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Positive Feedback ISSUE 73
may/june 2014


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Hi David,
We met briefly in the elevator at The Home Electronics Show and you mentioned that you appreciated my intelligent question about the time distortion inherent in PCM. Actually, I phrased it as a question about DSD, but that's because I am a strong DSD advocate and user.

As a matter of fact, Chebon from Mytek recently borrowed my system for a very special "listen" for a very well-known musical celebrity. This celebrity has now bought his own 32 channel system and intends to record his new material in DSD, which will be a great boon for us all.

My road to DSD started as I grew up in my dad's studio. His name is Dick Hamilton. You may have heard his "Dick Cary and Friends" CDs which were well received in the audiophile community. We had (and I still have) a 1 inch 8 track 3M machine, a 4 buss rotary board built by Bill Putnam himself, a McIntosh 240 powering Altec 604E's in Frank Demedio cabinets, 7 RCA 44 ribbon mics, a Modular Moog 3C, even a subterranean echo chamber so our floor was suspended wood, you get the idea. When the world went digital, I felt the downgrade in quality. When the world started multiplexing, I felt it even further.

Eventually, I was blessed by some knowledge and some good ears and a friend who pointed me to separate soundcards for every track (Bruce Forat), and another who showed me balanced power and the Meitner converters, which he uses for PCM (Bob Lanzner). Stunned with the quality of the converter, I researched and found its true purpose, DSD! Luckily my friend Guido Brohl at TASCAM had graciously given me their 1000 unit. I attached them and marveled at the sound.

Further research led me to Gus Skinas. He very graciously let me see for myself that the Sonoma is the absolute best system in the world to use.

I make many styles of music and have worked with people from Prince to Chad Hugo of the Neptunes and am exerting my influence to a younger set, just like you were talking about in your conference on DSD. Now that I understand the fan wants to know all these details—we can supply some great ones.My personal drum set was bought by John Guerin in 1973 so my dad could avoid further cartage fees to the studio, for instance.

I also intend to upgrade and promote better cables to audio engineers and younger fans.This is an area where my dad didn't even venture.Up until recently, I had settled upon Mogami or Canari as standards.I have upcoming listens in my studio courtesy of AudioQuest, Kimber, Clarus, and a newer company named Audio Art Cable.

Ultimately, it's about better music and everything that means.To that end, I was incredibly impressed by Ray Kimber's Iso Mic recordings!

I used to engineer some of my dad's sessions with a "double MS pair setup in 360" using RCA 44's and Sennheiser MKH405's.I've enclosed an mp3 so you can hear the result.Forgive its PCM-ness.



Hello Sky…

Yes, I remember our meeting, though THE Show was so busy that many things meld together in my mind.

That's a great story about the breakthrough with this well-known performer and DSD! Thanks for sharing it; it's always encouraging when key musicians "get it." A 32-channel DSD system from Michal will be quite a thing for him to use.

You have quite a history in audio! Your father's work was an inspiration to you, and you've been blessed with providential connections to a network of people who understand excellence in audio. That really helps! I've got my own network, and rely on it all the time.

Great to meet you, Sky. I'll be at RMAF 2014; if you're there, perhaps we'll see each other again.



Dr. David W. Robinson

Your recent discourse regarding the current "state of the nation" on pricing of products in the High End audio industry couldn't have come a better time.

I myself have had much the same thoughts rattling around my brain box of late, most recently after reading most of the CES 2014 show reports online. It seems that each room featured gear that not only tried to "one up" the next in terms of pricing, but also moved to set the entire bar even further up the stratosphere.

While I understand the very nature of the game is about performance above cost, I truly have to wonder just what is going on of late? Firstly, is the market for this sort of gear THAT large? I know the Asian and Russian nouveau riche have a large appetite for this stuff, but are they largely buying as a status thing, rather like audio jewelry? In that context, they might as well just buy big hunks of LED backlit machined aluminum and sit it on a shelf. because ultimately they care not one iota for what it truly sounds like, or whether it approaches the ideal of reproducing a musical performance.The current skew in economic salary levels is certainly playing havoc with the ability of those who can (and do !) appreciate this level of product the ability to pursue it. Food, housing, fuel, and other essentials are all escalating, and eroding the average families disposable income, and never before have there been so many distractions to steal our "disposable" income. Not to mention many that many of the customers for some of this gear, are now getting to an age where they are re-evaluating priorities, and somehow, a new $95k power amp isn't on the list.

Secondly, and this is perhaps the key point. The ever increasing price of this gear relative to income, is simply pushing away the very audience it tries to attract. Rather like similar magnetic poles repelling each other. I know that in my own situation, I have become so disgusted by the inapproachability of the gear (and the snot nosed attitude the accompanies it.. i.e.: here's my platinum card, may I please audition this??), that after 40 years of immersing myself in all things audio, I have pretty much "kicked the habit". I have assembled a very fine main system (and a couple of other rigs I like to "play" with) but short of keeping an eye on what I consider the "high value" range (up to $5-7k per component) I am really closing the door on anything above that level.

It is remarkably ironic that in an era where no one should suffer with sub par sound, the High End is not doing nearly as much to foster growth in the market segment that it needs to survive. The "20 something" crowd that is glued to their personal devices (tablets, phones, phablets, pads, and pods) and are perfectly content with a $45 pair of ear buds are never going to embrace an $80k pair of monoblock amps strapped to a $120k pair of speakers that force you to remain in one place to enjoy media. It is a conundrum for sure, but there is always hope I suppose, several years ago no one would have believed vinyl would have had another crack at the bat, whether it's a short lived fad, or something more permanent, I'm not sure.

Ultimately, I suppose there will be a market for the upper echelon of product, like most things, some will only be satisfied with the audio equivalent of a Lambo, but I do believe there will be a thinning of the herd down the road, and more brand consolidations to survive.


David Dowdell
Toronto, Canada

The Higher End

About the "expectation of privacy" and those emails to Positive Feedback Online

Ye Olde Editor

We do like hearing from you, our readers. It adds a great deal fun to what we do, encourages our editors and writers, provides information we may have missed, and correction that we may need. This is all to the good.

Your communication with us these days is almost always via the highly rational path of email. And we do read it, responding to the constructive correspondence—which is most of it, really—as quickly as possible. (The destructive stuff is routed directly to the bit bucket. Didn't yo' mama teach you better than that?!) Dave Clark and I are generally pretty rapid in getting back to you if a response is needed from us, or in re-directing inquiries to the appropriate person at PFO if it needs to go to an editor or writer.

By the way: please understand that the writers and editors at PFO are helpful folks, eager to assist their fellow audio/music lovers, or they wouldn't be doing what they're doing. Nevertheless, PFO is not an audio consulting service. Please do not clog the gears with complex requests for assistance with the sourcing of audio gear in your personal setting. Remember too that PFO is not, and has never been, an audio ombudsman. If you are having problems with a particular vendor, company, or dealer, please avail yourself of the normal channels for such resolution; no audio publication has the time or resources to take on such a responsibility for consumers. Enough said.

With an increasing flow of emails to Positive Feedback Online, and upon evidence of some recent confusion on the part of our email correspondents, it's become necessary to re-state the ground rules by which we operate here. So gather round the campfire, friends…

Any time an email, or an exchange of emails, is both constructive and of potential wider interest, we exercise the reserved right to publish it in "Reverberations," the letters section of PFO. This is, after all, a publication, a "journal for the audio arts." We are seeking to further educate and entertain our readership in our common love for fine audio, and contributions in the form of emails/letters from our readers are one way that we accomplish this goal. When you write to any of us… our essayists and reviewers included… we assume that you are aware of our nature as a publication, and that you write to us in the light of that knowledge.

This means that—unless you request confidentiality explicitly in your email or letter—there is no expectation of privacy here at Positive Feedback Online.

To put it another way: Any email or letter sent to this journal will be considered fair game for publication, unless you state in the document itself that the contents are private/confidential.

So… our default is PUBLISH.

The reverse is also true: the editors do reserve the right not to publish an email or letter. We are not obligated to publish your letter or comments simply because they are submitted. And hostile, negative, sarcastic, destructive emails or letters are never published.

So…sometimes we DON'T PUBLISH.

Finally, our subtitle for "Reverberations"—"Our readers respond—we respond right back!" is not a guarantee that we will always respond to an email or letter that is published. Often we do; sometimes we don't… usually when we don't, it's a case of res ipsa loquitur.

So finally… sometimes we PUBLISH WITHOUT RESPONSE.

I think that makes things clear. Having said all of this in the name of clarity, keep those cards and letters coming in!

All the best,

David W. Robinson