No. 127 December 2014
- REVIEW: Trenner&Friedl ISIS
- Floorstanding Loudspeakers from AUSTRIA
- REVIEW: Kondo KAGURA
- Power Amplifier from JAPAN
- REVIEW: Aries Cerat INCITO
- Line Preamplifier from CYPRUS
- REVIEW: AURALiC ARIES Wireless Streaming Bridge
– Streaming Player from HONG KONG
- REVIEW: KBL Sound RED EYE
- Digital Cable from POLAND
- INTEREVIEW: SCOT HULL, Part-Time Audiophile
– editor | “THE EDITORS” series
AUDIO SHOW 2014: “High Fidelity” times three
AUDIO SHOW 2014
ach year, around the same time of year, we end up telling you the very same thing: this year’s Audio Show has been bigger and better. In the day and age where less and less money is being invested into purchasing audio gear this should be rather puzzling. Since less people invest their money in high-quality audio products that we’re interested in, there should also be less people who desire to see these products face-to-face. Especially if you have to pay money for this pleasure. And yet, the complete opposite is true. Why?
As it turns out, there is some logic behind this, after all. John Marks, “Stereophile” editor-in-chief as well as a music producer, presented an interesting theory about this phenomenon in an interview he gave to us earlier this year, in July. He believes that the immense popularity of audio shows comes from the diminishing role of audio stores, and the fact that there are far less of them than there were 20 years ago. This partially results from a change in consumer orientation, but also from the fact that 20 years ago the running costs of a high-end store were much lower. He also notices the negative outcomes of this trend:
It’s nice to say, “It should be all about the music.” However, a business needs to operate at a profit so that it can meet its obligations to its employees, its vendors, and its community. Most small businesses can’t operate profitably if they are spending $100,000 a year to ship gear and send out employees to shows all over the world, yet all that may be happening is that they are entertaining “tire kickers” who can’t or won’t buy the products. That’s throwing away $100,000 cash, which is sacrificing the profit on perhaps $500,000 of turnover.
JOHN MARKS, interviewer: Wojciech Pacuła, “High Fidelity”, July 2014, No. 123, “The Editors” series; see the whole interview HERE.
When comparing the positive and negative factors, however, it’s hard not to agree with the folks who believe that audio shows are a clear display of how lively the audio business actually is – and that this is simply the new path through which it reaches its potential customers. And – as we can see – there are plenty of those around. I’ve written about this extensively over the past few years: the number of people who visit the Sobieski, Tulip and Bristol hotels in November has been growing with every year. Last year was particularly “generous” and it seemed that the records which had been set at Audio Show 2013 weren’t going to be beaten any time soon. Hence, the organizer’s notice posted this year on October 1st came as quite a surprise – and it seems we weren’t the only ones surprised:
AUDIO SHOW IS GROWING EXPONENTIALLY!
There are no doubts to be had about the sheer magnitude of this event. Over the last few years I, myself, have started thinking of Audio Show as the second – right after Munich’s High End convention – most important trip I go on every year (you can find my report from this year’s High End 2014 HERE).
Hence, I found it to be only natural to choose the Warsaw show for the celebration of “High Fidelity’s” 10th birthday. As I’ve already mentioned, from the very beginning – that is May 1st, 2004, when the magazine’s first edition was published – the most important thing to us has been MUSIC, music, and nothing but the music. Music in its true form, to be precise, i.e. listened to in the best conditions possible, and in the best company possible (PEOPLE). Only when the two aforementioned conditions are met, can you start looking at the actual AUDIO GEAR.
Together with our partners, whom I’ll go on to mention in just a moment, we had three events prepared for our readers. Firstly, as I’ve mentioned previously, MUSIC. I still remember Antonio Forcione’s amazing concert at the Audio Show 2011 (see an account). It took place at the Golden Tulip Hotel and a professional sound crew from Krakow was hired for the occasion. Do any of you remember it? I can still feel the chills down my spine today. I had a similar experience at Dominic Miller’s gig on May 23rd of this year, at the Bielsko-Biala Culture Centre. The musician was standing and then sitting directly in front of us. Such intimate contact with the musician is only possible at small-venue concerts. Such as what I experienced at KAT and Roman Kostrzewski’s concert in the Rotunda Club in Krakow, on October 24th. Or Jack White’s concert on the 12th of November, where he played to a group of only 2000 people.
But neither one nor the other can compare in terms of access to the live musician to what you get at the Audio Show. That’s why you just couldn’t have missed this year’s performance: “High Fidelity” and Lutz-Precizion had a scheduled a performance by Hans Theessink. Hans is a renowned Dutch guitarist and composer. He records music with Terry Evans and Ry Cooder, playing both blues and American roots music. The musician performed in two separate concerts, one on Saturday at 7:30 PM, and the other at 5:30 on Sunday. The concert was co-organized by the German magazine hifistatement.net. Hans’ LPs, mixed by Dirk Sommer (HiFiStatement.net editor-in-chief and owner of Sommelier Du Son) were on sale at the event, which took place in the Tulip 2 room of the Golden Tulip Hotel.
In 2011, the ORF Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ordered from film director Hannes Rossacher a movie titled Jedermann Remixed. Its aim was to celebrate the 90th anniversary of when Jedermann was first performed in Salzburg. The play, an adaptation of the English play Everyman, which had been developed from the 15th century Dutch drama Elckerlyc, first came to life in 1911. The man behind it was the playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal. From 1920 onwards, the play has been annually performed in the Salzburg cathedral, as part of the Salzburger Festpiele.
The album was recorded by Thomas Löffler in his self-owned Thomas Löffler Studio in Vienna. The only exception is the track No Expectations and Sympathy for The Devil, recorded and mixed in Denmark. The cover specifies that the disc weighs 180 g and that it’s an “audiophile pressing.” The disc was cut by Günter Pauler, owner of the Stockfisch label. The interesting cover was designed by Peter Pongrantz, a graphic artist.
This album sounds beautiful! If this record will be your first meeting with Hans Theessink, it will leave the door to his music wide open for you. Theesink’s deep, warm and dynamic vocals are brilliantly presented. You can hear them in front of the instruments and they have a large volume, without being exaggerated at the same time. The instruments’ proportions and timbres are skilfully and beautifully matched. To be honest, it’s been a long while since I heard music recorded this well; real MUSIC, too – not whispers and chiming bells recorded for the frustrated part of the audiophile world. The soundstage is broad and deep. When listened to on a good system, it will be a real spectacle. I seriously recommend it, just like the artist’s other albums!
Sound quality: 10/10www.theessink.com
Music is something that we love – sometimes it’s the means, sometimes it’s the goal, but it’s always undeniably the centre of our interest. Music is a social art. Audiophiles, on the other hand, are historically known to be solitary creatures. A middle-aged man returns home from work, loosens his tie, pours himself a glass of something stronger, and locks himself in a separate room which no-one but him may enter. Not even the cleaner (which your nostrils may notice).
This kind of socialization, inspiration, and exchange of opinions has also been the focus point of a group that I started 10 years ago and called the Krakow Sonic Society. The group is a meeting place for colleagues, friends, and (increasingly often!) special guests from Poland and abroad. The reports of our meetings have been published in HF both in Polish and English (and let me remind you that we’re talking about 80,000 people per month), as well as in the American magazine “Positive-Feedback Online”, which adds its own 350,000 readers into the picture (see HERE), meaning that the KSS has a huge impact range. The meeting with Dirk Sommer (No. 94) was also published in his own magazine, hifistatement.net, which added dozens of thousands of additional German-speaking readers (see HERE and HERE).
The meeting was also special in the sense that there was another distinguished guest, Konrad Wojciechowski, editor for “Gazeta Wyborcza”, one of Poland’s largest newspapers. “Gazeta Wyborcza” took an interest in “High Fidelity”, and particularly in the Krakow Sonic Society, and decided to write an article about us.
OK, enough digressions. The KSS meetings take place in private homes, using audio systems that we’re familiar with. Familiarity with the reference system is extremely important, especially if it is our aim to formulate opinions that have a binding value. This style of work (unfortunately!) rules out inviting people from outside of this circle. There are exceptions to it, of course, but… they are exceptions. This is both good and bad: good, because this is a job, discipline is mandatory and I need to know the person behind their opinion to really understand what they’re saying. It’s bad because it closes us off in our own circle. But such is life.
This year, we’re celebrating the 10-year anniversary of “High Fidelity”, and the 10-year anniversary of the Krakow Sonic Society’s first meeting. That’s why I decided that it’s the perfect occasion to have a slightly larger meeting. Together with Dirk Sommer (Sommelier Du Son/hifistatement.net) and Gerhard Hirt (Ayon Audio), and with the help of Nautilus, an audio salon in Krakow, we held a “re-enactment” of the 94th KSS meeting, where we compared analog master tapes, LPs and DSD/PCM audio files. It was the first time that the Krakow Sonic Society met “on tour” and invited all the interested people as participants. The meetings at the Audio Show took place on Saturday and Sunday, at the high noon (12:00), in the Kiepura room of the Bristol Hotel. Dirk played back analog tapes on his Nagra IV-S reel-to-reel tape recorder and compared them to LPs played back on the Transrotor Artus turntable. Gerhard presented the very same tracks in DSD and PCM Hi-Res formats, played back from his Ayon Audio S-5 Direct DSD player.
The system also included:
And last, but not least, here are a few words directed to “High Fidelity’s” readers from my friends:
Dear “High Fidelity” readers,
Hans Theesselink’s concert at the Audio Show was made possible thanks to one man in particular: Volker Lange. He’s a renaissance man: a businessman, head of Lutz-Precision, and a passion-driven music lover and music publisher at the same time. As part of the latter, he sells master tape copies (including those of Hans’s records). At the moment, he’s negotiating a large contract with a well-known label concerning for further releases. In cooperation with “High Fidelity”, Volker has decided to make the tapes available to the public at the Audio Show. In room 507 of Jan III Sobieski Radisson Hotel, there were Stellavox and Struder reel-to-reel tape recorders set up, and anyone could listen to master tape copies on Sennheiser headphones.
Music On Vinyl, the largest European vinyl record pressing plant that I wrote about in October’s “High Fidelity” editorial is a real giant. Last year, it pressed 4 million records, and 3.5 million in the year prior, as we’ve been told by Anouk Rijnders, the sales manager for Record Industry, the mother-company of MOV. This year they plan to press anything between 4.5 and 5 million records. We’re looking at over twenty new releases per month, she adds.
The audio and music business draws its vitality and wealth from another source, however: from diversity; homogeneity and uniformity kill it. That’s why it’s equally important for companies like MOV – which are like a huge flywheel – and tiny, even one-man companies, to exist. They complement one another and give the market a better taste. So on the one hand we have giants and, on the other, music micro-labels; two different sides of one coin.
This time I wanted to tell you about a polar opposite of Music On Vinyl (in terms of scale): Karlrecords. Run in Germany by Thomas Herbst, it releases electronic and experimental music. I stumbled upon it while looking for LPs of early electronica recordings. Thanks to “The Vinyl Factory” I was able to find information about the album Silver Apples Of The Moon by Morton Subotnick (see HERE), which I bought immediately thereafter, and which I’ve been regularly listening to ever since. Its difficult, repetitive and minimalistic sound fits in brilliantly with Karlrecords’ offer.
Thomas got the idea for starting the company in 2004, but he only went forward with it two years later, during Moers Festival, after talking to Bill Laswell. The first record they released (in January 2007) was Laswell’s Brutal Calling. “My idea was to only release vinyl records” – says Thomas. “But that changed after the release of Lodge (KR004), Laswell’s album whose digital version I could press and sell in Europe.” As he later added, no compromise was unfortunately achieved in terms of releasing the album in both formats. The artist’s manager believed that the 12” LP is but a tool for DJs and, hence, it is “dead.”
Several CDs were released subsequently, because it was cheaper and easier than releasing the LPs. But that changed, too, with the material for Subotnick’s album. Wanting to emphasize the “re-opening”, Thomas created the Parnassus series. As he says, it doesn’t matter what format we’re talking about, what matters are the concrete aspects of every release: the music and graphic design, together forming the whole artefact.
Interviewer: Wojciech Pacuła
Wojciech Pacuła: Why Karlrecords – you are Thomas, aren’t you?
How do you find such gems as Subotnick records?
Where do you master tapes from? And who remasters them?
Do you use digital material only or analog as well?
Where do you press your records?
Any thoughts from you?
It’s really pleasant to see that it is possible to operate in an experimental, nonconformist area and yet survive without governmental funding, which is something that’s in strict contradiction to my understanding of independence. I (and all the artists involved, I’m sure) understand music as an art form – of course a label has to think in terms of economy in certain ways but economic demands are no excuses for selling your art for advertising spots or companies (as U2 just did).
Therefore, huge thanks to all who support Karlrecords by purchasing our music, huge thanks to all artists for joining this adventure and again huge thanks to the people who help with their knowledge, advice and manpower: Roland for technical support and graphic design, Katja & Tom at Master & Servant, my distro partners Cargo (Germany / EU), Metamkine (France) and Forced Exposure (USA), all writers + radio DJs for spreading the sound and anyone I might have forgotten here – I really appreciate your efforts, guys…
Any plans for the future?
Could you share with “High Fidelity” readers 10 LP titles that come with your special recommendation?
Morton Subotnick, one of the pioneers of electronic music, its main inventor and promoter, is mostly known for his 1967 album, Silver Apples of the Moon (reviewed HERE). It was the first electronic music album released by Nonesuch.
One of the innovations presented by this artist was introducing an aspect that is the key element of electronic music today: rhythm. Thanks to that, the albums Silver Apples…, and The Wild Bull (released a year later) received a full choreographic setting and were performed worldwide.
It might seem like a difficult job to judge the sound quality of an album on which none of the sounds and notes have been made by an acoustic instrument, but generated electronically instead. In the end, every review or judgment of sound quality is made through comparison. And it’s precisely that which allows us to quite accurately determine the quality of a release – comparing it with the albums of other electronic music artists, especially those that fall into the Krautrock genre.
This record has a very clear sound. Surface noise and crackle is minimal and not bothersome even in the most quiet of passages. The sound is nicely full-bodied and never goes to extremes in accenting the upper harmonics. It’s not brightened, either, and thanks to that you’ll find pleasure in listening to it as a whole, and might even feel slightly hungry for more after you hear the album’s last notes.
For comparison, I also received a test pressing of the album. With high volume releases from the major record labels, the higher the number on a record, the worse it sounds. This is due to the wear-out of the stamper used during the pressing process. This is why audiophile labels limit the number of copies to 2000 or even 1000, which guarantees the sound on the last copy to be as close as possible to that on the test pressing.
In the case of Karlrecords, minimizing the number of copies released (which is made by a simple calculation of the projected number of customers) works to our benefit. The differences between the test pressing and my own copy of The Wild Bull are minimal, almost marginal. But try to get your hands on this album while you still can. Everyone who believes that electronic music is more than just noise MUST own a copy, and same goes for Silver Apples…
Sound quality: 8/10
ZEITKRATZER + KEIJI HAINO
Subotnick is a living legend right now, a real innovator. But a real innovator in his times only. The experimental music scene is different nowadays, which Zeitkratzer’s discography is a living proof of. The band was founded in 1997 and is led by Reinhold Friedl. The artists reject any and all stylistic associations and smoothly transition through various genres like noise, electronica and folk. The group has cooperated with many large names of avant-garde music, including: Karlheinz Stockhausen, LaMonte Young and Merzbow. Their latest musical release is the recording of a concert that Zeitkratzer performed with the Japanese artist Keiji Hano.
As you can read on the website of the Avant Art Foundation that organized Zeitkratzer and Keiji Hano’s concerts in Poland, Hano is the leading figure in Japanese noise/psychedelic/improvised music: a guitarist/drummer/vocalist who began his career over 40 years ago. He has worked with artists like Kan Mikami, Oren Ambarchi, Tatsuya Yoshida, Masami Akita and Stephen O’Malley, and kept consistently raising the level of sonic horror to previously unknown heights.
See more at: avantart.pl
Zeitkratzer began cooperating with Keiji Hano in 2005, from a concert they performed together in Volksbühne, in Berlin. The meeting was documented on a CD. The second album featuring Keiji Hano’s work with Zeitkratzer focuses largely on his vocals. He doesn’t use any electronic equipment, aside from his amps and speakers. In spite of that, the material is even more radical than that featured on the 2008 album Electronics, where he sang into two separate microphones.
Just like Subotnick’s album, this record has also been released in a limited number of 500 copies. A comparison with the test pressing shows that there are no significant differences between them.
Sound quality: 7/10Wojciech Pacuła
Our reviewers regularly contribute to “Audio”, “Enjoy the Music.com”, “Positive-Feedback.com”, “HiFiStatement.net” and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .
"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.
"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.
Once a year, we prepare a printed edition of one of reviews published online. This unique, limited collector's edition is given to the visitors of the Audio Show in Warsaw, Poland, held in November of each year.
For years, "High Fidelity" has been cooperating with other audio magazines, including “Enjoy the Music.com” and “Positive-Feedback.com” in the U.S. and “HiFiStatement.net” in Germany. Our reviews have also been published by “6moons.com”.
You can contact any of our contributors by clicking his email address on our CONTACT page.