Analog Corner

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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  |  7 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  |  16 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 08, 2013  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1999  |  1 comments
A family came to pick up a puppy we'd bred. The 11-year-old son entered my listening room, and I asked him if there was something he'd like to hear. "Nirvana," he requested, so I got out the Mobile Fidelity LP of Nevermind. "I've never heard a record in my life," he said, as I slipped it on the Basis Debut, currently being reviewed. When "Smells Like Teen Spirit" ended, he turned to me: "You have a really great stereo! I've never heard half that stuff."

"Would you like to hear the CD version?" I asked.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 12, 1995  |  0 comments
I figure two categories of non–analog-owning audiophiles are reading this column (footnote 1)—younger ones who've never heard good or any pure analog; and older audiophiles who may have been pushed out by the bad advice regularly spewing from the pages of "mainstream" stereo magazines in the days just before CD.

Their prescription for playback perfection? Track lightly on a PLL direct-drive turntable (and since all turntables sound the same, any one will do). I swallowed a large dose of that myself during the early ‘70s, marginalizing my listening enjoyment and ruining many of my favorite records in the process.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 11, 1996  |  0 comments
The Rega Planar 2

The last thing I did before sitting down to write this column was run an $1895 Lyra Clavis D.C. phono cartridge on a $650 Rega Planar 3 turntable. I played a British Polydor pressing of Roxy Music's song "Avalon," then played it again on the $9000 TNT Mk.3/Immedia RPM combo using a $3800 Transfiguration Temper cartridge. That's $2545 vs about $13,000.

Were there differences? Of course. Were they big differences? Not nearly as immense as I thought they'd be. When I started my comparison of four reasonably priced arm/'table combos a few weeks ago, the last thing I thought I'd be doing during the process was playing with expensive cartridges. I was figuratively wrong and literally correct.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 26, 2013  |  2 comments
One of Mikey's best sounds at CES: the Hales Transcendence 5 speakers powered by Balanced Audio Technology amplification. All photos by John Atkinson

Call it a convention, call it a trade exhibition, call it CES, call it "Bernie''—no matter how you laser-slice it, it's a show. And for a show to succeed, it needs an audience. For an audience to show up, it needs stars, it needs a good book, and it needs some decent tunes or compelling drama.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 25, 2013  |  3 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 11, 1996  |  0 comments
Analogue Productions' new vinyl releases are welcome—but how many audiophiles will buy them?

I've never called "The Psychic Hotline," though I am a certified Dionne Warwick fan. Don't get me wrong: I believe in psychic phenomena. It's just that I'm psychic enough without having to pay some phoney a buck a minute to feed me truisms that sound "just like me!" Of course they do. They sound just like you, too. Amazing.

No, I believe in these strange invisible connections. They're as real as the air we breathe—we just can't see them. We can't usually see the air, either, but we keep breathing it. For instance, the couple who won the Stereophile/WNYC HI-FI '96 contest—see September '96, p.57—could have come from anyplace in the gigantic New York metropolitan area, but ended up living a few blocks from my house. That was meant to be.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 15, 2013  |  1 comments
Lyra Arion moving-coil step-up transformer

"The killer cycles, the killer Hertz, / the passage of my life is measured out in shirts," as Brian Eno once sang. In 1997 I measure out the vitality of the analog revival by how long it takes my Dick to fill with new vinyl. It doesn't take more than a few weeks, and a Dick holds about 75 records. Dick, by the way, is a sturdy, inexpensive, attractively finished, LP-sized, wooden slatted crate sold at Ikea, the Swedish home furnishing giant. As at Linn, everything at Ikea has a weird, consonant-heavy name.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 04, 2013  |  2 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  |  Jun 11, 1996  |  0 comments
The VPI HW-17 record cleaner.

I'm always surprised when I read a letter saying that this column helped convince a reader to invest in a good turntable and start enjoying analog. I shouldn't be, but I am. And I'm also amazed by how many such letters I see published, or receive via fax from the home office in Santa Fe, or by e-mail on CompuServe (Footnote 1). Ditto when I run into people at record and hi-fi stores who tell me the same thing.

I even meet newly converted analog devotees at the Toshiba-sponsored Home Theater seminars I've been participating in over the past year and a half. Although my name isn't used to promote these events, inevitably one or two Stereophile and/or Stereophile Guide to Home Theater readers are in attendance, and after the three-hour presentation (it is comprehensive) they come up and tell me how much they appreciate the fact that I've pushed them over the top and into the groove. That's about as good as it gets for a writer/advocate. It's clear proof that the old and new technologies can happily coexist.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 21, 2013  |  16 comments
Our intrepid reporter had no idea why 650,000 records were in a warehouse in York, or who owned them, but he took the bait nevertheless. Photos by Michael Fremer.

I heard this story from a manufacturer whose car broke down somewhere in a rundown Queens neighborhood one afternoon: He went into a bodega to make a phone call and struck up a conversation with the owner. Their talk led to audio, then to a trip to the basement of the former record store, where thousands of Living Stereos and other audiophile treasures had been sitting for decades, gathering dust and value. The manufacturer would visit each week and walk out with a few hundred unplayed gems, for which he'd pay a few bucks each.

True story? Audiophile wet dream? Who knows? Who cares? We love this stuff. So when I got a call from Rick Flynn (proprietor of Quality Vinyl, a mail-order, audiophile-oriented record dealer) about 650,000 records—every one of them stone-cold mint—locked in a warehouse in York, Pennsylvania since 1973, and would I like to have a look...I bit.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 22, 2013  |  5 comments
Every so often, when I get down (and I don't mean as in "get funky''), I wonder whether I'll run out of analog things to write about. After all, we're only a year from 2000, and this needle-in-the-groove invention is already more than 100 years old. What's left to say?

Or so I think when I get blue. But it doesn't last long, not with so many inspired correspondents writing and so many manufacturers creating new products—even though, as we all know, vinyl is dead.

And then there are the bizarre incidents.

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