Setting The Stage
As a budding audiophile I started this hobby with a Technics receiver, cassette deck, and a pair of Kenwood loudspeakers that retailed for $32 each. I promised to pay my parents back for those speakers but saving a whole $64 as a jobless seventh grader never materialized. To this day I pinch myself when sitting in my Whittmore-Sherrill listening chair in front of TAD CR1 loudspeakers, a Spectral Audio DMA-260 amplifier and DMC-30SS Series 2 preamp, all MIT cabling, DACs that sell for more than many brand new cars, and a state of the art Aurender W20 music server. I never thought I'd have such an audio system with which to enjoy my favorite music. This system enables me to forget about life one album at a time and transports me into Madison Square Garden, The Royal Albert Hall, or even the long gone Copa Room at the Sands Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.
Inspiration One - Jay Z and the Samsung Galaxy
I love creativity and talent. When I first saw this video I was blown away by the creativity and talent of both the artists and the advertising company 72andSunny . The video isn't anything monumental or revolutionary but I watched it over and over. A small (no doubt reenacted) view into the creative process with Jay Z, Timbland, Pherrell Williams, Rick Ruben, Swizz Beats, and others hooked me and sparked me to purchase Jay Z's new album Magna Carta... Holy Grail. I had no interest in the Samsung Galaxy or the fact that the album was given away to Samsung customers a week prior to the album's street date. This one video had me so interested in Jay Z's music that I ripped the new album and punched up Jay Z's previous release Watch The Throne with Kanye West. I listened to the heavy beats and creative lyrics for hours. I cranked the volume of the opening track Holy Grail featuring Justin Timberlake. Just like the video, the track starts with a keyboard pattern followed by an awesome deep bass beat. The visceral impact of this bass was terrific. I was transported into the video where Jay Z suspects the speakers were blown. Throughout the track Justin Timberlake appears with his clear high pitched voice as if to pause what's going on in the story for a breath of air. Track 11 titled Part II (On the Run) features Jay Z's wife Beyonce and is a follow up to their duet 03 Bonnie & Clyde. The juxtaposition of Jay Z's terse lyrics with the ultra smooth vocals of Beyonce works well. Even for the typical somewhat over-produced track Beyonce's voice comes through like warm dripping honey. Moving to Jay Z's previous album Watch The Throne, I certainly listened to Ni**as In Paris several times. The deep bass and beat in this track are still as great as the first time I heard the track. Sometimes it's fun to rattle the walls and ceiling for that completely immersed feeling. Another favorite tune of mine from this album is Otis. Jay Z uses a sample from Otis Redding's track Try a Little Tenderness throughout the song. An appropriate amount of bass with the rough texture of Otis Redding's voice is a great sounding combination.
"Somewhere in America Miley Cyrus is still twerking." - Jay Z, "Somewhereinamerica"
Inspiration Two - Lenny Kravitz Crashes The Choir
I'm always impressed when often jaded rock stars show moments of, for lack of a better word, coolness. In this video Lenny Kravitz hears his song Fly Away being performed by The Voice of Praise Choir from the First Baptist Church in New Orleans. Lenny proceeds to join the choir first in a leadership role, then on the drums, and finishes with his unmistakable vocals. Members of the VoP choir were clearly thrilled even though the young guitarist tries his best to appear like this was just another day while performing a solo. After watching the video a few times I sent it to some friends. Then I punched up the entire Lenny Kravitz collection on my music server and enjoyed the heck out of his music. Fly Away isn't one of my favorite Lenny Kravitz tracks but I listened nonetheless. More enjoyable was my time spent listening to Lenny's Love Revolution album. I purchased this album upon its release in 2008, but didn't listen to it more than a couple times. Thankfully the choir video put me into a Lenny Kravitz mood enabling me to dig into the deeper cuts. The track Love, Love, Love starts with a catchy guitar riff but it's the drums that really caught my attention. I listened to this track over and over at nicely loud volume levels and each time the drums sounded very real and organic. The track and most of the album sounds as if Lenny Kravitz was playing with the remaining members of Led Zeppelin. Great guitar and great drums. The track If You Want It is reminiscent of a slower Zeppelin song. A great guitar riff followed by some soft vocals followed by one or two loud verses followed by great guitar and drums. This album sounded fantastic and put me into more of a Lenny Kravitz phase listening to his early stuff like Let Love Rule's Cab Driver and Believe from Are Your Gonna Go My Way. All sounded great like Lenny's eclectic, full of texture, rock and roll should sound.
"I was just sitting up on a terrace having a drink, and I hear some strange music". - Lenny Kravitz, New Orleans 06/2010
Inspiration Three - Mind Your Manners
Computer Audiophile readers from around the world, especially Australia, know that Pearl Jam is by far my favorite band. PJ's debut album Ten was released August 27, 1991 and changed my life forever. I couldn't stop listening to it and couldn't believe how meaningless the album made my Motley Crue and Poison favorites sound. I couldn't un-ring the Pearl Jam bell. Last month I watched the official video for the band's new single Mind Your Manners. I like the song and the video. It's classic Pearl Jam. After the video I started clicking around YouTube and found a video for PJ's track Jeremy (Link ). This was the official video but only the vocal track was audible. Listening to this made me like Eddie Vedder's voice even more and respect his talent as an artist. I started thinking about some of my favorite PJ tracks that weren't as popular as Jeremy. I put together a playlist containing Elderly Woman … (Acoustic Version) from the Austrian B-Side of the Go Single, Crazy Mary from the Sweet Relief benefit album, and a Dock of the Bay Otis Redding cover from an unofficial bootleg. The acoustic version of Elderly Woman is even better than the official version in that it's just Eddie and a guitar. His baritone voice unimpeded by other instruments sounded awesome. Of course I plead the track a few times in a row and slid the track to the end of the playlist so I could get back to it later. The rich vocal and authentic acoustic guitar were just terrific. Crazy Mary is track that could have been a hit single for the band if it as released on a major studio album. Eddie's baritone again sounds great while he tells the story of Crazy Mary. I've listened to this track countless times but during this session I let myself get further sucked into the story and could picture the video that was never made. I had a complete picture in my head of Mary, an old dirt road, and the town in which she lived. Pearl Jam's cover of Dock of the Bay (Link ) is a rare treat for me. I love the song and I love Pearl Jam. I purchased this bootleg from a store in Fort Collins Colorado back in November, 1996 while visiting a friend over Thanksgiving. Listening to this track transports me back to '96 immediately. I switched modes and started listening to official Pearl Jam bootleg releases from concerts that I attended. Hearing Eddie say, "Looking California, feeling Minnesota" in between songs at the Xcel Energy Center in 2006 was really cool (or at least I think). Something tells me feeling Minnesota isn't a good thing. In October 2000 I saw Pearl Jam at Allstate Arena outside Chicago, IL. The previous evening the band played Alpine Valley in Wisconsin with freezing temperatures. Needless to say the band was happy to be indoors at Allstate Arena. As such Eddie Vedder warned the crowed saying, "This may be a long one." That's a great memory from the show. However, listening to the coding track, a cover of The Who's Baba O'Riley gave me chills. Before the song Eddie says to the crowd, "If you sing it as best as you can sing it, I think it might end up on a record somewhere." Everyone in the crowd, including myself, went nuts and proceeded to scream Teenage Wasteland when called upon. Listening to that track at concert levels in my house gives me goos bumps. Music that can transport the listener back to the actual event is something special. Times like this make me wish each day was 48 hours long. If only the rest of my everyday life was this fun.
"I just want to warn you, this could be a long one." - Eddie Vedder, Chicago 10/09/2000
I realize my audio system is priced in the stratosphere. If I didn't work in this industry I'd never be able to afford anything near this expensive. I also wouldn't hang on to my old Techniques / Kenwood system. Mainly because my brother destroyed the receiver and because I've moved up the economic ladder from an unemployed adolescent to someone who could set aside a bit of my disposable income for this wonderful hobby. Readers should note the authenticity of the aforementioned musical experience isn't derived from the equipment but the emotion brought out by the music. I know this is an indisputable fact because I didn't use my reference audio system while listening to a single note of Jay Z, Lenny Kravitz, Pearl Jam, and tons of other music I couldn't cover in less than two thousand words. I enjoyed listening to this music and had such great experiences while using a system that costs less than the sales tax on my main system. I put together an audio system that retails for roughly $5,000 because I knew I could get great sound and have just as much fun as I would listening to a $100,000 system. The system I just reviewed, even though readers didn't know this was a review, was comprised of a Peachtree Audio Nova 125 integrated amp / DAC ($1,499) and Sonus Faber Venere 2.5 loudspeakers ($2,498). I used some lamp cord / Radio Shack speaker cable, the included USB cable, and my MacBook Pro to complete the system. Readers seeking specs and more information about the gear can visit the manufacture's websites. Those seeking to replicate the enjoyable experiences I had with this equipment should visit a dealer and turn up the volume.
- Product - Peachtree Audio Nova 125
- Price - $1,499
- Product Page - Link
- Product - Sonus Faber Venere 2.5
- Price - $2,498
- Product Page - Link