January, 2020





A sliver of light

When 18-year-old pop singer Billie Eilish swept the Grammys it was for her album When we all fall asleep, where do we go. The album happens to be a really good recording, one we routinely play in Music Room 2 as streamed from Qobuz.

What’s interesting is that the work was produced in her brother Finneas’ bedroom using pretty ordinary equipment: Apple Logic Pro X, a Universal Audio Apollo 8 interface, a pair of Yamaha HS5 nearfields with an H8S subwoofer, and an Audio Technika USB microphone for the vocals (she was reportedly sitting on the bed while recording her vocals). Basically, amateur stuff. And yet, it sounds terrific. How can that be?

Is there possibly a sliver of light breaking through popular music recording?

I think what’s happening here is maybe a trend that would be a Godsend: dynamic range without affect. Her brother, the producer and musician, lets the music and its dynamics stand on their own merits. He isn’t playing the loudness wars as so many home and pro studios of today are.

Bravo. We can only hope Finneas is at the forefront of where recording is going, but even if not, it shows that what’s needed today are recordings without noticeable compression.

Fingers crossed it’s a trend.



Nipper goes wild

Francis Barraud painted one of the most iconic images in the world of Hi-Fi and music. Nipper.

I have a personal affinity to Nipper and, as visitors to PS Audio know, there’s a bigger than life version of him gracing the PS Audio lobby.

We all kind of take Nipper for a good listener. In the original 1898 painting, the dog is posed sitting atop his master’s casket recognizing his master’s voice. All well and good. But, what happens when a real dog listens to “his masters” voice?

While searching through EMI England archives, a strange spool of film was unearthed—one that probably more closely matched the reality of what would happen when Fox Terrier meets Gramophone. The dog featured wasn’t Nipper – he’d died even before Barraud painted him – but seemingly The Gramophone Company in Germany, for totally unexplained reasons, chose to make this film with a dog and a gramophone. What their intentions were and what they expected to happen remain two of life’s many mysteries, but I can only assume it was not what actually happened!

ht to Rich Butcher for sending this to me.

Watch the video



3 million records need a home

Housed in a nondescript building in Tribeca is the Archive of Contemporary Music, a nonprofit founded in 1985. It is one of the world’s largest collections of popular music, with more than 3 million recordings, as well as music books, vintage memorabilia and press kits. For a point of comparison, the Library of Congress estimates that it also holds nearly 3 million sound recordings.

Inside its space on White Street, there are shelves upon shelves upon shelves of vinyl records and CDs. Signed Johnny Cash records hang close to nearly 1,800 other signed albums. There are boxes of big band recordings, world music and jazz and original soundtracks. Most of the inventory is stored in the basement below.

Notably, the archive, which still receives about 250,000 recordings a year, is home to a majority of Keith Richards’ extensive blues collection. (Richards, of the Rolling Stones, sits on the board of advisers.)

And now it all has to go, somewhere as rents continue to soar.

Read the article


Copper Magazine

“He was 18 and the year was 1953. In a classic moment that would be repeated in millions of households over the next 20 years (including mine), Owsley announced he was buying a motorcycle and his dad threw him out of the house.”

In this issue: Anne E. Johnson looks at the rise, fall and rise of Rod Stewart, and gives us eight great tracks from jazz singer Nancy Wilson. WL Woodward begins a series on the outrageous life of Grateful Dead sonic mastermind Owsley “Bear” Stanley. John Seetoo examines Berlin, Lou Reed’s revered and reviled masterpiece, and talks with Ohm Acoustics’ president John Strohbeen.

Professor Larry Schenbeck concludes his interview with musicologist Steve Waksman, J.I. Agnew has a warm look at the history of vacuum tubes. Rich Isaacs concludes his series on progressive rock titans Gentle Giant. Dan Schwartz continues his quest for audio system perfection, and B. Jan Montana contributes an incisive show report on NAMM from the perspective of an audiophile.

Copper is cost-free, ad-free, and committed to great articles without an attitude.

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The sound of wood

When Newsletter reader Tom Russell sent me a link to a film entitled Masters of Resonance, it was with the intent of shedding light on the subject of speaker cabinets and their impacts on sound.

We all know that a speaker cabinet adds to the sound and not in complementary ways. Great pains are taken to deaden vibrations, damp resonances, and so forth. In the upcoming AN3 loudspeakers, PS Audio designers Chris Brunhaver and Chet Roe have gone to extraordinary lengths to brace the cabinet so no single frequency stands out.

So, it was great to watch this informative video, especially starting at 23 minutes in.

It’s worth a watch.

Watch the video



Back in “the day”

In the 1960s and 70s, when Hi-Fi was “the thing” and FM radio and vinyl were the only quality means of enjoying its reproduction, much attention was paid to spreading the word.

“Forecast FM” was a local FM radio and Hi-Fi magazine for the Washington, DC, area during the 60s and 70s. It began as principally a guide to serious music on the radio, later adding high fidelity articles.

By 1975 the name was changed to “Forecast!” and the focus was definitely on local entertainment, dining and theatre.

But, what interested me when Newsletter reader Neil Russel was kind enough to send a copy, was reading the ads. Oh, how I remember the great stereo ads of the 60s and 70s.

Download the PDF and have a look for yourself.

A stroll down memory lane, or an eye-opener for the youngsters among us.

Download the PDF