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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bert Jansch's L.A. Turnaround (2009 Re-master)

I own this very disc since 1974 when it was issued on The Mad Hatter label (Charisma) and always beloved and cherished it for music, first, but also for its sonic, true timbres, natural sibilants... and birds singing in beautiful Sussex' countryside!

Yes, the birds played a key role in this disc and its music... on first track "Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning", there is a definite "tuning" to the listener and a different time & space bubble and counting... the tape-hiss (an highly blessed feature to my romantic ears...) begins and suddently an extremely clear, beautiful chirping, at various (sonic) perspectives, appears.

... then, when the soundscape is well defined, music begins, magic as it can be, greatly supported by the cover pictures, where Charisma's patron Tony Stratton-Smith's country house is shown in details - i.e. the garden, the bow-windows, the recording mobile studio caravan... and an open window in a room where Bert, Red Rhodes and Mike Nesmith are... Neumann U-87 mikes and '70s TV-set in the background of the nice recording sessions shots.

Quitting for a moment the songs, well known to any Bert Jansch's lover and scholar. please try to imagine my surprise when, few hours ago, I received a small Amazon's packet containing the 2009 remastering of L.A. Turnaround and, when I put on my wife's system Bang & Olufsen's CD-5500 for some background music while at the computer... I almost fell from the sofa!!!

The birds... the chirping... where did "THEY" put them?!?!?!?

I purchased this disk as I wished to listen to the alternate takes and to an alusive "B" side track, only published on an old mid-seventies 45 rpm and, most of all, have a look at the short "cinema verite'" included in the disk as a bonus: 13 minutes of Bert and friends chatting, having dinner, playing and recording... mr. Stratton-Smith's Rolls-Royce parked on the lawn and "that" animated picture of the VERY same pix I so much loved and looked at for decades, while listening to this album... YES, pals... talking about "Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning" sessions... it all seems so real you're breathing "very same" chilly air Bert and friends breathe! Amazing.

The Neumann's mike booms are adjusted in front of (a monitor-less, without earspeakers) Bert... the session appears very friendly and homely, something which Bert already well knew, from his early recordings with Bill Leader in his apartment, to "Rosemary Lane", recorded at Ticehurst House, another country mansion by great, late Nic Kinsey...

... but back to target: the short documentary shows something unseen in original cover pictures - i.e. the "sense of homely, relaxed atmosphere and feeling" wasn't a by-product of, say, U-87's cardioid pattern, with Bert's voice and Brazilian rosewood Yamaha's acoustic, BUT "something" the producer (or Bert...) wished to pass... to reach the listener; the proof? A Coles 4038 is well visible placed near the (open) window... its weird shape is easily recognizable and - no surprise after learning this - its "figure 8" pattern and quality gave this wonderful trueness to those British... yes, they seem to be sparrows;-)))

... so, as usual... so what?!?!

Nothing: L.A. Turnaround, with its "One for Jo" (where they had to leave some chirping, because birds sounds imbedded in singing and playing...), "Cluck Old Hen", "The Blacksmith" and all the other songs, remains iconic as ever, a nearly perfect disc... I'm only asking myself if "remastering" involves lessening in details and artists and producer wishes altering the masters and whatever the mike recorded and appeared on original disc... sort-of polishing something coherent and poetic, but considered (less than) perfect now...

How wrong they are!

WJAAS - Micro Clubbing in Tokyo or Music and Audio made to entertain... with class!

Micro Clubbing in Tokyo

Ever on the lookout for big new venues with equipment lists that go through the floor, Mondo finds just the opposite in Tokyo, Japan.

Mega clubs like Ageha and Womb, together with mammoth music festivals such as Fuji Rock and the legendary Rainbow 2000 have created a generation with a passion for contemporary music in all its forms. Not withstanding, quaint little bars that can accommodate half a dozen people have been commonplace in Japan for a very long time. Over the past few years this miniaturization of bars has been crossing over into dance clubs.

On a recent trip to Tokyo we looked at two examples of the phenomena. KOARA is one new venue that is fairly typical of the plethora of micro clubs that have started springing up around Tokyo and other parts of Japan. Even the name KOARA sums it up: like the small, cute and cuddly Australian koala which sleeps during the day and becomes more lively in the dark.

The capacity of KOARA is under two dozen, in fact, with 12 people in the bar and 12 people on the dance floor it would begin to resemble the dreaded last train home on a Saturday night. These last trains however are actually a boon for Tokyo’s egalitarian clubbers. Not wishing to join the throngs of inebriated ‘sarariman’, they prefer to wait the night out dancing with their pals in the fascinating range of venues that Tokyo has to offer.

Located in an extremely fashionable area of Shibuya, KOARA’s design is clean minimal and very, very dark, with just three lights and a mirror ball over the living room sized dance floor. The emphasis is on sound and expressed through JBL JRX series speakers. KOARA’s president, Tatsuya Takayama is adamant that venues such as his are actually ideal for the specialization of various sub-genres of dance music, evidenced by his club flyers that promote minimalist house techno on one night and tropical tech hard house the next. Entry at KOARA is usually free and open to anyone.

Not far away from KOARA is a venue which, even though approximately the same size, is extremely private, being open only to close friends and privileged guests of the reclusive owner, Yama San, a fashion designer with a love for dub and analogue sound. While KOARA is dark and minimal, Yama’s private dub room is bright and organic.

The large ornate Electro-Voice Patrician speakers were made around 1956. 44cm Elektro-Mess-Technik (EMT) 927ST turntable platters were originally designed to play 16” acetate records, and are powered by an electric motor through the idler-wheel system. The cartridges are EMT TMD25. The pre-amp is the classic McIntosh laboratories model C20. Along with this fascinating range are a rare pair of Western Electric 46c tube amps originally developed for cinemas and military use.

Yama’s associate and friend, the well known British electro musician and fashion designer, Richard Sharpe (The Shamen, Deep Space Time, Space Time Online) was the first person to inform us of the micro-club phenomena. When asked to recommend any big new venues in the capital he was stuck for suggestions: “It’s all gone micro in Tokyo!” he said.

While KOARA is open to one and all dance music lovers and Yama’s private dub room is only open to a privileged few, both venues share a very personal intimate quality. Many Japanese clubbers are tired of the usual somewhat impersonal mainstream events that try to satisfy everyone.

How widespread is the micro club phenomena in Japan? According to Jeff Richards, a Japan based music journalist and event promoter, “Micro clubs are increasingly prevalent in Tokyo. Very small bars with a single niche have always been popular with the Japanese. They have amazingly tiny bars that cater to extremely eclectic clientele - from Velvet Underground/Bowie/heroin-goth (Bar Derori in Shibuya) to 70s roots vinyl (The Last Waltz in Yokohama) to metal bars with a beer and choose-all-of-your-own-songs-and-air-guitar-along CD menu (Bar Mother in Shinjuku that seats just eight people). There are just too many to mention”.

Richards adds that since around 2005 larger clubs have been closing and many mini clubs have been opening - Mixro:Office in Shibuya was one of the first. It’s prohibitively expensive to open any big space in Tokyo and punters are tired of the JP¥4,000 entry charges that do not permit punters to re-enter once they go outside.

Richards also mentions that an added benefit of the micro clubs, is that even with only a few dozen people they already feel packed out adding to the party vibe. He thinks we’re going to see more and more micro clubs opening in the next couple of years. Owners are able to design them with the usual Japanese attention to detail, and flair for designing unique small spaces. As well as that, they require less staff, less overhead and cater to aspiring creative talent looking for venues and patrons that crave a new sense of belonging to a community.

Obviously, the good news for AV manufacturers and distributors is that even though there may not be many tall orders, there are a lot of small ones and they are supplying a market that is extremely critical and always on the look out for something newer and better.

(Words & Pics: Jimmie Wing)

Super cool!

Thanks to my friend Gabriele and to Jimmie Wing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Grateful Dead's Radio Waves

David Gans' broadcasting from the immense archives of Deads' infinite concerts...

Simply fantastic!

Thanks to Reinhard for reminding this;-)))

Low notes obsession from Finland, with love...

... another clever, CLEVER artisan, a luthier, actually, from Finland... impressive workmanship for the large bass-horn, as well...

Thanks to Klaus for the link!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Musings - Chair Speakers?

... yum, yum... imagine if the (now) empty chair would be occupied by an AC/DC lover and the satisfied guy on the pix wishes to listen to Bach's Cello Sonatas...

A good earspeakers, no, uh?!?!

Friday, February 18, 2011

TTWeights Audio's "peripheral-ring"... a new (analog) toy or a ground-breaking adding?

Santa Claus was quite late, pals... BUT it arrived with the VERY gift I asked for... yes, for me, yesterday, Feb. 17th, 2011, was Christmas' time!

Larry of TTWeights Audio made something, after Rudolf Bruil's no more produced superb peripheral-ring, only very few workshops are able to make such a delicate, sensitive, fussy, incredibly precise "analog toy"... talking about less than .001 inches tolerances, not a trick to be accomplished by everyone!

I installed - in few seconds - the alloy-ring on one of the most "terrible" double bass discs I own - i.e. maestro Ludwig Streicher on double-bass with Norman Shelter on piano, a one-of-a-kind, one-sided disc cut in Germany at 45 r.p.m from a Telefunken's master-tape by Joerg Kessler and his ARS in Hamburg: superb music and an unbelievable dynamic range.... music by Bottesini, of course!
The large plastic mounting-jig makes it a breeze to install the peripheral ring: the Lumiere DST on the Schick at the very first grooves is only 1-2 mm from the "ring-lip" keeping the vinyl pressed to the platter itself... brrrrrr....

... but, incredibly, nothing bad happens, and then arrives the sound: full bodied, undistorted, rich, dynamic, beefy and... airy and detailed... music seems more... polished, refined, shiny, life-like and natural... and not talking about subtleties, pals.

The 301 Shindo combo is now: Shindo's platter (6,7 kilos) and leaded-cloth mat (grams 800), Micro CU-180 copper-mat (grams 1800), Shindo clamp/weight (grams 620) and TTWeights Audio peripheral ring (grams 480) = grand-total is an impressive grams 10.400 between the disc, cartridge diamond and the outer world... without considering the 45 kilos of slate plinth and the 22 kilos of bronze arm-base.

All the above "hard materials" involvement and weight could suggest a final "hard" sound... ah, ah, ahhhh... NO, definitely not the case!

... again, like it happened several times in the last months, so rich of improvements in my music system, I never, NEVER had a better overall sound - smooth and detailed, airy and beefy - from my beloved discs, period!

Maybe did I find the final recipe, the end-of-the-game analog machine?

Maybe... in the meantime, a BIG, sincere "Thank you!" to Larry of TTWeights Audio!!!

Some details about the ring:

Material and Engineering Summary:

High nickel content alloy non magnetic will not stain or tarnish

This alloy is CNC machined and polished to a bright and beautiful silver finish

The ring finish is such that no harm will come to the cartridge if you lower the stylus on to the ring

460 – 480 Grams approximately 1.1 – 1.2 lbs

Dimensions: 13.520 Diameter x .125 thick.

Inner counter bored diameter 11.900 x .110 deep, the record is inset.

Our unique centering tool is included for easy installation, 5 second installation time

Engineered to Perform

Machined from the new alloy with super precision machining of the outer lip and designed to locate on the LP’s outer edge with the special centering disk that is included.

It is very simple, you can build a great performing turntable but the record is the source of what you will hear, it must be coupled for true to life and realistic playback.


Dramatically reduces background noise

6 to 10 dB in noise reduction measured results

Great improvement

Flattens most records

Improves cartridge tracking and stabilizes the VTA of the Stylus

Improves soundstage by more accurate record tracking

This outer ring will fit all records and improve the playback quality of all records new and old.

Stylus Clearance

The top surface of the ring is less than .014 (.35 mm) higher than the LP surface providing excellent clearance for the Stylus on the entry groove of the record with manual and automatic turntables.

High Density, Low Mass ALLOY, Superb Dampening Capability

The Outer Ring is machined from solid proprietary non magnetic alloy

The very thin walled areas make the machining extremely difficult. To make a ring this size, perfectly flat and concentric, we use advanced plasma and laser cutting CNC’s and MULTI AXIS CNC Lathes. Each ring produced by a senior Aerospace Machinist. The rings are flat and concentric less than .004 of an inch over the entire ring, not an easy task.

The Sound

The outer ring will provide dramatic improvements to the records imaging and sound staging. The absolute peak performance will be gained when there is no free play or movement from the vinyl itself. The Outer ring and clamp essentially locate the vinyl directly to the mat, significantly reducing distortion even with worn record grooves. The 480 Gram Alloy Outer Ring will reduce and remove the warp in most records except for the most extreme. If the record is more than 3/8 of an inch warp the ring will flatten most of the warp but they may still be unplayable. Caution is advised.

The 480 Gram Alloy Outer Ring reducing high frequency noise caused by microscopic vibration that causes the stylus to “hear” sounds that are not there, this causes listening fatigue. The true high frequencies can be extracted from the vinyl essentially cleaning up the distortion caused by a vibrating the record groove. Play only what is there in the groove. The 480 Gram Alloy Outer Ring provides smooth and accurate sound across the listening spectrum. The quiet passages are beautiful, less background noise, less tracking and VTA errors create awesome dynamics.

TT Centering Disk Included

This device is designed to locate the 480 Gram Alloy Outer Ring Concentric to the Platter centerline with 5-6 thousands of an inch.

Provides a storage platform for the 480 Gram Alloy Outer Ring when not in use

Simple and very effective with problematic albums, not all albums are made equally!!

Each Outer Ring Package:

· 1 Universal Fit Outer Stabilizing Ring

· 1 Centering Disk to be used as required

Thursday, February 17, 2011

... more Garrard trivia...

Swindon and Garrard will always be lnked... bonded together, for posterity memento, when quality and proudly producing was paramoun!

Saddening news...

The mighty Garrard 201.V - the sixty years old 301 and 401 grand-daddy!

In 1949 it was sold in the U.S. of A. for an hefty USD 65... the building quality is only apparently primitive...

A beauty!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quality, audio and Zenith 548 E office stapler

Zenith 548 E... ZENith 548 E... everyone, virtually everywhere in the world, who have an office with a desk and deal with papers, soon or later will encounter "the" Zenith's stapler!

It's shape and materials are immutable... it's zoo-morphic - like looking at the clouds, it reminds to a whale or something - and handling it, like I did few seconds ago, gives a sense of "rightness": the sound when pressing it is "right", the original, little blue box staples enter the staplers as a snug-fit and many sheets of paper are flawlessly punched and ordered, easily...

Made since '50s, back in the '60s and '70s, the colour was someway "serious" and no-frills, like the offices where the Zenith was used... grey, dark green, tan... now, in the 3rd millenium, the maker - "Balma, Capoduri & C. SPA - Voghera (Italy)" - felt the need to rejuvenate it, fortunately NOT in the technical features or making them more "modern" - i.e. saving on materials and building quality like everyone else does - BUT they coloured it: now make them pink, pale blue, bright green... yellow!

... so what?

Handling a Zenith 548 E is like handling a balanced, user friendly audio system: never feeling guilty of money spent (chinese staplers cost a 10th of an original Zenith, proudly Made in Italy and exported worldwide...), or having to fight againts garbled sharp staples or badly punched paper (or ugly aesthetics and/or sound coming from silly priced, mass-built electronic gears).

Life should be easy, folks... a music system should, and sometimes it REALLY does, be easy despite some complications involved in cabling, fine-tuning, ON/OFF procedures, and the sound should leave us... well, unthinking, breatheless, period!

Enjoying, satisfied, in awe... BUT with our mind emptied and calm like an high mountain lake in summer.

A no brainer... like Zenith 548 E (Pat. 444639).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Western Electric 618-B N.O.S./N.I.B.!!!

A rare find, folks... for an hefty USD 4,500.00 (now... BUT final price will easily be higher...)

Among the VERY best MC transformers, ever... BUT not the cheapest;-)

Sure the seller - mr. Van Dyke - a famous (audio) vintage merchant, knows his business!

An almost 50 years old masterpiece - the VERY first Mercury "Living Presence"

MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an exhibition - KUBELIK / Chicago Symphony Orchestra MERCURY MG 50000 - This is the famous first Mercury classical recording. Realized on 23 April 1951 with a single U47 Telefunken microphone, this recording is a landmark in the classical record history. When this recording was released, it was immediately recognized not only as a superb performance but also as an extraordinary advance in the art of recording the symphony orchestra. Music critic Howard Taubman wrote in The New York Times: "Thanks to one of the finest technical jobs of recording made on this side of the Altantic, the orchestra's tone is so lifelike that one feels one is listening to the living presence." It was indeed Howard Taubman (and not the Mercury staff) who first applied the words "living presence" to this technique, which became a distinctive feature of Mercury recordings.