Over more than four decades I spent considerable ratio of disposable income on music reproduction including several thousand dollars on acoustic treatments (some video purchases, but much less than audio). I’m here to share advice with the intent to provide the best possible performance for any given dollar amount you decide is appropriate to spend on this hobby/passion. I am not here to run up anyone’s CC bill to satisfy food bills and mortgage obligation. I am blessed with a pension unrelated to audio. My main audiophile interest is a passion for music and spending as little money as possible toward increasing enjoyment during its reproduction.
Some persons make sweeping absolute conclusions, preferring one brand, architecture, or technology over all others. With one rare exception (Distributed Subwoofer Array), I disagree with such conclusions. Based on my first $29 nylon string guitar (a gift from my beloved parents), to my current system, about twenty audio shows, design and manufacturing experience, and employment with a speaker company, I believe such conclusions are based on ignorance and/or financial interest. I appreciate virtually every type of well done design and architecture.
I strive to increase value with performance upgrades, preferring to increase performance with a lower cost component rather than one more costly.
We all have different ears, different priorities, and different limitations including the sound room itself. I give honest advice within the client’s pre-defined parameters. Within that framework I might request you consider another option, but a simple “no” is always acceptable.
I played guitar in a band called The Pall Bearers with St. Gabriel School grammar school mates.
In the late 60s/early 70s I played guitar and electric bass, and built a funky, tiny recording studio in my friend’s house. My friend wrote original music which we recorded on his upright grand piano. We used a Shure mic mixer, Dokorder 7140 4-ch deck, and Sony TC-640 2-ch deck (both only 7”, sigh). I de-fretted my Ibanez electric bass to better imitate Joe Osborne’s magnificent tone (his credit list too long to post here).
To get an orchestral sound for my friend’s music, I purchased and learned to program an EML 101 analog synthesizer, and later the magnificent ARP 2600. Around this time one of the nicest people of many I met in the music/recording business was Dr. Patrick Gleeson. Patrick and his wife Patricia were a great couple. Patrick tutored me and one or two others in his free, yes I said free synthesizer programming classes, in his recording studio “Different Fur Trading Company” in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, sometimes upstairs in his one-room loft residence.
As a synthesizer programmer, Patrick was at least the equal of then-Walter now-Wendy Carlos, who recorded the all time largest selling classical album “Switched-On Bach.” Patrick played either his ARP 2600 or his huge modular Moog synthesizer similar to Carlos’ instrument. Pat recorded Handel’s Messiah on LP, with completely synthesized orchestra and real human chorus. IMO Patrick’s orchestral sound is a benchmark for the era, and it still sounds remarkable.
Patrick introduced Herbie Hancock to the synthesizer, and Hancock recorded Headhunters in Patrick’s studio. In case they read this, a big “Howdy, and thank you!” to Patrick and Engineer co-studio owner John Viera.
Around this time I taught Synthesizer Programming and “Introduction to Sound” classes at New Bear Waltzes School of Music in San Francisco.
In the 70s I worked at the Record Plant in Sausalito, including Synthesizer Programming on Roy Buchanan’s last album, “In the Beginning.” Tom Scott was studio manager at that time. Besides the great honor of working with Buchanan and producer Ed Freeman (Don McLean’s American Pie), another highlight was working with Tower Of Power, the horn players on the LP.
A singular high point is being in a confined moderate-size space (Record Plant control room) with Doc Kupka testing the lowest octave of his baritone sax. My eye ball fluid resonated, my guts are still bruised. The control room’s 16 track master deck > active crossover > two Crown DC300s > and two JBL 15s w/huge radial horn per side paled vs. Doc’s live sax. Doc invented WMD.
After hearing the songs one time, trumpeter Greg Adams conversed while casually scribbling the backup score. TOP required only one brief practice session, and then we recorded, with no TOP mistakes I can recall. One more take for Greg’s trumpet solos, and call it a day. To call TOP the picture of music professionals does not do them justice.
For years I assembled speakers for VMPS in the East Bay of San Francisco. VMPS incorporated several of my design suggestions into production. Around this time I operated a successful mail order audio retail business. I grew to know and admire Allan Perkins, then the plant manager at SOTA turntables, now the proud owner and designer at Immedia.
Around this time I had a brief foray into speaker design, and sold my original 3-way 10” to Thalia Moore, first cellist of the San Francisco Ballet. At that time Thalia’s cello was worth $1M, and I can only imagine its current value. Thalia is a sweetheart, and I miss her company. She and Brian Cheney of VMPS had deep conversation about music, especially Thalia’s time tutoring under cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.
I lived in Novato, CA, where also lived Dave Wilson of Wilson Audio. Our daughters shared the same school. Several times we’d cross paths at the VHS rental store (remember those?). At one CES I helped Dave w/setup. IMO no one else shall ever possess Dave’s unique position of prestige in high end audio.
Around this time I also met Joe Cohen of Lotus Audio Group in Novato. I very much admire Joe’s unique contribution to open baffle loudspeakers.
Years ago, Wilson Audio moved to Provo a half-hour south of Salt Lake City. By coincidence we moved eighty minutes NE of Salt Lake City after I retired as Captain from the San Francisco Fire Department. My wife Debra affectionately calls Utah “land of big houses.” Besides awesome mountain bike trails on the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains, part of my joy in moving here from California is a 25.5 x 16.5 foot dedicated, symmetrical, and acoustically treated sound room, a superb environment for live and/or reproduced music.
We hired several professional musicians to play at parties here, both on a great sounding Young Chang grand piano upstairs, and a couple of guitarists downstairs in the sound room. A local jazz/rock trio played in the sound room once, and that was a lot of fun. The bass player later purchased an AudioKinesis Thunderchild Acoustic compact cabinet, and he still raves about it when we talk.
Read elsewhere for description of our dual use system, for music and home theater, including 92” perforated retractable screen and dead quiet 1080P front projector.