Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Munich High End 2012 - Silbatone and the Western Electric 15a

First, a very well deserved thank you to Silbatone for bringing such high quality, early HiFi art to a trade show... and especially here at the twilight of the HiFi era.... Sincere thanks for sharing....

Second, the observation has to be made that there is indeed something special with these very early, compression driven, large, wide range horns.  They do communicate something that our brains associate with being more enjoyable, more believable, and I will even say more *correct* than what the current 'state of the art' is offering... this is really undeniable fact... (even to someone like me - a classically trained engineer from a top US university who loves to measure and quantify things) ... I say undeniable because here at the largest HiFi trade show in western culture, thousands and thousands of people sat in awe... not in awe of the size, as there were large line arrays and other giant horn rigs just down the hall.. but in awe of the sound... these people were a diverse group - manufacturers, experienced hobbyists, novice hobbyists, spouses, children, etc... and they experienced it.. it was very real...

heading back to my engineering side, I do want to know what we are not measuring that will help give insight into this.. of course I do... it could be a myriad of things... I still lean toward energy preservation... it certainly is not frequency response... and certainly not the distortion information that my computer spits out... it could also be the majority of the midrange coming from one driver... similar to what full range guys hear in a tiny room at low level... maybe... but to hear the music we played... full scale.. it really is a  different game.. ... .. there was not a single room there that was even approaching the scale of this display... and I mean sonic scale... yes, big soundstage, but that is not what I mean... what I mean is dynamic swing and a feeling that is a much closer approximation of REAL... the same something that made these two items the most often requested albums of the event:

(please try these at home.. loud, large, and clean... they should make you feel like there is great hope for humanity.. like there is beauty and love and power in the human soul... )

and lastly, I do want to comment on the actual setup from the perspective of the listener who already listens to WE and other large horn systems.. yes, there were many things we did not adjust... just due to time and due to not needing to... (what?).. yes, as our fearless leader said when I was adding my vote to bring the speakers closer together again: "Jackson, you always want one hundred points.  Eighty points is good enough." .. what he means is that this exhibition is not for the already committed horn and WE listeners, it is to show the general public.. it is a just that, an exhibition... and believe me, in this era of web readers who are now 'experts' in a year, this guy was listening to his own WE 15a system in 1987... what were you listening to then?

so, in rapid fire order, the issues from the '100 point guy'...

*brand new cartridge.. but when AJ personally delivers a 'special' cartridge, what do you do?
*brand new digital - I cut the factory tape on the boxes
*we lost power on Saturday.. we ran *everything* through a HORNBACH (Home Depot) 14 gauge extension cord!
*one side wall of solid glass, floor to ceiling, all concrete everything else... oh, except the tile ceiling...
*the amp we were to use landed with no tubes (did we find them in Korea?) ... so wrong amp...
*simple and lighter weight field coil supplies
*no time to adjust tilt of the 15A (so the tonal balance was not quite right)
*no time to adjust the felt lining (but the velvet Guiness towel was fly)
*an unknown bass cabinet and design (phenomenal work, JC! I thought it was awesome even if some crossover work may have made it even better)
*we knowingly gave the best room position to our friends at GIP... the 15's were way too wide...
*heck, we did not even know what turntables were coming until they rolled through the front door (both tables were super cool... maybe I will invite some guest bloggers to talk about them.. they are worth several posts each)

and really, as was said over the course of the show, this is the "number four" WE system... the 15a is awesome... yep, no doubt. but it is lacking in detail retrieval compared to the best.. the thin plywood does get a little too active for my tastes... this speaker has much more radiating area than the largest Magnepan... so the wood sounds a little artificially 'warm'.. but that allows you to play many more recordings, which could swing my vote... it is also a little light in absolute power response as frequency climbs... laws of physics are still laws of physics...

and yet we still had a line of waiting people that extended out of the door from morning until close... anywhere from fifty to one hundred people in the room at all times.... *nobody* had near that attendance... the other big horn rig had five or six people at a time.. maybe...

so you have to step back... see the long view...  be open to ideas... say thank you to Silbatone for sharing.. and see if you can learn something... I know I did...



Saturday, May 26, 2012

25 sqft of pablo.

I was at a local flea market and to my shock I stumbled upon this.

The guy was out for a second so I left and came back at the end of the day to see what the damage would be.  Alas it was $1500 and I wasn't about to try to low ball him.  As I headed to the gate to leave,  I noticed a bunch of 18" X 18" Home Depot moving boxes inside were records.  I did a quick peek and saw that it was worth asking the cost.  To my shock the guy said, you like em, take 'em all.  There were 10 boxes which meant around 1500 records.   One box was show tunes, another X-mas so they went away.  I cherry picked through the rest and here are some of the highlights.

I hope 12" + 33rpm is why newer tech never caught on with me.

I guess the point is sometimes you need to dig to find things and know what to hide.

I ended up keeping about 200 of them and the common/abused stuff went to the transfer station and the rest to the thrift.  I still wish I came home with that lathe.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Brother Thelonious

Apologies for another pesky beer post.  This was found on the fridge in the secret Blackman hideout in Oklahoma, Mississippi or possibly Texas.

Once the door was opened I saw the light.

Then we listened to some nina on some PK quads.

DC is the next stop on this train and we have solid family there so stop by and say hi.  (just remember you can check in any time you want but you can never leave.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

the irreverent show.

It is funny how a simple image without context can stir emotion.  More people noticed my treatment of this switch as a social comment rather than a practical one.

 Two years ago at LSAF, we found out in the worst way that this switch controlled a Hollywood outlet in the room we were showing in.

Early Friday morning,  I flipped the switch and found the offending outlet and sealed it off with the tape I had in my pocket.

Problem solved.

If we go earlier by about 12 hours, my only task was to get the room set up and since we scored the same room things were easy.

The first step in setup was to remove the beds and that was when the surprise came.

My first thought was to ask "What idiot hotel would put playsand under their beds?"  Reality set in and I quickly realized that it was the slackers that run this blog that left the sand.  An interesting storage possibility was realized and at the end of the show I properly placed the sand back where it belonged.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A picture from LSAF

tastes differ yet we all find music.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Nipper never impressed me.

Now Spuds McKenzie... that is a dog fit to represent real audio!  When I say REAL, I mean REAL!

Yes both the system and the dog were real and I have to say that my visit to Ka's place was also very real.  It was a beautiful industrial space in Dallas with a very nice aesthetic.

After some listening and unfiltered sake, the group went out for some BBQ Texas style and we each ate one of the special tofu ribs in JJ's honor.

Upon returning to Ka's studio,  I noticed something fitting for the blog in one of the display drawers from the cabinet pictured above.

Then It happened!  I found this picture from that rag that Holger runs of all the scandalous stuff that happened in Munich.

Well I could not stand for this and I had to dump both of them and set out to find myself a new BFF

Luckily it wasn't difficult!

(Ka,  I'll trade you the dog for the 80% nickel 50 amp)

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