Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ebb and Flow

Bill Shafer sent along a nice video about the resurgence of the vinyl record. Like the ebb and flow contained in the grooves of our favorite records those black discs have risen and fallen and risen again in popularity over the years. It's out lasted reel to reel tape , 8-track, cassette, DAT, and Minidisc. The way things are going it's starting to look like the record will outlast the CD too. Now wouldn't that be ironic.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Kid Rock is Right?

Rarely, if ever do I agree with Kid Rock. But he makes his point very succinctly in this youtube video.

Stealing music is wrong. You heard it here first kids!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Impending disaster at Capitol Tower

Los Angles may be close to loosing a land mark. In a city where almost nothing is old and a general sense of history is lacking, Capitol Studios is under threat. The Capitol Tower was designed by architect Welton Becket and opened in 1956 at 1730 Vine Street. A developer has purchased the land next door and intends to build a 16 floor condominium high rise, complete with underground parking. That subterranean parking would only be 18 feet away from the legendary echo chambers. The construction would make the chambers and studios unusable, at least temporarily. Of more concern is that the traffic in the garage might make them permanently useless. These are the very echo chambers and studios used on recordings by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, The Beach Boys, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and countless others.

The builders originally went to great lengths to make the studio as acoustically isolated from the surrounding as possible. The rectangular first floor that houses the studios is actually a separate structure, joined to the tower after completion. The exterior walls are 10 inch thick concrete with a 1 inch air gap separating the outer structure from the studio’s inner walls. The studio floor floats on a rubber-tiled 3 inch thick concrete slab, which itself floats on a layer of cork supported by a 6 inch concrete slab. The heating and air conditioning system use decoupled ducts, sound traps, and specialized vents. Even the ballasts for the fluorescent lights were mounted outside the studio to eliminate any source of hum. Les Paul designed the echo chambers, using similar construction methods 30 feet underground. They are capable of creating echoes that last for up to five seconds. It would be a shame if all of this hard work and good design was made obsolete so some yuppies can have a posh pad with underground parking.

For those in the LA area Capitol is encouraging people to turn out and show their support at a zoning meeting for a stay of execution. The Planning and Land Use Management, or PLUM (If only politicians would spent less time thinking up cute anachronisms and more time solving problems maybe we’d have better government.) is meeting Tuesday June 17 at 2 PM at City Hall in hearing room 350. The fate of Capitol records studios may very well be in our hands.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pure Power

For the last couple of years PS audio has been making some of the most exciting and innovative power conditioning products on the market. In the video below PS audio's founder Paul McGowan takes us on a tour of their Power Plant Premier.

I had a Power Plant Premier in my system for a month recently. The drop in the noise floor was unbelievable. The recording that sticks most in my mind was Paul McCartney's "Unplugged." The tonal shifts in his voice as he would move his head to talk to either the audience or the band were always audible, however with the Power Plant Premier the changes were astounding. Sound staging depth was also dramatically increased throughout the album. One detail that I had never noticed before nor have I heard since was the sound of McCartney shifting his feet between songs. Micro dynamics also became much more evident.

PS audio is currently offering a free DVD entitled "Coal to Coltrane: a Brief History of Power." Anybody that is interested in high end audio should request a copy. It's full of insight and anecdotes from Wes Phillips, Michael Fremmer, Robert Harley, and many more. The documentary not only demonstrates the basic principles of electricity it also explains how and why we have the electrical system that we do today. The program isn't a fluff piece selling merely PS audio's products, in fact it rarely mentions their wares. It could easily be shown on PBS, it's that educational and historically informed.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Avant-garde musician David Byrne, formerly of the Talking Heads sets out to prove that music is all around us by turning an abandoned building into a musical instrument. The whole space is playable by a keyboard. For whatever reason when I heard about this I knew it had to be in New York. Originally posted by boingboing.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


There are certain audio companies for which I have a soft spot. For the most part, it's companies that have stood the test of time and build their products right here in the United States. Grado certainly meets both. They've been making excellent phono cartridges for over 50 years, never giving up on vinyl even in it's darkest years. Grado is still in the hands of the family that founded the company and they still hand make their products in Brooklyn. I have one of their Gold cartridges that has served me well for a number of years. Many years ago I gave a pair of SR60 headphones to my then girlfriend who loved and treasured them even after she stopped loving and treasuring me. They also make a nice phono stage and a couple of headphone amps. The guys over at audiojunkies have a nice factory tour.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

T Bone Burnett

In an interview with New York’s WNYC, Producer T Bone Burnett expounds on his dislike for the CD. "It's stepped down from tape to digital to compressed digital, so people are now listening to a Xerox of a Polaroid of a photograph of a painting." For future releases of Burnett’s projects he intends to release a CD packaged with a DVD that will include DVD-Audio and files in a number of formats including 24/96, 16/44.1, AAC, and MP3. The files will be encoded from the original master instead of the process so eloquently described by Mr. Burnett. All for the same price as a conventional CD release. Too bad it wasn’t ready for the Robert Plant & Allison Krauss release “Raising Sand.” Hopefully it will be re-released in the new format.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A new resource

Lately I’ve been completely addicted to wikipedia, whenever something piques my curiosity it’s my go to resource for quick answers. nearly everything you’d want to know about anything is there. Any subject, that is except audio. Even the entries on companies like Mark Levinson, Dynaco, Audio Research, and McIntosh are extremely short. Then there are important companies that have no entries whatsoever.

Enter Audiophilewiki. Started in May of this year, Audiophilewiki is looking to change all of that. Right now it’s in an embryonic state but with such industry luminaries as Harry Pearson, Robert Harley, Ray Kimber, Tim de Paravicini, Michael Fremer, Paul McGowan, Ken Kessler, and EveAnna Manley the talent and the passion is certainly there. For a good list of topics that already up in some for or another click here. Now go and help make it pretty!