I’ve been a big fan of equipment support since I first discovered high end audio. Whether as a rack or dedicated supports, ‘resonance elimination devices’ have been improving the sound of my kit for many years.

I’ve toyed with simple decouplers such as Sorbothane feet, more sophisticated gear such as Rollerblocks, a much loved Townsend Seismic Sink (a metal platform with an inflatable air bladder) sat for years under a Rega Planar 3 turntable, and for the past ten years I have lived with Solid Tech supports, technical and expensive marvels from Sweden.

Mirko Krolo, head of Krolo Designs dropped by the house with four boxes (with three in each box) of his ‘Enhansers’ [sic]. As you can see from the photo above, the Enhansers are exquisitely made conical devices that sit in groups of three under any audio device.

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Time was when you wanted solid British Brahms, you looked back to the early ‘60s for Karajan or Klemperer/Philharmonia, or for the pure British experience, Boult/London Philharmonic. In my recent experience, the London orchestras have been more successful with live Brahms rather than canned (the Brahms/Jarvi/Chandos recorded cycle a case in point). A live performance I attended at London’s Royal Festival Hall with the Philharmonia playing Brahms 2 with Maazel a few years back was superb. And a Royal Philharmonic/Ashkenazy 4 on tour was mesmerizing.

That said, we have two new cycles of symphonies on the way conducted by London’s favourite Russians, Valery Gergiev and Vladimir Jurowski. I was surprised at the quality of the Gergiev/LSO Brahms 1/2 and I was also pleasantly surprised by symphonies 3/4 in a new release by Jurowski and his London Philhramonic on its London Philharmonic Orchestra Label.

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It was my good fortune to accompany my wife to New Orleans, one of the most food crazy cities in the world, where she attended a three day business conference. This gave me some free time to explore the French Quarter, not only for food, but for records. I knew that the great historic city of New Orleans, the ‘Birthplace of Jazz’, Blues and Zydeco, would have to contain some record stores.

This town is overflowing with musicians, performing in a myriad of clubs, bars and street corners. It is inescapable and delightful. It’s as if music is as necessary as breathing. Eating my way through the historic French Quarter, I came upon Peaches Records store on N. Peters St., lots of new vinyl and reissues with a smaller section on used vinyl.

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For some time now I have not had a preamplifier for my audio system. I rid myself of it when I acquired a DAC that has a built-in digital volume control (within its DAC chip). At the time of that decision, it was a no-brainer: I only had my DAC as a source connected to a computer as server. I had no other sources and had no interest in adding any new sources such as a turntable, an FM radio, a CD/DVD player, or a television set. Moreover, the cost of a good traditional preamp runs into thousands of dollars, requires an expensive power cord, can be large in size, heavy in weight and requires additional expensive interconnects to use. I thus ended up saving thousands of dollars and only requiring one pair of interconnects to run my system: direct from DAC to two mono amps.

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Vivaldi – Concertos for Two Violins [53:41]
D Sinkovsky & R Minasi - Violin / Il Pomo D’Oro
Naive OP30550 (2013)

Concertos for Orchestra [51:14]
Concerto Italiano / Alessandrini
Naive OP30554 (2013)

It has been my great pleasure to sample frequently Naive’s ongoing “Vivaldi Edition”, a project to record the massive collection of autograph manuscripts held in Turin; these are the 56th and 57th volumes. A number of remarkably fine ensembles, mainly Italian, have typically taken an eye-openingly new approach to little-known Vivaldi works, and been treated to recordings just as exceptional.

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In my recent review of the DEQX HDP-4, I mentioned that a USB card was going to be made available for connection directly from a computer to the DEQX unit. Audiophilia colleague, Karl Sigman, suggested the time had arrived to get into computer based digital audio. As such, I purchased a brand new machine ready for all the new digital excitement.

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Winterreise (Winter Journey) is a song cycle for voice and piano by Franz Schubert published in 1828. Along with his earlier Die Schöne Müllerin, the two song cycles are the benchmarks for the genre.

In Winterreise, Schubert uses the poems of Wilhelm Müller as text. The series of poems describe a poet as a jilted lover who wanders the winter countryside. The subject is morose and Schubert’s music is equally dark. But, the songs have a stunning beauty. The sun does shine at times, but the feeling of sadness is profound.

Canadian Baritone, Gerald Finley is quickly becoming one of the mainstays of the opera and concert stage. I first heard him as Nixon in John Adams’ superb opera, Nixon in China. Finley has not only developed into a wonderful singer, he’s also a fine actor. Both these qualities add to this magnificent new Winterreise.

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We reviewed three previous Kansas City Symphony/Michael Stern CDs released on Reference Recordings. All were recorded by the master sound engineer, Keith Johnson, the man who almost single handedly took the CD from the closet to the concert stage. His CDs are benchmark recordings, and the new Kansas City Symphony CD, ‘Miraculous Metamorphoses’ is no different.

Whether allowing the glow of woodwinds as they replicate the mysterious Mandarin in Bartok’s incredibly powerful and violent ballet, the muted trumpets emphasising the cynicism of Prokofiev in his The Love of Three Oranges Suite, or the decay into deep black sensuousness from the multiple percussion in the Turandot Scherzo movement of Hindemith’s wonderful Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, you’ll hear these seminal pieces anew. The recording is that good.

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