Blue Note B0029413-01
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
When saxophonist Sam Rivers began recording as a leader for Blue Note Records in 1964, he’d played briefly in Miles Davis’s quintet, and had also played in sessions led by Tony Williams, the drummer in Davis’s band. Rivers was a bit too avant-garde for Davis, who replaced him with Wayne Shorter. The four albums Rivers made for Blue Note between 1964 and 1973 were cutting edge, but still accessible enough for the label’s loyalists.
Discontinued well over a decade ago, Synergistic Research’s quantum tunneled X-series cables ran with the best in terms of soundstaging, three-dimensional imaging, transparency, speed, leading-edge detail, noise reduction, and dynamics. However, as I wrote at the time, those cables could sound a bit harsh and grainy in the upper frequencies. And given the great amounts of detail they could convey, and their somewhat forward sound, they could be fatiguing in some systems.
Although I can’t pinpoint the exact date, the last time I was satisfied with my stereo system was sometime in early 2017. I had a pair of Magico Q7 Mk.II speakers driven by a Soulution 711 stereo amplifier. My digital source was a Soulution 560 DAC-preamplifier, and interconnects and speaker cables were Nordost Valhallas. That ca.-$400,000 system was assembled in my listening room, the Music Vault, and tweaked with excruciating attention to detail. The sound was all that I could hope a system of that pedigree could produce -- it was sublime.
I sit and read with sadness as insecure audiophiles on various audio forums denigrate each other’s six-figure stereo systems. Grown people ought to know better. If you’re used to watching Vikings and The Walking Dead, well, the carnage can be just about as gory.
Parlophone DB83881 0190295692735
Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ***½
Let’s Dance, David Bowie’s 15th studio album, appeared in 1983. Videos based on its singles were in heavy rotation on MTV, which by then had established itself as the dominant promotional tool for new pop music. Bowie’s acute visual sense made him a good fit for MTV, and his videos for “Let’s Dance,” “Modern Love,” and “China Girl” won viewers and sales. Those singles were among his biggest selling, and the LP hit no.1 worldwide.
There’s no arguing that playing music from a digitally stored library is more convenient than getting out of your chair, sorting through shelves of CDs, and spinning discs one by one. But there’s a catch -- first you must build that digital library. That process can take hours, days, even weeks, depending on the size of the collection.
In September 2018 I wrote “Jeff’s New Room,” in which I wrote in detail about moving into my new listening room after selling our previous home and spending some time in a rental house. The room had not yet been acoustically treated when I wrote the piece, and it remained largely untreated throughout the listening sessions for the first product I reviewed there, the EgglestonWorks Kiva loudspeakers. The Kivas are terrific speakers -- despite being asked to perform in a room in which little attention had been paid to acoustics, they sounded quite good in my new space.
I begin forming strong opinions of an audio component at the unboxing stage. While some audiophiles will tell you that they pay only for sound quality, and that any black-anodized case will do, anyone in the real world of 2019 knows that high-end audio components costing close to five figures also need to look like luxury audio gear if they’re going to succeed in the marketplace. Consumers pay enough money for this stuff -- they want to have their cake and eat it, too. The Luxman ticks both boxes with bold pen strokes.
Last November, I accompanied Doug Schneider to the Warsaw Audio Video Show (read our coverage here). The AVS was wonderful -- a huge affair hosted by a city whose history goes back a thousand years. We found tons of new, exotic products, and the show -- and our coverage of it -- were raging successes.
Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: *****
Overall Enjoyment: ****½
Matthew Sweet’s first two albums, Inside (1986) and Earth (1989), showed promise, but their production locks them in time. Nor, when he recorded them, had Sweet quite pulled together his influences into the inspired level of songwriting that would make his third album, Girlfriend (1991), so unexpectedly good, and one of the best records of the 1990s.
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