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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Blue Flamingo!

A new, recently issued 78 RPM disc... a double record-set from The Netherlands.

That's cool! Modern 78 RPM are a personal fave of mine... Robert Crumb and His Cheap Suits Serenaders, Leon Redbone, John Fahey... lovely humble dinosaurs from the past... and not only that!

Fondly hinting to those great "Okeh"...

Thanking Stevan from South Africa.

Muddy Waters - Folk Blues - Chess 1483 (1964) - an obsession

... sure I'm NOT alone... the first day at M.O.C., few weeks ago, I met early in the morning Chad Kassem of Analogue Productions' fame, from Salina, KS, USA.

He's a blues scholar and with his company he's reissuing the best of every kind of music, with a tender attention to the humblest one, blues.

I was browsing vinyls bins at Fenn Music booth, eyes wide shut, and... I found a minty copy of Chess "black label" and when it was the time to share the joy for the find of a very, personal fave and sought-after wax... I met the eyes of Chad, who immediately understood the matter and... we almost hugged and hand-shaked vigorously as, hey, Chad was "da man" who distributed my "Barocco Tedesco"  disc, in early '90s... and I've been an avid collector of his blues and classic rock reissues for decades, now.

So... Chad and myself carefully inspected the Muddy Waters' Chess disc, talking about the vinyl quality and (possible) defects... as the disc wasn't that cheap, I did more... went to Klaudio booth were the extremely kind Doug cleaned the disc and gave me back... visited a nearby room where I beg for a listen to the Chess' and the, happy and satisfied was back at Fenn's for completing the deal.

That would be in an ideal world the way to go when purchasing vinyls.

Anyway, underlining and telling you about the lucky find to tell you, at last, about my obsession:
I'm a lunatic who chased for (and bought) every available copy of this very disc - for the sake of knowledge and appreciation of this music, Muddy's art and everyone who had the chance to work on the master-tapes for a reissue of the sooo elusive original of this historic recording, aiming to spread its beauty to a broader audience. A very worthy, deserving task.

So, I currently own five copies, all different, issued in a time-span of 50 years!


... or not?

I feel it's all very, VERY instructive and worth experimenting what different vinyl, cutting, pressing, re-mastering can do to the same master-tape and sonic palette.

My first copy was and still is, steady in the plethora, a "Chess Original Master" reissue from the '80s... second is a Pye from England thick vinyl '60s copy, then comes a MoFi from early 1993, a 2011 Analogue Production 45 RPM two-records set and, last but not least, the recently found original Chess 1483 from 1964 in gorgeous, shiny vintage nice shape.

So what?

More than a prosaic contest-and-podium affaire, I'd wish to share my findings... and yes, ending with "... and the winner is???".

Some details:

The humble, cheap "Chess Original Master" is GON 8040, pale brown label and the vinyl is light, about 130-140 grams;

The Mobile Fidelity is from 1993, MFSL 1201 and comes on 180 grams vinyl, mastering is Bernie Grundman's;
The Pye International is NPL 28038 and about 150-170 grams vinyl;

The two records set 45 RPM edition from 2011 is APB 1483-45 B0015121-01, comes on 200 grams vinyl.

The original 1964 Chess' is sporting the black label with chess' horse head, weights about 170 grams.

Exists another so-called "original" Chess issue, but it's a 2nd or 3rd reissue which I don't have... an orange/blue label with modern "Chess" in red is herewith shown. 

Closely examining the above mentioned copies, something is immediately apparent: the disc length is slightly more than 30 minutes... the different lathe cuttings were all different... only the cheap Dutch reissue, the Pye and the Chess original shows each side cutted with same or so width - i.e. from first groove to the label only some millimeters difference is found...

Not the same happened with Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1201: each side shows an embarassingly compressed cutting, which gives to the pressing a strange, EP disco/sampler look... even worst, it looks wrong, with more than half the side unrecorded, because many ot these disco pro-pressings were sporting deep, wide grooves and superb dynamics to par.

The mastering tech-head maybe guessed... hey, it's just a 15 minutes side... I won't use all the side width!


The double records-set, 45 RPM is showing apparently the same look, but it's 45 RPM and the four sides are 2-3 tracks, only... clever.

Sound-wise... well... BIIIG surprises, here... the Pye is grainy, dynamics are compressed and studio details (room, musicians feet tapping, assorted noises) are barely audible.

The original,  the "Real McCoy" copy is very, very nice, timbre-wise... voice is uncompressed and studio acoustic seems, is very natural, where the halo of Muddy's powerful voice is almost endless, untruncated... some vinyl crackling isn't disturbing so much, rather it adds blues to Blues, something both (late) John Fahey or (still alive and kickin' & swingin') Robert Crumb sometimes did in their records, adding some "ol' 78s scratches" to give a vintage '20s spice to their discs. 

... and the music flows so untiring and easy. Gorgeous sonics and such a pleasure.

On MoFi pressing... the sounds isn't bad, rather it is nice and smooth... only sometimes truncating decays and halos on most impressive passages... dynamics is OK, but not IMPRESSIVE like on other pressings... the tight grooves and conservative cutting job avoided the risk to overload and mistracking, so choosing a medium lathing... so-so choices, compromising this or that usually gives a medium result... and this is the case.  

The cheap '80s reissue is GORGEOUS, as well... the better spaced grooves and MUCH better use of the vinyl side width made a little miracle... the dynamics are superb, studio halo is perfect, guitars strings slapping is natural and defined and not glassy... like on MoFi... only some studio noises aren't nicely captured as on...

... the two-records set 45 RPM by Chad Kassem's Analogue Production... the mess of having to go back and forth from the couch to the turntable every two songs is balanced by the glorious sound coming from these 200 grams waxes: voice peaks are AWESOME, strings slapping are explosive and feets on studio floor and assorted chairs squeakings are "here"... only caveat: the most extreme cannon-like vocal shots shows a VERY strange truncation on studio ceiling and walls and floor...

Only the original from 1964, U.S. pressing and the humble El Cheapo reissue are able to show ALL the potential of this very parameter... i.e. the untamed decay of loudest vocals in the studio.

The others exceed or not on other parameters... considering the five copies, I sure could happily live with my Dutch reissue and with 45 RPM double records-set... talking about balance, untiring sound and all the sheer, almost wild power contained in these amazing 51 years old recordings. 

As a plus, the 2 records set inner cover shows rare, seldom seen pixes from the September 1963 studio sessions.     
... but now that I own it, I wouldn't resist without looking sometimes to the old Chess' black label and chess horse head !

If you're not content and satisfied enough... well, you could give a try to the four single sided discs 45 RPM on Clarity...

... the ultimate?

If you don't own this very disc go out and buy it... aehm, not necessarily the 4-single-sided 45s:-)

One copy will be enough for most of you... the lunatic, obsessive, can use my humble above mentioned suggestions as a start.

Bon chance.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pure Joy!

The ONLY way to go...


Schick 14 idler-wheel turntable, with Schick 12 inches arm and resin bespoke headshell

Asked Thomas about his superb "Schick 14" idler-wheel turntable and here is his reply... and some hi-rez pixes...  WOW!

"Price is not clear yet, since I have to get price for idler and bearing, but it will be in the range of a full refurbished vintage idler wheel with plinth.

No fantasy prices like most other 'invent'.

The superb motor... best money can buy... as per Thomas' saying.

The die-cast platter...

The resin plinth surface... 

Master... aehm, masked Thomas and the platter...

The story behind it is:

The plinth material is very good and tested with 'your' Commonwealth.

CW is rare, so I thought of a modern day alternative.

The 14 inch record platter from a Neumann cutting lathe inspired me.

The 14 inch diameter vastly enlarges the flywheel effect and thus effective mass of the platter.

Yet it is not so heavy, the bearing will not be stressed and thus quiet.

Motor is the best you can get today, programmed to have very gentle current ramps.

This makes very little rattle, if you hold the motor in the hand you can hardly tell it is running.

Yet it is much more powerful than any motor used in vintage record players...
and they were not weak!

The platter is cast from aluminium.  

The material has very little tensions. This gives an ideal resonsce patter for easy damping."

Great job, Thomas... GREAT job, indeed!

P.S. - don't be fooled by bruised aluminium platter finish, as seen on above pixes... it's a prototype and finish isn't the final, definitive shiny, polished surface. The on/off knob is also a joke.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

From Switzerland - Acoustic Session with Fanny Leeb

With compliments of Stenheim - Swiss Made Audio Excellence, thanking Serge Schmidlin (of Audio Consulting fame) and Jean-Pascal Panchard (Stenheim's CEO), I am handling and deeply enjoying this superb recording, an EP of exceptional beauty and extremely nicely sounding.

It's not new music, female vocals, piano, percussions and acoustic guitar... BUT this 2 tracks-only sampler disk - an EP - has mojo and the recording, made in a natural venue - i.e. L'Espace Consonance in Saxon, Switzerland using Neumann U47, M49, M50, SM2 and Violet/Gaberel mikes is of seldom heard quality.

Fanny's voice is wonderful and wonderfully captured, as is the piano.

... and, yes, the monitoring was made through Stenheim's Alumine speakers.

... something worth further investigation... talking about Stenheim audio, amps and speakers, and Fanny Leeb, of course.

Thanking Serge... for being Serge and Jean-Pascal and Stenheim of Switzerland for the cool, musical present.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ricoh GRX with A12 Leica M module

Thanking Frank Schroder and Christian Rintelen for their precious, recent suggestions...

Better, sharper pixes, soon and, most of all, will be undusting my Leitz lenses, sadly unused for years, now.

First-sight love with Ricoh GRX and A12... a nice, at the same time old & new, camera.

Munchen Files - MSM, MPS, Dirk, Dirk, Christoph or how make a difficult task looks easy

A joke, a terribly serious joke, folks... some words about the title acronyms: MSM, a studio in Theresienstrasse, Munchen, is home of Christoph Stickel, Senior sound & mastering engineer extraordinaire (in his portfolio several ECM's works and countless other projects of the VERY best musicians around), MPS is the resurrected old classy jazz German label, once located in Black Forest, Dirk is Dirk Sommer, the man of several passions and skills, the Chief Editor of, the cool, well-informed and pleasant hi-end webzine, a well established third millenium online publication with thousands fond readers around the world.

Dirk Sommer

Dirk Sommer is also - with his lady and partner, Birgitte - the owner and da boss of "Sommelier du Son" label, exclusively devoted to analog recording and vinyl productions.

His partner and long-time friend, Dirk is Dirk Mahlstedt,  the man behind the event at MSM Studio in Munchen, introducing to the press the newly, lovingly remastered 6-records box-set by Oscar Peterson, a series of superb recording, live in studio with audience originally issued by MPS label, where the piano player was writing his legendary playing and class for posterity.

Several reviewers were attending to the event, including mr. Michael Fremer and Michael Vrzal of and all - myself humbly included - in awe, listening to the enlighting words of Christoph Stickel, looking at his hands handling... flying on the Studer A-820 commands, and compressors, computers and mixing console knobs with a seldom seen easiness and skill... and most of all, explaining also to the less technically oriented among us, about nWebers, tape-heads azimuth, tapes brands weakness and qualities and everything in-between to obtain a stellar-quality mastering job, including the HUGE labor of love - i.e. - the time-factor, hours and hours necessary to restore and balance superb music nicely recorded, but with an average mixing and mastering.

We all experienced the original master-tape first generation work-tape dub, an event in the event, and the recording, newly balanced, was blossoming in front of the audience, there in the studio, the sancta-sanctorum where the magician (Christoph) was able to transform, ohhh, not lead, actually;-), but... sure already shining brass into precious gold!

Christoph Stickel

It's incredible thinking to the music, so easy to the ear, need such a a load of knowledge, care and attention... from musicians to recording-engineer, to the several post-production steps... to reach our turntable platters... like a dancer or a violinist shows no pain when performing and no mention is made about thousands hours of study, rehearsing and study, again... well... the deep feeling and sensation I had was the same, at MSM... the smiling eyes of everyone involved in the MSM/MPS' project were saying "Hey, I'm loving what I do!".

... and that's the matter, pals... a lot of money is involved in such a project, BUT... also the superb 1:1 15 ips master-tape dubs - another gem from Lutz Precision, reissuing the Oscar Peterson's recording on the sexier of the supports, open reel tape - aren't silly priced and several get sold at M.O.C.... (see Lutz Aeterna post).

Talking with mr. Volker Lange of Lutz Precision  I read in his words, passionate and hearthfelt, not a visionary dream but a businessman knowing his business, not only after making more money in lesser time, but and much more to customer satisfaction and leaving his footprint on the market.

Both an ill-fated and extremely lively market, top class audio and recordings... where who do it better, more honestly and cleverly simply wins... where - by chance - a speaker priced EUR 350.000 or more can be lesser than a more humanly, friendly priced speaker priced one zero less!

Because ears are pitiless and... can judge and find what's utterly wrong or truly special... and this is the very case, pals.

Thanking Dirk, Volker, Dirk and Christoph for the lesson of good-taste.