Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ghostly Heifetz sound made real

Just before breakfast on Monday May 27, 2013 (Memorial Day Observed) I decided to do no work not urgently needed.  So while I would wash underwear (urgently needed) I wouldn't bother mowing the front and back lawns, let alone thinking about any of the other million-and-one chores that were still undone (and mostly still are).

I like to make this 'no work' rule from time to time when I can, a virtual sabbath, since I often find myself dreading the endless-weekend-work even more than my job, and don't have the organization and whatever-it-takes to get all my infinite household chores done during the "week" (M-F) itself, something that some lifestyle coaches say is a very good idea (leave the weekend to socializing and fun).

And I find a virtual sabbath helps focus the mind in a strange way.  If on the other hand, I decide to mow the lawn on a weekend day, that does usually get done, but little else worth speaking about.  What little time there is for relaxation on such a day generally gets spent on the easiest and least spiritual forms of relaxation.  Yes there are lots of things easier than sitting down and seriously listening to a full disc of music--a task so difficult, in fact, that many audiophiles never do it, I am finding.

Having acquired a rule-bending personality, I don't like to make my virtual sabbath a day that must be spent doing uplifting things....like listening to entire discs of music.  That would be a very tough rule, and I'd never follow it.  Rather, I let things happen.  Eventually, given that I never have to something physically demanding, I will eventually get around to the spiritually uplifting things.  After doing everything else, as it were.  And this Memorial Monday, I actually did.  I got around to doing these uplifting things:

1) Watched four 30 minute lectures from The Great Courses on Complexity.

2) Read the preface and first two chapters of J.M. Keynes' masterwork, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money.

3) Listened to the Heifetz Concertos disc from the RCA Living Stereo series on Hybrid SACD.

OK, #3 was the very last thing I got around to.  By 12:30 AM (actually Tuesday Morning if you follow the rules) my eyes were blurring to the point where no more reading or watching would be possible.  At this point, listening to music with eyes closed would be the best thing to do.  And indeed it was!  I enjoyed the entire disc, only falling asleep a few times...

Unfortunately, I didn't listen very critically at first, mainly focussed on my obsession with the center of the image, which requires small left and right movements of the listening chair to correct.  After that, it was a long time before I noticed something about Jascha's violin.  It was sounding ghostly.

Thinking of that had me laughing, and helpfully helped wake me up a bit.  Of course Heifetz sounds ghostly, he's been dead for decades!  But while the thought might have been funny, I clearly wasn't getting the best sound.

The fix was simple.  I turned up the level.  These classic recordings are recorded at a very low average level...allowing incredible dynamic range, and also (I am guessing the engineer's intent) hiding the analog noise level.  Turning the volume all the way up to about -1dB relative to 0 (actually, the Tact showed 92.1 and 0dB is 93.8) made it sound just right.

I am running the output of the Denon 5900 into a Lavry AD10 set to maximum gain.  I think this leaves about 2dB of analog headroom, thus my -2dB was actually -4dB relative to the recoding.  But still, even -4dB is an impressively high volume level for my system.  Most of the time I have the Tact set to something around 80.0, which would be -13.8dB.

After cranking the level, I was thinking how this compared to modern recordings.  Modern recordings would most likely sound cleaner, clearer, more transparent.  This recording has a warm fuzzy glow.  However, the warm glow compliments the music and makes it soaring, never edgy.

No comments:

Post a Comment