In my last “Opinion” article I wrote about some audio lessons I’ve learned over the years, including this one: “newer isn’t always better. In fact, these days, newer might come about only because the product can be made more cheaply or efficiently. I’ve seen that, too. I don’t need the latest and greatest.”
Rethm’s polymath founder, CEO, and designer, Jacob George, is based in Cochin, in southwest India. He brings to loudspeaker design a nontraditional vision informed by his love of wide-frequency-band, high-efficiency, single-driver speakers, vacuum tubes, his trainings as an architect and engineer, and a musician’s ear. His passions for audio and speaker design were driven by his pursuit of a type of sound reproduction that existed in his imagination: fast, coherent, highly detailed, yet nonfatiguing. The products of that pursuit have been steadily refined, and have culminated in the latest Rethm loudspeaker, the Maarga ($9750 USD per pair).
This morning, I polished my turntable with Speed Wax, from Tirox, which makes cleaning and maintenance products for motorcycles. Speed Wax smells like vanilla and, when buffed off with a microfiber cloth, leaves a wonderful, streak-free shine.
Yes, I polish my turntable. I’m proud of the thing. I smile at it. We understand each other.
ECM 2576 5798928
Formats: LP and CD
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Norwegian jazz drummer Thomas Strønen has appeared on more than 60 albums in the last 20 years, in a variety of groups and settings. Three of those recordings are his own as leader and composer, including the newest, Lucus, his second outing for ECM. His previous release for the label, Time Is a Blind Guide (2015), featured 11 compositions he wrote for a unique septet that included two additional percussionists, a violinist, and a cellist.
Over Thanksgiving and the ensuing week, I flew down from Oregon, where I live, to spend time at a retreat for artists (I write poetry) in northern California near the Bay Area. Because I also had friends to visit, I rented a car when I landed at the Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport, splurging on a full-size vehicle: a silver Chevrolet Malibu sedan. It was big and stable, gave good mileage, and had lots of features. It got me around -- to Berkeley and Lafayette, to San Francisco and Santa Cruz. But it didn’t have savoir faire. It lacked that je ne sais quoi that aging guys like me crave on getaways from our humdrum lives.
The months I’ve spent thinking about and writing the series of “Jeff’s Getting a New Stereo System” articles have taught me some valuable personal lessons. For one, I don’t seek out trophy hi-fi gear anymore. I’ve had more than a few manufacturers tell me in private that they make some models priced in the six figures simply because some rich guys want to spend that much. The practice is commonplace, but I no longer aspire to be one of those rich guys, or to own or even be loaned for review the kind of gear designed for them. If you do, more power to you -- but it’s not me.
Integrated amplifiers have often been touted as space savers. Combining two components into one, the typical integrated amplifier also does away with a set of interconnects, and results in a smaller package than would be possible with separates. This saves not only on real estate, but on price as well. You’ve heard all this before.
Warner Bros./Intervention IR-015
Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2
With its seemingly effortless flow of great melodies that stay in the head, and witty lyrics that are smart without being too clever or cynical, Marshall Crenshaw’s eponymous debut album was universally praised by critics on its release, in 1982. Crenshaw and Richard Gottehrer coproduced the album, which had a clean but somewhat bright sound, with an old-style reverb that highlighted the music’s debt to Crenshaw’s influences -- Buddy Holly, early Beatles, the Brill Building -- without sounding dated.
Last year, at the Montréal Audio Fest, I did a solid for Mat Weisfeld, president of VPI Industries. Throughout that weekend I’d been in and out of various rooms that featured VPI turntables, and during those visits Weisfeld and I had struck up brief conversations. Close to the end of the show’s final day, as we discussed VPI’s MW-1 Cyclone record-cleaning machine, as I was picking his brain about the finer points of the Cyclone’s design, Weisfeld asked if I’d mind taking the display unit home with me. “We’ve got enough to transport back to the States -- it’d be a great help if you could look after this for us.”
This year I break with my annual take on the SoundStage! Products of the Year awards -- Doug Schneider gives you the complete list over on SoundStage! Hi-Fi -- to tackle another subject that’s been on my mind lately: the safety -- or, in some cases, the false sense of security -- that comes with shopping by brand.
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