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Thursday, July 22, 2010


The gain-control truly is music-lover best friend, as it is the audiophile fearful Golem!

Let me better explain this: when yesterday evening I was enjoying an hour of music, i.e. "Reckoning" by Ani di Franco on a nicely recorded double-disk, I noticed in the quiet evening how the playback volume was deeply affecting the music and its trueness.

The resolution, when reaching the "right" loudness, was greatly enhanced and improved, all nuances in voice and its sibilants, down to studio noises and ambience, the guitar strings rattling at the peghead... ALL was much more elegant and true-to-life.

The easyness in enjoying music was something I missed a lot during the previous work-in-progress weeks at my studio, like I always exagerated the playback volume, always too high, wrong and NOT tailored to the kind of music I was listening to: in fact and not by chance, I never completely relaxed and/or enjoyed those quite tiring listenings.

I "knew" this like an illumination, yesterday evening... after purchasing the Thomas Mayer VT25/WE437/LCR preamp(s) with its high resolution Dave Slagle's TVC stepped volume, I learned and became conscious in appreciating the enormous difference an accurate volume setting makes to the overall beauty of a given listening session, while before, when using my old Marantz 7C preamp, the volume was almost fixed between nine and ten 'o clock, almost unaware of the disc which was on the turntable platter.

Something which wasn't "that" good!

Same feeling I have when I'm using my stock EMT 930st and Garrard Shindo 301... EMT's is much more forgiving (broadcasting quality, remember?!?!) and "medium" sounding - i.e. its character is slightly, yet definitely, "veiling" music differences and subtleties - an EMI disc sounds like a Decca, on 930st with its 155st RIAA, which is simply untrue.

With my 301 Shindo in slate plinth, well... any disc needs a different volume setting than the previous or the next one... furthermore, there are also differences between tracks on same side due to mikes placement/studio work/mixing and EVERY disc should (and do) sound different from each other, period!

The above and this apparently stupid topic - re-considering the importance of volume - makes a lot of difference when properly performed.

The average audiophile (and audio-store keeper) usually uses volume control to, for example, impress pals (and customers) with disco-like SPL, trying to correct a flawed system detail and harmonic retrival capabilities (lacking of quality) with higher and higher SPL (adding quantity) and the like.

It's - nothing more, nothing less - the old trick used in some cheap restaurants - i.e. - called a "trattoria" in my country: loads of so-so food, enormous dishes simply lacking that most welcome quality Italian cuisine is worldwide famous for.

Quantity vs. quality...

That's why, in so-so tuned audio system, an acoustic guitar seems to use ropes-like strings and the singer cavern-sized mouth;-) - BIG is easier than good, don't you?!?!

Maybe guilty is the poor quality of ancillary components and gears assemblying, BUT sometimes it's only poor fine-tuning, speakers positioning and... yes, volume control (mis)use.

In my system, which I'm slowly re-shaping, re-tuning to the new, so different music room I'm actually living with - saying nothing new, BUT not only a wall/brick/floor/ceiling enclosure, BUT a true audio component - the volume setting is my best friend, indeed, folks...

It's different music someway "clicking" with the room to reach a convincing reproduction of a performance, not a mess of sounds vomited by speakers to the (helpless) listener ears.

That's why I'm humbly hinting any "audiophile" to re-learn to use gain-control in their music systems, as a rite-of-passage, considering volume as a shaping-tool to reach a music-satisfying experience instead of a weapon to offend - i.e. ears, musical tastes, composers and their music, room.

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