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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Ear!

Wealth, health, peace and... Music to everyone.

Have an Happy 2010...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I haaaaaave aaaa drrreaaaammm...

Sometimes words are simply unnecessary...

I love the bass horn at floor level and room size...

VERY clever and well done, indeed.

Thanks to Jean Paul for the pictures...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

... again about Goto speakers from Japan: visiting my friend Toni and listening to his system

Yesterday evening I had one of those rare musical experiences every audiophile and music lover seeks for years... nor my japanese trip, neither the several listenings in the years gave to me the shivers and emotions I had few hours ago at Toni's place...

The system is made of a stock EMT 930 (no, RIAA eq., BUT with glass/rubber Dush's platter), 929 arm and TSD-15 cart; a Tango MCT-999 MC-transformer at 40 ohm, an Audio Research LS-2 preamp, a passive 1st order crossover (using Mundorf's "jet-set" type caps) and passive multiamping - i.e. a Class-D 400W stereo amp (sic...) and a Verdier 300B amp.

As you imagine, the Class D is feeding the Onken W 380 litres HUGE boxes, while the 300B's is powering the three upper ways...

So, here we are on spot: the upper ways...

Toni's using a superb Altec's 1803 horns, an huge six rows/three tiers;-) elements horn with an Altec 288-16H driver; then a Goto SG-370 mid-high with an S-600 horn and a Goto SG-16TT tweeter complete the combo.

What can I say... it was not the first time I listened to an Onken W, or to Goto's... what gave to this system an enormous strength, a relaxed sense of power, is the way the sound flows from speakers: it's liquid, immediate, unforgiving, round and detailed, easy to the ear.

Truly seldom heard overall quality and sound... better: Music.

The bass coming from the behemoths of 4 x 416-8B's is here and there, BUT only politely hinting to a music lower end, NOT imposing a larger-than-life, unnatural and simply not true bass, as a HUGE ghetto-blaster would rudely do.

A superbly natural low end, like only live music is... without forgetting the smooth highs and luscious mids...

A solo cello is able to go low, and impress, surprise at times, during a, say, Bach's sonatas perforamnce... I still remember an Anner Bylsma's concert with his Mattio Gofriller cello... shivers and goosebumps!

Shivers, pals... like I had yesterday evening, twenty kilometers from home!

Toni gives a lot of merits to this truly awesome final result to the sense of cohesiveness the two Goto's upper ways drivers are able to give to virtually ANY system...

They don't sound like different ways with a crossover, BUT more than the larger, yet correct in size and ambience and details and emotion, wide-band speaker you ever listened to.

This listening session has possibly been the highlight of the whole 2009...

Yes, the above also considering my own system with the new Thomas Mayer's WE 437A/801A super-preamp in place, plus the ALE and Audio Tekne's japanese field trip and some (top class) systems in Germany, Italy and Greece I auditioned this VERY year.

In a comparison Toni's vs. my own system... my tiny, japanese-style music room is giving a more intimate, detailed result: the recording venue, ambient noises and overall listening experience is more a "I look in a space and time musical window" stuff... at Toni's is the venue entering the music-room... two sides of a greatly enjoyable whole, like a link between emotional correct and "hi-fi" audio(s).

... but the details and ambient retrival are still WELL here, at Toni's... something greatly missing in the top, BIG japanese multi-amped systems I'm aware of.

A lesson: the whole may easily be more than the sum of single parts... Toni's beautiful 60 square meters room and nice speakers combo with quite "normal" equipment easily surpasses and outperforms mega-bucks systems in lesser rooms, using ultra expensive ancillary gears.

... and - another for-free lesson - the Best Sound of the Year isn't 10.000 kilometers from home (i.e. - Japan), but just a short drive from home.

So what?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Arthur Salvatore's wisdom

From superb Arthur Salvatore's site, something I unconditionally subscribe "in toto":

The first and most important priority being that the component must be able to:

Accurately reproduce low-level musical information.

The ultimate effect of this capability is that the component will sound "natural", "musical", "complex", "expressive", "intelligible", "Unpredictable", "alive" and, most of all, "complete", in contrast to sounding "mechanical", "simple", "dead" and "electronic".

This is the rarest and most elusive quality in the quest for accurate musical reproduction. Most importantly, it is my personal experience that it allows and even compels the listener to become more involved with the music and forget about the system.

The second most important sonic priority is:

This is the gut feeling and sense that there is something actually "present" and/or "alive"; As someone else has already written: "There is a 'there' there."

Whenever low-level information is combined with immediacy, the overall effect will be a primal and sustaining sense of "reality". This should be every audiophile's ultimate goal. Why is "completeness" even more important than "immediacy"?

Ultimately, it is still more "involving", in the long-term, to experience music that is complete, complex, natural, unpredictable and with "life", even when listening to it through a veil, rather than the alternative of listening to something that is "right there", when "what is there" is "dead", monotonous and "incomplete". What is the point of that?

The Likely Connection between these two Highest Priorities

I have found that, generally speaking, as a component's ability to allow more low-level information to be heard is enhanced, so is its sense of immediacy. This correlation is logical, since immediacy is compromised by a high noise level. This is also another reason why reproduction of low-level information is the higher priority of the two, and highest overall as well. This connection (or relationship) is not "Absolute", considering the prime example of the Martin Logan CLS, which is both super-immediate and also somewhat dry sounding.

Other audio parameters, such as "speed", "precision" and "cleanness" are somewhat less important and also much easier to attain. The reproduction of the frequency extremes, especially bass, and the recreation of a "soundstage" are also less important to me in reproducing music.

My lowest priority is the ability of a system to play "extremely loud", which I define as more than 105dB. Though in the final analysis; everything has some importance.

My choice of priorities is not just simple self-indulgence on my part. I’ve noticed numerous audiophiles reacting in a similar manner when hearing improvements in these areas. I've been around long enough in this passion to observe many audiophiles "evolve" (defined by me as an irreversible change in direction) over time in their audio priorities.

There have been some common and predictable trends:

1. The first step above "pure junk" is for more "bass and power"; with most people never "growing" any further.

2. Next comes a taste for superior midrange and high frequencies, but without losing the "bass and power". It is here that "Audiophiles are born". However, most audiophiles stop evolving at this point; being reluctant to take their main focus from "bass and power", and consequently only search for further enhancements. The most expensive and complex components are those "enhancements."

Still, the basics and fundamentals of music reproduction have now been accomplished at this stage, which means the system can now be accurately described as "High-Fidelity". This is the single most important milestone on "the journey".

3. The next step is much more difficult; replacing the past focus on "bass and power", and/or "convenience", for midrange naturalness and low-level information. This "area" is where the vast majority of musical information resides, and it's also where analog software and tube electronics excel.

It is not a mysterious coincidence that those audiophiles who end up preferring tube electronics very rarely go back to solid-state. It is also at this stage that audiophiles will make a final preference for analog over digital.

4. Finally, some of those left may decide to go to radical and extreme lengths to maximize the retrieval of low-level information and minimize the system's inherent, unnatural qualities.

This objective can only be achieved by evolving to a "minimalist" philosophy, along with the resulting components and systems. This is a long and extremely difficult process, with the added hazard that even just one "mistake" will have disastrous results to the final sound quality.

Important- For most audiophiles (and readers), my personal priorities will not "match" their priorities. Accordingly, they may prefer the reference components in the "lower" classes, or components not even in any category, to those I have placed in the highest class.

Further- I realize that the above "evolution of priorities" is overly simplistic, so I might write about this in more depth at a later date.

The only audiophiles that do not evolve like the rest of us are:

1. Most audio 'reviewers', who claim to like everything equally (at least in public), never evolve, and rarely, if ever, declare a decisive preference for anything.

2. A number of audiophile "scientists"* who don't believe that there are any real sonic differences (let alone improvements) in components, except speakers, to evolve to and/or with.

*These are the only "scientists" I know, besides anti-evolution Fundamentalists, who don't like to be surprised and also totally lack curiosity.


Does this particular choice of sonic priorities favor some types of music over others?

Yes. These priorities favor the reproduction of Acoustical Music, which is the most subtle and difficult to reproduce, meaning Classical, Jazz and Folk/Ethnic.

I have found that music which is primarily Electronic, studio oriented and/or requiring a continuously loud volume to come across, is far easier to reproduce. There are countless components from the past, and present, which will make electronic music lovers very satisfied. Thus, it should be obvious that for those audiophiles who have a different ranking of priorities than described above, this entire list may be virtually useless to them, at least for the present.



Some readers may now want to have a better understanding of what "low-level information" is and why I feel it so important to music reproduction. Fortunately, there is a simple test and demonstration that anyone can perform on any system:

Just play an excellent acoustical recording, either CD or LP, where the music has both very soft and very loud passages, at a natural volume level.
Then ask yourself this question:

Does the system still sound "just as good" at all volume levels? If it does, that system passes the test!


Any decent system can resolve the pre and post echoes that are audible on some records; mainly those that were recorded in the early days of stereo and/or those with dramatic, dynamic swings directly following relatively soft sections. (One Famous Example-The beginning of the 4th movement of Scheherazade-Reiner/RCA.)

The test involving those "echoes" is extremely simple: the more obvious the echo(es), meaning the more difficult it is to ignore and the more detailed it is, the better that component's (or system's) ability to (generally) reproduce low-level information. While this test is somewhat simplistic, because music is not directly involved, it is an easy first step as a listening exercise and for understanding the general concept.

The Basic Rule is...

The softer in volume a system can play, while retaining ALL of its sonic strengths, the Better that system is in retaining low-level information.

This same test can also be used when auditioning a different component within the same system.

The challenge for this competing component is simple:

A. Does the new component allow the system to sound just as good, or even better, at a lower volume? That is the goal. Or...

B. Does the sound instead start to deteriorate at the same, or even a higher, volume? That is what you don't want.

Always keep in mind:
The relative absence of low-level information is a very serious problem at all volume levels, but it is most easily noticed, and it is most degrading of the music, at softer listening levels.

This same principle applies when the volume is lowered (moderately) with the volume control. The Rule is:

The More you can lower the volume, before the sound of the system begins to "deteriorate", the less of a problem that system has.

However, one must be very careful at this point, because most listening rooms have a very precise, optimized, volume range. Above that range, the music becomes raucous and distorted, while below that range, the music becomes too laid back and starts to sound "dead". So the change in volume must not be large enough to trigger, in either manner, the room's own problems, or the results may be misleading.

What if the system does start to sound increasingly "dead", "dry" and "veiled" as the volume goes down naturally, or with the moderate use of the volume control?

If this occurs, there is a problem somewhere in the system.

ALWAYS keep this RULE in mind:

There Must be a (Serious) problem when any system (or component) has to play "louder than life" to sound "natural" and "alive".

That is the unmistakable sign that musical information has been lost somewhere, and an unnaturally high volume is then being used as a "compensating device" by the listener, usually without even knowing it. This is the primary problem with most of the high-end systems I have heard over the years, and at all price levels.

Analogy- This is the audio equivalent of eating more "junk food" because it lacks basic nutrition.

Or what exactly should I be listening for?

To "steal" some previous thoughts (and words) from My Audio Philosophy:

Low-level musical information encompasses the widest possible array of musical sounds;

1. The harmonics that identify instruments and enables them to sound natural or "musical";
2. The decay of the individual notes and their harmonics;
3. The subtle, instantaneous shifts of dynamics and their intensity and emphasis (also known as micro-dynamics and dynamic shading) enabling musical "expression" to be sensed, heard and felt;
4. The sense of ambience and space, allowing the listener to both hear and be "there";
5. The complexity and separation, or absence of homogenization, of all of the above, reducing "boredom" and "listener fatigue";
6. and the sense of both continuity and a continual and consistent presence, which has also been described by others as "continuousness".

It is also indispensable that all this musical information be retrieved accurately;

Both in relative level and in phase.

This allows the music to sound "natural" and appear "intelligible". This is especially relevant with speakers, which have the most problems of any component with the accurate reproduction of both musical timbres (relative level) and with relative timing (phase).

This is this musical information that, more than anything else, allows the listener to believe that the music he/she is hearing, and experiencing, is a unique and human event, rather than one that is electronic, mechanical and ultimately contrived, like if "the pod people" from the film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" had taken over the world.

Low-level information turns "notes", "sounds" and even "noise" into MUSIC.

Finally, if I was to make an analogy with fine food and drink, I would describe low-level musical information as the equivalent of the "Aftertaste". Its very existence and character separate the different qualities of food and drink from each other. This is what also happens with music when its reproduction is "complete".



The term I formerly used, "noise-floor", has been in use in the audio world for a number of years now, and while I do recognize the vital importance of the underlying concept, I also felt that the choice of words ("noise-floor") was very unfortunate, because it has proved to be a confusing term for many audiophiles, even veterans.

A much better term, in my opinion, is: "Sound-Floor"

I feel this way because:

The expression "noise-floor" has Nothing to do with traditional "noise".

"Traditional" meaning the measurable noises (hum, thermal hiss, mechanical buzzes etc.) that emanate from all active, electronic components; such as amplifiers, preamplifiers, motors and even CD players. While loudspeakers, which are a passive component, have no "traditional noise".

In contrast, all audio components, passive AND active, including loudspeakers, have a "sound-floor". And that is not all...

So does the actual software; records, tapes and CDs, and in this instance, I am, once again, not referring to their background "hiss".

For a better or different perspective, the reader must realize that...

The key word in this expression is not "sound" or "noise", but "Floor". The word "floor", in this instance, is an indication of the "lower limit" of a particular capability of that component.

The "sound floor" (or "noise floor") can be best described as:

The "lower limit" of an audio component's capability to reproduce (or pass) softer and softer sounds.

Put in another manner, the "sound-floor" can be described as:

The softest sound that can be heard or sensed through that component (or system).

(And that by definition means)

Any sound that is lower (or softer) than the "sound floor" Must be Inaudible.
Analogy- It is the audio component's (or system's) direct equivalent of the listener's ability to sense or hear "soft sounds".

A component with a high "sound-floor" will obscure and mask a large amount of audible sound (music), while a component with a very low "sound-floor" will reveal virtually everything about the sound (music). Unfortunately, "the weakest-link-in-the-chain" rule applies in this case. This means that if even one component has a high sound-floor, so must the entire system.

This is the reason why systems that have a high sound-floor will be played at a higher volume, usually without conscious awareness, in an attempt to hear what is missing.

Why do certain components have a higher or lower "sound-floor"? That is not entirely known. What is known is that components that use overly complex circuits and layouts, longer signal lengths and poor quality passive components (wire, resistors, inductors, capacitors, speaker drivers and vibrating cabinets etc.) generally have a higher "sound floor" than those components which avoid their use. Poor execution will also compromise the "sound floor".

Also, everything being equal, tube preamplifiers and power amplifiers will almost always have a lower "sound floor" than their transistor equivalents. Ironically, this is true even though their actual "noise" (hiss, hum) will usually be measurably higher. Speculation about this phenomena has focused on the greater simplicity of most tube circuits (especially single-ended-triode designs) and the fact that the actual amplification occurs in a vacuum, not silicon or some other material.

So to summarize, there are four requirements in order for a component to have an exceptionally low "sound floor":
1. A simple, though highly competent, design
2. The use of the best quality parts, both active and passive, within the component
3. The finest execution of the above, both in build quality and in close attention to (small) details
4. The shortest signal length(s) possible

If any of the four requirements are compromised, the "sound floor" will rise accordingly, and the recorded sounds (and the music) will be permanently lost. Sadly, only a few rare and outstanding components meet all the requirements. Searching for them, and hearing them, one way or the other, should be high on the list of a serious audiophile's priorities.

There is also a relationship between a system's sound-floor and listening FATIGUE.

When a system has a high sound-floor, meaning more of the musical information is missing, the listener will then (automatically) attempt to fill in "the missing parts" with his brain.

This continual effort, usually unconscious, will eventually cause "listening fatigue". The existence, and even the degree, of the fatigue is dependent on the previous experiences, and expectations, of the listener.

For example, digital recordings and sources are known to have a higher sound-floor than good analog. This is the reason why some listeners, who are used to analog, may experience fatigue with digital, despite digital's other sonic advantages over analog.

While other listeners, who are used to primarily digital recordings, do not appear to suffer the same fatigue.

Finally- The first, unavoidable and ultimate rule in high-end audio is:

You can NEVER have it all, so everyone must eventually make choices, and that means choosing priorities.

Anyone who says otherwise is either very ignorant or lying."

A superb essay, indeed... many thanks to Arthur Salvatore for the above as I consider it as an important, better, a major achievement in defining the relationship between audio & music.


Thanks also to Denis Guzzo, photographer extraordinaire, for the magnifying lens portrait...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Goto from Japan: drivers and horns - a lifelong passion, in the name of music or The German Way.

Many, MANY thanks to Reinhard, Klaus and - as always - in this case for unveiling this european horns beauty - to Roman and his superb site & forum for sharing this:

"These are the results of 30 years (in words: thirty) of research and development in bass horns. Nowadays nearly everybody is talking about horns, and especially bass horns, Tractrix, exponential, hyperbolic... But the discussion seems always very isolated and concentrated on only one type of horn at the time without any possibilities of listening comparison in reality, and hardly anybody seems to really concentrate and nail it down on the last two octaves from 16 - 32 and 32 - 64 cycles which very severely determine the mid and high range reproduction, they think they have a horn and that's it. No, unfortunately it is not...

We have been "through" all sorts of horns, i.e. we have built them all. Yes, and we have started with the first straight 40 cycle horn with some 4 m in length and 2,70 mouth diameter back in 1983 with the first ever available Goto Bass Compression Driver SG146LD. Since then we are in HiFi-heaven. And since then we have built and listened to all the other types of bass horns because we just wanted to know for ourselves. And because at the time we did not know anybody with practical listening experiences regarding this specific theme we did it all by ourselves. So we built all different types of horns up to a length of 6,50 m and 3,20 m in opening mouth diameter. And over the years we have visited and listened to all "big" systems in Europe to hear what it is all about with horns in general and specific. The only ones missing in our "collection", i.e. we have not yet listened to till today, is the Western Electric WE15 with the original drivers from the 1920ies, which we will "do" rather shortly.

I don't want to use the word "better". It doesn't say that much. It is the same with vinyl and/or CD. With a "good" system you will always listen to "music". And that's what we do: listening to music and nothing but music, no more system - and hardly any source - evident in reproduction. And we get the right "pressure" for the sound, we "get" the organ in a church in reproduction, down to 30 cycles precise in some 11 m distance from the mouth of the bass horns, clearly and without any boom-boom... The horns are only "big tailored" in the sense of practicing precisely physical laws, of precisely working out what they "get" from the amps, not more, but also not less.

But not only the horns. As well the amplification. Been through all highest end: Mark Levinson, Macintosh, Audio Research... no amplification really did what we wanted to have rsp. hear. And what we wanted (and what we have now) was : input = output, without any add ones and without any deduction. And we wanted all Class A. Because the sound of Class A was so spectacular. And at that time Jean Hiraga had just developed his "Le Monstre" 7 Watt mono Class A, which we took as a model and then optimized during time. So we now have all Class A, 10 Amps, one for each driver, two 4 resp. 5 channel crossovers, and one pre-amp. And during the last years we have all amplification extended to separate controlled power supply for each unit. That was a huge step forward. It made the whole sound not only crystal clear but really stable down to the lowest frequencies, and the boom-boom was completely gone. And at that time we had already listened extensively to all highest end systems in Europe. And it was immediately clear what we didn't want to have and what we wanted to have. So we continuously worked on it.

By the way, we never ever followed any "new horn fashion". We wanted to check them all out. One after another. And we did. To get our own impression. And it was and still is just the sound that we are interested in. And nothing but the sound. And after all self-experiences we keep with the Goto philosophy: Kugelwellen-horn. We knew (at least we had a deep feel inside) what we wanted to hear, and so we developed, and developed, and developed... In hundreds of small and bigger steps. Over thirty years. Till we were "there" where we always wanted to be, but nobody had or could offer for sale. And "there" we are now in a sense that we have a platform where nothing in music is disturbing, no matter what source or music you play or what loudness. But one thing we wanted urgently was playing at highest levels and "feel" the music live with the natural sound pressure on the stomach. But not "loud", we wanted it "naturally loud", that is something different. That is to adjust a voice in playback at that level as if someone is singing in front of you, or playing an instrument or...

Crossover: Yes, we neither were content with available crossovers with phase shifting and so on... So we let build crossovers without phase shifting, because we wanted to have that and because we realized that the industry does have no interest in generating products like this... and the frequencies are cut according to the Goto recommendations: natural octaves, and I have to admit: that works for me. 4 resp. five way.

During all our constructions and research and developments regarding the horns (we did not build the amps ourselves that made a physician according to our proposals) we found one thing to be the quintessence in reproduction: the squares. No matter at all what source you are listening to. The more we optimized the squares horizontally and vertically in amplification (and within the sources of course, i.e. Vinyl- and CD-players) the more natural the sound came out of the horns. Result: what you do not put in, you cannot get out.

While Klaus is using some "older" Goto drivers (which have nothing lost regarding their magic), I use all highest end Goto beryllium drivers, i.e. SG188BL, SG3880BL, SG5880BL and SG146LD for the bass (30 - 200 cycles). Expensive? Yes. But cheap as well. Because they bring me - whenever I want - into paradise without dying. The throat diametre mid range is 75 cm (200 - 1000 cycles), the highs 21 cm (1000 - 5000 cycles) and super high 3 cm (5.000 - open end).

For me the most important thing was the Goto SG146LD. Klaus started with a straight 10 leafs 40 cycle horn in 1983. And it was awesome. SG146LD is the only compression bass driver which does not produce boom-boom if fed right. The SG146LD contrarily is on first impression not to be heard as bass, first you think, hey it is wrong, it is not connected, but then you realize, what they are doing, they integrate completely homogeneously into the sound, totally natural, like a royal soufflé, no more "cuts" between bass and mid-range (especially in the voices), just "one" sound. Marvellous. Really marvelous. And they make the right pressure. 113 db/watt/m... and you can put some 35 watts in there... and you get volume like on stage... and nothing disturbing...

Perhaps one has to get used to that sound a little at first, because it is so "unspectacular" without boom-boom, but then there is no way back... nearly exactly the same is with their membrane basses...But, please keep in mind, we are exploring new territory ... nobody was able to advise us so far... and we are still learning... deeply learning...the adjustment of all those horns is not yet finished... and now comes the next big revolution: high resolution digital stream...

I read: " one talk about the SOUND of Goto drivers, neither the driver owners nor the driver’s salers. I still hope to hear from someone who has a direct experience with Gotos about the sound of those drivers…" if it is like that then let me try.

1. As is with all drivers and horns: they only sound as good as with what they are fed; if the amplification is good, i.e. squares, the sound is good; if the amplification is weak or bad, the sound is like that (and that begins within the vinyl-system and the error correction in CD-players; so, wherever we start, we start "bad", exception: reproduction from computer files). The horns in itself are "neutral", but it is obviously very hard to reach that aim...

2. The drivers of Goto. Well it is like cars from Daimler Benz Mercedes. You have a range from A 180 to 560 SLC and on top formula 1 racing cars. They all drive fine. And there are lots of cars from other societies, which are comparable and which drive fine as well. But at the absolute top it is getting otherwordly unique... with the material beryllium... (but that material is not easy to implement; although not bad, the TADs beryllium have no chance in direct comparion to Goto beryllium!) the sound gets that light, that easy, that uncomplicated, that natural, it is on the border of no more being sound, the differences between an original and reproduction are really neglectable, nothing disturbing, you can listen for hours and hours and hours, and you scream for "More, More, More..."

3. The Gotos could not at all "open" as we are used to and show what they are capable of. The sound was steril. Like kissing your aunt and nothing happens. Get me right: there were no mistakes, not at all, one can easily live with that, it is just that we did not like the outcoming sound, the sterilness, the lifelessness, there was no "breathing"...

4. So what are the Gotos capable of?
4.1. Although they measure badly, they sound best. We do not understand why, but it is like that. But when you listen to their sound, you are not really interested in measurements, although we do that of course: Goto says: "You shall not measure, you shall listen!" I have to admit: Yes, it is like that. Although I like measurement controls. They are necessary, but I had to learn, that they practically say nothing about the "sound", as to be seen with the totally flat curves at Jean-Yves.
4.2. Their sound pressure brings you to life atmosphere, exactly there where other drivers are off limits, not that they are not able to play loud, but you are not willing to crank them up to that level because there will come up things you will not listen to and which with Gotos simply are not there...
4.3. The neutrality of the reproduction - well I repeat: if amplified correct - is jaw dropping, awesome
4.4. The mode of reproduction is not only natural, it is easy as well; when you reach a natural reproduction level, i.e. a voice is like a voice, a guitar like a guitar, you feel no need to crank futher up because of the lack of dynamics...
4.5. The preciseness of reproduction (well, again depending on the squares of the amplification)
4.6. The "easiness" with which they do it: 113 db/Watt/m, respectively 116db/Watt/m, it is like riding 60 miles/hour and you don't realize that you are driving
4.7. The dynamics, the capability of transferring loudest impulses out of nothing and that easy - makes you shiver
4.8. Closest to reality what I have heard in my life
4.9. You will realize most what Goto really is, when you remove the drivers one by one out of your system and put in others...
4.10. for me the best description of the impression of the sound is: the modesty, the unspectacularness, you are missing things, exactly those things that other drivers do wrong and/or are not capable of...

For Klaus and me it is "it". Not to say that other systems do not sound good or very good. But there are certain things only Goto is capable of. One has to hear this to believe. And the result is: nodding with your head. That's the sound of Goto. You will never go back..

P.S. I am totally aware of the fact that in reproduction all things are more or less compromises. The only aim we can follow is to minimize the impression of listening to something coming out of a conserve..."

Only a user, a passionate one, can share his findings, enthusiasm and heartfelty proselitism - I know myself, too... - as per above essay.

The above prose is much more valuable as it's not written by the importer of Goto's products or someone who wish or need to sell some Goto's, so abusing in empty hypes and the like: it's PURE, sincere satisfaction for a - I'm sure - great final result.


Friday, December 11, 2009

... further thoughts around Jimmy Giuffre 3 disc...

... the more I listen to this disc, the more I love it... this music, the mood it produces in me, the listener, and in the whole house is superbly enriching and seldom found everywhere...

Seems the air, like a beautiful woman, is wearing a summer dress...

"Afternoon" on "Fusion" - first disc, second side - and the following "Trudging" are my VERY beloved tracks ever: it's geometrical, yet melodic music and these tunes are masterfully composed and played as a perfect filigrane building.

Like Steve Lake quoted in disc liner notes leaflet, as Giuffre himself wrote in his '56 "The Jimmy Giuffre Clarinet": "It has been said that when jazz gets soft it looses its gusto and funkiness. It is my feeling that soft jazz can retain the basic flavour and intensity that it has at a louder volume abd at the same time perhaps reveal some new dimensions of feeling that loudness obscures".

Almost a manifesto, the same which formed and hinted a young Manfred Eicher in his bald twenties, as a music lover and a double-bass player.

Something which - possibly - shaped ECM, as well, as he followed and broadened and broadened this trio form to an infinite musical delta of duos, trios and their countless variations in instrumentation and sounds, like a composer with his orchestral palette...

... and always Jimmy Giuffre, taken from original Verve's "Fusion" liner notes: "... searching for a free sense of tonality and form. Often dissonance is thrown against consonance and throughout there is a curious vacillation between "the simple" and "the complex"."

This is the case... the music is - sometimes - a sort of Debussy-like jazz, but a 20 years old, swinging, braveless Steve Swallow brings eliteness down to earth with his... down to earth, yet heavenly deep, young, joyful and wise sounds and growlings and the whole owns a balance, like a wedding, more and better, a perfect menage-a-trois.

Sound-wise... Swallow sings, hums - Jarrett-like - while playing, while Giuffre, in some "Thesis" tunes, "plays cymbals" with his clarinet: masterfully blowing-only in his instrument, without playing any note... surprising, at first listen, yet so appropriate and "organic".

Also, the soundstage is, someway, fluctuating in room space: this is happening as a difference in trio members positioning, different from track to track AND also during the same track.

Would try to better explain this... at better looking to the superb sessions shot, the AKG C-24 isn't centered with musicians at same distance from mike itself: they are spread in a semi-circle - i.e. Jimmy Giuffre is slightly nearer to microphone, a-far stands Paul Bley's piano and with a couple of large baffles, almost centered between the latter two, Steve Swallow's double bass...

It's quite audible the moving, breathing and assuming a different position of clarinet, which blends more or less toward the centerstage.

A very transparent, living recording... a masterpiece!

... and the Music... ahhhhh... the above mentioned "Afternoon" is among the very music I'd wish to be played at my...


TACET Records: a well kept musical secret from Germany

There is a small, great record label in Germany called Tacet, which still produces records with utmost care, both vinyls and disks, but also SACD and DVD, in small quantities, using ALL TUBE gears, from microphones to analog tape recorder to mastering: gorgeous, lovingly restored and well kept Telefunken M5 recorders, Neumann U-47 mikes, and several Telefunken sought-after studio gears, from mixing down to mastering.

Their catalogue is absolutely worth a careful look, so full of masterpieces and seldom seen and heard treasures.

Tacet Records

The sonic of VIRTUALLY ALL the issues is A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

Give'em a try... you won't blame me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pumajaw - Favourites

Offering a retrospective of the duo's first four albums, Favourites revisits some of the key recordings by Pinkie Maclure and John Wills, made between the years of 2000 and 2006. This release helps put into perspective the band's acclaimed Curiosity Box full-length, charting Pumajaw's development from the From Memorial Crossing era (which encompasses the stripped trip-hop and dub tinted sounds of 'Sorcery' as well as the echoing folk dreamscape of 'Buttons'), right up to the more traditional fare of 2006's Becoming Pumajaw. The band's songwriting retains a sturdy and steadfast resolve throughout, suggesting a gloomy yet progressive creative mindset that doesn't shy away from technology or the avant-garde. On 'We Spin' (also from the band's 2000 debut) the group are at the height of their powers, sounding almost no-wave in their embrace of machinated rhythms, thorny sax lines and wild vocals, finding themselves some distance away from the fingerpicked gothic and concertina of more conventionally folk-oriented material like the no less impressive 'The Bending Wood'. Recommended.

... indeed... HIGHLY recommended: like a mellower, smoother Dead Can Dance.

I like'em.

Eyvind Kang - The Yelm Sessions

First heard of this nice musician of South Korean origin but American born when I saw and listened him and his inspired progressive viola playing alive in concert with Laurie Anderson, a couple of years ago or so...

I recently found and purchased this recording... a much worth listening, indeed.

Eyvind Kang
Booklet languages: English
Time: 42:52
Release Date: 2007
After listening to the first few tracks of Eyvind Kang's The Yelm Sessions, fans of his, especially of his previous album Athlantis, might be thinking, "Aw man, Eyvind's gone all soft on us." The pastel-colored title track, The Yelm Sessions, and the pop-sounding Latin dance Enter the Garden are lovely, but are a far cry from the dark power characteristic of his most exciting work. The fourth track, though, Fire in Wind, for orchestra, keyboards, guitar, electric bass, and percussion, inhabits the fearsome soundworld of Kang's more unsettling work, and most of the remaining pieces lead the listener through a number of dark, disturbing places. Locus Iste, Sulpicia Variation, and Hawk's Prairie are chillingly ominous; they conjure up images of immense power, and not a very nice power. Like much of Kang's best work, they evoke a distant past that's been drawn very spookily into the present moment, creating a sense of imminent danger. Several of the pieces, such as Mistress Mine, a Renaissance-sounding song based on Shakespeare, and Hiemarmene, call on the past with less overt threat, but still with some measure of mysterious twistedness. Epoché for Strings, the final track, is based on a work of J.S. Bach and is curiously inert, following the vitality of much of the rest of the album. The amazingly versatile Kang performs on most of the tracks, playing violin, viola, cello, guitars, keyboard, bass, sitar, recorder, and manipulating the electronics. The various orchestras, conductors, singers, and instrumentalists who perform on the album are too numerous to list here, but they all contribute to Kang's vision with passion and commitment. The many engineers involved deserve substantial credit for the album's atmospheric and evocative sound quality. ~ Stephen Eddins, All Music Guide
Composer Title Time
Eyvind Kang The Clown's Song 2:35
Eyvind Kang Enter the Garden 4:31
Eyvind Kang The Yelm Sessions 2:47
Eyvind Kang Fire in Wind 3:46
Eyvind Kang Locus iste, for chamber ensemble & electronics (after Bruckner) 0:52
Eyvind Kang Sulpicia Variation 2:34
Eyvind Kang Hawks Prairie, for chamber ensemble & electronics 6:59
Eyvind Kang Hiemarmene, for chamber ensemble 2:45
Eyvind Kang Mistress Mine, for voice & chamber ensemble 2:11
Eyvind Kang Asa Tru, for violin & orchestra 7:41
Eyvind Kang Epoché for strings (after Bach)

Ears and hearing: some Jean Hiraga's thoughts and the miracle of Western Electric 15A

Whether the amplifier is 20 Watts or 500 Watts, we always remain faced with an impossibility: that is to try to reproduce the real level of the signal. Table 1, which gives the lowest and highest levels of various instruments of an orchestra, indicates to us that a loudspeaker of 3 % output efficiency should be rated at 2200 Watts (the problem of the neighbours is not tackled) to reproduce the dynamics of an orchestra of 75 artists. We are thus far from the truth, in the maximum level as well as the minimum, by the great insufficiency of the signal-to-noise ratio. This same table shows the obvious loss of definition, if the scale of these levels is reduced to a level "in apartment", which is actually an effect of sound compression and limits in the signal-to-noise ratio of the recorded signal.

Table 1 : Acoustic level of various instruments and theoretical power of the amplifier required for a loudspeaker of 3 % output efficiency for the restitution of these levels. Notice that the acoustic level for an instrument can be as low as 0.005 microwatt, as the piano has the greatest dynamic ratio (80 dB) and that, for an orchestra of 120 musicians plus a choir of 200 people; the dynami­cs can exceed 120 dB.

N.o.B. (Note of Blogger;-)) - also come to mind this efficiency calculator
and the IMPRESSIVE efficiency ratio of, say, Western Electric 15A horn with WE 555 driver - i.e. about 70 %!!! Hey, I'm talking about the capability, the strenght to do not loose "energy" but for a (negligible) 30 %! Amazing!

P.S. - did you notice in "Table 1" about the "Cymbals" power?
... mmmmhhhh...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ears and hearing: "natural", acoustic watts vs. "man-made" watts or the weight of real instruments: why they sound so... true?

Found the following articles and links while browsing around the topic in title... acoustic watts vs. reproduced/"electronic" watts from our stereo systems...
this extremely well done treatize on the matter... and an industry (illuminated) point-of-view, actually coming from a genius: Robert Moog.

For example, Bob Moog wrote in 1977:

"First, let's talk about acoustic power output. What we want out of a speaker is sound (acoustic power). As converters of electrical power, loudspeakers are generally inefficient. Most of the high-price juice going into a speaker cabinet winds up as heat instead of sound. Good, wide-range speaker systems typically have an efficiency of from 1/2 to 5%. That is, 100 watts of amplifier power may yield 1/2 to 5 acoustic watts of sound power. How loud is one acoustic watt? Well, a premium home music bookshelf speaker will generally burn out before it produces one acoustic watt continuously. A typical full-size professional studio monitor will produce three acoustic watts at rated power. And a supergroup's stadium sound reinforcement rig may produce a total of 100 to 1,000 acoustic watts, wide open. In a typical club environment, a speaker emitting one acoustic watt will produce a sound pressure of around 110dB onstage. Ten acoustic watts will produce an additional 10dB, which, as the textbooks say, is loud enough to hurt.
How about frequency response? The lowest F on a bass guitar is 42Hz, the C below that is 32Hz, and low A on an acoustic piano is 27.5Hz. Below 60Hz or so, every Hertz of response is a significant addition in speaker system size, weight, and price. One person can move a moderately efficient speaker cabinet with a low-frequency cutoff of 45Hz, but it will take two people to handle a 30Hz cabinet of the same moderate efficiency. To my ears, response to 45Hz is necessary for a good "commercial" sound, while a 30 or 32Hz low-frequency cutoff adds a fullness that is sure nice to have. At the high end, you can hear the difference between 12kHz and 15kHz. A 12kHz high-frequency cutoff (and flat response below) gives a smooth, sparkly quality to bright timbres; extending the response to 15kHz adds a touch of brilliance and tinkle that can be significant in recording, or in small clubs.

Distortion becomes important when more than one pitch is played through the sound system. If you're feeding two or more keyboard instruments through the same speakers, you will have to be concerned about distortion. Unfortunately, speaker distortion characteristics are not given on spec sheets. You'll have to listen for yourself. It's generally audible when loud, low notes are played. To test for distortion, play a loud bass note along with a midrange chord. Speaker distortion will produce a "muddiness" that arises from sum and difference frequencies generated by the distortion component. In general (but not always), high-efficiency speaker systems and large speakers distort less than low efficiency speaker systems and small speakers. The most distortion-free sound system is biamped-separate power amplifiers for low-frequency and midrange-high frequency speakers.
How do conventional musical instrument and public address amplifier-speaker systems meet our requirements for synthesizers? First, let's consider guitar amps. Without a doubt, a typical good 100-watt guitar amp has the efficiency and stamina to put out a few acoustic watts. However, its frequency response and distortion characteristics are optimized for guitar: no significant response below 100Hz, a broad spectral "hole" around 500Hz, and sharply rising response above 1kHz, with some "warm" (low order) distortion. Guitar amps, therefore, are generally not suited for synthesizer sound reproduction. Similarly, most PA. systems are designed to make the human voice sound good. The P.A. frequency response (determined largely by the speakers) generally has a broad peak in the "presence" region of the spectrum (2-3kHz) and decidedly weak bass. Professional studio monitors, on the other hand, have more-than-adequate frequency response distortion characteristics, but often lack the stamina to produce loud, sustained, steady tones without over-heating. This is doubly true for some music speaker systems (although certain compact multiple-speaker systems such as the Bose 8OO are attractive and convenient options for small-to-medium size environments).
Keyboard amplifiers come closest to meeting our power, frequency response, and distortion requirements. High-frequency response is sometimes a problem. Many keyboard amplifier-speaker systems are designed primarily for tone-wheel organs, electric pianos, and similar instruments with little harmonic content. Such systems rarely have adequate high-frequency response for synthesizers. However a keyboard amplifier-speaker system with good speaker response to 12kHz or so is likely to meet all of our requirements for synthesizer sound production. If the speaker system itself is efficient, a 50- to 100-watt power amplifier will produce 2-5 acoustic watts, which is plenty for rehearsal or club work, while a 200- to 400-watt power amplifier will produce upwards of 20-25 acoustic watts, which is adequate for 95% of indoor gigs. When selecting an amplifier-speaker system for your synthesizer, it is a good idea to pick a few speaker systems that are efficient (that is, they sound just plain loud when fed with the output of a modest power amplifier) and then select the speaker from that group that sounds the smoothest and fattest. Use spec sheets as a guide, but rely primarily on your ear."

While I sincerely and gratefully thanks the late Robert Moog (and Estate) for the above extract and link, and much, MUCH more, I must add the topic is quite intriguing; I yesterday appreciated a full horns (army) band: trumpets, saxes, sousaphone, tuba, slide trombone... the sound, at about 20 meters, open air, was AWESOME: precise, straight, uncoloured, powerful, true...

Maybe I was listening to an hurting 2 acoustic watts!

This thought brought me to think about the wattage in our home audio systems - typically 20 to 100 or more r.m.s. watts... often solid state, class B watts...

... but, when talking about triodes and horns... a DHT/SET 845 amp gives about 24 watts, a 211's amp 15 watts, a WE 300B 8 watts, a 45 2 watts, a VT25A 1,8 watts... all the above power horses are able to drive speakers which, sometimes, sound muddy or false with 100 watts solid-state... they seems to be MORE powerful, truer to life!

Reading nothing new, don't you?!?

Strange is that the above mentioned figures are more akin real instruments "wattage" (acoustic watts): a grand piano is between 2 and 4 acoustic watts, a full orchestra is, during FFF, about 20 acoustic watts... sounds like real sounds - also if -10db vs. reproduced sounds - have some similarities... at least numeric.;-)

Seriously: if a properly designed/installed/fine tuned horns system is reaching peaks of, say, 105-110 db = about 1 acoustic watt, we just entered in "the real sounds realm" - i.e. true, uncompressed sounds like alive, in true everyday life - i.e. - less mind fatigue to rebuild the musical event, its dynamics and dimensions, a more relaxed listening experience, while cochlea smiles;-).

A case, chance or...

P.S. - sure a lot of people will continue to like and prefere a down-scaled, transistor-radio listening as more "confortable", less problematic and "easier"...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jimmy Giuffre: again about the noble art of jazz trio

There is a record which the beloved ECM recently reissued in a luxury, 180 grams double vinyl format, a recording which is someway a musical mistery (read here below).

Jimmy Giuffre on clarinet, Paul Bley on piano and Steve Swallow on double-bass created a masterpiece: recorded in 1961 under Creed Taylor producing and Dick Olmstead's masterful recording and engineering, it was previously issued on Verve as a two separate records titled "Fusion" and "Thesis".

The master-tapes had possibly a few hands swappings in the decades, maybe returned the property of Jimmy Giuffre's Estate or something... anyway the recordings were reissued several years ago for ECM as a two-records set...

The trio is a true supergroup, all the members are leaders; the music is angular, cool, icy in shapes and meanings, flowing under the diamond needle like lava.

Mr. Olmstead, the recordist, recorded the musicians in few hours in two sessions spanning few days in an high ceiling, large studio using the best mike ever: a stereo AKG C-24 microphone.

From the beautiful cover B/W shots you see a pipe-smoking Bley and two algid, neat looking Swallow and Giuffre on wood studio-risers and the C-24 on a mike-boom: that's it... enough for creating a timeless masterpiece... not without these stellar musicians, of course.

The music is so pure, perfect... the recording, you'd bet it, is the Best of the VERY Best!

The clarinet is right side, the double bass super centered, deeeeep and rich of over-tones and the piano... at left... the sounds come from well beyond the speakers outer boundaries, with an absolutely stunning, huge soundstage, both deep and wide.

Dynamics are simply perfect... limitless from ppp to FFF, solo and tutti...

A truly perfect record: a desert island one, the best spent EUR 30 - the cost of the 180 gr./2lps ECM reissue - of the year, period.

Do you a favour... buy this double vinyl record-set, while stock lasts.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Truth

"As dreams are - apparently - an useless, unavoidable, mostly unknown and mysterious human behaviour, art and music are the very same: as mysterious as important in their unexplicable, almost painful, "being useless", yet - like dreams - a necessity for society and, to a broader, deeper extent, whole humankind: like the air we breathe is food and fuel for our bodies, arts are humankind dreams... the truest shape, the very essence of life."

The above the words, illuminated words by Maurizio Pollini, few minutes ago, at Fabio Fazio's "Che Tempo che Fa" TV show...

... yes, TV can also bring something great: the Truth.

Thanks, Maestro Pollini.

Thanks also to Philippe Gontier for the nice shot of Maurizio Pollini.