Explorations in Audio

Music & Talk

How to connect the audiophile with the artist?

Getting started in audiophile music usually presents quite a challenge, because, at the very beginning, nothing is fixed. From the energy to feed the system, via the components chosen and the room they are placed in, right to the source of the music itself, everything is either in doubt or in flux. In such a listening scenario, even great recordings may go unnoticed, while others may appear to sound ‘great’ due to their ability to cut through the haze. The more obstacles we remove, the more exceptional recordings will be able to stand out from the rest. But even then, buying music on vinyl is a bit of a gamble, because so much of the sound depends on the mastering and pressing of the record. In the ‘Music’ part of this section, I aim to provide some basic pointers to help you navigate this terrain.

The ‘Talk’ aspect of this section is to provide you with unusual perspectives from collectors and performers, for us to explore the relationship between the creation of a sound event to the re-creation of this event in our living rooms. Interestingly enough, creators of music do not necessarily have a strong interest in High Fidelity or even highly sensitive hearing. At the same time, audiophile listeners very often have absolutely no clue about the artistic side of the process or the ability to play an instrument. Bringing the two sides together and leading them towards mutual understanding and appreciation may help all of us in raising the bar of what is technically possible today.

Audiophile Music

  • Diana Krall, Turn up the Quiet

    Diana Krall, Turn up the Quiet

    11/2/2020

    Author: Karsten Hein

    Category: Audiophile Music

    Tag: Jazz

    "Turn up the Quiet" is Diana Krall’s 13th studio album and has been my personal reference medium for testing new HiFi equipment for some years now. When listened to over a car stereo or a mediocre home system, much of the album’s subtle charm may go unnoticed, but if the system is up to par, there is great tonal balance and spacial accuracy in this recording.

    Released on 5 May 2017, "Turn up the Quiet" is a collection of 11 Jazz standards which Diana Krall interprets alongside some of the best Jazz musicians of our time. Among these are Christian McBride, Russel Malone, Jeff Hamilton, and John Clayton Jr. The music comes across as effortless and compelling, as both playful and mature. It is easy to forget one is listening to HiFi gear and to just focus on the music instead — if the setup is right.

    Turn up the Quiet is a studio album that has been arranged around Diana’s voice. Consequently, the voice is presented louder than it would be in a live performance. This means the album should be played at around 70-80 dB living room volumes for it to be realistic. If you listen louder, the voice starts to sound unnatural, drawing too much attention to small clicks and pops happening left and right of Diana’s tongue.

    In summary, it can be said that Turn up the Quiet is a high quality studio album that should easily satisfy critical ears, for as long as it is played at realistic volumes with the singer’s voice as focal point. The album can be helpful in detecting flaws such as tonal coloration, etc., in the system and is also wonderful to enjoy on a well-balanced system. When I sometimes read in forums that people’s reference tracks are to be found on the tenth remastering of Dire Straits or Pink Floyd albums, here is something more modern to consider.


  • Christian McBride, Live at the Village Vanguard

    Christian McBride, Live at the Village Vanguard

    10/4/2020

    Author: Karsten Hein

    Category: Audiophile Music

    Tag: Jazz

    Christian McBride — Live at the Village Vanguard. A must for all Jazz enthusiasts who are into live and authentic small club performances. Published by Mac Avenue Records in December 2014, the high quality double album stretches over nearly 70mins.

    While the recording itself was compiled from three consecutive live sessions, listening to the full album appears natural and seamless. As is typical for performances of this nature, the music grows on you while it becomes more familiar, to the point where you can allow yourself to dissolve in the moment.

    Although ‘Live at the Vintage Vanguard’ is completely instrumental, it is easy to enjoy the brief episodes of spoken English, listening to Christian introduce the band, or thank everyone for coming. The album closes with renditions of “Down by the riverside” and “Car wash” and manages never to be boring despite these familiar tunes. Great job and wonderful on vinyl. Enjoy.


  • Sandra MacBeth, Conjugal Scene

    Sandra MacBeth, Conjugal Scene

    7/9/2020

    Author: Karsten Hein

    Category: Audiophile Music

    Tag: Jazz

    I first came across the singer and songwriter Sandra Mac Beth listening to her song ‘8 Ball’ on the ‘Uncompressed World Vol. II - Audiophile female voices’ sampler. The song immediately stuck a cord with me, because of the high quality of its recording, its warm and insistent piano tones, and because of Sandra’s voice that startled me in its rawness, clarity, and warmth. The song did not appear to have have any of the smothering effects so common to modern recordings and, as such, was very pleasing to my ears.

    I set out to find out more about the artist, because I was hoping to listen to more of her songs. Yet, for some reason, none of my usual sources of music purchasing and streaming produced the desired result. I also watched some YouTube clips of Sandra’s, but since these were lacking the desired quality and even material, I decided to write her an e-mail and ask her to send me a copy of the album that ‘8 Ball’ was originally on.

    Sandra wrote back to inform me that her album ‘Conjugal Scene’ included ‘8-Ball’ and was available on Apple Music—which I have not subscribed to—and that she could send me a copy of the album and a more recent long player on CD from Scotland, to which I happily consented. The little envelope holding the CD and long player arrived just a few days later, and I was happy to find that about half of the tracks are of similar quality and attraction as the song that had led me to my search.

    There is a marked difference between the earlier tracks, which are of average recording quality and the tracks around ‘8 Ball’ which sonically really open up into the room and manage to carve out that purity in the voice that is so hard to come by. This has lead me to the idea that I would ask her for an interview with me on Music & Talk. Quite audacious at this point in time. Obviously, much more needs to be done, before I am ready and able to provide the setting online, but…I have already started ‘exploring’ the possibility. And that is the motto of this page.


  • Martin Sasse Trio, Studio-B Konzert

    Martin Sasse Trio, Studio-B Konzert

    6/16/2020

    Author: Karsten Hein

    Category: Audiophile Music

    Tag: Jazz

    A treat for vinyl Jazz fans: Martin Sasse Trio, in genuine AAA recording. Brought a big smile on my face throughout the session.

    “Große Emotionen sind bei den Direkt-Mitschnitten aus den Bauer Studios garantiert, besonders wenn Musiker des Kalibers auf der Bühne stehen, wie sie das Martin Sasse Trio zu bieten hat. Der Namensgeber der Formation, der an einem Steinway Flügel Platz nehmen durfte, hat schon gemeinsam mit Bobby Mc-Ferrin, Billy Cobham, Till Brönner und Sting musiziert, um hier nur einige zu nennen. Akustisch perfekt eingefangene Jazzsession, die glücklich macht.” - Ralf Henke, hifitest.de


  • Jamie Saft Quartet, Blue Dream

    Jamie Saft Quartet, Blue Dream

    6/16/2020

    Author: Karsten Hein

    Category: Audiophile Music

    Tag: Jazz

    ‘It is worthwhile to consider that there is no resolution in music like this, only an extended consideration.’ - Michael Bailey, in allaboutjazz

    The four page album offers Jamie Saft’s typical flow in music paired with excellent mastering and pressing, which results in life-like dynamics and low noise floor. Upon listening, I felt that the album could be a little more cohesive with a little less drama in some passages. Michael Bailey’s quotation above is, therefore, absolutely to the point. All in all, still a great adventure for audiophile listeners, often reminiscent of the 1950s Miles Davis and 1960s John Coltrane.


Interviews

  • James Bluntie

    James Bluntie

    6/2/2020

    Author: Karsten Hein

    Category: Interviews

    Tag: Musicians

    About James

    Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean.

    A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth.

    Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar.

    Q&A

    What was the biggest achievement of your career?

    Probably when I won my first Grammy in 2019. I worked really hard on my latest album and I'm extremely grateful that my fans liked the new direction I took with my music.

    Why did you decide to change genres?

    The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen. She packed her seven versalia, put her initial into the belt and made herself on the way. When she reached the first hills of the Italic Mountains, she had a last view back on the skyline of her hometown Bookmarksgrove, the headline of Alphabet Village and the subline of her own road, the Line Lane. Pityful a rethoric question ran over her cheek, then

    Interview details

    • Date: 21 May 2020
    • Location: Frankfurt am Main