FROM LISTENER MAGAZINE
4TH WAVE MODALITY VINYL PLAYBACK
WHAT 'S IN THE GROOVE?
THE MMJ PRINCIPAL
Be a Beacon
Before I begin this trip to the Nth Dimension of Music Hyper-Space I want to congratulate Dr. F. C. Collins and Dr. J. Craig Venter for their pioneering work in decoding human DNA. I quote the New York Times "In short, the human genome exults in contradictions". Perhaps this turning point in human history, will also be a turning point in the audio arts. There is no longer any need for us to continue on our, three decade, long trip down the low IQ path to avoid the contradictions inherent in the most profound and ancient art form.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BETTER AND
DIFFERENT AND WHY
TODAY'S DREAM SYSTEM WILL SOON BE POSTED TO EBAY
I have preached in my writing that the reason the audio industry has obsessed over "accuracy" is because this is the best way to avoid accurately describing what is really happening in our living rooms when we listen to music. As a corollary to "accuracy", we have also obsessed with the term "neutrality", because there is no such thing when it comes to audio gizmos, which are still very primitive electrical or electro-mechanical devices. But we men like to pretend we are professors when we talk about deep physical pleasure so we can impress our friends. We do the same thing with our favorite sports.
What is really happening in our living room? Let's pretend that we took the Absolute Sound's advice, went shopping, and bought a $250,000 dream system. We are thrilled. Paroxysm of ecstasy make our body twitch. A flood of endorphins are surging through our body and we are tingling all over. Ecstasy, nirvana, and ultimate musical transcendence .for about sixty days, and then to our shock, the thrill is gone..the endorphins stop flowing, and not because there is something wrong with the advice, but because we are real men, and we acclimate to a thrill, and it is gone. Real men then naturally seek the next thrills, and those thrills are not in our "professors" brain, but in our body.
Mother Nature, millions of years ago, gave us a unique brain, and while we all have the same brain, our response to stimulus is completely unique. This explains why you married a tall thin blonde who loves black leather, and, I love short fat hairy women who love whipped cream. This explains why you are a banker and I am a gizmologist. This endorphin secreting brain explains why I get off on directly heated triodes and you get off on mosfets. And the transcendent reality for all men is that what causes our endorphins to pump today, will not tomorrow, and that explains why we have more than one suit in our closet, why we eat different foods, why we listen to more than one record, why car makers produce new models every year, and why you fantasize about having sex, not with your steady mate..and why today's audio thrill is tomorrow's ad on Ebay.
We need to think we are searching for better, but in fact we are searching for a new thrill, one that is different, because that is the only way we can, once again, open those endorphin flood gates, and that is a good thing, and nothing we are do is going to change this response except we can become much smarter about it, and not feel guilty about it.
So let's stop conning ourselves about accuracy and neutrality and admit we are seekers of musical thrills and that means we need audio gizmos that can flow with our changing tides of endorphins. Instead of being on a "buy new audio gizmos treadmill" , why can't we design audio gizmos that are like Lego sets, where we can rearrange the pieces and create completely unique combinations that trigger our endorphins because, then we never get stuck in the same old, been there, done that modality?
Only you know/feel what gets you off, it is constantly changing, and your are right to seek out the thrill of endorphin rush because it is the hormone of ecstasy and it is the mechanism of musical creativity. Are we audio addicts? Was Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart music addicts? Is music the world most popular addiction?
I call this new audio design attitude, 4th Wave Modality. Any audio designer who tells you that this design flexibility is not doable, with great ease, can receive, from me, a full scholarship to the Julian Hirsch Academy of Audio Design.
WHAT'S IN THE GROOVE?
Are you groovy? Have you found your groove? Who are you grooving on? How deep is your groove? Why are these important questions? The answer according to Jean Paul Satre, the French existential philosopher, is "I groove, therefore I am ", or as we would say "Existence is predicated on being in one's groove. Who really knows what's in the groove? Does Michael Fermer know?
These question point us to the fundamental epistemological paradox of the audio arts: What is in the groove is a fundamental mystery and only you know what's in yours, and they are one and the same. Or put another way..Not one single person can say "I know the nature of the MUSIC input to any audio system". Question: If we don't know the nature of the music input, how can we know the relative quality of the output (neutrality), which is how we measure distortion? (Please don't insult my intelligence by answering: a differential analysis of input/put with a noise signal)Yikes!
Is it possible that there are completely new ways of extracting maximum music juice from that long black groove? Roll up what I just said in a double EZ Wider and smoke it, and then just give this piece a chance to bring you some peace.
What follows is another salvo in this campaign to change your mind, and as you know, changing a man's mind, like breaking up, is very hard to do, unless the rewards are enormous .like much more really hot juicy endorphin pleasure like you experience when you are doing your favorite things like eating vine ripe Georgia watermelon, or gnawing on barbecued steak, or any facsimiles thereof that are too primal to mention in an low music IQ industry that denies the existence of the human body as the fundamental element of music consciousness.
TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION
I am suggesting that the dominant impulse of the audio arts, for decades, has been CELEBRATE THE AUDIO ARTIST'S VANITY. It follows that the driving impulse for every audio artist has been to create a truly impressive audio gizmo, one that will satisfy editor's notion of what is good, thereby gaining a very positive review, which is absolutely essential for sales. I am suggesting this martini of audio artist's ego and reviewer's limited expectations is a lethal cocktail, and gets in the way of creating maximum musical pleasure for YOU, the gifted listener, whose artistic needs are much more important than the audio designer's and audio reviewer's vanity. This cabal must stop now. Am I putting myself out of a job? All that I am suggesting is that we put your ego in the center of the audio cosmos, and remove the audio artist and audio reviewer from that cherished position of male power. That wont be easy.
MMJ/MAXIMUM MUSICAL JUICE PRINCIPAL
The only standard by which YOU should judge the value of any audio gizmo is Can it do exactly what The Juiceman does in his infomercial: extract maximum music juice from an input which always varies wildly in quality. Any audio system, whose design inherently limits our ability to extract MAXIMUM music juice from hundreds of differrent vinyl, or CDs is inherently limiting our capacity for pleasure, and is therefore anti-musical.
Again, and again .the only thing that we can be certain of, when it comes to the groove, is that no two records, or CDs are the same in production value; each its a unique work of art. How groovy, and what a really thrilling artistic challenge.
From this point of view all existing phono preamps, except one, the FM Acoustic, and most tone arms and turntables are based on the erroneous assumption that there is a little, or no, variation in record quality and production value. Our tradition of emphasis on static circuit design, rather than on flexibility, is ready for the polyester double knit suit bin.
When Bob Dylan sings, "Who do you serve?", the answer must be (1) MUSIC, and it is fickle, changeable, and some of the best exists in really weird grooves. When Bob Dylan sings, "Who do you serve, Mr. Audio Artist Man?" the answer must be (2) YOU, the gifted listener who owns hundred of different unique works of music.
From this day forward the highest accolade is Ten Potties, which is awarded only when you can belch out, "This device permitted me to extract the most musical pleasure from the most varied musical inputs". I hereby grant permission to every audio reviewer and editor to use the Potty rating system, and I ask for no royalties. This is the 4th Wave Modality Imperative you should demand.
A GROOVY EXPERIENCE IN JAPAN IN 1984
Once again I will demonstrate how all of my brilliant ideas are nothing more than a Goliath goulash of other's really brilliant ideas.
If the goal is maximum juice from the groove then it naturally follows .
I am in Tokyo at a Samurai audiomaniac's house and I am staring at his turntable system, which is a string drive Micro-Seiki, and on the shelf behind the turntable must be at least one dozen different tone arms, each with a different cartridge, and each is mounted on machined blocks of heavy dark wood so that any one of them can be put in place and used with the turntable. This very refined gentlemen demonstrated, for me, that he knew exactly which tone arm/cartridge combination squeezed the most juice from his enormous vinyl collection. It took him just a few minutes to detach one tone arm cartridge combination, and replace it with another.
NOBU SHISHIDO'S REAL GROOVY PASSION
Though Nobu was best known for his innovative circuits for Class B DHTs and refinement of the interstage transformer for DHT SETs, his passion was 78 vinyl playback and in his book, which you should read, even though it is in Japanese, he describes his preamp design which has all of these different controls so that the user can extract the maximum juice from 78 records that have enormous variability just like 33 vinyl. Nobu, near the end of his life, was also preaching a form of RIAA equalization that is almost completely unknown in America.
Like every other audiomaniac, before the digital age, I too had a vast collection of tone arms, cartridges and turntables. Right in front of my listening seat was two turntables: both with removable headshells and adjustable VTA. It is instructive to read back issue of Stereophile and Absolute Sound from this period. I soon reached the conclusion that tone arms had to have removable head shell and adjustable VTA for maximum juicification and I didn't care if this was not the orthodoxy.
4TH WAVE MODALITY VINYL PLAYBACK
Marshall Mc Cluhan was right as soon as one technology becomes obsolete it becomes the darling of connoisseurs which explains the vitality of the vinyl arts. Vinyl is now the connoisseur's path. What follows now is a brain tweak for vinylmaniacs. My purpose here is to expand the vinyl meta-context and to inspire some HI-IQ audio artisan to start creating 4th Wave Modality phono/vinyl systems.
THE LEGO IMPERATIVE: Make phono preamps modular. We are already into separate phono and line stages, but let's go further. We can have a power supply that can power both a line stage and phono stage, so we can mix and match different phono and line stages, each with a different aroma.
NORMAL IS NOT COOL: For the last twenty five year the orthodoxy in phono preamp design has been to use either 12AX7s or 6922s because..not because these are the best tubes for the job, but because these are cheap and available..again not necessarily the best tubes. But if we are only going to make a couple of hundred phono preamps or twenty five or fifty for the connoisseur, why not use connoisseur type tubes? Check your tube chat rooms and you note the tube exotica now being used for phono preamps.
RIAA NETWORKS: To squeeze long playing into a 12 inch LP the signal must be compressed in a "standard " way and then expanded during playback. This is called RIAA networks and there are dozens of different ways to do this and each sounds different. The rage is the "RIAA modules" that are available from Tango and Tamura (Japan) and are very expensive, but can be moved from preamp to preamp. Check their web sites. Why shouldn't all RIAA equalizer networks be modular so you can change them?
POWER SUPPLIES: At NYAL we used to sell the same phono preamp with different power supplies because the PS is fifty percent of the sonic personality and why shouldn't you be able to choose the type of barbecue sauce that tastes best to you? How hard is this for the audio designer? A little bit harder than raising the toilet seat.
MAGNETIC COUPLING: This is very exciting new very old development. Why not use a grid choke instead of a 47K loading resistor? Why not use an input transformer for magnetic cartridges? Why not use a plate choke instead of plate resistor? Why not use an output transformer instead of a cathode follower for the output stage? How difficult are these? Just slightly harder than opening a can of Bud Light.
DHTS: At long last we have DHT that have the right gain characteristics for line stages. My experience with the Manley 300B line stage, Eric Barbour's article about using the SV 811 for a line stage, and the new AVVT 20 means that a whole new world has opened for line stage design. This is very major.
TONEARM SYSTEMS: In the good old days there were "tone arm systems" which gave us lots of choices of which arm tube to use relative to our favorite cartridge. I also once hot roded a tone arm and adapted it so I could use a variety of my own home made wooden tone arms, which sounded pretty amazing. At the very least a tone arm should have a removable headshell so you can quickly change from your Grado to EMT, or choose among the MC that makes your vinyl sound best.
TONEARM WIRING AND CONNECTIONS: Stop for one moment and consider all of the electrical connections that exist between your phono cartridge and phono preamp input. I did once, and I got some tone arm wire and I made a cable that went directly from the cartridge and was hard wired directly to the input of my phono preamp eliminating all of those electrical connections which appear at exactly the worst place. Wholey Cow, what an improvement. Now let's trace from those tiny little plated connectors that slip onto your phono cartridge pin (bad) that are attached to your tone arm cables that are then attached to plated RCA connectors (bad) and then a big fat cable with plated male RCA plugs (very bad) that has big fat complicated wire (bad) gets plugged into plated RCA plugs (bad). Can we have some more mercy on that tiny little signal coming out of the cartridge? There is absolutely no reason why that gossamer thin tone arm wire has to run through the arm, through the tone arm base, and not directly into your phono preamp input. Is this crazy? Not if you are a juiceholic.
TWO ARMED TURNTABLES: You wear two Colt 45s, don't you? How tough is it to design a turntable that can use two tone arms? The answer is about an extra few inches of wood or plastic. Want an experience of ultra coolosity? Put both tone arms in the groove and switch between the two while the record is playing? Which sounds is right? The one in the middle.
AN INSIGHT BY THE SULTA OF KIBOSH
I was once honored to have an audience why the Sultan of Kibosh, one of the wealthiest men in the world, who had a harem of hundreds of beauties. After interviewing him about his views on the world oil production, I asked him,
"Sultan, can you tell me which is your favorite women in your harem".
His reply was "How many years do you have?".
You are now sitting in front of your turntable which has two tone arms. To the right of it is a box of different cartridges mounted in head shells. Your phono preamp is modular, and is not made with 12AXs or 6922s, and you now have a table cloth under your turntable because YOUR MUSIC JUICE RUNETH OVER!
Over and out from the Nth Dimension of Music Hyper-Space where there is only one music and it is you.
e-mail Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg: firstname.lastname@example.org
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