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The Year 2017 - What the Heck Happened?

12-09-2017 | By Dave Clark | Issue 94

Alright, so as 2017 winds down I am left with a feeling of, "Where did it all go?" Not just as in all things audio, but also as in well… yeah, that went quicker than I thought—but then most years do as one gets older; time is fleeting. What the heck happened? Along with that, this has been a year of change for me… in one very major way. As a partner in PF with my wife Carol (we are one half) and David Robinson and his wife Lila Ritsema (who are the other half), audio has been a big part of my life for many years now, but since we retired a year and half ago, I find myself spending considerable time in my studio as I have returned to my art (Go to my site to see what I am up to art-wise).

Yeah, my art. Before Carol and I were married some 37 years ago, I was rather active with shows and agents. Marriage, change in careers, change in residences, change in everything all sort of caused me to put my art on the back burner... of which after a few years on that burner it was rather cold and forgotten. Now some 40 years later here I am again. I am back. From visiting my site, you can see that I build functional, or dysfunctional art, depending on how you see it. In some cases, it is more like a table, and yet in other cases, it is well… not so much table, but art. Truth is, it is all art… just depends on how you look at it… or them I guess if they are functional or not. All of this means I spend a lot more time out in the studio working on my next piece and listening to music there… and not in here, in the house with the main system. In the studio (alright so it is half my garage)  I have set up an older integrated from Kenwood that gets an analog signal from an audioengine B1 unit being fed music from either Tidal or my own files (using Subsonic). Either option is streamed using Bluetooth from my iPhone. Speakers are a pair of Dayton B625 mounted in adjustable wall-stands. All cables are from Kimber. This fills the studio with pretty decent sound… I mean it can get loud while still offering a rather well-balanced sound musically and sonically. And there is an Onkyo receiver feeding a pair of decent 2-way outdoor speakers, along with a subwoofer, that covers the area directly outside the studio when I need to be... outside (which is actually the driveway). The Onkyo gets a digital signal from the audioengine B1 allowing me to play both areas at once with whatever I feel like streaming at the moment... filling the areas with the music I like… and hell it sounds pretty good for what it is and for what I want it to do. So, when I am working on something I am quite happy. This time covers most of a day (I find myself in the studio 3-4 days out of the week, if not more) and by dinner, I am pretty spent and in need of a shower, a drink or four... and rest… so time in the main system is scattered here and there. 

For sure I spend enough listening to whatever is here for review, but I find time working on my art to be more rewarding on so many levels.

Anyhow, what this means is that I am not sure who or what to recognize for awards for 2017… for sure I reviewed some interesting gear this year and found all to be quite rewarding musically here in our home. The Antipodes CORE and EDGE combo (HERE), the Aurender A10, the Gold Note Mediterraneo Turntable, B 5.1 Arm, Donatello MC Cartridge (HERE), and PH-10 phonostage (HERE), the Focal ELAR headphones (HERE), and cables from PAD, WyWires, Curious, Cardas, Anticables, and Wireworld. Toss in the recent review of products from SOtM and there you go…. Oh wait, the new Aries G2 from AURALiC is here too. So, yeah, some stellar products and many that are worthy of being recognized. I will admit that I have no interest in the muy expensive stuff out there—just not anything I would spend serious time listening to, not my thing. Nor Carol's. So, we focus on the stuff that is perhaps more "affordable" and easier for the majority to purchase and enjoy. Companies like Schiit Audio (go Jason, Mike, and company!) and ELAC US (go Andrew and company!) are where we find the joy—quality and affordable—and are pushing the envelope for the people who love music, want to get into audio, but are put off by big boxes that require a big box of cash.

And we did buy a lot of music this year and several titles have stood out for us… UNKLE's The Road, Part 1, Mogwai's Every Country's Sun, the remasters of Eno's early albums, Lambchop's FLOTUS, Bowie's Blackstar, Rock N Roll Consciousness by Thurston Moore, and so on. Lots of great new music along with some that are older, but still new to me… like John Lurie's National Orchestra's Inventions of Animals to name just one. Carol and I are cut from a way different musical cloth than perhaps 90% of the people who are in the audio community. We do not listen to much in the way of Jazz, pretty much zero Classical, no female vocals (Jazz, pop, etc. unless it is rather different but even then...), or pop or whatever passes as 'mainstream' music, or Folk and so on. Certainly not anything that is considered "audiophile" or the like. It is all fine... it is just who we are and where we came from... and yet our music collection is quite diverse. Go figure. One person's music is another person's noise... and vice versa.

So where is this going? I dunno. I know that 2018 will find me spending just as much time out in the studio, along with traveling and whatnot… and hopefully a few shows for my art as well. Audio will be there, but I see my interaction in gear to be changing to some degree—more time doing this and less time doing that. What this means as far as formal reviews? Not sure… perhaps more "quick impressions" will be in the mix of what is happening here in the future.

But, let me say that I think would recognize the new Aries G2 from AURALiC (even with my limited time this is a clear winner - $3899) and the CORE/EDGE combo from Antipodes Audio… as well as the Gold Note Mediterraneo Turntable, B 5.1 Arm, Donatello MC Cartridge, and PH-10 phonostage—all as a combo. Oh and the Focal ELEAR headphones. Oh... and the Acoustic Research AR-H1 headphones (here for review, but at $599 are a real steal - man are these good!)

And for sure one can add in The Road, Part 1 from UNKLE... the second cut has become an important statement about our relationship... 

the remasters from of Eno's Before and After Science, Another Green World, Taking Tiger Mountain, and Here Comes the Warm Jets...

and John Lurie's National Orchestra's Inventions of Animals… and I am done.

See you in 2018 with whatever that brings us. The good, the bad, the ugly...