Now that the holidays are over, and the presents all unwrapped, listened to and /or put to very good use, I thought it appropriate to highlight the highs and lows of my audio adventures of 2012.

Events:

I attended three vinyl events in 2012:

The Pittsburgh Vinyl Con held at the Pittsburgh Film Makers in April was the most interesting show I’ve attended. With individuals selling more of their personal collections rather than the usual professional vendors hawking massive accumulations, the difference being that the collections seemed to run in genre. Best of all was that the attendees seem to be more willing to share opinions on albums etc. than at the other events I’ve attended. There didn’t seem to be the usual collector competition for finding the rare and particular, it was more of a shared interest.

The 25th annual Pittsburgh CD and Vinyl convention held at the Green Tree Double Tree hotel in Oct. This is a very large and popular show with mostly professional vendors selling both new and used LPs, 45s and memorabilia. Get there early! I just love looking through the old and reprinted concert posters.

My own sad poster story is that I had a collection of dozens of posters from the 70s that I loaned to a family member which of course were never returned. I had only held back on one poster which I’ve since had preserved and framed from the 1972 Ohio University Music Festival (two days of music in the Hocking Hills). The poster has great graphics featuring the Eagles, Joe Walsh, Billy Preston, Blood Sweat and Tears, Joe Joe Gunn, and a very young and unknown Bruce Springsteen warming up the crowd on day one.

The whole annual CD and Vinyl event is interesting and fun. Prices on albums seem fair and are negotiable. New LPs seem to sell for the same prices that I’ve found on the internet which is great. Bring cash since most vendors do not take plastic.

Last and certainly not the least was the Jerry’s Records Inventory Reduction Sale held this summer in a rented hall instead of at the store. Jerry’s Records inventory reduction sale was an album pickers heaven! Conservatively, Jerry had pulled out at least 100,000 albums and marked 90% of them at $1.00. The albums were organized by soul, jazz, classical and then roughly everything else. Nothing was alphabetized and you’d find Perry Como in the same box along with Michael Stanley, ZZ Top and the Tijuana Brass LOL. I bought 42 albums (which was all I could carry) for $64.0!  It was a great morning. And especially so at just a dollar each per album, taking home anything non top 40 without scratches was easily worth the gamble.

As much fun as it is hitting a few yard sales and as happy as I was at finding a few treasures at both the Vinyl Con and the annual CD and Record Convention, Jerry’s Inventory Reduction Sale was easily the album picker day of the year! Thanks Jerry….

Equipment hits and misses:

If you’ve read any of the previous articles I’ve written for MHS, you already know that I kind of blew my load dollar-wise on the 7.2 surround sound system ( Marantz, KEF and HSU) for my new room addition . Unfortunately very early into this year I had to replace my beloved vintage 1980 Denon turntable and did so through a horrible buying experience for a ClearAudio Performance SE table.

The review based selection of the ClearAudio Performance SE table and resulting problems forced me to also purchase a new cartridge, spending even more dollars that I didn’t want to / nor planned on spending in the first place. All thanks to the new tone arms high tracking weight requirement which was never mentioned anywhere. To say the least, I was very unhappy with the turntable then doubled down and bought ClearAudio’s best moving magnet cartridge the Maestro….   The whole horrible buying experience was easily both the most frustrating purchase of any kind I’ve ever made, but in the end, it’s also the one I’m the most happy with. Daily for the last ten months I continue to marvel at it every single time I play an album. The Performance SE and Maestro make every album I play sound its absolute best. The combination gets the highest compliment I can pay to any component or system which is great articulate sound without any trace of listening fatigue even after hours of listening. It’s no exaggeration to say that I can’t imagine a turntable sounding much better regardless of the price, the combination really is that good.

The only equipment miss of the year were a matched pair of 12AX7 phono preamp tubes I purchased for the Jolinda phono preamp from Tube Depot. Despite claims of extraordinary sound etc on their site and confirmation on forums, the Sovtek Black Sable tubes made the sound dull, lifeless and mushy sounding. They were not cheap and were promptly returned and were replaced with Black Sable Tung-Sol tubes with gold pins. The cryogenically treated Tung- Sols are everything that the first pair were not; articulate, revealing and with great sound stage (for a surround system).

Albums:

New music:

The only new recording I purchased this year and was disappointed in was the Decemberist “Long Live the King”. It was a lot of money spent for 6 songs on a 9” LP. And neither the recording nor the music is all that good. I felt cheated after listening to it the first time compared to two of their other albums that I have.

The best new music purchase had to be Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball”. It is just a great album on all levels; great performances, great recording and well written songs. It is the first Bruce album in a long time that had the same passion that made me such a fan back in the Asbury Park days.

New album- reissues:   Rolling Stones - Let it Bleed re-issue / re mastered

I’m still trying to fill in some gaps in my record collection or trying to replace albums that are just plain worn plain out. These are mostly albums I purchased pre 1973 which is when I finally bought my first decent turntable (Phillips 212).

By far the best of this lot this year’s replacements was the Rolling Stones “Let it Bleed” re-issue / re mastered. By far the best sounding Stones album I’ve ever heard…. Even compared to other re-issue/ re- mastered Stones albums I have. I think the reason I like this version so much is that it no longer has that patented Stones AM radio sound. LOL     A great album though, it’s always been one of my favorites and I like it now more than ever.

Best Yard Sale finds;

I really scored some great music at a couple of yard sales I happened by in Lorain Ohio. I found three Cadet records in near mint condition from the 60s that are now a part of my regular play list;

-          Ray Bryant - Slow Freight

-          Lou Donaldson- Fried Buzzard

-          Johnny Hammond – Breakout

 

Best Find at the CD and Record Convention:

Has to be James Cotton big band Live from Chicago! 1986…. If you like blues harp this is a great album and a great recording.

 

Best find at Vinyl Con

Mel Brown – “I’d rather suck my thumb”   was recommended by another person at Vinyl Con standing next to me while flipping through crates. I wasn’t familiar with Mel Brown before… now, I’m keeping my eyes open for more.

Favorite record find of the year: Rob Wasserman – Duets

I found this album at Jerry’s inventory reduction sale and it is now one of my favorites. I’m not one for compilations or re-recordings by new artists, but the music on this album is very good and the recording quality is just incredible! . If your system does not have a decent subwoofer, buy one just to listen to this album. Wasserman plays stand up bass and the recording of the vocals and instruments is meticulous. The album is a nice treat for your ears and will truly test the quality of your equipment.

Category: Gear Porn