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Audio

April 3, 2016

Great Sounds Made Better

Jefferson-Airplane-featured

THE SHOW, NEWPORT

Richard Beers, Founder of T.H.E. Show Newport, sadly, passed away. I met Richard when he was starting T.H.E. Show Newport about seven years ago. His honesty, straightforwardness and generosity in business was refreshing and not all that common. Add to that a wicked sense of humor; fast wit with a trained speaking voice and Richard was one hell of a guy to hang around with. He made me laugh and I will miss him. Our sincere condolences to his family.

I cannot wait to see everyone and tell Richard stories at THE Show Newport this June 3-5 at the Hotel Irvine. If you haven’t been to one of these, it’s the High End Audio Show where you can hear high-end luxury audio systems priced from $500 to $500,000. It’s really big; there are food trucks, live music and a very cool auto show. The 400-plus luxury high-end audio manufacturers from around the world will blow you away. Come for the music. See what all the fuss is about. Bring home a turntable.

STATE OF THE ART PHONO STAGE AND A/D CONVERTER FOR PS AUDIO

PS Audio’s NuWave Phono Converter (NPC) is a modern analog phono stage paired with an analog to digital A/D converter in one great looking box and built in Boulder, CO.

On the phono stage side, there are tons of loading options for cartridge fun including a separate gain-to-play with —and my favorite, the mono switch. I set the NuWave up on the office system consisting of AR’s The Turntable, a Grado Sonata Reference cartridge, all powered by the Virtue Audio II 50 WPC Digital amp pumping thru PSB Imagine T2 speakers.

Maybe, it was all the loading and gain options, but I did not expect it to sound as good as it did compared to the built in phono stage of the Music Reference RM 5 MK IV preamplifier that I had been using. The Music Reference is a great preamp, yet the NuWave Phono Converter took the sound to another level. The first improvement I noticed was the bass — I felt it bounce off my chest! The PSB Imagine T2 speakers don’t push a lot of air but with the NPC it did.

I started by playing Frank Zappa’s Little Umbrellas from Hot Rats. The bass was so much fun to listen to that I decided to test Light In The Attic’s reissue of Morphine’s Cure For Pain. What a fun record. Mark Sandman’s 2-string slide bass had plenty of definition without unwanted bloom while Dana Colley’s baritone sax sounded deep and alive.

I played close to 50 records and the analog sound was always great. Shitty sounding records sounded fine and great sounding records sounded amazing.

On the Analog-to-Digital Converter side, the NuWave Phono Converter offers tons of resolution options in both DSD and PCM.
You might not need the Analog-to-Digital converter, yet. As I don’t have digital files of most of my records and only have them of my CDs, having the ability to transfer my analog front end LPs, cassettes (or whatever) to digital at any resolution up to DSD, gives me options I may find absolutely necessary in a week, a month or a year.

It retails for $1895 and considering all its capabilities plus, the way it sounds, I gotta figure out how to get one at Record Collector News World Headquarters. It is super-adjustable. Hell, it’s the Swiss Army Knife of phono stages. It would be foolish of me to let this one go. While it’s not fair to compare it to the triple the cost Zesto Andros 1.2 phonostage in the living room, it’s insane how good the NPC sounds; truly high-end, compelling, and versatile.

WHEN DOES AN AUDIOPHILE REISSUE SOUND BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL?

Surrealist-PillowWhen MOFI Original Master Recordings reissued Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow MONO 45 rpm and the Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East, that’s when.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs has been producing high-end, audiophile quality vinyl records for longer than I’ve been able to legally drink alcohol. So you know that they know what they’re doing. Recently, I purchased the MOFI Original Master Recording Los Lobos releases, Kiko and By the Light of the Moon — both great records. I think the MOFI is the first US issue of Kiko on vinyl. So, thank you, MOFI.

It was with some excitement that we were able to get review copies of a two of their new titles. The 45 RPM Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow and 33-1/3 Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East.

Surrealistic Pillow was the first Jefferson Airplane Record to feature Grace Slick on vocals. It has two of the Airplane’s most iconic hits, “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.” And I gotta say that the originalish, stereo RCA copy I have been listening to for years sounds pretty lousy — not really involving. Maybe the mono original, which costs a fortune, sounds better.

The new MOFI 45 RPM Original Master Recording is in mono and is truly stunning. From the first drum and guitars on “She has Funny Cars” I was hooked. It breathes new life into songs like “Comin’ Back to Me” and “How do you Feel.” If you want to explore recently-departed Paul Kantner’s music, Surrealistic Pillow is essential listening. So, if you wanna do it right, go get the MOFI Original Master Recording 45 RPM MONO reissue NOW.

The Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs is another stunner. Recorded a few months before the Fillmore East closed for good in March 1972. My originalish, pink label Capricorn Records version is another disappointing original and sounds as uninvolving as my originalish Surrealistic Pillow stereo version. Don’t get me wrong; the music on Live at the Fillmore is amazing. It’s probably the most amazing Southern jam rock that you’ll ever hear. I don’t know if the Allman Brothers invented Southern Jam Rock but they certainly perfected it. They were probably the best musicians of any of the Southern Rock bands; very musical.

The great sounding MOFI version is hard to listen to without jumping into bouts of prolonged, acrobatic air guitar. So limber up people, it has jump factor. The other thing I noticed is what a great keyboard player Greg Allman is. And how great his keyboard sounds.  And, what a great voice he has. This is a record I listened to as a teenager with headphones on, volume all the way up, playing along on my drum kit … many times. Somehow, the whole thing makes more sense now than it ever did.

What a great live record.  MOFI Rocks.






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