Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Part 1

Thus far my holiday haul related to music and/or audio is as follows:

1. The 33 1/3 book about The Who-"The Who Sell Out" album. I've skimmed it and it looks like it will be a good read. Although I have a lot of Who albums I don't know a lot about the personal dynamics within the band. For those not familiar with the 33 1/3 series they are short, pocket sized books about ground breaking albums. I've already read the ones that cover Pink Floyd's "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" and The Beatles' "Let It Be" which are both excellent. The one about Led Zeppelin IV isn't as good since the author was unable to coax interviews out of the participants.

2. A book titled "The Dark Side of The Moon-The Making of The Pink Floyd Masterpiece" which I've already read 75% of and while most of the information isn't new to me that isn't the authors fault because I've read a ton of stuff about Pink Floyd.

3. The Ryan Adams & The Cardinals album "Cold Roses" which I haven't had a chance to listen to yet but he's pretty reliable when it comes to putting out good to great albums.

4. Eddie Vedder's CD single "All The Way" which is a song about being a Chicago Cubs fan.

5. A David Glimour promo CD with the song "Wot's. . .Uh The Deal?" from his performance at the Gdansk shipyard. It couldn't fit on the album so it was given to those who purchased the two CD version at independent music retailers. Since I bought the 5 disc version (3 CD's 2 DVD's) from Best Buy I initially missed out on it, but I'm glad to be adding it to my collection now.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Black Keys-"Attack & Release"

Originally written for

Is heavy, riff based Rock back in style? If the likes of The White Stripes, Wolfmother, Secret Machines, and The Black Keys have anything to say about it the answer is a rousing “Hell Yes!” “Attack and Release” was originally planed as a collaboration between Dan Auerbach, Patrick Carney (or The Black Keys as they are collectively known), Ike Turner and producer Danger Mouse. However with the passing of Ike Turner this became impossible and so it became a Black Keys project. Recorded in just 14 days the album has a strong DIY feel from the water color and pencil cover to the hand built recording console that was used during the sessions.

Side A: “All You Ever Wanted” starts off at a medium simmer but mid way through the song the organ enters and it rivals the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in terms of sheer surprise. “I Got Mine” is a stylistic cross pollination of The White Stripes and Robert Johnson, with an unexpected left turn that heads straight for psychedelia and ends with the gentle hum of the guitarist’s tube amp. The third song on the album, “Strange Times” literally stomps. Being propelled by a big bass drum sound and hand claps. The lead melodic instrument of “Psychotic Girl” is an odd lurching bass guitar riff with flourishes of honky tonk piano and banjo. All of this with the addition of the creepy backing vocals are enough to make anyone remember a crazy ex or two. Is she at the front door? Is she going to stab me in the hand with a pencil again? How up to date is my restraining order anyway? All questions this song brought to my mind. Following hot on the heals of “Psychotic Girl” is “Lies,” a master stroke. Once one starts thinking about that crazy ex pondering all of the out there things she used to say is a natural progression. Of course the creepy soundscape is extended throughout this song as well, even more effectively than the previous number.

Side B: At the beginning of “Same Old Thing” the tape machine can be heard getting up to speed adding to the audio-vérité feel present throughout the album. The lyric “No matter where you been/Those people try to do you in/Every day till dawn/There’s some thieving’ going on.” are worthy of being part of any blues standard. The heavy groove and flute have a Black Sabbath meets Jethro Tull feel. “So He Won’t Break” has the best groove on the record. It is the sound of pure seduction aided by a xylophone. The guitar solo is an affectionate nod to Neil Young. “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing” is the perfect song to close the album. While calling it epic would be a bit of a stretch its obvious that it’s slower tempo and vocals were meant to invite the listener to follow it’s story of loss and regret. Both the organ and the backing vocals add a sympathetic touch to the song.

The pressing is extremely quiet and utilized the half speed mastering technique. Included with the record is a copy of the album on CD, at $18 the package is a bargain. Other artists should take note, it’s a nice touch for many reasons. It makes importing into iTunes a snap, listening to it in the car easy, it aids in the comparison of vinyl vs. CD for those on the fence, and it comes in handy for loaning to friends who are curious about the band. After spending the last several years servicing other people’s turntables it’s doubtful that I’ll ever lend out my records. The number of people who feel that it’s appropriate to put spare change on top of their tone arms in order to make sure that it tracks or are completely missing the diamond of their stylus is just plain alarming. Records, like girlfriends and wives are not for lending. Use the CD to help spread the word, cherish and hoard the record.

Of course the record has a much wider and deeper soundstage than the CD, no surprise there. What was surprising was how much better the bass was, not just in a tonal sense but dynamically as well. On a few of the songs the low-fi aesthetic goes a bit too far, by adding needless effects to the vocals. That slight misstep wasn’t enough to mar the overall presentation, it just seemed like an unnecessary indulgence.

What are any of the songs about? For the most part who cares? This isn’t a record about lyrics. It’s about the sound, the feel, and the groove. An atmospheric tour de force. While moments on the album remind me of this band or that , overall the album doesn’t remind me of anything else. The Black Keys are very much themselves, creating their own art. With little regard for how it will be received. Seemingly unaffected by corporate interests and focus groups. Something all too rare today.

Sound ***
Performance *** and 1/2

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

cover letter and resume

Currently I am in the job market looking for a job in the audio industry. Below is my cover letter and resume with some personal information removed for privacy reasons. For contact information and reference please email me at the address on my resume.

To Whom it may concern-

For nearly a decade I've been selling audio/video products. During this time I've become very good at explaining complex technologies to the everyday person. Working with cutting-edge home theater systems has also helped me to hone my strong problem solving and analytical skills. My communication skills are also first rate, both verbal and written.

While at Audio Consultants I was responsible for stock levels at my store and communicating my store’s needs to our central location. Determining what products were to be put on display was also an area that fell under my jurisdiction. My input was regularly sought about what products should be stocked for our company and what levels my individual store required. I was also responsible for working with manufacturers and various other repair facilities to get customer repairs completed in a timely fashion. These duties were in addition to my responsibilities as a sales person.

During my time at Allnet (now known as AVAD) distribution I worked selling audio and video gear to custom installers. Many times they asked for my advice to help them find a solution for one of their customer’s needs. I was able to perform this task not only because of my sales abilities, but also because I understood the products that I was selling. Also while at Allnet I was in constant contact with various manufacturers to check on delivery times and back order situations in an effort to serve our customers better. I was also involved in the training of many new employees.

When employed with Ovation Audio/Video my influence with the buying department was used to make sure that my store not only had the proper products on display, but that adequate stocking levels were maintained. Many times the buyers would ask me to help evaluate products from perspective vendors. I also helped to slim down the number of SKU’s from Monster Cable, while not negatively effecting our company’s sales. In fact because of the smaller number of SKU’s we were able to stock the ones that we used on a regular basis much more deeply. In addition many of my co-workers considered me a resource when it came to cutting edge technology. Many times asking for my help with their projects, or asking me to help by answering customer questions that they could not answer.

A major part of my employment at Great Sounds was to assist them in entering the home audio/video market. The company had been successful with respect to car audio for many, many years but many employees lacked some of the technical expertise for home theater. While there I helped to educate the part time employees on the finer points of home theater and video. During my tenure with Great Sounds we also pioneered HD TV in the Muncie market.

While attending College at Ball State University I worked as a tutor for over three years. This work experience sharpened my presentation skills and made me extremely comfortable talking to various sized groups of people. Also while a student I held numerous positions in student government. All of these skills would be a perfect fit for your company.

Currently I am seeking a position in sales or in purchasing, with or without travel. Relocation is also a possibility for the right opportunity. I am always interested in learning new skills, both audio and non-audio related.

The Audio Explorer

The Audio Explorer
E-mail: meglos@gmail.NOSPAMcom (remove no spam of course)


Account Manager Electrograph
July 2008-October 2008
  1. Interacted directly with the buyers of multi-million dollar accounts.
  2. Negotiated special pricing for large quantity orders.
  3. Prepared back order reports with estimated time of arrival based on all available information, including direct contact with manufacturers.
Sales/Design Audio Consultants
January 2005-February 2008
  1. Enabled customers to choose the proper equipment to optimize their systems.
  2. Designed high end audio/video/whole home audio systems to suit individual customers.
  3. Set up and maintained all store displays.
  4. Interfaced with manufacturers to handle warranty issues in a timely fashion.
  5. Monitored and determined stocking levels for my store.
Sales/Technical Support AVAD (formerly Allnet Inc.)
February 2003-January 2005
  1. Answered incoming phone calls and wrote orders in a fast paced environment.
  2. Assisted dealers in system design and offered technical support.
  3. Acted as a liaison between our customers and our vendors.
  4. Performed 46% of the work for a department of three employees.
Sales Consultant Ovation Audio/Video
December 2000-February 2003
  1. Designed home theaters and coordinated their installation.
  2. Helped customers to choose high-end audio gear that best met their needs.
  3. Set up and maintained all high-end equipment demonstration areas in the store.
  4. Helped to pioneer custom home installation program with this company.
  5. Highest profit margin in the store for nearly my entire tenure.
  6. Worked closely with the buyers to determine appropriate product mix and stocking levels.
Financial Representative American General
July 2000-December 2000
  1. Helped customers plan finances to meet all of their obligations.
  2. Wrote loans that benefited the customer and the company.
  3. Ran the office in the Manager's absence.
  4. Ranked first or second in loan production.
  5. Honed strong negotiating skills.
Sales Consultant Great Sounds
May 1999-July 2000
  1. Set up and maintained all home audio displays
  2. Increased other Sales Consultants' knowledge of home audio equipment
  3. Improved conversational skills and ability to qualify customers
  4. Helped increase floor traffic by 50% with innovative HDTV display
Tutor The Learning Center, Ball State
October 1996-May 1999
  1. Subjects-Political Science, History, and Psychology
  2. Took students from D's to A's
  3. Taught critical thinking skills as well as course material
  4. Helped students to improve their general study and note taking skills


How to Sell At Prices Higher Than Your Competitors
Thiel Factory Tour and Training
Martin Logan Leadership in Sound Summit
Monster Cable Evangelist Training
Transparent Audio Labs Emerson
Magnepan Factory training

B.S. Ball State University May 2000 GPA 3.5/4.0 overall
Major: Political Science GPA 3.8
Minors: Psychology and History

Dean's List
History Department Award
Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society in Education
National History Honor Society
Golden Key National Honor Society
Pi Sigma Alpha Honor Society in Political Science

References available upon request.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Deep Listening

Stereophile's analog guru Michael Fremer recently participated in a round table discussion on the importance of quality sound. The other members on the panel included an audio engineer, a producer, a mastering engineer, an audio critic, and a music lover.

Perhaps the most insightful quote of the 2 1/2 hour discussion was from Mr. Fremer, "For Whatever the defects of a record are there's soething about what's in there that makes it emotionally nourishing."

One of the panel members related an interest antidote about how although humans can only hear from 20Hz in the bass frequencies to 20,000 Hz in the high frequencies that we can perceive frequencies much further up than the accepted 20kHz. Click on the picture of Mr. Fremer after you have grabbed the potato chips and the beverage of your choice.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Revolutions In Sound: Warner Bros. Records Launches 50th Anniversary Celebration

Boxed sets are so much more than just the music that they contain. They are testaments of passion and respect reserved for historically important topics. The 240 page book contains many exclusive photos and interviews. Warner Bros. has released two versions of this collection. One version of the boxed set contains a USB drive in the shape of the Warner Bros. logo and contains 320 songs. It is not immediately obvious what file format or resolution has been used to encode these files. The other version contains 10 CDs which have 199 songs. Would it have killed them to have shoe-horned in one more song?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pick your own standards

The wattage rating method used for audio products isn't standardized. The only way that wattage can be used in comparing two products is when dealing with models from the same manufacturer. Is a 300 watt Bryston twice as powerful as the 150 watt Bryston? Yes it is. Is a 300 watt amp from "X" twice as powerful as a 150 watt amp from "Y? " It might be, but it's far from certain. This is because of the variables in rating wattage. Below are just a few:

  1. The Impedance used to load the amplifier's outputs during testing, rated in Ohms.
  2. The frequency range being driven. Some manufacturers drive 20Hz to 20,000Hz because that is what many accept to be the human hearing range. Some cheap receivers are driven at only ONE frequency, 1kHz being the norm.
  3. How many channels are driven AT THE SAME time. Just because a receiver or amp has 5 or7 channels doesn't mean that they were all driven during the test. Nearly all receivers only drive one channel during testing.
  4. How long was the test. Many times an amplifiers circuit can deliver very high wattage but the power supply and heat sinks won't allow it to continue doing so for long.
  5. How much "Total Harmonic Distortion" was deemed acceptable during the testing. More distortion allowed means more watts on paper but distortion is also usually the cause of damage to speakers.

For mass market goods the wattage is largely determined by the marketing department and then the engineering department does the algebra to figure out which variables give them the desired answer. The Federal Trade Commission's major requirement is that the rating method be disclosed to the public.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Guster-"Ganging Up On The Sun"

Originally posted on Big Black Disk

GUSTER “Ganging up on the Sun”
(2006 Reprise)

Sound: ****
Performance: ****

Hidden on Chicago’s FM dial is one of the most eclectic stations in the country. Driving with the windows down on a forgotten Saturday afternoon WXRT played the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”, Muddy Waters’ “I’m a Man”, and Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls” back to back to back. How many radio stations would play these three songs in the same year, let alone as part of the same set? XRT displays the same passion and courage when championing new talent. They freely lend their support to Guster and many other under-exposed artists. If you’re thinking about being jealous, don’t. Through the miracles of the internet it’s now available world wide, make sure to send Al Gore a nice thank you note written on a palm leaf using soy ink, delivered by Pony Express. Maybe he’ll read it while riding on a private jet to one of his $175,000 speaking engagements. (Remember do as he says, NOT as he does and Mother Earth will be just fine).

Guster’s “Ganging Up on The Sun” is a meticulously recorded and mixed, ambitious pop album lovingly crafted to induce toe tapping. By the second or third listen the album already sounds familiar, like an old favorite. Except of course it isn’t, it’s a brand new favorite. ”Satellite” has such a perfectly written melody it feels familiar after the first listen. The day after the first spin odds are good that you’ll be humming this one. “Manifest Destiny” combines romance, revolution, and the yearning for a new beginning. ”You and I could quit this scene/Build a town and then secede/Like Adam and Eve.” The pop arrangement stops the song from sounding holier-than-thou and assures that the band’s brand of wide-eyed optimism comes through unscathed. ”One Man Wrecking Machine” has a similar theme, a need for a simpler time. The tune expresses a desire to return to the simpler times of High School via a homemade time machine. The spacey beginning and ending are a nice garnish. The song contains the oddly poetic and yet apathetic line, “I’m going to see the homecoming queen/Take her to the Christmas dance/Maybe now I’ll get in her pants, whatever.” Except for a lack of money and having to follow far too many arbitrary rules I share certain sympathy with the sentiment.

Start with ingredients that include banjo and a shuffling drum rhythm. Stir in a dollop of twang in the form of a guitar solo and “The Captain” has a surprising country flavor. ”The New Underground” is a straight-ahead rocker reminiscent of The Clash in its guitar tone and angry staccato chords. ”Ruby Falls” is a beautiful song that begins with an intimate vocal nestled in soft sheets of arpeggio guitar cords and a bed of organ. A muted trumpet provides a mysterious coda. It would be a tragedy if this song didn’t become a centerpiece of their concerts. This song taps into whatever instinct forces audiences to simultaneously break out their lighters and slowly wave them to and fro. It would be the perfect song to use to leave the stage and say “goodnight,” then of course return for some really rocking encores. ”C’mon” is a call to arms to abandon the tendency of people in their late 20’s and early 30’s to “sell out.” Maracas and tambourine take turns giving the song a nice pacing and the appearance of mandolin is a nice flourish. ”Hang On” has an anthemic, life affirming feel and matching lyrics. Not in the cheesy 1990’s Elton John way, but in the “Hey life ain’t so bad. Everything is going to be ok after all” vein. Imagine Tears For Fears meeting the Beatles in the modern day and you’re there. In short it’s the perfect song to end the album on an emotional high note.

I’ll admit it, I’m a bonus track slut and I don’t care who knows! Live stuff, unreleased songs, b-sides, alternate takes, demos; bring them on. The pure joy of having something that most people don’t even know exists is exhilarating. I like to think of myself as John Cusack’s character from the film “High Fidelity” but truth be told I’m more of a cross between Jack Black and the really awkward one. The spiritedly performed four demos on the fourth side would have been deemed ”good enough” by most bands and record labels to have been unapologetically released as finished product, even though they sound a bit “digital” and lack depth. But that wasn’t allowed to happen here. Bottom line, we have them and the poor bastards who buy the CD don’t.

Every song is too short, only one song totals more than five minutes. In the spirit of a great appetizer they tease, leaving me wanting more, more, more. The album, much like Jennifer Lopez, has a healthy bottom end that is to be admired. Unlike Ms. Lopez it also has musical substance. Every spin rewards the listener with previously unnoticed nuances that add to the experience. With a near perfect distribution of introspective, poppy, and more rockers it’s clear that a great deal of thought went into the running order of the album. This is the type of music that will be appreciated by its owner more and more as the years pass. It’s hard to say what my tastes will be in ten years time, but chances are good that I’ll still be spinning this disc on occasion. Is there any higher compliment?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The end of an era?

It’s always surprising that customers expect the price of speakers and electronics to defy inflation and continually drop in price. They may have been willing to spend $500 for a Sansui in the mid 1970’s but now they want a unit that has three times the wattage, five additional channels of amplification, video swithiching (or even scaling), and surround decoding for the same money. That’s particularly interesting when one considers that the cost of that $500 Sansui would be approximately $2,500 in today’s dollars. Unfortunately, the audio video industry is thought of in the same way as the computer industry. The costs associated with building audio products don’t follow the same rules as computer processors and hard drives that is set forth in Moore’s law. Moore’s law, which was developed to predict the advancement of computer technology states that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 24 months. This increase in productivity leads to a decrease in cost for computers, but not audio. So what’s a manufacturer to do when customers are looking for prices to drop as their costs rise? For many manufacturers the answer was simple? Go to China.

Is the cheap Hi-Fi equipment coming from China a good or a bad thing for customers, companies, and the industry in general? That kind of question is impossible to answer in one word for anyone who is informed on the subject. David Wilson of Wilson Audio had some interesting things to say on the subject in a video that has been previously posted here. Compared to Wilson Audio’s approach of cost-no-object speaker building NHT has always been know as a company that wants to give it’s customers outrageous value for the money. Not surprisingly Chris Byrne (one of NHT’s founders) views on the subject have more nuance in them than Mr Wilson. Mr. Byrne, who isn’t against the manufacturer of goods in China does however see this trend of unbelievably cheap Chinese labor coming to an end. While he feels this means an increase in the cost for goods he also sees the potential to create local jobs and industry as well as reduce planned obsolescence. Another positive outcome would be a reduction in electronic waste. Please read his essay here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Finally, they get it right

Unfortunately, when the mass-media covers the vinyl resurgence it usually casts it as some kind sort of kitschy nostalgia item. With an introduction that goes something like, “Remember those 12” black disks that you used to listen to that are collecting dust in your attic or basement? Some people still listen to them. Aren’t they wacky for putting up with hisses and pops?”

The cynical hacks that usually write for The New York Times must all be on vacation because someone over there took the time to interview manufacturers of high end turntables (Sumiko and Walker), discuss the differences between direct drive and belt drive, and the importance of proper cartridge alignment. To top it all off no one is made to look like a kook or a crackpot. Be careful New York Times you might lose the scorn of audiophiles everywhere for your audio coverage.

Monday, December 01, 2008

R.I.P October 1, 2005 to August 11, 2008 Alan’s iPod

Originally written for

August 15, 2008 – 9:50 pm

A couple of days ago my beloved 60gig iPod photo died. She had been ill for some time, occasionally slipping into a coma without warning or provocation. Services will be held at the Fagan-Miller funeral home in Highland, Indiana on Saturday August 23, 2008 from 1 to 5pm. Owing to incompetent emergency surgery it will be a closed casket ceremony.* She leaves behind a car adapter, USB charger, and a pair of ear buds. Send money in lieu of flowers Please bow your head and join me in a moment of silence.
In all seriousness shouldn’t a $400 piece of electronics last longer than two and a half years? Apple, who cast themselves as a customer service oriented “green” company offered me three options:
1. Turn in my departed friend and receive a 10% discount on a new unit of my choice.
2. Buy a “B” stock of the same model that offered no real world savings considering that the newer ones with more capacity would be less money new!
3. Send it to a third-party company for repair. Apple’s name is on the product but they couldn’t be bothered to service it for their customer.
Thanks Apple, don’t do me any favors or anything. Now imagine if I had a problem with a $500 turntable from a Project, Music Hall, or Rega. They would be more than glad to service it, even 10 years hence. Just another item on the check list of why digital isn’t “Perfect sound forever.”

R.I.P October 1, 2005 to August 11, 2008 Alan’s iPod

*My council has advised me to decline any requests for further information because of an ongoing police investigation.