This past weekend was, for us, what this hobby is all about: getting together with good friends to enjoy listening to some wonderful music on some marvelous systems, and to enjoy being with each other. A dear friend who'd moved across the country was going to be back on the east coast, and this presented the right occasion to coordinate a reunion. Two friends who lived in the same city could host; we could drive 6 hours and make the return trip after an overnight stay; another could drive an hour -- it was all doable, and so it was set.
The principal challenge for us was choosing music to bring. What to share amongst all the vinyl that has rolled in here since we last were together? In the end, two full boxes of records traveled in the rear seat with us -- each selected as a sonic treasure, each additionally selected because it would be something one or another of our friends would enjoy having an opportunity to hear.
The first stop: Lloyd Walker's house, he of Walker Audio
. Yes, Lloyd is a friend and we've shared a lot of listening time together. We were to meet with everyone starting there and then moving along. I was very curious to hear what Lloyd's personal system was sounding like at this point. I knew he'd been making a lot of changes:
...the new Black Diamond air-bearing tonearm on the Proscenium turntable (now the Black Diamond Proscenium turntable
...the marvelous Velocitor power conditioners now feeding the amps in addition to the front end
...updates to his all-tube Reference Line Stage
...new Silent Source Music Reference cables throughout
...the Usher Be-20 speakers, completely re-wired and crossovers completely re-built (original crossovers thrown out as not salvageable, as it turned out -- I'm told some of Lloyd's improvements may be trickling into production units)
...the new Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge
...and, of course the system would be tweaked and tuned for the finest possible performance, as one would expect from the master proponent of "the magic is in the details."
After coffee and visiting, we all migrated to the listening room and started pulling out various records to play. Now, I've heard Lloyd's system in many iterations over the years. It has always sounded superb when he was not in one of those mad genius modes when everything was torn down and being reinvented. But this time...
All reactions in the room were as one: STUNNED! This was without question the finest sounding system for reproducing music that I've ever heard. The resolution, detail, dynamics, soundstaging, correct reproduction of the timbre of acoustic instruments were simply the finest I've ever heard.
We thought our home system was working quite nicely, thank you. After all, we use Lloyd's turntable, have a nice Magic Diamond cartridge in it, a top quality phono stage and amp, great speakers... But what we were listening to in Lloyd's system simply was operating at an entirely different realm of performance. The resolution, transparency and accuracy were simply stunning. What an amazing, and humbling, treat to hear.
So, on and on came different records to play: an early Japanese pressing of Led Zeppelin II that Lloyd says he's beaten to death for over 20 years sounded superb; the incredible All Star Percussion; The Emerald Forest soundtrack with it's remarkably well reproduced acoustic pipes, drums and other authentic ethnic instruments; the Classic Records 45 rpm reissue of Ravel's Rhapsodie Espangnole; the Music Matters 45 rpm reissue of Hank Mobley's Soul Station; and more. Every record brought a new thrill, a new revelation of what is possible when working at the far edge of the state of the audio art.
After several hours, it was time to move on to lunch at a local Greco-Roman restaurant Lloyd and Felicia knew, and then off to another friend's house for all of us to enjoy an entirely different system and listening experience.
The common threads shared in both systems are: 1) vinyl based and 2) setup by owners who know that the magic comes from paying attention to the details and then finetuning the system for best possible performance from the equipment on hand. Here our music moved from the excellent Music Matters 45 rpm reissue of Dexter Gordon's "Go" to the really neat experience of "Lonnie Johnson with Elmer Snowden" playing blues on Analogue Productions APR 3001 to the exceptionally dynamic recording of Rossini's Overture to "The Italian in Algers" as performed by Chung/Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di S.Cecilia on Fone 016 to the delicacy of the Malcolm Arnold's "Three Shanties for Wind Quintet" on Hyperion A66173.
But across all of the music, all of the stories, all of the equipment tweaking discussions, was the overriding enjoyment of our shared friendship and the enjoyment we found in being together again for a day. It is my hope that each of us in this Audiogon community gets to enjoy similar fellowship and friendship through this hobby of ours and not get lost in a singular focus on equipment.
Best regards to all,