Michael Lavorgna Posted: Feb 01, 2013 1 comments
Congotronics from 2004 is the official debut release from Konono Nº1 who use electric likembé, a version of the thumb piano, and other instruments made from salvaged scrap found in their native Kinshasa, Congo along with group vocals and plenty of percussive drive for an intoxicating over-driven sound. From the Crammed Discs website:
The band was founded back in the 1960s by Mingiedi, a virtuoso of the likembé (a traditional instrument sometimes called "sanza" or "thumb piano", consisting of metal rods attached to a resonator). The band's line-up includes three electric likembés (bass, medium and treble), equipped with hand-made microphones built from magnets salvaged from old car parts, and plugged into amplifiers. There's also a rhythm section which uses traditional as well as makeshift percussion (pans, pots and car parts), three singers, three dancers and a sound system featuring these famous megaphones.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 31, 2013 16 comments
Its Magic
People looking to play hard drive and Internet-based music without a computer have one choice—a network player. You could argue that a network player is a computer but that's missing the relevant point which is some people don't want to tie up their computer for use as a music server. They'd rather use a computer as a computer. So a dedicated device is their solution. The Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 gives you most everything you'd expect from a network player including the ability to play up to 24/96 music from Network Attached Storage (NAS), USB-based storage, the Internet, and it throws in a 24/192-capable USB DAC to boot.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 29, 2013 12 comments
The 99 dollar DAC
How low can we go? Schiit Audio has answered this question with the Modi USB DAC coming in under the $100 mark by an entire dollar. While I don't like to focus on price since performance is why we buy audio gear, there's no getting around the fact that the Modi is $99 and that number represents the least expensive DAC to come through AudioStream HQ so far. What's more, the Modi's outward appearance doesn't tip its low cost hand, at least to my eyes, with its custom steel chassis. So yea, Schiit have gone and done it, offering up what appears to be one heck of an audio bargain with the Modi USB DAC but let's look beyond prices and appearances and see what a Benjamin buys these days.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 26, 2013 0 comments
The Bill Dixon Orchestra Intents and Purposes

Stereophile's 2012 Records To Die For has just come online. R2D4 is one of my favorite features and John Atkinson was kind enough to ask me to participate for the first time in 2012. You can see my picks here.

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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 25, 2013 12 comments
It seems like every generation feels that their music is the best. Our music is the most original, the most artful, the most meaningful. All this new stuff is just crap or worse, derivative crap, and all of the older stuff is mostly just oldies. Some people will stretch their veneration a generation or century or more in order to land on their music-of-choice, but the tendency to lay claim to a specific point in history as being the origin of the best music (or art or literature or architecture) is common. And that's a damn shame because we're missing out on other worlds of bests.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 25, 2013 0 comments
Deep Rumba A Calm in the Fire of Dances

Lisa Hershfield of HDtracks asked for a new list of 10 Picks from the ever-expanding HDtracks catalog. I happily obliged and you can see them here.

My old list, which was replaced by my new list is still near and dear to me so I've reproduced it here for posterity. You'll notice that this list puts sound quality after music quality.

Steven Plaskin Posted: Jan 25, 2013 0 comments
Over the years, I have found Patricia Barber to be an acquired taste. Her latest recording Smash, is for me, my favorite Patricia Barber recording. Her original songs are quite good and somewhat more melodic sounding than some of those found in her previous works. Smash was recorded and mixed by Jim Anderson who has done previous recordings for Patricia Barber including Companion, Modern Cool, and Café Blue. Unlike some of the recent Concord Jazz hi-res downloads I have purchased, this recoding is not dynamically compressed and comes in at a DR 11. The overall sound quality is excellent with the 192/24 version presenting an upfront sound to the vocal that is natural with a bit of warmth.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 25, 2013 3 comments
FRKWYS Vol. 9: Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras meet The Congos - Icon Give Thank from 2012 is a heady musical stew mating old school roots reggae with new school experimental hypnogogic dub-infested psych sounds. Think swampy, Lee "Scratch" Perry's Super Ape Black Ark swampy, with lovely harmonies from Roy Johnson, Cedric Myton, Watty Burnett and Kenroy Fyffe (The Congos) layered over thick waves of Gendras synth, propulsive if sleepy bass and processed guitar from Cameron Stallones, and percussion courtesy of The Congos all smoke-infused, echo-drenched, and dreamily heavy with moments of real beauty shining through.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 24, 2013 4 comments
Convert Longer
The Bel Canto uLink asynchronous USB-S/PDIF Converter works the same as most other like-devices taking the USB output from your computer and turning it into S/PDIF data your DAC can connect to but it adds an interesting wrinkle to the proposition by including a glass ST Fiber output. The interesting thing about an ST Fiber connection beyond its inherent immunity to electro-mechanical noise is length—you can run an ST Fiber connection over 100 meters.
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Ariel Bitran Posted: Jan 23, 2013 0 comments
Boise National Forest - Photo from River Rocks by Casey Marshall (Wikimedia Commons)

A friend of mine just came back from Idaho. She mentioned potatoes. She mentioned guns. She mentioned snow, but she didn't say anything about audiophiles!


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