The Home Entertainmemt Show in Newport Beach has just concluded. By all accounts it has grown, was well attended, and the folks seemed to have a lot of fun, if cigars and selfies matter at all.

When reading my Facebook and Twitter feed, the only product that was on the audiophile menu at the show was headphones, how to amplify them with tiny, inexpensive boxes or monster, expensive monoliths. Oh, and the odd mention of one turntable. Maybe, this was the fault of the good folks who I follow (the information about the new speakers was on another FB page, must be!) or, possibly, the folks who are covering headphones are better adept at using social media to get the message across? I think the latter. In fact, headphones and mobile/computer audio had its own ‘Headphonium’ show within the body of the main show. This, following the benchmark work instituted at the Denver Show with its ‘Canjam’.

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Ghost Stories marks Coldplay’s sixth studio album. It is a ‘concept’ album of sorts, spilling the beans for lead singer Chris Martin’s highly publicized breakup with actress, Gwyneth Paltrow. The famously tree hugging Paltrow called the act a ‘conscious uncoupling’. Ahem!

There’s been a million rock albums with songs based upon, around, and in the middle of breakups. I wondered if the Martin/Paltrow new age ‘uncoupling’ would inspire the alternative band to produce something more introspective or would it be a ‘let-it-all-hang-out-affair, like Paltrow’s ridiculous, over-the-top film award acceptance speeches?

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I was recently contacted by Miranda Billing, a representative of Harmonic Technology. She was previously associated with another company, Legenburg, whose cables I had reviewed, years ago. She asked me if I was interested in reviewing the latest version of the Melody Link interconnect, the Mark III version. After briefly perusing the company’s website, reading a description of the Melody Link MK III, I noticed that at the time, that there was no review of the cable linked to the website.

The Melody Link MK III, contains both continuous cast silver and copper wire. The combination, according to the company’s design engineers, is to provide a balanced frequency response and avoid an emphasis upon bass frequencies, given the particular cable design, which I will discuss shortly.

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PS Audio recently released (March 2014) a new DAC to replace their already top-notch, high-end PerfectWave DAC (PWD), which I reviewed about a year ago, with a follow up review using it with the PerfectWave Bridge which enables using an ethernet cable to stream the digital files from computer to DAC instead of USB. The PWD, using ethernet, has become my reference DAC ever since. So, when I heard about this new one, I licked my chops at a chance to try it out on my system and review it.

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Argentine mezzo soprano Bernarda Fink suggests that one cannot fully understand Mahler’s symphonies without knowing his songs. It’s an honest thesis. If you don’t know the songs, here you’ll find inspiration, harmonies and melodies that are easily recognizable from the famous symphonies. It’s wonderfully instructive to hear the musical settings so simply designed and elegantly implemented.

If you know the songs, I’m quite sure you’ll know the benchmark performances — the incredible artistry that mezzos Christa Ludwig and Janet Baker bring to these songs. Both women have recorded the works under the finest conductors, with the finest pianists, and with the greatest orchestras. So, how does Fink compare?

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This is the first release on Daniel Barenboim’s own label, Peral Music (in association with Universal Music). ‘All releases will be offered as Mastered for iTunes, the highest-quality sound format available on the iTunes store globally’. Not sure if that is good or bad, but the musical team looks mighty fine.

The Staatskapelle Berlin is the house band for the 450 year old Berliner Staatsoper Unter den Linden. It was stuck behind the Berlin Wall for many years, but is now shining under a unified German sun inspired by Barenboim’s leadership (since 1992, and ‘conductor for life’).

The orchestra has been recording Bruckner’s ‘mature’ symphonies successfully under Barenboim on the Unitel label. As always with Barenboim, there are musical delights where most thought they didn’t exist and he has the orchestra playing almost as well as its noisy neighbour.

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The Brooklyn creator of the Dust & Grooves website, Eilon Paz, has published a book ‘Dust & Grooves — Adventures in Record Collecting’. The book is a natural extension of his website that celebrates ‘vinyl music culture’.

As a photographer and curator, Paz used a Kickstarter campaign to fund trips across the USA for interviews, information gathering and photo essays of interesting record collectors and their collections. The trips continued overseas and his findings published on the website. ‘This year, Dust & Grooves expands even further, complementing the website’s cloud with a physical book that profiles over 130 vinyl collectors with photographic essays and in-depth interviews.’

The website continues : ‘Readers get an up close and personal look at a variety of well-known vinyl champions as well as a glimpse into the collections of known and unknown DJs, producers, record dealers, and everyday enthusiasts. The book is divided into two main parts: the first features 250 full-page photos framed by captions and select quotes, while the second consists of 12 full-length interviews that delve deeper into collectors’ personal histories and vinyl troves.’

US Street Date: Record Store Day, April 19, 2014
Worldwide Street Date: May 20, 2014

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It’s nice to have Walton’s two greatest works (with apologies to lovers of Façade) on one disc. The music is played by two staples of the British concert scene, the BBC Symphony under Edward Gardner and violinist Tasmin Little. Gardner is music director of the English National Opera and will leave in 2015 to take the helm of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.

By all accounts, Gardner has done stellar work at the ENO, raising standards on the stage and in the pit. Little has a busy career playing around the world and in England at the Proms and on BBC radio.

Also, nice to have both works recorded on Chandos, a superb company that takes great care with its recordings. I remember sitting very quietly in a church in Montreal during a recording of Shostakovich piano concertos played by the composer’s grandson. The composer’s son Maxim was conducting. Maxim moved the front mic an inch for baton clearance. Immediately, the engineer came flying out of the room to berate the poor conductor for moving it. The Chandos team have ears and they are fastidious. It shows in this splendid Hybrid SACD - DSD recording —Watford Colosseum: 18 September 2013 (Violin Concerto); Fairfield Halls, Croydon: 3 and 4 February 2014 (Symphony No. 1). Both venues have excellent acoustics and they are captured beautifully by the same engineer as the Shostakovich recording.

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