Issue 85

Another Day, Another Plane

Another Day, Another Plane


Welcome to Copper #85!

It seems like only yesterday when I got back from Axpona---and now I've gone to and returned from the Munich show. Any glitches in this issue should be attributed to jet lag....

In our regular columns, Dan Schwartz tells us about a special microphone; Richard Murison goes off on a tangent---or threeJay Jay French begins his analysis of the Munich High End; Roy Hall gets into the thick of things yet again---this time, in Paris; Anne E. Johnson’s Off the Charts brings us lesser-known cuts from Rush, and Anne’s Trading Eights looks at alto sax great Johnny Hodges; and I look at the trend towards consolidation in The Audio Cynic.

We conclude the Make It Yourself article from Danish reader Sebastian Schlager on his experiments with horns.

Industry News looks at the continued growth of Sound United.

The Copper Interview brings us Part 2 of John Seetoo's chat with versatile producer/engineer Jack Joseph Puig.

We continue with excerpts from Michael Stuart Baskin's memoir, 363 Days in Vietnam: A Memoir of Howitzers, Hook-Ups, & Screw-Ups From My Tour of Duty 1968 to 1969; our friend Tom Methans tells us about this year's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, and I start a multi-part look at this year's  Munich show.

Copper #85 wraps up with Charles Rodrigues doing penance, and a Parting Shot from Italy by Paul McGowan.

I'll continue the Vintage Whine series on the tangled history of Empire next ish; Woody Woodward is deeply involved in researching his next series, and Christian James Hand is still tied up in live sessions. Both will return soon---next issue, I hope, God willin' and WordPress don't bust.

See you then!

Cheers, Leebs.

Forgive Me Father….

Forgive Me Father….

Forgive Me Father….

Charles Rodrigues

Sound United Grows Again

Bill Leebens

Sound United announced the acquisition of Onkyo’s home audio division, which includes the Onkyo, Pioneer, Pioneer Elite and Integra brands. Way back in Copper #28, Industry News announced the acquisition by Sound United of the Denon, Marantz and Boston Acoustics brands from the D+M Group. Subsequently, Sound United acquired Classe’, as well.

You may recall that Gibson formerly had a complicated interest in the Onkyo brands, including partial ownership and US distribution—but that arrangement went away with Gibson’s bankruptcy, leaving the Onkyo brands somewhat  adrift in the US and some other markets. Keeping track of who owns what, where has become ever more complicated; last summer, Onkyo sold its European manufacturing and distribution assets to Austrian group Aquipa GmbH.

There’s been no specific mention of the fate of associated brands TEAC, Esoteric, and TAD. We’ll report more as we learn it.

As DEI Holdings—owner of Sound United and other groups—gets deeper and deeper into the world of hi-fi, another holding company has sold its interests in the field. Back in 2005, the Minneapolis-based private equity group Shoreview Industries purchased controlling interest in Paradigm from founder Scott Bagby; Bagby and Shoreview acquired MartinLogan, not long after.

Scott and his brother John Bagby just purchased Paradigm, MartinLogan, and Anthem from Shoreview, which no longer has any holdings in audio.

Munich, Part 1

Munich, Part 1

Munich, Part 1

Bill Leebens

After last year’s High End show in Munich, I filed a fairly brief report. This year’s show left me with more questions, and a lot more pictures. We’ll see how this goes, but I’d expect this year’s report to be at least a two-parter…perhaps even three.

After a 10-hour flight, gray skies and spitting rain were not happy-making.

Last year’s report mentioned “gloriously-beautiful weather.” Skip that this year: most days were overcast with the threat of rain, if not actual rain.

Aside from that, Munich is still Munich: a curious mixture of the old—really old by American standards—and the stunningly-new, with stainless steel and glass everywhere. There is a whimsical side to the city, perhaps helped along by the prevalence of beer. Whatever the reason, I’ve never seen a food truck like this one at any US airport:

Heading in to Terminal 1 to catch a train to our hotel near Marienplatz, we were immediately greeted by evidence of the show. I don’t recall seeing such airport displays for any US show.

After a very gray beginning, the next morning was bright and clear. Morning temperatures were usually in the 40s (F), going up to 60 or so later in the day.

Heading into the Marienplatz. Kansas, it ain’t.

Compared to the colorful, organic buildings of the Marienplatz, the MOC show site seemed plain in comparison.

After getting past the wristband police to enter Halle 1, I was amused by this demo Sugden amp, beautifully-constructed with four front panels to show finish options.

Did you realize the IAG Group owns all these brands—plus Luxman?

No idea what that vintage Ducati had to do with US-made Spatial loudspeakers, but it was glorious.

The robo-aesthetic of Goldmund speakers hasn’t changed much over the last 30 years, but they’re still in demand.

Still more gold: Italian brand Gold Note, with beautifully-made turntables and electronics.

Colleagues everywhere: Lee Scoggins from Part-Time Audiophile; industry vet Chris Sommovigo; tall guy John Darko from Darko Audio, cut off by the frame as usual.

The innovative KEF LSX…now in colors!!

Can Jam’s Ethan Opolion showed me his headphone travel kit, including this megabuck aftermarket cable…


…and these gorgeous IEMs.

German lautsprecher artisan Wolf von Langa with two relatively subdued models, and gorgeous Air Tight amps.

The Atrium levels were the busiest I’d ever seen them on a Trade day.

For anyone interested in audio history and technology, nothing compares to Silbatone. A Korean billionaire has one of the world’s foremost collections of important vintage gear, and ships some of the collection to show at every Munich show—at God knows how much in shipping costs. This was a group of early Western Electric drivers and horns, supplemented by a pair of ultra-rare Racon horns (the big square-mouthed recurved horns on the floor). Why are they so rare? They’re made of papier-mache’! Few have survived. As you’d expect, the sound was dynamic and sweet, if a tad limited on the top end.

New but vintage-inspired Silbatone amps are designed by American jc morrison, often utilizing irreplaceable ancient NOS tubes.

Speak of the devil: designer/wild man jc morrison himself, with writer Michael Lavorgna.

At the end of day one, the trip back “home” showed the incredible contrasts of Munich, from this stunning skyscraper…

…to the Bavarian National Museum:

Part 2 of my Munich feature will be in the next issue of Copper.

Johnny Hodges: Eight Great Tracks

Johnny Hodges: Eight Great Tracks

Johnny Hodges: Eight Great Tracks

Anne E. Johnson

When you think of classic recordings by Duke Ellington’s big band, an important part of that sound in your head is Johnny Hodges on lead alto sax. Hodges joined Ellington in 1928, at the age of 21, already a jazz pro with a C.V. that included gigs with Sidney Bechet, Chick Webb, and others. Except for a few years in the early ʼ50s, Hodges stayed with the Ellington band until his death in 1970.

Born in 1907, Hodges grew up in Boston. That’s where he first heard Bechet play when he was 14. By then he was already mastering drums, piano, and soprano sax. He sometimes played soprano with Ellington in the early days, but by the mid-ʼ40s decided just to concentrate on alto. His sax playing has a distinctive character, full of vibrato and unabashedly lush, yet with the capacity to hop with high energy when needed.

All the time he was with the Duke, Hodges also played with other greats and produced dozens of solo and side projects. And that’s what we’ll cover here, or at least a small percentage of them. So, please enjoy these eight great tracks featuring Johnny Hodges.

  1. “What I’m Gotchere?”

In a Tender Mood

“Johnny Hodges and His Orchestra,” the LP’s front cover says. That’s how you know it was recorded between 1951 and 1955, the years Hodges had left the Ellington band to lead his own group. Columbia bought the rights from the original label, Norgran, and rereleased the record in 1956.

Among many interesting things about the tune “What I’m Gotchere?” is the fact that it was written by Hodges’ wife, Edith Cue. She composed a handful of blues-based tunes for her husband’s own projects as well as for Ellington (“Duke’s Jam,” for example). This is a great demonstration of Hodges’ lyric style, speaking with his instrument. The sweet trumpet sound is by Emmett Barry, and it’s worth sticking around for Lawrence Brown’s trombone work.


  1. “Madame Butterfly”

Used to Be Duke

An endlessly astonishing aspect of Hodges’ output is the world-class quality of the people he worked with. On this track, we have no less than John Coltrane sitting in on tenor sax. The complex tune “Madam Butterfly” was co-written by Hodges and clarinetist/saxophonist Jimmy Hamilton.

The use of dynamics and syncopated accents is especially effective in this swinging track. At around 2:30, the two saxes, trumpet (Short Baker), and trombone (Brown) twist the melody around like a quadruple helix. Louie Bellson on drums holds things together with offhanded perfection.


  1. “An Ordinary Thing”

The Big Sound

It’s no accident that Hodges switched at this point to the top-echelon Verve label. By now he’d rejoined Ellington, who spent the second half of the 1950s on an unstoppable ascent, thanks largely to his legendary appearance at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, which was released on vinyl as Ellington at Newport. Hodges picked the perfect time to come back on board.

This is one of several tracks written by trumpeter Cat Anderson, one of four trumpeters on this record (the others being Baker, Willie Cook, and the great Clark Terry).

The main phrases featuring Hodges and the lower saxes of Paul Gonsalves and Harry Carney, are exquisitely shaped, and they project like sculptural curly-cues against the blatting big-band horn sound that answers. All in all, this humorous number is a cross-stitch sampler of jazz instrument timbres.


  1. “Beale Street Blues”

Back to Back: Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges Play the Blues

Many of Hodges’ side projects shared equal billing with other jazz greats. Happily, one of those albums was with the Duke himself. “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy wrote this standard in 1917; Handy had just died in 1958, the year before this album was released. The ease of interplay between Ellington’s piano and Hodges’ alto is the glorious result of two sensitive, intellectual musicians after decades of working together. The trumpeter is Sweets Edison.


  1. “18 Carrots for Rabbit”

Gerry Mulligan Meets Johnny Hodges

Another great team-up in the Hodges archives is this one with post-bop/cool-jazz master Gerry Mulligan, who specialized in baritone sax. He was also a great composer and wrote half the tunes on the album. “18 Carrots for Rabbit” is one of his (the surreal title might have clued you in).

Although Mulligan’s playing is often described as “airy,” he solidifies his sound under the influence of Hodges’ driving style. The alto solo by Hodges starting at 0:35 establishes a high-energy voice that pulls long lines through the jagged tune. Mel Lewis’ brushwork on the snare is especially nice.


  1. “And Then Some”

Blue Hodge

There’s a different flavor of driving energy on this track from Blue Hodge, an older, tighter, more Ellington-rooted style. What they used to call “jumpin’.” The record was the first of several that featured organist Wild Bill Davis.

In Hodges’ composition “And Then Some,” his sax acts as a grounding device below the flute of Les Spann (better known as a guitarist) and Davis’ vibrating organ chords. “And Then Some” opens side A, so you’ll find it easily on this full-album video:


  1. “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing”

Everybody Knows Johnny Hodges

Time to slow down for another ballad and let Hodges pull the longing from deep down in his horn. “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing” is a little-known gem by Billy Strayhorn. Even when it was new, it didn’t get much attention, although the Vince Guaraldi Trio named a 1957 album after it and Ella Fitzerald made a beautiful recording of it with Ellington in 1965. Since you won’t find a more singing instrumental sound than Hodges’ alto, you can practically hear the lyrics.


  1. “Wings & Things”

Wings & Things

This is another collaboration with Wild Bill Davis, but this time Davis gets equal billing on the LP cover and equal playing power in the studio. Hodges and Lawrence Brown (trombone) do a call-and-response with Davis in this up-tempo swinging 12-bar blues by Hodge. Richard Davis’ walking bass gives the proceedings a solid bounce. Grant Green kills it with his long solo starting at 1:03, followed by a sly couple of verses from Hodges. This one stays in your head.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2019: A Fan’s Minutes

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2019: A Fan’s Minutes

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2019: A Fan’s Minutes

Tom Methans

Some of my biggest regrets come from agreeing to social engagements – especially those taking place during my bedtime, but that’s what I did back in February when a text popped up from my promoter friend, Clay. “You wanna see the RR Hall of Fame Ceremony @ Barclay?” With a whole month to prepare psychologically, I said, “Yes.”

I looked up the list of performers. They all fit my image of deserving inductees, with the exception of Radiohead and Janet Jackson. I already dreaded the dirges of Radiohead and the 50 member retinue of dancers who would crowd the stage with Jackson — which brings me to the irksome question that plagues artists, fans, and the Hall of Fame alike: who belongs and who doesn’t?

Madonna and Donna Summer are both in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but why not genre-crossing KD Lang and Dolly Parton? “They’re country, not rock!” you say?

Well, how exactly do Summer and Madonna qualify as Rock & Roll singers? And don’t get me started on why Leonard Cohen was inducted in 2008 and not a blues legend like Son House! There are countless anomalies on the inductee list.

Personally, I would have inducted Judy Collins for her contributions in songwriting and performance across genres over the last 60 years. I would have inducted George Thorogood for a 45-year-long career that has introduced blues to white boys all over America. Okay, you want a Brit act too? Then I elect Iron Maiden for selling over 100 million records with barely any radio support and who are still going strong after 44 years. Since I had no role in choosing the inductees, all we have are the bands slated for that evening of Friday, March 29th, 2019.

7:00 pm: Taping starts with Stevie Nicks’ performance, induction by Harry Styles

It was already a long day by the time I got to Brooklyn. I dreaded the night ahead. Aside from the Cure, I really had no favorites on the roster and planned to head home as soon as they performed, but when Stevie Nicks hit the stage with “Stand Back”, tears unexpectedly flowed from my eyes. I suppose it was torrents of nostalgia from experiencing Stevie firsthand. I’m a casual fan of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks’ solo work, at best, but seeing her perform made me think of that young woman from Rumors (1977). At the age of 70, she still rocks! The set continued with an appearance by Don Henley on “Leather and Lace” followed by Waddy Wachtel’s legendary 16th note on “Edge of Seventeen”, sending chills down my spine. An homage to the late Tom Petty was a duet with Styles on “Stop Dragging My Heart Around”. After the set, Styles summed it up for me in his speech, “She is responsible for more running mascara, including my own, than all the bad dates in history combined.” You couldn’t have said it better, Harry.

7:48 pm: Radiohead, inducted by David Byrne

Acceptance by Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and Phillip Selway. No performance but it was interesting to learn more about the band. Radiohead got their name from the song “Radio Head” on the Talking Heads album True Stories (1986).

8:08 pm: Roxy Music, inducted by Simon Le Bon and John Taylor

This was the pretty boy stylish portion of the show. It was great to finally see Bryan Ferry. That cool cat who looked great in a suit, and whose sexy album covers I’ve been admiring for decades, looked just as suave and even more distinguished with graying hair. Neither Brian Eno nor Paul Thompson attended, but “More Than This” more than made up for this. The classic track off Avalon (1982) was absolutely dreamlike.

8:48 pm: Classic Rock Singles Inductions by Steven Van Zandt

This was not televised, but it should have been. These songs are part of rock’s foundation:

“Maybe” by The Chantels, 1957

“Tequila” by The Champs, 1958

“Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong, 1959

“Twist and Shout” by The Isley Brothers, 1962

“Leader of the Pack” by The Shangri-Las, 1964

“Gloria” by The Shadows of Knight, 1965

9:02 pm: The Cure, inducted by Trent Reznor

The Cure was especially exciting for Clay and me. When Robert Smith took the stage with smeared lipstick, Goth clothes, and ratty teased hear, I got flashbacks of sitting in Clay’s un-air-conditioned, unfurnished, single room occupancy on 23rd Street and Third Avenue. We were both short-order cooks at a fish restaurant in the South Street Seaport, and after working 8 hours we would collect our free after-shift cans of beer and drink them in a deserted corner of the old Fulton Fish Market. Sometimes, we would go back to his place with more beer and sit on the mattress on the floor, still stinking of fryer oil, fish, and onions, and listen to The Cure on his boom box. There we were, 25 years later, listening to Cure songs together again.

9:44: Janet Jackson, inducted by Janelle Monáe

Acceptance by Janet Jackson. No performance. Learned that Jackson has sales of 180 million albums, 5 Grammy awards, and 9 number one albums.

10:09 pm: The Zombies, inducted by Susanna Hoffs

At first, I thought, “Oh no, the token dinosaur group is due for induction.” But I never expected to have so much fun listening to The Zombies and recalling songs that have been around since my birth. We all know these tunes, “She’s Not There”, “Tell Her No”, and “Time of the Season”.  This was the one and only 1960s band I had ever seen live and it was an otherworldly trip into our collective musical unconscious. The Zombies are still touring, by the way. Colin Blunstone is in great voice and Rod Argent delivers a rocking performance on his Hammond organ.

10:50 pm: In Memoriam

Too many to name and too many unpleasant surprises.

10:54 pm: Def Leppard, inducted by Brian May of Queen

It was in the fifth and final hour of the taping that I began wondering if I should leave so as to avoid the crowd back to Grand Central. I had been awake since 6 am and wanted to get home, but I decided to stick it out and see Def Leppard, the last inductees of the night. Then, who walks out on stage? Brian May of Queen. I haven’t seen May in person since the 1980s and don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. I couldn’t leave! After May’s speech, Def Leppard played some of their greatest hits and ended with “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, my least favorite song. Nevertheless, it got the women dancing, from the designer-gowned VIP section on the floor, to the hipsters in the suites, and every Gen-Xer in the nosebleed seats.

11:47: All-Star Jam

The finale was a scaled-down affair headed up by Ian Hunter doing “All the Young Dudes” with Brian May, Steven Van Zandt, Susanna Hoffs, Def Leppard, and members of The Zombies. The 1972 anthem penned by David Bowie was a really nice way to end the night of interwoven musical traditions. I began to accept that all the inductees mattered in different ways. From the first performance to the last, all those loose and distant musical threads of our history can’t help but come together. Who belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and who doesn’t? I really don’t know now. Maybe next year they’ll induct Korn, Jaco Pastorius, and Slim Harpo. Just not Miley Cyrus, please!


[This is one of my favorite rock songs/records of all time. I can’t say this performance does it any favors, but such is the nature of those “all-star” group performances. I think such things are difficult because it makes the viewer aware of his own mortality, as well—Ed.]

Midnight: End of show

3 am: Home

After service changes on the subway, I caught the last train home. It was a 21 hour day, but I was so happy I went. If you have not seen it, you can watch the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony on HBO On Demand and Hulu.


Anne E. Johnson

Intelligent, philosophical, and complex, yet still hard-rocking enough to keep a stadium thrumming. That’s the legacy of the Canadian band Rush. They read science fiction, took a side road through prog rock and synths, and still came out the other end as a guitar—and drums—driven band.

In 1968 Alex Lifeson started the band with a couple of neighborhood friends in Toronto. They quickly replaced the lead singer with Geddy Lee, who also played bass and keyboards. By 1974, drummer Neil Peart had joined. The Lee/Lifeson/Peart trio would be Rush for almost fifty years.

However, it was John Rutsey on drums for the first album, Rush (1974). Rush was released in Canada by the band’s own label, Moon. Mercury picked it up for U.S. distribution. “Working Man” got a bit of traction as a single, but otherwise the album did not have beginner’s luck.

It’s interesting to hear examples from these early days, before there was even a wisp of prog-rock and only straightforward instrumentation. The first track is called “Finding My Way.” Lifeson’s long opening guitar riff and Lee’s scream entrance isn’t too far stylistically from contemporaneous cuts by Queen.


With drummer Rutsey stepping down for health reasons, Peart took his place for the second album, Fly by Night. This is one of two releases from 1975, the other being Caress of Steel. On Fly by Night, there’s an unmistakable motion toward the budding sub-genre of progressive rock. These brainy fellows were perfect for it, naming songs after Ayn Rand novels (“Anthem”) and an Elven village in The Lord of the Rings (“Rivendell”).

Musically speaking, “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” most obviously shows their prog progress. It’s over eight minutes long and divided into four chapters, the third of which, called “Of the Battle,” has its own four subsections. Defining Rush characteristics emerge, like Lee’s constant vocal intensity and Lifeson’s guitar chords in the same rhythm as the vocal melody. The lyrics come at you thick and merciless: This was music for people willing to listen intently.


After 1976’s album 2112 (their first to break the U.S. top 100), Rush released A Farewell to Kings the following year. There are only six songs on this record, with “Xanadu” taking up most of Side 1. The science fiction-inspired “Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage” is the last 10-plus minutes of Side 2. At this point, Lee has started playing Minimoog, and he and Lifeson take turns on bass pedal synthesizers. Meanwhile, Peart has expanded the percussion sounds to include wind chimes, vibraslap, and a host of other instruments.

The shortest song on the album, “Madrigal” is synthesized from head to toe. But it’s a delicate arrangement, almost hesitant, as if the band isn’t confident yet with these artificial sounds, which coexist with more traditional rock timbres. And if there’s any doubt this is Rush, just listen for the mention of dragons in the first line.


Leaving out an example from Rush’s science fiction work would be a serious omission. It’s remarkable enough that Peart (the band’s lyricist) attempted to tell the story of a spaceship going into a black hole with the “Cygus X-1” track. Even more impressive is that he continued the story on the following album, Hemispheres (1978). So grab a snack and settle in for the 18-plus minutes of “Cygnus X-1 Book 2: Hemispheres,” which explores how the gods Apollo and Dionysus represent warring aspects of man’s nature.


Releasing albums every year or two, Rush was on the ascendant. Their biggest selling album turned out to be Moving Pictures (1981), which included the singles “Vital Signs” and “Tom Sawyer.” Next up was Signals (1982). In the song “Subdivisions,” Peart’s lyrics are matched with Lifeson and Lee’s music, featuring interesting syncopation and occasional bars of seven beats. By this point, the synths have become a wall of sound, a foil-between-your-teeth backdrop that strikes the 21st-century ear as unquestionably tied to the ʼ80s.


With Presto (1989), the band signed with Atlantic Records, after a long association with Mercury. This album also marked a change in instrumentation. After several albums that might be labeled “thinking man’s synthpop,” now Rush began to lean more on the sound of guitar. As Lee said in an interview at the time, it’s a “singer’s album” in which the “arrangements support the vocal.” This is not to say they walked away from synthesized sound on this album. Far from it. But that wall of synth has been dissolved, and it’s possible to hear other instruments and textures.

The band had long ago given up the 10-minute prog songs of the ʼ70s. Now they were more interested in standard-length tracks with specific messages rather than stories. Some songs also served as sonic experiments. “Scars” is a good example. With lyrics about the emotional pain we carry with us all our lives, Peart uses the song to showcase some rhythms he had picked up on a recent trip to Africa.


Throughout the ʼ90s, Rush released an album every two or three years. Then Peart was hit by a dreadful double tragedy: the death of his daughter in 1997 and the death of his wife in 1998. He asked for a break from the band to rebuild his life. By 2001 he was ready to get back in the studio. The result was Vapor Trails (2002).

For the first time since 1975, Rush recorded without any keyboard instruments. They’d come full circle, returning to their roots. “Peaceable Kingdom,” titled in reference to the Henri Rousseau painting of calm within a wild jungle, acknowledges the division of opinions in our modern world and our unwillingness to listen to each other. The hard-driving rock sound in a minor key could be Nine Inch Nails, showing a whole different, metal side of Rush, yet still featuring their complex, philosophical lyrics.


The last studio album, their 19th, is Clockwork Angels (2012). That album’s final track is “The Garden.” Admittedly, in this era of downloading individual songs, the term “final track” might not be as meaningful as it once was. But Rush was always an album band, so the last track on their last record is a fitting way to say farewell. The spooky violin tremolo (strings arranged and conducted by David Campbell) and the old-school use of strummed acoustic guitar give this song a kind of melancholy that really does sound like goodbye.


In 2018, half a century after forming, Rush officially called it quits. An amazing feat of endurance in spite of their band name.

The Munich High End Show 2019

The Munich High End Show 2019

The Munich High End Show 2019

Jay Jay French

I attended the High End Audio Show 2019 last week in Munich, as did our esteemed Editor, Bill Leebens.

We came independently. I came as both a fan and as a journalist representing Copper, Inc.com, and Goldmine magazine.

There was enough material at the show to provoke reams of prose for all 3 publications: the gear for Copper, the turntable explosion for Goldmine (a record collector magazine, seeking a “current state of vinyl” report), and the sheer business of the High End for Inc.com.

I also know that show reports are really all about the photos; I took many, and I’m sure Bill did. We’ll see what we can stuff into this story— and yes, my friends, there are a lot of stories.

It’s not about High-End Audio per se. To me, it was about the economics of scale.

You see, in an industry where (at least in America) the high end retailer is bemoaning the evaporation of the “old 2 channel stereo” customer, can there be a greater example of being “priced out of a hobby” than this?

The truth is yes.

It’s not just audio. It’s watches, cars, art—the list goes on. For that matter, I’m sure that fishing equipment at the highest end is also insanely expensive.

As I’m writing this, the window in my office looks directly at the towers on Billionaires Row in NYC. I’m looking directly at 111 West 57th Street, and also at 220 Central Park South, where the single most expensive privately owned apartment was sold a few months ago for $238 million!

And no, I’m not railing in any way about capitalism either.

It’s just that going to the Munich show really exemplifies where the world of luxury has taken us over the last 50 years or so, and that the world of hi-fi has become a part of that world.

Whereas, in 1968, 10 grand could buy you the best hi-fi in the world, the finest watch, a huge apartment in NYC, here we are 50 years later knowing this:

The most expensive watches currently in production in the world, such as A. Lange, Patek, Richard Mille & Greubel-Forsey are priced at about 2 million dollars. The most expensive private yacht is priced at 1 billion—that’s with a “B”.

You could spend, on the most expensive gear that I saw at the show, 2 ½ million dollars….without cables!

Buried within this most insane display of over the top gear are great examples of high quality gear that is sanely priced. That is not sexy, though.

Companies like Pro-ject, Garrard, Rega, NAD, Elac, Marantz, Rotel, etc. offer great sound with real world prices.

And then there is the world of just plain crazy:

In the turntable world, that would be the Acoustic Signature Invictus, Clearaudio Statement, TechDAS Zero, and the Goldmund Reference.

Acoustic Signature Invictus.

JR Transrotor Tourbillon.

Continuum Obsidian table with Viper tonearm.

The world of 40K tables from VPI and SME are really just “budget models” here.

The Goldmund rep told me that they “only made 25 of the $300,000.00 Reference tables (all sold) and that they ceased making more.”


Vertere, from Touraj Moghaddam, founder of Roksan.

The Raven Black Night from TW Acustic.

Top of the line from EAT.

I know all about this stuff (and I’m sure you do, also), but to see it all in one place, at one time, and to hear each company’s story and justification for the particular design that is “better” than the competition…well, it was certainly entertaining…

Many of you, I believe, are like me. We read about this stuff, and we ask ourselves, “who the hell buys it?”

Here is what I have come to believe:

Most of the buyers of these supertoys know zero about what they are buying.

There are, according to recent press reports, 2,039 billionaires in the world, with about 20 additional members entering this league every year.

Show me a billionaire, and I’ll show you someone who has created a product to separate that person from their money. And lots of it.

I will talk more about all of this (speakers, amps, pre-amps, CD players & streamers, cartridges, super arms, reel-to-reel tape decks—and yes, even high end cassette decks are returning!) in the coming issues of Copper. Meanwhile, I need to see my therapist first so I can digest the current human condition that has led this once very noble hobby, into the world of the truly super financially-supported extension of one’s ego…

And yes…I met many really great, passionate audio entrepreneurs who truly love what they do, create, and market. I heard great music on many systems, many not super crazy, that not only made the trip enjoyable but will surely make for a return next year.

More to come in the next issue of Copper.

A Murder of Symmetry

A Murder of Symmetry

A Murder of Symmetry

Richard Murison

Ronnie McGill received a note, mysteriously signed “Michael Schumacher”, which offered him a friendly warning. “Vinny Spadina is figuring to rub you out”. This, naturally, was worrisome. Ever since he had gotten into a loose partnership with Spadina and Elgin he had never felt entirely at ease about it. And now a retired Formula One driver, apparently, was making him feel twice as nervous.

Across town, Bryce Elgin also broke into a sweat. “Ronnie McGill is figuring to rub you out”, said the note. Who the hell is “Michael Schumacher”, anyway? He screwed the note into a ball and threw it across the room. McGill might be a prick, he reasoned, but he has no reason to want me out of the picture. Has he?

After spending an unsettled morning in a state of high anxiety, Vinny Spadina had given up trying to figure out who “Michael Schumacher” was, although the answer just seemed to be on the tip of his tongue. But if Bryce Elgin was “figuring to rub him out”, Vinny Spadina wasn’t planning to just lie back and let it happen. Sure, Elgin and McGill were neither of them the most trustworthy characters in the world, but between the three of them they had a good thing going. Elgin might be a prick, he thought, but Vinny Spadina would just have to show him that he could be a prick too.

So McGill was somewhat surprised when Spadina called him with a proposal. Spadina would pay McGill a hundred grand to kill Elgin. That was unexpected! If Spadina was figuring to rub McGill out, what on earth would possess him to pay a hundred big ones for McGill to take out Elgin? But a hundred grand is a hundred grand in anybody’s money, so Ronnie McGill was listening. “Sure”, he said, “but only if you pay me cash in advance”. It was agreed.

A hundred grand in crisp new notes was all well and good, but it still didn’t address the central issue that continued to bother Ronnie McGill. Killing Elgin would leave him and Spadina with 50% of the action each, instead of the status quo’s 33%. Which sounded rather appealing. But “Vinny Spadina is figuring to rub you out” was what the enigmatic Schumacher’s note had said. So was Vinny scheming to get him to do the dirty on Elgin, in order to distract him while he moved in after the fact and took over the whole enchilada? Somehow, that sounded more plausible.

Thus it was that Bryce Elgin also found himself surprised by an unexpected proposal. Ronnie McGill, it seemed, didn’t in fact want to rub him out after all. It was actually Vinny Spadina he wanted rubbing out – and he was willing to pay Elgin a hundred grand to do it for him. Cash in advance. And who wouldn’t want a hundred grand in cold cash? But it was just all too neat. Too convenient. And too preposterous by far. What was McGill up to?

It all seemed just too confusing to Vinny Spadina. Hadn’t he just paid Ronnie McGill a hundred grand to ice Bryce Elgin? So what the fuck was Bryce Elgin doing, offering him a hundred grand of his own to take out Ronnie McGill? Who’s supposed to be taking out who here? Still and all, a hundred grand is a hundred grand. Cash up front. Not to be sneezed at.

But Ronnie McGill’s head was beginning to spin too. He’d agreed to take Spadina’s money to bump off Elgin, but at the same time he’d ended up paying Elgin to bump off Spadina. He was going to have to play this one very carefully indeed. Keep a low profile if at all possible. But it’s not all that easy to bump someone off while you’re busy keeping a low profile. That’s a lot of plates to keep spinning at the same time.

It was, naturally, Bryce Elgin who figured it out first. If he was going to keep a low profile, then he would need to sub out the Spadina contract to someone else. Preferably someone who would be untroubled by the prospect of taking out a major player. Someone independent, with no ties to anybody involved. He settled on “The Pawnbroker”, so-called because he lived in an apartment that had once housed a pawnbroker’s shop. The Pawnbroker had a reputation. But the Pawnbroker wanted a fee of a hundred grand to kill Vinny Spadina. Cash up front.

Vinny, of course had come to a similar conclusion. He too would out-source the hit to a specialist. He knew exactly who he could rely on. He arranged a meeting with a respected operator who called himself Carmino Loco, and Carmino Loco had agreed to rub out Ronnie McGill, but it was gonna cost a hundred grand. Cash up front.

For his part, Ronnie McGill’s train of thought had pulled into the same station. He arranged to meet a hit man he knew by reputation, and a formidable reputation it was. “Mr. Smith” agreed to take the contract on Bryce Elgin for a hundred grand. Cash up front. Goddamn it – you couldn’t get a job done for less than a hundred grand these days! But McGill felt he had no choice.

Ronnie, Vinny, and Bryce were due to meet in their regular spot on Friday night. The meeting would take place where it usually did, on a park bench by the river. It was a quiet spot where they could be pretty sure they would not be disturbed, or their conversations overheard. It was also a place where more nefarious business could be undertaken should the need arise.

So Bryce called The Pawnbroker and gave him detailed instructions to rub out Spadina on Friday before he got to the meeting, and The Pawnbroker readily agreed. Only two people would arrive for that meeting, Bryce figured, and only one of them would leave. Vinny called Carmino Loco and gave him final instructions to rub out McGill on the way to the meeting. And Ronnie called Mr. Smith and gave him final instructions to rub out Elgin as he made his way to the meeting. Yes, only two people would arrive for the meeting, and only one of them would leave. That was beginning to emerge as a unanimous plan.

At exactly 9:00pm, Ronnie McGill left his huge condo overlooking the river on the southern edge of the City. For the first time in years he strapped on his shoulder holster and slipped his trusty Walther PPK – he was a big James Bond fan as a kid – into place, fully loaded and chambered. An elegant camel hair coat covered it nicely while still giving him plenty of room to draw and fire. He headed down to the riverside and started along the quiet, secluded path leading north to the meeting place.

Vinnie left his own huge condo, overlooking the river on the northern edge of the City at 9:00pm sharp. He wore heavy black leathers, better to blend into the darkness, and still with plenty of room to draw his snub-nosed Saturday Night Special, fully loaded of course, tucked casually into his waist band. He headed down to the riverside, lit a cigarette, looked around for one last time, and headed south along the quiet, secluded path to the meeting place.

Bryce Elgin lived in an elegant mansion in the West End of the City, overlooking the park, with the river flowing silently along the far side. He wore a heavy bomber jacket, and packed his favorite weapon, a Glock 43. He was going to have to dispose of it carefully after tonight. He put it in his pocket where he could just keep a grip on it. He didn’t want to be fumbling about to find it when the moment came. He headed out the front gate, made a long and careful study of the immediate vicinity, and, satisfied, headed into the park and along the leafy path that would lead to the meeting place. The time was 9:00pm.

Ronnie McGill had it all figured out. Mr. Smith was going to eliminate Bryce Elgin on his way to the meeting, so it would just be him and Vinny Spadina at the park bench. Ronnie wasn’t planning to waste a second. As soon as he was close enough he would pull his PPK and blow Spadina to kingdom come. He went through it in his mind, over and over again, as he walked along the path, focusing on the task at hand, concentrating on that, and only that.

Vinny Spadina also had a clear plan of action. Carmino Loco was going to ambush McGill on the path before he ever got close to the meeting place and dump his body in the river. So it would just be him and Bryce Elgin at the meeting. Actually, Vinny didn’t plan to have any damn meeting. As soon as Elgin got close enough he would empty his Saturday Night Special into him. He allowed his hand to grip the gun, and repeated over and over in his mind exactly what he was going to do.

Bryce Elgin hated doing his own dirty work. He thought these days were behind him. It made him think of Michael Corleone in The Godfather, and he allowed himself a brief smirk. But then he focused more on the plan ahead. The Pawnbroker was going to kill Vinny Spadina on the way to the meeting, so it would be just him and McGill. And he wasn’t planning to waste any time on small talk. He was going to shoot McGill between the eyes, and then turn right back round and go home.

Ronnie got to the clearing where the park bench sat. The usual spot for their rendezvous. He looked across the grass to the northern edge where he expected to see Spadina. And there he was. In his leathers. He headed for the bench.

Spadina was actually looking to his right, to the path through the park, from which Elgin would emerge. And yes, there he was. Wearing a bomber jacket. He headed for the bench.

Elgin was also looking to his right, towards where the path meandered up from the south. That’s where McGill would be arriving from. Yes, as expected, there he was, in his stupid camel hair coat. He headed for the bench.

But then McGill realized that Elgin had also arrived. That imbecile Mr. Smith had failed him! Likewise, Spadina noticed McGill walking towards the bench. Carmino Loco hadn’t killed him after all! At the same time Elgin also spotted Spadina, and realized that The Pawnbroker hadn’t fulfilled his contract. All three walked closer and closer to the bench. McGill, Spadina, and Elgin were all thinking the same thing: “Now what?”.

As he approached the bench, it struck McGill that this whole thing had started out with Michael Schumacher’s warning that Vinny Spadina was “figuring to rub you out”. And Elgin was beginning to focus on the warning that McGill was “figuring to rub you out”. Likewise, the fog in Spadina’s mind was beginning to clear around Schumacher’s warning that Elgin was “figuring to rub you out”.

McGill pulled his PPK and pointed it straight at Spadina’s head. Elgin pulled his Glock and pointed it straight at McGill’s head. Spadina pulled his Saturday Night Special and pointed it at Elgin’s head.

But although McGill had pulled a gun on Spadina, he was momentarily flummoxed to find that Spadina has pulled his own gun on Elgin. And while Elgin has drawn his weapon on McGill, he couldn’t make any sense of the fact that McGill had responded by drawing on Spadina. Spadina was equally at a loss to find himself aiming his gun at Elgin, while Elgin was apparently in the process of shooting McGill.

So all three were completely taken aback. For a millisecond, anyway. None of the three saw any immediate solution to the predicament that involved not shooting somebody. At least, not during that millisecond, which somehow seemed to draw itself out far longer than the actual reality of the situation. So all three fired. At the very same instant. And all three fell dead on the spot.

The police had a lot of fun trying to piece together what happened. The only thing that made any sense, according to the evidence at any rate, was that the three had somehow fired on each other at the exact same instant. But none of them believed that for a moment. So they focused all their efforts on developing various theories as to how somebody could have committed a triple murder and left no evidence whatsoever of any fourth party. No theory ever emerged that was not immediately shot down in flames.

Hugo Granville was pretty sure one never would. In fact Hugo Granville, a.k.a “The Pawnbroker”, a.k.a. “Mr. Smith”, a.k.a. “Carmino Loco”, was absolutely certain of it. Even though the detectives eventually found the three notes penned by “Michael Schumacher”, they could never come up with any plausible theories that might tie them into the case, and Hugo Granville knew there was no way to link them to him. After all, Michael Schumacher was nothing more than the first name he saw when he randomly opened the paper at the sports page that morning, looking for a name to sign the notes with. And of course, they would never find the three hundred thousand in cold cash, which was already safely in a bank in the Bahamas.


Bill Leebens

Is there such a thing as economy of scale? If you put 10 similar companies together, can you succeed by offering, as a friend suggested, the VW variations? Audi, Skoda, VW, all mostly the same, but with different features and levels of luxury, at differing levels of profitability and filling slightly different market niches?

The whole idea of packing disparate companies together with vague hopes of “synergy” started back in the ’50s with a Dallas electrical contractor named Jimmy Ling. Ling put together a bunch of unrelated companies with the idea that as long as the profits exceeded the considerable debt required to assemble the conglomerate, everything was hunky-dory. At one point Ling’s Ling-Temco-Vought group included audio company Altec along with everything from aerospace contractors to meatpackers.

It worked for a while. Stock analysis in that period was not terribly sophisticated, but eventually the debt caught up with the group, Ling was out, and it all went to hell. Truth to be told, we’ve seen similar borderline-scam groups appear dozens of times since then—anyone remember Beatrice Foods?

The allure of a fast buck never gets old.

The opposite extreme is putting together a bunch of very similar companies, with the idea that suppliers can be shared along with distribution channels, and profit margins will be mo better. We’re seeing a lot of that in audio right now.

I don’t buy it.

Let’s say you buy up 5 previously independent companies that make very similar A/V receivers. How many different outlets do you think there are for such things? If each company had a presence in Best Buy/Magnolia, will the profitability and market share improve by having only one person to deal with the Minnesota folks, rather than five?

You might eliminate a few salaries, but any cross-competitive advantages vanish, and Big Blue has you by the short and curlies. Does this make sense? Is this worth accumulating hundreds of millions in debt—or more?

I am admittedly the child of Depression survivors, old-fashioned when it comes to notions of profitability and corporate structures, and I can’t read pre-IPO S-1 reports from companies like Sonos, Lyft, and Uber without wondering if I’ve landed in an alternate universe in which debt is the sole arbiter of success.

Hey, business is tough, and the audio business is particularly tough. I just don’t see how owning a whole bunch of very similar audio companies improves one’s chance of success. Beyond that, will those companies retain whatever individuality they have? I strongly doubt it. It’s like GM, once Chevy-Buick-Olds-Pontiac-Cadillac all had the same 350 Chevy engine. Where’s the beef?

I could very well be wrong. My dear old dad used to say, “if you’re so smart, how come you’re not rich?”

I guess it’s a valid question. Coming soon: Leebsy, with no physical assets and a very likely possibility of never turning a profit. All I need to do now is figure out how to rope in a couple billion in venture capital.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

My C-24

Dan Schwartz

In one of his Paul’s Posts (“Capturing Air”), Paul McGowan mentioned my AKG C-24, and I thought I would try to describe the mic, and how it’s been changed.

First of all: a C-24 is a stereo C-12, which is one of the greatest microphones ever made. It’s not quite a direct placement for it — the C-12 is perhaps a little “sweeter” sounding (i.e. more “tubey”) — but perhaps not, and close enough that it didn’t much matter to me — I sold mine a few years ago, because it wasn’t being used, and had gotten too valuable to sit around. And the C-24 is stereo.

Originally, it had a 6072 tube, used for both channels, and a fairly miniscule transformer, made by I-don’t-know-whom. The tube was situated right in the middle of the circuit board: picture a rectangular board with a gap in the middle. And it was really a great mic, exceptional in every respect one could imagine.

Unless you’re Tim DeParavicini

About 20 years ago, I was Tim’s professional importer, and he prevailed on me to send my C-24 to England for him to modify. I had (and have) plenty of faith in Tim — which I had to, to send something like a C-24 to him for modification. He told me he had done two before, one of which was for the great classical engineer Tony Faulkner. So… okay, good. Off it went.

What Tim did:

He threw out the 6072, first of all. This meant there was no longer a need for the fairly large gap in the circuit board. Doing this allowed him to make the board much smaller, which is crucial to the modification. But what to replace it with? Tim’s answer was to use a pair of AC701’s (which are miniature tubes, used in among many others, the Neumann M-49 and the KM-series of mics, like the KM-54 and 254), and to “fly” them off the sides of the board. Literally. Where the 6072 sat smack in the middle of the board, the AC701s are flown off the sides, one on each.

The mic body is a cylinder, and now, with a smaller board, a lot of space is opened up. He then threw away the small transformer that AKG originally used. This is really the crucial step: he replaced it with one (or two? I can’t remember) of his hand-wound transformers — and in my opinion, Tim makes the best transformers in the world. And it is —they are?—much bigger than the AKG’s original. A larger, more linear transformer: the sound was utterly transformed, too.

On the low end, it gained an octave, apparently. It may not be quite an octave, but it goes really low, now. It went low before, but now it goes REALLY low. And on the top end — AKG’s have a bump, a rise, in the upper mids to lower highs. Tim’s mod smoothed that out. The overall result was a much more linear, wide-band microphone, capable of capturing the air of a space.

Am I happy I acquiesced to the mod? What do you think?

Footnote — The last time I really heard it in use, I had rented it to someone who complained of a hum, so I brought to the studio where I was “living” at the time, plugged it in — and there was the volume of the very large space, perfectly reproduced, without a trace of hum. (He had a hum somewhere else, probably in his AC line. I’ve encountered this before.)

Crazy Horse

Roy Hall

“C’est mon mari!” yelled Arianne as we rushed into the kitchen to help her husband.

Many years ago, I became the distributor of YBA electronics, a French company based in Paris and owned by Yves Bernard Andre. I took on the distributorship because the products were really musical and there was something romantic about doing business with a French company in Paris. Yves, who is still a friend of mine, taught me the correct way to drink wine; for every glass of wine, drink a glass of water. This way, you can keep drinking all night. He also told me that the French rarely drink Perrier. They prefer Badoit, as the bubbles are more delicate. When in France, that’s now my water of choice.

Yves, like most people in the Hi-Fi business, is somewhat eccentric. He is a professor of computer science and one day I asked him to show me his computer system at work. At that time I was constantly searching for a simple system to use on my own business. His eyes lit up and he took me into his office. He went into his desk and removed a small plastic box. In it, were index cards. Every card had client information entered with a list of items purchased. He smiled at me and said, “really simple, and it can’t get hacked.”

On my third or fourth visit to Paris he had invited all his international distributors to a conference. Yves had booked us into a typical Parisian hotel not too far from Notre Dame. Typical meant that the room was tiny, the bathroom acceptable and the bed concave.

We spent the day listening to and discussing his latest amplifiers and CD players, which were as always, magnificent. In the evening we had an (how do the French do it?) amazing dinner somewhere off the Champs-Élysées; then we all trooped over to the Crazy Horse nightclub for entertainment.

The Crazy Horse is a Parisian tourist trap. It features a burlesque show where about a dozen, seemingly identical, nude women dance onstage. As entertainment it harkens back to a time gone by when objectifying women was “de rigueur.”

Frankly I found it boring but the cheap champagne we were served helped to mitigate the pain. The show over, Yves disappeared to pay the bill. After a while, we realized that Yves had not returned. I decided to look for him. I glanced in the kitchen window and to my amazement, I saw him fighting with some waiters. Four of them were holding him horizontally while a fifth was punching him in the face. I yelled to Arianne, his wife, and we all rushed into the kitchen to save him. On seeing this group of people stream in, the waiters dropped Yves and stood back. This resulted in a lot of yelling and we eventually managed to leave the club with Yves somewhat intact. His clothes were torn and he had a bloody nose. During the melee I eyed a rare bottle of vintage champagne glinting on a nearby shelf, which I pocketed.

When we assembled a block away we learned that when Yves offered to settle the bill they denied receiving the deposit he had paid when he booked the event and the fight ensued. We then cracked open my booty and drank to a battle lost but a bottle and an evening won.

Jack Joseph Puig, Part 2

Jack Joseph Puig, Part 2

Jack Joseph Puig, Part 2

John Seetoo

[Part 1 of John Seetoo’s talk with engineer/producer Jack Joseph Puig was featured in Copper #84Ed.]

John Seetoo: What is your preferred equipment for listening to music at home for your own pleasure, and given the lower audio quality that has become standard due to mp3 data compression and the prevalence of earbuds over quality speakers as a listening source, how much must you compromise your personal listening preferences in a mix in order to satisfy commercial loudness requirements and monitoring limitations? How do you resolve the gap between the two?

Jack Joseph Puig: As a sound professional (separately from my recording projects and development work with Waves), I have been working with Amazon, Facebook, and Google on their consumer mobile devices. Specifically, trying to make them sound better! Earbuds, in particular, have weaknesses. What is important and what matters most is getting the midrange correct. All of the emotional content lies in the midrange. When the midrange is right, all of these devices will transmit the bulk of emotional material for delivery.

For myself, I have a very nice JBL and McIntosh home system. I run everything through it: music, video, tv…that’s my home preference.

J.S.: What are some of your all time favorite records that you think could have been mixed better, would benefit from having you remix them, and what elements in those records would you change, and why?

J.J.P.: I wouldn’t change a thing. I think that the striving for HD perfection of sound, especially on records that millions love and that have stood up over time, is boring. The tape editing, echo, or any other elements that people had to use as work-arounds back in the day are the innovations that give those records their character.

Somewhere in Japan back in the 1980s, there were some guys in white lab coats who wound up inventing a keyboard. It wound up being called the (Yamaha) DX-7. For some artists – it could be a band like Duran Duran (or other synth band) – certain instruments born from technology created and (when used in a particular way) defined their sound.

Technology often drives the process on what and how we create. I worked with Toto. Without the sound of a DX-7, you wouldn’t have Africa. The technology makes us overcome the limitations of the time to become innovation.

J.S.: Your expertise and love of compressors is well known in the music industry, and Waves actually has several of your customized compressor based signal chains in its plug-in catalog. Aside from the loudness wars, what trends do you see in music where compressors are being misused or not used sufficiently, and why?

J.J.P.: Biggest misuse is in the loudness wars. Far too many people only think it can be used to make soft things louder, and that compression should always be loud and in your face. The main issue for me is that most people don’t realize how attack and release affect time and feel and dynamics. EQ is static. Compression is dynamic, because it can affect time. I suppose an argument can be made for high frequency EQ being somewhat dynamic to an extent, because of the quicker transients, but on the whole, music IS dynamics.

J.S.: When referencing his mixing work, the late Dennis Ferrante sometimes referred to it as, “his contribution to the jam session”, and considered his work on Lou Reed’s, Berlin and his Elvis Presley CD boxed set remixes as examples. He shared your notion of being an “instinctive more than an intellectual” mixing engineer. Is this a zone you find yourself entering into often, and what examples from your catalog would you cite as ones where your mind was so focused into the music that you might have lost track of the exact signal path routing and specific outboard effects and EQ you were using, needing to back track to realize how you arrived at the final sounds achieved?

J.J.P.: As far as backtracking – I always use “save as”, never “save”. In a modern system, (when used properly) the system watches your back. Album “breadcrumbs” are like a digital paper trail. As far as mixing and getting lost in the mix – it happens more now for me than ever before. The system feeds the instinct. In the past seven years, I find my instincts have grown with the system down to the smallest things in life.

You have to honor the instinct (when mixing). It talks to me. You need to honor the power of it and maintain the instinct and intellectual balance.

J.S.: Are there any artists or music genres that you have never had the chance to work with yet, and how would you approach them differently from the norm if you had your chance?

J.J.P.: Latin music. I really have always liked Latin music: its rhythms, its melodies, its intervals…I’m from Latin roots and I also speak Spanish. I miss working in that field of music; I’ve never had the opportunity. What I do in music as far as “feel and attitude” I think would work nicely.

As far as artists whom I’d love to work with: Maná. And Gloria Estefan.

When I speak with you and answer these kinds of questions, I think back on something the guys from Stone Temple Pilots taught me: “It’s ok not to force answers to a question. Rather than B.S., it’s better to give the truth.”

There was a famous guitarist who was asked how he achieved his guitar sound. He created this whole elaborate signal chain, mapped it out with all of these connections and devices – all total B.S.! A fan went out, put in the work and money to copy it. In reality, it was a guitar plugged into a Fender Deluxe with an SM-57 (Shure mic). Not cool!

When I was younger, my heroes inspired me. Now it’s my turn. I want to inspire others and have them take it further.

[Our thanks to Jack Joseph Puig for taking the time to chat with John Seetoo. Photo courtesy of Mr. Puig’s personal collection—Ed.]

Kitchen Doors and Paper Horns, Part 2

Kitchen Doors and Paper Horns, Part 2

Kitchen Doors and Paper Horns, Part 2

Sebastian Schlager

Around 2006, I discovered that digital technology could be a game changer for audio reproduction. Getting full control over the system and avoiding the analog crossover was for me a big step in the right direction, for better sound. Much later, when computer CPU power became much stronger, I embraced DRC software (digital room correction) that builds its algorithms based upon studies of the human psychoacoustics. While DRC cannot make an acoustically bad room sound good, it can minimize unfavorable effects of a room’s acoustics.

Playing in active mode via Behringer DCX 2496 made it pretty easy to match the horns, with respect to sensitivity. Time aligning them and here and there, bring some equalizing into play, I started enjoying my efforts.

First horn iteration, with green tapped horns, made out of scrap wood

I now knew that this was, for me, the way to go. Despite of some sonic issues here and there (mainly in the integration between the tapped horn subs and upper bass and a bit of graininess in the treble, due to diaphragm breakup), it was evident that this system had a grip on the music in a very different manner than normal box speakers. Dynamic and fast transient response, check. Transparent and big “see through” soundstage, check. Uncompressed at high SPL, check.

Next I added a bullet tweeter, which later was swapped for a compression tweeter, of course with own paper tractrix horn mounted. Biggest (no pun intended) improvement was the addition of a 3000 liter front loaded bass horn, instead of the tapped horns, incorporating 4 Fane Colussus 15XB drivers, loading from 24 hz. I did not exactly need more bass headroom, as the monster bass horn theoretically could reach +140 dB, but as all audiophiles know, the room will mess up the response, particularly in the bass region.

Wanting a more even in-room bass response, I took the Earl Geddes multiple subwoofer principle in use. Adding two 500 liter front loaded horns, each with a 15” driver, to each side of the listening position, did the trick.

The system:

Three cubic meters bass horn with 4 x 15″ Fane Colossus XB drivers, operating from 24-100 hz. A Behringer Inuke 6000DSP with 2 x 2000w /4 ohm powers it. This hangs from the ceiling, to free up ground space.

Upper bass, from 100-500 Hz is loaded with Electro Voice EVM 15L driver. Amp is Behringer Inuke 1000DSP.

Midrange is a tractrix 190 Hz paper horn with JBL 2445, 2” exit compression driver from 500-5000 Hz. Amp is NAD 7100.

Tweeter is a tractrix 1200 Hz paper horn with Celestion CDX1-1747, 1” exit compression driver from 5 – 20 KHz. Amp is Onkyo TV960.

A MiniDSP Open-DRC-DA8 function as the heart of the system. Basic driver equalizing, x-over all LR 48 dB, driver time alignment and pre-amp.

A Behringer DCX 2496 handles the subwoofers. Coupled with the MiniDSP it gives me greater flexibility. System efficiency around 110db/1w.

All cables and interconnects are DIY.

As you see, I don’t rely on fancy cables or so called high-end gear. This hardware is pretty basic. It measures and sounds well and is affordable.

I play my music through a laptop, which is connected to an USB/ SPDIF converter, before entering the MiniDSP. From the laptop, I run a DRC (digital room correction) convolution filter, which takes care of the frequency amplitude and time domain, through FIR filters.

My music is stored on external hard disc drives, and occasionally I use streaming. If I want to play CD’s I use the laptop’s built in drive.

A sound system of this size begs for a dedicated listening room, in fact all serious sound systems do. I knew beforehand, that all this gear could not be fitted into a normal living room as WAF is close to zero, so luckily for me, all my toying around, has taken place in my garage. With no limitations, in regards of décor or other impracticalities, I have free hands.

The listening room has been treated with membrane bass absorbers, placed in the corners behind the system. Three big panels 60 x 240 cm, made from double layer plasterboards combined with Rockwool bats (mineral wool) is placed under the ceiling, over the listening position. The sidewalls are also treated with 5 cm (2”) Rockwool bats. 10 cm of Rockwool bats and then an outer layer of acoustic absorber panels from Rockfon, cover the back wall. Behind the listening position a DIY skyline diffuser is mounted, for better dispersion of frequencies over 700 Hz.

The sound:

The sad truth is that many audio people continue to believe in magic drivers and capacitors – magic cabinet materials and think/hope that is all that is required. I strongly beg to differ. As a general rule and giving the nature of horns, I believe they are much more sensitive, so to speak, with regard to their implementation. In fact, it is all about implementation. Nobody is going to walk in and just by listening to a system, say “Oh these sound like TAD compression drivers”, or “These sound like Altec 288’s”. Not going to happen. What makes more difference than driver selection, expensive front end, etc. is implementation. Good drivers are of course needed, but they don’t have to cost thousands of dollars per unit or to be a certain vintage model, impossible to obtain.

That said, horn profiles, size, crossover frequencies, slopes, integration with the room, room treatment, FIR or IIR filters, individual horn bandwidth, physical distance between the horns for best integration, time alignment, front gear (regarding noise), all are at play. Poorly done, and the sound will suffer. Often to a degree, which will back up the sonic bashing that has been the Achilles heel of horns for so many years. With noisy gear, you will raise the noise floor to an obscene level of hiss and hum. This takes time and patience, but THIS is the important stuff. You’ll need to measure, adjust, listen, repeat. With so many pitfalls, it takes a lot more effort by the user to get a good result sound-wise with horns, than  with “normal”speakers. However, get it right, and horns offer a dramatic increase in speed, dynamic capability, image size, transient response and presence, with harmonic distortion less than one quarter of the value found in normal direct radiator systems. Moreover, most direct radiators severely compress dynamic contrasts, reduce image size and sound fatigued and almost anemic.

I want my music to be created with the drama and intensity that is instantly recognizable to anybody who has ever heard or been moved by live music. That’s a key element that brings me closer to the real event. I don’t want the speakers to do the talking, I want the people and instruments captured on the recording, to reach out at touch me emotionally.

After a long audio journey and many hours spent on studying and building my horn system, I can finally sit back, relax and enjoy the efforts.

So, what is it I hear, that sets these speakers apart, from anything else I have owned or heard elsewhere—whether at Munich High End or in private audiophile homes? It is not just what I hear, but also what I feel, when I listen to them play.

With this system, you feel the music, you become part of the music, and the music becomes part of you. The full-range phase coherent wave front of the horns (remember, I use minimum phase FIR filters) produces a solid image and lifelike, transparent presentation. The sound is crystal clear and even the tiniest details will be revealed, almost as though hearing through acoustic binoculars. They present the music with the correct instrumental texture, tonality and harmonics. The natural, communicative quality and realism these speakers are capable of are immediately apparent, to anybody who has listened to them. In short, they sound very effortless and real. No matter of how high up you crank them, they will hold their ground and poise —and your ears will give up long before the speakers, believe me.

Due to the horns’ inherent benefits of low distortion, high efficiency, fast and accurate transient response, and wide dynamic range, these loudspeakers provide a pure, lifelike musical presentation, a more organic and natural recreation of the acoustic event. As a result, each different musical selection is portrayed with its own character and life, not that of the playback system. The performers will be there, in the room, performing for you. With realistic speed and impact, even at low level, the sound is never veiled or compressed and one easily hears, in comparison, how constrained most speakers really are and how much distance they introduce between the performance and the listener. With this expressive nature, they are the key to unlock the energy and emotions of a recording.

Take the bass, for example. There’s none of the pounding weight that is typical of hi-fi low frequencies, especially from dedicated subwoofers; an earth-bound rolling thunder. This horn bass floats and envelops full of texture and layered harmonics, rather than slabs of sound that slam you in the chest. The latter can be fun for a while, just for the visceral impact, but in the long run, it becomes tiresome and uninvolving.

Playing guitar in a local band and being in the rehearsal room, I can feel the visceral impact of the kick drum. Having an upper bass horn that covers the power range, around 100 to 300 Hz, gives me the same sensation, when hearing a well-recorded drum kit. Take the tight dry sound from a real snare drum, which is almost explosive. Here the fundamental tone is easily captured by the upper bass horn while the midrange horn integrates the upper harmonics, to create a near perfect illusion of the real thing. No normal speakers can re-create the same sonic illusion, in regards to, dynamics, speed and impact, not forgetting lifelike SPL, period.

Hi-hats and crash cymbals sound very real with true resolution. Without dynamic compression and having fast transient response, you get the full energy spectrum of the complex harmonic structure, that reveals what kind of cymbal it is, how hard it is struck, and where.

Female singers like Diana Krall or Eva Cassidy sounds sweet and delicate. Then take Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, and there’s nothing sweet or delicate about the manner in which these speakers recreates the blast of a trumpet, the wail of a sax, or the sound of wooden sticks on rim shots. The timbre and transient attack of instruments is unmistakably real.

You want to be transported back to a live concert venue? Give Al Jarreau – Live In London 1985 a spin and you feel that you are among the audience looking at the stage, with a big sound picture in front of you.

Delivered through this system, with some SPL muscle behind, not only the band is having a great time.

More into electro pop, then Yello – Planet Dada will deliver plumping synth bass that will rattle the room. On top, all kinds of digital blips and odd noises will be carved out in the soundstage.

Put on a big symphony orchestra, which blasts into a full-throated climax. The power, level and dynamic capabilities are physical in terms of live presence and musical impact. You never lose the sense, that this really is a lot of people working together, to move a lot of air.

These speakers don’t just attract attention, they grab it and hold it. Overall, this horn system has a very natural timbre, with immediacy and delicacy in spades. Combined with the speaker’s ability, to resolve the smallest dynamic shifts in musical notes, as well as to cover the widest dynamic leaps, it allows this setup to project music, in a way, which is almost intoxicating and very enjoyable.

The Dannebrog Horn System and the proud owner!

363 Days in Vietnam, Part 2

Michael Baskin

[Our first installment from Michael’s book, 363 Days in Vietnam, appeared in Copper # 84—Ed.]

Day 119

This photo of me pointing a gun at the camera has a lot to tell.

A towel fastened around the waist with some of the most awesome flip flops was NOT in the military dress code UNLESS the G.I. was in a warm combat zone and about to take or had just taken a shower. In this case it was the latter.

In 1968 there were zero women in combat in Vietnam or anywhere in the U.S. Military. Wearing only a towel was NOT provocative on a base exclusively staffed by men. In my one-year tour of duty I saw exactly 2 American women – they were Red Cross gals and it also involved a shower, but that’s another story for later . . .

You’ll notice a five-gallon gas can to my left. Modern plumbing did not exist for the Army in Vietnam. I imagine – but don’t really know – the Navy or Air Force may have had running water, but we never did.

When we wanted to shower, we needed to fill the can, carry it to the shower, carry the can up a ladder and pour it into the cut-off 55-gallon drum that sat above the shower. Five gallons would produce water for about 5 minutes.

If you wanted a shower that lasted more than 5 minutes, you could carry two five-gallon cans. I tried that once, but carrying two of those heavy cans exceeded my point of diminishing returns and I learned to ‘make do’ with one.

You’ll also note that my M16 accompanied me ‘cause Charlie, like Allen Funt, liked to show up when ‘you least expected him’.

Despite the fact that any Vietnamese person could and sometimes did turn out to be Viet Cong or a sympathizer, there were a few Vietnamese civilians working on our base. One of those was a young woman who I had seen previously hanging around.

So, I’ve returned from a refreshing shower at the end of a work day, I’ve got the water can in my right hand and the M16 in the other. I’m looking forward to a delicious meal at the mess hall (haha) and as I approach my hootch, she casually walks right up to me and snatches the towel. She’s looking me over and laughing as I snatch it back. Another G.I. had put her up to it.

I rewrap the towel around my waist and for reasons I don’t remember think: ‘this is a Fuji moment’. I ask if she’d take my photo. She’s still laughing as I fetch the camera from the other side of that screen door. She’s got a plastic flower in her hand and as I point the gun, she sticks it in the barrel (of the gun) like a stateside peacenik at a protest march. You can just make its pedals out.

Ordinarily, I would not point my rifle at someone. Ordinarily, I don’t carry a rifle and ordinarily, the person I’m pointing it at wouldn’t stick a plastic flower in the barrel, but there’s nothing ordinary about this moment and you see the result.

Day 124

One of our 105’s was firing when I wandered by their pit in a moment of boredom and decided to watch this afternoon. The guy calling the shots (pun intended) was one of the guys passing the peace pipe in my visit to the hangout bunker a couple of nights ago: Sergeant (I’m pretty sure his name was) Don.

At some point Sergeant Don noticed me sitting there and I asked if I could pull the lanyard. He nodded and I may have pushed the other guy out of the way after leaping from my perch on the pit wall en route to the gun.

They were setting defensive targets at the time, not a real fire mission so amateurs were welcome to participate.

Defensive Targets, aka ‘Delta Tango’s’ were typically set by infantry patrols (in the field) before it got dark so they’d be ready if Charlie tried to swoop in under the cover of darkness. They’d identify places where he’d be likely to hide and zero in on them while it was light. Then, if he did attack after dark, they’d simply call in ‘Target Beta’. That target would already be dialed in and high explosives would be on the target in under 60 seconds.

Now I’ve got the lanyard in my grasp – I am pumped! Don makes eye contact and gives the command: “Fire.” I am only too happy to comply.

B O O M !


I’m not used to having fun here. I’m pretty sure that was the first fun I’ve had since getting here.

They make some adjustments, reload and Don gives the command again: “Fire.”

Okay, I admit, I’m not thinking about the destruction this could cause – I’m thinking how cool it is to pull the trigger on this beast.

More adjustments and another BLAST!

A few more pulls and we’re done – the targets are set and I’ve got a new way to pass the time in the afternoons. Hoo-Ahh!

Day 220

I’m on my own for day number three of R&R. I perused the hotel’s little collection of travel brochures for suggestions of things to see. The Botanic Gardens looked interesting.

It was mid-morning when I arrived and the big park was all but empty. I’m thinking ‘great’ I’ve got the place to myself. As I’m going through the turn-style somebody suggested I might want to feed the chimpanzees. They were selling bags of peanuts in the shell for a buck and I thought, ‘sounds like fun’.

It turns out the chimps were not in cages or behind fences – they were allowed to run free throughout the park. Well, that’s ‘different’, I thought.

Sure enough, I get about 200 feet into the park and there’s a small band of about six chimps trotting towards me. Great!

As they approached I thought I’d feed them from my hand. I hadn’t received any instruction or caution regarding their ‘feeding’ so I thought ‘why not’? I held out a single peanut in the palm of my right hand while clutching the bag near my chest with the left as the group’s leader got closer.

He got within about 6 feet and suddenly, with zero hesitation, like a lightning strike, he lunged at me, deftly snatched the bag of peanuts from my left hand and raced away with the other chimps chattering their gleeful approval.

For the split second he was lunging at me I couldn’t believe what was happening – I was totally taken off guard. By the time I reacted it was over. I chased after them and naturally, that was useless. It seemed as though no one had witnessed me getting outsmarted by an inferior species.

I guess I should be thankful the only thing they injured was my pride.

Day 237

Boring is where lazy intersects the unimaginative. Unboring isn’t complicated, it just requires a little ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. The sign above the entrance to our hootch was boring, ‘mil-spec’ dreck and I decided to do something about it. By then I had forgotten the ‘awning incident’.

Before enlisting I had studied a little calligraphy – Mrs. Zahler set that ball in motion in 7th grade at Central Middle School. Naturally, we had learned how to print in first grade, but Zahler taught us the proper proportions of each letter and helped us/me to appreciate the importance of a uniform style.

My dad valued fine penmanship and loved the elaborate, Old English typeface. He had introduced it to me long ago and produced a signpost with our family name in Old English. Then, a couple months before getting on the bus to basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, I met a guy who taught me how calligraphy was done with pen and ink. I bought a book of typefaces and a set of pens and had learned how to use them.

I took down the signboard above our hootches’ door with glee, covered it with a bright, red enamel and painted my old English ‘D’ in contrasting white ‘free hand’. Then, I added the decorative, psychedelic filigree, ‘elta’ to its center and the word ‘supply’ underneath.

When I renailed it above the door, it was a thing of beauty.

Take that conformity! Boring no more!

[We’ll have another installment from Michael’s book, 363 Days in Vietnam, in the next issue of Copper. You can see the book on Amazon, here.—Ed.]