard drive onto a CDR through a CD burner or similar equipment in the mastering studio. The quality of the burner, the power supply, and the cable cannot be ascertained. In addition, two generations of transfer of the musical signal are incurred, i.e., from the hard drive to the CDR burner/recorder, and then onto a CDR. The quality of the CDR varies from disc to disc, sometimes quite significantly. This is true for the burner as well.
The technical staff at the replication plant dub the music file onto their equipment, such as a hard drive or the glass-stamper making machine. The quality of the transfer is not consistent due to the possibly unsatisfactory condition of the machines or other technicalities. Two more generations of transfer of the music signal are also incurred. This is often part of the reason why a good recording may result in an inferior sounding disc.

FIM’s requirements

(i) The music file in the master engineer’s hard drive is uploaded to the computer of the glass-stamper machine directly via FTP (File Transfer Protocol), bit by bit, at no loss, eliminating two generations of transfer and lowering the jitter rate. (FIM believes generations of transfer will lead to possible loss of information and increase in coloration.)

(ii) FIM specifies that the average block error rate (BLER) of each disc is below 20. In fact, in most cases, the BLER is below 10. The Red Book industrial standard is 220. Hence, the quality of FIM discs can easily excel normal CDs by 22 times.

(iii) From October 2008 onwards, all FIM regular discs are made of 99.9999% silver; all Collectors’ Edition and Direct-from-Master Edition discs are made of 24 K gold.

Why silver and gold?

Because of FIM’s research in metallurgy.

The laser head of a CD player employs reflection to read the musical signal from the metal foil of the polycarbonate disc.

It is well know that silver, followed closely by gold, yields the highest reflectivity among the metals. Aluminum is commonly used material because it is less expensive, however it is also less durable over time compared to pure gold and silver. In addition, 24k gold is an inert non-corrosive metal which will not oxidize over time, extending the CD’s lifetime.

Furthermore, gold, followed by silver, provides the ultimate in malleability, meaning the foil has a smoother surface and fewer pinholes, and thus more linear reading and less drop-out can be achieved. A visual inspection shows that FIM discs are thicker and stronger (for less fluttering and resonance); the foil is much less transparent (thicker foil improves data storage capacity while reducing BLER and jitter); and nearly free of pinholes (for less drop-out of information), in comparison with other kinds of discs.

(iv) FIM maintains a high level of quality control:
A test run is required for every new album.
Winston Ma personally auditions the test pressing before giving approval for production.
All production discs are then subjected to a stringent final visual inspection before being packed in-house.

Digital how it should be done!

Thanks to Fabio for hinting this...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


LAGUARDA, PEP & TAPINERIA Brossa d'Ahir (Discmedi Blau Records)
Wow! What a dreamy Spanish psych-folk gem this is! A gorgeous sonic gem from the late 70's only making it to our eager ears nearly 30 years later. Turns out this is the only album that Pep Laguarda released, but what a timeless record left for future generations to enjoy. With production and assistance from Daevid Allen of Gong and Soft Machine, Brossa d'Ahir is the kind of record you put on and then just drift away and get lost with. So breezy and well crafted, these are songs designed for long daydreams, windows down as the wind comes rushing in and the scenery breezes by. Pep Laguarda & Tapineria is reminding us of the Chilean cosmic psych-folk of Congregacion, the tender touch of Caetano Veloso and the sprawling beauty of Neil Young albums like On The Beach or Comes A Time. We can imagine that if they aren't already, current day folks like Brightblack Morning Light, Devendra Banhart, Will Oldham and Vetiver would be drooling over the beautiful melodies and flowing ambience of this three decade old document of psych-folk perfection!

Buy it!

Thanks to Blog-bro "aeSOTERIC Sounds"... a music goldmine!

Ypsilon Electronics from Greece

LCR Phono and other goodies

Very cool designs and products from Greece.

Superb LCR and Hybrid/SET vertical-built amps.

Pure and tasty.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

An open-reel dream - Kostas Metaxas, Stellavox and the Music

I had the pleasure to swap some emails with Kostas, years ago, and I own some of his great analog recordings, always made using classic Swiss-made masterpieces by Stellavox and/or Nagra...

I recently found by chance he's selling a SUPERB Stellavox TD-9 open-reel and some first generation 1/4 inches tapes he made in Australia...

Beside the Ebay's auctions, sure worth a look have a passionate and in-deep look at this...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mr. L. & Western Electric vs. the pigeons

My friend L. has almost completed the restoring of another classy Western Electric piece of gear... 86, 91, 142, 300B, 211, 274A... are all honey to L. ears...

Have a look what a single man is able to do, in his spare time: fearless, bravehearted, with always the finished, restored amps in his mind.

Well done, L. - clever, and bravo!

P.S. - the "pigeons" I quoted are the ones which nested for years inside the amplifiers, when he found'em... he arrived just in time before the gear get damaged TOO seriously... as we all know: Rust (and pigeons shit;-)) Never Sleeps;-)