Book (yes… book) review

just sent you a copy of this.  thought you might not be in the mood to spend more $$$ at this juncture and this is an absolute “must read” (at least the first couple of chapters) before you go much further so i didn’t want to wait until christmas ;-).  i learned this stuff as an inquisitive high school kid and it took several years (and still learning of course) and there wasn’t a book like this out at the time that i’m aware of.  or maybe i was just having so much fun (and making so much money) by learning it through trial and error that i didn’t care.

it is written by the editor in chief of The Absolute Sound, the undisputed best source of reviews in the 70s.  Stereophile was also quite good.  Absolute Sound had no advertising and was quite expensive to subscribe to back then.  Came in a small book form, wish I’d saved copies 😉  Not sure if they exist in the same capacity today, but it is immediately apparent when you start to read this book that these values are of the same ethos.

i got through the first 36 pages, they were remedial but very interesting and fun to read, before i started to jump forward to get to some answers to some of my (long standing) unanswered questions.  in those first 36 pages he has already addressed almost all of what i put into my emails to you, such as:

– it’s all about loving the music, not the gear.
– pay attention to the people who love listening to music and therefore do reviews on gear that does it best, not the techies
– pay attention to reviewers who like the same music and have similar taste as you (or better still, do lots of critical listening and form your own preferences)
– don’t forget to take your reviewer’s hat off once you are satisfied and enjoy the music again.  this is what i’m suggesting you do for a while… it’s the reward!  this is also why i prefer to upgrade one component in the signal path at a time and listen to a lot of music with the upgrade before moving on.  how else can i really appreciate the difference?  over several years in the late 70s i did this until i ended up with the ultimate system (for me). then i fully relaxed and looked for new music to enjoy.  my reviewer’s hat was off for good at that point.  that is the system i am seeking to recreate now.  it’s funny, i collected the music long before the gear this time around.  there is so much in my collection that i can’t wait to hear!!!
– it’s all about matching your gear to your wishes, i.e. do you sit down and listen to music or do you watch movies where the sound takes second stage?
– it’s all about matching each component (including your room) in the signal path. i.e. your music can sound worse with a better quality reproduction system if the quality of the source is inferior, for example.  now one is just hearing more of the original deficiencies.  i believe i am running into this now with the DACs on my Denon, but won’t know for sure until i can play vinyl to compare, might just be the nature of digi (even SACD), which is well known for some of the deficiencies i’m hearing.  or my tweeters might need to be overhauled (refill the fluid in the voice coils, they are 25 years old after all).  you know me, i’ll find out 🙂

i could extract countless quotes for you from this book, reinforcing things i’ve written in my prior emails to you, and started to do so until i realized the entire thing was just so quotable and thought…. no, Dave just needs to own this book.

I would suggest reading the first two or three chapters and put it down and enjoy your music for a while.  Of course jump ahead to anything of particular interest (such as bi-amping, for example).  But then consider it as a reference when you want to know more cause you are starting to notice things from listening to music.  This is sure to come and these things are far more interesting to read about when you’ve already noticed them first hand than when you just read about them in theory.

i would skip over much of the “budgeting” and “relationship with your dealer” sections as they don’t fit how both you and i acquire our audio gear.  in an ideal world where money is no object i would do this.  but so far i’ve been pretty good and making money on audio gear rather than spending it and getting to listen to music along the way!  (now i’m even making money on the music itself, on paper anyway)

i also like the way he gives digi and vinyl equal play,  it becomes quite clear early on that he likes them both for what they have to offer, much as i do (or i wouldn’t have a huge SACD collection).  he clearly and very correctly states the pros and cons of both on page 234.  i like how he puts it… “LPs distortions are periodically apparent, but separate from the music, digital’s distortions are woven int the music’s fabric” – well said! (p234)

and…  what are those unanswered (or me) gems i’ve already looked up?…

– why did i immediately hear something magic in my Denon 103R phono cartridge (in the late 70s) , which shipped directly from Japan with a hand tested/plotted/signed frequency response curve that was flat from 5 Hz to 50 kHz, even though the human ear can only hear up to 20 kHz?
– how exactly do SACDs work and why do they sound so much better than other digi formats?
– how do i use a music server to grab high-def digi audio via download off the internet?

and…  just gotta send you this quote in the interim, since it is not only exactly what i was saying on the phone to you yesterday, but even uses a motor-sport analogy to do it, much as I did:

“I once read that a motorcycle manufacturer attempted to quantify the ‘feel’ by…  putting the motorcycle on a dynamometer in a wind tunnel (with sensors attached).  …  After much money spent, the company went back to relying on the comments of experienced test riders who could describe the experience in subjective terns.” (p. 28)

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