The Audio Geek!

2016 Australian HiFi & A/V Show

I went to the Australian HiFi & A/V Show held in a Melbourne hotel yesterday. On the whole it was pretty unexciting. Although a claimed 100+ brands were on show, limited range of exhibitors and sadly but not necessarily surprisingly, most systems sounded ordinary compared to my Kyron Audio Kronos system here at home. To make matters worse, the demo music being played in most rooms was dreary dirge-like stuff or classical which I couldn’t take to at all. So I didn’t even get to come away with any music recommendations.

thumb_L1020214_1024
VAF Soundwall, really interesting - 2016
thumb_L1020226_1024
Bricasti electronics and Tidal speakers - 2016
thumb_L1020218_1024
Hilton and Project Audio room - 2016
thumb_L1020224_1024
Audio Note, always an oasis of sound - 2016

The event was saved for me by one room. Stunning (in size, cost and sound) Ypsilon pre-amplifier and mono-block power amps, matching CD player & DAC, the Audio Union Helix 1 turntable designed by Aussie Mark Dohrmann and German Physiks Borderland (I think) omni-directional speakers. The CD player was frankly a bit ho-hum but the turntable sounded pretty special with decent records (CSN live from Melbourne and Johnny Cash being a couple of standouts). But I will save the best for last. When we first walked into the room, there was a drum solo playing pretty loud in a small (untreated) hot, dark hotel room full of people and equipment. It sounded pristine, lively, clear and tuneful. I assumed it was a modern percussion track designed to demonstrate the system’s dynamics. Which it did superbly. After a couple of minutes I sensed that I had heard the track before. A bunch of blokes (my age) were rocking along with the solo and then it struck me, just before the guitars kicked in. The track was ‘Moby Dick’ by Led Zeppelin off their second album recorded in 1969. A closer inspection of the playback suite showed no records on the turntable, a static display on the CD player and there was not a streamer in sight. Then I saw it. A 25+ year old Studer reel-to-reel tape recorder / player deck. I had a mate with with me and we both agreed that this was the best sound reproduction we had ever heard. The fact that the music was a 47 year old rock album that sounded like it was recorded yesterday was borderline unbelievable. We visited the room three times just to make sure our ears weren’t playing tricks on us. No surface noise, no tape hiss, no wow & flutter, just a huge image and pin point instrument placement and clarity across the (artificial) studio soundstage. Revelatory is a word that comes to mind. 

I had read in recent audio mags that audio shows in Munich and Newport had seen a rise in exhibitors using reel-to-reel as a source. I dismissed those articles as promoting the ‘lunatic’ fringe… I am now a believer! And I want one!

The good news is that the reel-to-reel decks are relatively cheap by high end audio standards. Between $5 and $20K gets you used high class Euro gear (Studer, Telefunken etc). Sadly that is the end of the good news. The bad news is that the units are a bit temperamental and delicate and potentially need regular maintenance. There is a degree of complexity around tape width, tape speeds, matching the pre-recorded tapes EQ to the player’s reproduction settings and I am sure other issues. But the big drawback is a lack of range of tapes and their cost. $A450 to $750 per tape!!! Yikes. Practically, I would only be initially looking at 10 - 25 tapes of material that I absolutely loved and was confident in the sonic quality and provenance. Think ‘desert island tapes’...

thumb_L1020223_1024
A poor picture of some awesome technology - 2016

Over dinner my colleague and I continued to focus on the positives of what we heard and are committed to exploring the potential opportunity to get in the game. Lots more research to do however. The cost paradigm of analog LP versus tape is just swapped around. Probably long term costs are similar but in one mode you play more for the equipment and in the other you pay more for the software. But from what we heard, tape sonically kills even SoTA vinyl. I am sure my Kronos system would do the tape sound justice and take my audio reproduction to a whole new level.

Watch this space!

New music - CDs and Downloads

After a few months 'digesting' a large batch of new music I bought last year, I have started to freshen the music collection again.

thumb_IMG_7191_1024

After hearing some new music at the Kyron Audio event recently, I was slightly taken with the Indie band from the UK, 'Elbow' so I procured three albums, 'The Take Off and Landing of Everything', 'Seldom Seen Kids' and 'Live at Jodrell Bank'. I haven't had a chance to have a full listen.

OK, on first listen, I quite enjoyed 'The Take Off and Landing of Everything'. Worried early as it started a bit melancholy and one tempo, but progressed nicely and if it was a vinyl record, side 2 is really enjoyable. Better melodies, greater light and shade and much more 'listenable' All comments are related to the music, I haven't listened hard or thought about the lyrical content yet. I am happy with this purchase.

Cued up next is 'Seldom Seen Kids'. Report to come later.

Fair say none of Elbow is 'three chords and the truth' so it is a little outside my normal genre but that is exactly why I bought it. On balance, good stuff.

Secondly, I have been considering signing on for the Bowers & Wilkins 'Society of Sound' download service for a year or more. The deal is for around $70 per annum, you get two albums per month, usually one 'mainstream' and one classical release. Worth a try to discover some new music AND have an 'asset' at the end of every year to show for it. Sorry I am just not a renter or a streamer…. I know, I am old….

Kyron Audio - Customer Demonstration Night

In order to get the Kyron Audio Kronos product in front of more potential customers and prospects, Lee and Leon booked out the Maven Room at the Burwood Music Centre for three days to schedule detailed and personal listening sessions for interested parties, existing customers and invited guests. I had originally invited eight guests to attend but for various scheduling reasons just two were able to make it along.

thumb_L1020190_1024 thumb_L1020192_1024
The Kronos and Lee in presentation mode - 2016

Peter and Carol Fitzgerald were my guests and they were completely smitten by the ability of the Kronos to reproduce 'live' sounds and to deliver uncanny imaging from just two speakers. Peter was particularly interested in the technology and how it has been developed by the Kyron team over the years.

thumb_L1020195_1024
Lee, Greg & Leon at Burwood Music Centre - 2016

A special element of the evening was the first Australian audition of Mark Dohmann's new turntable, with the industrial design of the unit penned by non other than Kyron Audio's Lee Gray. While vinyl is not my source of choice given my aversion to 'pops and clicks' there was no question that lifelike tonality, depth and width of the reproduced image and the fluidity and flow of the music via the analog front end was truly spectacular.

Many thanks to Peter and Carol for attending, and as always thanks to Lee and Leon for their hospitality and support.

KingRex PSU Mk11

The wall-wart power supply recently failed on my Acoustic Revive AR-888 Schumann Frequency Generator. As it was inside the warranty period I contacted Peter at Grooveworks website for a replacement. We had a discussion and subsequently agreed that a worthwhile upgrade would be to replace the switch-mode wall-wart with a dedicated linear power supply so the KingRex PSU Mk11 was duly ordered.

_64A2273
KingRex PSU and Acoustic Revive RR-888 in situ - 2016

In addition to the power supply upgrade, we also chatted about positioning of the RR-888. I had it a little over a metre off the floor sitting in the bar area. All the documentation, Peter's advice and forum discussions seem to strongly indicate that the generator should be at least 1.5 metres from the floor. That seemed no easy task for me. The only part of the listening room that reaches that height is the top of the CD rack and it is scalloped on top without a flat surface. Hmm. So I 'stole' a granite slab from the headphone system rack and rested that on top of the CD cabinet then placed both the KingRex power supply and frequency generator on the granite shelf. Looks a wee bit clunky if you stare at it but it doesn't stand out too much for the casual viewer / listener and the units are now approx 2.1 metres from the floor.

It has been in and running on power for three weeks now and I will start some critical listening shortly.

Happy 'Hi Fi' Christmas!

May you all have a happy, musical Christmas!

thumb_L1020179_1024