great musician's audio systems


A Naim dealer recently told me that Charlie Haden (bassist for Ornette Coleman in early 60's) had an all Naim rig with a Linn TT. I know for sure that Keith Richards and Ron Carter both own Tetra speakers (the manufacturer lets that be easily known). I have been curious if any of my fellow audiophiles might know what the audio systems of other great musicians were like. And if anyone knows of past musican's rigs (Pablo Casals, Jimi Hendrix, whatever) this should be a very interesting discussion indeed.
chashmal
I wonder if the musicians chose the gear and paid for it, or whether they were given the components free of charge in exchange for the publicity afforded the hifi companies.

I'm cynical enough to believe the latter.
One time I saw a Hartly/Quad/Decca speaker system for sale here on Agon that was advertised as belonging to Chick Corea. Who knows if they were his though...
Tvad: you have good reason to be cynical.

I am almost sure that Naim gave Charlie Haden that rig. The reason I believe that is he records on a Naim promo label, which seems to be a P.R. move for them.
I once asked Ron Carter(via email)if he still liked the Tetra's and replied "Yes".

>>>" I wonder if the musicians chose the gear and paid for it, or whether they were given the components free of charge in exchange for the publicity afforded the hifi companies."<<<

I know that to be largely incorrect save the usual few exceptions where strong promotional links likely exist, like TV advertising or magazine advertising.

Most at the top of the recording industry are serious enough about sound to seek out and pay for what they believe will bring the best performance--almost regardless of cost.

I am sure Charlie Haden owns Naim gear because Ken Christiansen who is an extraordinary recording engineer for the Naim label, recommended the Naim gear to Charlie. Did he get a discount? Maybe, but I am sure that is not why he bought the gear.

It is the personal links and word of mouth within musicians and recording engineers closed circles that sets up Pro/industry sales of high end products --not the amount of discount being offered. Yes, most get discounts through affiliations of one type or another in the same way a speaker manufacturer may get a discount from an amp manufacturer etc, but that does not drive the purchase or even determine what their choice might be.

Cost, discounts and freebies is not 'the object' of most purchases for industry professionals. Most of them can literally afford whatever they want and have their agent buy the products. The most important factor in any high-end purchase for pro's is established credibility and word of mouth on a product from those within their circle of trust--recording guys, studios, close friends.

Some well known recording business people attend high-end and or pro sound events for instance, ie: Peter Gabriel, Rick Rubin etc... They establish relationships, check out possibles, listen to and test the product and then purchase based on their preferences/systems etc.--not cost or discounts.

Sony Music Japan bought many expensive high-end products valued over $100k at full Japanese retail after they tested the products. The same holds true in many other studios world wide.

I think a lot of the greased hands stuff does go on probably, but not at the very top levels, more likely the middle and lower categories of the pro-ranks where someone with half a name tosses their weight around to get something cheap/free. The pro's at the top never ask for discounts or special deals because they don't need to. :o)

Grant
I have been curious if any of my fellow audiophiles might know what the audio systems of other great musicians were like. And if anyone knows of past musican's rigs (Pablo Casals, Jimi Hendrix, whatever)

I have photos of Led Zeppelin partying together after a concert. These were taken many year ago when I was heavily involved in rock and roll photography.

In one photo John Paul Jones, who is stoned out of his mind, is sitting on the edge of the bed taking apart a portable KLH player. He's grinning wildly while holding the rig high in the air by the little turntables tonearm.

He somehow managed to get it all back together because later that evening Robert Plant spun two 45 RPM singles for us. "Runaround Sue," by Dion and a song by a musician he claimed would one day be big star here in the USA.

That second song was "60 Years On" by Elton John.

OK, I don't know their reference system but KLH qualifies as their road system and KLH appear to be pretty darn rugged from what I witnessed and considering the circumstances, sounded great.
It's official now:
Albert Porter for president.
"We're not worthy...we're not worthy"

Excellent story that brightened my day!
miles davis-klipsch heresys.....as to whether famous musicians ever had to buy a pair of loudspeakers....i don't think so.
i am aware of keith jarret and herbie hancock having expensive audio systems. i believe herbie uses wisdom audio speakers . i'm not sure what keith jarrett is using.
Albert --Very funny story--is it true that Madonna is wired with kubala??--rich
In Pablo Casals' as-told-to book, "Joys and Sorrows" (1970), there are two photographs on p. 192 that show Casals listening to an LP recording, with the associated quote "Only recently I was listening to one of Sarasate's old records, made at the turn of the century. . . . What an extraordinary virtuoso he was!"

The record player is a very ordinary KLH-type 1960s portable phonograph, the kind that looks like a Samsonite suitcase when it's shut up.

That Casals would have chosen to hear his great heroes of the musical past on such a mundane instrument made quite an impression on me when I read it years ago.
The CBS Sunday Morning Show did a story/interview with Herbie Hancock. There were some shots in his home and he definitely had some Tetra speakers. Never heard Tetras myself, but they have a distinct appearance.
I own a pair of Tetra 205's and I love them, probably because of the room, which they are perfectly suited for. I have had them in other rooms where they practically died. I have never heard the 505's, but I am sure they CAN be great.
Herbie had Tetra's two years ago. I guess he was so ashamed of touting the Bose Wave radio on late-night infomercials, that he's now going bigger and bigger.
Albert --Very funny story--is it true that Madonna is wired with kubala??--rich

Madonna is long after my stint with rock and roll photography, sorry but I don't know the answer.

I did meet some of the very famous ones before her. Some of the best musicians in "rock and roll" are a joy to be around, and some are pricks, same as in real life :^).

Strangely enough one of the nicest people I met back stage was Peter Frampton, so it makes me laugh out loud when I see him in the Geico insurance commercial, posing as a "star" to speak for an ordinary insurance buyer.

Funny thing is, Glenn at Aesthetix Audio (Jim White's right hand man) turns out to be a roadie for rock groups. Somehow we got on this discussion the other day when I was asking about upgrade for my Aesthetix and we went on for an hour :^).

His stories were much better than mine because they involved the groupie girls that show up to meet the band. Now I wish I had learned to play guitar instead of a Nikon camera.
Now I wish I had learned to play guitar instead of a Nikon camera.
Albertporter (System | Threads | Answers)

Worked out OK for Arnie Freytag.
Paul from Dave Letterman has Andras. I think the II's and Pass amp. Don't think he put much thought into it. Heard the system, it sounded good so he bought it.
Some people get lucky the first time around.
Tvad

Worked out OK for Arnie Freytag

I think he had a bigger lens than me.
When employed at Wilson Audio in 1996, I had the pleasure of working with Lenny Kravitz on several occassion because he kept damaging tweeters in his WATT/Puppies. I believe he was using a Krell FPB-300 to drive them.
For years Lee Landesberg (of Landes Audio in Chester, NJ) claimed that Keith Jarret used his (Lee's) speaker designs. Lee no longer designs, builds his own speakers so I'm not sure what he uses.
Musicians don't need fancy equipment, though there are many stories like Patty labelle and VR9s et al. The reason they need little in terms of fancy stuff is that musicians hear a piece of music in their head and the recording is just a cue.
My wife played violin very seriuosly as a child protoge, in music camp, then college and beyond but she has given it up for many years now.
I went to buy my first high end system and was shopping for weeks. My wife just couldn't get it. She is definitely not tone deaf or has ruined her ears with loud music. She said what is the difference they all sound OK just buy one already. I had made inumerable changes to that system which she took ownership of and the changes didn't matter in the least to her. The music is in her head.
Interesting thread! I went to the Tetra website, and found a "Who's Listening" page (below), which trumpets celebrity endorsements. Celebrity endorsements are supposed to be an effective form of advertising, but I'd not seen it much an audio, and wondered: this rub anybody the wrong way?
John

http://www.tetraspeakers.com/pages/whosListening.html
It would under most circumstances, but I really really like Ron Carter. I guess that's the desired effect! By the way, I bought my Tetras way before I ever saw their site and knew of these endorsements. Knowing this now actually makes me question the marketing angle, because they really use very few dealers. But I love my 205's!
Very interesting thread. Remember though, a lot of musicians put out really bad sounding LPs/CDs!! Makes one wonder if they ever hear the music on a stereo at all!
If anyone knows what kind of system Jordi Savall has please tell me.

Albert Porter?
07-22-08: Mechans said:
"Musicians don't need fancy equipment, though there are many stories like Patty labelle and VR9s et al. The reason they need little in terms of fancy stuff is that musicians hear a piece of music in their head and the recording is just a cue."

This is often very true of musicians, IME; however, I know a number of musicians that get heavily into high-end audio. I played in a number of regional symphonies and "hooked" more than one unsuspecting musician that thought it was impossible to reproduce symphonic sound. They'd given up and just didn't think it was worth the effort to try.

Back when I had less expensive equipment, I had a handful of musicians go out and replicate my system.

Still, your right, many others could care less. They wanted to know if it was a great performance and had no concern for the sound quality.

Dave
Hans Zimmer and Sting use Quested
Mark Knopfler, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty, Lenny Kravitz, Rolling Stones and many others use ATC
Brian May uses (endorses), Herbie Hancock, James Newton Howard, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Williams and many others use PMC
Natalie Cole, Julian lenon, Micahel Jackson, Daniel Lanois and many others uses Westlake
I read that Cassandra Wilson has B&W speakers.
a friend claims Oprah has Linn speakers that she bought from the Linn store in Chicago many years ago.
I heard some time ago that Wynton Marsalis and his brother Branford both own Linn Sondek LP12s.

OTOH famed conductor Louis Lane openly admitted in front of a group of audiophiles that his system was a $23 child's record player. Correct pitch was all that mattered to him. Everything else was in his head.

Chick Corea was a big Levinson fan years ago while Mark was still with the company. Liner notes from one or more of his albums prove it.

IMO there's no accounting for Herbie Hancock's taste, after hearing him participate in a panel discussion at CES some years ago about surround sound and how he was so much into mixing and processing. Yech.
Wish I didn't have any Linn speakers......they sound great, but now that I know Oprah has them......
Before he moved back to New York, Andrew Litton was part of my music group that meets every Tuesday.

Andrew listens to classical, Jazz and vocals on his Clearaudio turntable with Graham arm, Conrad Johnson ART preamp and phono, Wolcott monos, B&W speakers and Purist Audio wire.

He also plays master DAT tapes pulled off the board when making records for Delos or concerts with the Dallas Symphony.

I can't remember the model number of the B&W speakers but they are very large, probably 6 feet tall, an older model.
Andrew Litton is from New York, but I thought he recently took on responsobilities as a music director of Bergen Philharmonic in Norway. I heard this orchestra under Litton several months ago. they performed Shostakovich's 5th Symphony in Carnegie Hall. he's a good conductor by the way. I didn't know he was also an audiophile.
That's cool.
Audphile1, yes he's quite an addict when it comes to audio. I visited Andrew in Westchester area of New York months ago to help him with his system. He loves tubes but does not own a tester nor is he comfortable swapping stuff out.

His turntable was also out of adjustment from the trip from Texas to New York, so I made that right too. Andrew has quite a few obligations in Europe, he says his 911 Porsche (40th birthday present to himself) was paid for by European audiences while he was conductor for The Dallas Symphony.

He is a VERY nice person and blessed with a beautiful wife from the UK and two beautiful children. I miss him a great deal, he loved Jazz and female Jazz vocalists like Ella and we listened together whenever he wasn't obligated to some social event, which was most of the time it seems.

Frankly I think Dallas screwed up not giving him the raise he ask for, we have another conductor but I don't think he's as talented. It seems politics is always screwing up art.
I don't mean to swing off topic. I just wanted to add, that when I attened that concert in Carnegie Hall, I left with a very positive impression about Litton. He is one of the very emotional conductors I have seen. He is a complete opposite of Maazel, who is like a stone on stage.
Litton is very good. I can see how Dallas screwed up by not keeping him. But I think Bergen Orchestra is far more greatful to Litton and he will bring the overall level of that up by quiet a bit. I'm keeping an eye on how that is going. I'd really love to see him suceed Jarvi in NJ when Jarvi leaves. I think their style is very similar.

OK, sorry for the off topic rant.
Listed users of Jeff Rowland Design Group, per the Colorado Springs Gazette in 2005:

Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits
Taiwanese violin virtuoso Cho-Liang Lin
Drummer Danny Carey of Tool