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Monday, 08 December 2014


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Many musicians have an attachment to a particular instrument in their possession. As a photographer, I have bonded with certain cameras, but those were film cameras. For me, the digital stuff we have now somehow no longer has that je ne sais quoi.

I hadn't even realized Stereophile was still around. It's kind of amazing that Sam Tellig and J. Gordon Holt, who have been writing for that magazine seemingly forever, are still around.

I suspect there is a little bit of playful self-mockery in that quote from Tellig. At least, I hope so.

[J. Gordon Holt died in 2009, and had left Stereophile and defected to The Absolute Sound before his death. --Mike]

And your point is ... ?
I often make sure that my walnut LP12 is sitting level and comfortably before retiring at night. I frequently change it's oil, carefully adjust it's suspension springs on it's trampolin damper and replace it's drive belt annually, even though it's not really necessary. I polish the cover as diligently as I would my red ringed lenses, I set up the arm with measured precision and I wax the plinth with the finest of waxes.
Maybe the effort of saving for 25yrs to finally go back to the place I first heard one to lay my own money down on the counter and walk away with something very, very special has made me very, very sad but actually I think it is simply acknowledging the fact that the sound that fills my front room still leaves me breathless after more than a decade and is a most wonderful and moving experience.
Many would mock, many would sneer but a few would understand. No one was ever sorry for buying the best. It didn't come easy and it didn't come cheap but it did come and I have it and enjoy it every time it drags a rock through a groove: I also enjoy it when it doesn't. It is an example of truly excellent engineering, it has stood the test of time and in being so well made it has a beauty all of it's own.
The parallels to a great piece of art on a wall or sculpture on a plinth are not hard to extrapolate.
I would expect someone who's saved for a long time to buy a Ferrari would understand, too, but I'll never have a Ferrari. I do have a Ferrari among record decks, though (actually more a Maserati among record decks when I think about it).
The joy and attachment is not in it's cost, a wealthy man could buy a dozen and wouldn't feel how I feel about ownership, but in what it has cost you and why you went through all the effort and angst and eventually slung a very great deal of your own hard earned money at an anachronistic analogue device that only drags a rock through a groove.
It's listening to it that makes the hairs on the back of my neck tingle, just like standing where the artist stood in front of a truly great work of art.
Money can buy anything but only sacrifice can make it owning it worthwhile. And appreciation of excellence in any field is a shared delight.


It is summed up best by the very great and prematurely late Bob Freeman http://www.bobfreeman.co.uk who when writing of a Curtiss engine wrote
"People who see these things purely as a means of generating motive power could enhance their prospects of recovery by looking closely at this little jewel, created almost a century ago by the pioneering American aviator and racing motorcyclist, Glenn H. Curtiss. .... What makes this object so magnificent, as with all reputable design, lies beyond the visual. It isn't like this because it looks well, it has to be exactly like this or it wouldn't do its job.
The ABC...
Nobody who's into philosophising about Art's defining component, should snub the Accidentally Beautiful Consequence. In my opinion, art can be created by somebody who simply sets out to produce something useful.
I could get a drawing badly wrong and it might still end up hanging on somebody's wall, but if this thing hadn't been up to Curtiss's intended purpose it would have been recycled."

Mike: "J. Gordon Holt died in 2009"

Ah, I see. There are some recently-posted articles with his byline, but on closer examination I see that they were originally published back in the 1980s.

There was this guy, from the 80's TV series Sledge Hammer, who would kiss goodnight to his gun before tucking it under his pillow, if I remember correctly.

My BC1s are here in my study with me. Bought new in 1980 and had replacement bass units from Spendor about 6 years later. No other problems since: wonderful sound. In my opinion it was in the 1980s that HiFi and studio sound diverged, with many, although not Spendor, going for ever more expensive units accompanied by some pretty preposterous claims.

Sam does get out there a bit, to be sure.

Regarding Harbeths, the Harbeth 30.1s are probably the finest two-way speaker I've ever heard, with a midrange that can only be described at ravishingly beautiful. I wouldn't be stroking the cabinets before going to bed, but I'd sure to have a pair.

There is something to be said for this.

With film, I loved hugging my old Minolta SRT. I wasn't as connected to my Nikon N80 (was it the shutter lag?) so I ended up with my F100 that fit me like a glove.

With digital, I just haven't found that love connection yet with my D610. Is too heavy? It does feel a bit better with a 50mm prime on it. Does it have too many confusing controls? I am trying to figure out all of the obscure settings. I'm not sure. It is possible that this will be my "dating camera" for learning more about digital capture before I find the "marriage camera" I am willing to fall in true love with.

My favorite is still the SOTA (state of the art) turntable. And no I never had one, just a foolish reader of "Stereophile" and "The Absolute Sound" in the day when they were pushing magical magnets and $100/foot pure silver speaker wire along with cables that could be oriented in only one direction. These magazines also came with people who believed they could hear the differences!

Leonard Cohen sang
"I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons,
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin."
Do you think he meant stitched panoramas ?

Speaking of audiophile nomenclature, how could one resist Schiit? And wow, do they ever own that name! http://schiit.com/

I'm not sure who said it first or best here but most of us have probably had the experience that the joy of owning and using a 'fine thing' extends beyond it's utility. Often in ways that are difficult to quantify or explain to others not similarly inclined.
Sometimes that joy also comes from using a tool that can be made to 'punch above it's weight' in our hands because we know it, like it, and have confidence in our ability in combination with it.

Connectedness and confidence can sometimes trump technology.
When it does there is something uniquely satisfying about it.

Ah The Absolute Sound. I still have some of the original issues from their first year. Those were heady years for audiophiles.

I used to stroke my Smaller Advents even though they weren't the equal of the Larger Advents and many other speakers. But mated with a Bogen valve receiver, they were lovely.

Currently I have DCM Time Windows 1a which I found for a paltry $200 (the pair) but they are in the "system" in the basement, and are not getting the love they deserve. I think I should bring them up to the main system. Going downstairs every evening to say good night isn't going to happen.

Oh, my, am I a bottom-feeder!

Thorens belt drive TD 165, nondescript cartridge, consumer amp, a pair of BA bookshelf speakers. I have a pair of Heil AMT tweeters I salvaged a long while back, keep wondering about suspending them somehow in my listening room.

I think lusting after photo gear has replaced lusting after audio gear. Somehow, it seems easier to rationalize.

I can't caress my Canton woofer and satellite (front) speakers because they fit snugly into my DIY shelves. I hardly touch my cameras either when not using them because I have oily hands. The one habit I've carried on from audio to photography is blowing away dust. I used to open my receiver once a month to clear away dust and dirt from its innards with a blower or a vacuum cleaner. I use a blower to remove dust and dirt from the front or rear element of my lenses. If I accidentally touch them, I wipe off my fingerprints using the suction cup of my lens pen. This usually happens only to the filters which are permanently mounted to the lenses I use often.

I appreciate good haptics and tactility when using a camera or downloading pictures. But when not using them, I don't futz preferring to leave them alone in their dry box.

@Michael Perini +1

@Dave Perkin: you make a good point about being involved in the ongoing maintenance of tool / device.

I recently bought a Sony RX10. I used it to take some photos at a friend's wedding (unofficially) and I suspect I'm going to really like this camera. But there's no chance of ongoing maintenance ... if something breaks, then that's the end of it.

Just like John Reynolds, the crazed CIA operative in the funny movie Volunteers, who names his Bowie knife "Mike" and caresses it lovingly.


At the behest of my wife, I recently visited the audiologist who did some tests and then showed me the frequency response for my ears, which sadly are distinctly LoFi. Apparently about normal for a man of my age – mid sixties, and probably dead centre for the demographic of Absolute Sound readership. I now have a new set of high tech hearing aids. I keep this in mind if I feel tempted to upgrade my quite decent audio system with BC1's or whatever. (BTW, I have B&W speakers which is fitting for a photographer.)

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