Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers

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jsaliga

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Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« on: 18 May 2008, 12:17 am »
Since I have already said pretty much all I have to say about my MaxHemp/DeepHemp combo and the ALNICO drivers, I thought I would start a thread here to discuss another one of my favorite subjects.  What would that be?  What else?  Music!!  I know there is a music forum on this site but after spending some time in the "what are you listening to now" thread it is long on album cover art and very short on discussion.  So I thought I would try to have a music thread here that would be of particular interest to Omega speaker owners.  I'm sure it will possibly be of general interest too.  Truth be told, I have come to know a lot of my fellow Omega owners through my participation on this specific forum, and have enjoyed much of the discussion.  So I thought it would be nice to have a music thread by Omega speaker owners for Omega speaker owners.  Any genre of music is open for discussion and everyone is welcome to post.  If you can, please provide cover art and some commentary on the music.  One other thing....the music discussed in this thread should be cream-of-the-crop in terms of recording quality.  I own a lot of recordings that don't sound all that great, but I have them because I love the artist or the material.  I would rather use this thread to discuss the stuff that makes us happy to be audiophiles.  The recordings you listen to and then think "Damn!  This is exactly why I spend the kind of money I do on this passion of mine.  It just doesn't get much better than this."  The stuff that sounds so good that you savor every moment as the music plays, and even feel a little sense of loss when it's over -- despite the fact that you can always go back and play it again.  Hopefully Louis or the moderators won't have any objection to us running an ongoing music thread here.

I'll get things started...

ZZ Top - Tres Hombres



This is the Steve Hoffman remaster on 180 gram HQ vinyl.  The only other editions of this album that are worth a damn are the original vinyl issue in 1973 and a reiusse on vinyl in the late 1970s.  I know there are a few different CD releases of this out there and I am fairly certain they are both crap.  I can tell you for sure that the 1987 remaster gutted the excellent bass track and added a ton of processed echo that made the band sound like they were recording the album in the middle of big and empty gymnasium.  Here is a short 45 second clip from the song Waitin' for the Bus on that CD in MP3 format.  This is not streaming media so you will need to download the clip to your hard disk in order to play it.  It really stinks and sounds nothing like the record I remember from the 1970s.

Waitin' for the Bus clip from the butchered CD remaster

Enter Steve Hoffman, who remastered it for its debut on 180 gram vinyl.  He did this album right and gave us the original bass track with none of the sythesized and processed echo.  The album sounds just as I remembered it and it compares extremely well with a 1973 first pressing I have of this same title.  The 180 gram vinyl has a tad more bass response, with slightly richer sound, and much less noise (not because the noise is filtered, but because the pressing on 180 gram vinyl is very, very good so the noise floor is lower.  I love this record and on my setup the house really thumps at any kind of volume.  I have a high quality PC recording setup with a M-Audio Firewire 410 and Adobe Audition, so I can make very high quality needledrops in 24-bit digital audio with sampling rates up to 192KHz.  Here is the same clip from the Steve Hoffman remaster, originally recorded in 24-bit/96KHz digital audio and then downsampled to a 16-bit/44.1KHz WAV file and then encoded with LAME 3.97 using the same settings as the above clip.

Waitin' for the Bus clip from the Steve Hoffman remaster

I was listening to La Grange on a DVD-A that I made last week and my 21 year-old college student daughter was knocking on my door asking if I could turn it down.  I said, "No can do."  :)  She had to tough it out for a few more minutes while I basked in the wonderful sound of this album.  Highly recommended if you have an analog setup and a good motivator to get one if you don't.  Your Omegas will love you for it.

--Jerome
« Last Edit: 18 May 2008, 03:08 am by jsaliga »

jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #1 on: 18 May 2008, 01:20 am »
Duke Ellington - Blues in Orbit



If blues and swing is your thing, then this Classic Records 200 gram vinyl pressing gets my strongest recommendation.  This album has it all: from slow, downbeat blues, to swingin' and highly dancable tunes.  One of the things that Ellington was a master at was developing musical compositions that featured all of the terrific soloists in his orchestra such as trumpeters Cat Anderson and Shorty Baker and saxaphonists like Matt Gee and the brilliant Johnny Hodges.  He also left plenty of room for these outstanding players to improvise around the composition.  There is not a stale track on this record, and the quality of the recording will have you beaming a big ear-to-ear grin as you listen.  When the last of this record's 11 tracks finishes, you'll wish there were a lot more.

--Jerome
« Last Edit: 18 May 2008, 02:31 am by jsaliga »

rajacat

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #2 on: 18 May 2008, 02:32 am »
Hi Jerome,

If you keep posting these articulate and knowledgeable reviews I might be seduced into purchasing a vinyl rig. :green: :o

-Roy

jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #3 on: 18 May 2008, 03:11 am »
Ok folks.  I messed up with the audio clip links in the Tres Hombres post.  They were both pointing to the CD clip.  This has now been fixed, so you can get both clips to compare the CD remaster to the Steve Hoffman remaster.  I apologize for any inconvenience.

--Jerome


jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #4 on: 18 May 2008, 12:52 pm »
Hi Jerome,

If you keep posting these articulate and knowledgeable reviews I might be seduced into purchasing a vinyl rig. :green: :o

Hi Roy,

Vinyl can be a blessing and a curse.  It's a blessing because it opens up an entire universe of recordings that are still not available on CD.  Second, it gives you access to some original recordings that have been utterly ruined on the CD format by incompetent remastering.  The latter is the main reason that I have my analog rig. 

But vinyl is also a curse because it is fraught with it's own problems.  The state of the art in terms of vinyl pressing has not advanced too much the last 35 years, so the defect rate with new vinyl pressings is still fairly high in my view.  I have had to send back about 10% of the new pressings I buy.  Some ended up in the trash and I just wrote off the loss.  Vintage vinyl can be a curse too, depending on where you buy it.  Buying on eBay is a good way to get ripped off.  Sure, the sellers will deliver your records.  But the tendency is to seriously overgrade used vintage vinyl.  I can't tell you the number of albums that were listed as near-mint that showed up at my door loaded with scratches.  There are only two or three record dealers on eBay that I buy from now and can trust.  With them most of the vinyl I get is exactly as described, and in the rare event that I have a problem they refund the price and I throw the record away.  I will say this however, when vinyl is done right there is nothing else quite like it. 

As much as I have come to love high resolution digital audio (SACD, DVD-A), I still think that vinyl has a slight edge.  Of couse, it really depends on the music.  For instance, I think that SACD is the preferred format for classical music.  I especially love the RCA Living Stereo series in hybrid SACD.  They did a marvelous job with it.  Trying to obtain these titles on vinyl can be a game of chance where the audiophile usually ends up the looser.  Maybe I have had a unusual run of bad luck, but out of the 30 or so RCA Living Stereo vinyl records I have bought all of them but two were completely worn out.  On the other hand, if you're into 70s and 80s rock then vinyl is really the preferred format.  With jazz it's a mixed bag.  Blue Note titles on original vinyl pressings go for a king's ransom these days.  So your best bet is vinyl reissues from Blue Note, OJC, and Riverside.  With Blue Note recordings I started buying the RVG Remaster series on CD and while some of them were mastered hot, most of them were very good and I was a strong defender and advocate of the series.  But recently I have bought a lot of 2005 and 2006 RVG remasters and almost all of them are mastered hot and the dynamics are crushed out of them.  It's very depressing to have someone like Rudy Van Gelder involved in this project only to see a poor end result.  Where I have done exceptionally well with vintage vinyl is with 1950s and 1960s jazz and pop vocalists on Capitol Records.  I recently bought original vinyl pressings of Nat King Cole's entire recorded output on Capitol Records and the sound quality of these albums was fantastic.  I also have a lot of Peggy Lee records on Capitol, as well as Keely Smith (she was a duet partner of Louis Prima in the 1940s and pursued a solo career in the 1950s).

While I realize that this thread was just started yesterday, it's my hope that others will jump in and share with us some of their most prized recordings.  I'm always on the lookout for some great sounding music.

--Jerome
« Last Edit: 18 May 2008, 02:57 pm by jsaliga »

rajacat

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #5 on: 18 May 2008, 04:08 pm »
We are lucky to have a small, independent record (and cd) store in our little Pacific Northwest town. They seem to have a constant influx of new and used vinyl that I could cull for premium recordings. Presently I do have a TT but lack a phonostage. It will be great when, if ever, digital audio settles on a high resolution format that matches the sound quality of the best vinyl.

-Roy

ps.  I'm almost afraid to get addicted to vinyl because of the added expense, all the new gear required and the constant feeling that you have to tweak this and that. Plasticlay, vacuum powered record cleaners, special carts, $1000 turntables, direct drive vs. belts, air suspension for TT and on and on..... :?
« Last Edit: 18 May 2008, 05:00 pm by rajacat »

jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #6 on: 18 May 2008, 05:03 pm »
Then allow me to recommend the TC-760LC from Phonopreamps.com

http://www.phonopreamps.com/TC-760LCpp.html

Less than $100 delivered to your door.  Support for both MM and MC carts.  I found it to be at least as good as the Dynavector P-75 (about $800 new) that I used to own.  The TC-760LC also has a variable gain control (rare for phono preamps), which is great to have if you want to make high quality digital recordings of your vinyl to a PC.  I do this myself and make format compliant DVD-As from vinyl at 24bits/96Hz.  The DVDs will play on any universal player that supports the DVD-A format.

--Jerome

rajacat

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #7 on: 18 May 2008, 05:15 pm »
Hmmm.... that is very reasonably priced. :D Wow, I could have a vinyl system ready to go for less than $100 since I already have a turntable. The TT is a Beogram RX and I've tested it with my old Scott LK48 (which is now defunct) and the cart is still good.

_Roy

jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #8 on: 18 May 2008, 06:48 pm »
If any of you are wondering how bad it can be with brand new vinyl, witness these two samples of bad 200 gram vinyl pressings from Classic Records:

Sample of Classic Records Poor Quality on 200 Gram Vinyl

More Shoddy Quality on Classic Records 200 Gram Vinyl

So this isn't necessarily a path I would suggest to everyone.  I have lost over $300 on Classic Records titles alone that I could not get refunded or replaced because I waited too long to play them.  When they are good, they can't be beat.  But I have been having a very high failure rate with their records lately and taking a pretty big financial lump (about 25% or more of recent 200 gram deliveries to my door are bad).  So I am no longer buying Classic Records titles and in retrospect I probably shouldn't be recommending them here.  Going forward I won't be recommending any Classic Records titles.

In that vein, I would like to suggest an alternative to the Heifetz performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto on 200 gram vinyl:



I can easily give this hybrid SACD a strong recommendation.  It includes Prokofiev Violin Concernto No.2 in G Minor and Glazunov Violin Concerto in A Minor as well.  So you get about twice as much brilliant Heifetz violin playing on a stunning SACD for $12, which is about $18 less than a Classic Records 200 gram pressing that you might be sorry you bought.

--Jerome
« Last Edit: 18 May 2008, 07:15 pm by jsaliga »

jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #9 on: 18 May 2008, 11:25 pm »
There are plenty of really great recordings on CD.

Jimmy Smith - Midnight Special



Jimmy Smith was king of the Hammond B3 organ and was key to its adoption into jazz circles during the hard bop era.  He later helped to develop the soul-jazz aesthetic as well.  On this session Smith is teamed up with one of my favorite saxaphone players, Stanley Turrentine.  Kenny Burrell is also here on guitar.  The mastering on this CD is really great, the levels are correct and the dynamic range is superb.  All in all a great sounding CD on my Omegas.  It's an easy recommendation to jazz fans.

--Jerome

rajacat

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #10 on: 19 May 2008, 12:50 am »
Speakin' of Jimmy Smith, I like the sound quality of this release that is available for $7.95 @ Amazon. Nice performance too! :)



-Roy


jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #11 on: 19 May 2008, 02:41 am »
It's an excellent album Roy.  I have it too.  Mine is a 2003 RVG remaster.  My only complaints are that the dynamic range is a little compressed and there are occasionally clipped levels.  See the following waveform sample from Adobe Audition 3.0.  Most of the album is like this:



By comparison, here is a sample from the Midnight Special CD, which was not part of the RVG Remaster Series.



Don't get me wrong, because I think overall the Prayer Meetin' CD sounds good and I wouldn't pass up any Jimmy Smith album because of a few minor quibbles I might have with the mastering.  When all is said and done we listen to music, not stare at waveforms. :)

--Jerome
« Last Edit: 19 May 2008, 03:07 am by jsaliga »

rajacat

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #12 on: 19 May 2008, 03:24 am »
That must be what is called the loudness factor in which all the levels are too high and compressed hence the clipping. I guess that makes it easier to play on an Ipod which usually has to deal with more ambient noise such as general street noise etc. Too bad there wasn't a way to determine the quality of a cd before purchase other than word of mouth and reviews. It seems like it would be difficult to determine the quality of a given component when you have to deal with compressed audio. I  wonder if an original recording, that was recorded totally in the digital arena, have the natural waveform  restored easily if so desired. :scratch: Can you retroactively determine what was  the original dynamic range?

-Roy
« Last Edit: 19 May 2008, 04:35 am by rajacat »

jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #13 on: 19 May 2008, 11:57 am »
Indeed.  It's all part of the loudness war.  Here's an excellent video on YouTube that demonstrates what is happening to modern CD mastering.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ

With these classic Blue Note jazz titles (and any other analog recording for that matter) one can always go back to the original master and session tapes.  With digital recording I don't really know the process, but if I were a recording engineer I would want clean master or session recordings that I could go back to at any time.

I don't want to harp too much on the RVG Blue Note Remasters.  They can sound very good and the music it represents is just too important to turn your nose up at it because of a few mastering issues.  Most of it sounds very good, and some of it could sound better with better quality mastering.

--Jerome

jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #14 on: 21 May 2008, 01:19 pm »
Johnny Hodges - Johnny Hodges with Billy Strayhorn and the Orchestra



This is an incredible sounding CD issued on the Verve Master Series label.  Hodges' brilliant alto saxaphone playing provided the melodic and improvisational glue that held a lot of Duke Ellington's compositions together in the 1950s and 60s.  I think Hodges was the best alto sax player on the planet during his day.  While he could swing like there was no tomorrow, his blues and ballad playing were particularly special.  This session pairs Hodges with Duke Ellington's great arranger, Billy Strayhorn.  It's an album that shouldn't be missed by fans of Hodges, Strayhorn, Ellington, or just jazz afficionados in general.

--Jerome

jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #15 on: 22 May 2008, 01:00 am »
Cowboy Junkies - Whites Off Earth Now!



What an album.   :thumb:  Margo Timmins' ethereal vocals are supported by the languid and meandering guitar playing of her brother Michael.  It's hard to pin down stylistically where this album comes down.  It's rockish, with a tinge of country and folk, and a dash of blues seasoned to taste.  Some reviewers have said there are parallels to the Velvet Underground.  Perhaps that's true.  They did do a cover of Sweet Jane on their follow-up album Trinity Session.  And this album does seem to be somewhat influenced by White Light/White Heat.  Whatever their influences, the music just gets inside your head and swirls around.  It is still available from Mobile Fidelity on an Ultradisc UHR hybrid SACD, and I strongly recommend it if you find this music appealing.  It sounds terrific on my ALNICO driven Max Hemps.  Try some of the samples up on Amazon.com.  You can only get the SACD disc from MoFi, however.

http://www.mofi.com/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idcategory=0&idproduct=103

--Jerome

jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #16 on: 22 May 2008, 05:47 pm »
Swans - White Light from the Mouth of Infinity



Swans got their start in the early 1980s and sprung up out of the New York underground and were influenced by the No Wave movement of the late 1970s.  Their early proto industrial grind is arguably some of the most abrasive and aggressive music ever created.  Michael Gira fronted the band and wrote most of the songs, backed by guitarist Norman Westberg and drummer Johnathan Kane.  Their early work is perhaps best desribed as theme music for the apocalypse.  But after several albums and bringing female vocalist Jarboe into the fold, the band underwent a metamorphasis of sorts.  Michael Gira, it turns out, actually was in command of a good singing voice, with a distinctive baritone that is reminiscient of Johnny Cash.  On their early sides one would never know this, because Gira's singing in those days was more like the kind of sound one might expect from someone who was being tortured.  Swans also discovered musical structure in their later years, especially harmony and melody.  Rather than focus on the seedy side of human nature, their song craft turned to songs of despair, hopelessness, and depression -- though their later music isn't necessarily always depressing.

While I like most of Swans early, noisy, music such as it is, this particular album -- released in 1991 -- is a personal favorite of mine.  It embodies all of the admirable traits of Swans' rebirth as an alternative rock band: Gira's golden baratone voice, Jarboe's ethereal and haunting vocals, and their combined sense of impeccable songcraft.  The mix can be dense at times, but this CD is well recorded and mastered, and it sounds terrific.  The bad news is that it has been out of print for several years.  Used copies turn up from time to time on eBay and Amazon for between $50 and $80.  Alternatively, you can buy the 2-disc compilation set called Various Failures, which includes the best tracks from this album, and some hand picked tracks by Michael Gira from a few other later Swans albums such as The Burning World, Love of Life, and a side project World of Skin album called Ten Songs from Another World.

YouTube: Swans - Failure (audio only)

--Jerome
« Last Edit: 15 Jun 2008, 02:39 am by jsaliga »

Toka

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #17 on: 23 May 2008, 04:44 am »
Wow, now there is an album I wasn't expecting to see in this thread. Very nice.  :thumb:

rajacat

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #18 on: 23 May 2008, 06:49 am »


I liked the sound quality of this album under the Delmark label. I discovered this recording at the local library which occasionally purchases adventurous jazz :) to add to their mostly traditional collection.

-Roy

jsaliga

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Re: Music - Food for Your Omega Speakers
« Reply #19 on: 23 May 2008, 02:40 pm »
Wow, now there is an album I wasn't expecting to see in this thread. Very nice.  :thumb:

I think you will find that I can be full of surprises where music is concerned.  8)  We would very much like you to share some of your most treasured recordings with us.  Tell us a little something about the music and what makes it so special to you.

--Jerome