My Love of Good Sound–At Home

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We all give thanks for penicillin, anaesthesia, and state of the art medical science and modern medicines.  For people who watch a romantic film set in the 19th century England or French countryside and wish to go back, I say go ahead, I’m happy to be living now.  I wouldn’t want to have any dental work to be done without novocain, let alone an operation without anaesthesia.

As a melomane (French word for music lover, the closest we have is “musicophile”, not often used) I also want to express thanks and gratitude for audio pioneers who helped give us good sound.  Before wax cylinders and vinyl records, you’d have to be in a bar with a bar band, a concert hall, or have enough money and a big enough home or apartment to have a chamber group entertain.  The latter is the stuff of 19th century French painters and Tolstoy novels.

Don’t get me wrong;  I’ve been to 1000s of concerts going back to high school, when I went to every jazz club in LA:  The Lighthouse, Marty’s on the Hill, Shelly’s Manne Hole, and other clubs long since gone.  And while I enjoy the group vibe and shared enthusiasm of club and concert venues, I don’t like it when the person sitting next to me is sick and coughing, or when at jazz clubs people are talking, oblivious to others trying to listen.  I once was invited by a Rumanian waiter at Catalina’s to be their official bouncer after I almost clocked a noisy, rude patron—he and his noisy party finally left the club.

I like the controlled conditions at home for serious listening.  Few distractions.

When Edison invented the talking machine in 1877, everything changed.   First there were wax cylinders, then the vinyl record was born in the form of 78 rpm records that lasted all the way up to the early 1950s, when Columbia Records introduced the 331/3 longplay record.  I still love the immediacy and snap of vinyl.  Most cd’s can’t come close.  And MP3’s do not sound good on a high-resolution audio system. Just ask Henry Rollins, an admitted audiophile (see earlier post on RP).

There was also a concomitant improvement in playback technology.  Tube amps gave way to transistors, then to silicone chips, ipods and MP3’s.  My first decent stereo came when I was 21 and bought a Japanese transistor receiver and a Garrard SL55 turntable.  I used Wharfedale speakers.  Later came a Marantz receiver, another pair of English speakers, Celestion Ditton 44s, and a Swiss Thorens turntable, made by the company famous for making cuckoo clocks.

Currently I’m old school, with tube amps, a Linn Sondek turntable, and Dunlavy speakers. Using tube amps with Russian output tubes, some of which were originally used in the navigation systems of Soviet Mig fighters