THE 2000 TRIODE GUILD AWARDS
It is that time of year again. The votes are in, and there are many surprises. Each of this years recipients has, through their artistry, pushed the boundary of possibilities for musical ecstasy in our homes in a unique way.
As I was writing this I was listening to a new CD set of Mistlav Rostapovich playing the Bach cello suites. I took a break and started to read the book enclosed in the set which is all about Rostopovichs emotional response to his idol, Pablo Casals, his physical response to Bachs composition...and the challenges of interpretation. Which got me to thinking once again about music intentionality which is as complicated as the zipper on my blue jeans....it is all about the conspiracy between the composer, performer and the audience to be deeply moved...emotionally and physically... by the music. Fail at that task and you are a failure. And so it is with audio technology...if somehow, in performing its work, we are not taken to a deeper level of experience; if something more mysterious and intense doesnt stir in our meat, than there is gizmological failure.
Because each year we become more refined this is a significant challenge. Yesterdays thrills is todays yawn....and time, culture and art march on.
Fortunately for us all we are a true new Golden Age of tube electronics.
The awards I am giving this year emerged from the stirring in my soul, and from a leap of faith...a core belief that we share the same longings and desires...that there is a community of men all over the world who are traveling on the same path...and this quest is thousands of years old.
The audio arts is definitely in a yo-yo phase where the "normal" sector is hurtling downward, while the radical audio communities on the Internet are shooting skyward. Here again is the case of the gifted amateur outpacing the largest, best funded companies in creating exciting web sites and connecting to their tribal brothers.
As you will soon discover this years awards are centered around taking the Triode Guild orthodoxy to more subtle places...the mantra hasnt changed...
directly heated triodes, single-ended circuits, silver wire, alnico drivers. I have finally found digital gear that excites me, and am suggesting some irresistible pathways to Vinylville USA. On the other hand there are repeat winners because there are some high places that have not been bettered...and they are still the best available.
I LEAVE YOU WITH THIS QUESTION:
HOW DOES A THING BECOME ENDOWED WITH
THE SPIRIT OF THE MAKER?
For most of human history, until the scientific age emerged, it was commonly understood that things were filled with spirit..in spite of sciences attempt to convince us otherwise, the smartest segment of our population..men who love motorcycles, hot rods, artists, and especially musicians have rebelled against this notion; all enjoy the deep fulfillment that comes from interacting with those things that are alive with the makers spirit...like the audio gizmos made by this years winners.
LESS IS MORE GETS LESSER AWARD
ALPHA CORE MICRO FOIL CABLES
CAVEAT EMPTOR: This is my most biased award because I am basically giving it to my self for persisting in convincing Ulrich Poulsen of Alphacore to make a microphone cable version of his silver foil cable which forced him to manufacturer his thinnest silver foil yet....which I believe is the best sounding and cheapest interconnect he makes.
THE AMAZING TRUE STORY OF HOW MICRO PURLS WERE CREATED
Those of you who have followed my LESS IS MORE cable saga know from reading the articles on the Triode Guild web site that two years ago when I persuaded Ulrich to manufacture the family of Triode Quartz cables that he assured me that there was no way to get any thinner than the TQ-1 which is equivalent to a single strand of number 22 wire..pretty thin...but I wanted an equivalent of 26 gauge...but according to Ulrich it would be too fragile...end of story.
The world wide success of the Triode Quartz cables speaks for itself, but I couldnt stop, and my audio bro Mark Conese, who owns Ambient Recording Studio and I decided to experiment with silver foil microphone cables. It doesnt require a Ph.D. from MIT to know that microphone cables were the pits, and one of the major villains responsible for the squashed aural matrix that are endemic to recording studios.
Using the reference system pictured in the TRIODZILLA article, and Marks very tweaked Ampex 350 TUBE tape recorder we first started to experiment with his inventory of very trick and expensive microphones...you name it, including those expensive German tube types, and he has it. Yet, we decided that an old vintage RCA vintage ribbon microphone was the clearest and least distorted using both our voices and a Steinway concert grand.
Ulrich made us microphone cables from the three available thickness of silver Triode Quartz cable...and you guessed right...the minute we substituted the silver foil cables for the standard Belden microphone cable the aural matrix expanded, natural tone emerged, and all of the magic that you would expect from a professional Ampex tube tape recorder was there again. We also noticed that the thinnest cable was the most lucid, less smeared and most three dimensional.
We invited Ulrich over for a look listen and he too could hear the obvious difference between the Belden and his silver foils. But I wanted confirmation of these eccentric cables use in the pro field so I sent them to my friend Russ Hamm who is the business of distributing pro gear to the top studios. He sent sets of cables out to different recording "masters". One recording engineer, after using the silver foils for a weekend, wouldnt stop pestering me wanting to know about my theory about why the silver foils sounded so good...expect I dont have one...... expect...complicated sounds complicated.
Ulrich got the message and the massage...there was a market for the ultra thin Triode Quartz in the pro market as a microphone cable...expect the packaging on the consumer cables would not cut the mustard in the pro market where microphone cables are trampled on..daily. New packaging was needed.......no problem...wrong......
Jump ahead nine months...Ulrich calls and tells me that he has figured out a new indestructible packaging concept for the foil that will make it acceptable for the pros but for it to work right he would have to reduce the size of the foils to 26 gauge. Who said Audio Angels dont exist? Ulrich wanted to know what I thunk, so he made me some sample cables...LESSER IS MORE...
It now made sense to also make both a balanced and unbalanced version of the cable because the only difference would be in the consumer version the ground shield would not be connected. Ulrich also figured out that by twisting the wire its electrical characteristic would improve...it becomes quieter and is much less prone to any RFI....important considerations in recording studios and for musicmaniacs living in large cities.
Do you remember my comments about why I thought LESS IS MORE made so much sense with silver foils? Because less silver translates into less cost for us and the new Micro-Purls have about as less silver as possible and that means that pure silver now is lower in cost than those fancy and complicated multi-strand copper cables.
Before I describe my very biased impressions of these new 26 gauge cables let me clear up a technical concept that has had a never negative effect on the audio arts. I know when it started because I was one of the ones who started it, so I am guilty, but I repented. In 1982 leaders of the hi fi industry recognized that there was a significant marketing opportunity if we could convince men that the size of their audio cables was an indication of their penis size...men who used larger diameter cables, had large diameter penises...made sense being that the average American male, including Howard Stern, has cable size anxiety. You know what happened over the next two decades...cables got as thick as salamis.
Unfortunately for all of those men who bought those big thick cables they bought into a lie, because the truth is that men with Mr. Bigs, are very ego secure so they enjoy cables that are very very thin, because they sound better....and...did you read the article in COSMO MAGAZINE with the title..."Men With Thin Audio Cables Make Better Lovers"? This explains why women snicker at men with big fat audio cables in their living room!
Fortunately, for me every audio reviewer has raved about the Alpha-Core foil cables...either speaker or interconnects, so I dont have to spend too much time convincing you that it is time to experience the unique aural matrix of silver foil or copper foil cables... ultra simple foils are a completely unique experience. AlphaCore is now commander of the high ground....but let me assure you of this..everything I original claimed about the Triode Quartz cables is true only more so with the Micro-Foil...and I dont know why...and I dont think anyone really knows why cables sound so different...but LESS IS MORE, and this is about as LESS AS YOUR CAN MAKE LESS.
And this is one of those rare cases in the audio arts, where better is cheaper....just check the prices.
I want to thank Dr. Gizmo for persisting and want him to know that he is my favorite, most handsome, kind, generous, poetic, lyrical, brave, gifted, senstive, imaginative, loving, entertaining man in the audio business, and I wish I was more like him.
AN EPIPHANY OF MIDRANGE WHOLE-OSITY
This is the first award I am giving for digital because there is nothing more difficult than getting digital right. Tubemaniacs are the most critical of digital because the inherent flaws of digital audio means that King Tone is under attack and that is not a good thing musically.
The reason I am so excited about Mel Schillings amazing achievement is that on an absolute sound quality level he has reached the territory of the best and most expensive digital gear...and gone further...and fasten your potty seat belts...these gizmos are affordable.
Mel has achieved, in a relatively affordable "combo", what few digital gear can achieve within the "normal old" format...midrange harmonic whole-osity; that area which is the very thing that is most difficult for digital audio to achieve
My exuberance is centered around the combination of the three co-dependent pieces of gear: (1) the DAC called The Arthur, (2) the jitter reducer called The Dragon and, (3) the battery power supply for The Camelot which is called The Charm. When these three pieces are used together "normal" CDs are transformed, with a whole bunch of digital discombobularity melting away.
Mels efforts affirms once again that the masters of the audio arts are the little hot-rod shops that live, eat and breathe music. Bravo Mel....and his team of digital savants.
Trust me...listen to this gear, and be sure to switch back and forth between the battery and regular AC power supply. If you cant hear the big difference get a new hearing aid or better speakers. Camelot is a threat to the entire digital orthodoxy that is still relying on AC/rectified power supplies.
WARNING: TO CONTINUE WITH THIS ARTICLE, WHICH WILL NOT PROCEED IN A STRAIGHT LINE FROM POINT A TO B, LIKE THOSE BORING AUDIO ARTICLES YOU MUST GET ON YOUR 1956 (TEAL BLUE AND WHITE, WITH WHITE LEATHER SADDLE BAGS WITH THE FRINGE AND RIGHTEOUS MUFFLERS) HARLEY-DAVIDSON ELECTRO-GLIDE...LETS TRIP TOGETHER.
About four years ago I wrote an article in Positive-Feedback about my experiments of taking an Audio Alchemy DAC, which had a bi-polar 12V power supply and creating, by using two Sears Die-Hard 12 V car batteries, a battery power supply. Making the wire connection took about an hour, and I reported that much of the "digital grunge" disappeared when the unit was used in battery power mode. About six months latter Audio Alchemy announced they were making a battery power supply for their gear. The total cost of this bi-polar battery power supply was about $60...I already had the battery charger.
I then wrote an article for Hi-Fi News describing my new $500,000 battery power supply that dramatically improved the sound of the $299 Audio Alchemy DAC. I bought new brand new Rolls Royces, threw away the cars and used their batteries because I preferred the sound of Rolls Royce Batteries. The point being that I discovered that different brands and types of batteries sounded different. Some of my friends who are in the Hells Angels prefer YUASA brand batteries like the ones used in Harley-Davidsons. One friend preferred the original batteries used in 1948 Studerbakers.
Everyone who tried the battery power experiment agreed that a quantum of digital discombobularity disappeared.
Being that you have read my article "Batteries Not Included" you have the meta-picture, but there is another dimension that we, the tube maniacs of the world, understand that the "normal silicon" world doesnt understand, and that is because we are much more musically sensitive.....we are the only tribe that cares about the tonal quality of rectifiers, which explains why we love tube rectifiers that dont have the solid state sound of solid state rectifiers.
There is no way to use tube rectifiers in solid state gear. The reason I got into these battery experiments is that I intuited that solid state rectifiers, including any solid state regulators were polluting digital circuits. Was it possible that digital chips didnt like all that ultra high frequency garbage?
So big deal. I didnt imagine that too many music maniacs were going to modify their equipment for battery power...and time marches on....and how many had an audio system that would reveal the difference?
MEL SCHILLINGS VINTAGE EARS
I could write a five hundred page bio of Mel Schillings three decade experience in the audio industry, but believe rather that this simple and short story says it all: In the late 1960s Mel had a store called MUSIC AND SOUND, and he knew the difference between the great Decca cartridges, and the mediocre ones, and because of his friendship with the importer, Eugene Coggins of Paoli Hi Fi, he only sold the great ones. Why do I mention this? Eugenes Coggins Paoli 60M amplifiers (hot rodded Dynaco 70s) was a transformational experience for me ( I owned two pairs) and got me back into tube gear in the 1960s. Mel is directly connected back to the Periclean Golden Age of Audio when we all ate "Groovies" , The Vinyl Flavored Breakfast Cereal For Music Champions because it was important to start each day with the best tone. There are moments of musical epiphany with a Decca cartridge and vinyl that become permanently embossed in your soul...when they are working right (which is usually on the third phase of an October moon).
But, like the true vinylmaniac that he is Mel is still dancing on the black groovy edge with those rara avis, and still revolves with Weathers FM cartridge (how cool...you arent a real vinylmaniac unless you have used either the Weathers or Stax or the Win cartridge).
What I am implying is that those audio artists who grew up on vinyl have a competitive advantage in being grounded in the highest audio aesethetic and I know for a fact that Mel was a heavy vinyl snorter. I believe this is the reason the Camelot digital gear sounds so juicy. End of story.
Which brings me to the CES of three years ago when I discovered that Mel was experimenting with battery powered digital...which he assured me was not yet ready for tasting. I instantly knew that this mans nose knew what was worth knowing...he was wrestling with the Digital Devil. He too knew how to take the road not traveled to find where King Tone still resides.
MUSIC, DONT JUST LISTEN TO IT, EAT IT
GETTING MY COLOMBIAN POT READY
In August the phone rang and it was Mel and he wanted to know if I was ready for his new generation of digital gear. I warned Mel that I had reached a new level of critical criticism of digital gear and had also developed one of the most controversial and effective audio reviewing technique, and I wasnt sure he has ready for this level of scrutiny.
I told Mel that my bat ears were so sensitive that I could tell just by opening the box if gear was worth auditioning, and if it was, then the next thing I did was to taste it. If it didnt pass my taste test...if the gear didnt have that delicious flavor that I demand then I wouldnt even bother to plug it in. Mel wanted to know how I knew how a piece of gear tasted before I listened to it. I then told Mel, who I have know for three decades, my COLOMBIAN POT trick.
I have a college friend who works in Columbia and for my birthday he sent me a very large pot..it holds about two gallons. I now put new audio gear in this Colombian pot and add some water and then slowly simmer the audio gear until I get a nice thick hardy audio broth. When it cools down I taste the broth and it tells me a great deal about the audio gear, because I am able to taste the distilled essences of its art.
(NOTE: By now you have all ready my MUSIC, DONT JUST LISTEN TO IT, EAT IT, which appears at the beginning of UNDERSTANDING TUBE ELECTRONICS II so you understand my point of view for the next century of the audio arts)
The minute the broth, produced by the Camelot digital gear touched my lips, I knew that something extremely major was happening. My tongue, which has a Ph.D. from Harvard, could detect the subtle blending of circuitry that is usually found in the most expensive digital gear, but there was something else apparent that was mystifying...and I was compelled to plug the Camelot in for a longer listening....that is how good it tasted.
As you know creating a true state of the art music system is just like gourmet cooking. We assume that the cooks nose and tongue knows because if it doesnt, no art is possible, and so it is with you. If your nose and tongue doesnt know the aroma and flavor of music then you will be a lost puppy. So it is with the audio artisan.
The reason I mention this is because of a recent experience I had with a very famous audio engineer who invited me to his lab to listen to his latest assault on the audio arts...$80,000 speakers...$80,000 amplifier. Hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of research went into developing these products. As I left the lab I pulled out my air sickness bags and put them on my ears so they could puke..that is how bad it all sounded. While this famous audio engineer was explaining the enormous complexity of his circuitry and telling me that he had never measured circuits with lower distortion, I knew he was in trouble...because this equipment was designed only with test equipment.
This is a classic case of an audio engineer with no, and I mean, minus musical taste, attempting to shred the perimeter audio arts. What is the ultimate paradox? I have, over the last thirty years, met many passionate audio engineers, men who regularly attend concerts and who love music, and then proceed to create some of the world worst sounding audio equipment.
Everyone likes the taste of gourmet food, and anyone can go to cooking school, and memorize recipes, but that doesnt equal the making of a gourmet chef, and the same is true of designing audio equipment. You can have ten Phds in electrical engineering and consistently create turds.
When I was discussing the circuitry with Mel, he kept on emphasizing to me that his design "dream team" was being bombarded by a flow of new digital chips that were touted as being better...NOT. Mel was emphasizing that his design team trusted their gifted ears, which always knows what is better....and no test equipment has a clue about music. This is equipment that was designed by gifted gourmet ears.
Which brings me back to Mel..this is a man whose nose and tongue nose and I dont know if he ever even graduated nursery school and it doesnt matter...the only thing that matters is the results he has achieved..SUMA CUM LAUDE DIGITAL.
THE WESTERN ELECTRIC 300B TEST
Charles Whitener of Western Electric hates me...and for a good reason. I have, in my intense scrutiny of different brands of 300B, asserted that the WE 300B is the best midrange tube in the world, There is no tube that has a better set of attributes for exploring the mystery of this foundation of the aural matrix. But the WE does not equal other brands like the KR or VAIC for dynamic range, low frequency response and expanded aural matrix...they are musically more developed.....but if you are into midrange ecstasy, this is the tube. Everything in life is a compromise.
Whenever I explore the essence of any equipment I put it to the WE 300B midrange test to see how well it reveals the type of midrange magic that defines greatness.
As you know I have been on a deep music space probe with the Plitron torroid single-ended transformers and have already revealed, in my articles, their ability to clarify the tiny little squiggles in the midrange love tunnel. The WE 300B/Plitron combo is out there, which was recently confirmed by MJ Magazine. Are you aware that Japanese musicmaniacs literally will not listen to any other brand of 300B because they cherish the midrange above all else...which explains why the Plitron OPTs got such high praise in Japan.
Is your potty safety belt tight? Put down your Hustler Magazine and pay attention to this: The combination of the Camelot digital gear, the Western Electric 300B and the Plitron torroid OPTs has created the concrescence of digital midrange juiciness...I havent heard better from any digital gear at any price. Period.
Want a concrete example?: For the first time I could hear the Clearasil that Tori Amos put on the zit on her chin. For the first time I could hear the garlic on Leonard Cohens breath. For the first time I could hear the pearl buttons on Wanda Landowskas dress as she played Bachs Goldbergs Variation.
I am sorry that I refuse to give you a conventional audio magazine review and compare this and that and get down on my knees and measure micro-dynamics....just take a close listen to this triology of digital gear and see if you can taste what I hear.
THE DRAGONS BREATH
My previous experience with jitter reduction was not pleasant and it was with the Audio Alchemy. The price was much too high. The "digital tizz" was gone, but the haze thickened. It is not easy to get jitter reduction right and the increase in circuit complexity is dangerous...but when it is done right, as it is with The Dragon, it is stupefying, because it is so apparent that jitter is a musical toxin, and must be purged. There may be other jitter reduction devices on the market that reaches this level of refinement but I am not aware of them.
When you throw the switch to connect and disconnect The Dragon, while the music is playing, the difference is about as subtle as a splinter in your phallus.
The good new is that this device is ready for all of the new digital formats, and if you are already committed to a DAC, you must check this unit out.
The synergy between The Arthur, in the battery mode, and The Dragon is a unique experience because there is a multiplication of diminishment of what we abhor in digital...the grunge, the choppiness, the tonal discombobularity.
Trust me....... your ears will get a Woody.
WILL YOU HEAR THE SYNERGY?
Again I must remind you that I have the worlds most sensitive hearing because of my bat ear transplant, and my audio system is about as normal as Dennis Hopper, so I cant be sure if you will experience the extraordinary achievement of Mels team.
We are living in a digital world, so we must accept this fact of life and then start searching for the masters of the this art form. Mels team has defined the high ground for most musical lovers...this is a rare case of synergy...of artful blend of circuitry, radical gizmology, boldness, and plain good musical taste...implemented at affordable prices.
Here is a suggestion: If you cant afford all three...at once...buy the bargain first, buy The Arthur. Then buy The Dragon, and then buy The Charm. If you have an expensive DAC, then buy The Dragon.
Current prices for the products mentioned are as follows:
ARTHUR v3.0 Mk.2 @$799.
DRAGON Pro2 Mk.2 @$1495.
THE CHARM II Battery Power Supply @$699.
According to Mel he is adding some additional new products to his current line; they are:
ARTHUR 24/96 DAC @$699. includes automatic upsampling of 16/44 material
to 24/96; release date December 1999
DRAGON 5.1 @$599. de-jitters any 32, 44, 48, and 96 kHz signal,
including CD, 24/96 audio-only DVD, Dolby Digital and DTS material;
CHARM I Battery Power Supply @$3495. pure DC 24 hour operation of
Camelot Technology's UTHER v2.0 Mk.3 and DRAGON Pro2; available now.
LANCELOT PRO @$995. dual mono, pure DC Battery-based phono stage with
(10) hour play time, user adjustable input loading; available now.
THE SILVER ECCENTRIC CUP OF TEA AWARD:
Think about the Apple Mc Intosh 128K computer in 1986...who would have thunk!
I am asserting that the Lowther driver, in the next decade will have the same effect...it will revolutionize the way loudspeakers are designed for YOU, the serious musicmaniac, and for a good reason...lets take a trip.
The Lowther driver is a unique and eccentric cup of tea, and it isnt for everyone, and it is has many flaws and requires a good horn cabinet which is a daunting task to create...but what it does right is so compelling you can forget its mischievous ways...almost...
Every time I listen to a Lowther driver I am reminded of one of my most eccentric lovers, who was a ballet dancer....Her soul defied gravity and obviously she was a vessel for a mysterious spirit that loved to fly...but ballet dancers are about as "normal" when it comes to human relationships as Lowther are when it comes to producing the full frequency range of music, but they can grab your soul and not let it go.
So here is my ontological take on the Lowther revolution: The major movement in the audio arts is all about musical intimacy, King Tone, and an expanded aural matrix....that is why directly heated triodes and single-ended circuits have returned...they serves our needs especially well. When you experience the Lowther, for the first time with a directly heated triode single-ended amplifier, you will find spittle running from your mouth and your eyes glazing over...something completely unique is happening here..and it is, and for very good reason...you are hearing a midrange of ultimate clarity....
The Lowther is the finest midrange driver in the world..period, end of discussion. The Lowther drivers deserves this award on that account, and if you agree that the midrange is the most important arena of musical ecstasy...then you understand the impulse of the Lowther cult which is growing by leaps and alnico, all over the world. Japan is going Lowther crazy because it is the best and most affordable way to really freak out..and we all need to get really freaky when it comes to music...just like rock stars.
Comparing the midrange drivers used in 100% of the commercial store bought speakers, even the most expensive, to the Lowther is like comparing that 1986 Apple to the new Cray supercomputer.
By now you have surfed to all the Lowther web sites and gone to the European and Japanese ones as well and you are getting into the enormous variety of cabinets used make this midrange driver into a full range driver. This is surfing time is well spent for everyone because for the first time you will discover a speaker driver company that is truly concerned about the tonal quality of magnet structures, efficiency, and horsepower to weight ratio. Let me say that another way...Lowther proudly flaunts that it is the ultimate extreme machine and no other driver comes close...in the midrange. As far as I am concerned nothing is more important than your ability to know and pick exactly the type of driver/magnets that suits your unique taste in music. You will note a choice of three different type of magnet structures..ferrite, alnico and neodymium......way cool.
Dont like the sound of your cabinets? Remove the driver and through the cabinet in the fireplace for fuel or sell it. You dont sell Lowther drivers, you just build new cabinets for them in the eternal quest for Lowther pleasure.
To whom would I recommend this driver? If you are an apartment dwelling musicmaniac, or if you have a small listening room, and are sophisticated enough to accept the limitation of its performance...then you are in for a major music thrill. If you want the ultimate midrange, you must be prepared to give up a degree of high frequency and low end performance...in this case.
The other important point is that these drivers can be considered either the worlds most expensive midrange drivers or the worlds best bargain in thrills.
The extreme benefit of not needing a crossover means that you will have no impediment to your experience of the artistic possibility of DHT single-ended, circuits, The great good news is that there are many different under $1,500 per mono pair 2A3 amplifiers that are now available...and more are the way.
Here is a piece of top secret news, so please dont tell anyone about it: David Berning is creating a battery powered version of his ZOTL amp just for the Lowthers which will cost about $600 and produce about one watt!
Any monkey coffin maker who is not listening to Lowther speakers is dumber than dumb and will be left behind in the prevailing midrange fog of commercial speakers. It is time for the entire speaker industry to start imitating the Lowther glory!
If your ego is strong and if musical fires are burning in your loins, spend time listening to these drivers....it will transform your notions about the future of the audio arts...there is no more affordable way to dance on the edge...if you are ready to pay the price.
LOWTHER: (TONY GLYNN) www.lowther-america.com
THE DIAMOND MICRO-MUSICAL SQUIGGLIES AWARD
MARCHAND TUBE CROSSOVERS
AND NOW THY ARE 2, 3 & 4 WAY
Phil Marchand laboring in his music cave in upstate New York is expanding his line of tube crossover so you can now buy either a two, three or four way tube crossover...NO MORE EXCUSES. Get rid of your crossover NOW!
Over the last year there has been a acceleration in Lowther awareness and appreciation, which I assert is all about NOT CROSSOVERS. I am sorry I have to rub this hot pepper oil on your butt....but you spend thousands of dollars on your audio system and everything arrives at a $6 inductor and a $2 capacitor. The minute you hear a Lowther driver, whether you like the sound or not, you are taken aback by the transient response and the clarity...you are taken aback by the "choking effect" that is no longer there.... that is there in all crossover-ed speakers.
Why does this matter? It matters because so often we are forced to use rubber condoms, and it is nice to know that there is at least one area of our lives where we can enjoys all of those micro-squigglies of music pleasure without fear....
Okay let me say that another way for Republicans...if you want to experience the outer edge of the audio arts and that means the ultimate in KING TONE, the ultimate in DYNAMICS, the most EXPANDED AURAL MATRIX, and if you want complete FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION...there is only one choice and it is to use a tube crossover.
The tube crossover imperative has become much more imperative over the last year for three good reasons....(1) the availability of higher powered directly heated triode from KR and VAIC, (2) the available of 2A3s from KR and VAIC (3) the availability of very reasonably prices 2A3 amplifiers from FI, Wright Audio, Welborne Labs...and more and more.
Let me draw you a new picture--a 20 watt SET on the woofer, either an 8 watt or 5 watt "normal" 300B or a 4-5 watt 2A3 on the midrange, and a 2A3 on the tweeter. Thats right...go for it..use three different single-ended directly heated triode amps, and then buy a 100 pound bag of sand so you can kick sand in everyones face. Admit it..you would like to bully your audio bros.
As I have suggested, this multi-amp strategy will produce a higher quality, more subtle, more deeply moving aural matrix than using one $100,000 amplifier.
I have also suggested that those who must use small monitor speakers will also benefit from the two way tube crossover...and that extra 2A3 amplifier is small,
Let me remind you again of a very unusual features of the Marchand circuit..you can choose 6,12, 18, or 24 db slopes, and that is what I call maximum fun, and opens up "blending possibilities" that would be impossible with passive crossovers.
I recognize that many of you will be terrified of altering your speakers, and I am sure that your favorite speaker manufacturer will lie to you and tell you that the use of an external crossover is NOT a good idea. Let me assure of this truth...in your audio "chain", speakers are the most primitive technology..in spite of claims to the contrary....disconnecting wires from your passive crossover and extending them and attaching speaker cables to them is work well designed for idiots, if you know how to use a screw driver and a soldering iron...and if you dont find a friend who does. This process takes NO TECHNICAL SKILL! This is also a good lie detector test for your favorite speaker manufacturer.
Did you know that B&W boasts that it offers its best speakers with external electronic crossovers...in Japan...but not in America...because we slobs are not refined enough. This is the oldest best idea in the audio arts and you should explore it.
Phil Marchand is the man, and once again it is the lone audio artisan (Phil works for Xerox as an engineer during the day) that is defining the edge of the audio arts.
MARCHAND ELECTRONICS: www.marchandelec.com
THE GOLDEN CIRCLE AWARD FOR MENNO VANDERVEEN
THE PLITRON TORROID OPTS
I recently was reading a bunch of books about ancient architecture and symbolism and rightly noted how important the circle is as an archetype.
I am putting you all on notice that the next decade will see an explosion of torroid output transformers. Why? Because once you start experiencing the new Plitron torroid OPTs designed by Menno Vanderveen for Plitron there will be compelling reasons for others to imitate...that is how good these are.
I have been deep into the Plitron single-ended 5K models, which in their own right are an absolutely fantastic achievement.....as far as I know this is the first time in the history of tube circuitry that torroid single-ended transformers have been available...trust me...this is a major artistic achievement.
How deeply moved have I been? You will soon discover a project that I am doing with Plitron to insure that you will be able to experience these new OPTs. These revolutionary audio devices will be resisted and resented by the orthodoxy. Tube amplifier manufacturers will claim that torroids OPTs can not work right...and they are right when they are talking about the old way of making torroids, but the Plitron construction technique here is completely unique and took years to develop. Other transformer manufacturers will also put these torroids down..but will be terrified to measure them or experience them.
Can I make this analogy: Plitron torroids are to "normal" E/I core transformers, as 300Bs are to 6550s. Mennos designs are completely unique and that translates from their electrical characteristics which translates into a completely unique way they are able to offer us KING TONE, dynamics, especially in the low frequencies, and an EXPANDED AURAL MATRIX.
Many of the justifiable complaints of single-ended circuits poor low frequency and high frequency performances disappear with these torroids...and that is exactly the point...when you compare the aural matrix between "normal" and Mennos transformers the differences are quite amazing.
For those of you who are into push/pull Menno has shredded the envelop....and rather than taking ten pages to explain you must get his new book MODERN HIGH END VALUE AMPLIFIERS..(available from Plitron and must reading for everyone) which explains his innovations which will make you giddy with delight....this is truly exciting news because I will soon embark on building once again (not since the 1970s) push/pull amplifiers.
And now for the bad news...and then the good news...
You can not retrofit these transformers into your existing tube amps because they are very large and will not fit on your chassis...they require chassis acreage...and soon the solution to this problem will magically appear...trust me.
There is one closing caveat...Mennos designs demand the most serious implementation...really stiff power supplies and well filtered and very high quality input/driver stages...if you want to experience their ultimate magic.
You will also note on the Plitron web site the enormous range of choices you have.
Be sure to order Mennos book.
PLITRON MANUFACTURING: www.plitron.com
THE PLATINUM ENIGMA AWARD FOR
ALEX GARNER AND TANNOY
I have wandered far and wide over the last twelve months. I have climbed mountains, penetrated rain forest, I have endure the pain and suffering of sitting in audio showrooms...the National Geographic should give me an award....I have searched everywhere looking for something to better the Alex Garner designed alnico dual concentric driver used in the Tannoy Westminster Royals, and I havent found it. I have listened to speakers that cost twice as much and a fraction of the cost, and again have concluded that the top of mountain belongs to Alex and Tannoy.
On the other hand the management of Tannoy will soon be receiving a years supply of Prozac because I also believe that no company has such advanced marketing schizophrenia, they command the artistic high ground, and literally no one in America has experienced their achievement. Tannoy management appears to have made the decision.... they wont, or cant sell their highest quality speakers in America. On top of this they have no desire to communicate to the American public about the unique acoustic properties of their speakers. They are so busy with the pro market that they are not giving the largest consumer speaker market in the world proper respect. Just check their web site and sales literature....no mention of the unique properties of the dual concentric aural matrix! I dont get it, especially when I have a brochure in front of me printed by Tannoy that explains it brilliantly. Wake up Scotland..put it on your web site.
Thats right I am Tannoys biggest fan and harshest critic, and I am bombarded with two different cyber-groups: (1) Those who think I am crazy, because they have never heard the speakers that I am madly in love with, and have only experienced the popular priced Tannoy speakers which I surmise have not been properly voiced for the American market, and (2) fellow worshippers who own or are searching for vintage Tannoys...who know exactly what I am talking about because they are eating the same gourmet meal.
These Tannoy cultists asks: Why doesnt Tannoy reproduce its classics...in the same way Marantz, Mc Intosh, and Quad reproduced their classics? When you go the Tannoy web site (www.tannoy.com) check their time line, this is probably the longest speaker time line in the world. Check out their history of decades of making alnico magnet speakers which explains why most of the used Tannoys from their Periclean Period are now in Japan.
The answer may be that Tannoy in Scotland is too disconnected from America, too busy making money producing ceiling speakers or speakers for auditoriums and airports or cars. The answer may be that Tannoy management doesnt understand the importance of marketing hierarchies in America. The answer may be that Tannoy North America has no real interest in the consumer market because its pro market is exploding...because zillions of rock and rollers want Tannoys in their closet music studio.
As far as America is concerned it looks like Tannoy has abandoned the quality end of their business, while B&W goes gang busters, and will only deliver their best products to Japan...which deeply offends me as an American, who is a taxpayer, served in the US Army, and believes every freedom loving American should have a high quality dual concentric driver in their living room...but it is my job to get emotional about this stuff, especially since my life would be unbearable without my Tannoys.
That doesnt change the facts....Alex Garner and his team of engineers knows something that very few people on earth still know how to do...create a magnificent work of driver art...nothing comes close...and you will probably never experience Tannoys genius. Thats right...in art there is tragedy.
THE GOLDEN FILAMENT AWARD
NOTE: You will notice that I have spent more time on this award than any other, and for two good reasons. (1) Cameron Diaz, called me from the location of her latest movie, where she spends a great deal of time in her trailer surfing the web for really hot news about tube gear...and sent me this email"....
Love your kilt. Check out the new AVVT web site http:/www.elektronenroehren.de/avvt/ These guys are really dancing on the edge.
and (2) combined with the new Plitron torroid SET OPTs Alesas new 300BSLs have dramatically expanded my aural matrrix
THE WAVE BUILDS
The directly heated triodes, DHTs, wave has become the El Nino of the audio arts. There is nothing wrong with pentodes for the musicmaniac who has just arrived on the path, or for the man who is fascinated by power and has not yet artistically ascended to aural whole-osity. It is a good thing that these men have so many new choices in pentodes.
But truly it may be said that you, the connoisseurs, have reason to be dancing. More DHTs are available than ever before, and they are more affordable and they are more refined and they are absolute proof that your heightened artistic demands are being supported by your wallets. You want, you deserve and you are getting a new musical high. Alesa Vaic is, in the truest sense is a thermionic techno-shaman, creating new tube art which transports us to totally non-normal dimensions of musical experience. Vaic is now standing on the top of Mt. Triode.
Some very major thermionic creativity is happening with AVVT which may not be apparent to all...but when you are done with this trip you will understand Alesas cunning and genius...and why he most recent creations will shake rattle and roll tube amplifier design orthodoxy.
FASTEN YOU SEAT BELTS BECAUSE WE ARE GOING TO TAKE A SHORT TRIP ON THE LESS IS MORE ROLLER COASTER BEFORE WE BEGIN OUR AWARD WINNING JOURNEY.
A GREEK TUBE MYTH
I have never met, spoken or corresponded to Alesa Vaic, but I know him. I read about him in Homers epic tale, the Iliad, and Odysseuss struggle to get home. This ancient hero had to struggle against terrible odds, demons, tempters, terrible storms, and forces beyond his control...but he didnt give up. Alesa Vaic has descended into the enveloping darkness of tragic partnerships many times, and I am sure, like all artists, he has had to wrestle with his own dark forces...just like you and I. He had two failed marriages; one with Riccardo Kron and Peter Qvuortrop.....two passionate men with egos that can cast a shadow over Mt. Everest. And I am sure Alesas ego reaches up to clouds too. Both of these business relationships must have been a torturous impediment to his expressive genius. How can I be sure? The proof is in his new tubes. Was Alesa and evil radio repairmen in a previous life and is paying his dues in this life time?
The new line-up of AVVT tubes will literally knock the breathe out of your midrange, and....I think I know what is happening here. Alesa, now free to do his own thing is doing what the best artistic male DNA does ( it is what Bachs DNA did and it is what Michaelangelos DNAs did), and that is to show off his brilliance....to prove to the world that after two descents into Hades, he has arisen to claim rebirth and victory.....When you come from behind and pull ahead...ah the sweet taste of triumph.
There are now two masters of the directly heated triodes, Riccardo Kron and Alesa Vaic, and they have taken very different paths...Can I use the analogy of Picasso and Matisse? Contemporaries, but very different types of heavy duty modern revolutionaries..with very different styles.
I am going to divide my comments into three different tube categories: (1) output tubes(2) input/driver/preamp tubes, and (3) rectifiers...in each of these categories Alesa is shredding the boundaries of thermionic coolosity, and demanding that we pay attention to him.
Before I begin I must comment on the comments I have heard about previous reliability problems with VAIC tubes which is a complicated issue because I am not sure from which relationship or factory these tubes were created. Personally I have been using "original" VAIC tubes which are about four years old with no problems, and they are my favorite 300Bs. The question everyone is asking...Are the new AVVT tubes reliable? Time will tell, and the benefit of the Internet is that there are no secrets.
According to Bob Ungemach, whose company AMR is the American distributor, heres the deal...general speaking..."AVVT is standing behind these tubes with a five year warranty on filament life", and that everyone should check the AVVT web site for more info on the warantee.
What follows is one of my most laudatory articles, but le me assure you that if I find out that AVVT is not standing behind their tubes.....out with my sword, and off with Alesas head...so I am giving this genius the benefit of the doubt...for the moment.
(1) ALESAS FAMILY OF 300BS
Now that you have been to the AVVT web site you know that Alesa has taken the classic 300B and created his own unique interpretation of them, from a direct replacement, the 300BSL/37 (which I am now discussing and cost $150 each) to a bunch of higher powered models. His new mega-powered tubes are scary! You now know why and how his tubes are constructed differently than all other 300B tubes, and let me assure you that this translates into their own unique aural matrix...which is giving me a woody.
I must remind you that all of my artistic judgments are made on the basis of my audio system which is as "normal" as Jim Carey, and that includes nothing but tube regulated power supplies, including one dedicated just for the input/driver stage...and my now favorite 5K Plitron torroid SET OPTs.....there is heavy spooky magic happening here.
As more and more musicmaniacs are becoming aware of 300Bs they are becoming aware of the different aroma of the different brands...just like fine Havana cigars. I have commented on the testicularity and juiciness of KR tubes and the midrange lucidity of the WE. Next to my amplifiers is a heavy ski glove so I can change back and forth between different brands of 300Bs, and I find that over the last year I have been listening more and more to my old VAIC 300Bs, which to me had just the right balance of the midrange clarity, that I hear with the WE, and the testicularity, especially in the bass that I love with the KR tubes. With the WE I miss the tonal authenticity that is dependent on having the lower harmonics present in the right proportion. While I can understand the allure of their amazing midrange, the absence of the lower harmonic register makes me unfulfilled....and there is a high frequency glare that is annoying. I basically reached the decision based on hours of listening to both the WE and KR tubes that my five year old VAIC tubes have the best combination of the two...not as clear in the midrange as the WE, and not as dynamic as the KR...but the most of eachs best...but things can change...and how can I recommend a tube that is no longer available?
MY BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT ARRIVES
About two months ago I was contacted by Jac Vandewalle who is involved with Alesa, asking if I wanted to audition the new AVVT DHTs...both the 300Bs and 2A3s. In spite of the fact that Naomi Campbell was taking up most of my time I thought I might squeeze some listening time in the daily massages Naomi demands.. On the day before Thanksgiving...which is as close to my birthday as FED EX can come, a pair of 300Bs and 2A3s arrived. I cannot yet comment about the 2A3s (these tubes are a whole story unto themselves) because I am building a special amplifier for them which will be ready in about two weeks...but I jumped right into the 300BSLs.
You can put rubber plugs in my ear and I can detect subtle differences in 300Bs...after this many years of listening to ALL of the different brands in exactly the right system to evaluate them.
What is so exciting about Alesas achievement is that he has simultaneously reached a new high, and has also reached a new low....in price for this quality...I dont care about the price...these are the best 300Bs I currently have...in my system.
Which now permits me to get my solid silver tongue out....and remember these tubes have not yet had the benefit of at least one hundred hours of burn in...
When working within a classic aural matrix like the 300B the trick is to take their classic qualities to a higher level of implementation without destroying their "Wholey Essence"....which to a large degree is all about tone. No one has done this better than Alesa, and what I am experiencing is the tonal authenticity that I can not live without, that is only available in directly heated triodes, revealed in a transparent way that is more thrilling than looking at Cindy Crawfords butt through transparent undies. Of course the danger of the "clarity pursuit" is that if you are successful you will immediately reveal all of the other previously fogged over flaws....not so with these 300BSL. These tubes take me back into another layer of music love fold...sounds are emerging out of the shadows, that were lurking and unknown. For those who hunt in the music shadows....this is trophy hunting.
Because I am one of the outstanding proponents of dynamics, which is why I use horn loudspeakers, it is also apparent that subtle dynamic textures are now appearing that were not apparent with other 300Bs. This falls under "transient integrity" which is a sound field that is uniform in its transient explosion...from top to bottom. The improvement in lower register transients inspire another level of ecstasy in bowed instrument...and if you are into Mickey Hart...get down with your percussive self. Again, it is apparent with the Tannoy horns that different brands of 300Bs are not equal in this aptitude. Are any of you familiar with Sunocos Cam 4/104 octane gas? It is $4 a gallon, and I use it on the weekends because my motor feels like it just got a 20 hp boast. These are high octane 300Bs...and I am only using them at 360 volts...and with only about 5 watts they are making waves in my bathtub. Listening to Ry Cooder playing now requires me to put on my old New York Audio Labs diaper.
The phrase that keeps on coming to mind...BIG AURAL MATRIX.
PAUSE: It occurs to me as I am writing this that Alesa knew he had to make a major big comeback after his meltdown with Riccardo Kron and Peter Qvuortrop, and I can imagine his partners and investors sitting around a table and agreeing on a strategy of making a ultra high performance 300B, and selling the first couple of thousand at a loss to get everyones attention...and.... lets exploit Dr. Gizmo because more than any one else The Guildmeister will appreciate what we have accomplished.....and he will immediately realize that we are giving these tubes away....and he will tell the world.
And they are right. I am honored to be a pawn of their plan.
It makes absolutely no sense to buy another brand of 300B....and I have just made a bunch of enemies, but the truth is powerful, and if a company is going to create predatory pricing to buy a market...where you and I and our audio bros benefit, then it is my duty to report on it. Buy now and horde.
All of you musicmaniacs who are putting your kids through college and own one of these great "value" 300B SETs....you know what to do next....
THIS TUBE WILL REVOLUTIONIZE
300B PUSH/PULL AMPLIFIERS
Who is the biggest advocate of the 300B push/pull amplifier of super duper refinement? Thats right and no one knows what I mean because so few have heard the Sun Audio 300B push/pull. What I now realize is that these 300BSL tube can take this amazing aural matrix to a much higher implementation, and this coincides with me getting back into, after a 20 year sabbatical...push/pull.
A GOOD REASON TO GET MORE SERIOUS
Sorry for being a nag...if you really want to hear how great these tubes are; if you want to experience their capacity for expanding your aural matrix, you will have to get very serious...very stiff power supplies, super high quality OPTs are required if you want to hear those teensy little blond music hairs that hide in those special secret places. Which brings me back to the neo-classic idea which is alive and well in Japan...buy quality drivers, quality tubes and quality output transformers...and let the configuration change with time. Can better 300Bs be made? Probably, but in terms of cost/value this is the highest anyone is going to get.
THE GENERIC DIRECTLY HEATED TRIODE COMPLAINT
I am not a tube techie but it is common knowledge that directly heated triodes tend to be microphonic because there filaments are "out there", long, and subject to microphonics, and I have complained about this.
I speculate that Alesas new construction tecnique has solved this problem in a brand new way because the clarity, extension, and openness in the upper frequencies is exactly the area attacked by "flaying filaments". I have never heard this before in a 300B.
My summary is..Alesa topped himself...and I didnt think he could do it... I will keep you informed as I experience deeper levels of their mysteries. Want to give yourself a great Christmas present? You know what to do. I have also heard these tubes are getting scarce... everyone loves a bargain.
And remember all of my comments are based on NOT using the new AVVT driver tube....
(2) INPUT/DRIVER/PREAMP TUBES
YESTERDAYS QUIXOTIC IS TODAYS COOLESENCE
In a perfect world, and in Triode Heaven, an amplifier would have one stage...the output stage...one tube. This would be a remarkable tube and I hope someday someone invents it, but until that time we need a voltage amplifier/ driver stage/phase splitter as well as an output tube. The next best thing would be a two stage amplifier..just one tube with one element which acts as a voltage amp/driver, but this tube would have to have some remarkable electrical characteristics.
My comments about the special performance of the Sun Audio push/pull amps is directly related to the fact that it uses only one voltage amplifier tube (6SN7 with both halves parallel thereby acting as a single triode) and a transformer phase splitter ( this is really a three stage amplifier...but it uses only one tube and no coupling caps) proved to me once again...LESS IS MORE...for ultimate refinement...less stages are better than more stages...if you can design the stages properly.
Now go to the schematics on the AVVT web site. You will notice a bunch of two stage single ended amplifier schematics...one tube (a new AVVT tube: a mini DHT) acts as the voltage amp/driver tube and then you have an AVVT output tube. This is about AS LESS is possible in amplifier design and is a way big deal. When we compare these schematics to our normal 6SN7 driver stages we notice that a stage is missing, because, in the typical dual triode 6SN7 one triode is used as a voltage amplifier, which is then usually capacitor coupled to the other triode, which is used as the driver. This means our very precious teensy beensy signal is going through two stages and a bunch of capacitors before it reaches the grid of the output tube. Even if these two stage were directly coupled it is still another stage.
Being that single ended circuits are the circuits that demand and compel the greatest subtlety, the ability to eliminate a stage is a significant aesethetic advantage, and it is made possible by the first modern directly heated preamp/driver tubes...and they are designed by Alesa Vaic
As you know there is a cult in Italy and Japan that is into the "pure DHT" signal path...every tube must be directly heated from input to output....no miniature or octal tube triodes which are indirectly heated. Many years ago there was an article in Glass Audio which explored the unique qualities of directly heated triodes as input tubes. One of the massive claims of the new massive Marantz T-1 amplifier is that, not only is the entire signal path DHT: 300Bs as driver tubes, and 845s as output tubes, but the rectifiers are 845s. This was Marantzs way of impressing their home Japanese audiomaniac market with their coolosity. Style matters, and Mr. Cool goes all the way with DHTs.
You will note in MJ and Cositruire, the Italian magazine, many single-ended circuits that use 10Ys, 45s and 2A3s as input/driver tubes, often choke loaded, or used with transformer drivers.
The challenge with all of these circuits, up until now, is that by using an output tube as a high gain input/driver tubes you must deal with the microphonics of DHTs which are not that critical in output tubes but are critical in voltage amplifiers. It is not uncommon for these tubes to start "singing". This was always the problem with Nuvistor tubes, so great care in mechanical construction has to be used here to minimize microphonics.
"But who cares", this cult of DHT coolosity says. This is the cult that is the most passionate worshippers of KING TONE. Their Holy Text commands that anything else is a denigration of Tonal Whole-osity. Even if you have never heard a pure DHT single path try to imagine the difference between the sound of pentodes and DHTs. Can you imagine your amplifier reaching an even higher level of juiciness...if you are using a octal or miniature triode (shame on you).
Why have I spent all this wind of this subject? Because Alesa is awesomely cool, because he has opened the door to ultimate coolosity to slobs like us by making, as far as I know, the first directly heated triode tubes specifically designed to used as input/driver tubes. The key to this, according to Alesa, is his new manufacturing process that gets the filament wires under control so that they dont vibrates and create the microphonics that are killers for high gain voltage amplifiers. What he has in fact created are small, very low powered DHT power tubes with the right electrical characteristic...
Are you ready for a deeper level of coolosity? These tubes have to be biased just like your DHT output tubes because they are DHT tubes, which means you have many choices of biasing techniques, with each method creating a different sonic profile. You will note on the AVVT web site schematics for the different ways to bias these new DHT driver tubes. Do you get the significance of this in terms of fine tuning your SET? Change six parts and you change your bias circuit and get a very different sound. You can use "adjustable" bias and tune you input circuit to the point where it sounds just right for you...what fun!
You will note that this new family of tubes comes in three different levels of gain which means soon we will see phono stages, line stages and all sorts of amplifier input/driver stages implemented with absolutely the highest regard for tone.
This also means that you must use the highest quality and well regulated power supply ... consider tube regulation, chokes, tube rectification, including the absolutely most refined, meaning quiet filament supply, which must be actively regulated to completely eliminate any AC hum.
Should I be this excited when I havent yet experienced these tubes? Yes, because I am hearing from others who I trust that they are what I imagine, and as soon as I get them I am build a circuit for them.
The aesthetic implications of two stage single ended triode amplifiers is way major and is another example of the deep dialectic of the audio arts...while digital audio is becoming infinitely complex, DHT amplifier design is moving towards infinite simplicity...and that is the way of art.
(3) THE 274 RECTIFIER
As you know from reading my articles about the different aroma of tube rectifiers, it is very easy to tune your amplifier by changing brands and types. It is well known that the finest sounding rectifiers were made by Western Electric, and their Model 274 is legendary in Japan and sells for more than original 300Bs. Charles Whitener CEO of WE has been claiming for years that he will make the 274, but now discounts his own claims because it is too difficult technically. Riccardo Kron also claimed that he was making his own version of the 274...NOT in the works. So when and if Alesa Vaic manufacturers his own version of the 274 it will be a very big deal...and my intuition tells him he will do just to kick sand in everyones face.
Why is this such an important issue: the combination of his directly heated triode input/driver tube, his output tubes and his rectifiers..will surely define the Mt. Everest of tonal righteousness...the golden standard against all else will be judged.
I CHANGE MY MIND
I started off by saying that I never met Alesa Vaic....his soul is on fire in my living room right now...and what more do I need to know.
It is now two oclock in the morning and since I wrote this award I have been experimenting and tweaking and listening to the music I know well. And I got inspired and I rummaged through my 6SN7 collection and found some 1942 Tung-Sols that look really weird...but are the perfect lovers for the new tubes. I am ordering some VT231s also from 1942 to compare.
I am discovering more harmonic layering, more separation both front and back and more aural surprises.....more space, better pacing, better breathing...more emotion...
Spent Thanksgiving day adjusting to these tubes and fine tuning my system. They are starting to burning in and the musical ooze is getting more intense. Major wetness. The day after Thanksgiving I was so inspired by these beautiful works of art that I started to ask the most important question, which forced me to go into my storage space and schlep out more different types of tube regulated power supplies...and spend hours listening to the effects they have on the AVVT tubes...
I started to construct a hierarchy of regulated power supply creamosity for these tubes...and of course every time I changed from one brand of power supply to another....GIGUNDO CHANGE IN AURAL MATRIX...I finally came to peace with a pre-1960 unit that has no solid state devices in it...tube rectifiers, mercury vapor regulator tubes...all metal 6L6 metal can output tubes....the harmonic cream started to rise so fast that it reached my neck and I thought I was going to drown in it so I put on my scuba mask and I swam around in it..
do you get my drift sailor?.....buy these tubes either because they are a great bargain or because they are transportation to the edge of Creamville....if you are not creaming, you are not dreaming.
I decided when and if I met Alesa I am going to give him a big French kiss.
I cant wait to get the AVVT DHT driver tubes...and the 2A3 ..Yikes.
CONTACT: AMR/ROBERT UNGERMACH Rungemach@aol.com
Check out the new AVVT web site http:/www.elektronenroehren.de/avvt/
THE GOLDEN VACUUM AWARD
VACUUM TUBE VALLEY MAGAZINE
The "buzz" on the hot new tube mag seven years ago was Sound Practices that preyed open everyones eyes to single-ended circuits, thereby widening the publics view of tube circuits, and you know the results of Joe Roberts boldness.
The catalyst in the next stage in the tube audio renaissance is Vacuum Tube Valley, which presents the widest, most comprehensive, most artful and most interesting vision of tube circuits and it is 100 years wide. The triology of truth prevals...We have Glass Audio from the east coast, Sound Practices from Texas, and VTV from California.
It is not by accident that Charles Kittlesons Vacuum Tube Valley Magazine, which is created with Eric Barbour and John Atwood, and his shop is located in the Silicon Valley...the epicenter of computer technology that is re-connecting humans to each other after a devastating and violent century of disconnection. Computers are not just dumb adding machine, they are not capable of delivering the existential content that gives human connection meaning, and that is ecstasy. So it makes perfect sense, to this thermionic techno-shaman, that tube audio electronics should be the rage in Silicon Valley...because all of those millionaire propeller heads from cyberspace know, what we know.....No Glass, No Class...and it is a very long steep road to musical ecstasy, if the road is paved with silicon. What do these digital propereller heads do once they get their first barrels of cash? They go analog crazy.
But it is for Charle, Erics and Johns artistic achievement in publishing Vacuum Tube Valley that I am giving him and his staff this award. This is an outstanding achievement for many reasons, and let me put it into perspective for you...
By and large the American audio press is anti-audio-culture and anti-audio art, because their audience, the men of America, are not yet intelligent enough to understand what the Japanese understand.....the audio arts are inseparable from the web of culture. Tube electronics are the objet dart of the audio arts for obvious reasons and collecting the "important" works of art is as sensible as collecting "important" modern paintings, but there is a special joy here. It is possible to listen sublime music with a 1920s radio receiver, or to a 1930s Western Electric amplifier. Charles vision is one hundred years wide...and his embrace includes everything that glows and makes music.
I guess the key word here is CONNOISSEURSHIP, which is the collection, possession and use/experience of fine works of art, whether that be wines, cigars, cars or tube gear. Vacuum Tube Valley is the only American audio magazines that celebrates connoisseurship and that puts this young man decades ahead of every other publishers. VTV is a celebration of that segment of the audio arts that is most expressive of the paradox of art.
Charles has made a major contribution to the advancement of audio connoiseurship by doing a feature article about a specific tube..300B, 6V6, 6SN7, 2A3, etc, etc. Why is this so important? When you read each of these feature articles you are beholding the single greatest aesthetic benefit of tube circuitry...the ability to pick and choose those tubes which satisfy your unique and subtle sense of music. Only in the pages of Vacuum Tube Valley do we see the kind of intensive investigation of different brands, and models unique personality.... and that means this dedicated group of testers go all the way back to the 1920s. Which is the tastiest NOS 6SN7? Check out the article devoted to this tube, which will, for example, help you pick the right tube to get the most subtle harmonic cream from the input circuit for your amp...
This type of intensive investigation is made possible because (1) Charles has an enormous tube collection and (2) he has access to very large collections of tubes. How to use this articles? Check out the ratings and then start searching the web for your object of desire...you will find it because there are still hundreds of thousands of NOS tubes floating around in America.
I cant be too emphatic about the value of this service. My preaching that the edge of the audio arts is all about fine tuning your audio system is made much easier to understand after you read this magazine.
Charles and his staff also do very important research on "tube friendly" speakers, like the kind that were made before transistors dominated. A recent article about the Altec 604 was the best guide for acquiring these 16 OHM/Alnico/100 db efficient drivers which are still a bargain in America at about $1,000-$1,800 a pair.
If you love tube electronics than you will love the articles on the classic state of the art radios, and the post WW II "classic" amps. Those of you who are into buying tube amps at Internet auctions must subscribe to understand what models to buy.
There is another important reason that this magazine is so important and it has to do with the celebration of male DNA. Male DNA must know the esoteric facts...like how many home runs were batted in by Babe Ruth in 1934, or how many cubic inches is the 1969 Corvette motor and how fast was it from 0-60, or what is the highest points per game for Dennis Rodman? Do you know what I mean about the tribal authority that arises from knowing esoteric facts?...If you want to be respected by your bros you better know some really cool esoteric facts. Which is why it is important to know the vintage years for RCA 2A3s or 6V6, so when your audio bros says he prefers the sound of the 2A3, you can blurt out.....Well, yes, the 1936 RCAs are my favorites! If you love something take it seriously because that is the only way to have the most fun.
So here it is in one big ball of ear wax...you are plain dumber than dumb if you dont subscribe to Vacuum Tube Valley, Americas finest magazine of tube culture and art, If you dont want tube sand kicked in your face, buy all of the back issues and then lock yourself in the potty and study each issue, and dont come out until you have all the important stuff memorized.
THE VINYL WOODY AWARD: JOHN GRADO
Lets face it I am the only one qualified to judge cartridge quality because I am the only objective audio critic that has had a bat ear transplant, and I dare anyone to challenge me on this value judgment: the Grado cartridge is the finest cartridge in the world. Why?
(1) Because it is made in Brooklyn, thats why. Want to argue. Fuck you, you loose in spades, because if you werent born in Brooklyn and dont know the taste of a Nathans hot dog on a summer days in Coney Island after a ride on the Cyclone, or the taste of Mrs. Stahls authentic Brighton Beach knishes, or if you have never heard the sound of home run blast hit out of Ebbetts field by Gil Hodges of the real Brooklyn Dodgers, or, if you dont know the terror of being eaten alive by the man eating alligators in the Brooklyn sewers, then you dont know squat about phono cartridges. Michael Fermer are you listening?
(2) They are a real woody: John Grado guarantees that if you buy his best cartridges you will be getting a major woody. The other reason that Grado cartridges are the best in the world is because their wooden body is made from Joe Grados warehouse of original Louisville slugger bats that the Brooklyn Dodgers used between 1938 and 1954. Some of you may think this absurd, but there is a special tonal quality to these bats, and when they are cut up and used in the Grado cartridge bodies, when the music is playing just right you can hear the roar of the crowds, the smell of the hot dog vendors, and the red, white and blue flags waving all around the stadium, as Pee Wee Reese catches a line drive, throws to first, Joe Di Maggio is out on first base and Brooklyn Dodgers win the World Series. Now that is what I call a great cartridge.
Every Grado product has Brooklyn in its soul. Just think of Brooklyn as the Venice of cartridge making and John Grado as the Prince of Brooklyn.
Those who are students of contemporary American arts are aware of the enormous role Brooklyn, NY has played in creating American pop culture. In the arts Brooklyn quickly became a charactereur of America, because it was Americas cultural melting pot. The important new forms of Rock and Roll, comedy, drama, new classical music, modern painting all sprung from the implosive multi-cultural explosion happening in Brooklyn. Artists traveling to New York City either lived in Greenwich Village or Brooklyn because they wanted to be part of the artistic melange. You name any country and their culture was firmly entrenched in Brooklyn.
But the one single thing that made Brooklyn such a dynamic force in the modern American arts is its reputation for phono cartridges. I remember sitting in La Couple in Paris, and overhearing a conversation between Andre Gide, Marcel Proust, Andres Malraux, and Jean Paul Satre, while they were talking about the cartridge makers of Brooklyn...and they were jealous. Brooklyn was the place that Joe Grado decided to do his thing, and forever change the course of the audio arts. It makes perfect sense to me that a Brooklynite invented the moving coil cartridge and that a original Brooklyn Dodgers fan should be the custodian of the high ground for moving magnet cartridges for four decades. Coney Island, Nathans Hot Dogs, The Brooklyn Bridge, Grado Cartridges....it all makes sense.
Now you understand why God, in Her Infinite Wisdom, chose Brooklyn as my birthplace. She wanted me to grow up on Americas phono cartridge high ground; the site of the concresence of phono cartridge art. She wanted me to grow up near Joe Grado, AKA, The Golden Voiced One, so I could absorb his vibe, while I was listening to Bill Haley and Comets or hunting for alligators at night in the sewers of Brooklyn (The stories are true. There are alligators in Brooklyn sewers and I lost two good friends to them).
Brooklyn in 1953 was seriously happening. Brooklyn invented attitude. GREASE was happening and all of my friends had a switchblade comb, wore rolled up blue jeans with sleeves rolled up on white T-shirts. In 1953 the first Corvette appeared, and Joe introduced his first cartridge in 1953. Can you see the connection between these two events that changed the course of American history?
Here again we see the clear relationship between the concrete artistic expression and the soul of the man. Joe was a professional opera singer, a gourmet chef, a man of letters, an athlete, you know the typical Brooklyn man...like Woody Allen, Allan King, Aaron Copland, Arthur Miller, Thomas Wolfe, Philip Roth, Gizmo, Leonard Bernstein, Oscar Hammerstein, etc.
Brooklyn gets into the soul of the artist, and Joes soul, (not the Japanese soul) created the moving coil cartridge. Personally, I think that Joes invention is the foundation of the modern Golden Age of Vinyl. Not too long ago if you didnt own at least two moving coil cartridges you were considered lame. Yet, Joe only manufactured moving magnet cartridges, and those are the ones I have always loved...for decades.
During the Golden Age of High End Audio I was into Quad electrostatics and Futtermans and that combination was a merciless judge of cartridge tone and to my ears very few of the moving coil cartridges of that period had natural tone. This explains my love of Grado cartridges. Joe always got the tone right.
So it should not surprise you that I get a woody from the Grado Woody. Does the composition of the cartridges body matter? Does the type of bras a women wear matter? This is a sublime gizmo and it does its job brilliantly and the kind of ooze with love from vinyl is very easily accessed with it. This is the type of sensuous tone I demand from a cartridge because that is the key to vinyl. In what ever price range you are ready..Grado is there for you.
So there I am in the lower level of the Grado factory and John Grado, the current bloodline cartridge meister is showing me how the cartridges are being made, and for a boy who grew up in a family of watchmakers I knew what I was watching as I watched the man with the magnifying eye glasses watch what they was doing with a very precision machine that was lining up the dohickies that makes the big differences. As you know the Swiss are the people that make the machines that the phono cartridge industry uses because all over Switzerland there are skilled machinist that are only two inches tall, and they have tiny tiny fingers. This explains why the Swiss are masters of micro-machining and assembly.
As with so many other "family" audio arts business Grado has a strong gizmological tradition that spans their amazing $15 model to their most le plus ultra mega woody....there definitely is a well know personality to the Grado cartridge. Does this analogy make sense to you:? Cremona is to Stradivarius as Brooklyn is to Grado.
One disconcerting moment at the factory was meeting one of the young members of the Grado family who could not talk because his tongue was cut out. John told me that his irresponsible cousin got drunk in a bar one night and started to tell some oriental fellow wearing a mask (who went swimming with cement shoes on) the Grado family secrets...and you know the rest.
This also explains why I was not allowed to take any pictures, ask any serious technical questions and was lead blindfolded through certain sections of the factory.
What I find so curious is that so many other people who didnt grow up in Brooklyn also love this cartridge, which makes me very suspicious...whats going on?
What more can I say?
As far as I know John Grado is the only phono cartridge manufacturer in the world who will guarantee you a woody when you buy one of his woodies.
THE AUDIO DARK MAN AWARDS
"And the first winners are..."
Because we must be more accurate about the audio arts..it is filled with real flesh and blood people, and while many shine... there are also many who are dark, destructive and pernicous...which is why Esquire Magazines "Dubious Achievement Awards" issue is so popular. In my last article I celebrated those who shine, and now it time for me to celebrate the dark force in our tribe..
Hanibal Lecter Award: Ralph Karstin of Atma-Sphere: The only other time in my life that I was certain that someone wanted to eat my liver, while I was alive, was when I told my first wife I was leaving her for another women...that was much younger. Two years ago when Ralph discovered that I preferred the sound of the Berning ZOTL to his amplifiers ( that I had vastly improved upon) he not only had a major emotional meltdown, but began a long term war against me which hasnt stopped....to discredit my critical comments and to discredit David Berning. Why does his war against me make me feel so good? Even after HP has praised his amplifiers, Ralph is still desperate for my love....proving that my opinion is more valued than HPs...but you knew that. Ralph you need electric shock therapy....it works for me.
enjoythejudas.com award: Steve Rochlin. After helping build Steve Rochlins web site, enjoythemusic.com, by making the Triode Guild the home of intellectually awesome...and never receiving any compensation, he demanded I sign an exclusive contract with him....again for no compensation. When I refused Steve erased the Triode Guild web site without any warning and destroyed all of my files. I am thankful for his betrayal because it forced me to move on and seek my immortality on a higher plane. And yes, I have arisen, and once again my spirit is alive on the Internet. Look for the mini-series next Easter on CNN.
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