Ronald Clayton Gordon, Jr.
8 pounds (and change)
Lots of people have asked me for music system advice over the years, and I’ve provided lots of answers. There always have been variables, including:
- Variety of formats needed to be played, i.e., LP, CD, FM radio, etc.
- Musical taste
- Aesthetic considerations, i.e., one’s or one’s family’s tolerance for equipment boxes and loudspeaker placement
Now, after years of experimentation with my own system(s), and extensive listening to equipment at high-end dealers and high-end audio shows, I think I can offer some simple guidelines that will address most issues for most buyers.
The game changer has been the refinement of digital streaming audio in the consumer products space. The complicated and excessively expensive systems of just a few years ago have been improved upon in several essential categories, namely: simplicity, price, user interface/experience, and — believe it or not — quality. In short, if you were an early adopter who spent tens of thousands of dollars (and likely hundreds of hours) ripping CDs, setting up NAS (network-attached storage) drives, porting your digital music files to third-party music management applications and generally making yourself miserable, we thank you for your service. Without your initial investment (okay, “spending” since this stuff does not appreciate over time), the industry never would have adapted itself to the rest of us.
You may now feel free to start kicking yourself.
I continue to love my Direct Acoustics Silent Speaker IIs, and note on the fabricator’s website (Human Speakers) that they now are available in maple veneer! I definitely would have ordered them in maple had that option been available, but anyway…. Per my first review, an available cherry finish would be nice, along with a primed version that the buyer could have finished or (more likely) painted to match room decor.
But I digress.
I’ll admit upfront that I’m predisposed to like anything from Oppo. That kind of thing happens when your 2009 vintage BDP-83 (standard edition) Blu-Ray player continues to operate flawlessly and to be supported with firmware updates from the manufacturer. The BDP-83 punched way out of its $499 weight class, and served as my movie player and music CD transport until last fall, when I switched to streaming TIDAL lossless and iTunes Apple Lossless from my iPad to the PS Audio DigiLink III that the Oppo still feeds for movies. Read my original review (linked above) for my impressions of the incredible audio value delivered by the Oppo + PS Audio combination.
The second thing I’ll admit is that I’m a headphone freak, and like to buy myself a new toy every three to five years. My last major headphone purchase was a pair of AKG K550 closed back ‘phones a couple of years ago. These are excellent headphones, and are still available. So why replace them? Like I said, I’m a freak.
It’s been more than two years since my barber retired from Astor Place, and I’m just now beginning to deal with it. Between 1987 and 2007, whenever I was living in the New York metro area, I visited Marko about every three weeks for the world’s best haircut.
Marko had bailed out of Cuba back in the day when things got weird. His English remained heavily accented during our typical encounters:
Marko: “Hey! How you doing, my friend?”
RG: “I’m good! How about you?”
Marko: “Good. Same thing?”
Then, with artistic precision, ruthless efficiency and absolutely no chitter-chatter, Marko would give me a great haircut at a great price.
In retirement, Marko moved with his wife to Las Vegas to be near their children and grandchildren.
He will be missed.
I had some hiccups with TIDAL lossless streaming, and it turned out that my low-memory devices were to blame. I have a 16GB Android phone that couldn’t stream TIDAL without skipping, and a 32GB Android tablet that couldn’t stream without dropouts unless I first rebooted the device. The least expensive streaming device with the most memory (64GB) that I could find was the largest-capacity Apple iPod Touch ($299 retail), so I picked one up as a birthday / Christmas / Festivus / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa gift to myself.
The 64GB iPod Touch is a surprisingly elegant device that was just what the doctor ordered for streaming TIDAL, plus it’s equipped with Apple AirPlay. AirPlay is Apple’s wireless streaming protocol. Its benefits over Bluetooth include the ability to connect with multiple devices simultaneously (AirPlay uses your wireless network, while Bluetooth broadcasts point-to-point from one device to a second device) and — for the audio enthusiast — uncompressed audio streaming. I dusted off an old Apple TV I had lying around (yes, I’m the kind of person who has old Apple TVs lying around), paired it with the iPod Touch using AirPlay, connected the Apple TV’s optical digital output to my D-to-A converter and — sweetness!