Frank Doris Tag

Frank Doris’s Wishlist for 2018

Since this is a wishlist, I’m going to put it out there without regard to the possibility or impracticality of any of it.

 

Carbon Nanotube Loudspeakers

If the mass of a loudspeaker driver could be eliminated, the driver wouldn’t have any inertia and the speaker would be instantly responsive to the audio signal from the amplifier. Talk about clarity and lack of distortion!

 

Many have tried to make a massless (or close to it) driver, including the Hill Plasmatronics speaker (which had to be connected to a tank of helium!) and a demo at a trade show years ago (sorry, I can’t recall the name of the company) where two ultrasonic beams were aimed at the listening spot, causing the lower-frequency interference patterns to make audible sound—or something like that. And of course a primary reason for electrostatic and planar-magnetic speakers is to avoid the relative sluggishness of good old magnet-and-cone dynamic drivers. So I don’t think we’ve heard the last word in speaker technology.

2018 Wishlist--carbon nanotube speaker

Carbon nanotube speakers hold promise. A thin film of carbon nanotubes acts as the speaker diaphragm, which moves back and forth to heat the surrounding air, causing it to expand and contract to produce sound waves. (Neat, huh?) Such speakers could weigh very little (I’d never have to schlep around a heavy guitar amp ever again!) and could be made into interesting shapes and integrated into car interiors, for example.

 

As far as I know, no one’s created anything close to a Wilson Audio Alexia or Magneplanar 30.7 yet using carbon nanotubes. But wouldn’t it be great if someone could come up with something as good . . . or even better? Maybe it’s just an engineering problem or something.

 

A La Carte Everything

Perhaps Jeffrey Lyons can say differently, but I don’t have subscriptions to every movie and TV provider out there. I don’t want to either. The science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon formulated Sturgeon’s Law, which states, “Ninety percent of everything is crap.” And who am I to argue? But some providers won’t let me download just single movies or TV episodesI have to subscribe to their whole service.

 

I’d be happy to pay a download or viewing fee that lets me watch movies or TV shows a la carte, the same way you can buy a single song from iTunes. And such a resource should be one-stop shoppingthat is, just click and buy without having to go to HBO or Netflix or Amazon or whatever site has what I want. I don’t know what would be involved in getting the cooperation of all the providers, and I don’t carejust make it seamless for me, the customer. Maybe it’s just a licensing problem, like finally getting the rights to the original Batman TV series after decades or something.

 

Hi-Rez Audio Everywhere

Wouldn’t it be nice to live together in the kind of world where we belong . . . er, sorry, had Brian Wilson on the brain for a second there. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to just download any piece of music and know it was in hi-rezwhether high-bit-rate, MQA, or whateverand have a device that would just play it without you having to configure it or worry that it was compatible?

 

It’s almost 2018, and I’d like my music in hi-rez, everywhere, all the time. Do we really have to settle for listening to sonically compromised formats anymore? Maybe it’s just an engineering problem, like getting the announcers’ voices in sync with the picture on remote cable-news broadcasts or something.

2018 Wishlist--Autostereoscopy
Universal Autostereoscopy

Autostereoscopy refers to displaying stereoscopic images, which creates the illusion of 3D without glasses, goggles, or any other type of headgear. It can and has been donelook at the Nintendo 3DS or 3DS XL. While this might not be appealing to manufacturers of VR headgear, it would be very appealing to me, someone who wears glasses and doesn’t want them getting in the way of VR goggles. And I know I’m not the only one.

 

I know the technical challenges are formidable, or perhaps even impossible. But maybe it’s just an engineering problem, like getting quantum computing to work or building a faster-than-light drive or creating a wormhole network to connect galaxies and parallel universes. Hey, George Lucas isn’t the only one who can think big.

—Frank Doris

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.

Frank Doris’s Best of ’17

Kraftwerk The Catalogue 3-D

Kraftwerk: The Catalogue 3-D (Blu-ray)

I admit it—I love Kraftwerk. They’re astoundingly brilliant and innovative, creators of a prescient synthesizer-based musical world that is still galaxies apart from all others. The Catalogue 3-D Blu-ray set contains all eight of Kraftwerk’s officially-sanctioned albums performed live in concert, reworked and remodeled in arrangements that advance their electro-futuristic music even further.

 

In these shows, the band blends classic Kraftwerk sounds like their hallmark vocoder robot voices, the massive synth bass line of “Autobahn,” and the bloops and ticks of “Numbers,” with a dazzling array of newly created synthetic and electronic sounds, beats, and textures. As a result, the music sounds not only up-to-the-second but still years ahead of its time.

 

The Dolby Atmos (5.1- and stereo-compatible) surround audio is remarkably immersive, each track a painstakingly crafted sonic virtual reality where ever-morphing sounds come from anywhere and everywhere. The retro-minimalist visuals (viewable in 3D on a compatible video system) perfectly complement the pristine, deep, extended, intensely dynamic sound.

Best of 2017--The Deuce

The Deuce (HBO)

I have to confess I haven’t watched the last three episodes yet, but it doesn’t take very long to see that this series about the rise (ahem) of the porn industry in Manhattan’s Times Square in the 1970s plays more like a voyeuristic glimpse into real life than a TV series. It’s frank, rough, and unflinching. James Franco is both gritty and funny as twin brothers Vincent and Frankie Martino as they get pulled into a far bigger and badder world than the street life they were used to. Maggie Gyllenhaal deserves an Emmy (as others have pointed out) for her sensational portrayal of Candy, a streetwalker who’s smarter and more ambitious than any ten of her peers.

 

The supporting roles are unerringly cast, bringing a multifaceted humanity to the characters and their lives and motivations. (Why would anyone want to live as a prostitute?) The Deuce (the nickname for Manhattan’s 42nd Street) is disturbing, funny, nuanced, enlightening.

 

Oh yeah—as a lifelong New Yorker I can tell you that this series is no exaggerated Hollywood-ized fantasy portrayal. Times Square really was that dirty, garbage-strewn, and sleazy back in the day.

Best of 2017--The Punisher

The Punisher (Netflix)

Yeah, it’s violent. Extremely so. Yeah, it raises some tough and not-too-pleasant questions about morality, society, and human nature. But it’s exceptionally well written, produced, and acted, with plausible storylines and well-drawn characters with motivations you can understand even if you don’t agree with them. Jon Bernthal absolutely inhabits the role of Frank Castle, The Punisher, with complexity, conflict, and, yes, nuance—he’s no one-dimensional, unfeeling one-man revenge machine. There are dozens of edge-of-your-seat moments.

 

The cinematography is superb. Countless movies and TV shows have used Manhattan as a cinematic backdrop, but here, as in the companion Marvel/Netflix series Daredevil, the location shooting and interiors make it feel like the show simply couldn’t have been filmed anywhere else.

 

Did I mention it’s violent? Watching the fight scenes may feel cathartic after a bad day at the office, but I’d think twice about letting your children watch.

Best of 2017--streaming audio

Streaming Audio

OK, I know this isn’t a new thing, but 2017 was the first year I got into streaming audio in a big way, trying Apple Music, Tidal, Pandora, and Spotify on various devices. While I have a major problem with artists getting paid disgracefully small royalties from these services (I fervently hope there will be a course-correction soon), I just love the ability to immediately access tons and tons of songs, and deeper catalogs than even a short while ago. (Note that I’m talking about streaming, not downloading, which can be . . . more complicated.) The sound quality varies, but it’s serviceable at the least and hi-rez satisfying at best. But none of the providers have “Farmer John” by the Tidal Waves or “Fool” by China Crisis yet, so they ain’t perfect.

—Frank Doris

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.

Getting High on Virtual Reality

virtual reality

Disclaimer: The Rayva Roundtable is not responsible
for bizarre typos in manufacturer graphics

I thought I had a handle on this whole virtual reality thing. After all, I’d experienced a few demos, including a full 360o one from an HTC Vive system in my own home that was pretty darn convincing.

 

So I thought I was well prepared for a demo from VRPark at the recent New York Photo Plus Expo. Their VRPark Capsule looked like it would provide a pretty realistic VR experience. It had two egg-shaped cockpits for a friend and me to sit in, and it moved around on its base to provide motion simulation. I figured it was a virtual rollercoaster ride.

 

But before strapping us in and fitting us with VR helmets, the woman working the Capsule asked, “Do you want the nice ‘travel’ demo or the scary demo?”

 

“Um . . . um . . . let’s go for the scary demo!” I knew it wasn’t real so how scary could it be?

 

The goggles winked alive to the image of a ride at an amusement park. Yeah, OK, a rollercoaster—but then the “ride” pulled us up and back like a giant swing, up . . . and up . . . and UP! Hundreds, maybe thousands of virtual feet into the air!

 

I’d neglected to mention that I have a fear of heights—a completely incapacitating fear of heights. I can’t go on my roof to clean the gutters. When I get in glass elevators, I have to look at the floor.

 

So when we went rocketing into the sky, I was terrified. I had a bird’s-eye view of the virtual amusement park, the surrounding houses, the trees, the whole town rendered in vivid 3D detail. I broke out in a sweat. I grabbed the ride’s handgrips as hard as I could. The motion of the ride and the sounds through the headphones—including people screaming—only added to the intensity.

virtual reality

Yaaahhhh! I kept telling myself, “It’s not real!” Didn’t matter. My primitive reptile brain took over my rational mind. I got dizzy. After just a few seconds, I couldn’t take it and closed my eyes.

 

Then I told myself, I’ll get used to it. I opened my eyes again. It’s not real . . .

 

We were now way high up, upside down, facing the sky and looking at clouds! Then the ride dropped precipitously, almost hit the ground, and swung back up like a pendulum! Gggaaaahhhh! At that point, I was screaming along with the people in the headphones.

 

I had to close my eyes again. But I didn’t want to wimp out through the whole demo so I re-opened them. The virtual ride was now rotating on its axis with the world tumbling end over end. The VR capsule continued to plummet, tumble, spring up, accelerate, and decelerate. I was totally rushing out holy jeezuz H. gawd almighty AAAH! AAAHHH! AAAAAAAHHHHH!

 

Maybe I shoulda tried a yoga or relaxation video. Finally, the ride stopped. I got out, unsteady, sweating—and more exhilarated than I’d been in years. (Sorry, angioplasty doesn’t count.) Whadda ride! Talk about entertainment!

 

Suffice to say my perspective on virtual reality has changed.

 

I’d thought it was a fun way to enhance video gameplay, aid in pilot and astronaut training, and maybe become a stupid novelty for video porn. (Missed that demo at CES.) Now I realize it’s far beyond that, that the line between virtual and actual reality can be readily blurred and not just because of ever-improving technology.

 

At its best, VR overrides your rational brain and evokes visceral, instinctual, and emotional responses so strongly your mind can’t resist. Your id and body take over.

 

If virtual reality can provoke that strong a reaction, I would argue that it might as well be reality. Not a new concept, I know (ref. The Matrix or Neuromancer or any number of sci-fi novels and films). But wait till you try it—then tell me how you feel.

—Frank Doris

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.

Kraftwerk: The Catalogue 3-D

Kraftwerk essentially invented electronic pop music in the 1970s. Their brilliantly original, distinctive musical and visual style has led to L.A. Weekly—among many otherscalling them “the most influential pop band of all time.”

 

The Catalogue 3-D Blu-ray set offers abundant evidence, featuring live concerts from various locales of all eight “official” Kraftwerk albums. (Remaining original member Ralf Hütter and co-founder Florian Schneider view the earlier Kraftwerk 1, Kraftwerk 2 and Ralf and Florian albums as “archaeology.”) Which means all the hits are heretheir international breakthrough “Autobahn,” “The Model,” “Computer Love,” “Tour de France,” and the hip-hop-germinating “Numbers” and “Trans Europe Express,” along with everything else plus “Planet of Visions.”

 

This four-disc set features 3D/2D-compatible video, Dolby Atmos/5.1/PCM stereo-compatible sound, and Headphone Surround 3D mixes (which can be listened to on standard headphones), and includes a 228-page book of images from the concerts.

 

The sound quality is astounding. Kraftwerk have always been sonic perfectionists, and The Catalogue 3-D is another technological step forward.

 

Since their electronic music doesn’t have to replicate any kind of sonic “reality,” Kraftwerk is free to place sounds anywhere, fixed in place and moving around the soundfield, morphing and shaping aural space to their will, from tightly focused to vastly expansive. Their use of echo and delay alone is masterful.

Kraftwerk The Catalogue 3-D

The dazzling variety of “synthetic, electronic sounds” (to quote “Techno Pop”) is reproduced with extraordinary clarity, dynamic range, and wide frequency response. The low-frequency synth sounds and bass drums are exceptionally powerful and articulate. You can hear the time Kraftwerk spent crafting these sounds. There is no crowd noise mixed in. This is simply state-of-the-art demonstration-quality sound.

 

I don’t have a Dolby Atmos system (I have 6.1 surround), but I heard previews of some tracks at an Atmos demo, and the added height dimension contributed to the sense of immersion. But those who don’t have Atmos won’t feel shortchanged. The Headphone Surround 3D mixes work well, sounding spacious without being exaggerated.

 

Kraftwerk’s retro-futuristic visuals and minimalist color palette are presented with stunning clarity, from the charming animations of Volkswagens and Mercedes whizzing down the autobahn to the stark abstractions of “The Man Machine” and Spacelab flying at you from Earth orbit (a particularly fantastic effect in 3D). The band is seen from time to time playing their keyboards, controllers, and computers, dressed in their future-man grid suits. (An included “Film” version presents the visuals only.)

 

Why would Kraftwerk bother doing another live album and why would they change (some would say tamper with) iconic versions of their songs? Well, they have always evolved and incorporated new sounds as new musical technologies become available, so the band’s performances now are different than even a few years ago. I suspect that Ralf Hütter and company wanted to capture the band using the latest audio and video technology to have an historic record of Kraftwerk live. (Sure, I’d love to hear an album of new materialbut if this is where Kraftwerk pushes the Stop button, I’m OK with that.)

 

Seeing Kraftwerk live sometimes seems less like a rock concert than witnessing some kind of alien transmission from another galaxy. This Blu-ray set goes a long way toward conveying that experience.

—Frank Doris

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.

Kraftwerk The Catalogue 3-D

Kraftwerk: The Catalogue 3-D

Kling Klang/Parlophone 190295924959

 

4-disc Blu-ray 3D/2D set

Dolby Atmos, Headphone Surround 3D, and
PCM stereo audio formats

Gentle Giant: Three Piece Suite

Gentle Giant fans are going to be thrilled by Three Piece Suite, the new Blu-ray/CD set of Steven Wilson 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround remixes, stereo remixes, and straight 96/24 stereo transfers of the band’s first three albums: Gentle Giant, Acquiring the Taste, and Three Friends. (There’s also a bonus demo track.)

 

Former Porcupine Tree member Wilson is renowned for his surround remixes of rock albums. It shows. And if you’ve never heard Gentle Giant, this is a wonderful place to start.

 

Gentle Giant was one of the most distinctive and individualistic 1970s progressive-rock bands. Brothers Derek, Phil, and Ray Shulman played a vast variety of instruments, with guitarist Gary Green, keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Kerry Minnear, and drummer Martin Smith (replaced by Malcolm Mortimore on Three Friends and John Weathers on later albums) rounding out the lineup.

 

The band’s unique style encompasses almost unhumanly virtuosic ensemble playing, complex arrangements, circular, fugue-like passages, and vocals from the Shulman brothers and Minnear that range from sweetly plaintive (“Nothing at All”) to choral-like harmonies (“Three Friends”). A feeling of anything-goes adventurousness permeates the band’s work.

 

The original albums were well recorded and producednot surprising considering the involvement of people like Tony Visconti (David Bowie), Martin Rushent (Human League), and Roy Thomas Baker (Queen). The songs employ a dazzling range of keyboards, mallet percussion, woodwinds, violin, guitars, and more. (Ray Shulman gets a credit for “skulls” . . ?)

Gentle Giant Three Piece Suite

I compared Three Piece Suite with the BGO Records CD reissue of Gentle Giant/Three Friends (BGOCD1095) and the original Three Friends vinyl LP (Columbia PC 31649).

 

The 5.1 surround remixes (there are 10 on the Blu-raynot all the original multitrack masters could be located) are a resounding artistic success, enhancing the clarity and separation of instruments and vocals, and adding varying degrees of surround sound immersion. Dynamic contrasts are much better, and there’s none of the exaggerated, gratuitous placement of instruments off to the side and rear that plague other surround remixes I’ve heard.

 

Both the surround and stereo remixes have a warmer tonal balance, with a better defined low end, along with a richer midrange and detailed highsalthough the vinyl has that all-analog sweetness the digital formats don’t quite capture.

 

Wilson changed some of the vocal and instrumental balances. For instance, you can hear details like the “Oh! Yeah!” exclamations in the background during “Giant” that were almost inaudible before.

 

Whether the gorgeous acoustic guitar and vocals on “Nothing at All” or the synthesizer intro to “Pantagruel’s Nativity,” everything sounds more substantial and dimensional. (The vibraphone solo on the latter is simply stunning.)

 

The straight CD transfers of the three albums were done flat, making them quite faithful to the originals. I applaud Wilson’s decision not to hype them up with “improved” highs and lows or gratuitous compression and processing.

 

The Blu-ray Disc’s visuals complement the songs in a simple, deliberately unfolding manner without being overly garish or distracting, like the surreal floating images of office chairs, paper clips, and briefcases that complement the mood of “Mister Class and Quality” and its businessman protagonist. All in all, Three Piece Suite is a superb addition to Gentle Giant’s body of work.

—Frank Doris

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.

Gentle Giant Three Piece Suite

Gentle Giant: Three Piece Suite

Alucard ALUGG057 Two-disc
Blu-ray/CD set

 

Blu-ray audio formats: DTS-HD
Master Audio 5.1 surround, 96/24 5.1
LPCM, 96/24 stereo LPCM. Includes
CD with stereo remixes.

Why Should You Care What I Think?–Pt. 2

Nicki Minaj

In Part 1, I related my recent experience at a Rumer concert, where a man came up to me afterward and said, “You can throw that concert in the garbage!” I’ve been thinking through that encounter for weeks now. No matter how I felt or what I thought was right, the individual reality of the situation was totally opposite—I thought the show was good and he thought it was bad. How could two people have such disparate opinions?

 

I’ve always felt there are objective standards of quality. Would anyone contend that Showgirls is a better movie than Citizen Kane or that Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid Hoe” is a better song than Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”? But if someone really likes Minaj’s song and thinks Dylan is some boring old wheezer, are they right? In that person’s own mind, they are.

 

I’m still struggling with this, but for now I’ve reconciled this shock to my belief system by thinking that I have to accept two parallel states of reality, like the wave-particle duality in quantum physics. One: I believe there are standards of quality in music, movies, and art. Two: Some people will have opinions that may be completely opposite these standards.

 

But there’s a reason I’m going to voice my opinions in the face of all that: When it comes to music and entertainment, I love this stuff.

 

I mean to share that kind of enthusiasm through my reviewing. I’m moved when I hear a great song. I get emotionally immersed in a good movie. For me, music and entertainment are excitement, solace, relaxation, nirvana, life. I want to let others know about something worth experiencing! I think I’ve been around the block long enough to recognize when something is good, or exceptionally good, or off-the-meter good.

 

Just my opinion.

—Frank Doris

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.

Why Should You Care What I Think?-Pt. 1

Rumer singer

My wife sometimes chides me that I think my opinion on what’s good and bad music is the only one that counts. I feebly protest it’s not true, but then opine that I am more qualified than others to judge because I’m a musician and have spent my life playing, listening to, and studying music. Am I right?

 

I was a music and equipment reviewer for The Absolute Sound in the ‘80s and ‘90s and have written for numerous publications and A/V companies. I’ve been playing guitar professionally for 40-plus years. I bought my first good audio system right after graduating college. I chose “Music Is My Life” as my high school English Regents essay.

 

But my worldview was shaken to the core recently.

 

The first time I heard the singer/songwriter Rumer, I was smitten by her sweet voice–she moved me in a way few singers do. But she doesn’t tour the US much, and it took me two years to finally see her live, at a recent concert in Manhattan’s Damrosch Park.

 

She opened with “The Look of Love,” and I felt an adrenaline rush go through me. She was everything I expected and far more–that beautiful voice against a lush orchestral background, a dream come true seventh-row center. Thrilling! By the time she sang her third song, the heartbreaking “Take Me As I Am,” I was crying.

 

After the concert, I lingered, mesmerized. Then for whatever reason an older man came up to me and said, “You can throw that concert in the garbage!”

 

WHAT?

 

“She had nothing, no soul. Ehhh! She’s not an artist.” Um, I disagreed. After a few minutes, we left each other, amicably. Just another crank in New York City, I thought. Oy, everybody’s a critic. But I was rattled.

—Frank Doris

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.

Keep It Clean! Record Care 101

If you keep your vinyl and stylus clean, you’ll be able to enjoy your records for many, many playings.

 

Keep the dust, dirt, oil, and sweat from your fingerprints, along with other contaminants, away from the record surface. Always handle records by the edgesnever grab them by the surface! Whenever I see somebody do that in a TV show or movie, I cringe.  (Guess the producers didn’t do their homework.)

 

After you put records back in their sleeves, put the sleeve into the album cover with the sleeve’s opening facing up, not with it facing to the right, aligned with the opening of the cover. I realize it’s easier to pull the record out if you don’t have to remove the sleeve from the cover, but doing it right will protect your LPs from dust and other schmutz. And storing records “sleeve up” keeps them from accidentally falling out.

 

Store your albums vertically, never laying one on top of another, which makes them susceptible to warping. And never pile bare records on top of each other. They’ll scratch and go from mint to mauled in no time.

 

Keep records away from extreme heat and humidity. I can’t tell you how many moldy records I’ve found in basements. Never store them in direct sunlight.

 

Before you play a record, clean it off with a record brush. This will remove dust that can cause ticks, pops, and record and stylus wear. (You can brush the record while it’s spinning on the turntable.)

 

Clean your stylus. The dust and contaminants that can accumulate there can cause distortion and even damage the stylus. But don’t use your fingertip! Use a brush specifically designed for stylus cleaning, and use a back-to-front motion to avoid damaging the stylus assembly.

 

If you like to buy used records, and if your budget allows, get a record-cleaning machine. They can be miraculous in transforming dirty click-and-pop-laden LPs into noise-free specimens. If money is tight, buy a record-cleaning kit. You can clean records by hand using various methods, including dishwashing liquid and soft clothsyou have to be careful but it can be done.

 

This post just scratches the surface. (Sorrybad analogy!) Other aspects of record care include replacing worn paper inner sleeves with high-quality sleeves, using anti-static guns and cloths, and investing in electronic stylus cleaners and even ultrasonic record cleaners. More to come!

—Frank Doris

 

—> check out Frank’s turntable setup tips

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.

how to clean records

Listening to Vinyl? Then Do It Right

record listening tips

Editor’s Note: For a lot of people, listening to vinyl is the ne plus ultra of the home-entertainment experience,
and since this site is all about finding the best ways to enjoy the best entertainment at home, we’ll be
offering advice on what it takes to make sure you’re getting the best sound possible from your records
& your system.

 

 

What’s not to love about the vinyl renaissance? The inviting sound, the tactile pleasure of handling a record, the cover artwork, the thrill of finding a sought-after album, and the pleasure of building a collection all add to the experience.

 

But you need a turntable that’s set up properly, and a good music system. A poorly set up or poor-quality turntable won’t give you all the sound records have to offer and might even damage themusually because of a crummy stylus and tonearm.

 

And an inadequate music system won’t let you hear records at anywhere near their wonderful bestin the same way watching a movie on your phone can’t beat seeing it on a big screen! You can listen to a turntable through a cheap Bluetooth speaker but you won’t get the tonal realism, dynamic impact, stereo imaging, and other sonic attributes you’ll hear out of even a modest system with good speakers.

 

You need to start with a level playing fieldand I mean that literally. The turntable needs to be level so the arm can properly track the record from beginning to end without wanting to “skate” from one end to the other.

 

The cartridge needs to be mounted and set up correctly. The tracking forceor the pressure of the stylus in the groovecan’t be too light or too heavy. And the geometric alignment of the cartridge has to be right in all three dimensions.

 

If all that sounds daunting, the good news is that many turntables come with the cartridge already set up, or might require just a couple of simple adjustments (usually tracking force and anti-skating). Or, your dealer or other specialist can set it up for you. But you might want to learn how to do it yourselftweaking your turntable to perfection is something many aficionados will tell you is supremely rewarding.

 

But not as rewarding as listening to your vinyl on a good, properly set-up turntable and system. It’s astounding how much music is engraved into those record groovesand how captivating and real a good record can sound.

Frank Doris

—> check out “Thoughts on the Vinyl Revival”

 

Disclaimer: Frank Doris handles U.S. public relations for Audio-Technica, a manufacturer of turntables, phono cartridges, and other products, and for high-end turntable manufacturer Spiral Groove. All opinions are his own.

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s been involved in audio 
& music for most of his life
and is a professional guitarist.

Dolby Atmos: An Audio Epiphany

Dolby Atmos surround sound

When I first heard about Dolby Atmos, I was skeptical. Did the world really need another more-speakers-are-better surround-sound format, especially after the underwhelming consumer response to 7.1-channel and even 5.1-channel surround? (How many people think a sound bar is the last word in TV sound upgrades?)

 

Dolby Atmos adds height channels to the usual surround channels (and subwoofer), with the goal of a more immersive sonic experience. (Atmos actually allows up to 128 separate audio tracks.) Entertainment advancement, or another gimmick? At a trade show a couple of years ago, I got to hear demos of three different Dolby Atmos systems.

 

Well?

 

I was astounded. I’ve heard hundreds of system demos and live concerts and am hard to impress. But I was flabbergasted. Set up like a bowling pin—and bowled over.

 

The first time I tried virtual-reality glasses a few years ago, I thought they were a novelty. Yeah, I could turn around and see the live-concert demo in 360 horizontal degrees, but the illusion was destroyed when I looked up and the image cut off. Later, I tried a true 360° VR setup, journeying down a river in a gondola, and was amazed at the completeness of the experience—immersive no matter where I looked.

 

That’s what Dolby Atmos is like—instead of hearing a vaguely circular band of sound, you hear sounds from everywhere with remarkable spatial precision and movement.

 

PMC Loudspeakers did a demo at AES 2015 of Kraftwerk’s 3-D The Catalogue series of releases that was astounding. I admit I’m a huge Kraftwerk fan, which added to my emotional expectations. But still . . .

 

Atmos didn’t just make more sound come from the ceiling—I was in the sound, in another fantastic sonic-bubble universe. I’ve heard Kraftwerk hundreds of times on many systems but I’d never heard them like this—synths, human and robotic vocals, bloops and bleeps coming at you from close up, far away, fixed in place, swooping around, solid, kinetic, dazzling. It was like being in a sonic planetarium with the sounds like stars all around you. Fantastic.

 

Home theater and music listening should be captivating, exciting, and fun. They should transport you. These Dolby Atmos demos certainly moved me.

Frank Doris

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and
works with a number of audio & music industry clients. He’s been involved in audio
& music for most of his life and is a professional guitarist.

TRR Thoughts on the Vinyl Revival