Blast from the past – July 2008 / Dear diary …….. Trio KT 917, DAB vs DDB, Squeezbox, declining mental powers, Mcintosh vs Bel Canto, TACT RCS 2.2XP, Richer Sounds getting a thumbs up …. and more – by Howard Popeck.

Taken from my diary for 17/7/2008:

Bit of an up ‘n down day yesterday. Slightly disturbed to discover that my ‘must buy’ list of CDs now runs to 59! It’s not so much the money; but how am I going to find the tine to listen? Ho hum. Hooked up my wonderful old and massive Trio KT 917 FM tuner. Sheer joy. Relieved it fired up okay after all these months, then the wonderful sound quality. Didn’t matter what I was listening to. It all sounds so good. FM shouldn’t be allowed to die. Probably will though. Can’t help thinking (or finking, if you live in Essex) that it’s all about money. DAB that is. Should be called DDB not DAB i.e. Digital Done Badly! Will my silly joke catch on? Has it appeared elsewhere I wonder?

Got a very good response to my question “Richer Sounds and the impact if any on brand credibility / image” on The Art Of Sound forum. Over 20 very useful and thoughtful replies, no mention of the LNM (Linn Naim Mujahidin) either I'm pleased to say. So either the contributors to this new forum are able to think for themselves, or the moderators are doing a fine job – or both. Either way, Richer Sounds gets a unanimous (so far) thumbs up.

Had an introductory lesson from eldest son David into the whys and wherefores of using a high quality transport to transfer music on to my Apple Mac rather than using the on-board CD writer. As usual he insisted on explaining to me the technology principles and then working out the answer for myself. Challenging reversal of the traditional parent / child information exchange. If I’ve understood him correctly, the on-board reader-writer will be fine. My brain still hurts! Conversation moved towards the Squeezebox. Might well invest in this.

Strange outcome to a demo here. Very articulate visitor with carefully thought out requirements. Biggest challenge for many months. Didn’t succeed, so far. Wanted a combination of attributes / characteristics that to the best of my knowledge cannot be achieved with current technology. The ability to produce fine treble detail with a neutral mid-range and a solidly defined and controlled yet extended bass – at low i.e. conversation volumes (on all types of music) yet able to play loud without altering the tonal balance achieved at the low volume. I've come across this challenge every now and then through the past 32 years. It’s something I want too – but long ago gave up searching for. Had a TACT RCS 2.2XP recently which claimed to do this. Bloody great disaster. Horrible. Glad I got all my money back.

Interestingly the Benchmark/LFD didn’t do it as well as the Manley Stingray into the Harbeth Compact 7s at low levels. However at high levels, where the Manley was driven into clipping, the Benchmark/LFD was clearly superior. What’s needed is a truly active ‘loudness’ control. But that means having a monitoring microphone close to the listener’s head. Hardly attractive. Made me recall the highly innovative and deeply clever tilt control on the QUAD 44 pre. Wasn’t automatic, but could accomplish the task very well. Problem was though, that QUAD was and possibly still is sonically a cure for insomnia. Ho hum – again.

Mystified by the seeming irrational decision of a close friend of mine to trade in his Bel Canto gear for a McIntosh, without even hearing it. Such is the persuasive power of cache, BBB (bloody big blue) meters, and reputation. On the other hand, it might be a shrewd move. Time will tell. And from such a rationally objective man too!

Heard the same Bel Canto units a fortnight ago in an installation in Putney. Sounded terrific. People still find it odd that I can endorse equipment I don’t sell. What’s so odd about that? Surely a Nikon or Canon retailer isn’t going to rubbish a Leica, or Timex a Rolex, or Aston Martin a Lexus, etc? Perhaps the oddity is that I don’t, and the Linn Naim Mujahidin (and their forum ‘shock troops’ on some forums) do?

Another high point was the discovery, via the visitor, a truly wonderful performance of a piece of classical music (I’ll be posting a piece on this shortly) that through the Harbeths, and the Frobisher and Gleeson speakers almost brought tears to my eyes. Ah, the power of music. Without music throughout my life I might well be dead by now.