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December 2010 Members DIY Night

The first system was based on Mark Houston's 'Oppo' player as the source into his most recent fet preamp, the SOZ, via the Allan Wright silver/copper Interconnect cables the simple KT88 3watt valve power amp effectively drove the Fostex FE 206E drivers in their Double Bass Chambers quite a 3 watt surprise!

The valve amp was then exchanged for Dave Duffin's new First Watt F5 clone amplifier (a China kit) and the Cat5 speaker wire - a very different sound indeed, very fast, excellent detail, effortless and altho a bit bright with the Fostex speakers, gave an indication of just what this amp is capable of amazing simple design with remarkable performance, an ideal "club project".

After coffee, John Corneille fired up his "Analogue" system with the most unusual 16" Bayer cutting lathe turntable fitted with the excellent Project carbon fibre tonearm carrying the Denon cartridge. The Lux C383 preamp into the legendry Lux MQ36 OTL valve power amp drives the Audax Aerogel drivers in a line array 36 ohm configuration with a most unusual high diffraction cabinet, and it works very well indeed.

The very wide collection of static displays included Bob Fields high current version of the F5 amp, a valve transistor hybrid amp (Martin Pike), a 3875 gainclone with computer cooling system, a Jaycar '86 gainclone amp, a number of preamps including Allan's, a Martin Vallock, modded Hafler 101, AMB yz dac, Dipole subfilter, Matt/Ron's 2 way speakers, modded EV with ribbon tweeters, etc. Please excuse me if I have left some out.

It was a very pleasant surprise to see the high quality of the display items.

James Hill

November 2010 Rockian Trading

Once again we were indebted to Greg and Yvonne Osborn for providing the system we used to demonstrate some of the new recordings for 2010. The speakers and amplifiers were all new and improved models from the set-up last year. Once again the system was outstanding and we were able to discern all of the sound subtleties that the wide variety of recordings we played contained.

The equipment used was

Osborn Epitome Tower Reference speakers.

Consonance CYBER 845S 28 watt class A, single-ended, mono-block, valve amplifiers.

Consonance R 1.3 valve pre-amplifier.

Consonance Droplet CD50 VD CD-player.

All powered through a Consonance Line-conditioner.

All connected by Osborn interconnect cable and Osborn speaker cables.

For more information please contact Osborn No Compromise Loudspeakers www.osborn.com.au

The first recording demonstrated was The London Harp Sound conducted by Australian born Geoffrey Simon on Cala Records. I think this recording of 16 of the world's finest harpists is too subtle for the large space of the Willis Room and the stereo imaging was not altogether clear.

This was followed by tracks from two 1970s Doobie Brothers albums on hybrid SACD from Mobile Fidelity. They were The Captain and Me and Takin It To The Streets. These were definitely not subtle. Nor was the hit track "Cold as Ice" from the self-titled Foreigner album on Mobile Fidelity.

We then played some brief sections of two tracks from the Stockfisch CD produced specially for the European Auto Sound Association to test and judge carsound competitions. Although this CD is designed for judging a car-stereosystem, it is also a very helpful tool for your home stereo, particularly the live recording of Chris Jones and Allan Taylor performing Tennessee Waltz.

We then played, for comparison, some classical guitar composed by Fernando Sor on a Linn Records SACD and a Dorian/Sono-Luminus CD. Next we heard a particularly unusual recording from Dorian/Sono-Luminus of The Modern Mandolin Quartet performing an all-classical program including Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.

We then demonstrated and showed some of the recent jazz releases from Chesky Records, including a track from Louise Rogers, their new young jazz vocalist, on the Chesky Records New York Sessions series SACD titled Black Coffee.

The next track was an acoustic classic jazz track from a "best of" Opus 3 SACD, A Selection from Tomas Ornberg's BLUE FIVE & The Swedish Jazz Kings. This was timely because The Swedish Jazz Kings had just toured Australia and appeared at The Wangaratta Jazz Festival.

Continuing with great jazz recordings we heard two tracks from a recent Reference Recordings jazz collection titled Jazz Kaleidoscope. Reference Recordings have recently reduced their recorded out-put but are expanding their range of HRx 176.4 kHz/24 bit master discs.

Then came a highlight of the evening. A comparison between two different "pressings" of the same recording. The comparison was focused on the first track from the Oscar Peterson Trio recording We Get Requests. This is a First Impression Music release on their K2HD series of recordings and is itself one of the best ever jazz trio recordings. We followed this with the same track from the FIM Ultimate Disc version that is a custom cleaned, burnt, damped and balanced gold CD-R made from the same master. The double-bassist Ray Brown opens the track by bowing his bass and the opening piano phrases are precise and very clear. The clarity was improved off the Ultimate Disc version giving the piano and bass sounds more precision. In fact, the added clarity improved the already great stereo imaging from this recording. The very quiet scatsinging from the bassist became clearer and more precise, adding to the quality and charm of this disc. I am confident that all present could hear and define the differences.

More piano recordings followed. First was a recent Linn Records SACD of Mozart piano works with pianist Gottlieb Wallisch. Gramophone magazine praised the sound of this recording of a Steinway Piano.

The second piano recording was made by Keith "Prof" Johnson of Reference Recordings in 1985. The pianist was Mike Garson, who was, amongst many things, David Bowie's music director for several years. Here he teamed up with flautist Jim Walker. This recording was originally released on a 45rpm LP, then a CD titled "Reflections" which we still have a copy for comparison. We compared the sound of the CD "Reflections" with the brand-new re-mastered HDCD version now titled "Pied Piper." The vast improvement in digital mastering technology since the CD "Reflections" was originally mastered was obvious to all.

We heard segments of tracks from Linda Ronstadt's best selling album, Simple Dreams, recently re-mastered by Mobile Fidelity and released on Audiophile Gold CD. It seemed most people present agreed that this is Ronstadt's best popular country album. It is certainly a best seller for Rockian Trading.

Other CDs played were:

. Linn Records double SACD of Mozart Symphonies performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra

. Handel: Concerti Grossi, Opus 6 with the Avison Ensemble directed by Pavlo Beznosiuk.

. Bach's Air from Suite in D major

. Mozart's Eine Kliene Nacht Musick recorded by Canadian label ATMA Classique

. Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins singing a contemporary art song Lonesome Man.

. Song, Some Day Baby by Ray Charles off a new MONO SACD release from Mobile Fidelity of the album The Genius Sings The Blues.

. a track from the new Livingston Taylor album, Last Alaska Moon.

. a track from the new Dennis Kolen album Northeim Goldmine

Finally I demonstrated segments of various tracks from my current favourite demo and test CD. It is a 24bit XRCD compilation from First Impression Music titled FIM Super Sounds ! This was the first "Best Of" collection from FIM and many of those present at the meeting indicated they understood why this is one my favoured demonstration discs.

We thoroughly enjoyed the company of the Melbourne Audio Club, many of whom have been friends for years. Thank you to all who attended for the courtesy afforded to us.

Ian Hooper Rockian Trading

October 2010 Classical Music for Everyone

The Classic music night was a well prepared cooperative event between John, Ron, Gail and Stephen with explanations of the origins of the classical arrangements and the evolution from early classic thru the renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic and modern periods that also reflect the prevailing political changes over these many years and was illustrated with music to suit.

Amongst the many & varied items discussed were the Sonata form of music, the world of chamber music and the interactions between instruments, the difference between Concerto and Symphony, the role of written music scores, the development of Opera, etc. A very informative night - I bought the "Classic for Dummies" book the same night!

The sound system was also well developed with John's Sony CD, Ron's integrated & crossover amp, into the satellite speakers supported by the subwoofer - it worked very well in the Willis Room. Stephen's remarkably dynamic 'Vivaldi Concerto' was the last track, at 11 o'clock!

Many thanks to John, Gail, Ron and Stephen for a very enjoyable, informative night of music. To follow up, there will be a series of articles "How to Listen to Classical Music" by Keith Wong, the Administrator of Stereo Net Aust (SNA).

James Hill

Addendum:

Ron ,Gail, Bob (Toll) and Kevin (Morrish) are fixtures with classic music on the Eastern Radio FM 98.1 from 9 - 11 pm on Sunday Nights.

Also, on ABC FM :

9 - 10am Sat Mornings = Keys to Music - Explanations of Classic Music by

Graham Abbot - excellent program

5 - 7 pm Sat & Sun = Just Classics with Damien Beaumont

For those folks on the net (computers!) and aren't fully immersed in "classics", a visit to the ABC FM website is worth while - intro to the amazing world of classic music.

September 2010 All that jazz

AAnd a very good night was had by all. Three Jazz group stalwarts, Martin Bray featuring "Swing", Malcolm Kirkland presenting "Vocals" and Peter Allen with his provocative and witty "Jazz for people who hate Jazz" alternately delighted, amused, shocked, entertained and informed a very attentive audience of members nearly all of whom stayed right through till 11.00 pm.

Every track played was briefly explained beforehand and what was particularly interesting was the way in which our presenters took care to also describe what that track musically "said" to them. This very interesting, well thought out approach showed how much solid preparation has gone into the evening and further enriched the listening experience.

The equipment used came for member's resources. Both LPs and CDs were played. Martin Bray brought his Mitchell Hydraulic T/table with it's Cambridge 640C phono amp and new member Joe Mieczkowski's provided his Consonance CD player. Both fed into James's trusty Pass preamp and then to Hugh's brand new "Naksa 70" amplifier hooked up to his Vsonic speakers. Since this was the first time the club had experienced Hugh's latest Power Amplifier which, to date, has garnered many compliments from overseas audio buffs he gave members a brief introduction to the new modules and supplied some written notes which were well received.

Once both the system and presenters had "warmed up" the sound moved from good to excellent. It was very interesting to hear the difference between the 'mostly early' vinyl recordings and CD versions of the same performances. In some cases it was very noticeable with any shortcomings in detail or clarity in the vinyl recording being more than compensated for by sheer musicality.

Overall it was a good, relaxed, positive night out with the "boys" talking about jazz and things. Everyone present, including our Jazz fiends learned something new and all enjoyed the music.

James Hill

August 2010 Kostas Metaxas - Everything old is new again

Knowing Kostas reputation for recording very high quality audio on reel to reel we mistakenly advertised this meeting as one where reel to reel music would be played; envisioning a high fi system with a classic reel to reel recorder as its centre piece. Well, we were both right and wrong.

There was indeed high quality audio Kostas had recorded on his Stellavox portable reel to reel but it was background audio to his films. Our thanks, too, to Nick Kingsley for loaning his excellent projector enabling this audio visual presentation to be large and superbly detailed.

These were no mere ordinary documentaries The first concerned a broker who interfaces between banks who, by and large are the only entities able to afford to own stratospherically priced vintage violins, and virtuosos who play them. Three classic violins including a Stradivarius and a Guarneri were compared to a modern classic using the same solo piece played by a professional violinist. By virtue of Kostas's superb recording technique, golden ears in the audience were able to distinguish the subtle but characteristic differences of each instrument.

We were then treated to live chamber music and Jazz recitals plus interviews with Stellavox founder Georges Quillet, hardware guru Mark Levinson and, finally, an excerpt from Kostas's Aussie/Greek thriller mini movie illustrating how music can be used for both ambience and tension. All in all a uniquely different evening that was both absorbing and educational.

James Hill

July 2010 Radio Daze

Trevor Lees was his usual ebullient self. He spoke in some detail about the maturing digital radio format and the surprising sound quality of these units. Given digital radio has been the butt of much criticism, mirth and impatience it was good to know it is operating very well indeed. Although not yet widespread in popular consumer terms the Australian uptake of the brands and models available is growing so substantially digital radio sales have rapidly become a significant part of Trevor Lees Audio sales revenue.

Curiously, member Ron Healey has "installed" one (the Pure Evoke 25) in his highly detail system and it functions very well with no system tweaks needed. Sounds very good too!

Trevor's sound system, Marantz KI Pearl CDP, T Lees Valve pre, Graaf OTL power amp (drawing 1600 watts from the mains!) the advertised Usher Bookshelf speakers weren't efficient enough for the venue and so were replaced by Canto Ergo 609 floorstanders matched expectations handling the vagaries of Willis Room with aplomb.

The music selection was wide with something to suit everyone's tastes. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening. We also have Trevor to thank for the opportunity to see Spiral Groove's Allen Perkins at our Mon 9th August Extraordinary General meeting.

James Hill

June 2010 AGM

This unexpectedly eventful evening, during the AGM election process fire alarms went off and the whole City of Whitehorse complex was evacuated, was capped off by Matt's presentation of his personal passion Words and Music.

Pre meeting concerns this might either degenerate into a talk fest or a high decibel sonic assault were, thankfully, ill founded as Matt proceeded to unveil thoughtful musical choices linked by common themes. His first theme being Social History & Change. This began with Billy Holiday's 1939 standard Strange Fruit. Although by no means a chart buster in its time this simple, haunting, evocative song with its poetic description of the worst excess of Southern American Racism is famous not for sales but its place in History. In 1999 Time Magazine called it The Song of the Century and in 2010 the New Statesman listed it as one of the Top 20 Political Songs.

Ironically, among the guests present at the AGM were two American visitors! Neither had known of each other before the meeting and, serendipitously, Matt's first track was Strange Fruit. They stayed till the coffee break so it's reasonable to assume no lasting harm has been done to Australia/U.S. relationships.

One of the five tracks played during the same theme bracket was Eric Bogle's And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda which surprised us all by triggering a spontaneous burst of audience applause when it finished. Overall, a stimulatingly different evening. It's not often we stop to think where and why some of the songs we love come from, what artistes are striving to express, how sex realigns perspective and how protest and the clamour for change need not be strident to be effective.

James Hill

May 2010 Members Request Night

What can you say about an evening where everyone pitches in and contributes a favourite track or two other than, as always, it was both fascinating hear some great versions of classic tracks and educational in the sense that there is always something you've never heard before that you want to make sure you will never be without again? Yes, it was one of those.

Yet again, our thanks go to club members who generously contributed the equipment that made up the evening's system. We used Daves Rega Saturn CD Player and his Cat6 interconnects with the familiar PassX2.5 preamplifier driving Madrigal Audio's Proceeed BPA2 amplifier (Levinson design) and the excellent Epos 2.5 Speakers, both amp and speakers thanks to John and Dave.

It was only recently these same speakers sitting on the floor gave such good results with Matt's AKS Nirvana + amplifier so I didn't stop to consider the difference another amplifier/leads pairing might produce. Without any stands to lift the speakers off the floor we had noticeable bass boom on some tracks. Of course this varied with the type of music played. This problem aside the music was as enjoyable as it was varied. My thanks to the many members who brought along such a delightful selection of tracks.

James Hill

April 2010 System AKSA with Hugh Dean

Over the past eight or nine years there have been many opportunities for members to hear and assess the quality of Aspen Amplifiers developing range of products. It all started with the now fondly remembered AKSA 55 wpc kitset amplifier, which quickly established an impressive price performance ratio both here and, even more so, overseas.

It wasn't long before perfectionist Hugh Dean added another and then yet another upgraded or radically redesigned model to his series of amplifiers each one surpassing its predecessor in performance. Then he applied his diverse talents to a signature pre-amplifier closely followed by kitset speakers.

The question now on everyone's lips is "has he reached finally reached the end of his long development series?" Is this his Nirvana? In our April MAN we detailed the key components of Hugh's new amplifiers and speaker system so let's focus on delivery.

What did it sound like? Impressive indeed. Here was a package that from the very first note spoke with authority. The Maya power amplifier is exceptionally clean with dazzling resolving ability and the tripartite speaker system (two transmission line floor-standers, with an independently powered summed sub in the middle) not only dug deep when required but also gave us one of the most articulate stereo images heard in the Willis Room.

Hugh's consummate presentation skills complemented by Laurie's highly informative explanation of the considerable design effort which went into the speaker system plus a diverse selection of quality music tracks made for thoroughly engaging evening.

James Hill

March 2010 Analogue Night with the Audio Guild

First, our warmest thanks to Mohan Varkey, Duc Lai and Russell Spokes from The Audio Guild for a very special evening of wonderful sound and superb music. Thanks also to John Cornielle for, yet again, generously providing the club and its friends with the use of his van to transport Duc's system from the Western suburbs to the Willis room. Finally, thanks too to Red Mackay and David Cathro who toiled feverishly with the above mentioned members of The Audio Guild to set up this massive, complex, predominantly vintage system and test it in such a very short time frame.

What did it sound like? Stunning! It had fabulous dynamics, a huge soundstage was fast, delicate yet authoritative and possessed an effortless ability to shift gears between soft and loud.

No system is perfect and it would defy logic to expect a large system extensively tweaked to perform optimally in a home environment to be without fault after being abruptly and rudely transplanted into the Willis room and then forced to suffer the acoustic damping of some ninety bodies. There were a couple of very tiny glitches. On some material the transition between midrange and bass was a little lumpy. Some said they felt the 2 watt amplifier clipped on a couple of occasions. This I did not hear. To me it seemed to deliver more than enough sound pressure.

To the vast majority of us it was sonic heaven. I've lost count of the number of members who said "fantastic, best evening ever, I'm so glad I came, etc." It was, indeed, a truly memorable evening proving yet again that quality vinyl on a superb system outperforms all but the most obscenely priced digital systems.

Matt Jelicich

February 2010 Queen of the Opera

A full house signalled his was going to be a special night, and it was. As always, the Redgum sound system, ably managed by Ian Robinson, delivered the sonic goods while the almost incomparably lovely Lindy Gerber took us on a fascinating journey through her world of Opera.

Her nine years spent in Vienna, the home of all things opera in Austria, formed the basis of a superb presentation covering everything from how seats are obtained and where the various levels of enthusiast reside in the theatre to how opera is taught, staged, performed and savoured.

From the ancient cobblestones outside the theatres and what happens on the winding staircases inside to what a teacher needs to know in order to train the best singers, how the chorus is chosen and the seriousness professionalism of the positions, to examples of both bad and brilliant opera performances; we were given it all. Her passion is such that while residing in Vienna she taught herself German so she could immerse herself completely in that operatic world.

A nice touch on the evening was the series of coloured photos and magazine clippings culled from Lindy's extensive collection she had set out on the walls of the Willis Room. During the long break members could see the elaborate staging of some of the major works and read about significant triumphs by major performers.

It was a great evening. Non opera fans had their eyes and ears opened in the most stimulating way and for opera buffs it was pure heaven. Thank you once again, Lindy and Ian.

James Hill

January 2010 Buy, Swap and Sell

One thing that's never in short supply at all the GMs is conversation, so there was no music after the "official business", just talking! All the tables around the room were full of gear on offer, or just to see, including Mick's bags of "lead pellets" - the room was soon "abuzz".

This is a really good opportunity to just talk about equipment, future projects, music, etc without running out of time and also for our newer members to find others with similar interests and also for our regular folks just to catch up on things - it's an invaluable night on the calender.

The supper of pizza, wine, beer and soft drink went down quite well and just enough to go around. Thank you everyone for cleaning up - so many made it very easy, plus the finishing touch with the vac!

James Hill