Michael Fremer

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2003  |  0 comments

Jack Pfeiffer: The Last Interview

When I sat down at last January's (1996) Consumer Electronics Show with veteran RCA producer Jack Pfeiffer, I had no way of knowing that I would be conducting the final interview he would ever give. Pfeiffer suffered a fatal heart attack on Thursday February 8th, 1996 at his RCA office where he'd worked in the Red Seal division for the past forty seven years. He was 75.

Jack Pfeiffer was a pleasant man, soft spoken and easy to talk to. When my rather limited knowledge of the classical music world became apparent, he picked up the slack so I wouldn't feel too uncomfortable.

My reason for speaking with him had less to do with anything technical, and more to do with getting his take on the work being rediscovered and appreciated by a younger generation of music lovers thirty plus years later, and how, given the usual corporate bottom line mentality (yes, even then) such a dedication to quality could prevail. So yes, it was more People and less Mix and under the circumstances that's fine with me.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2003  |  0 comments

M.F.:Now that whole "Dynagroove" thing. Do you want to....

J.P.:Well, I'll dispose of it quickly. Some of them were great, great recordings too.

M.F.:Recordings yes, but....

J.P.:Yeah.

M.F.:Once they got on to disc though....

J.P.:Well.

M.F.:The difference was in the cutting, correct? It wasn't in anything else.

J.P.:It was in two places, basically. It was in the cutting, but it was also in the mix down, because the head of our engineering department came up with a device to make the translation from a high level of listening to a moderate level of listening that most people listen to. And to make that translation from listening to it at high level to low level or lower level, it changed the whole ear characteristic change.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 30, 2003  |  0 comments

Beginning with his eponymous 1970 debut, and continuing throughout eleven Warner Brothers solo albums, Ry Cooder has demonstrated that in addition to being an extraordinary folk/blues guitarist- particularly on bottleneck, and a serviceable, though hardly distinguished vocalist, he is also a high caliber musicologist and A&R man. While Cooder’s specialty has been mining the more obscure tributaries of the rich vein of American music deposited during the Great Depression, he has also unearthed musical riches from around the world, particularly the Caribbean and Mexico.

His solo albums are sprinkled with unknown and out-of-the-way delights like Dickey Doo's "Teardrops Will Fall" and the calypso "F.D.R. In Trinidad"- as well as some better known songs like "One Meat Ball", Woody Guthrie’s "Vigilante Man" Huddie Ledbetter's "Teardrops Will Fall", The Drifter’s 1954 hit "Money Honey", and Johnny Cash’s "Hey Porter".

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 16, 2003  |  0 comments
Dense, compact, and built to run O-rings around the competition, SME's flagship turntable makes every other design I've encountered—with the possible exception of Rockport's System III Sirius—look almost homemade. I don't mean to insult the many fine, well-engineered designs out there, but I've seen nothing else to compare with SME's tank-like approach to spinning a record. Comparing the Model 30/2 to a tank isn't exactly fair: the machining is done to higher than mil-spec tolerances. I don't think anyone else building turntables today is capable of this level of construction quality, never mind design ingenuity and fit'n'finish.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 14, 2002  |  0 comments
It's not every Consumer Electronics Show that someone introduces a $29,000 solid-state phono preamplifier—and I miss it. The 2002 CES was one. My show report in the April issue made it seem as if I'd found out about it there, but the fact is, someone clued me in after I'd returned home. I needed to come clean on that.
Michael Fremer  |  Dec 05, 2001  |  0 comments
The Manley Steelhead tube MM/MC phono preamplifier was first demonstrated at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show. Nine months later, my long-promised review sample of Eveanna Manley's new baby was delivered. While Ms. Manley may have given birth to the audacious product, it was conceived by the company's chief hi-fi designer, Mitch Margolis.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 20, 2000  |  0 comments
Andy Payor hurls a briefcase full of engineering and scientific mumbo-jumbo at in an attempt to justify the $73,750 price of the latest and greatest edition of his Rockport Technologies turntable, but really—isn't this all-air-driven design a case of analog overkill? After all, defining a turntable's job seems rather easy: rotate the record at an exact and constant speed, and, for a linear tracker, put the stylus in play across the record surface so that it maintains precise tangency to a radius described across the groove surface. By definition, a pivoted arm can't do that, so the goal there is to minimize the deviation. That's basically it. Right?
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 15, 2000  |  0 comments
What do you want from a 21st-century record-playing device? I hear you: you want one that's compact, well-made, easy to set up, holds its setup, sounds great, and doesn't cost a lot.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 19, 2000  |  0 comments
This is an era in which products and websites are "launched," but in the past two years Herron Audio has sort of oozed its way into the public ear. With little visible promotion or splashy advertising, Herron is now spoken of within an ever-widening audiophile circle.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 03, 1999  |  0 comments
At a hi-fi show in Germany a few years ago, an audio club had set up a room filled with a dozen well-known turntable/tonearm combos. I recall seeing the Clearaudio/Souther, Immedia RPM-2 and arm, VPI TNT Mk.IV/JMW Memorial, Basis 2500/Graham 2.0, Oracle/Graham, Linn LP12/Ittok, SME Model 20/SME V, and some others I can't remember, including a few not exported from Germany.

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