Hello, fellow Audiolics, Welcome to another meeting of Audiolics Anonymous, our support group for the insatiably TWEAKED. Well, this has not been a good month for yours truly in the world of high end audio and tweakerdom. Have you ever had a month when everything has turned to dog poopies in your hands. Well yours truly is hopefully ending one of those.
First, I bought a new DVD unit. As you remember, in Chapter VII, I had reviewed a computer called the Cassini, from Digital Connections, www.digitalconnection.com, which had special boards to play back DVDís in progressive form at higher scaling rates, and act as a very good CD transport. Then I joined the AV Sciences HTPC bulletin board, www.avsforum.com, and learned of a new unit of theirs, called the Marquee, which had an improved video board, but, more importantly, a pro 24/96 digital board for CDís and those 24/96 audio DVDís from Classics, Telarc, and Chesky. So I sent the Cassini back, then waited patiently for two months for the replacement unit. It finally arrived the beginning of the month, and I immediately started taking apart part of my system to set up the Marquee.
Thatís when the troubles began. While lifting the D/A converter to place the Marquee, I broke one of the RCAís from an interconnect. So that took another half an hour to solder on. Next, I had to disconnect my long interconnects from the preamp to amp, to prevent them from being damaged. Wouldnít you know, I dropped the end of one, and snapped the silver foil in the middle third of it. So there went another hour finding the break and repairing it. These Wright silver foil interconnects are the best I have ever heard, but boy are they easily damaged. Luckily, they are also easily repaired, but I never had this problem with my other cables. Oh well, we do have to suffer for our art.
I finally got the DVD unit playing, which was somewhat of a struggle, which I will probably relate in my next column, and one of the tubes in my monoblock preamps became a little hissy. Of course, it was the bottom chassis, so I had to dismantle the connections to the top preamp to open the bottom cover. At least this time I didnít damage anything, got the tube replaced, put everything back together again, found no problems, and began listening to the DVD player. Iíve got to tell you that the sound was great from the unit. For about three days, and then the hard drive self destructed. It just disappeared as far as the computer was concerned. I guess the computer developed Alzheimerís Disease. So out the computer came from the system, and it is still resting on the floor waiting for a RMA # to go back to the company for repairs.
Now, without the ability to play CDís or DVDís, I went back to my Walker Turntable. Wouldnít you know it, I dropped the record clamp on the floor, broke its plastic center spindle, and had to call up LLoyd Walker for a replacement. Happily, I received it four days later. Unhappily, in the meantime, Iíve lost the top part to the clamp, and canít find it anywhere in my listening room. So, if anyone finds an errant record clamp part, please send it to me forthwith. (UPDATE- Moved a stand today and found it, so thanks anyway for the help).
Finally, my Entech AV-1 video switcher has decided to have a mind of its own, and has begun switching from input to input at its own whim. So, thatís on its way back to Entech. While the month is not over yet, hopefully my travails are. Well, enough griping. Letís talk about some tweaks.
DARUMA 3-II FEET
While over at Steve Rochlinís house last month, I became envious of all of the equipment hanging around waiting for reviews. While unable to walk off with one of his amps or CD players, I did score these feet from the FINAL COMPANY of Japan. The kit consists of three units, each consisting of a 1/2 inch ball bearing separating two metal cups, thus giving lateral vibration isolation while firmly binding the equipment to the substrate in the vertical. With experimentation, Iíve found them to work very well on mechanical units, such as CD transports, DVD and Laser disc players, and probably under turntables. Even with my equipment resting on Vibraplanes, they made a difference on both video and audio, cleaning up both the audio and video images. In both cases, the image is more stable than using any of my points, weights, or rubbery feet, with less shimmer to sound and picture.
There is one problem with the units. The only place I have been able to find them is from a dealer in Britain who advertises on the web, but even he doesnít list their price. So I have no idea where you can purchase them and Steve doesnít either. So they do as claimed, and if you can find them they may be worth the price, but who knows. Obviously another gremlin for this month.
(Steve Adds: Final just signed a new dealer for the USA. They are wHiFi/Hi-Fi Choice located in South Florida. Their website is www.wHiFi.com).
I have been a C band fanatic since 1982. C band is the original satellite TV transmission system which was developed back in the 70ís. In the early 80ís several experimenters realized that normal people with a 10 to 12 foot dish, and the proper equipment, could receive the same quality signals, as the major networks could transmit to their local stations or cable operators. And, indeed, the quality of the video image from C-band still beats what one can obtain either off the air, or with the new so called direct satellite small dish units. Then, HBO and Showtime began about six months ago to also transmit their HDTV signals using C-band. The signal is downlinked to the small dish companies, such as Dish Network and Echostar, who then redigitize the signal and send it back up to their own satellites for retransmission to the small dishes.
What this unit does is allow C-band users with a 4DTV digital receiver, to receive full HDTV signals. I must say, this is the biggest advancement in video since color TV. When HBO or Showtime transmit a full band 1080I signal, the quality is to die for. Sort of like the difference between 16/44 and 24/96 playback . Being straight from the original, there is no degradation in the signal, and probably looks as close to the original camera feed as home viewers are likely to get. The sound is transmitted as AC-3 surround sound, at the same sampling rate as DVDís.
I have yet to see a comparison to small dish reception of the same signals, but Iíll bet thereís no comparison, as there are fewer 23,000 mile hops from satellite to ground, and the compression ratio for the C-band signals is much less than with the small dishes. If you already have a large dish system, the $1595 asking price for the unit is expensive for the four channels you can receive now in HDTV, but the units can be obtained in the USA for $900, and there is a back channel through Canada for $700, and at that price, well worth it. Hopefully in the next few months, other satellite networks will get on the bandwagon, and weíll all be able to see this quality. Unhappily, the unit will not decode normal off the air HDTV broadcasts, which is a minus compared to the small dish RCA receiver, which will decode both , so a second piece of equipment will be necessary to get everything.
About a month ago, I was contacted by a previous employeeís husband. It seems that his cousin from New York, John Corbett, had been a recording engineer for RCA and NBC, had been a close friend of the Toscanini family, and had died recently. They had gone down to his apartment in New York, and while cleaning it out, they recovered his record collection and memorabilia. Unhappily, not being cognoscenti, they left all of his master tapes in the dumpster. What a loss. What they did bring back were:
1. A huge number of original Toscanini RCA recordings.
2. About 15 unplayed special recordings for the Toscanini Project, a remastering of Toscaniniís best off the air recordings by the Toscanini Society, which he did the mastering on.
3. About 20 almost pristine 1S Shaded Dogs.
4. Several books on Toscanini, in which Mr. Corbett was either mentioned or had a part in writing.
5. Two of Toscaniniís original batons with the Masterís dried sweat and DNA embedded.
6. Multiple Columbiaís, Londonís, etc., from the Golden Era, in pristine condition.
They gave me two of the books, and both batons which are now ensconced on the wall in my media room, and allowed me to take the best of the recordings to listen to at home. In return, I am trying to find a happy home for the recordings. They would be interested in a museum or organization taking them, or possibly selling the lot to a collector. So, if anyone knows of an organization which would be interested in the collection, please contact me and I will pass the information along just as soon as I am done with my listening. And if anyone wants to clone the MASTER, Iíll be glad to give them a piece of the cork from the baton for DNA sampling.
For next monthís column, I am working on the final review
of the MARQUEE DVD-CD-24/96 player and have just built from kit the ARCICI
Isolation Stand. Hopefully next monthís work wonít have so many problems.