AUDIO SHOWS Dr. AIX's POSTS — 16 August 2015

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Saturday is usually the busiest day at an audio trade show…but it wasn’t for the AIX Records sales table at CAS6. A few people that I talked to seemed to think it the 65th Annual Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance drew the crowds away from the audio show. One of my customers visited the table on Friday, because he had to take his 1984 Alfa Romeo Spider to the show…he’s completely restored the car, which originally cost him $4000 and now goes for much more. Maybe the local audiophile community…or at least the well-heeled San Francisco crowd…opted for the car show on Saturday, all I can tell you is the traffic was light and sales were lower than Friday. A couple of the vendors I spoke to told me that they wouldn’t be returning next year.

Looking at the list of exhibitors shows less than 100 different companies. And many of those are small time operators like me that only took a couple of tables on the main floor. There couldn’t have been more than 40 demo rooms…but the ones that I visited sounded pretty good. I happened to be walking by a corner suite on the third floor and heard an early Fleetwood Mac tune drifting into the hall…before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were members. This was the time of Peter Green. I had to stop in the room and see what was going on. The gentleman hosting the room was playing vinyl LPs and analog tape (a Tape Project 1/2″ machine was in the room!). However, there was a computer hooked up to a Bottlehead amplifier. The speakers are very elegant and represent a throw back to the speakers of yesteryer.
From their website:

“Burwell And Sons Loudspeakers searches out vintage speaker components from the 50’s, 60’, and 70’s to use in our Homage Series loudspeakers. We made the decision to use vintage components for a number of reasons. The nostalgia factor is certainly a consideration, but it’s more than that. The fact there is a finite supply making them rare and more costly was not our first consideration. We choose to use them because we believe nothing has been produced that outperforms them. The technology perfected during that era is regarded by many as the pinnacle in sound reproduction.

150816_burwell_speakers

Figure 1 – The Burwell & Sons Homage Speakers

Burwell And Sons is dedicated to our mission of preserving these legendary symbols of American exceptionalism and greatness. To own a set a vintage speakers from that era is to own a piece of American history, not unlike owning a classic American muscle car. An expression of innovation and performance still viable today.”

The sound was smooth and familiar but I seriously doubt their claim “nothing has been produced that outperforms them” and that they are “the pinnacle in sound reproduction”. I’ve heard plenty of speakers that sound as good if not better…the JBL M2 Studio Reference monitors and Revel Salon 2s blow their horns away. I have to say they were certainly attractive…the woodworking was exquisite. And the price of $80,000 pushes them well beyond what I would ever consider. Still they were a trip down memory lane…remember Altec Lansing Voice of the Theater speakers?

Continued…

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About Author

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(9) Readers Comments

  1. Ah the 80’s. I remember them for Magnepan, Klipsch, and those Polks that blew me away. I can’t remember the model. They were tall, huge, multi-driver monoliths. And hearing Springsteen’s “Sandy” through them was a revelation. From the proper listening position the placement of each band member was so… realistic? Each instrument occupied it’s own portion of the soundstage. OK. It was trickery I guess. Some ear\y form of signal processing. I wound up buying Infinity Kappa 8’s, and a Yamaha DSP-1 sound processor with it’s auxillary amp for a 6-channel surround. Crude but a first of it’s kind back then. Mono-bridged them all with a sweet sounding Luxman (remember them?) high powered receiver. Thank goodness my Golden Ears days didn’t last too long. My budget went downhill fast from the prime of my youth. Nowadays with diminishing hearing it’s strictly a portable DAP and headphones.

    • I remember those days and earlier…it’s been a long ride.

  2. Build a rectangular box, populate it with drivers, and presto, anyone can make a speaker. Forgotten was step loss, on/off axis, and vibrating timbers of all colorations. All junk despite the $tag but with low dynamic sources, who cared ?
    I believe middle “c” is in the 260 hz range…. And 85 % of classical resides there and below. Without bass control you have crap and this includes your room. Better consider more than any “box” doing bass well. Servo bass drivers do exist, and once heard especially dipole, is monumental with a response curve to prove it.
    Boxes need to go !

  3. Perhaps I have the blinkers on too tight, but I just cannot get interested in modern speakers. When I lived in the UK I owned a multiplicity of Great British speakers, such as Quad ESL 63’s, Celestion Kingstons and KEF 107/2s. For me the 70s/80s was a simply wonderful era for great sound. It all seemed to change, however, when the hifi shows started to be dominated by multi speaker AV set ups around the beginning of the 90s. This was also a period where ownership of classic brands like the three aforementioned ones started to change hands, with much production shifting to the Far East, with a consequent diminution in craftsmanship, which simultaneously translated into worsening sound quality.

    Fast forward to today and my lmove a few years ago to the USA has seen me indulging in American speaker brands from the pre-early 90s AV watershed era, to date DCM and Infinity. As per my experiences on the othe side of the pond, I’m again left totally in awe of the great designs of yore, when manufacturers competed technically to create the best sound, as opposed to the more modern paradigm of making things as cheaply as possible. Of course, the likes of Wilson continue to blaze a trail, but those are products for the most well heeled audiophile. For the rest of us, there seems so much to be gained by wallowing in the past glories of many of the the greatest technical minds in hifi history.

  4. Definitely a bad timing choice pitting CAS6 against Pebble Beach. Both hobbies attract the deep pocket demographic but the Pebble Beach show is a large whos -who doings that anyone that runs in that level of society wants to go to and be seen at. It’s a lose-lose position for CAS6.

    What a gorgeous set of horns, I’d love to hear them.
    As for the promo text, “nothing has been produced that outperforms them” you could probably read something along the same lines in at least half a dozen ad’s in this months Stereophile and in at least one review in that months magazine. Come to think of it I heard that line at least a dozen times on TV tonight. LOL

  5. Mark,
    Regarding your post on Aug 16: Subject “…Aug 12.” You mentioned one Geoff Kait and quoted some of his credentials. Here is a link to a page in which he exchanges some “bs” with an equally mentally challenged Michael Green. My point is that there is more to intellect and integrity than credentials reveal, even when one is a degree in some field of engineering.

    That is sad since I have known a few engineers and worked with them and follow some of them who have a higher profile. Engineering is applied physics, and physics is a fundamental and pure science. In that world, the scientific method is everything. Ideas and theories abound but all that matters is whether the “measurable” evidence is repeatable by peer review, and supports the theory.

    I’ve not met any, but apparently there are engineers who don’t do so well in this disciplined environment. Perhaps they have a personality bent more toward business, or entrepreneurship. I’ll assign Kait and Green to that category out of generosity rather than believe them being dishonest or corrupt even though a Google search produced “geoff kait con artist.”

    So, let’s just admit that there is room in the hobby for everyone. If you believe a particular “fix or gadget” improves your sound, that’s fine. Just remember when describing it to use the word “believe,” not “does,” unless you can scientifically prove it. Our hobby is far more complicated than in the ‘60s and 70s when analog was all there was. Read what you can understand, ask questions of knowledgeable people, and trust those whose opinions are verifiable.
    Robert W.

  6. Don’t know what went wrong with the post I just made. Can you please insert this at the word “link.”
    http://www.stereophile.com/content/audio-math

    thanks

  7. I worked at Altec-Lansing as an engineering tech in their heyday when they were at 1515 S. Manchester in Anaheim (1972-1974). I hear Disneyland has recently bought the property. John Eargle was also working there, although that’s also when he left for an amazing career at JBL.

    I’ve always thought we had products that were “pretty good.” The electronics were pushing 100dB SNR, and THD was in the 0.1% range, as I recall. But the benchmark was the Crown DC-300A, and we didn’t match that while I was there. There were people working on class D amps, but digitizing audio was a pipe dream, at least in the commercial marketplace.

    It was a heck of a lot of fun working there – designing and building the coolest toys I could imagine. I learned a lot about listening to music there – what various types of distortion sounded like, what too much EQ did to playback, and just how wide my own bandwidth was. Not to mention the young women…

    The A-7 (Voice of the Theater) wasn’t intended as a super fidelity speaker system. It was intended to be pretty good and pretty efficient, filling a movie theater with sound (don’t forget the EQ spec for those at the time!). But they were made two blocks from Disneyland, by Americans (or at least American residents, before all our manufacturing went to Asia). I still have my Altec 724 tuner-preamp, although it’s just sitting on a shelf looking pretty.

    I finally gave up my two engineering prototype University (Altec) E8s because I couldn’t make a third one for a center channel. The surrounds, even after 40 years of being in both wet and dry climates (Orange County, CA and Washington, DC) are still in perfect shape, although I’ve had to resolder parts on the crossovers a couple of times.

    Ahh, my dear old youth! It’s been a long ride for me, too.

  8. Mark, couldn’t bring up the page for Monday’s newsletter. I got a few days behind on your daily posts, so I’m commenting on the last 3-4 days

    Just wanted to say, I really like the analog logo, and a comment on the Jitterbug.

    My understanding is that it eliminates noise from the PC, that can get into your DAC. That seems to make sense to me. I will have one on Tuesday, to play with. The noise thing seems to make sense with better quality cables. Not cables that run in the Thousands, or even hundreds. Just the AQ Cinnamon, good quality connectors, and shielding.

    This PC audio stuff has so many options, and the learning curve is quite long. I’m going to digitize a bunch of LPs I have on loan, the Vinyl Studio software is offering a lot of options. Even so, my first attempt, while waiting for a few more items, proved to work very well.

    I have to agree with you, the snake oil doesn’t get any slipperier then an item that is teleported.

    Enjoy your vacation, and thanks for the info. Quick side note, I did write Michael Lavorgna asking for some guidance, and got no reply. He could have at least replied saying he doesn’t comment on hardware, except in his official capacity. You have taken the time to personally reply to me, on more than one occasion. I really did appreciate that. The Benchmark DAC you recommended has proved to be a real winner.

    Thank you,
    Jeff

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