Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mark Kozelek, live at Arci Biko

Sometime you follow an artist for years and you kind of get used to what he makes on records. Then out of the blue, there is something new that just  pops out. The problem with Mark Kozelek is that there is definitely a few times that it did indeed "just popped out". Moving from the Red House Painters  to his new band, Sun Kil Moon, at the top end of the nineties was already a wild card. I still remember perfectly my encounter with the LP Ghost of the Great Highway. There was this way of playing the guitar, the lyrics. The absurd coming from well known songs being reinterpreted in rather odd ways.

Than there was the Jimmy Lavalle project, Perils from the sea that I did tend to play a lot to friends and shows. The impossible groove of Mark with the tight beats of Jimmy. I had to jump on the vinyl record when it popped out and was lucky to get a copy of the limited blue edition. Alas it did not sound as good as the cd and was above all clicking and cracking a lot*. And just after that ? Benji. This record is just pure auto-fiction or should I say auto-lyric, you know this kind of style most novels are now written in. And that is when I realized that Mark had succeeded in blending pop songs into literature.

I saw him in live a few time. Some were good, some were bad. Some were mesmerizing. This live at Arci Biko is just what you can expect from Mark Kozelek at his best. Raw and full of energy. Something quite unexpected from a now fat guy sitting on a chair with a classical guitar. Something that you can listen in your car and just forget that you have a long way to drive. The first live of Mark Kozelek that just makes you confortable (even when he is chatting with his audience). A live where a guy sitting in a couch is as close as it can get from the live experience. It is not the best live recording but the performance is just incredible and yes... it is in CD (you can listen to interesting thought on what Mark thinks of vinyl guys in this performance).

Now : just go and grab a copy At Caldo Verde Records .

* But there are some incredible sounding records of Sun Kil Moon as April Lp.

Friday, June 6, 2014

New Uwe headshell in bubinga wood and Denon 102 body

In-between the Lenco Heaven Belgium meet and my trip to the German audio mafia. I did a stop by Uwe's place. And guess what... I had some surprises.

- Bubinga Uwe  headshell

First one is that a new wood for headshells is available : the Bubinga... Here are the first photos of it : 

 This new headshell have very close weight to the ebony headshell and from my first impression is a bit less "warm" sounding than the ebony one. It also looks absolutely stunning.

Of course these are available right now and... for the same price as the ebony Uwe headshell (retail price is 110€ including Paypal fees and worldwide shipping). The other Uwe headshells and Uwe and Midas Denon cartridge bodies (ebony, snakewood and panzerholz) are still available, and we still have a few Malachite stone-bodies still available. Get them until they last !

- Denon DL-102 prototype Uwe body

Uwe is also working on a new body for the famous mono cartridge Denon DL-102. Here are two pictures of the latest prototype. Do not hesitate to give us feedback about the look of it. Sound improvement is really impressive and I do really like the look of this body.

Retail prices with worldwide shipping and Paypal fees included for Uwe headshells or wood bodies are still :
- Ebony or bubinga : 110€
- Panzerholz or Snakewood : 135€

As you can see... it is a work in progress and there will be more stunning news soon!

View from a verrrrrrry famous tonearm maker window...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Uwe Malachite Stone body with the Schick touch...

As I was listening to my Malachite Uwe stone-body with a simple Denon 103, I was just amazed by the shear musicality of this cartridge on my Proac tablettes. I drive them with a Luxman MQ-3600 power amp. It is supposed to be a PP of NEC 8045 valves but as these are  really scarce, it was modified in a PP of 6550. 

I like the sound of the General Electric 6550A and this amp deserves them. Hopefully one day I will find  a few matched pair of NEC 8045 and listen to this amp in it's original valve condition and see how it behaves, but even now, just fitted with GE 6550A tubes it sounds absolutely gorgeous. 

But let's get back to our main topic... Thomas Schick sent me a few pictures of his latest retip achievement on a Denon 103 fitted in a Uwe Malachite stone-body.

As you can see from the photos : the retip was performed with a sapphire cantilever. Even though it is more difficult to see it directly from the photos : it has also a micro-ridge tip...

You might also notice that the cheap (looking) plastic tape that Denon uses to protect the coils and damper from dust has been removed and changed with something else. Thomas uses a Washi paper (à la Lyra) but with a subtle alteration. To maintain air flow : it is covered with spray glue that fixes the fibers of the Washi paper. 

How does it sound? Just find out by yourself and I will be happy to provide you with one of these stunning cartridges.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sweets or Expedits???????

I do not know if you heard the news but Ikea  as decided to part with the Expedit range of shelves.... This is terrible news as I have grown used to regularly buy new Expedit shelves to stock my records.

Sources ? Here and apparently german forums.

In the meantime here are a few sweets just to cheer us up...

This one is leaving today for Germany.

And these ones are staying home. Did I told you a new version of the Paul M tonearm is on it's way... Yes a tonearm designed for the use of the Clément cartridges !!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Schick plinth in blue...

Thomas - Ok. You asked for blue? (heavy german accent)

Me - Yes, Thomas. (à la French)

Thomas - Are you vertig? (very solemn)

Me - Yes Thomas... (getting seriously worried)

Thomas - Allez, les Bleus.

               Louis XIV - Le bras, c'est moi (Perfect german French accent... and nearly perfect quotation of the French king Louis XIV who said once : "le roi, c'est moi" and that Thomas changed into "the tonearm (bras), it's me").

You can guess that the combination of these last few words and the discovery of this new Schick plinth color got me in quite a state. I found both superb. Absolutely superb. I want one for my TD-124 ( King Thomas have you heard my request ?)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Photos of Schick Plinths for Garrard 301... Black or grey?

I had quite a few requests about Schick plinths designed for the Garrard 301. Here is one of the first plinths photos. It is designed for a 12" tonearm with, here, a Schick tonearm armboard. Armboards can be designed to fit nearly any tonearm fixation pattern. As you can see the plinth  is CNC cut to perfectly fit with your Garrard 301 and thus allow perfect combination.

Schick plinths are available in different shades of grey to black and apparently there should even be some... dark blue. I'm ready eager to see how this last shade will be!

Grey or black armboards?
But let's the photos talk for themselves...


Or black ? 

Schick plinths are available through Cala Mighty Sound.

Retail prices  : 
- Plinth for 9" tonearm with air-feet and pump : 1900€
- Plinth for 12" tonearm with air-feet and pump : 2100€

Shipping fees on request.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Arve Henriksen and the Uwe malachite body...

We all have a CD that we would dream to have in vinyl, or why not in shellac ( remember the Monophonic experience ? ) ... And well one day it is really available in record(s) and this  is exactly what happened with the Chiarursco album of Arve Henriksen. Of course I discovered about it more than one year after it was edited in a ... very limited edition on one of my favorite label Rune Grammofon. In fact this label made things right as they decided to edit three albums of Arve Henriksen and some undisclosed material. You can find some infos about it here and grab one of the last copies.

This night just felt right for the Arve Henriksen trip... I started with my Audio-Technica  AT-33R, the limited edition for there 40th anniversary. The AT-33 in all it's varieties have always been an easy going/listening cartridge. Solid bass, warm mids and delicate treble. The R model is one of the best of its group and it works just perfect on the 12" Schick  tonearm.
Chiarursco (clair-obscure) album sounded absolutely stunning and it kind of landed me right in the heart of the first night I  listened to this (at the time) CD. It induced this particular kind of feeling I really like to embrace when I'm listening to music. Some could even call it synesthesia and well Proust and his "madeleine" wrote about it much better than I could ever do. 

After a while, I decided to come back to the Uwe Green Malachite stone-body that I had been testing over the last three weeks with a simple Denon DL-103 and it made me realize how great the improvements on a standard 103 this body allowed. Where the AT-33R pinpointed details in the music, the Uwe stone-body just lead me in the music. Music as a all coherent space were you just relax and enjoy it. 

Yes I am still fond of Arve Henriksen music and no youtube video could make you discover the incredible universe of timbre and sound he unveils in these wonderful records (which are also available in the same boxset in high quality digital files (I was just going to write fails instead of files...) .

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Schick Plinth for everybody !

Most vintage turntable users are (quite) obsessed in finding the best plinth available for there precious turntables. Common materials to deal with resonances and vibrations during record playback  are mostly : wood, stone, metal or the very fashionable corian. 

Thomas Schick decided to go his own way. His main axis of research was effective damping. What is effective damping? Something in-between too much damping and not enough damping seems to be the most serious answer. But what about sound?

Manometer at the back of the turntable to adjust air-feet pressure.

By gathering different materials together it seems as if it could be possible to blend there best qualities together. Main issue with such brilliant idea is how do we link them together? Screws and other metallic things would possibly ruin such combination. Laying different layers on top of one another can be precarious. Birch Plywood seemed to provide a good sample of what would be close to ideal, but the main problem is that Thomas believes a wooden plinth is not able to deliver with precision the lower frequencies. 

This is how Thomas Schick went for a specific ply-synthetic matter (seven time more expensive than mahagony wood) to design and build his plinth. This material combines the main idea of multiple layers linked together by a strong and coherent link-material, superb sound as well as a beautiful and refine "à la Schick" finish...

In fact the material used for these plinth was designed for measurement equipments used in high-tech laboratories. One of the major goal of this compound is that it is extremely stable and does not change of behavior and shape with temperature and hygrometry changes in domestic conditions.

Every plinth is CNC cut for maximum precision. This manufacturing process allows to remove matter only where it is needed thus allowing the plinth to have as little as possible matter removed. With these process you allow the plinth to be as sturdy as possible. You will be surprised by how dense, how heavy these plinths are. For instance a Schick  plinth for Technics SP-10 mkII with two arms weight a little less than 20 kg without the supplied dedicated air-feet (air pump included). 

To allow a perfect combination of your turntable with the Schick plinth, each plinths are made on request to fit perfectly your turntable. For instance it is nearly unnecessary to screw a Technics  SP-10 mkII to the plinth as it just slips perfectly in place and is already firmly held. Of course using screws to fix your turntable is still even though highly recommended.

I have been using one of these plinths for my own Technics SP-10 mkII turntable for a while and even though I had tested a few plinths with it (original Technics in obsidienne, Finland birch plywood, slate)  and I was not prepared for such a change. Backgrounds are deeper, more silent and music is lively, natural and yet still full of details. This is, with no doubt, the greatest upgrade I have done with my turntable.

These plinths are now available on request for most turntables like the Technics SP-10, Garrard 301 / 401, Thorens TD-124, Commonwealth. They generally take up to six weeks to be prepared and ready for dispatch. And yes : they are available worldwide !

Retail price  : 
- Plinth for 9" tonearm with air-feet and pump : 1900€
- Plinth for 12" tonearm with air-feet and pump : 2100€

Shipping fees on request.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Uwe green malachite stone-body limited edition first pictures !

Here are the first pictures of the new Uwe limited edition green malachite stone-body... This particular mineral was chosen by Uwe for its mechanical aspects as well as high concentration in oxidized copper (more than 50% in fact !).

Those new green malachite stone-bodies weight 6.15g, whereas an ebony wood-body is around 4.20g.

They will retail for the same price as the previous limited black and white stone-body edition that was sold in three months. Each of these are made on request and take up to three weeks to be built for you. And of course Cala Mighty Sound can fit you a brand new Denon DL-103 or DL-103R in it.

Retail prices : 
 - Uwe  malachite green stone-body : 250,00 €
-  Uwe malachite green stone-body + Denon DL-103 : 500,00 €
- Uwe  malachite green stone-body + Denon DL-103R : 650,00 €

These prices do not include shipping and eventual Paypal fees.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monophonic way or the fine way of listening to mono records and shellac with on the fly tuning equalization...

Some of you might have noticed that I have an addiction to the mono realm, mono shellacs and records. I have been looking for a long time for a mono phonostage to offer via Cala Mighty Sound and well... I have found it. 

I hear you! Yes you : THE stereo guy, reading my words and thinking so loud "What? MONO... no way this could not sound good and it could not even possibly rock". Let me tell you something, and let me tell it to you loud and clear : mono rocks, mono rules. And yes there are some real piece of rock'n roll shellacs that do exists. One my very first encounter with it was with this exact shellac : 

The sound of the video is quite poor but I can assure you that there was so much energy, so much life in this music that I was kind of becoming even more a mono zealot (yes you can listen to me saying stupid things about how amazed I am by this record). 

You must have at least met one of these mono guys if you are a serious audiophile. Most of the time they have different good reasons that they try to make to lure in. Here are some various examples : 
- there is no more good music after 1960, of course there are more extremist versions : they go for  instance for earlier years...
- stereo is artificial. Do you listen to stereo to  "real" concerts, are you searching for surround effects when you are listening to a "real" concert (real concert meaning of course nothing after 1960)...
- most of the time we listen only with one ear as we need to focus on more serious things
- some seem to be more reasonable and say things like : " Western Electric stuff is the best stuff in the world but I cannot afford either in space or money a stereo set-up so I will run only one channel. So why bother with stereo : let's stay mono" (c) Vince Gallo...

Well here are listed a few good reasons why you should meet a mono maniac. Most of the time it is fun (to a certain extent), not very dangerous and it might even open up new perspective and make you want to listen to the Monophonic  in your own personal set-up with... mono records and even with a "simple" stereo cartridge for a beginning and plug both channels of it in the monophonic, output allows true dual mono so that sound will be played through both of your sterero set-up speakers. The Monophonic is able to play with most cartridges from low MC stereo or mono cartridges to the super loud Clément cartridges with beefy 20mV output.

I already hear the mono maniacs screaming at me about the way mono groove is laid out differently than with stereo records and needs a dedicated cartridge with... a bigger tip or even a tip adapted to the groove of the different era / type / recording company that have existed, adapted lateral compliance to extract all the signal out of the mono groove and avoid background noises coming from the unadapted vertical compliances of stereo cartridges and especially most of modern mono designed cartridges... But well as a matter of fact : we all have to start somewhere to begin to enjoy and understand the full potential of mono recordings and we should all start with a Monophonic. By the way should I remember that most reedition of mono records are repressed using stereo standards. Oups... Well, there are still some serious people like the The Electric Recording Company who still continue to produce real mono records.

But what exactly is the Monophonic ?

Yes... The Monophonic is the black box on top of the HTE mono preamp... On the right ? A simple Western Electric 9A NOS cartridge in it's original box. 
As you can see from the above photo it has two knobs with figures on them. In fact they are the exact knobs used on Gibson Les Paul guitars and you can have them either in black or gold. With these knobs you will be able, with the help of the manual, to make the correct combinations for virtually any recording equalizations process ever made. To obtain this correct combination : you have two solutions. Either you are on the scientific / historic side and you are able to decipher (instantaneously) the equalization used on the record you are playing and by searching in the manual you will find instantaneously the correct and optimal combination. Either you are more intuitive and will just have to fiddle around with the knobs until you find a combination that suits your ears (one knob act on the bass and the other one on the treble). Of course you can be a bit of both worlds if you wish.

Clément grey and metallic red magic
First time I tried the Monophonic was with a Clément tuntable. I had used prior to it different mono phonostages like the original Clément tube and solid state phonostages which offer four positions (one for shellacs and three for mono records) and kind of felt a bit frustrated with certain shellacs and mono records. Using the HTE mono tube phonostage with early germanium transistor linestage gave me wider possibilities but well it was not in the same league as the Clément phonostages.

Nether the less any of these vintage equipments are available easily and even though you would find such equipment : it would surely need a serious overhaul and that is where the Monophonic comes in handily. It is a brand new product, reliable, dead simple to use and above all it sounds superb even just right out of the box.

On the back plate of the Monophonic you will find a switch allowing to select three steps of gains, an impedance matching switch and yes : dual mono input and output via RCA sockets. This combination allows maximum adaptability and compatibility. It is best to let the Monophonic turned on all the time as it takes up to three days to warm up and produce his best performances.

Dominique's Monophonic playing with a Simon Yorke turntable,
12" Schick Tonearm with Clément  cartridge and adapter.
I recall perfectly the second time I heard a Monophonic outside of my set-up. It was at my good friend Dominique's place. His set-up is mainly a single Western Electric 15A horn and I always thought that it was not as good as it should be. I had brought some Nat King Cole trio records with me and Dominique went in his hiding cabinet to "put the music on" (as they had the habit to say in the disco fever of the seventies). And well it did it again. Nat King Cole was here with me in the room and for the first time I was in love with the 15A set up of Dominique and becoming again a moronic mono maniac (see earlier digression in this article). Wide dynamic, shear detail and at the same time full body, and of course the aptitude to fine tune the sound for each record is addictive to a point at which I am playing now only the Monophonic at home.

I think that Art Dudley speaks better than me on the topic and you could read him on the Monophonic here or in his raving and complete review in the Stereophile  of December 2013, Listening 132.

The Monophonic is available via Cala Mighty Sound for 1100€ included shipping and now you only have to choose between gold or black...