Saturday, September 17, 2011

Led Zeppelin in a day

Not long ago I decide to listen to all of the Led Zeppelin albums back to back in a single day and write a couple of micro reviews on Facebook.

Led Zeppelin - "I" thoughts: The album starts off with a bang, the sound of a revolution beginning. It's a band that's already found it's sound but not quite it's voice. Lot's of covers, songs that are heavily based on existing blues standards, or direct rip offs with one or two originals mixed in. But, since they play them so amazingly well it's all easily excusable.

July 22 at 10:49am ·

Thoughts on Led Zeppelin "II" - It's a frenetic album that shows the chaos and creativity of being recorded while touring. The influences are less obvious and are more assimilated. The bands style is expanding and they are becoming more self-assured in abilities.

July 22 at 11:36am ·

Thoughts on Led Zeppelin - "III" Jimmy Page and Robert Plant solidify their rolls as the creative engine of the group. The band lets off of the accelerator a bit creating an album with both calm and frenzy. There's very little musical "borrowing" on this album. Hats Off to (Roy) Harper is the only song to "lift" lines from blues classics.

July 22 at 1:51pm ·

Thoughts on Led Zeppelin-"IV" Jimmy Page begins to "paint" with sound using a multitude of guitars and different tones within the same song increasing the sonic palette exponentially. Robert gains confidence in his lyrical abilities. The group creates a fully realized coherent style that raises this above just a collection of songs and makes it a true album that must be listened to start to finish to truly enjoy.

July 22 at 2:48pm ·

Thoughts on Led Zeppelin - "Houses of The Holy" The musical complexity greatly increases compared to previous releases. Not a single song on the album has a simple riff. The band is challenging themselves and pushing each other to their creative limits. If Zeppelin ever made anything close to a progressive rock album this is it.

July 22 at 3:48pm ·

Thoughts on Led Zeppelin - "Physical Graffiti" The album is a bit like an quilt cobbled together from other, older items. Half of the songs on the album were recorded for previous albums. While there are lots of great songs the album lacks a certain coherent focus. It's more of a book of short stories as opposed to a novel.

July 22 at 5:36pm ·

Thoughts on Led Zeppelin - "Presence" It's the sound of a band eager to re-invent itself. The album is full of melancholy and uncertainty. The songs all fit together well to present a satisfying total picture. It's a great listen while alone late at night or during a rainy day.

July 22 at 6:21pm

Thoughts on Led Zeppelin - "In Through The Out Door" It's the sound of a band struggling to be as great as they should. While Page and Bonham are present, they really aren't "there." Plant and Jones work hard to pick up the slack. For the first and only time Jones Keyboard take center stage in many if not most of the songs.

July 22 at 8:13pm ·

Thoughts on Led Zeppelin - "Coda" It's not really an album more just a bunch of left-overs. In fact "Poor Tom" sounds like the drums were added after the fact by taking a bit of left over drums and looping them. The guitar on "We're Gonna Groove" is clearly an overdub done most likely after the end of the band. All of that having been said, Led Zeppelin's leftovers are better than most band's best efforts.

July 23 at 12:30am ·

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Write About Love

October 11th can't come fast enough for me to see Belle & Sebastian at the Chicago Theater.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Live On From Beyond The Groove

Thinking of a unique way to immortalize yourself that doesn't involve the wind blowing your ashes back into your friends' faces?

Get your ashes pressed into a vinyl record instead! Read on in this article from

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

David's been busy

Apparently, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame has been keeping busy. Here he is performing with Roger Waters at an event for charity.

Hoping Foundation benefit performance from Hoping Foundation on Vimeo.

While the performance isn't great it's just nice to see these two being civil to one another, let alone playing music together.

Mr. Gilmour has also recently snuck out a collaboration with Orb. Hopefully it won't be too hard to track down the two disc version which has a special surround mix for headphones. Where are those Stax headphones when you need them?

Last, but certainly not least he served as Executive Producer on the new Syd Barrett compilation, not so cleverly titled, "An Introduction to Syd Barrett." Which will mix Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd and solo material, some of it remixed. Sadly, "Vegetable Man" nor "Scream Thy Last Scream" will be included, another missed opportunity. Why not put out these songs officially and give the fans the best quality possible and make a couple of quid in the process, instead of forcing us to continue to listen to sub-standard bootlegs? It would be a win-win for all involved. The big draw of the package isn't even on the disc it's a free bonus download of "Rhamadan,"a 20 minute previously unreleased instrumental. Since it's a download the sound quality won't be what it should. As obsessive as David is about sound this is a very odd choice. A bonus disc on the first pressing would have been a better way to get it out there, maybe even including "Vegetable Man" and "Scream Thy Last Scream". Now that would have been a great.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin

This looks like a perfect pairing. I'm sure lots of people will buy this besides Clint.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vinyl Hoarding

The vinyl revolution shows no signs of slowing down, let alone stopping. Some of the shots of these peoples collections make me feel like a poser but then again there's probably a lot of crap in there and no one has enough time to listen to all of that stuff. Maybe it's as much hoarding as collecting music that they have any serious intention of spinning and enjoying.

To Have & To Hold - Taster Tape from Jony Lyle on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

JA's Podcast Appearance

Audiophiles often get a bad rap for being unreasonable and unrealistic. Stereophile's editor John Atkinson does a wonderful job showing that many of us are reasonable, intelligent, and well adjusted individuals in his podcast appearance here. The portion about the difference in the audibility of cables near the end was of particular interest. Especially his illustration of how an amplifier has not one, but three inputs.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Which Smith are you?

This 1957 film endeavors to describe what hi-fi is all about while discussing the importance of the then relatively new stereo format. Oddly enough as much as things have changed audio enthusiasts still fall into roughly one of the three categories discussed.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Van Speakers?

Anyone who has ever worked at an audio store have been on the other end of this transaction when a customer brings in one of these cheap pieces of shit when they stop "working." This segment does a great job of dissecting the scam. Hopefully this guy will go to jail for a long time but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Your So Vain (You probably think this post is about you)

A certain female singer/songwriter finally revealed the name of the person that inspired her song “You’re So Vain” and it was of course for the most artistic of reasons, to sell a new album that no one would have known about otherwise. Is the song about Warren Beatty, James Taylor, Mick Jagger, David Bowie Jack Nicolson, Kris Kristofferson, David Cassidy, Cat Stevens, or even Abraham Lincoln? After 38 years who cares? How many famous men did she sleep with anyway? The only one more stupid than all of the people who wasted their energy trying to figure it out is Dick Ebersol, who spent 50 grand to know. She's so vain that she thinks people still give a shit. As she said in another song when it comes to being egotistical "Nobody Does It Better." Apparently it’s about David Geffen, now that you’ve been nice enough to tell us you are free to fade back into obscurity.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Big Dock

The iPod has officially brought music listening so far into the future that we've actually reached the distant past again with giant monolithic speakers.

How far back in the past am I talking? Well...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

For Sale by heartless corporation: number 3 Abbey Road

According to a number of sources EMI’s parent company, Terra Firma is trying to sell Abbey Road Studios in an attempt to stave off the wolves at Citibank. Sadly the studio is only expected to bring in something like tens of millions of dollars when the amount necessary to stop the $3 billion dollar loan from going into default is over $190 million dollars. If that's the case it's a bit like throwing the deck chairs off of the Titanic thinking that it will stop it from sinking. Also sad is the fact that many feel the “brand” of Abbey Road is worth more than the facility itself.

Abbey Road of course is most famous for having been the studio of choice for the majority of Beatles recording sessions and many early to middle period Pink Floyd recordings, though not “Dark Side of the Moon” as many sources are erroneously claiming. According to some sources EMI doesn't consider a recording studio an essential asset. That's not a joke by the way the music industry has lost it's way so badly it doesn't even see the value in owning a first class facility in which to record music. In this day and age a lot of music can be recorded using a computer and pro tools, many consider anything over and above that to be a luxury.

Customer Satisfaction

While this isn't something solely related to audio, I hope it serves as a reminder for home theater installers not to make a "goddamn maze" out of the wires behind your customers' systems. Especially when that customer is Hunter S. Thomson.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Delicious Sound

Haven't you ever wondered what would happen if you made a record out of chocolate? Me neither. Just think of what this thing would do to a decent cartridge.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sort of Supergrass

The boys from Supergrass are going to have a busy year. In addition to a new studio album there will also be a new side project consisting of covers called The Hot Rats. The album was produced by Nigel Godrich so it should be a good one. Samples are available on their myspace page. Below is a video of them performing The Beatles "Drive My Car."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Roads to Rome

One of the most unique things about high end audio in the diversity of ideas present in the hobby. I've always believed that there is more than one road to Rome. While every path doesn't make sense to me as long the traveler arrives at the destination, which is musical enjoyment of course who am I to judge? When a designer looks at their products as something that is created, rather than simply manufactured that is always a good sign. After all if they aren't passionate about their offerings what's the chance that anyone else will be? After all we aren't talking about toasters or washing machines. Audio equipment acts as a conduit through which an artistic is conveyed. Just some ideas that these two videos inspired. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures

In many ways John Paul Jones was the most under appreciated member of Led Zeppelin. Until recently his post-Zeppelin work has been pretty sparse but recently he seems to be making up for lost time. In the last couple of years he has released two excellent solo albums, "Zooma" and "The Thunderthief" and produced a couple of others. On Tuesday, November 17th his next project will be released. The album is a collaboration with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame titled Them Crooked Vultures. It is currently available to stream through youtube.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Even more Beatles remasters news

In addition to The Beatles remasters being released on CD in mono and stereo versions Mojo recently broke the inevitable news that they will also see a vinyl release as well. Thus far there is no news on pricing, stereo and/or mono, or whether they will be sourced from the 24/192 digital masters or analog masters. But it's good news for record lovers everywhere. For those on the complete other end of the spectrum the catalog will also see release on a USB drive according to Reuters news agency, just in time for Christmas of course. Apparently, the release will be limited to 30,000 units. Probably in much the same way that the mono boxed set was "limited" to 10,000 units. In addition to the 320 Kbps MP3 files the drive will also contain the albums in FLAC at 24 bits 44.1 Khz. It's good to see that they are offering people something at higher resolutions than MP3. Now the only question is when will they release the music in 24/192 (possibly on Blu-Ray) because we ALL know that it's coming sooner or later.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Beatles Mono vs. Stereo

There has been quite a bit of discussion on this blog about the importance of The Beatles catalog in mono. This video does a great job of demonstrating many of the variations.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Memories of Jim Thiel

Most of my fondest memories of Jim Thiel come from a factory tour in 2001. During the first night at dinner Jim, Kathy, and the higher ranking people were in a discussion about finish options, price points, shipping time, and other business matters while Ken Dawkins and myself were making non-audio small talk. Finally Ken asked me, "So what kind of receiver are you using with your speakers?" My response was, "Well, I'm actually using a Parasound P/HP850 preamp and an Adcom GFA5802 amp with Audioquest cables." Jim, who happened to be sitting next to me was obviously bored by the business talk and turned to me and said, "That's a pretty nice system." Jim spent the next 45 minutes or so having an in depth conversation with the least important person at the table, a kid in his early 20's that few people in the industry took seriously. It wasn't a one sided conversation either, he was interested in my thoughts and opinions as well.

The next day in the Thiel listening room Ken asked us to listen to the PowerPoints which our company had repeatedly declined to put on display. In fact myself and my co-workers were under strict and explicit orders to not listen to the PowerPoint speakers under ANY circumstances. The higher ups in our company had never heard the speakers but had decided based on size that they couldn't possibly be worth the money. At the time the first Thiel sub was still in prototype form, but nearly finished. I shocked my co-workers by saying, "I'll be glad to hear the PowerPoints, but only if we can hear them with the Thiel Sub." Well, one of the Thiel sales guys quickly said that it was Thiel policy to not demo prototypes. No sooner had he said that then Jim said, "deal." Needless to say on my return to the store myself and my co-work told everyone that would listen that we NEEDED the PowerPoints on display. We kept on the decision makers until they listened to them and in a couple of months we had them.

On the same trip I was struck by a sign near the door to the workshop that said something to the effect of, "Perfection is our goal, excellence will be tolerated." I told Walter that it was a great sign. His response was, "That sign isn't accurate, when it comes to Jim is should read "excellence will be grudgingly tolerated.""

A couple of years later while demoing a pair of Thiel CS2.4's for a customer I accidentally hooked them up to the 8 ohm taps of a McIntosh MC402 instead of the 4 ohm taps. The sound was remarkably better and I called down to Lexington to find out why, Sherry said she didn't know but would ask Jim about it and get back to me. A couple of hours later I received a 3 page email from Jim explaining that while he did not have direct experience with the amp in question that my findings did not shock him. He then went on to lay out an extremely involved scientific theory on why I heard what I heard.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Goodbye Jim

Today the sad news about the passing of Jim Thiel was announced. On the few occasions that I met Jim he was always very gracious. I can't think of anyone in the audio business that I respect more. He will certainly be missed. Like many others I'm sure, I only wish that I could have known him better.

The Thiel philosophy holds, among other things that a speaker should be time and phase coherent. Phase coherence is when two drivers in a speaker are working to create the same frequency and they are doing so by moving in unison. Time coherent means that the sound from each driver arrive at the listening position at the same time, which is made possible by the sloped baffle of his designs. The third major component to all of the recent Thiel designs was short voice coils held within a long magnetic gap. This arrangement has the advantage of keeping the voice coil of a driver within the magnetic field of the gap and dramatically reducing distortion.

To learn a lot more about the innovations and views of this founding father of high-end audio check out the following interviews. Also of interest is the March 1998 Stereophile interview conducted by .

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Breaking down Thiel

As anyone who's been following the blog for a while knows I am a big proponent of Thiel Loudspeakers. They contain quite a few original design ideas and unique parts that set them apart from the competition. Gary from Thiel worked with on-line retailer Audio Advisor to create the videos below to discuss a couple of the things that set Thiel apart from it's competition.

The first video briefly describes some of the technical aspects of Thiel speakers that make them something special

The Thiel CS2.4 has been the apple of my eye since it was a 2.3.

Next up is the CS2.4SE, the new apple of my eye. What a beautiful finish!

The PowerPoint speaker is one of the most surprising and technically unique speakers ever developed. While being mounted on a ceiling it still manages to image where a normal floor standing or stand mounted speaker would.

The SCS4 might be Thiels most versatile speaker. It can be used as a standard left/right speaker, a center speaker, or for rears in a home theater application.

Last, but certainly not least is the Thiel CS3.7. The 3.7 is one of the most advanced speakers available today.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Wilco - Summerteeth on Nonesuch (vinyl)

Nonesuch records (Wilco's label after being dumped by Reprise for refusing to change aspects of their brilliant Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) has re-released the band's first three albums on vinyl with Summerteeth arriving in stores late last month.  Summerteeth is considered by many to be the album which finally shed them of their alt-country moniker which they inherited from Jeff Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt's former band, Uncle Tupelo with singer Jay Farrar. And happily, this double LP follows in the band's recent tradition of quality vinyl sound, which I was slightly surprised by since I never thought Summerteeth was particularly great, sonically, on CD (a copy of that CD [or maybe a remastered CD, come to think of it, I haven't checked] is included here, as well). I always thought the Reprise CD was overly compressed and crowded sounding. This LP, on the other hand, offers a much cleaner, unencumbered sound with Tweedy's voice high up in the center allowing much more room for the instruments to stretch out - especially the percussion and Jay Bennett's little sonic thises and thatses.  And while I've never heard the initial vinyl pressing from 1998 when the album was first released, opinions I've read are that this one is much better. 

And to think people have been buying the original LP on eBay as recently as last spring for highly inflated prices. It shows a little patience pays off - especially now that a new vinyl age is upon us.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Beatles Stereo Remasters

Both my blogmate and I agree; until the Beatles mono remastered box set arrives, it will require one thing and one thing only to tide us over - an ever larger box set.

I thought I'd post some quick pictures and impressions of the stereo Beatles remasters.

There are two songs ("Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You") which couldn't be included in stereo due to the lack of the proper mastering source, so the engineers wisely present the mono versions here rather than an inferior stereo mock-up.

The astute observer will note that, while the original UK Parlophone and Apple record labels are replicated for the 2009 disc art, Magical Mystery Tour uses the North American Capitol record label with colorband and silver Capitol stamp since it was first released in the US. I am of the opinion that all Capitol CDs should use this disc art, even today.

Attention was spent on detail with the aesthetic packaging of this boxed set. While the iconic yellow Parlophone logo was used throughout most of the Beatles releases on the label, from year to year and album to album, there were slight variations on the typeface and text placement. EMI/Apple made sure they were all replicated with the disc art (current logos and legal verbiage notwithstanding).

As for how the boxed set actually sounds, the first word that came to mind is "crisp." While listening to the first several albums, they finally sound the way they were meant to - full of energy, fast-paced, plenty of bottom end that sends McCartney's bass notes into your shoes and furniture, in-your-face guitars and vocals that scream out. On the later albums, once the engineers began paying a little more attention to how to properly mix for stereo (as opposed to the first couple of LPs with instruments on the left, vocals on the right, rinse, repeat), the sound begins to fill out with more elaborate arrangements and studio techniques, and these CDs demonstrate it far better than the 1987 masters.

Over the next several weeks, we're sure to hear all about how the engineers either created the finest digital remasters in the history of both digits and masters, or that it's "too loud" with "no sense of space" and how they've completely botched it for future generations, and that Sir Joseph Lockwood will be spinning in his grave - so I won't bore anyone with a long review of each album. As a huge Beatles fan who spent their own money, I'd be biased anyway. Besides, if you're reading this, you've probably read a dozen other reviews, already. Let me just say that they sound every bit as good as a modern CD made from the original master tapes can sound, which is long overdue. These remasters have successfully sent the 1987 CDs back to 1987. Without pristine early vinyl pressings and an expensive turntable and hi-fi system, you will not get a better impression of how the stereo records were intended to sound. Were the band's producer and engineers preoccupied with giving the recordings a huge sense of "air" and space? Not at all. By today's pop music standards, it certainly seems that way, but the Beatles were never exactly an audiophile's delight, either. The Beatles recordings are just some great sounding rock n' roll, pure and simple, and it's evident on the original master tapes. Now, for the first time, it's evident on CD as well. And for what it's worth, it's reinvigorated my hunger to hear Beatles music again.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Audiophiles often bemoan the lack of a younger generation of audio enthusiasts. To be honest it's all a bit like Chicken Little claiming that the sky is falling. High end audio has always been a niche product and there is a good chance it always will be a niche product. However, the next generation of audiophiles are being created at this very moment by two completely different driving forces, the resurgence of the vinyl record and the iPod.

With records the kids are finding that they need help with turntables which leads them to stumble into the various on line audiophile forums and learn about much more than just how to properly set up a turntable and to care for vinyl. They are being indoctrinated on what to listen for in speakers, how to choose the proper amplification, and many more esoteric topics.

The iPod has made listening to music cool again and many of those kids are discovering the included headphones leave much to be desired and they are upgrading. When doing research on which new cans or ear buds they should get they are also learning about how to properly rip and encode digital music.

Below is a video about a young man that's fallen in love with records and reproduced sound. Hopefully this hobby will bring him many years of joy.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Yet more Beatles mono news

Just to make The Beatles mono-mania that's going on around here a little more absurd earlier today I received the following email from amazon:

Hello from,

Our records indicate you purchased a Beatles Mono Box Set, and we wanted to update you on its availability.

This new information will not affect your pre-order--if you pre-ordered a mono box set, you will receive it.

The manufacturer has informed us that they will be producing additional mono box sets due to high demand. While the box set remains a limited-production item, it will not be capped at 10,000 copies for the U.S. market, as originally reported.

That's good news for those who haven't already ordered.

Monday, August 31, 2009

George Martin Featured on BBC Radio 2

Since it's essentially Beatles month here at The Audio Explorer, I thought I'd link a very interesting program from BBC Radio 2 where record producers are featured. This week, it's George Martin talking shop about recording The Beatles, and of course there are clips of current engineers discussing briefly new technologies used in the upcoming remasters.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Both myself and my blogmate have been anxiously awaiting the release of The Beatles remasters box sets, particularly the mono set since they were announced. For those not aware the mono boxed set is limited to 10,000 copies in the United States and is already sold out. Now being "limited edition" means nothing in and of itself however, since it is of limited appeal there is every chance that it will go out of print. So why all of the the excitement for the mono set?

George Martin and The Beatles spent days, sometimes weeks mixing the mono version of most of their albums. The stereo mixes were done usually by an assistant engineer. Sometimes it was even worse, the stereo mix was done by an apprentice engineer. Paul McCartney briefly mentions this in the extra material on The Beatles Anthology DVDs. Saying roughly, "the stereo mixes were done one day while we (George Martin, the producer and The Beatles) were at lunch." With the exceptions of "Yellow Submarine", "Let It Be", and "Abbey Road" the mono mix was the baby. The stereo mix was the bastard redheaded stepchild at best.

At first blush this sounds like a massive oversight. But as Mr. McCartney goes on to point out ". . . ninety-Eight percent of people were listening in mono." Stereo was new, many thought it was a fad and wouldn't last. Many Hi-Fi enthusiasts resisted it in the beginning. It meant a serious amount of money needed to be spent. They were forced to buy another amplifier, another speaker, a new preamplifier, and a new turntable.

Will the sound live up to the expectations? If the review on Tone Audio is any indication the answer is a resounding YES! Also of interest is an ongoing thread on the Steve Hoffman forum. Amazon has some interesting podcasts on the remasters on the right hand side of the page. In addition to two 10 minute interviews with two of the engineers involved in the 4 year project there are there are numerous half minute samples of various Beatles songs to enjoy until the sets ship. September 9th can't arrive fast enough!