Aloha Audiophiles! We are on the road again!
Well, for those of you who didn’t have a chance to make it to Lone Star Audio Fest 2015, you missed a great time. You also missed the first showing of our new design! The JANE JKM. Our flagship floor standing speaker and external crossover system. Don’t worry though, your next opportunity to see the JANE and several other products we build will be at T.H.E. SHOW Newport! That’s right! We are on the road again folks! May 29th-30th we will be rock’n the paint off the walls in room 443 at the Hotel Irvine!
For T.H.E. SHOW, JWM has chosen to bring 3 sets of speakers. The NET-1 mini monitor, the ALYSON AML large monitor and the JANE JKM floor standing flagship. Also included in the collection will be the KAREN 6 and 3 turntables and several examples of HI-FI accessories including Cable Cradles in several wood species and sizes.
As before, We will be showing with a great system. We are proud to have names like Balanced Audio Technology, Nordost, OPPO and Ortofon in the room with us and we certainly plan on making a splash. If you care to join us, don’t hesitate to contact us, or simply show up and bring some tunes! We will have the ability to spin discs, files and of course vinyl so feel free to ask for a demo with the stuff you love to hear.
JWM Acoustics will be showing the following systems:
JANE JKM Floor stander and external crossover in Bubinga ALYSON AML Large monitor in Monkeypod NET-1 Mini monitor in Purple heart KAREN 3 Turntable in Monkeypod KAREN 6 Turntable and external power supply in Monkeypod
Balanced Audio Technology REX Preamplifier Balanced Audio Technology VK-P10SE Phono Stage Balanced Audio Technology VK-6550SE Power Amplifier OPPO BD-105D Digital player Nordost Qbase Power distribution Nordost Qv2 and QK1 Line conditioning Units All the audio cables and power cables will be provided by Nordost including examples of the Heimdall, and Lief lines.
We will also be letting the entire system go at a fabulously low show price! You are welcome to inquire in the room and pick up a price list of all the components present. Also, we will be giving a show discount on all products on our website until the end of June! Just enter the code THE SHOW at checkout for a full 20% off your entire shopping cart!
We truly hope to see you all in Newport and really wish to show you what has been happening to High End Audio out here in the islands!
Joshua W. Miles
Before I even begin, let me thank Steven Solazzo for all his efforts with LSAF! Great work man! Additionally, I’m not sure who took all the images in this post but certainly much credit goes to Kelly Parham, wife and obviously cuter half of Wayne Parham and PI Speakers! What a pleasure it was meeting you folks! Mucho mas aloha as well to Dave and Gabrielle Thomson. You two are an inspiration and we hope to see you again soon. OK OK. There are more credits to give out including those earned by my family and friends, but you know who you are. A big hug to all of you! Onward!
Mama said there would be days like this…
Then she told me those days would be followed by ones filled with amazing music, art, people and libation. That is exactly what Lone Star Audio Fest was. I can’t tell you enough how wonderful this little known show is. With a little word of mouth and a lot of commitment, this humble show will become something huge one day. Or not! Frankly, this show is one of those things that file neatly into the “Ain’t broke, don’t fix it” category.
This show was a first for us. With the prodding and encouragement of our friends, family and clients it was time to take our products on the road. What better place to do it than back home in the state where it all began for this little company? TEXAS! I had heard about LSAF on a few forums and web pages, but had never attended. When I saw that RAVEN AUDIO, a company based in Texas whose growth I had been tracking with keen interest for quite some time, was making an appearance at this little show I knew I had to look into it.
I wrote letters to Dave Thomson, the owner or RAVEN AUDIO, Steven Solazo who for all intents and purposes, runs the show, and reached out to a few others who had attended in the past. As the show approached the LSAF social network began to grow and come alive. It started to become clear that LSAF was not just another audio show. This was more like a family of music lovers, gearheads and deep audiophiles, who have found a place to share their love and art. I say art, for more than half of this community of geniuses is DIYrs! Not your run of the mill garage type. We are talking the upper crust here folks. For anyone who thinks that the HIGH END needs to come with a gold plated logo and genuine Corinthian leather baffle, think again. Get in the car, plane or train and high tail it to this show next year. You will be floored and maybe a bit upset that those $40,000.00 leather speakers you bought last week don’t measure up! HEHE...
I was a bit concerned at first, for the talk on the web and forums were inconsistent. One week the chatter was loud and colorful, the next it was gone. For a small company like ours, this is not very comforting. We have a long way to travel from our home base in Hawaii and 2,000lbs of speakers, turntables and heavy equipment don’t travel cheap. “Will anyone be there”? “Is the show still a go”? Only a few of the questions I kept posing to the groups and to the community at large. I never got a clear answer actually. But what the heck! Even if not a single soul was to show up, WE WOULD! For us, this show would have to become a dry run for the next few shows we have on our schedule. Test run if you will. This was a chance to weed out what we would need for the next bigger and more published audio shows. Time to polish up! As for our concerns of attendance, that most definitely was not an issue…
Setup begins: We were a bit concerned at first, for one of our pallets looked like it had been pushed out of the plane from 30,000 feet into the parking lot of the hotel. Perhaps to save on fuel? Well, it turns out the damage was only minor and was not going to be an issue sonically. Lacquer can be re buffed. For our first show, I think we did OK on time when it comes to unpacking and setup. For the next few shows, we will clearly need to tidy up this part.
We were glad to have booked the room 2 days before the opening of the show because we ran into a few issues that nearly had us a “NO SHOW”. While tuning the room, Our Phono stage suddenly lost a channel. NOOOO!!!! Early birds were already entering the room for listening sessions and our finest KAREN 6 Turntable was dead in the water. Luckily, we had a second entry line KAREN 3 already setup with a small MM phono stage to take up the slack for the day. My hat’s off to Balanced Audio Technology. I got Geoff Poor on the horn. He immediately got me on the line with the gentleman who built the amazing VK-P10SE Phono stage, Victor Khomenko. He walked me thru a series of diagnostics to determine the cause of the lost channel. The conclusion was a power supply issue that could not be fixed on the spot. OUCH! BUT WAIT! The next morning, waiting at the front desk was another Phono stage sent overnight! Now you tell me, have you ever had customer service like this? Have you been put on the phone with the designer of any piece of equipment that is down for the count? Have you had a replacement waiting for you before you could finish your breakfast bagel at the hotel restaurant? BUT WAIT! THAT’S NOT ALL! The hotel had a surge that killed the left channel in the brand new VK-6550SE amp we are showing with as well! WHAT?!?! One more call to Victor and that problem was solved in about 5 minutes as well! “HOLY BLOWN FUSES BAT MAN”! Again, I can’t tell you what it means to a little company like ours to have support from a big company like Balanced Audio Technology. Thank you BAT!!!
Remember the part about “Mama said there would be days like this”? Boy howdy, was that one. Thank goodness Mama was right about the following as well… those promised days filled with amazing music, art, people and libation! That is exactly what LSAF was. My wife Jeanette and I met some of the coolest folks over this long weekend. We would name them all here, but my long windedness would become tiresome quickly if hasn’t already. Let me just put out a blanket ALL THE FOLKS AT THIS SHOW ARE AWSOME!! Each day we shared breakfast with the group, tossed around ideas and talked tunes. Usually, most of us would head to our systems after this in order to get ready for the day. In some cases we were able to get out and see some of the other systems before the spectators would arrive. Not for long though! For a show that is supposed to start at 1:00PM each day… Ummmm… well I think it was more like 9:00AM! In the JWM Acoustics room we had a steady stream of folks from about then till 11:00PM each day! By 11:00AM (which happens to be when the hotel bar opens) that stream of people was also carrying colorful bottles as well. Like I said before, this is a fun show folks!
We had great music in tow, but of course many brought their own to spin up. A few folks were even kind enough to bring JWM Acoustics into the 21st century and load up JRiver on my laptop and stuff it full of great music. Who knew digital could bring a smile to this old analog geeks face? Well it did with the help of the OPPO BD105D we had in the rack. It turns out the internal DAC is FAR better than I had known! The DSD files streaming from the laptop were divine to say the least. (I better not say too much. I’m trying to sell turntables!) Now it looks like I’m going to need a lesson in organizing all this music into playlists for the next show. One more reason to love analog, alphabetical order is about as deep as it goes! Hehehe.
The system worked perfect. The REX preamp fed the mighty VK-655SE power amp with gusto. Having one of the quietest all tube preamps in the world powering a true super amp is nothing short of stunning. Put one of the best Tube phono stages in front of that and now we have something to marvel at. Now, pair the famous PW Windfeld from Ortofon on our new KAREN 6 turntable and I simply can’t explain what happens in words. Cables you ask? A full set of Nordost all the way around, including the Heimdall II speaker cables, Blue Heaven and Red Dawn interconnects and power cables. To clean it all up we added a few QV and QK line enhancing units to our power distribution systems.
The results were fantastic. Yes, we already knew what this system is capable of because many of the components are integral to our reference system at home. What fun we had with that conference room and all three of our newest speaker systems to play with! And boy did we play! For the first day, we tried as hard as we could to break in a brand new set of the JANE JKM speakers that had only been put together a week prior to their debut at LSAF. We moved them all around the room trying to get the most out of them. In one spot the imaging literally had them disappear, but bass response was lagging. Move them 5 inches and suddenly the low end enveloped the room, but staging began to lag. This is a common dance we do in almost any environment the speaker will live in permanently. The toughest part of this room was the drop ceiling and lossy walls. The whole room wanted to become an echo-y rumble chamber to say the least. In the end, we decided on a compromise and the entire system locked into place. Ideal? No. Pretty freak’n good for that room? Absolutely! Even on a bad day setup in a cardboard shoe box, this system would still be better than 90% of the systems I have ever heard. The synergy of these components is that good.
On day two and three we began playing with the other speakers in the lineup. First the ALYSON AML, then the NET-1. It took less than 3 seconds of Fever on Lyn Stanley’s Lost in Romance LP before the entire audience looked back at me and said “NO WAY”! The room locked in with grace and a sense of ease I had not heard even in our studios. We didn’t even attempt to voice the room or go through the usual speaker placement steps. It just worked. Obviously this speaker was a FAR better match for the room than the giant JANE floor stander. Why? Great question! For anyone interested in dropping this kind of coin on a system of their own be advised. Bigger is not always better in your particular room. In this case, you would have saved yourself $10,000.00 between the price of the two speakers and would easily have doubled your capabilities. I have a renewed pride in our smaller speaker offerings, but as always, we recommend hearing our entire line before making the determination we did on this day, in that room.
The fun didn’t stop there! How small can we go was the next question? Well, let’s see! The NET-1s were dropped into the same footprint of the ALYSONs and away we went. REALLY?!?!? A two way mini monitor filling a 4,620 cubic foot room full of people like a full range floor stander is simply not heard of. (Pun intended) The NET-1 did exactly that. I built the damn things and still had no idea of what they could do in a room like this. I heard of such sound coming from our designs, but never paid much attention to what was said. This was not the design goal after all. This was supposed to be a mini monitor turned into a near full range speaker for small environments. BUT I’LL TAKE IT! The little NET performed like a rock star without a hiccup. I am so proud of this little giant killer and will yell it from the roof tops! “Viva la NET”! “Viva la NET”! “Viva la NET”!
We had a chance to meet and get to know the owner of Raven Audio, Dave Thomson. I had only seen his equipment in reviews and on line, but as in art and fine wine, this never does justice to the actual piece in person. Trust me when I say you owe yourself the pleasure of giving these pieces a listen. Although our time with the equipment was limited, what I heard in the Raven room was fabulous. What I heard from Raven paired with our speakers was fabulously promising! On the last day before packing up the show, Dave was kind enough to bring down his killer new BlackHawk integrated amp to our room and plug it into our ALYSON ALM and NET-1 Speaker systems. The pairing seemed the most logical for the size, price point and output capabilities of the pairing. With limited time, in less than ideal conditions, every eyebrow in the room was raised and the tiny NET-1 opened up like a Oklahoma double wide in the middle of storm season! No tight lipped brick and mortar mini monitor sound with this pairing folks. PLEASE go hear this amp if you get a chance. The NET-1 is not the most efficient speaker in our lineup, nor does it have the depth capabilities of our larger offerings, but for some reason, in that room, on that day, with that amp, like we never heard, they blossomed.
Next, Dave was kind enough to allow us to bring a set of the ALYSON AML up to the Douglas Connections room to hear them paired up with the Spirit MK2 300B tube mono block amps and Silhouette Reference preamp. Folks, The specks on the ALYSON mean nothing when combined with this system. The true monitor characteristics were apparent from the first track that was spun up. Focus and detail were my first impressions, and then I realized that the low end of the drivers was being taken down to a level by that 300B tube I had not heard before. It is true that the 300 may not have the grip of other tubes I have heard on our speakers, nor the power, but the rumors of that tube bringing chills to your spine are all true. I WILL be looking into purchasing this amp in the future. It is truly a reference design that needs further investigation. Don’t believe me? Look into what Art Dudley said about it in the May issue of Stereophile magazine. Still need more proof of this design. Get off your butt and go hear it. It is impressive.
We truly hope to have a chance to hear some of RAVENs other offerings in the future. Not only for the obvious stellar sonic quality, but also for the fit and finish of the product. Perhaps I’m picky due to my industrial design background. This is truly well put together equipment kids. I have a few other reasons for wanting to explore RAVEN as well. This is a true American product built in Texas with love. If you hadn’t noticed, the system we are showing with for the next few events is all American as well. As a proud MADE IN AMERICA company, this means a lot to us. We plan to keep it that way. Lastly, much like JWM Acoustics, it would seem that RAVEN is a family affair. We were so happy to meet Dave’s wife Gabrielle, Mrs. RAVEN herself. Talk about lighting up a room! If you guys are reading this, it was a great pleasure meeting the both of you and we will keep the porch light on for ya if you ever decide to come out to Da islands…
OK FOLKS! That's enough for now. Again, big thanks to all responsible for this awesome weekend. Hope to see ya'll next year, ya hear!
Where we headed?!
After 15 years in HAWAII, in the month of May, JWM Acoustics is coming home to TEXAS! JWM will be showing the latest creations at the Lone Star Audio Fest in Dallas, Texas. The show runs May 1-3 at Embassy Suites Dallas - Park Central, 13131 North Central Expressway, Dallas, Texas, 75243
JWM Acoustics will be showing their newest equipment in the Carrollton Room on the ground floor off the main lobby of the hotel. JWM plans to bring all the music that can fit into a suitcase, but feel free to bring your favorite vinyl, CDs, SACDs or files to hear on the system. JWM’s goal is to introduce as many people as possible to what this growing audio company has been doing out in the Pacific Ocean.
For the Lone Star Audio Fest, JWM has chosen to bring 3 sets of speakers. The NET-1 mini monitor, the ALYSON AML large monitor and the JANE JKM floor standing flagship. Also included in the collection will be the KAREN 6 turntable and several examples of HI-FI accessories including Cable Cradles in various wood species and sizes.
We are proud to say we will be showing with some great American companies as well. The main system will be largely comprised of Balanced Audio Technology, including the REX Preamplifier, VK-P10SE Phono Stage and the newest amplifier in the line, the mighty VK-655SE. Sources will include the OPPO BD-105D Multi reader and files supplied from several storage mediums. Ortofon cartridges will be in use as well! We will have examples of MM and MCs on hand including the 2M BLACK and Windfeld. Cables and Power supplies are being provided by NORDOST and we will have numerous examples on hand to sample, including the Leaf, Frey and Norse lines.
In short, this will be one heck of a system that is guaranteed to raise some eyebrows and the hairs on your neck. The goal was to create a system that was as neutral as possible, with the ability to provide the extreme dynamic capabilities inherent to JWM Acoustics designs. Whether you are a fan of Opera, Rock or Jazz, this system provides a black background from which the performance can project in stunning transient fashion, yet whisper the most subtle detail.
As some of you know, JWM Acoustics is a custom audio company catering to the individual needs of the client. Each product is handmade and as unique as the person who chooses it. JWM is pleased to create one of a kind pieces that will enhance the life of each person who experiences it. JWM products are not only built as sound reproduction tools, but as instruments that will last for generations.
Joshua Weston Miles has a background in visual arts, music, industrial design and audio engineering. Combining them has been a lifelong passion. Miles has succeeded with the products being shown at the Lone Star Audio Fest in May, representing state of the art sound reproduction and timeless design. Each product is designed to be equally at home in the recording studio, home theater or audiophile listening room. Nearly unlimited combinations of custom woods and finishes enable him to design a system that will perfectly fit within your space.
JWM Acoustics is located in beautiful Hawaii on the Island of Oahu. Currently, there are two locations where these instruments are created. The woodworking and finish facility is located in the heart of Honolulu. The electronics, testing and listening studios are located in the town of Kaneohe on the East side of the island. Visitors are always welcome if you would like to see the works in progress. Accommodations for private viewings and listening sessions are available in the Kaneohe location by appointment.
We hope to see you all there.
Aloha, Mahalo and Thank you.
JWM Acoustics jwmacoustics.com firstname.lastname@example.org (808)349-6661 PO BOX 944 Kailua, HI. 96734
In the words of Ani Difranco: People used to make records As in a record of an event The event of people playing music in a room Now everything is cross-marketing Its about sunglasses and shoes Or guns and drugs You choose We got it rehashed We got it half-assed We're digging up all the graves And we're spitting on the past And you can choose between the colors Of the lipstick on the whores Cause we know the difference between The font of 20% more And the font of teriyaki You tell me How does it... make you feel?
Not so good. Until I dug up this essential gem!
From “In San Francisco”:1959: Riverside RLP 12-311
Scale from 1-5. Sonics: 4 Performance: 4.4 Availability: 3.1 Recommend: 5+
It is so easy to forget the greats. It is easier to forget the not so greats, commercialized on today’s charts simply because they wear Revlon, or drive a Jaguar. This over commercialized business was all but nonexistent in the 1950s. Oh it was there, just not being screamed at you from the 80 foot LED screens at every corner. There was a “Word of mouth” thing going on in the jazz scene of the 50s. Like when we used to talk with our neighbors, and let the kids come home when the street lights came on. A time when names like Miles got you tapping your feet before even hearing the needle drop. One sax player would run into another at the barber and whisper in his ear, “Pssst, you know Timmons is gana dig with Cannonball in da ally tonight. Be there at 6:00 sharp. I’ll hode da door”… I wish I had been alive back then. I most certainly would have scraped up everything I had to make the trek to this session. There was no need for anything but a faded poster glued to the bricks out back. No LEDs, no Revlon, no BMW either. Just jazz…
When Cannonball Adderley joined the Riverside label, he was assured that his still-unformed band would be recorded promptly, whenever and wherever he felt ready. The quintet, featuring Nat Adderley and Bobby Timmons, was assembled in 1959 and the promise was kept that October at San Francisco's Jazz Workshop. The memorable result is heard here and it's one of the most exciting, influential, and successful "live" recordings in modern jazz history.
Without a doubt this is an essential jazz recording. The album was recorded live at The Jazz Workshop in San Francisco and released in 1959 on Riverside Records. Cannonball Adderley was just ending his extremely successful tenure with the Miles Davis Quintet (resulting in the classics “Round About Midnight”, “Milestones” and “Kind of Blue”) when his own group caught fire with this release. Joined by his brother Nat on Cornet as well as Bobby Timmons, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes, the group scored a monster hit with the Timmons track “This Here”. The rest of the album is just as solid and paved the way for a very fruitful period for Adderley and the various groups he would front over the next few years. Essentially, many said this recording was the “ONE” that made the man. I wasn’t around back then, but if I had been I would have had to agree. Having a name is one thing, but in this 50s jazz world, the proof was in the pudding.
I would have to agree with the idea that this groundbreaking album launched "soul jazz", according to NPR, bridging "the gap between bebop and funk". Producer and jazz critic Orrin Keepnews described the album as "the birth of contemporary live recording" and in May 1960, Time noted that the album's then 50,000 copies sold was "phenomenal for a jazz record", raising the album to the bestseller charts. Music critic Scott Yanow describes the album as a "gem […] essential for all jazz collections." I couldn’t agree more. From the first few rhythms on “This Here”, I knew there was something special about to happen in my listening room. I was wrong; it hit me deeper as the tune began to grow. By six minutes into this twelve minute track, I was no longer sitting in my chair. I was standing back of it, in total bliss. I believe I picked up a set of drum sticks and just held them in front of me, eyes closed, frozen in the moment. Wow…
The album was originally released by Riverside Records; the album has been reissued on CD several times since 1991 by Riverside and OJC. Remastered versions of the album include extended cuts of several of the songs on the original, including the retitled "(A Few Words by Cannonball...And) This Here". I have the original copy in front of me. I have listened to the CD release, yet firmly believe the vinyl is a far better way to take in this stellar record. In the late 50s and early 60s Cannonball enjoyed unparalleled popularity, marked by the commercially successful Riverside releases of first his quintet and later his sextet (Yusef Lateef was the 3rd horn). The sessions were frequently recorded live, included spoken introductions by the ebullient Cannonball, featured mostly "accessible" tunes, and showcased at least one crowd-pleaser (This Here, Sack of Woe, Jive Samba, Mercy Mercy) that was also released as a hit single.
These sessions are memorable less for the individual solos than the fire of the ensemble, anchored and propelled by perhaps the best walking bass player in the business, Sam Jones. When I listen to these recordings, I can't help but lament the absence of such ensembles on the scene today as well as be reminded of the relatively tough times Cannonball would encounter in the late 60s and early 70s, when he had trouble booking the group. How is that possible? If only those clubs knew then what we do now. There is no doubt it would be the other way around with this sudden interest in 50s jazz amongst a younger generation now. A happy thing indeed, but possibly too late. Who do we have that can stand out like the musicians on this album today? Let me know if you find some. I need more!!!
"Live in San Francisco" is an exemplary session, certainly the equal of any of the other recordings by Cannonball with his own group. If a choice is to be made, another unnamed reviewer stated, “I would personally favor the recordings with Victor Feldman on piano, rather than Joe Zawinul or Bobby Timmons, the pianist on this particular session.” I can’t say I would agree. The group is the group on those numbers. You change just one element and it becomes something entirely different. One change and this album may have never been recorded. Regardless, with the renewed interest in "acoustic" straight-ahead jazz, any of the recordings should be required listening for the ensemble sound alone. Rarely have I heard such a synergy between members of similar groups today. It just worked…
Like I said before, the tone was set with "This Here" and rocked the house with "Spontaneous Combustion". The solos by each member of the Quintet were fantastic. It was an opportunity to see Bobby Timmons who did the arrangements for "This Here" or as Cannonball stated he "corrupted" it to be "Dis Hear." What I liked about the LP (and now the CD) is that each song was not edited, the songs were allowed to the full length as was performed live. The unity of this group absolutely did bring down the house as, now the LP is doing the same in my home. It was amazing how the group would play in three quarter time with such precision that it makes a person jump-up and dance. (Or stand there with drool on your chin and a set of sticks in your hand like me. (Dork)
Bobby Timmons solo on "Spontaneous Combustion," had more than a bit of "church gospel and R&B" in it. Putting hands in the air and letting out the occasional “Praise the Lord” is entirely acceptable behavior for this tune. It reminds me of when I would ride my bike down to a small black church on 17th street in Galveston Texas. It had a small white picket fence where I could lean up my bike, hop over and sit under a side window unnoticed. I could sit there for hours and hours, just letting the Sunday pass with the sweetest sounds of gospel filling my ears. I miss that time dearly and this brings it all home for me. Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and brother "Nat" Adderley complemented each other while playing together or on solo. The Quintet was welded together in all six of the selections and is great for the ears. "Cannonball" had incredibly rhythmic solos, "Nat’s" jubilant playing accented by drummer Louis Hayes and bass player Sam Jones on most of the numbers, really moved those in attendance inside and those outside of the Jazz Workshop. Now, it moves me all the way out here on the rocks of Hawaii. Modern technology “ROCKS”!!!
I know I could live with this album for a lifetime. It is truly one of those rare pieces of history that changed everything. All jazz lovers will miss "Cannonball" and his brother "Nat." In the meantime we are given these beautiful recordings of the group’s appearance in San Francisco's Jazz Workshop. This album shows why Adderley's group was a pacesetter in funky soul-jazz and proving that they could outswing most of their competition. DO NOT pass this one up while flipping through the stacks at the record shop. It is an absolute MUST for any Jazz collection. Actually, for any collection period… This gem is essential!!!!
Keep your records clean ya’ll!!!
PS. The recording itself, is stellar as well…
Associated equipment: Analog: JWM Designs LLC MAG-lv/VPI/Rega/SL-1200/Funkfirm/SME Turntable (Custom built) Shelter 201, Ortofon 2M Red and 2M Blue, Shure 97XE phono cartages Hitachi FT-2 Tuner (Custom modified JWM Designs LLC) Digital: Oppo HD 980H, HP dv7-4183cl Notebook (extensively modified JWM Designs LLC) Amplification: Musical Fidelity XA-1 (Custom modified JWM Designs LLC) McIntosh MC2105 and MC2125 amplifiers (Custom modified JWM Designs LLC) Sound Craftsman DC2215 Differential/Comparator Equalizer Speakers: Klipsch Cornwall II (Custom built)Front Klipsch Tangent T50 (Custom built) Rear JWM Designs LLC JMSW12 Servo driven subwoofers (X-2) Each with 1,340 watt custom built HYPEX digital amplifiers Cables: Audio Quest Columbia and Colorado interconnects Kimber Kable 12HT speaker cables Audio Quest NRG-4 IEC power cables Dedicated 200A power source from mains panel feeding PS Audio Power Port Classics 20A 1 bottle of Barefoot Moscato!
So, I have several friends asking me why I am still so adamant about analog recordings and playback. After about 3 seconds of vinyl from my system, they say “OH”! “That’s why”! Then, usually a few “ARE YOU KIDDING ME’s”, ”THAT’S A RECORD’s” come out. Something happens in the room. Nine times out of ten, after a few short moments, the conversations in the room diminish. The talk of politics, fine wine, religion and the blow-by-blow of the cruise your friend just got back from are silenced. You see, there is something magical about analog playback. It demands your attention. So rarely have I seen this same reaction when a CD, or file is being played. The conversations continue with music simply becoming a white noise back ground to the evening. Not so with records or LP’s. Something happens to the air in the room and the music takes front row to the evening. People listen… I have many jargon laden theories for this, but I‘ll try not to get too technical here. Instead, I’ll Just Try to keep it simple and possibly spark an argument about why analog is so beautiful.
Why analog? We live in an age where so many amazing machines are capable of reproducing some of the most amazing sounds. We live in an age where bits are bits rite? Not so fast amigo. We live in an analog world don’t we? To this day, with all this technology and I’ve heard the best, we still have not been able to conquer absolute nature and physics as it pertains to vibrations in sound. After all, that is what sound is. Vibrations in the air. Air that is excited by the instrument being played. Not just one vibration though. Many vibrations working with and against each other either in harmony, or in conflict. The conflicting and resonant values that emerge ARE what make the difference between “Live” and “Memorex”. I call this “Harmonic Conflict” Some engineers call it “Dynamic Harmonics”, others “Dynamic Resonance” or “Emotional Dynamics”. Something the digital world has yet to see, or “HEAR”.
If we cannot reproduce all the small nuances of each and every “Harmonic Conflict”, we lose the “Live” performance. These small details ARE what make the sound “LIVE”. For example, we hear a live band and get an emotional contact with the performers. This is not only due to the performance, but to the environment we are observing the performance within. The echoes from the back of the hall. The small reflection of sound coming from the rear of the bass stack that bounces off the front of the bass drum at just the right angle. The vibrations in the plastic seats. The cough, the clinking glass, the flutter and squeak of rosin that may not be heard on the digital kit, but cannot escape the magnetic tape. Well, you may hear the squeak, but not the way that squeak bounces about the room and the air that surrounds it. Even more difficult in the digital realm is that air around the squeak. The color and texture of it. Something that comes natural in the analog world.
Yes, magnetic tape I say is absolutely just as analog as the vibrations in the air. You see, the tiny flecks of magnetic material are there to be laid out in a pattern which reflects exactly what the live performance is. An analog copy of the air that is being exited by the instruments on the stage. Vibrational butterflys caught in a magnetic net if you will. In a perfect world, which this can be, the wings of that butterfly can be observed over and over again without damaging there iridescence. Yes! That’s it! Iridescence of the sound is what the digital world has yet to conquer! (Ahhhh, that took some time.)
Why, you ask? It’s not a simple answer, but I’ll try. You see, vibration is complicated. When we are talking about live music, we are dealing with many layers of vibration. Layer on layer on layer, perhaps till 1,000 layers or more, for the simple sound of rosin on a bow. To recreate the sound of something as simple a E string on the guitar, there may be as many as 10,000 layers! Now, Take these layers and lay them out on a graph. First at the bottom, 10,000 at the top. Left of the graph is 0 seconds; right of the graph is 5 seconds. (Big exaggeration for this purpose)When we first pluck the string, there is a wave that is created. That wave is made up of many vibrations. Each is dependent on the material of the string, the way it was plucked and the fingernail polish the musician put on this morning, amongst other factors. Part of that wave at 1.5 seconds may react as a harmonic or conflict with a vibration at 1.9 seconds. This meeting of vibrations is bound to create another vibration all together! Then another at 2.5 second, 3.4 seconds 4.7 seconds and so on. (Again, big exaggeration) Each of these will create the “E” we are so familiar with. Now add the acoustical environment itself into the mix. Each of these original vibrations must now react with the room. That room has its own set of resonant frequencies as well. We call these modes. In other words, That “E” aint just an “E” after all. This is the iridescent sound I spoke of earlier. Not just one wave of equal vibration, but an ever growing and evolving tone which slowly builds within the room, then decays into silence again. Try to picture this mixed with 300 more plucks of the strings in different scales. It becomes an absolutely absurd amount of information. To this day, no digital device has been created that will take that 1.2 second wave and harmonize it with the 3.7 second wave, account for the room modes and the color of polish on the musicians nails. Instead, all those processors see is a constant flow of ones and zeroes. No nuance, no emotion, just dots and dashes.
The digital realm is getting closer as processing speeds get faster, but any “Live” sound we hear from this format is usually an algorithm created by a programmer or engineer. In the case of DCS, a fantastic digital company on the cutting edge of digital reproduction, (and a few select others) it has become an art form all its own. Effectively so, at that! I have yet to hear better or closer to analog from any other machines other than DCS. In other words, I am not opposed to digital in any way! It is a fantastic tool that gets better every day. Unfortunately, there will always be a limit to this madness. In the analog world, there is no limit what so ever! All those layers on the graph are able to dance about as they wish, with no limit to the amount of bits and bytes they can be compressed into. “LIVE”! Nowhere in nature, did a super computer dictate just how loud and with how much attack and decay Krakatoa would erupt. Nowhere in nature was there a hard drive that stated, you can only record between 20 and 20,000 HTZ. And at 98 dB for that matter. Analog has no limitations on the nuance of a real performance. The only limit is to the dynamic capability of the medium. As technology has it, even in 1955, we could have recorded the sound of Krakatoa, quite believably and with little effort. With modern tape we could have scared the crap out of God. No joke. This is simply not possible in most modern digital studios though. I say most, for there are machines that could do it well, just not with the reality of the actual Dynamic Conflicts of such a sound. It’s just too big for anything but analog. HA!
Now, the play-back part. Analog is all about real world sound. Not digitized fax printed in dots and dashes, or ones and zeros. Again, we live in an analog world don’t we? Is the sound of a slightly out of tune Oboe playing 5 rows in front of you a digital image? No. Is the dog barking just over the fence a digital recording played through a small speaker hanging on his colar? No. So is music vibration? Yes! Vibration that is, if properly recorded in the ANALOG realm. A well-tuned turntable and cartridge/preamp/amp/speaker kit will pick up those EXACT same vibrations. This is true recording/play-back as the rules of physics and nature dictate. Not some processor in a laptop. (Don’t get me wrong, I record most of my albums from my turntables to a hard drive. This is for convenience only. I like to hear vinyl at the beach as well!) LP play-back is a tiny needle picking up those same vibrations from a groove in a record. That vibration is transmitted up the cantilever to a magnetic coil, much like the tape I mentioned earlier. That signal is then sent to the rest of your kit, ultimately ending up in another magnetic device called a transducer. (Your speaker)That speaker vibrates the air just like the instrument vibrated the microphone on the other end of the chain! Simple!!! Analog!!!
Trouble with this business is, the majority of LPs sold to audiophiles are old titles. VERY old titles. A catalog in which one sees an overabundance of such christian names as Miles and Jimi and Ella and Pink: Great old stuff, but we already have it. Some great new stuff is available on vinyl, too: Bonnie Prince Billy, the Spoons, Joanna Newsome, Punch Brothers, Michael Tilson, Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. Trouble is, all of them are digital recordings. And while I’m grateful when a record company prints a small percentage of their titles on vinyl, the miracle is scarcely different from when book publishers print a small percentage of their books in large print additions. The vast majority though, are released as crappy MP3 or some other compressed format. But even that is not such a big deal: I may be thin skinned, but as long as I can buy what I want, I don’t particularly care why it is being sold. The problem is, an analog pressing of a digital recording is still a digital recording. And the “Better” the mastering job, the more digital the results will be. If you leave a pointillist watercolor out in the rain, dots will run. But there still just dots.
Between the years of 2005-2007 there was no magnetic tape being made. PERIOD. In 2008 an American company called ATR began making tape, primarily for the pro market. THIS WAS GREAT NEWS FOR THE ANALOG FANS!!!! Now in its fourth year-the company also services and remanufactures AMPEX ATR 102 studio decks, (standard of the industry) and has done so since 1991-the company has yet to turn a profit, but a number of grateful engineers and recording artists have praised there work. GOD helps them to carry on the good work…
When looking for vinyl, used or new, I look to see if the recording was made in the analog realm originally. Not hard if you are a 1950s jazz nut like me. I also look for the company who pressed it and the producer who put down the final mixed goodies. All make a difference. One silly rule of mine: if I find two copies of the same record, one pressed in the US between 1965-1988, and the other pressed in Europe at any time, the one pressed overseas is the choice. Generally they are 180-200 gram vinyl and are of a much higher quality. These days, most of what you see in re-prints, whether from the US or not, is in 180-200 gram vinyl anyway! I have to give props to this latest generation of engineers for this trend. More and more are being pressed in a phenomenal quality here at home in the USA!!! The pressings I have experienced lately are fantastic! Better than ever as far as I am concerned. Bigger grooves, more released in 45Rpm versions! Quieter and blacker backgrounds yielding more room for the music and system to sing! This is really looking promising for us fans of the big black disk! There are many more things to look for when buying records, but I’ll leave that to a later blog.
Look, I guess the simple answer to whether analog, or digital is the way for you to go is, does it move you? Does it bring back a memory? Can it suck you in and evoke an emotional response? Does it make you smile, or frown and sniffle in other words. Does the music demand your attention? Do the guests in the room go quiet and just listen? That is what music is really supposed to do. It can be either medium as far as I’m concerned, just as long as it gives me that sense of “LIVE” I crave. I just happen to get that feeling from the big black disk. More now, than ever before. So, "Is it real, or is it Memorex"? End of story? Perhaps not…
Keep your records clean ya’ll!
This past weekend, I headed for a trail I had not yet explored. The real goal was to grab three Geocaches that have been bugging me for a while. Frankly, I don’t think many non Cachers use this one at all. I don’t see why, it’s a fantastic and invigorating workout with some spectacular views. When I say workout, I mean it. Although the hike is short, it is steep in a few locations and can get the heart pumping. When you reach the top, as with many of the ridge hikes in Hawaii, the view really is worth it.
The journey will not be easy; as it is with all great adventures worth undertaking. I took on the ridge one way, but this is a loop trail so either way will work. I will warn you though, going up my way and down the other, will be a much better option, for there is more to hold on to going back down the other way.
The hike starts inauspiciously in an area occupied by paint-ballers, motocross enthusiasts and vehicular exoskeletons. (This isn't called "Dump Road" for nothing). The parking and initial trail head coordinates will be familiar to many, but you will be going up a different trail. Once you have parked, head to the initial trail head coordinates, and then keep to the right making your way to the next reference point. From here, it is a steep uphill climb.
The last 300 feet will tax you as you climb using your hands to grab at roots and stabilize yourself. Once you reach the ridge, you can go either way. To the right, you will be heading in the Kaneohe direction. In a few short moments you will find a pine tree grove with a bench down below. This is a great place for taking in the view and a few much needed gallons of water!
When you find yourself rested enough, turn back the way you came and head for the higher parts of this hike. After you pass where you initially came up, you will see some signs. “Private Property” and “Explosives” mainly. Technically, these are not entirely true. They are to keep hoodlums out of the quarry you are looking down into. Just stroll on by and smile. Soon, the trail will lead you on to dirt and gravel road. Stay on the left side and as a rule; take anything up to the left in order to head back on to the ridge. If you see an explosives bunker on your left, you have gone too far. The correct one is an old road that peeters out into a fairly overgrown trail. After a few twists and turns you will hit the ridge and a junction. One trail leads down, the other up. The way down is where you will come back too. For now, take a few minutes to head up to the view you expelled so much sweat for! You will come to a rock outcropping where you can sit and enjoy a sandwich.
Now for the fun part! When you’re ready to head down, back track for the junction you came to on the way up. Take the trail down on the right. Stay on this for a while. It will be a steep downhill hike with plenty of bushes for grabing onto. This is not a race, so pay attention to your moves. The idea is to get out with a smile, not a twisted ankle. Eventually, you will end up at a junction with a road. Well, it was one before all the rain ruts and moguls took over. The rule here is, stay going down. There will be one road on the right, ignore it and head down and in the general direction of the road and trail head you came in on. You may take a wrong turn or two. That’s, ok. Just head for the trail head direction and eventually you will get there.
I hope you get a chance for a bit more exploring out in this section of the hills. It seems there are tons of unmarked trails to be discovered out here. I most certainly will be doing just that. I will be sure to post more trails after I map them.
Happy hiking ya’ll!!!
PS. I got all three Caches!!! Yea!!!
Well, it’s that time again. Summer is upon us. Time to put away the hammer and saw, dust off the paints and stretch some canvas! Those who know me well, see that summer is my time to create. When I thrive! The best works I’ve ever done were created in this time. For me, summers is the time for sloughing off the energy robbing vampires of the rainy season and seek out those truly intellectually and creatively stimulating individuals. A time to greet the sun with early morning walks at the tide pools. Taking the colors we saw in the rain forests of winter and mix them with the morning sun of the season. When the flowers and mountain apples are a plenty and the warm feeling of a perfect wave spawn the next painting. Sunday morning brunch with egg’s benny and a mimosa. White shirts and a north shore polo match. The smell of fresh Sex Wax on a hot long board. Summer is for love of the world around us and the ones open enough in there heart to feel it. BRING IT ON!!!!
Where to begin? Rite here! I just finished a huge project that took many months of time and energy. The results are fabulous. Also plenty of fresh studio space ready to be filled with colorful memories. After all, that’s what our creations really are! Memories captured in time. We take all those colors, shapes and faces and words and everything and solidify them into the work, as a marker in eternity. Some are happy, some are angry. Some are sunny, some are dark. All legitimate though. All are relevant! All will speak volumes…
So, what is on the palette this summer? MIXED MEDIA!!! A revival of something old and a touch of something new. First will be a series I began years ago that I never was able to bring to fruition. A combination of photography, printmaking, oil, ceramic glazes, acrylic, melted rubber and dyed textile art. Yes boys and girls, textile exotic fabric. I messed around with this on the side all threw school, as well as at the South West School of Arts and Crafts. While teaching in the sculpture department I used to sneak over to the fabrics girl for some inspiration. After the prep was done, that same fabric was taken over to the photo department to be silver dyed. This enabled me to expose images directly into the fabric itself. That was only the beginning though. Some were stretched and the real fun began. Well, without revealing too much of the proses to you, let’s just say, I’m excited as hell!!! Time to put on the lab coat and get back to creating something amazing!!! (I’m glowing!) YES!!!
The second series of the summer of 0-12, will have to be a surprise. I don’t want to get closure on the work before I even begin. I find too much talk before the process gets rolling, tends to lower the inspiration level a bit too low for me. So keep your shorts on! Patience grasshoppers. Patience…
OK then, that’s all I wanted to say for now. I’m just excited and had to tell someone. I hope all of you have the same glow about summer as I do. I also hope you all get out there and experience the world. Suck up some inspiration! It’s all around you. It’s rite in front of you. Can you see it? It sees you. Now reach out to it and let it play inside your heart.
You won’t regret it...
About a year ago, I was asked by a fledgling Audiophile: “Josh! What is the best speaker out there today!?!” What? That’s like asking what your favorite cheese cake is! What is the “BEST” Ben and Jerries’? What is the “BEST” Ferrari? Better yet, who is the “BEST” Jazz band? I asked him, “If you had to choose between listening to Miles Davis Kind of Blue on a bed side Sony Dream Machine (circa 1982) on an AM station, who’s transmitter was 300 miles away, or A Flock of Seagulls on a dCS Debussy front end, followed by all Ayre’ gear, powering through a set of burned in YG Acoustics Anat III Pro towers, What would you choose?” You could cut through the silence on the other end of the line. “The answer Grass Hopper is the ones you are enjoying right now.”
The point is this: There are so many machines out there. They come in all shapes and sizes. These days, they also come in every color of the rainbow and more. Do you want the cutting edge of a tweeter that has such a high frequency reach that you could open your garage door with it? Perhaps you are looking for the subtle glow of the silk dome. Mid bass punch? Perhaps a more delicate kiss with the tweeter is more you style. Sub terrainian reach from a set of fat subs? For me, I prefer the “NON-SUB” approach from my subs. If I can hear them, they be too loud and simply are not natural. Horns? Planers? Domes? Paper or carbon fiber? MDF or aluminum? Let’s not forget Beryllium! (Anyone out there had a chance to hear those diamond inverted domes in the Avalon Isis?) You get the idea. All are the “BEST”, for what they were designed to do. All were designed by someone. All have what that someone thought was closer to the actual performance in a given listening environment.
Yes, we crazy audiophiles are always looking for Nirvana. We spend hours upon hours searching out the gear that gets us closer to, well, “THERE”! We want to experience that performance in our own home. Yes! That’s it! “THE PERFORMANCE”! This is all about the performance. If you don’t love music, what is the point? We love music with such a passion; we try to hear more of it. We strive for that “LIVE” sound we heard at the concert last night. We want to hear the woman in the 13th row with the sniffles. It brings the performance texture and a sense of realism. We want to hear the soft pop and tickle of dust on the record. It makes it sound like there is a woman in the 13th row with the sniffles! Sounds strange to most, but this is what it is about. Live music. MUSIC!!!
So, back to my friend. We had a long discussion of this approach to audio. MUSIC! Being that this kid is half my age, he always thought good sound came from little silver discs, or more recently, bits streamed to an IPhone. Well, it was only recently that he discovered those bits BYTE! I can’t tell you the joy in my heart when he said all his recordings sounded compressed and dull after getting a taste of the 180 gram pressing of Tool-Lateralus. (Which should be in every audiophile’s, err, tool kit) ”Hallelujah!” Not only that, he heard it on a $350.00 second hand Techniques SL-1200 fitted with a Shelter MM cartridge, (roughly $175.00) Bellari tube phono pre-amp, ($250.00) Musical Fidelity X-A1 ($400.00) and a pair of Silverline Minuet Supreme speakers ($600.00) I think the cables were Audio Quest. His excitement was through the roof, so I couldn’t make out what he was saying to well. This was a guy who actually thought you needed to spend 100K on a system to run an IPod packed full of compressed crap to move the soul. (For-mentioned system would set you back a cool 380K) Nope!
I made these suggestions to him, for I knew he was on a budget. Also, I have heard, and own some of the same gear. I just knew through experience, they would sound good together. When you submit to this thing called “Audiophilia”, you will understand, all gear has a sonic signature. The trick of approaching “Nirvana” is to create a synergy between all the components own characteristics and build that “LIVE” experience. As for my friend’s system, sure nuff! I also know what he likes to listen to in his tiny little room he rents in Makiki. When you are sleeping, eating, studying, dating, and whatever else in the same 12x12 space, there is no need for a huge set of Wilson Alexandria XLF, or even a sub for that matter. The system fits the space and the “MUSIC” the owner loves most. Simple…
A few months later, I asked my friend, “What is the best set of speakers you have ever heard”? After a long pause,,,,,,,, “mine!” he said.
Enjoy them my friend…