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I would like to wander into the world many of you are considering: Streaming.



Hold onto your hats and open your ears. This all began after I visited the owner of another dealer who is out of state. He presented to me his best system using both Audio Research and Wilson Speakers using exceptional cables. When he streamed what he wanted to play, it was truly excellent. However, things went quickly amiss when Debbie and I started to choose the music we wanted to hear. Dreadful, actually. I do not fault either the dealer or the equipment.


I have done multiple comparisons with my LPs (original pressings) in the store with what is available via streaming. I have been investigating this and repeatedly found the LP far more musically satisfying. I proceeded to purchase a personal favorite rock album from the 70s, a new reissue, to provide further demonstration material to drive this point home after hearing how terrible this had sounded on the other dealers system. Much to my staff's horror, the reissue LP sounded absolutely dreadful and was easily crushed by the Bel Canto streamer.


It was at this point that I realized that it wasn't so much the format used, as it was that the quality of the source, the music itself, was the answer. Much like when CDs first came out, they did not bother to go to the original master but rather grabbed any version, however many generations later, to make the product. Some of you may recall the early days of photocopiers and what happened 6 or 7 generations later. Same thing. So, in the case of my LP, it was the exact same problem: some miserable digital remaster of lord knows what generation copy. I now have a 1975 pressing in bound to show that not all is happy in LP land either.


I think, as well, that there are fundamental differences between our interactions with the music itself. Without question, the use of LPs requires a decision, an intent, to sit down and enjoy it much like a fine meal. The blind assumption given to streaming is that the meal presented is equally so. Like meals, we have come to learn there can be quite a difference between restaurants. Convenience does not always satisfy. It may be a trade-off you are willing to accept and I have no problem with that as long as it is an informed choice. It’s sorta like cutting the air conditioning belt on a car. Yep, better mileage and pep as long as you are willing to sweat.


Marketing is also a funny thing as CDs were marketed for years as "perfect sound forever." Well, they were not perfect and I also have plenty of examples of CD rot (the deterioration of the metal). So, here we go again and now it's hard to find a nice player for those CDs. We are doing what we can.

There's not much point in arguing this and we have chosen to merely present the reality of the formats and if they insist on demonstrations only by streaming, then they need to be made aware that depending upon their choices, the better the system the poorer results may and will likely occur. As for many other stores, who rely solely on streaming, I consider them to be lazy and that you, the buyer, are not likely being given proper demonstrations nor do they either care or know. The truth be told, the better the system, the worse it will either sound or leave you pondering why should I spend that sort of money. I TOTALLY AGREE. If only steaming is available, everyone may become a victim of what I call electronic scoliosis (everyone hunched over a phone or tablet) served on a dish of mediocrity. Don’t get me wrong, there is some excellent streaming available but is what you want streamed any good? Oddly enough, were are now challenged with the old two source rule which use to be used in reporting.

So don’t be surprised if Audible Elegance simply takes a few moments to alert you to this situation as you try to make an intelligent investment in your life and home. Rarely do the educated take the easy and simple path. It's our lot in life to understand and, if possible, to teach others.


And so it goes, again.


Lou

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This month I am going to venture into one of the dark arts of audio and video: Power Cords. Like interconnects and speaker cables, there are as many naysayers as there are believers. But, power cords remain the most mysterious of them all. For the record, I do believe cords, power, speaker, and interconnects do make a difference. The question is does it make it better?

Over my 50 years of playing with audio and video, only power cords continue to remain the difficult one to predict. Two of my friends in the industry, Frank Culmoni and Mike Moffat of both California Audio Labs and Theta Digital (Mike now does Schitt Audio), have played with power cords. Frank has a double engineering degree from MIT so most likely to understand what they do. His conclusion was, ultimately, yes they do make a difference and he has no understanding why they have such a sonic impact in musicality, spatial, or otherwise. Some were, at the other end of the spectrum, completely undesirable on all counts. This has lead many manufacturers to use some basic power cord (for both cost and political reasons) as well as controversy with customers.


One of my early experiences in trying to understand them came from Bryston Electronics. They chose a heavy cord but one that was also shielded as designated on the cable with the letters SJT. It was their thought that if there was any sonic difference, it was not the power cord itself causing it but rather the leakage of RF from the power cord into nearby interconnects. It made a lot of sense and remains the most logically accurate answer.

However, as years went on, I began to play with power cords from all sorts of manufacturers and some even home brewed. Like Frank and Mike, I began to experience that each cable was capable of having all sorts of effects, some very desirable, some not so much. In addition, there were cases where the stock power cord supplied by the manufacturer was, in fact, the best of all. Likewise, the price of the power cord provided no practical guide into the results. Thus, cheap ones could perform as well or better than expensive ones and visa versa.

Likewise, what may deliver desired results on a preamp failed miserably on a power amplifier, what worked on a power amplifier was a disaster on a subwoofer and the list goes on and on. Even more confusing was the influence of a combination of them within a system and, again, I really don’t know why. So, where does this leave this mysterious subject?

Simple: Experimentation within your own system. To that end, Audible Elegance has loaner power cords for you to try, if you so wish. We have a limited number of them so be patient if you need to wait your turn. Straight Wire has two versions, actually. One more stranded than the other. The less stranded one is targeted towards items that draw a heavy amount of current. Wireworld and Cardas also produce a range of power chords as well and we have a few of them about. We do require a pre-authorization on your credit card for both our protection and that the borrower is encouraged to do the testing promptly and not become a forgotten item on a shelf. Others are waiting to try them too.

In a nutshell, no, I don’t promote one brand over another. No, I don’t believe one company holds the magic answer either which are words they don’t like to hear but, it’s the truth. Can power cords make a difference? Absolutely. In some cases through experience, we can be pretty accurate in a recommendation if we have had the chance to play with the product combination multiple times with the same results. But across the industry? No way. Even then, there can be cases where what you receive as electric for your house could affect the results. Maddening, isn’t it?


So, if you want to see what they can do for you (or to you) it is best to borrow them first from whoever or wherever you live. If they make the effort to loan you some, then please reward them with the purchase if you like them. These are the people who care about you and the results. Mail order houses are nothing more than McDonalds in that regard. Give me your card, here’s your stuff, and you have so many days to return it. After that, we don’t care.


Happy Listening as always.


-Lou

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As we approach winter and the heating season, I thought it timely to make you think about an important element: Water.

As your heaters begin to work, one of the common side effects of their use, more so than air conditioning, is the drying out of your home. You notice this with door jams, cabinets, and all sorts of things. For those of us who have pianos, controlled humidity is essential to preserve adhesives of different materials to wood like the felt on a hammer to the wood used to hold it. Sudden change in humidity sets off rapid contractions that may disrupt the attachment of adhesives. It can, as well, affect speakers erupting in the sudden appearance of unforeseen rattles or buzzes.

The most common experience involves you: static shock. This frequently happens as you walk across a carpet and touch a metal object that is grounded. ZAP! With today’s electronics and touch panels, I have seen where they become “locked up” by such a static shock. 99% of the time, simply turning off the product and turning it back on will suffice to bring it back to life. Sometimes you may also need to unplug the device for a few minutes and then start the product again.

Another common area this happens is with playing LPs, records, vinyl or whatever term you have for those black discs (fun intended on that one). Some companies have made a nice living by selling things like specially treated felt mats to static guns like Zerostat. They can work pretty well. But, I would like to suggest an entirely different approach, one that is inexpensive and can be healthy for you (those who suffer nose bleeds know this) IF DONE RIGHT.

It is called adding humidity. There are humidifiers, vaporizers, and even pretty cool lighted fountains. All of these are capable of solving humidity levels in your home. Along with one of these you should have a humidity monitor and these are very cheap and sold all over the place. I sell them as well and try to keep my house to 30 to 40% during the winter months.

Now, and this is really important, you MUST care for these devices using water. Not only should you use distilled water to avoid damaging the unit with mineral deposits but you also need to use some form of anti-bacterial treatment once in awhile and preferably, weekly. For vaporizers, cleaning with a little bleach is quite effective. Now some folks might flinch at spending a little for safety but given today’s medical charges, it’s incredibly cheap. If you have a humidifier on your furnace, remember to keep that clean as well. Remember, chlorinated water is only effective for so long and just add a bit of airborne dirt or dander and that pretty much finishes that. Just think about your pet’s water dish outside and you get the picture.

So, as always, happy and safe listening! -Lou

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