Because of surgery, I was laid up in the house for five months. As time ticked by and I got better, I kept reading about audio shows and having real withdrawal. I’d already had a night of shakes getting off the pain killers, but this was worse. Audiophile withdrawal. You’ve all had the feeling. I love audio shows. Not just because of the sound and fabulous equipment, but because of the camaraderie shown by passionate audiophiles. It was about this time that I decided to attend Capital Audiofest in Washington, DC.

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I was visiting a friend who subscribes to several streaming services, including, Beats, Googleplay, Gruvshark, and Rdio, all of which have bit rates of 320. He played a CD he recently downloaded, titled ‘Sounds’, featuring Shelly Manne on percussion and Jack Marshall on guitar. Even though the data rate of the download is considerably inferior to Redbook, the sound on all the tracks was so impressive, I bought the CD on Amazon. It was originally released as an LP, during the 60s, and later reissued in 2010 as a CD, in Japan, on the Capitol/EMI label, Capitol ST 2610.

Auditioning this CD brought to mind the futile and contentious discussions among audiophiles and in audiophile publications, regarding the superiority of analogue over digital. There are quality recordings digitally based, especially the CD under review, as well as excellent sounding LPs. Both media have virtues and flaws and one medium is different, not better, than the other.

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Much like our Audiophilia Star Components, we are instituting an Audiophilia Star for recordings. Once again, no hard and fast rules, just an love affair between music, recording and reviewer.

The list will grow over the years and our readers will be able to use this list as a first class resource for recordings that boast superior music making coupled with brilliance in engineering. CD, vinyl and digital files will be represented.

Each entry will have software type, company information, release/recording date and where to purchase link.

Guest submission posts of your favourite recordings are welcome.

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Creating a one off, great speaker is difficult. Creating a range, a family of great speakers is harder still. The basics of fine speaker design has to be there, of course, but an eye and especially an ear to tune a ‘house’ sound within boxes various takes great skill.

In the last few years, Wilson Audio has done it to near perfection, and, after a longtime house sound that did not float my boat, Focal/JM Labs created its incredible ‘Utopia’ line. Toronto’s Hansen Audio and Minnesota’s Magneplanar are at the top of the page, too. Add Danish company, Raidho Acoustics to this short list.

I’ve reviewed most of the Focal line and now the same with Raidho. Raidho’s team began production with its C and D lines, D being the most expensive (28K and up). Hearing both, I wondered at times why pay extra for the wonderful D line when the C sounds so good? Well, just like everything worth having in life, the steps to get to an audiophile’s decision are long, tedious, and can be painful.

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In the world of audio, there are many types of audiophiles who hold widely varying opinions as to which format will provide the best sound. Tubes, transistors, digital or analogue are but a few areas of debate. I do not intend to take up any of those controversies here. For my purposes, there are basically two types of audiophiles, those who are fortunate enough to have dedicated sound rooms and, those who do not.

For those of you who have dedicated rooms, you can listen to music whenever you wish, anytime day or night. For those of us who are not as fortunate, the situation is quite different. This is especially true if you live in an apartment. Picture it, it’s two in the morning, you’re up with an open bottle of wine and you want to listen to music. You have a neighbor with bat ears who can hear the click of the on switch on your pre-amp. An excellent solution to this problem is headphones. Being an audiophile, you will require a set of high-end headphones.

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In recent months I’ve had the pleasure of listening to several excellent pairs of speaker jumper cables and have concluded they can significantly affect the sonic presentation. Not exactly a glamorous product that every reviewer wants to address, but a necessary one for those whose speakers have two sets of inputs and doesn’t want to bi-wire or bi-amp his speakers.

My current reference analogue and digital interconnects are the Antipodes Audio Reference and Kokiri respectively and when I learned that they made jumper cables, too, I had to investigate Mark Jenkins makes some killer cables and I was looking forward to his take on the jumper cables.

I ordered a set of jumpers (200mm, approximately 8 in.) with banana terminations which made for quick and easy switching in and out for evaluation. They needed some burn-in time and I gave them about 100 hours before serious listening began. If I had to describe their main characteristic in one word it would be ‘naturalness’. They created a feeling of enjoyment without adding aggressive artifacts to the sound. All the detail and resolution you could want was present but without any edge or electronic glare. Imaging was excellent with an expansive soundstage that brought you more closely to the musical venue. They simply created a more intimate connection with the performance.

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I was waiting at the 34th Street Penn Station subway platform in Manhattan to head Uptown the other day, and I heard and saw two young African Americans playing drums using only plastic paint canisters to pound with their sticks and hands. The African rhythms fascinated me and caused me to stay and miss the next train. Why? Because the drumming reminded me of Ginger Baker, my nomination for greatest ‘Rock’ drummer. He recently performed at the age of 74 in New York City, and I had not been able to attend his show for scheduling reasons. I had mixed feelings anyhow: Once, some years ago here in NYC, I met with him (and two of his band members) and tried to engage him.

He was just awful to me; insulting, condescending and arrogant — the kind of person who seems to enjoy hurting peoples’ feelings. Not a new perspective; check out the recent documentary film ‘Beware of Mr Baker’ for a fascinating overview of this great drummer, endowed with a nasty persona: It even begins with Baker breaking the nose of the film maker with his walking stick! The documentary contains valuable interviews with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce (among others); the two, who together with Baker, made up ‘Cream’, one of the all-time greatest rock bands in history, albeit short-lived (1966–1968).

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Beethoven – Piano Sonatas 13,14, and 15 [62:18]
Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont – Piano
Resonus Classics (2014)

Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont’s new CD of Beethoven Sonatas on Resonus Classics brings a fresh approach and a superb recording to these often recorded works. The Parisian born and Brussels based French pianist has a fluent technique and produces a lovely tone, but it’s his musicality that wins here.

For the first in his Beethoven series, Dablemont has chosen three sonatas from Beethoven’s middle period, and what gems they are. Sonatas 13, 14 (Moonlight) and 15 (Pastoral) offer both the power and sensitivity that flows through all of Beethoven’s works.

Dablemont’s interpretations feature faster tempos than my favourite performances in these works, those by Freddy Kempf, Gilels and Schnabel, but they work. And, Dablemont has both the technique and musicality to bring them off. Playing his version of the famous slow movement from the Moonlight directly after Freddy Kempf’s proved a shock. Kempf is so slow (but is wonderful) and Dablemont’s positively races in comparison. Yet, Dablemont is closer to Beethoven’s marking of alla breve than Kempf. Your choice.

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