Analog Corner

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Michael Fremer  |  Nov 20, 2017  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2000  |  1 comments
A pleasant surprise arrived at my door the other day: the 180gm vinyl edition of Companion, the Patricia Barber album released last year on Premonition/Blue Note. According to the jacket, the six-track set, impeccably recorded live in Chicago last July by Jim Anderson, was mastered from a 24-bit transfer of an analog recording. You can bet the vinyl sounds better than the 16-bit CD—at less than 20 minutes a side, there's plenty of room for the recording's full dynamics.
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 15, 2017  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2000  |  3 comments
If you were preparing to archive your LPs to CD-R, what would you do first? Right. You'd scrub your records and whip your turntable into shape—maybe even upgrade your cartridge and/or phono section. In March The New York Times's "Circuits" section published "Janis and Jimi, Come Back from the Attic," an article about digitizing and archiving vinyl that I don't think even mentioned the word "turntable." Obviously, analog is news unfit to print.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 09, 2017  |  First Published: May 01, 2000  |  7 comments
Guaranted, it's no Casino Royale, but with Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John, Sun Ra, Otis Rush, Johnny Shines, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Freddie King, and Luther Allison among the participants, the 2-LP Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival 1972 isn't half bad. The Atlantic Records original (SD 2-502) was one of my "Records To Die For" a few years ago. Unfortunately, the only copy I've ever seen is mine.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 06, 2017  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2000  |  3 comments
One of Mikey's highlights at the Y2K CES: the SpJ La Luce CS Centoventi turntable.

At the 1999 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I found the Alexis Park Hotel's Specialty Audio exhibit area "depressing." In the year 2000, however, it was a refreshing oasis of sanity in a desert storm of digital sand swirling around the main convention center, which promised us 500 channels of TV, PPV, WebTV, AOLTV, DSL, Geocast, Web Radio, downloadable MP3, and on and on.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 27, 2017  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2000  |  0 comments
The ad for the tag sale read "Former member of '60s rock group selling LP collection and vintage instruments," so of course I took the bait. I arrived early, or so I thought---there were already 30 folks ahead of me. I stayed anyway: You never can tell what sloppy seconds will yield---and perhaps they were all there for the other stuff.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 19, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2000  |  8 comments
Sorry about starting an "Analog" column with an HDCD recommendation, but I was going through a pile of new CDs when the sound of one---Evolution, from Modern Jazz Quartet veteran John Lewis on Atlantic---almost immobilized me. The sonic presentation on this solo-piano set, recorded in January 1999, is exceptionally natural: a well-organized, harmonically and physically convincing, three-dimensional picture of a piano within the reverberant field of a real performance space. Clearly, a minimally miked analog job, and spectacular in its simplicity.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 08, 2017  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2000  |  15 comments
It took a trip to the Hi-Fi News and Record Review Hi-Fi Show at the Novotel London West this past September to remind me that hi-fi is, above all else, a hobby. We're music lovers (hopefully!), but what separates us from the rest of the music-loving pack is our passion for the visceral pleasure of sound---something that has never translated to the average consumer, and probably never will. And that's fine; most are happy to hear just the bare outlines of the music. As Joni Mitchell sang, "Some get the gravy and some get the gristle."
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 22, 2013  |  2 comments
I know I keep repeating these LP/CD comparisons done by youngsters, but they're so much fun. Here's another.

My friend's son is in a band, and they'd cut some tunes that they wanted to hear back on my system. They brought the CD-R over, and, of course, they'd never heard their music sound so good—actually, the recording was quite accomplished. One of the kids looked around dumbfounded at my records and turntables and said, "Why would you have all of these?"

I told him they sounded better. "What do you like?" I asked.

"How about Green Day's Insomniac?" he replied.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 13, 2013  |  5 comments
While the death of vinyl has been greatly exaggerated, the death of its inventor, unfortunately, has not. Last May 26th, Waldo Semon (a name straight out of central casting), inventor of vinyl, passed away in Hudson, Ohio at the mellow old age of 100. Dr. Semon invented our favorite synthetic back in 1926 at B.F. Goodrich, while trying to devise something else: an adhesive that would make rubber and metal stick together. Semon held 116 patents, and in 1995 was inducted into the US National Inventors Hall of Fame. He also invented and held a patent on bubble gum. Thanks to a reader for sending me his obituary.

Speaking of having one's bubble burst, how about this from CEMA (the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association), in their yearly overview publication, US Electronics Industry Today: "The industry experienced another look into the future with the introduction of the Diamond Rio portable 'flash memory' player using MP3 (MPEG-1, Layer 3) technology capable of downloading CD-quality music directly from the Internet." (My italics.)

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 01, 2013  |  2 comments
After I saw my MP3 e-mail exchange with the editor of the "Circuits" section of the New York Times in the February Stereophile, I began to think that publishing it hadn't been such a great idea. If the exchange had burned my bridge to the Times, publishing it in this column had probably NATO-bombed it.

But eventually I made peace with my decision and forgot about it. Mikey vs the Times was a dead issue no matter what I did or didn't do, and at least Stereophile subscribers got to read what happened. Some of you thought it made the Times look bad, some of you thought it made me look like a hothead.

So, after all that, after explaining to the "Circuits" editor that, whatever benefits MP3 offers, "CD-quality" sound isn't among them, guess what appeared on the front page of the "Circuits" section of Thursday, June 17? An article titled "The Beat Goes on Line, and Sometimes It's Legal," by David Kushner, the lead sentence of which read "If there is a 'Phantom Menace' of the Internet, it's MP3, the compression software that enables CD-quality music to be sent on line. Like the film, MP3 comes with a considerable amount of hyperbole, promise and, alas, science fiction."

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 25, 2013  |  4 comments
Funny thing about Consumer Electronics Shows—consumers aren't allowed to attend. That's what's great about Stereophile's annual HI-FI Show. The place is packed with real people—excited, paying customers—eager to see and hear the latest in hi-fi and home-theater gear. At least, that's what one hopes for.

Some in the industry hesitated about showing in Chicago. As far as turnout was concerned, the city and surrounding 'burbs were unknown quantities; the grand but aged Palmer House Hilton, with its boxy rooms and ancient wiring, was potentially tricky; and the strong union presence meant that moving a parcel across the hall could prove lethal to an exhibitor's checkbook.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 23, 2013  |  6 comments
I was talking with Ayre's Charlie Hansen shortly after buying my K-1 preamp when the subject of stands came up.

"Solid maple," he said to me. "That's what I'd use."

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 13, 2013  |  4 comments
I've been waiting for the right occasion to crack open a sealed-in-the-polyethylene-bag 1A pressing of The Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man I'd bought a few years ago from a veteran Columbia Records publicist. Today was the day. Wiz reissue producer and Sundazed Records Prez Bob Irwin has just graced me with test lacquers of that album, which he'll release soon on 180gm vinyl, along with Turn! Turn! Turn!, Notorious Byrds Brothers, and Sweetheart of the Rodeo—with others to follow (I hope).

These Irwin-produced sets were issued three years ago to great acclaim on Columbia/Legacy CD (with some cuts, like "Mr. Tambourine Man," mixed analog in stereo for the first time), with lots of great bonus tracks, photos, studio chatter, etc. The new LPs, mastered all-analog using Irwin's custom-rebuilt Ampex ATR-100 playback deck, will contain the remixes, plus one bonus track per side, fitted in without compression. The plan is to issue the LPs with gatefold jackets to allow the inclusion of never-before-seen photos from the original sessions and other cool stuff.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 04, 2013  |  3 comments
Rare Sun Records 45s go on the auction block.

Sell my record collection? You'd have to hit me upside the head with a blunt instrument. That's pretty much what happened to Thomas Margellar Jr., whose collection went on the auction block recently.

The former Motor City DJ, known professionally as Tom Knight, had amassed a 50,000-piece collection of LPs, CDs, 45s, and assorted music-biz ephemera, all stored in his climate-controlled basement. One day two years ago he got into a fight with his wife. Unfortunately for the 47-year-old collector, his brother-in-law was on hand to intercede on his sister's behalf.

Margellar/Knight ended up dead with a crowbar to the head, and his wife and brother-in-law ended up in the klink. The collection ended up at NYC's William Doyle Galleries.

I've always wondered how long it would take before someone in the auction/collectible business got hip to record collecting. How many obits have you read of famous art collectors, stamp collectors, and book collectors? Plenty. How many of record collectors? None. Except for the fact that books have been around longer, there's not much difference between book collecting and record collecting. Yet until now, record collectors have gotten no respect.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 22, 2013  |  3 comments
Mikey narrolwy escapes jury duty and heads for CES in Las Vegas. The year is 1999.

"Timing is everything."

Whoever came up with that gem had it right. The timing of the International Consumer Electronics Show, for instance: right after the Christmas/New Year holiday. I don't know anyone toiling in this industry who is actually eager to trudge off to Vegas a few days after two weeks of concentrated boozing, face-stuffing, and general holiday lethargy.

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