Gramophone Dreams

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Herb Reichert  |  Oct 02, 2014  |  6 comments
My best old friend, "David Ray of Today," dropped out of school when he was 15 so that he could stock vegetables on the night shift at the IGA in a small Illinois farm town. By the time he'd turned 25, he owned five houses, 25 Cadillacs, and a barn full of knickknacks.

David chose to work nights so his days would be free to buy objets d'art at the local Salvation Army store. He bought Fiesta Ware, Bakelite radios, homemade quilts, and locally fashioned tin chicken-feeders. The quilts had to be hand-sewn and in perfect condition, with no stains. The radios had to work, have all their knobs, and their Masonite backboards had to be whole and unbroken. Most important, none of these things could cost over $5.

Herb Reichert  |  May 31, 2016  |  2 comments
This Gramophone Dream is about my continuing adventures as I slowly scale the pyramid of analog audio. I'm still too close to the sandy earth to see the mythical gold tip or enjoy a six-figure super-turntable. However, in this month's episode, I do reach a level where I can relax, play some eternally beautiful music, and peer out over the vast desert of record-player mediocrity.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 26, 2016  |  17 comments
Which record player has achieved international acclaim as a musical instrument in its own right?

Which turntable is revered for its near-indestructible build quality?

Which disc spinner has played more records—and made more people drink, drug, dance, and make out—than any other?

Which turntable has sold over three million units?

Hint: It is not made in the US, the UK, China, or Switzerland.

Herb Reichert  |  Oct 06, 2016  |  3 comments
When you get old and gray and all them shoot-'em-up dudes doe wanna ride wit you no mo, don't fret—you can still have fun. Once you're a geezer, you'll have more time to work in the garden, drink tea, buy LPs, and fiddle with your unipivot.

When I was José Cuervo young, I mocked belt-drive turntables, unipivot tonearms, and teetotalers. "You can't drink, dance, shoot up the bar, and play hot records wit no persnickety belt-drive or wobbly unipivot. You need a masculine, pro-fessional-quality direct-drive or rim-drive turntable with a sturdy a gimbal-bearing tonearm!"

Herb Reichert  |  Nov 29, 2016  |  6 comments
My passion for listening to music through headphones is fueled by the enhanced sense of intimacy and extra feeling of connectedness I experience in rediscovering recordings I already love. You know the old audiophile cliché: It's like hearing my record collection for the first time. High-quality headphones provide a sharper-than-box-speaker lens that lets me experience lyrics, melodies, and instrumental textures more close-up and magnified.
Herb Reichert  |  Jan 31, 2017  |  12 comments
UK, 1976: Upon its release, Rega Research's original Planar 3 turntable became the poor man's Linn Sondek LP12. It opened a gateway of affordability to the exotic world of high-quality British record players. Forty years later, the new Planar 3 turntable and its "light and rigid" engineering aesthetic, as conceived by Rega founder Roy Gandy, still occupy an admirably working-class, pro-music position in an audio world increasingly populated by gold-plated tonearms and quarter-ton turntables.
Herb Reichert  |  Mar 30, 2017  |  35 comments
Some of our readers seem to believe that the essence of high-quality audio is disclosed primarily by science, and not by dreamy, bodice-ripping adventures that take place on plush carpets behind closed doors. Perhaps they're right. Unfortunately, I have had no personal experiences that confirm that hypothesis.
Herb Reichert  |  May 23, 2017  |  8 comments
As much as I delight in pagan dreams of sweetly perfumed garden nymphs, I'm embarrassed to admit that my mind also drifts in pleasant reveries whenever I hear the words research and development in the same sentence. I am by nature a greasy gearhead. The idea of taking well-considered steps of engineering to analyze and possibly improve the operation of any electrical or mechanical system never fails to get my imaginative juices flowing. This is why I've spent decades fascinated by perfectionist audio: I like watching and participating in its edgy, eccentric evolution.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 18, 2017  |  16 comments
Recently, a friend played me a masterpiece: Ike & Tina Turner's River Deep—Mountain High, arranged by Jack Nitzsche and produced by Phil Spector (LP, A&M SP 4178). It sounded terrible: murky, distant, with badly booming bass. Even before the first track was over, we both laughed and called it a night.

Nevertheless, I went home obsessed with Tina's inspired singing and Spector's infamous Wall of Sound production.

Herb Reichert  |  Nov 28, 2017  |  8 comments
I spend my days comparing cartridges and speaker stands, arguing about imaging and microphone placement, speculating about DAC filters, and lately, sometimes, very secretly listening to headphones connected not to commercially available headphone amplifiers but directly to the outputs of basic tubed and solid-state power amplifiers. No person in his right mind would or should try this—it's too easy to destroy a pair of delicate, expensive headphones. But for me, it's been worth the risk.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 16, 2014  |  2 comments
• 1947: General Electric introduces a variable-reluctance phono cartridge with a 0.3mil sapphire stylus and 11mV output.

• 1948: Brook Electronics Inc. (Elizabeth, New Jersey) introduces the 12A audio amplifier and 12A3 preamplifier, beginning the era of high-fidelity audio separates.

Since hi-fi's postwar beginnings, hundreds of high-quality audio inventions for the home have thrilled and satisfied music lovers worldwide. But inevitably, no more than a few score companies, and maybe a dozen or so engineer-designers, have defined audio's most creative and enduring achievements.

Herb Reichert  |  Feb 08, 2018  |  5 comments
In my October 2017 column I reported on two turntables, the Palmer 2.5 and AMG Giro G9, each costing $10,000 and up, depending on ancillaries. It wasn't that I wanted to get all Mikey Fremer Uptown on you; I wanted to refine my listening skills and familiarize my senses with what my own humble system would sound like with a pair of world-class record players.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 05, 2018  |  9 comments
I spent a snowy New York City evening at Rhapsody Music & Cinema, talking with the proprietor, Bob Visintainer, and watching my friend Michael Trei install a Lyra Etna SL moving-coil cartridge in a Graham Engineering Phantom III tonearm mounted on a TechDAS Air Force 3 turntable tethered to a Zesto Tessera phono stage. Every wall was lined with big, floorstanding speakers, all of them expensive. On the main stage that day were Alta Audio's Hestia Titaniums ($32,000/pair).
Herb Reichert  |  May 31, 2018  |  9 comments
Brooklyn, 1979: Fridays were fierce. After a week of doing construction, I would gobble Wild Turkey at the Spring Lounge, then fall asleep on the F train with a fold of cash and a Sony Walkman stuffed in a chest pocket of my paint-spattered Belstaff Trialmaster jacket. Usually I missed my York Street stop by only a few stations, but occasionally I'd wake up at sunrise on Saturday at the last stop: Coney Island. I didn't mind. It was restorative to shuffle the deserted boardwalk, listening to the Ramones' Road to Ruin or Television's Marquee Moon.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 24, 2018  |  31 comments
Before I spin this 23rd edition of "Gramophone Dreams," I must ask: How many of you are using zip-cord as your speaker cables? RadioShack interconnects? Those black universal 18/3 power cords that come standard with virtually every audio amplifier?

AudioQuest Storm Tornado/High-Current power cord
A few months after I wrote about AudioQuest's Niagara 1000 power-line conditioner ($1000), my friend Sphere asked if I'd ever then removed the Niagara from my system, listened, and still thought it improved the sound.

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