Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My current (modest) home hi fi

Back when myjazzworld was still up, Smooth use to occasionally post about gear, so in the spirit of Smooth (we miss you!) here's a quick rundown on the setup I'm happy with.

Back in the day, it was the speakers and the turntable phono cartridge that made the most difference, and now I'd say little has changed. The only thing new in the equation is the DAC, or digital to analog converter. Unless you listen primarily to vinyl, the DAC has replaced the phono cartridge in importance.

I listen to most of my music in mp3 form off my iPod. While some audiophiles may cringe, it's not that bad. I'm using a $400 Wadia i170i digital transport to get the digital signal out of the iPod. From there I'm using a lovely but inexpensive Muse DAC with 4 parallel Phillips TDA1543 chips. It's commonly available for around $60 on ebay. I've tried other DACs using the more respected PCM1793 chip, but I always come back to the Muse. I don't really understand the theory behind parallel non-oversampling DACs, but my ears are sold.

For years I used the highly acclaimed (and rightfully so!) Trends TA-10 digital amp. It really sounds lovely, though other digital amps using the same Tripath TA2024 chip (commonly available on ebay for well under $100) have sounded equally good when I've hooked them up to my system. The Trends got booted out though on visual appeal. I'm now using the $200 Qinpu A3 mini hybrid tube amp. Even though it's only rated 8.5 watts per channel, it's got (as they say) more "real world" power than the 10 watt Trends amp. Audiophiles will rightfully note that it's not a "real" tube amp as the tubes are run at low wattage and just color the sound of the preamplifier. I think it sounds great, as good as the Trends T amp, and it looks a lot more impressive on my book shelf. I've used a cheap low wattage "starved plate" design pre-amp for years to record microphones and guitar, so I've got no issues with low wattage tubes in the pre amp section.

My minuscule system needs highly efficient speakers, even though my living room is a boat like 9 feet wide. I'm very happy with my $330 Axiom M3ti bookshelf speakers. I think the 92spl rating is optimistic, but they have enough efficiency to fill my small room with sound and thumping bass well before the 12 noon mark on either of my low wattage amps volume controls.

I'm not going to pretend to be an audiophile. My small system cost less than most individual audiophile components, but it makes me happy.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sonny Simmons, Mixolydis (Blue Marge 29, 2002)

A great CD that has somehow escaped the blogosphere so far. It's in the spirit of the two awesome Quest recordings "Ancient Ritual" and "American Jungle," if a bit mellower and more melodic at times. As you might already know, in the early sixties Simmons went to NYC and was one of the most promising avante garde players. In 1965, he moved back to the San Francisco east bay area and married trumpeter Barbara Donald, a double whammy that pretty much ended his musical career. He spent much of the 70s and 80s destitute and occasionally playing on the streets. He reemerged in 1994 with the killer Ancient Ritual, and his playing since has never been better. This one was recorded July 27 & 28, 2001 at Studio Sysmo, Paris, France.

1. Echoes Of Eric Dolphy (Sonny Simmons) [5:21]
2. Mixolydis (Sonny Simmons) [8:04]
3. The Lady From Trinidad * (Sonny Simmons) [8:14]
4. Benedictina (Sonny Simmons) [6:00]
5. Reverend Church ** (Sonny Simmons) [8:21]
6. Blues In The Pocket (John Hicks) [5:37]
7. The Voodoo Stomp (Sonny Simmons) [8:08]
8. The Promise (John Coltrane) [9:00]

Sonny Simmons : alto saxophone, English horn
Eddie Henderson : trumpet
John Hicks : piano
Curtis Lundy : bass
Victor Lewis : drums

producer : Gérard Terronès