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IMPORTANT NOTICE - THE WORLD'S BEST SPEAKERS
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I would like to speak on two separate topics in this article :-
The first topic is how important it is to purchase good quality CD pressings. Everyone who seriously collects LPs has in mind the quality of the pressing, for example, first pressings, by particular record labels, were better than later ones; they were and still are more collectable and also more desirable sonically. The theory, as I understand it, is that as the pressings continue, the master tape deteriorates and the sound becomes less like the original.
For some reason, not much is said or written about superior quality, collectable, compact discs.
These thoughts come to mind because I recently inadvertently stumbled across a record shop called Sam The Record Man. The shop name seems inherently a good one for a purveyor of recorded music and in fact I had heard of Sam from someone and so I was interested to explore. I came across Sam after a decent dinner in Times Square and so was in a fairly sanguine mood, which is a good mood for browsing through music collections.
Sam proved to be a dapper, articulate man, who quickly moved into salesman mode and he is good! $5,000 later, I was the proud owner of four Japanese first pressings compact discs. This, to my accompanying partner and her children, seemed an extraordinary outlay, and produced several quick intakes of breath!
Sam explained that the Japanese first pressings were collectable because they sounded sonically superior.
I had succumbed to the following discs: The Best of Vienna Boy's Choir, Bill Evans; a Horowitz in Moscow; and an extremely expensive Cliff Richard; I think that the Cliff Richard CD actually had a price tag of HK$2,900, and therefore required some considerable thought before I paid the bill.
In any event, the real purpose of relating all of this is to say that I was charmed and also a little surprised at the real excellence of the recordings in question. Played on a 47Lab PiTracer, and using Mactone valve amplification, with Lowther speakers, I must say that the reproduction was quite stunning.
In the old days, all one could get from a compact disc, was a rather small, mean, unpleasant sound; now this is not necessarily true, at least not with the right equipment and the right pressing. These pieces of music were thoroughly engaging. When I played Bill Evans, from an "ordinary" Bill Evans pressing, the difference was frightening!
If anybody from any record company is reading this, my plea is, can't you please improve on the pressings and have ��ordinary�� CDs sounding more like these first edition pressings from Japan.
Now onto the subject of speakers; a subject that I have been going on about for a few months now. I am still searching for something that is totally satisfying. In earlier articles, I have expressed my general enthusiasm for horn speakers. However, the difficulty with horn speakers, of course, is that they tend to be physically large. With the desire to set up a system in my bedroom, I rediscovered the virtues of small speakers, and the result has been very satisfactory. I used a pair of 16 years old ProAc EBT (extended bass tablets). I placed them at the head of the bed, on a pair of Foundation speaker stands. The electronics are entirely 47Lab, a Flatfish, the Gemini DAC, and the Progression amplifier. Whether I am lying in bed (a great place to listen to music) or seated at the end of the bed, the musical output sounds splendid!
In fact, so enamoured was I by the result of that I decided to replace (at least for the moment) my Lowther horn speaker in the living room with a pair of 47Lab "Lens" speakers. This small and new speaker from 47Lab uses one driver in a small box enclosure. On this occasion, I linked them up with Mactone electronics, namely the new 330 pre-amp and a MA-300B power amplifier. Again, the result was shockingly good! There I sat with the lights down, believing in the musical illusion thoroughly, but finding it hard to believe that the illusion was being produced by this diminutive 47Lab speaker!
Obviously I am not alone in admiring the virtue of small loudspeakers. In particular, I recall the owner of Acoustic Energy (I cannot immediately remember his name, for which I apologize) and Mr Kimura of 47 Laboratory both enthusiastically explaining why they prefer small speakers to large.
In essence, both felt that the small speakers were better at conveying the meaning of the music while large loudspeakers were just that loud.
The moral of the tale is don't feel you necessarily have to get large speaker to get a good listening result, play around with small ones. This has the advantage of a fairly modest outlay in expenditure and if you get it wrong it is not going to be the end of the world!
Fi magazine had this to say about the KEGON
"Against a backdrop of deeper quiet and morefully articulated pianissimos, musical lines and instrumental contributions stand forth with exceptional clarity. The players in large string choirs are reproduced with a wealth of inner detail With the KEGON, you simply hear more strings in each choir - more of the transient bowing sounds and small variations in intonation that are cues to the numbers of players at play. On large-scale orchestral recordings, where numbers count, the KEGON's abundance of detail adds to the colour and excitement of these colourful and exciting pieces. I got a glimpse of heaven. A product that breaks through to a new level of playback realism".
This ONGAKU has been reviewed by Dick Olsher, Alvin Gold, Jonathan Kettle, Mike Kuller, Lynn Olsen and many others - the only non-perfect aspect of the ONGAKU that any of them could find was that they couldn't afford it! Listen..."Vocal definition was frighteningly realistic�Khad me spellbound in disbelief being confronted with the master tape�KEverything in the performance was exposed" - Jonathan Kettle
Ken Kessler, Hi-Fi News and Record Review, May 1993:
"Taken back? Transfixed? Thrilled? Hey, the last time I had Goosebumps this big from music was at a concert, not in front of a hi-fi the lone audiophile who acquires this amplifier in 1993 is one fortunate son of a gun the sweetest, warmest, most holographic amplifier I've ever heard."
When Henry T Ford conceived the idea of mass-production, he envisaged a world of plenty, of unlimited resources, wealth, and boundless opportunity to create profit. In time, however, we have witnessed mass-production stimulate mass-consumption to the point where our lives have become dictated to by a world of epic commercialism that has overrun all other meaning.
In our centrally-heated homes we are insulated from the cold, the light, the wind, the rain and much of the feeling of being "alive". We have become creatures of an unreal, robotic world, denying our true nature, and it seems to be bringing us little other than anguish and confusion. Our modern factories consume resources at one end, and produce an endless stream of products at the other - each new product remorselessly designed to allure us with its advertised essentiality - thus perpetuating the whole destructive system. And though we know that this syndrome cannot be sustained we seem largely unable, or unwilling, to face reality and search for a more realistic, satisfying and responsible means of existence.
In this world of mass-manufactured items, all aspiration towards excellence in craftsmanship has been discarded in favour of the predictability of the robot; the desire for quality has given way to the demands of quantity and price, and the quest for profit has consumed almost everything in its wake. It is an evolutionary process that is destroying not only our physical world, but our spiritual wealth also. The emphasis upon science as the sole driving force of our modern society has led to the wholesale abandonment of concern for the nourishment of the inner or spiritual self. The accumulated wisdom of preceding generations has been arrogantly discarded in favour of a blind pursual of an 'instant science' which leaves us without beliefs, feelings or understanding.
I have great admiration for the high principles of our forefathers; for their undoubting vision and respect for preceding cultures; for their great cathedrals and works of art, and for their perfectionist attitude. One needs only to examine closely the everyday products of our modern society to conclude that the technological ground we have gained since their time has been largely at the expense of the human satisfaction they seem to have enjoyed. So many of our modern products are unfulfilling in terms of design, manufacture and ownership: they meet daily needs in a perfunctory, businesslike manner, but fail to stimulate our inner sense of beauty, feeling and understanding. In short, they fail to satisfy our true humanity, and accordingly cost us dearly.
Our world is abrim with ordinary products meeting ordinary needs: this is mediocrity, and in my view mediocrity is our greatest sin, for it belittles us and our achievements and discredits our intelligence and greater wisdom. It is my desire to produce only the very best that I am capable of; I aspire towards excellence, for it is my belief that only through such an approach can true meaning be found. And surely it is the search for meaningful experience that is the very essence of humankind. Of course in business it is necessary to make a profit, but there must, for me, be something greater than a simple financial goal: a desire to create art that steps beyond the daily reality of our lives, that reaches into, and stimulates, our inner selves. An art which has respect for the music and culture it serves, and which seeks, genuinely, to enhance the lives of others.
Building musical instruments (for that is how I consider my work) is an important and serious business. I do not view these creations as mere products: they embody a philosophy which is important to me. I therefore continue to strive toward the design and construction of real musical instruments, better able to help people experience their emotional selves more honestly, and to encourage a deeper and more rewarding relationship with the wonder and passion of our musical inheritance. For within this musical history is contained all the hope, pain, joy, wonder, desperation and inspiration of our species. Perhaps more succinctly than all other forms of human expression, it is music which most honestly reflects our true humanity.
The purpose of "Simon Yorke Designs" is thus to offer a meaningful alternative to the vain, destructive and often nihilistic rationale of the modern "fast-moving-consumer-goods"-led society: to mingle philosophy with craftsmanship, art with engineering, and present the refreshingly simple ways of Zen, as best I can, in reverential sculpted form. It is my hope that through this work I can be of some value to our world.