Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences

Audio Federation High-Fidelity Audio Blog

Going to California VIII

Whew. Going to run out of Roman Numerals :-)

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Still looking for a place out here.

This Belmont place had an awesome, awesome view. You could stand at this window where the Acapella Cellini speakers are and look right to see South Bay and left to see the San Francisco downtown skyline – and everything in between.

This room was big enough, about 15 x 20 feet and even the dining room was big enough for the Audio Note E-size speakers [and with the same awesome view].

[You mean you don’t also put a system in your dining room if it is big enough? You are missing out! ;-)]

But it was really cold and windy here that day, which is not completely uncommon – which Neli hates – and it was a duplex [we suspected as much during the original drive-by, but it was not specified as such in their ad].

Sharing a wall – the listening room wall – with another home does not seem like it may work all of the time for the ultimate happiness of all concerned.

And there were other issues – basically coming down to us not feeling like we would like living here in the long run.

*sigh* onward we go….

 

Going to California VII

As we make our way up and down the Peninsula looking for a place to settle our selves and our audio gear…

.. realize that we look at about 10 places for everyone that we go inside. Just by driving by we can figure out some of the access issues, the micro-climate, the neighborhood and more.

For example, in a quiet family neighborhood, we might be expected to get some pressure to turn down the music around 8 or 9pm when the neighbors kids go to bed. Now, mind you, *I* do not play the music loud very often, but Neli…. 😉

Large mid-Peninsula Home

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The Acapella Cellini in the backroom at this house.

The house was big, with a large yard, and on a relatively busy street. With such a big house, with a big yard, and high noise floor outside, we expected to be able to play music at a reasonable high volume.

 

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There were plenty of rooms here. And the price, while high, could have been much, much higher.

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Not much of a view – but not too bad. We are starting to look at houses without views of the bay – we just aren’t seeing what we are looking for in houses-with-a-view right now.

Why didn’t we select this as our next home?

Well, for one, someone else had applied ahead of us [taking the choice out of our hands] :-/.

And, the busy-ish street… We lived in town in Boulder for a bit, when we 1st got the big Acapella Triolon speakers [and met Kevin for the first time – looking for a record cleaner I think], and THAT was on a busy street. Never could open the window because the noise was so bad [a busy street where the speed limit was around 45 mph]. This was nowhere near that bad, here, but still, we have some hesitancy about moving this place for that reason.

Still – it was a nice place…

Going to California VI

Yep, still hunting for a house to settle ourselves and the store into in the Silicon Valley area.

 

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The Acapella Cellini speakers in the dining room.

The house was much like our previous home in Boulder.

The ‘mountains’ [what passes for mountains here, not quite the Rockies] on the very tip of Silicon Valley.

Big. Quiet. Large Lot. Views [but nowhere near as spectacular as our previous location in Boulder]. Smells really good here to; all sorts of wonderful flora.

And with the same problems – difficult road [very, very narrow and twisty] and long steep twisty driveway. Only one flight of stairs to go up though :-)

It is also kind of away from everything, which is good and bad, right? We can really Turn It Up but many people would have a hard time getting to us [we fear].

Lots of room here for several systems, and tall ceilings are nice.

But, personally, my body just starts aching when I think of all the effort it will take to get gear in and out of here – not as bad as Boulder, but can we at least TRY to make life easier? [this is me whining to the wifey :-)]

If the views were really, really excellent [or a really good location] then I might be up for something like this again, but…

 

Going to California V

Continuing our somewhat more lengthy than desired adventure looking for a new place for the store, which we also call our home [since, you know, we live there], in the San Francisco Bay Area.

[Not about CA, but about the fact that – unfortunately – we think we HAVE only just begun.]

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Neli and a Rocky Flats yucca plant.

Now, most of you not from the Denver / Boulder CO area will not know about Rocky Flats.

Rocky Flats processed fissionable material for nuclear bombs and was located between Boulder and Denver.

They periodically ‘leaked’ ‘stuff’.

Much of the land around there is now radioactive.

They closed the plant … 10 years ago? [Oops. It was 24 years ago. Time flies :-)] … and cleaned up best they could.

But, still, whenever we see a super-sized tomatoes, or pumpkin, or anything, we think… hummmmm…. like the Sci-Fi movies of the 1950s taught us, it could only be due to One Thing. Too much ‘Radioactive Fertilizer’. :-)

So our journey continues…

Anyone has any ideas about how this search for a new location might be, you know, successful [and not be a complete muck up :-)], Please let us know!

Going to California IV

Continuing the journey in our search for a new home for us and Audio Federation in the general Sillycon Valley area :-)

 

[The Animals are so under-rated. Though the song is about S.F. we are not looking in S.F. Well. We *looked*. The prices are actually more reasonable there than in Palo Alto, much of Menlo and Mountain View, Woodside, etc.(!) but too cold. Too cloudy. Too different of a lifestyle for the laid back people that we have been].

 

Small, Mid-Peninsula, south-facing

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Close to trails. Yes!

Rectangular rooms? Yes!

Enough rooms? Yes!

Large enough…? Well…..

We liked this place. But really small. Large two car garage helps. But…

A little windy and hilly getting here. Hills like this would never work in Colorado – in the winter, even with 4-wheel drive and snows [snow tires], there would be a pile of cars at the bottom of every one these kinds of streets.

But maybe people here who would like to visit us are comfortable with this? Without Google Maps, how did people find ANYTHING?

Anyway, this room is 14 feet 3 inches deep. So figure the speakers are 1 foot from the front wall / windows. The Acapella speakers are about 18 inches to 30 inches deep.

We would put the listening couch up against the opposite wall. Figure that puts our ears about, what? About 9 to 11 feet from the front of the speaker? Not completely horrible.

This is definitely the best room in the house. There was not another room that had corners w/o some kind of built-in shelves or other issue for the Audio Note system. And those rooms also had compromised views / privacy.

But… the rent was reasonable [ha ha. Reasonable Rent. Such an oxymoron here. But we live in the high-end audio world right? We are used to THAT particular oxymoron :-) ].

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I mean, what if we go crazy and get the Acapella Poseidon while we are living here? No, they are NOT ‘really nice headphones’, Neli. 😉

This place is on the list of ‘probably not’. But it is on the top of the list. [this was written several days ago. The place is still near the top of the list. It backs to open space and just has a nice feel, for all of its practical faults].

 

 

 

 

Going to California III

Continuing our search for a new location for our home and the store; moving from Boulder, CO to the general Silicon Valley area…

 

South Bay-ish 

 

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Another larger home, looking out over San Jose-ish [hence the above song… :-)], which means expensive, but but not as expensive as it would some other places on the Peninsula!

You know, there is this short wall versus long wall blues that strike us when looking at these homes…

It looks better to have the speakers along the long wall when there is a window like this. And in fact this setup will probably sound better [because there will be almost no wall reflections of the sound from the left and right walls]. But the width [in the case depth] is so narrow that the listening chair / couch would be up against the opposing wall. And even then, position the listening chairs at the point farthest from the speakers, it would be mostly nearfield listening All Of The Time. In this giant of a room, even.

So we go through calculations and measurements. How nearfield is TOO nearfield? 8 feet? 10 feet? more?

Horns are a little different than regular box speakers with cone drivers. They take maybe 20%? more distance to ‘gel’ the sound.

But then again, we just listened to these exact speakers at Newport with the sweet spot chair about 6 feet from the front of the speakers.

However, it would be nice to not HAVE to listen to the system nearfield ALL of the time. Right?

And as big as this house was, there was really only one room for one system. And the master bath was tiny. Just sayin’ :-)

So, gonna keep looking…

[Yes. Another southern CA song… Going to run out of videos before we find a place…]

Going to California II

Continuing our search for the new location for our home / store… in the general Silicon Valley area.

[Yes. This song is about L.A. but same state, right? Tried to find a good Jefferson Airplane version of this The Mamas & The Papas song. But nada. But this is a nice rendition].

In many ways it would be great if the house would have rooms that are about average. Average size, rectangular, real corners, tall but not too tall, etc. This so people can come and hear something and be sure that it will sound the same in *their* home.

But so many audiophile homes do not have ‘average’ rooms – there is a hallway to the side of one of the speakers, or one side of the room opens into a dining room or something. The roof is slanted as the listening room is just one area in a home with a cathedral ceiling. Often there may be a fireplace with a large hearth between the speakers. And on and on, an audiophile’s travail. [These ALL were the case with our main listening room in Boulder. So it was ‘average’ if not for the 24 foot ceiling and octagonal walls.

But, one can [should] *try* to get the ‘perfect room’ [without building one] when one moves. Right? Right???

Which is what we are doing here… with some degree of frustration we must admit.

Upper Peninsula

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This is the living room – a little narrow but in other ways the perfect room for us. Long-ish, Reasonably tall. Rectangular. With a window with a view at one end. Both Audio Note and Acapella speakers would work here.

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This is the larger, family room in this house.

Awesome, awesome views. Big rooms. Most are rectangular. A nice big garage for all the crates.

Really perfect.

But…

E-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e [whew! knew that, right? :-)]

Plus, it is in one of the colder areas of the Peninsula – and Neli is sensitive to the cold.

And… The neighborhood was off-putting – getting glared at by the neighbors. [So many people fear change, leading to anger … but not so many of them here in Silicon Valley]. Pretty good security, I guess, but Life is too short.

So moving on…

We would love to find a listening room big enough for the large Acapella Apollon speakers [or even larger Poseidon speakers :-)]. I mean, if one is going to try and find a place that will host several audio systems, why not be a little ambitious [crazy]? :-)

Going to California

Finally.

We’ve been telling people we were going to do this for sooo long. And now the stars have finally aligned, the moon was in the 7th house, and it is happening.

Moving to the San Francisco Bay Area.

South of 92, North of San Jose. We hope.

Looking to open the store in our home, again, with perhaps a retail location later.

Since every audiophile has this dilemma about finding a place with a decent listening room(s) while satisfying several other constraints, we thought it might be fun to share our experiences. You know, as kind of just-what-can-happen tale of audiophiles trying to find a home that ‘works’ for audio as well as for the mundane aspects of life.

Our needs are slightly different than most people, which hopefully will allow us to get something that most people pass over [so it will be cheaper] but which we find AWEsome.

Specifically:

  1. A big listening room 15×25 feet or bigger if possible, with a big window with a view at the speaker end [our room at Newport was 13×18 ft. This is kind of an absolute minimum]
  2. A smaller listening room with solid corners for the Audio Note speakers, hopefully with some kind of window with a view there too.
  3. Two more rooms for our offices.
  4. An attached garage to put crates and packing material
  5. Oh yeah, a room to sleep in. We’re OK with one of the offices being in here if the room is not too small.
  6. Mid-Peninsula where it is warm [Neli likes it warm] and close-ish to most of the Bay Area [for the business]

This is more difficult than imagined – but at least most places have an attached garage here [I will always remember the day before a RMAF, carrying the 120lb Edge Signature One amps, covered in bath towels, stumbling down the 45 steps in a blizzard that had just dropped 6 inches of new snow while Neli and Steve G. were down at the storage unit in Boulder picking up boxes we had forgot to get earlier, with no doubt their own fun times ;-)]. <neli> yeah. driving a F rental truck in the snow [up and down the mountain]. Ugh.

What We Want

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[Steve Jobs’ old house in Woodside]

 

What We Can Afford

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[Adorable garage-cottage mid-peninsula:-)]

North Peninsula Townhouse with Awesome View

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This is the place we looked inside of first [after driving by about a dozen places all over the peninsula].

Well. A room that is octagonal, like our listening rooms in Boulder. We know all about setup in rooms like this after 20 years of living in them. But this is a dining room, and the length is not great enough to put a couch, or even a chair, in the sweet spot.

And… townhouse? We are thinking that one on the end, and ‘end unit’, where the listening room is farthest from the wall shared with the neighbors, might work OK. Neli really does blast opera a lot, so, ….maybe not :-)

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The main living room of this place has a diagonal corner. [Bad]. Plus the speaker would have to go in the doorway between the dining room and living room. [we can live with this]. The left speaker would also block the door to the deck [which means we can never barbecue. Hmmmmmm]

Nice view though. Can see all of mid bay to downtown San Francisco.

So. No go for this one though a comparatively reasonable price makes it somewhat seductive, even with all the problems.

Looks like this will take some time….

 

Classical Music Online

Classics Online is a new-ish streaming and download service. Haven’t tried it yet, but Navos has certainly been a label that has brought us many hours of listening pleasure.

 

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Classics Online combines extremely high-quality audio, a carefully curated catalog, and an exceptional search engine into one platform designed for classical music fans.  It’s the only dedicated streaming and download platform built specifically for classical music, with all its variety, complexity, and exquisite sound.

The platform comes out of Naxos‘ decades-long devotion to bringing as much high-quality classical music to as many listeners as possible.  Its first foray into streaming began more than a decade before streaming became popular.

More info here on RockPaperSissors

THE Home Entertainment Show Newport 2016 – overview

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[our room with the Acapella Audio Arts Cellini speakers. Notice how the shadows on the ceiling look like ‘kissing horns’? :-) ]

This year we took videos of the show – a virtual tour of THE Show Newport.

This was inspired by Mike Fremer’s GoPro videos of Munich a few years ago. As I watched those at the time, I was ‘glued to the screen’ – trying to get a feeling for what it was like to actually Be There.

I used my Nexus 6 phone for the video. Hardly CNN quality but it did the job amazing well. As I watch the later videos, they really do look just like the show does to an audiophile attendee [albeit with acute audionervosa – hopping to room to room like that – *most* attendees are not quite that bad :-)]

I have just a few general observations to make.

When we started going to shows 15 years ago about 30 to 40% of the rooms sounded really bad. Now about 2 to 5% sound bad. [not that bad-sounding rooms don’t still get best of show – same as it ever was :-)].

On the other hand the number of rooms going for ‘the gold’ , to be the best systems ever heard, has gone from 2 to 5% to 0. CES used to be the best place to hear these kinds of systems, and a few of us at RMAF tried to do this as well. Maybe it is because the systems earning best of shows are, well, seemingly randomly selected [so what’s the point of trying? ]. Or maybe exhibitors are trying, unconsciously or not, to keep the price down as the economy is still causing a severe drag on the growth of our industry. Or maybe with CES in decline, there is no ‘one show to rule them all’ anymore so where do we show this ultimate attempt at high-end audio? [this describes our plight. Plus we lost our big room at RMAF several years ago, and the small rooms just suck for this kind of approach – not enough seating is one of many, many reasons].

There are still a few rooms with vinyl and they DO sound more like music. Computer-based audio, however, is continuing to improve. Vinyl makes it easy to make a system sound like music, but optimizing the poop out of a computer-based system does help. 😉

This is usually an upbeat show and it was again this year. People smile. Say hi. Say thank you. Kind of nice, actually. We do recommend people try and go attend this show, though we have been there the last three years and may skip next year for a change.

I used to talk about the sound in each room, but not going to do that this year. There are many reasons why – one of which is that we then just blend in with all the others who voice their opinions, our particular experiences, passion and attention to detail not counting for much in such a noisy environment. Maybe next show. But for now I think we will do better by picking up the lines that consistently, in several different configurations, sound better than others and putting ourselves out there in support of these brands.

Shows are really just one huge party of like-minded audiophiles – you get to visit your choices of 100+ ‘homes’ where they are playing music for you to enjoy. They are really, really fun and I hope our videos help inspire people to attend more of them.