March 5th: LP Store expanded
Have you heard this recording? Mary Black is an Irish singer, and No Frontiers, recorded in 1989, was her masterpiece. All these years later, we continue to use it as a reference.
At one time our Audiophile Store used to sell the LP version, too. But we hadn't been able to get it for years, either on CD or LP. Don't think we haven't tried. We even had Mary's personal e-mail address...for all the good it did us.
But now we have it again. And it is one of many LP titles we have added to the store section called The LP Store. We have the LP version of Jennifers Warnes' album The Hunter. We have the double album Soular Energy, with the Ray Brown Trio, another favorite in our equipment reviews. We have the moving Misa Criolla, featuring tenor José Carreras. We have vinyl re-releases of recordings by Frank Sinatra and Patricia Barber. And there will be more coming.
But do remember that the 21st century is not the 20th century. LPs are no longer pressed half a million at a time. We have limited quantities of each title. When a title is gone, we might be able to bring in more. Or we might not.
Each time we play an LP, we decide whether it deserves the very best record sleeve.
If it does, we slip it into one of our Japanese sleeves.
Made of plasticized rice paper, it is soft and easy to handle.
Unlike polyethylene, it doesn't generate static electricity.
We love them. You will too.
March 5th: Irony
A few days ago we mentioned in this blog that vinyl fans were ready to mount the barricades because IKEA was phasing out the Expedit, a bookcase uniquely suited to LPs. And we included a picture of someone whose LP-filled bookcase, supposedly an Expedit, had come to a bad end.
So what happened to us just three days later? The sad news is at left. Our own IKEA bookcase (actually one of a number, to be clear) gave way, with a scary crunch. The bookcase is also from IKEA, the ubiquitous Billy bookcase. It was an old Billy, what's more, considerably wider than the modern ones, with shelves that are less resistant to heavy loads. Sigh!
So it's over to IKEA, to get some Expedits while the getting is good.
Speaking of LPs, we're filing some new vinyl over at The Audiophile Store, and preparing to update our site. Some of the titles are new arrivals, including titles we had not seen for years, while others are special purchases, often at bargain prices. We'll get the update up later today.
The reality, however, is that today upscale LPs are pressed in very small numbers, and we run out really fast. What's more, once we run out of a title, we may not ever see it again.
We've also received a considerable inventory of CDs and SACDs, and we're preparing to update our other music pages.
February 21st: Vinyl lovers vs IKEA
IKEA has always had certain items you couldn't seem to find elsewhere, and one of them is the Expedit bookcase. Why? Because, as you can see, its format is perfect for storing LPs. Even box sets fit comfortably. The square partitions give your collection lots of lateral support, too. We use one of these ourselves. They come in different sizes and configurations, and they can be placed vertically, horizontally or even hung on the wall. With the rise in LP sales, you would think IKEA would be exstatic.
But it's not. It will, in fact, be dropping the Expedit.
Reaction has been swift. There's actually a Facebook page dedicated to saving the Expedit. IKEA's reply: don't worry, we have a replacement, the Kallax, and it's almost the same. It just has less wood, so it will save us money.
Vinyl fans (count us among them) didn't like the sound of that. As it is, you need to be sure to follow IKEA's often-enigmatic pictorial instructions, or risk the fate of the unhappy vinyl lover whose Expedit (at left) didn't survive. (But is that an actual Expedit, and if it is, did its assembler not leave off some essentials?). Less wood doesn't seem to promise more solidity.
It's almost enough to drive one back to the days of bricks and boards. Or orange crates...if they still made those.
BY THE WAY: Speaking of LPs, coming up next week is a massive update to our LP store, with some selected vinyl. In the meantime, here comes the weekend, and thus here comes the Flash Sale (starting, as usual, Friday at 3 pm).
February 20th: Heating problem at Château Hi-Fi
We refer to UHF's premises as Château Hi-Fi because, by local standards, it is. Once the residence of the engineer who built the first bridge across the Saint-Lawrence river, it stands magnificently tall, with three storeys. Built in 1851, it got central heating (hot water, of course) 114 years ago. And that, we figure, is when they put in this amazing Warden King furnace, which, until Monday, provided heat to the whole château. Originally designed for coal (the black stuff was shovelled in through those two little doors), it ran proudly on heating oil, in tandem with an electric furnace and a bienergy control system.
It was supposed to last forever, or so service people have told us over the years. But Monday night its tank ruptured, and water poured out. Time to close all the valves and call emergency service.
The furnace is still there, if only because it weighs like a Brinks truck, but we're all-electric now. And we've put away the portable radiators. Actually, we would rather have paid all that money for audio or home cinema stuff, but heating comes first.
None too soon, because now we can get on with the listening sessions for the next magazine. We have two integrated tube amplifiers lined up, one of them the Focus Audio we've already mentioned. We'll be trying the Moon MIND audio streaming system. We'll have our Vegas report. And we're preparing a complete guide to using a computer as one of your audio sources. Kathe Lieber is working on another major music article, and all will be revealed shortly.
February 19th: New Free Advice
We've been a few days without updates to any of our Web pages, as we've been running in new software. Our site was long maintained with Adobe GoLive, an especially flexible program (Adobe bought it rather than creating it, which is why it worked so well for so long). After Adobe bought DreamWeaver, GoLive was killed off. Which left us with...
Well, with DreamWeaver, one of the buggiest pieces of major-brand software we have worked with. The pain is not reduced by the fact that DreamWeaver is now part of the Adobe CC suite, which is rented, not purchased.
For some time, therefore, we were using an open-source program called KompoZer. It's also buggy, but not in the same way, and it won't ever get any better, because it is "abandonware": its creator has gone off to a paying job.
What else could we find? There were several candidates, but they were template-based, meaning that our site would have to look the way the programmer thinks it should. We could go to a database system, of which there are several.There are also excellent HTML editors such as Coda, but our original site from 1996 was hand-coded, and we have other things to do.
Enter Freeway. Hard-core coders hate it, because it is divorced from the HTML and XHTML of normal pages. It works much like our magazine design software, generating HTML code only once a page is done. It's fast, and we anticipate having far fewer problems. We will gradually be shifting the whole site to Freeway.
But back to Free Advice. This is a new batch, but we have a lot more ready to go, and you'll be seeing them soon. In the meantime, you can write us for Free Advice.
February 7th: Tubes in UHF No. 95
We've mentioned that a major set of articles in the next issue of UHF No. 95, now in preparation, will describe in considerable detail what we know so far about using a computer as a source in a high-fidelity music system. However, it won't be an all-digital issue by any means. Nothing is more analog than tubes, right?
The amplifier at left is the Liszt-Prelude, a large (and heavy!) tube amplifier from Canadian loudspeaker manufacturer Focus Audio. We've heard it at a couple of shows, and it is now undergoing the needed break-in period.
And it is actually one of two tube integrated amplifiers to be reviewed in the issue. More on that shortly.
January 16th: CES wraps up
International CES, as the former Consumer Electronics Show now wants to be called, is well over, and we're back at the office
Notwithstanding a small case of food poisoning, it all went well, and we'll be getting caught up on the Vegas show blog shortly.
That huge thing at right, by the way, is an ice sculpture, placed next to one of the open bars at CES Unveiled, the show's inaugural event. Those ice sculptures (we presume they all come from the same company, possibly even the same person) are omnipresent at major events in Las Vegas. Where do you find ice in the desert? Good thing Boulder Dam is nearby to provide the electricity.
Orders have kept flowing while we were away (the usual skeleton crew took care of urgent things, such as providing Maggie's electronic magazines). Now we're getting caught up.
And, incidentally, we're laying out the next issue of UHF. We'll have lots to announce in the next few days.
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