Monday, March 19, 2018

New music: Chantal Chamberland - Autobiography, SACD

I received a copy of this from EvoSound, a Hong Kong based company handling global releases and audiophile recordings. A new artist to me, Chantal Chamberland has already released six albums and is well-known in Canada and Asia. The present volume is  compilation, it seems, of  tracks from those releases and I have to trust that the selection is indicative of her music.

If you examine the track listing you'll get an idea of her style, but only an idea. "Feeling Good", "Crazy" and  "Fever" point to the stock middle of the road jazz canon that she seems to favor but it's her treatment of these that catches the ear. Her voice is calm and moody, rarely being raised beyond a smooth crooning level, but in a manner that is highly intimate, personal and present.

Instrumentation is relatively sparse, guitar (which she plays well), bass, drums, piano, with the occasional sax or horn, but the backings are loose, natural and embody the idea of accompaniment rather than competition with the singer. Production values here emphasize a late night club-date atmosphere, a singer, small band, and songs designed to make you relax rather than dance.

For me, I could live without another cover of some songs ("At Seventeen" is just a little too close to the original to be pleasing and I never need to hear "Hit the Road Jack" again really) but then I guess the compiler wanted to reassure new buyers that there was nothing to be afraid of here.  But these are small quibbles, the set is enjoyable, the sonics very good, and Chantal is a musician I'll keep an ear out for in the future.  Her version of the Bee Gee's 'How Deep is Your Love" is the most enjoyable version I've heard (sorry brothers Gibb!), her phrasing on vocals and simple but effective guitar, along with subtle cello and flugelhorn touches, give the tune a truly pleasing groove.  How much talent is out there yet to be discovered? It's endless, so take a chance.

You can find her on Amazon here  and check out her label here

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Audioengine release new wireless speakers

Ever marvel at the ads in the glossies for speakers? Great rooms, tidier than real life, decorated to perfection, and yes, not a cable in sight. If only. Well hold that thought. Audioengine are releasing a pair of wireless speakers with 'everything you need in the box', and assured to work with any Bluetooth device or app you use to stream. The A5 allows for regular RCA or mini-jack connections,  requires no network set up and even has class A/B amps inside. All this for $500? Let's see, I have pair coming in for a listen (and yes, I will be using some wires)

Find out more here

Friday, February 9, 2018

Craft Recordings do it again

This label is pushing them out quickly at the moment. I know,  what jazz fan does not have Rollins' Way Out West but how about a new vinyl edition, with a second disk of bonus material from a late-night session in the studio? I know, it's the 60th anniversary, how many editions can you have of the same recording (don't answer that Kind of Blue collectors!) but this looks gorgeous. Sadly it's a less than gorgeous price (north of $70 on Amazon as I write) but I am sure some will grab it gladly. I'm having to limit my purchases at the moment but it does not stop me wanting....

Find out more here

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Best Buy giving up on CDs

Well, I suppose it had to happen at some point but chain store Best Buy announced it would no longer stock CDs from June 1st. With sales of CDs now about 10% of what they sold 15 years ago, the company considers them unworthy of floor space in their stores.  More here at Consequence of Sound

Ironically, Best Buy will continue to stock vinyl where they sell turntables, at least for the next two years. Bet you would never have predicted this when Queen took out ads in the UK music press back in the 1980s to explain why they would release albums only on CD from then on as vinyl was no longer relevant. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Craft Recordings releasing new vinyl sets

New one to me but worthy of a mention for those who love their vinyl. Craft Recordings have been sending out announcements of new releases, and here's the latest one: Country Joe and the Fish. $80 on Amazon, delivered free for Prime members.

Paying tribute to the band’s prolific output, Craft Recordings is issuing a limited-edition, deluxe vinyl box set, The Wave of Electrical Sound, as well as standalone, 180-gram LP reissues - all hitting store shelves today! A remastered digital collection, offering both stereo and mono formats of each album, as well as two exclusive bonus tracks, is also available on digital retailers and streaming services.

Limited to 2,000 copies worldwide, the deluxe 4-LP box set offers both mono and stereo versions of Electric Music for the Mind and Body and I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die. All four remastered LPs are pressed on audiophile quality, 180-gram vinyl, and housed in old-school-style, tip-on jacketsThe Wave of Electrical Sound also contains a bounty of band ephemera from 1967, including replicas of The Fish Game, a Fish Fan Club book and a Fish calendar designed by Tom Weller. Also in the box is a DVD of How We Stopped the War, a 30-minute documentary, filming the band on their way to an anti-Vietnam War rally, directed by David Peoples (writer of Blade Runner, Twelve Monkeys, Unforgiven), as well as a 24-page book, which features rare photos, artwork and new liner notes.

Friday, January 19, 2018

CES coverage suggests that maybe the end is nigh?

As usual, Stereophile's John Atkinson and Michael Fremer are providing some of the best coverage of audio at CES. The general tenor of reports indicates traffic is high but audio is relegated further and further, to the point that some wonder on camera if it's time for the audio industry to give up on this gathering. Time will tell.

Here's a link to one of  MF's detailed videos, the next best thing to being there as you get a sort of warts and all sense of the rooms, the sounds and the human traffic. And of course, Mikey is always entertaining, but am I the only one cringing slightly at the part where Luke Manley struggles to list the price tag of items in this more affordable system? (not to criticize him, it's the costs not the math).

But check out that new Technics table....phew..

Thursday, January 18, 2018

What's happening with Thiel?

Rumors of Thiel Audio's demise are surfacing online, from a usually reliable source, but their website shows the company still in business. The trouble is, the business they are now in seems to be quite different than the one the late Jim Thiel bequeathed.

I don't object to lifestyle speakers, but I sure do miss the old look and feel of Thiel products.  You decide....

A quick examination of the company's current site seems to suggest they have done away with all the old lines, and the official history of the company makes no mention of the Thiel most audiophiles know. 

A friend once visited the old Thiel company when considering speakers. He was allowed inside and given a tour of the factory. He said that during his tour, Jim Thiel made an announcement and called everyone together to explain a particular assembly issue that required extra care on a new line. By his account, the staff working there were all attentive and interested in what Jim was explaining,  asking questions about the process, and generally into the products they were building. One imagines it's not quite like that anymore.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Price increases again

I imagined, foolishly no doubt, that the price of ultrasonic vinyl cleaners would come down over time, perhaps forced by the need to capture new markets once the well-heeled had made their purchases. Apparently not, it seems, based on the latest word from Ultra Systems -- they sent me a note today that the Audio Desk  Pro vinyl cleaner would cost $4499 from Feb 1st.  Better get in there quickly if you're in the market....

Monday, January 8, 2018

CES PR in overdrive

I don't go to CES, I wish I did sometimes but life gets in the way. Still, my inbox gets the PR outpouring from companies hoping to catch someone's attention. Today alone I got more updates on more digital developments than I can shake a stick at, never mind understand.  'Studio sound' quality from headphones via a new Sonarworks thingamajig?  A veritable magic wand to link your wired components into a streaming 'ecosystem' from Riva? Am sure these make sense for some....hard for me to judge. Sometimes a picture is all you need, and to that end, here's the juiciest looking promotion that I received today, the forthcoming table from Music Hall, the MFF-9.3 Wood...price to be determined:

I've only heard MMF tables and speakers at RMAF, and usually then only in party-like conditions (these guys enjoy the shows) but I have always been mightily impressed with the sonics. Let's hope this table sounds as good as it looks.

Monday, January 1, 2018

And you thought you took hi-fi seriously

Forget the utility pole mod, it's the poor guy who can't open his fridge that I feel sorry for...and yes, I bet you too end up thinking..."he HAS a girlfriend?"

Thursday, December 28, 2017

JWM Alyson review now live

I enjoyed several months with JWM Acoustics Alyson AMLII speakers this summer, the very same pair that was in use at RMAF, so if you heard them there you can compare your impressions with mine. Full review now in HiFi'Zine.

Some speakers strike me as the product of science, others seem the application of art. Josh Miles' designs seem like a balance of the two, and with a very heavy helping of art in the enclosure designs.  Worth checking out for sure, see more at

Happy new year folks.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Cleaning those LPs on the cheap

So, you never got that ultrasonic machine for Christmas? Fear not, there's plenty of helpful videos online for would-be LP collectors and cleaners, it must be something about audiophiles. Here's my new favorite, you know it helps to dress properly when cleaning vinyl too - consider it a gift:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Speaking of Hendrix

Amazon link
I can't complain about the various releases coming out as I recently purchased the 9 LP resissue of the older velvet purple box, The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set.  Sadly, it's no longer boxed in velvet, and am sure the source is digital but it's a fine collection, both musically and sonically. Previously I'd thought there was not enough  interesting material on it to warrant purchase but when I found it competitively priced compared to used older sets, I bit the bullet.

Packaging is decent, though the individual album sleeves are basic. Contains good book, sized to read (!) and the quality of the vinyl in my copy was uniformly high. The sonics vary, obviously given the range of source material used, but there's enough good stuff here to enjoy and this forms the majority of the collection. It's an overwhelming collection in some ways, hard to review without getting into the minutia of Hendrix's catalog, but even though I have a fairly large Hendrix collection already, and tend to side with those who feel the albums released while he was alive are the only essentials, this collection still seems worthy to me.

The price varies considerably so if interested, search around or park it in your Amazon cart and watch it for a few days (it just changed $14 while I was editing this entry!).

Thursday, December 7, 2017

'NEW" Hendrix Album for Spring 2018?

Rolling Stone reporting a new release from the Hendrix Estate. I know, 50 years later, new stuff still being 'found' and packaged for release. I understand the demand, am curious myself, but sometimes I wonder what the artist would think.  My own preference would be for some of the live stuff we know is out there (Royal Albert Hall someone?).  I suppose it speaks to Jimi's enduring legacy that we are even having this discussion but heaven help any new listener to Jimi who lucks onto these 'albums' first and thinks what is the fuss about?  For fans only.

"Ten previously unreleased Jimi Hendrix recordings highlight Both Sides of the Sky, an upcoming posthumous LP from the legendary guitarist. The album will be available March 9th, 2018 via Sony Legacy Recordings on multiple formats, including CD, digital and a numbered, 180-gram audiophile double-vinyl
 The 13-track album compiles material recorded between January 1968 and February 1970. It is the final installment in a trilogy series of unissued archival recordings, following 2010's Valleys of Neptune and 2013's People, Hell and Angels. Engineer Eddie Kramer – who worked on every Hendrix project before the guitar legend's death – co-produced the album with John McDermott and Hendrix's sister, Janie Hendrix. 
Jimi Hendrix – Both Sides of the Sky Track List:1. "Mannish Boy" (previously unreleased)2. "Lover Man" (previously unreleased)3. "Hear My Train A Comin'" (previously unreleased)4. "Stepping Stone" (previously unreleased)5. "$20 Fine" (previously unreleased, featuring Stephen Stills)6. "Power Of Soul" (previously unavailable extended version)7. "Jungle" (previously unreleased)8. "Things I Used to Do" (featuring Johnny Winter)9. "Georgia Blues" (featuring Lonnie Youngblood)10. "Sweet Angel" (previously unreleased)11. "Woodstock" (previously unreleased, featuring Stephen Stills)12. "Send My Love To Linda" (previously unreleased)13. "Cherokee Mist" (previously unreleased)"