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Pursuing the ultimate sound for a single song…

April 11th, 2014 by Mike

… or band… or genre.

Or, for many people, a set of test tracks that they use over and over.

Whenever I get to catch the Grateful Dead Hour on the car radio, I think we should just make sure our system does great Grateful Dead. There are 1000s of live shows and a steadily growing catalog of official releases, so quite a body of work. The Dead, 24×7x365.25.

Neli actually did this in an earlier life and on a budget. Klipsh speakers and Adcom electronics. You can imagine how it does kind of approach concert like dynamics and volume. And when you are young [excepting this latest generation], the idea of playing a stereo at below concert-level volumes just seems… well, wrong.

I’ve often thought that our previous system, especially with the EMMLabs digital front end, was optimized for Dark Side of the Moon. It just presented that song in such a magical manner that worked on so many different levels: intellectual, emotional, hormonal, and practical audiophile levels. Yummy.

And many audiophiles try and optimize for Classical Music.

Before the Acapella Atlas speakers got here I was fixated on making Imagine Dragon’s Radioactive song sound as good as I could get it: My Imagine Dragons ‘Radioactive’ playlist.

I know this is wrong, intellectually, from a system designer / optimizer’s perspective. But there is still this really strong emotional need to make the system sound really good for My Music.

Which, you know, changes. But that is all to the good.

What this is not is having to ‘change what you like’ because nothing else sounds good on your system. So many audiophiles just play 4 piece jazz, or 3-piece Jazz plus female vocal. They act like this is their favorite music. Great music, sure. Enjoy it myself.

But seriously? I am sure there are closet Death Metal enthusiasts, for example, who are audiophiles, but they have been told to not optimize for Their Music so they go along with the small jazz program.

So, as we optimize the Atlas speakers, we try to just make them sound their best, of course.

But darned if I don’t stick in my favorite music a lot to see how IT sounds. :-)

Acapella Atlas speakers on a snowy morning

April 3rd, 2014 by Mike

We finally bit the bullet and moved our rack back between the front speakers. It has been over 10 (12?) years since we have done this [usually the rack is over on the side of the room. Better soundstaging, typically, and more convenient.]

This allows us to experiment with short cables again [before, with the Coltrane Supreme speakers, we could swap out the meter or meter and a half cables between the crossover and the amp[s]. We’ve always found that the best way to hear what a cable is doing is [usually, some small signal cables notwithstanding] to put the cable between the amp and whatever is driving the amp.

It also allowed us to get rid of a balanced to single-ended CARDAS connector, since our long 10 meter run is balanced and the amps are single ended.

It just allows us more flexibility.

So we are now running a 100% ODIN system [except one pair of ELROD PC on the M9], with the EMMLabs XDS1 CD player driving the Audio M9 two box preamp and Audio Note 300B high-gain Kegon amplifiers.

We discussed putting our larger HRS MXR rack up front, but after a long period of indecision, I just alleyooped the SXR up front and here you see it.

A full report on Odin versus Acapella cables, and on all the different settings for the Atlas speakers and how the Kegons 18 watts likes each one [or not] is forth-coming.

[Amazing how easy it is to flash back to how the Acapella Triolon speakers sounded here and of course the Supremes and to compare and contrast. Fun too :-) ]

Hagerman’s Cornet 3 phono preamp on Kickstarter

March 25th, 2014 by Mike

[Hagerman has been at just about every show we ever covered. Not ultra high-end but has seemed like decent gear for a decent price.]

What’s cool about this, for us, is that you can order the unassembled version for quite a bit less money and solder it together yourself. SOMEDAY we want to do this. Seems like a gentle way for us EE-types, and just gentle folk in general, to start learning real world electronics [I know what a transformer looks like, etc., but I can’t recognize basic designs just by looking at them. We both would *love* to be able to do this!]

Hagerman’s Cornet 3 phono preamp on Kickstarter

8th annual Vintage Voltage Expo - March 30, 2014

March 23rd, 2014 by Mike

The 8th annual Vintage Voltage Expo is JUST ONE WEEK AWAY — March 30, 2014!
The show is now officially SOLD OUT - over 100 tables! Vendors from 6 states!

Visit Our Website!

Sunday March 30, 2014

Ramada Plaza Convention Center

I-25 at 120th Ave, Northglenn/Denver
11:00 am - 3:00 pm
(Early Bird admission: 10:00 am)


Loads of Vendors from Around the Region Selling:

vintage electronics - old school audio gear - tube amps - antique radios - transistor radios - speakers - turntables - vintage LPs & 45s - hi-fi - synthesizers - stereos - 8-tracks - electric guitars - amps - vintage TVs - ham radio - commercial equipment - video games - parts - and MORE!

— All kinds of cool old electronics and music stuff! —

2014 Vendor List ( as of March 18 ):

Aaron Franks Vintage Audio
Analog or Bust!
Audio Karma
Aurora Old Radios
Bill Miller
Bob’s Place
Boulder Bicycle
Boxed Kit Amps
Chux Hi-Fi
Colorado Radio Collectors
Dan Houfek
David Boyle
David Schachterle
Dennis Selznick
DMEvarts, LLC
Downtown Sound
Fred Bantin
Gary Pagan
GAS Audio
Gilbert Bates
Gold Sound
Harmonic Technology Inc.
High Altitude Auction
High Country Rockin’ Records
Howard Haworth
In Plain English
Integrated Systems
Joe Kaiser
John Smith
Johnny Johnson
Johnston and Grimm Radios
Lizard Electronics
Marty Phillips
Mike Benda
Military Radios
Nomad Vinyl
Palette Contemporary
Peter Glenn
Ruben Torres
Schwartz Electronics
Scott Dantonio
Vintage Vinyl
Vinyl Jones

It’s like a:

- Antique Radio Swap Meet

- Vintage Audio Convention

- Record Collector’s Show

- Used Electronics Flea Market

- and a Vintage Guitar Show


Bring a FRIEND and come on down! It’s Guys’ Day Out!

The Colorado Radio Collectors Club (CRC) will be hosting their big annual show within our show! Don’t miss this chance to see LOADS of the best radios in the STATE! Big Radios, Little Radios, Old Radios and Even OLDER Radios! This is a REALLY GREAT bunch of guys! For more info on the club, visit www.radioace.com


Admission: $5.
Kids under 12 Free.
CRC members FREE.

Early birds ( 10:00 - 11:00 am) $10.
(if you want first crack at this stuff!)

Visit Our Website!
for a sneak peak YouTube video and more info!

PonoMusic launches Kickstarter campaign

March 11th, 2014 by Mike

[Some of the Kickstarter options will quickly sell out. So if you are interested, check out their Kickstarter page now]


DIRECT LINK: http://kck.st/1g5xVf3

Long-Awaited Product Features Full Ecosystem, Major Label Agreements, and Access to Studio Masters To Deliver Transformative Listening Experience

March 11, 2014 – (Santa Monica, CA.) – PonoMusic, a revolutionary movement conceived and founded by Neil Young with a mission to restore the soul of music, announced today that it is officially moving out of the R&D phase and is “open for business” with the launch of its Kickstarter campaign for the PonoPlayer.

The Kickstarter campaign features testimonials from some of the most notable musicians, including Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Norah Jones, discussing their experience with the PonoPlayer.

PonoMusic is a full system that includes both an online music store, PonoMusic.com, and a playback device, the PonoPlayer. The PonoPlayer offers a digital music listening experience that transcends the limitations of a multi-function smart phone. The company’s goal is to bring the highest quality digital music to discerning consumers by returning to the original studio masters to capture music the way its creators intended - with the emotion, detail, and power intact.

“It’s about the music, real music. We want to move digital music into the 21st century and PonoMusic does that. We couldn’t be more excited - not for ourselves, but for those that are moved by what music means in their lives,” said Neil Young, founder and chairman of PonoMusic.

The PonoPlayer is a purpose-built, portable, high-resolution digital-music player that has been engineered in a “no-compromise” fashion, to allow consumers to experience studio master-quality digital music at the highest audio fidelity possible. It can be used with earbuds or headphones, home stereo systems, the Sonos Connect, and in most cars. The PonoPlayer brings forth the true emotion and detail of the music, the way the artist recorded it. It features a convenient and simple LCD touch screen interface that is totally intuitive. The audio technology in the PonoPlayer was developed in conjunction with the engineering team at Ayre Acoustics, a leader in digital audio technology in Boulder, Colorado.

The Pono desktop media management application allows customers to download, manage and sync their music. PonoMusic.com, an essential part of the ecosystem, will offer the highest-resolution digital music from both major labels and prominent independent labels

“Our goal is to offer the highest quality digital music available from all the major labels and build the world’s best sounding, easy-to-use portable music player. We’ve achieved our goal and we are excited to launch our Kickstarter campaign to invite music lovers everywhere to join the PonoMusic community and reserve a PonoPlayer for their own enjoyment,” said John Hamm, CEO of PonoMusic.

PonoMusic and Ayre Acoustics have collaborated to achieve a lofty goal - to make the power and majesty of music available to everybody. “We are absolutely thrilled to be a part of this project and will always be grateful to Neil Young for changing the landscape of recorded music,” said Charlie Hansen, CEO of Ayre Acoustics.

The PonoPlayer has 128GB of memory and can store from about 200 to 800 high-resolution digital-music songs, depending on the resolution and length of the original recording. Additional memory cards can be used to store and play different playlists and additional collections of music. The PonoPlayer will be sold at PonoMusic.com for $399 MSRP and is available for pre-order at a discount on our Kickstarter.

General inquiries:



Special YG Acoustics “Kipod” speakers for sale

March 2nd, 2014 by Mike

These demo NVS-modded Kipod speakers need a new home! They carry the full NVS manufacturer warranty.

NVS Sound demo YG Acoustics Kipod speakers
These Kipods were displayed at RMAF 2013 in the DEQX room.

We heard the Sonja version of these modded speakers [also for sale, see our post here] at RMAF 2013 NVS-modded YG Acoustics sonja speakers at RMAF 2013. We loved them. Especially me (I was able to spend more time there than Neli :-) ). There was definitely something special going on.

Standard retail on Kipod speakers is $38,800 for standard versions, and $59,500 for these modded versions which were done by NVS in partnership with YG Acoustics.

Send us an email or give Neli a call if you’re interested.

The Kipod doesn’t have any scratches on it, but on the back panel it appears that the people who had borrowed the Kipods for the RMAF 2013 show painted one screw black. There are slight traces of the sealing material in some of the seams where the panels join together. Also, the original customer had asked for the ‘Customized by NVS Sound’ be painted black after assembly had been completed, so it is not anodized, simply painted. More photos available upon request.

Otherwise, they are in perfect condition.

As of this posting, a new set of front baffles for the Kipods (at a cost of $1,165) can be machined, if the buyer so desires, but the lead time on that is uncertain [but in all likelihood within a reasonable time-frame].

You all know we like the YG Acoustics speakers - and these particular speakers are modded to sound even better than the factory Kipods. Someone should get these who is hopefully local so we can go over and hear them once in awhile :-)

Official page on YG Acoustics website: Kipod speakers

Special YG Acoustics “Sonja” speakers for sale

March 2nd, 2014 by Mike

These demo NVS-modded Sonja speakers need a new home! They carry the full NVS manufacturer warranty. There are some blemishes [see below].

NVS Sound demo YG Acoustics Sonja speakers
We heard these modded speakers at RMAF 2013 NVS-modded YG Acoustics sonja speakers. We loved them. Especially me (I was able to spend more time there than Neli :-) ). There was definitely something special going on.

Standard retail for Sonja speakers is $72,800 for standard versions, and $98,000 for these modded versions which were done by NVS in partnership with YG Acoustics.

Please send us an email or give Neli a call if you’re interested.

Blemishes: There are two scratches right next to each other. Can’t really be seen in living room lighting, and in fact can only be seen if lighting is perfect and intently looking for it. To give it scale, holding a ruler up next to them shows that it is less than an inch combined length. Photos available upon request.

Otherwise, they are in perfect condition.

You all know we like the YG Acoustics speakers - and these particular speakers are modded to sound even better than the factory Sonjas. Someone should get these who is hopefully local so we can go over and hear them once in awhile :-)

Official page on YG Acoustics website: Sonja speakers

First it was the Acapella Campaniles. Then the Violons. Then Triolons. Now….

February 27th, 2014 by Mike

… the Acapella Atlas loudspeakers.

Acapella Violon speakers

February 27th, 2014 by Mike

From the beautiful wilderness state of Utah here are some photos of the Acapella Violon speakers. Neli has been here before but this was my first time. Awesome… and thanks for the hospitality you guys!

Forgot what color these are [neli?] but they were chosen to match and compliment the color of the natural rock formations which are overwhelmingly impressive at this location [of which there are many, many in Utah - it is just that most people do not get to LIVE within a virtual stones throw of one :-) ].

These Violons are about 9 or 10 years old, are driven by an Audio Aero Prestige CD / SACD player and Edge NL12 amp. They effortlessly fill a very large open space consisting of living room kitchen and dining room and entry way / vestibule.

Rigged. Corrupt. A Joke. Olympic Ice Skating: Sochi 2014

February 20th, 2014 by Mike

For many this is now obvious after the women’s single ice skating competition.

After seeing the rigged doubles ice dancing competition a few days ago, and the “very, very, VERY generous” scoring of the single’s short program yesterday - today’s competition was unwatchable. I mean, it is just so embarrassing - I personally could not stand to win something like a gold medal this way.

After seeing how the judges scored the Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje doing their long program two days ago - it became obvious the technique the judges were using to pump up who they had agreed would win. Essentially: take every opportunity to deduct points from the scores of the potential serious competitors and be very, very generous when scoring the person that is ‘going to win’.

[ I think the results for the couples ice dancing should have been more like:

1. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (Canadian)
2. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloview (Russian)
3 (or 4) Meryl Davis, Charlie White (USA)

and for the women singles ice skating:

1. Yuna Kim (Korea)
2. Carolina Kostner (Italy)
3. ?

There does seem to be some hullabaloo now about the rigging of the singles competition [the Toronto Star says it was a collusion between the US and Russian judges, helping give each ‘firsts’ for gold medals in these respective competitions]. The singles competition was broadcast during prime time tonight, so everybody got to see how rigged it was. Big mistake, guys.

But the doubles ice dancing was just as bad - it was just that the top two couples where not shown during prime time (they were shown in the afternoon on a NBC subsidiary channel) - so not as many people caught on to the corruption. [Sneaky huh? :-) ]

How does this relate to high-end audio? [there are no competitions this important, no where near this important, in high-end audio. So any collusion to pump up a brand or product is kind of swamped by the competition doing the same thing for another brand or product].

It relates in this way….

One of the ways I used to verify to myself that the couples I thought were best really were best [besides just rewinding TiVo :-) ] was to watch the skaters in slow-mo [as NBC showed us after each couple skated] and to look at still photographs. The couples I thought were best looked like they were performing magic, even when frozen in a photo - the winners like they were working out in our gym [lots of grimaces, shaking muscles, visible preparation and deep breaths before they made a large movements, etc. ]

I would include photos but I fear the Olympic Committee and NBC would send a nuke out our direction if we did.

Is there a way for us to evaluate the sound of a hifi in this way? You know, in addition to listening?

1. J.A. obviously thinks his technical measurement graphs do this - and they do to some extent, the precise degree however being up for debate.

2. One can get some mileage with the ‘listening from the hall or another room’ approach, which can show up timbre and even dynamic problems.

3. A 5 seconds or longer clip of a passage of a song might be interesting, like a photo, and reveal enough about the sound of a system. I.E. if this clip includes a vocal [naturalness, timbre, emotion], a dynamic percussive impulse [macro-dynamics, decay], violins or something requiring resolution to render correctly [resolution, duh], and lots of stuff going on in the background [separation, ability to handle complexity] - then 5 seconds should be all that it takes.

4. Spectral graph? I know people are using these to find 16×44kHz mascarading as 24×92kHz. Can they tell us anything else?

Anyway, it is up to us, the crowd, to police the powers that be to keep things on the up and up. Or at least scream when we see it is not.

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email: mike&neli@audiofederation.com
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