We know that damping and resonance control is the name of the game in high end analogue turntable design, but this seems a little like over kill.

I can only assume that we achieved similar damping and control results with a much cheaper option.

That said, the sight of any new turntable intrigues audiophiles, and this one is a cast iron cracker. But, expensive at US$6500.

Fern & Roby says ‘In terms of audio engineering, our design is defined by a high-mass and balanced platter concept using a 70-pound cast iron plinth to reduce resonance and achieve vibration-dampening throughout the system. It has a cast and turned 35-pound bronze platter, dynamically balanced to 1000 rpm. This is a crucial aspect of the bearing design–our single point bearing and center-of-mass design is a low-contact and low-friction concept that takes advantage of the dynamically balanced platter to get the best performance.’

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June 27, 2015. McPherson Playhouse, Victoria BC — Eliane Elias was in town for the Victoria International Jazz Fest and is touring much of the west coast and Europe for the summer. Elias is the Brazilian pianist/singer and a foremost interpreter of that country’s native rhythms, Bossa Nova especially.

Elias already has a foot up on the legion of other jazz musicians who base much of their repertoire on the Brazilian rhythms developed by João Gilberto, Luiz Bonfá and, of course, the master, Antonio Carlos Jobim. Her native language is Portuguese. And with all the inflections Brazilians have coloured their language.

Jobim and all the other great Brazilian songwriters have the incredibly sexy language with which to work. And like the most famous Brazilian singer, Astrud Gilberto, even when they sing in English with a heavy accent, it sounds wonderful.

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One of the barriers facing streaming services is catalogue availability. Until now, Tidal HiFi was by far the best streaming option for audiophiles and has its jazz and classical repertoire catalogues quite well ‘curated’ (let’s agree to mothball that flavour of the month term).

New kid on the block is Naxos in the guise of ClassicsOnline HD, a streaming and downloading service utilizing the 150 labels that make up the Naxos Records distribution empire. That’s a hell of a classical catalogue.

Naxos calls it ‘the first high-definition and lossless classical music streaming service that uses adaptive bit-rate streaming technology.’

Even though labels such as Decca, DG, EMI and Sony are absent, the Naxos catalogue is vast and growing and will bring great pleasure to classical music fans who can hear the difference between iTunes and a CD.

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The Sonos Wireless HiFi System has a new best friend.

I received an email from Flexson’s PR department suggesting that I review their products. They make accessories for the SONOS Wireless System (Sonos) that I had just reviewed. Timely. The accessories were not really of interest, but what did catch my eye was Flexson’s VinylPlay turntable. USB/Preamp onboard and ready to rock and roll with the wireless Sonos system.

The turntable looks awfully familiar. Rega Planar familiar. Lots of knockoffs (homages) these days. And why not? The Rega is still the best value in entry level tables and certainly the best arm. Flexson even throws in an Audio Technica cart. A quick setup — unpacking, counterweight, cart guard, and you’re ready to hear Taylor Swift in all her glory.

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Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

Saturday, it came as quite a surprise during my usual morning routine of checking social media. A German blogger of some note suggested the Berliner Philharmoniker had chosen its next Chief Conductor and the story was being reposted by every classical writer on the internet. The choice was Russian conductor, Kirill Petrenko. It turns out the German was right. They had chosen the Russian.

Petrenko has a great reputation with orchestras he directs, primarily the Bavarian State Opera and Bayreuth. Interestingly, he has conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker just three times, and mostly esoteric programs including Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky and Elgar. No Beethoven, Bruckner or Brahms symphonies, the bread and butter of the orchestra’s mainstream repertoire.

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Our esteemed James Norris takes over the reins of our popular monthly series.

Yevgeny Mravinsky Special Edition [5 CDs]
MEL CD10 02295

This tribute to the great Russian conductor features a wide range of repertoire spread over 5 CDs with a booklet giving recording dates and a brief essay on Mravinsky written by someone who I presume to be his daughter. No other details are given.

Judging from the applause at the end of some of the works these performances were taken from Radio broadcasts ranging from 1949 to 1980 and as such the sound quality is variable. However, these things need not bother you if you want to hear some fine performances even though not all of the interpretations would find themselves in my all time recommendations.

The finest performances are, as expected, reserved for Russian repertoire and I have to say that the two Tchaikovsky symphonies featured are superb performances that deserve to be in any collection. Mravinsky only recorded the 4th and 6th commercially for DG in 1960 [in London's Wembley Arena, no less - Ed] so these recordings must have been made around the same time but for Russian radio. They are incendiary accounts particularly the 6th which has brass playing that will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

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A few things have revolutionized the music business in the past decade — Apple’s iTunes, mobile audio on smart phones with the headphone boom, followed this year by streaming audio. What was missing in the lifestyle mix was a quality delivery system for the home. One that worked easily, sounded great and was reasonably priced. Sure, Bose had a big lead. ‘Good’ sound for the masses but at a high price. The high price paid for the marketing, which was quite effective. But, it was still a ‘sell’. You could hear the significant others at Best Buy — ‘do we really need that?’! Bang & Olufsen popped in once in a while with ‘audiophile’ quality kit, but no one company had a fix on the target.

SONOS (Sonos) founder and CEO John MacFarlane foresaw the future was digital and wireless but with streaming as the eventual format of choice. Maybe not for the audiophile, at least at the time, but it was coming. That was in 2002. Today, Sonos is the mainstream brand for music delivery in a wireless/streaming world. MacFarlane and his three partners, like other visionaries, leveraged an idea into a segment leading product.

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Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé (complete ballet); La Valse
Orchestre et Choeurs de l’Opera National de Paris / Philippe Jordan

Erato Disques 2564616684 [68:15]

The French have difficulty with discipline. The French culture has far too much on offer to waste time on trivial pursuits like work. Same problem in Italy. That’s why the orchestras are always in the second tier compared to the very best. The Paris Conservatoire is justly famous for its training and France for its soloists, so why are the orchestras maligned? Ever get one hundred people in a room and attempt to make them work corporately? Imagine in Paris. Wasn’t it Edward Greenfield in Gramophone that said ‘the Montreal Symphony is the finest French orchestra in the world, no matter what they think in Paris!’?

Things have improved over the 30 years since that silly comment. And no more than with the Paris Opera Orchestra, here on evidence, masters of the French School of playing.

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