In which our hero meditates…
Some plaudits where plaudits are due
I have several items that have been accumulating in my notebook for a couple of months now. One was a notion for a full review that didn't need to be done, since another PF reviewer (Marshall Nack) did the main lifting; the others were candidates for mention and some jottings. Regardless, not every item that I may have on my list of possibilities sprout into full reviews…as a matter of fact, many do not. And some even evaporate into oh wells.
But I do have a three items what are praiseworthy, but not are not going to be given the full-review treatment by me. Since praise ought to be given when merited, even if that recognition is the soul of brevity, let me share these with you.
Dynamic Design Neutron SW 16 Power Cord
Bill Artope of Dynamic Design at THE Show Newport Beach 2016 (photograph and processing by David W. Robinson)
Bill Artope of Dynamic Design approached me months ago about evaluating a power cable, their Neutron SW 16 Power Cord. Most cable review overtures that I receive are politely declined, since I don't have the time to deal with the array of companies that are looking for ink, virtual or not. Furthermore, there are a lot of cable designs out there that don't do much for me…I've spent too many years with reference-grade products to have much patience with lesser cables. That's not me being snooty, by the way; it's just that with so many cable companies about, life's too short.
Anyway, I was familiar with the Dynamic Design products, having heard them in some audio show rooms that had impressed me recently, enough to give them an Audio Oasis! Award or two. So, when Bill asked me about it, I told him that I would give the Neutron SW 16 Power Cord a go of it.
Note that I wasn't the only person at PF evaluating the Neutron; Marshall Nack, who has experience with Dynamic Design products, was digging deeply into them. You'll see his review in Issue 85. Go there for photographs, details, and a more extended…but likewise favorable…commentary.
The Neutron SW 16 arrived shortly thereafter. I placed it into our reference desktop system for some extended near-field listening. Since Bill recommended it especially for digital components, I plugged it into our Esoteric DV-60 SACD/Blu Ray player, which has a great transport and is pretty revealing of changes like cabling. The other end went into our Furutech Daytona 303 Line Conditioner/Power Distributor.
The Neutron SW 16 is an active-shielded power cable. There is a small battery housing that plugs into the male end of the cord, powering the shield. The battery pack can be shut off when not in use, to preserve battery life…a wise idea. Cable construction is excellent, and the look is very fine.
There's no need for War and Peace here, especially given Marshall's comments, with which I would generally agree. The results in our desktop reference system rather surprised me. We have a good library of reference cable products here, ranging from Kubala-Sosna to Kimber Cables to Cardas Cables to TARA Labs to Skogrand Cables to Furutech to Silent Source...the list is a long one.
I was able to compare the Dynamic Design Neutron SW 16 active power cable with several of these, and found that the Neutron SW 16 was definitely in the front rank. Substituting it in place of two other reference power cables, I heard no diminution of quality in any dimension: No loss of harmonic balance, no collapse of soundstage or imaging, no leaking of transparency, no loss of dynamics, no increase of grain or noise…in fact, the DD acquitted itself as a true reference-caliber cable. I have been using it for several months now, with full satisfaction.
So let me amen the praise from Marshall Nack…the Dynamic Design Neutron SW 16 active power cable is the real deal!
Neutron SW16 Digital Power Cord
$7500 1.5 meter
Dynamic Design Corp
Daria: Strawberry Fields Forever on Origin/OA2 Records
Strawberry Fields Forever
Songs by the Beatles
Origin / OA2 Records
© 2016 Daria Mautner
Produced by Sam Bevan and Daria
Instrumental Arrangements by Sam Bevan and Daria
Vocal Arrangements by Daria
- When I'm Sixty-Four Paul McCartney 4:01
- Strawberry Fields Forever John Lennon 4:44
- Come Together John Lennon 4:09
- Fixing a Hole Paul McCartney 4:33
- Can't Buy Me Love Paul McCartney 3:48
- Bird Medley 5:56 (Blackbird Paul McCartney; Icarus Ralph Towner; Bye Bye Blackbird Ray Henderson/Mort Dixon)
- The Fool on the Hill Paul McCartney 4:16
- If I Fell John Lennon 4:17
- Julia John Lennon 5:02
- Helter Skelter Paul McCartney 3:42
- She's Going Home Daria 3:35
All Beatle's Songs:
John Lennon and Paul McCartney (PRS) - (Sony/ATV Tunes LLC / ASCAP)
Icarus Ralph Towner - (Distant Hills Music / ASCAP)
Bye Bye Blackbird Ray Henderson/Mort Dixon -
(Olde Clover Leaf Music / Ray Henderson Music Co. Inc. / ASCAP)
She's Going Home Daria Mautner - (Jazz 'm Up Productions / ASCAP)
News flash: I do not usually care for covers of The Beatles. No way. No how.
Not cutesy cover bands; not musicians who try to sound like them; not cover music. The Beatles were unique…sui generis…no toca white man!
And so, when Joe Cohen approached me to review Daria's new album, Strawberry Fields Forever, I was friendly, but not enthusiastic.
In the first place, I don't do many music reviews. In the second place, did I mention that I don't like covers of The Beatles? In the third place, see the first place. In the fourth place, see the second place.
But Joe is a really good audiobud, and I've heard some of Daria's work before…the girl has got a musical way about her, without a doubt. In fact, she's got more Jazzic mojo going than some female jazz performers that I could name…but no, I'll resist that temptation.
I got the original album via download link from Joe, and put it in the queue. A first-time listen to the whole thing…a break for a while…and then went back to it to see how it hung on my heart.
Well, I have to admit it: Despite my skepticism, Daria and her ensemble (too many to mention; see the Blue Coast Records link before for the complete profile of the musicians) sung her way past my sleeping dragons, and touched my heart. Really.
The arrangements are lovely and Jazzic, with a variety of instrumentations and an excellent feel for the possibilities of The Beatles' compositions. The spirit of Jazz is improv, of course, and so don't expect simple covers here. Daria rules…she's the driving force at the core of each of these tracks, with compelling vocal performances and a smooth seduction in all of her musical insights. Her surety of interpretation and artistic execution are marvelous, and don't pall over time. Is there anything worse than boring jazz? And this isn't. Sweet and mellow, but done with mastery and a bit of an edge.
Great stuff! It won me over, despite my doubts. Thanks, Joe…this was a solid!
And highly recommended!
Where to buy?
Blue Coast Music has Daria's album available in the original recording's 96/24 PCM .WAV format. 44.1kHz .WAV, 96/24 FLAC, Single DSD, and Double DSD versions are also available. This is the most comprehensive download array possible…Cookie Marenco and company do superb work with the provenance and download options for you. This is my recommended source for Daria's album. You'll find it at http://daria.downloadsnow.net/.
If you need physical media, the CD version of this album is available from Amazon.
Patricia Barber, Café Blue UN-mastered, reissued in "unmastered" Capitol Studios mix
OK, so here's another music review. Shoot me for exaggeration earlier.
Back in April, Mike Friedman at Premonition Records contacted me about writing up their new Patricia Barber SACD, Café Blue UN-mastered. He was very enthusiastic about the quality of this SACD, as opposed to any other version released in that format. I have the previous MoFi SACD release, from back when, the CD version, and have even heard the album on 10.5" 15 IPS half-track quarter-inch tape right here in our reference listening room. (Boy, do I wish that I had a copy of that tape!) Naturally, I also have it on LP, and have the Single DSD download from Acoustic Sounds' Superhirez site on my list.
Normally, my interest would be tempered by the fact that I have so many versions of this well-known album. Additionally, the fact that the original was recorded in PCM and mixed in 96/24 would be a wet blanket, although I'll openly confess that this is a great recording, regardless. But Mike said that the new mastering to DSD directly from the master mix, without a lot of "remastering" fiddling about, and done by Sir Gus Skinas, Prince of DSD, was enough to sell me on giving it a try.
Sir Gus in the studio at the wheel of his beloved Moog Synthesizer (photograph and image processing by David W. Robinson)
Good thing I did! Gus says that his approach to the remastering of Café Blue was to UN-master it…that is, to avoid messing with an exceptional master recording, and instead, do everything possible to stay the hell out of the way, and deliver it.
According to his notes, the 2011 mix from the digital multitrack that he used here was done in the analog domain at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, and then bopped from analog tapes to 192/24. (Don't ask me why they didn't take these tapes directly to DSD…I just work here.) All reverb and ambience was likewise done in analog chambers (= "real reverb plates and rooms") instead of using PCM digital bogosity. Capitol was also using a custom Neve console for this project (the kind lusted over by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, as gushed over in his recent Blu Ray, Sound City). The master mix reflected this exceptional signal coolness wondrously. Gus figured that the best thing to do would be to pipe this as directly as possible to the listener via DSD and SACD. (This is what he and Premonition Records mean when they say that this is the "UN-mastered" version.)
I'm here to say that Gus and Premonition Records have smashed a grand slam on this one. This is flat-out and bar-none the best version of Café Blue that I've heard. Exceptional detail, and a wonderful sense of space, with the sultry and melancholy lusciousness of Barber's voice shimmering. Whether or not you own an earlier version, I strongly recommend that you add this SACD to your library of recordings…it's very special. For those of you who prefer to download DSD files, go to Acoustic Sounds' Superhirez site HERE and snag this one. It's definitely a keeper!