Highlights of our 2013-2014 Season
May Meeting: Salk Sound
For our May meeting, we were visited by Jim Salk and crew from Salk Sound. They develop high quality loud speaker systems among other products.
As you can see, they brought a lot to show us:
Jim, the founder and president of Salk Sound, walked us through his history as a recording engineer and studio owner, and when he realized not that many people knew much about quality audio components or proper room acoustics. He embarked on a personal journey of experimentation and discovery. At this stage, he decided to build his own speakers for his studio. He did, and they sounded so good that others asked him to build speakers for them too. Without ever intending to, he gradually transitioned into a successful loudspeaker designer and manufacturer.
Jim demonstrated prototypes for what will be his new top-of-the-line speakers, which have evolved since they were most recently seen at an audio tradeshow. They combine a soft dome tweeter with a bullet woofer, and these are mated with two small but powerful active subwoofer drivers per cabinet for an appropriately reinforced low end, all of which was packaged in an attractive finish. Depending on your seating location, they produced a sound that was powerful and full range with many similarities to live sound. Salk Sound has built quite a following, and this is one of their most exciting products yet.
The system was driven by a prototype music server that Salk Sound may bring to the market in the future.
Attendance was high, with 56 members present for our final meet of the season. Here is about half of them waiting for the presentation to start.
We are very grateful to Jim for sharing his enthusiasm and demonstrating his latest ideas to us. It was a fun listening session and a great story.
April Meeting: Digital Roundtable
For our April meeting, we had an extended discussion on the challenges and intricacies of digital audio hosted by Chuck Bottemiller and Oliver Masciarotte.
Topics ranged from types of hardware for music servers, operating systems and their various pros and cons, and also the effects of media players. We also discussed the opposing viewpoints on the importance of quality digital cables and jitter reduction, in addition to hearing some war stories about the early days of digital audio and what was involved.
We covered the importance of high-res music, the various portable players capable of high-res playback, and some of the differences between linear PCM and DSD.
And, as is important with any music server, we covered compression types, ripping methods and software titles, the importance of accurate metadata, and backups and hardware redundancy to protect digital libraries.
It was one of our most informative meets all year, and attendance was good. More thorough notes are forthcoming, and potentially a video.
March Meeting: Sopranino Super Tweeter
The March meeting featured a new and exciting product from EnigmAcoustics called the Sopranino, an electrostatic super tweeter. Oliver M., an ASM member, was able to secure a loaner unit from the manufacturer and spend some time with the product before his presentation, enabling him to break it in and experiment with its features.
Oliver gave a very thorough presentation of the product featuring multiple listening tests. During the listening tests, we were able to run A/B comparisons very quickly, and almost everyone was in agreement that the tweeter made a noticeable improvement in the sound quality of the high quality B&W speakers we were using.
Most listeners commented on how the tweeter improved the soundstage and ambience of the system. We were using hi-res computer audio based recordings for playback. ASM members were also impressed with the features of the product, especially with the ease of which it could be inserted into one’s audio system without needing a crossover or separate power amp.
We had a very good turnout for the meeting: 38 people even though we had to cut the meeting a little short due to the bad weather developing.
February 18 we were visited by representatives Patrick, Ken and Matt from The Needle Doctor, a local brick and mortar, and international online resource for turntables and other audio gear since 1979.
A Rogue Audio Pharaoh Integrated Amp was used for amplification. The Pharaoh has a tube (12AX7) line stage and a Class D output of 175Watts into 8 ohms and 350W into 4 ohms. ($3,495)
A Rogue Audio Triton Phono Preamp connected the turntables to the integrated amp. The Triton has four different gain settings, eight resistive loading options, and four capacitance settings.
There were three turntable setups (played from right to left in the demonstration)
Rega RP8 Turntable with an Exact 2 cartridge. Glass platter and variable speed synchronous drive. (package $3,490)
Clearaudio Concept Turntable, Verify Tonearm and Concept MC cartridge (package $2,200)
AudioTechnica LP120USB Turntable/Tonearm along with AT95E cartridge. This turntable has a switchable phono preamp for newer equipment and also is USB enabled for quality rips to a computer. (MSRP ~$429, it is currently (Feb 19) on sale for $299)
January was our annual Bring & Brag event, where members brought a selection of music to share with the rest of the club. At least initially, vinyl had an overwhelming presence over CD! We enjoyed several excellent cuts of big band and jazz, in addition to some great classical excerpts and prog rock tunes. It was another big turnout, with 46 in attendance. It's really exciting to see our numbers grow. We also presented the Pavek our donation for the year: $1,000. We're very grateful they continue to host our meetings every month!
We weren't able to record the complete list of songs shared this year, but here are the majority:
1) While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The Beatles (LOVE)
2) It Don't Mean a Thing - Duke Ellington & His Orchestra (The Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington Cote D'Azur Concerts on Verve)
3) Road Time Shuffle - Toshiko Akiyoshi / Lew Tabackin Big Band (Road Time)
4) Comin' Home Baby [Live at the Village Gate] - Herbie Mann (The Best of Herbie Mann)
5) Sing, Sing, Sing - Benny Goodman (16 Most Requested Songs)
6) I Don't Know Why - Mr. Mister (Pull)
7) Zanzibar - Billy Joel (52nd Street)
8) Apollo e Dafne [Handel] - Anna Prohaska (Enchanted Forest)
9) 8 Slavonic Dances, Op. 46: No. 2 in E Minor (Allegretto Scherzando) - Budapest Festival Orchestra (Dvořák: Slavonic Dances Op. 46 & 72)
10) I Can't Figure It Out - Akouo (Grace Journey)
11) Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata) - Beethoven (album in collaboration with IsoMic and Kimber Cable)
12) Crossing the Isthmus - Ingrid Sweeney and Nicholas Carter (Crossing the Isthmus)
13) Unless - Atoms for Peace (AMOK)
CES 2014 Pictures
One of our members was able to attend the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January. Check out these pictures to see some of what is new and exciting in the technology world!
Bel Canto presented their new high end "Black" line of electronics, featuring a digital preamp with digital outs, and a pair of monoblocks with a DAC section built into each. Bel Canto's president and chief designer shared extensively on the engineering that went into the power conditioning, isolation, jitter resistance, and extraordinary signal to noise ratio in this new line of products. Their engineering really paid off: the system sounded great! The Audio Society had unusually high attendance for this event. We counted 54 heads!
We listened to the Audio Society's previous projects, including the F5 amplifier and BA-3 preamplifier - Nelson Pass designs from PASSDIY, and also a final listen to the pair of SB Acoustics speakers (with improved crossovers) the club recently completed. Astell and Kern presented us with a demonstration pair of their AK-100 and AK-120 media players and we invited members to bring along their best set of headphones for a private audition! Don M. presented the details of the 2013-2014 DIY project: balanced power conditioners.
ASM Member Paul Speltz arranged for a demonstration of high quality reel-to-reel tape playback. Also, Paul Stubblebine, of Paul Stubblebine Mastering in San Fransisco, acted as our guest speaker presenting his labor of love: The Tape Project, a collection of pristinely mastered classics pulled from the original reel-to-reel master tapes and sold on high quality reel-to-reel tapes. We listened to a variety of cuts from these tapes, and the sound was dynamic and effortless, with no hiss or any of the usual artifacts we tend to attribute to tape playback.