Saturday, September 29, 2012

Richard Vandersteen at St. Louis Stereo

Today was the day we'd waited for and anticipated for weeks now, since events rarely take place in an audio wasteland such as St. Louis. Richard Vandersteen, of Vandersteen Audio fame, addressed a small polite crowd at St. Louis Stereo, 2020 Washington Avenue, in the high-rent loft district downtown.

Richard spoke at length about how he started from modest means, his parents being immigrants, and how he made the transition from a small-time speaker designer into one of the most recognizable names in high-end audio. We auditioned his $6000 Treo speaker, a three-way design featuring a transmission line behind the tweeter to absorb "garbage frequencies" (to quote the man) and a midrange to simply die for. Explaining how most small speakers are best utilized with subs to add the lower octave, he also gave us detailed info on how he developed fused balsa/carbon fiber midrange cones to create the effortless sound produced by these beautiful instruments, as well as his innovative cabinet design and construction. These exclusive cone material design elements will eventually trickle down from the more expensive models, and he made it a point to mention that his main objective is to utilize this new development (balsa/carbon-fused mids) in his lesser-priced models.

We listened to Holly Cole (piano, female voice, sparce percussion and scant bass), then some classical, and about that time, things dissolved into various individual discussions as the group somehow started to split apart.

We had some short intimate exchanges, as he took plenty of time to personally speak to each and every one of us as we enjoyed beverages and pastry. One that I particularly relish was when he and I discussed left and right brain function as it pertains to the average high-end audiophile and his listening preferences. His theory, which I wholeheartedly agree with, concerned who has a more discerning ear, a left-brained objectivist, or a right-brained musician-type who can listen to any system and enjoy it. I suggested that most musicians spend their discretionary monies on instruments and amps to perform with, and he suggested that the musicians who gravitate over time to better systems are generally jazz and blues players. To which I replied, that I'd thought that was true because those musicians are more intimate with their acoustic (rather than heavily amplified music that rock players utilize) instruments than the average rock player, and he agreed. I mentioned that I was the exception in that I am right-brained all the way but like good reproduction. He acknowledged that I was different (I haven't figured out if that was good or not!)...

Great day all around! We listened to Dire Straits and The Beatles on a second system featuring Vandersteen 2's ($1500/pr) and Audio Research preamp and power amp combo (Well-Tempered Simplex TT?). Maybe it was the choice of music, I seemed to like that sysem as well as the main one in the big room.

It was a beautiful day, there were thousands of well-to do-types on Washington enjoying their brew, expresso or just each other in the idyllic setting of the typical early fall Midwestern Saturday afternoon. If not for an excellent audio event for St. Louis audiophiles who can't attend the CES's and the Rocky Mountains, it would have been a great day to be at a ball game or just outside. We got a taste of the better gear currently available and enjoyed the superb hospitality of St. Louis Stereo, first-class all the way.

Keep your tubes hot (Richard swears by tubes!) and your antenna up! (he probably listens mostly to records!) He did mention that his wife was the audiophile in the family, and can tell when he swaps amps! Lucky DOG!!! See you next time!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Vandersteen to host event at St. Louis Stereo

Richard Vandersteen will be the speaker at an event hosted by St. Louis Stereo (2020 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, MO) this Saturday at 1:00 pm. I'll be covering the presentation for mind's eye music, as the event is already capped.

More after the gathering! Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Will Beach Boys reunion end on a sour note?

From the LA Times:

Even on a day designed to celebrate 50 years of the signature harmonies of the Beach Boys, the notoriously fractious group couldn’t avoid striking yet another discordant note amid all the good vibrations.

A day before band members gathered at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles to take in various accolades, singer and lyricist Mike Love caught his fellow band members by surprise in announcing his decision to resume touring with his latter-day incarnation of the Beach Boys -- minus creative leader Brian Wilson or original members Al Jardine and David Marks.

The move by Love, who legally controls the Beach Boys name and who has sued Wilson and Jardine over various issues throughout the years, raises major questions about any future for the reunited edition of the quintessential California band. It's played more than 70 performances this year on four continents and released a warmly received new studio album for the first time in more than two decades.

“The 50th anniversary tour was designed to go for a year and then end,” Love said at the Grammy Museum just after he, Wilson, Jardine, Marks and Johnston were presented with triple-platinum awards signifying more than 3 million copies sold of their 2003 hits compilation, “Sounds of Summer -- The Very Best of the Beach Boys.

The framed awards were presented by EMI/Capitol Records executives Bill Gagnon and Jane Ventom in front of the Grammy Museum’s new Beach Boys exhibit, “Good Vibrations -- 50 Years of the Beach Boys,” which will run for the next year. Record label executives would love to keep the reformed band going as the reunion album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” gave the Beach Boys the highest chart debut in its history when it entered at No. 3 in June with first-week sales of 61,000 copies.

Love indicated that he’s being protective of the Beach Boys’ legacy.

“You’ve got to be careful not to get overexposed,” Love said. “There are promoters who are interested [in more shows by the reunited lineup], but they’ve said, ‘Give it a rest for a year.’ The Eagles found out the hard way when they went out for a second year and wound up selling tickets for $5.”

That left other band members confused and disappointed.

“Brian is very bummed,” Wilson’s manager, Jean Sievers, said Tuesday.

Wilson himself said this year’s tour, which includes two final performances later this week in London, has been “very tiring,” but he added, “I’m really looking forward to doing another album.”

Love said that he sees recording and touring as separate matters, and that his decision to return to touring without Wilson, who is his cousin, or Jardine and Marks, who started the Beach Boys when they were teenagers growing up in Hawthorne, wouldn’t preclude more recording together. “I’d be interested [in making another album] if I could write some songs with Brian,” Love said.

Love’s announcement generated dozens of mostly critical responses on Rolling Stone’s website when the news appeared Monday.

The shift in the touring lineup also has caused some confusion outside the group itself. Texas club Nutty Jerry's had booked a Beach Boys show, which has since been canceled. Love's manager Jay Jones said it was Love's decision to halt the show because it was being inaccurately promoted as part of the reunion tour with the original members.

Nevertheless, group members smiled for photos during the platinum award presentation and genially answered questions from the museum's executive director, Robert Santelli, before an enthusiastic crowd of about 200 people, including a few who flew in from Florida, New Jersey and Kentucky.

Following a Q&A session, a stripped-down version of the touring group using acoustic instruments performed five songs. The set showcased the distinctive, multilayered harmonies that propelled hits such as “California Girls,” “Surfer Girl,” “Help Me Rhonda” and “I Get Around” up the charts in the 1960s.

Wilson has his own group, the Brian Wilson Band, which has been accompanying him on tour and in the studio since 1999, and with which he has made several new solo albums. Love and Johnston have continued touring as the Beach Boys with their own support musicians, two of whom -- guitarist-singer Scott Totten and drummer John Cowsill -- were part of the 50th anniversary tour, along with several members of Wilson’s band.

The Grammy Museum exhibit includes various pieces of musical and personal memorabilia from over a half century of the band’s existence, including the surfboard once owned by drummer Dennis Wilson, who drowned in 1983. (The third Wilson sibling, Carl, died in 1998 of cancer.) The surfboard was pictured on the cover of two Beach Boys albums.

The exhibit also includes a high school theme paper Brian Wilson wrote outlining “My Philosophy,” in which he stated that he hoped to make his mark in the world through music. “The satisfaction of ‘a place in the world’ seems well worth a sincere effort to me,” the 17-year-old future architect of the Beach Boys sound wrote.

That fucking Mike Love could fuck up a steel ball. What an ass.

More later after I settle down a bit. Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up. See you next time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wilson Audio Alexia superspeaker

Wilson is one of those companies that wears their love of music on their sleeve. Dave lovingly describes his yearly pilgrimage to Austria to sample live music, so as to recalibrate his already discerning ears to the live experience. His approach is the safest way that he can insure that every design characteristc of the Alexia (as well as any product that carries the Wilson brand) lives up to the live experience, as much as is humanly possible at any given time, with sourceable design, components and materials.

From The Wilson press release:

This looks to be a total gamechanger. I dream of audio this exacting, that shows flaws in front end components, flaws that can only be rectified by replacing the offending member(s) with more refined, esoteric components. I love music and have decided long ago that, although I'm severely limited in funds, I can practically continue to dream of a world where this level of playback can be achieved in an average household. Someday...

Here's another press release entry:

And more...

And yet again, as if you weren't already blown away:

This is a review fueled with anticipation that may never be fulfilled. I've yet to audition any Wilson product, but it's high on my bucket list, as it's well-known that I live for these experiences.

Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Topless photos of Kate Middleton!!!

There, that got your attention! I think that it's pretty lame that our country is so fixated on the royals and their attempts to live a normal life in the 21st century that they have nothing better to do than clamor for boobie shots of the future queen of England! Lame-o, lame-o, lame-o.

Olympics snowboarder/X Gamer Shaun White (The Flying Tomato) was arrested last night for public intoxication and vandalism after he allegedly set off a fire alarm after a drunken altercation with another resident of the hotel. When he tried to leave in a taxi, a hotel guest told the driver that police were en route and White allegedly kicked the guest and ran. The guest gave chase and, when White turned around, the two collided. White fell and struck his head on a fence. White appeared intoxicated and refused to sign misdemeanor citations, Nashville police said. That was the act (or lack of same, as it was) that earned him a trip to the pokey! He may be in his middle 20's but he's just a kid. Did you ever get fucked up and do something REALLY stupid? I sure did.

So, this blog is turning into the National Inquirer? Definitely NOT. I just wanted to live up to my description as it reads above! Nothing like a bit of scandalous crap to get the week rolling!

I promise my next post will be about music or audio! Promise! So, don't forget!

Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Beatles "Help!"

Help! is the title of the fifth British and tenth North American album by The Beatles, and the soundtrack from their film of the same name. Produced by George Martin for EMI's Parlophone Records, it contains fourteen songs in its original British form, of which seven appeared in the film. These songs took up the first side of the vinyl album and included the singles "Help!" and "Ticket to Ride" The second side contained seven other releases including one of the most-covered songs ever written, "Yesterday".

The American release was a true soundtrack album, mixing the first seven songs with orchestral material from the film. Of the other seven songs that were on the British release, two were released on the US version of the next Beatles album, Rubber Soul, two were back-to-back on the next US single and then appeared on Yesterday and Today, and three had already been on Beatles VI.

In 2012, Help! was voted 331st on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".

The album features Paul McCartney's "Yesterday", arranged for guitar and string quartet and recorded without the other group members. John Lennon's "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" indicates the influence of Bob Dylan and includes classical flutes. While several compositions on 1964's Beatles for Sale, as well as "I'll Cry Instead" from A Hard Day's Night, had leaned in a country and western direction, McCartney's "I've Just Seen a Face" was almost pure country, taken at such a fast tempo that it might have been bluegrass if not for the absence of banjo and fiddle.

"Ticket to Ride", also released as a single, was felt by Lennon to be "heavy" in its sound compared to the group's previous output and daring in its reference to a boy and girl living together. McCartney called the arrangement "quite radical".

George Harrison contributed "I Need You" and "You Like Me Too Much", his first compositions to be included on a Beatles album since "Don't Bother Me" on 1963's With The Beatles.

The record contained two cover versions and a few tracks more closely related to the group's previous pop output, yet still marked a decisive step forward. The record sleeve-note shows that Lennon and McCartney made more extensive and prominent use of keyboards, previously played unobtrusively by Martin. Four-track overdubbing technology encouraged this. Lennon, for his part, made much greater use of acoustic guitar, forsaking his famous Rickenbacker. All these developments can be traced to the previous Beatles for Sale, where they were less obvious because that album had been recorded more hastily, lacked chart hits and contained many cover versions.

The original LP's format of featuring songs from the soundtrack on side one and non-soundtrack songs on side two follows the format of A Hard Day's Night.

In later years, Lennon stated that the album's title track was a sincere cry for help; he regretted changing it from a downbeat, piano-driven ballad to an uptempo pop song, which was done only as a result of commercial pressures.

Help! was the band's final album to feature any cover songs until 1970's Let It Be (which included a performance of the traditional folk song "Maggie Mae").

Rejected songs
A few songs that were intended for the film were not used because of The Beatles' suggestions. Lennon and McCartney wrote "If You've Got Trouble" for Ringo Starr to sing, but the song was rejected and Starr sang "Act Naturally" instead. "That Means a Lot" was written for the film, but The Beatles were not satisfied with their performance of the song and they gave it to P.J. Proby, who released it as a single. Lennon said "Yes It Is" was "me trying a rewrite of 'This Boy', but it didn't work"; it was released as the B-side of "Ticket to Ride" and was also on Beatles VI. "You Like Me Too Much" and "Tell Me What You See" were rejected for use in the film by its director, Richard Lester, though they did appear on the album (and also on Beatles VI).

Much later, in June 1965, the song "Wait" was recorded for the album. However, "Wait" (with some newly added overdubs) ended up on Rubber Soul when another song was needed to complete that album.

Album cover
The album cover features the group with their arms positioned to spell out a word in flag semaphore. According to cover photographer Robert Freeman, "I had the idea of semaphore spelling out the letters HELP. But when we came to do the shot the arrangement of the arms with those letters didn't look good. So we decided to improvise and ended up with the best graphic positioning of the arms."

On the UK Parlophone release, the letters formed by The Beatles appear to be 'NUJV', whilst the slightly re-arranged US release on Capitol Records appeared to feature the letters 'NVUJ'.

The Capitol LP was issued in a "deluxe" gatefold sleeve with several photos from the film and was priced $1 more than standard Capitol releases at the time.

The original photograph used on the UK album was reverse printed. Holding it up to a mirror reveals the letters LPUS - "Help Us".

Spooky, eh?

North American release
The North American version, the band's eighth Capitol Records album and tenth overall, includes the songs in the film plus selections from the orchestral score composed by Ken Thorne and performed by the George Martin Orchestra, which contains one of the first uses of the Indian sitar on a pop album. "Ticket to Ride" is the only song on the American release in duophonic stereo (also known as "fake stereo") reprocessed from the mono mix. This album is available on CD as part of The Capitol Albums, Volume 2 box set. This set also includes the mono version of the American release, which is purely a stereo-to-mono fold-down mix, including the "fake stereo" duophonic "Ticket To Ride" folded down to mono, despite Capitol already having the mono mixes for the single releases of both that song and "Help!".

The American version of "Help!" reached the number one spot on the Billboard album charts for nine weeks starting on 11 September 1965.

Revised Track Listing

All songs written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.

Side one

  1. "Help!" (preceded by an uncredited instrumental intro) – 2:39
  2. "The Night Before" – 2:36
  3. "From Me to You Fantasy" (instrumental) (Lennon–McCartney; arranged by Thorne) – 2:08
  4. "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" – 2:12
  5. "I Need You" (Harrison) – 2:31
  6. "In the Tyrol" (instrumental) (Ken Thorne) – 2:26
Side two
  1. "Another Girl" – 2:08
  2. "Another Hard Day's Night" (instrumental) (Lennon–McCartney; arranged by Thorne) – 2:31
  3. "Ticket to Ride" – 3:07
  4. Medley: "The Bitter End" (Ken Thorne)/"You Can't Do That" (instrumental) (Lennon–McCartney; arranged by Thorne) – 2:26
  5. "You're Going to Lose That Girl" – 2:19
  6. "The Chase" (instrumental) (Ken Thorne) – 2:31

This LP and motion picture is noteable in the Beatles' tome in that, for the first time, an aroma permeated the shoot that was identifiable as marijuana. Maybe that was why the Beatles had such fun making "Help", and John was getting his munchies on! (this was, in fact, his "fat Elvis" period!) By their next LP ("Rubber Soul") they'd be fully psychedelicized with the aid of LSD.

More pontifications at a sooner than later date...Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!

Monday, September 10, 2012

David Akers ties NFL record with 63-yard field goal

I rarely cover sports; this warranted attention.

The San Francisco 49'ers kicker pulled a rabbit out of his foot yesterday on his team's season opener.

The line drive kick had just enough distance, took a fortunate bounce off the crossbar and earned David Akers a piece of NFL immortality Sunday.

The historic 63-yard field goal by the veteran 49ers kicker at the end of the first half matched a league record shared by three others.

"It was kind of one of those miracles," said the 37-year-old Akers, whose successful field goal gave the 49ers a 16-7 lead over the Green Bay Packers. "I didn't think I hit it great enough. I made 61 in pregame and felt pretty good that I could get it there if I just struck it right. But when I hit it, I felt like I missed it."

The attempt began with two seconds showing on the clock. Akers' left-footed line drive was on target as it spun toward Lambeau Field's north uprights, hitting the crossbar and bouncing up and over.

The Packers' Randall Cobb leaped to try to swat it away -- a football version of goaltending -- but whiffed.

After initial hesitation, officials -- replacement referees at that -- signaled the field goal was good.

"As a kicker, when you hit the goal posts at any part, it usually makes that horrific noise and usually bounces back," Akers said. "This time it got the sweet bounce. It was definitely a once-in-a lifetime type of deal.

"After 14 years of active roster play it's just one of those things you'll never forget."

Akers, who said he's never had a field goal attempt ricochet in his favor, also successfully hit 40- and 43-yard field goals plus three extra points in the 30-22 season-opening victory.

Kyle Williams helped set up the attempt with a 20-yard punt return to the 49ers' 38-yard-line with 18 seconds left. Colin Kaepernick came in for a single play at quarterback and uncorked a 17-yard run to the Packers' 45.

After two Alex Smith incomplete passes, the 49ers set up for Akers' successful try as holder Andy Lee took a clean snap.

Asked what Akers' range is, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh quipped: "Well, it was 63 yards, today."

Harbaugh then noted Akers made a 60-yard attempt in pregame warm-ups to instill further faith in the 63-yard try.

"With David Akers, talk about the greatest kicker in the history of our game," Harbaugh said. "The odds were in our favor."

New Orleans' Tom Dempsey hit a 63-yard field goal on Nov. 8, 1970, in the final seconds of a 19-17 victory over Detroit at Tulane Stadium.

The next two occurred in Denver 13 seasons apart. The Broncos' Jason Elam's successful 63-yard kick closed the first half against Jacksonville on Oct. 25, 1998. The Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski also hit on the final play of the opening half against the Broncos on Sept. 12, 2011.

The previous record was set in 1953 when the Baltimore Colts' Bert Rechichar hit a 56-yarder against the Chicago Bears.

Now in his second season with the 49ers, Akers produced an NFL-record 44 field goals and was perfect on extra points with 34 last season. He spent 12 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and started his NFL career in 1998 with the Washington Redskins.

When you're hot, you're hot, and when you're not, you're not. Just think if his tubes were hot and his antenna up, as prescribed, what could have happened? He would have broken the wood-foot-dude's (Tom Dempsey, and two others') record!! Word to the wise. See you next time!
Copyright 2012 San Jose Mercury News. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Vinyl rules!

I know, either you get it or you don't. I have moments when I go back and forth on records versus high definition downloads, and on some days it pays to sit back with a wireless mouse and pick and choose songs and entire albums from my hard drive. And then the sound of the Luxman (or alternately, my Thorens) starts calling my name, ringing my bell, and it demands I answer. Yesterday was that day, and it's expanding into another day of strictly vinyl.

It's a problem I'm plenty glad to have. I have a seat between my speakers for when I'm not at the couch, and between the speakers is my television. I should, in the interest of full disclosure, admit that it is my television/computer monitor/movie screen/multipurpose visual stimulation apparatus. Here I can blog, watch YouTube (another guilty pleasure, although the sound quality is spotty), flip records from side to side (like in the olden days), surf the web, shop for gear, sort my LP's (stored in two glass-doored cabinets that house my television, tuner, radio, tube amp, tea, DAC, PC and modem right in front of me), and adjust my receiver/preamp (Sansui 8080DB). I have a nice leather office chair on wheels that serves a utilitarian purpose, and if something starts sounding really good, I can retreat immediately to my rear and sit on the sofa! Life is good.

Last night, speaking of YouTube, I ran across a concert film (generally the only feature-length things I'll watch, that or the occasional biopic or documertary, as long as it isn't blatantly partisan. I hate politics...) I saw in its original release in the 70's, from one of my then-favorite bands. Yessongs was a triple LP that I literally wore out two complete copies of, and never got to see the movie but at the Kirkwood Cinema in the 70's. Now that YouTube has no limit on program length I could , and did, watch Yessongs again, after all these years, in its entirety.

The performanes were inspired, the playing of course was superb, and it was as amazing as it originally was as a 16-year-old, just discovering rock and roll in depth (I had always had a radio under my pillow ever since I was 5, so that's a bit of a stretch to say), and progressive rock was my implement of enjoyment, before punk hit hard. Yes, ELP. Triumvirate, Genesis, King Crimson, and the deeper hard rock was my favorite styles.

We had 3 or 4 record stores within striking distance, and everyone collected vinyl at the time. Some kids had tapes but I had a stereo that my father bought from Radio Shack (upon my demand) and all it had was a receiver and cheap BSR turntable that wrecked records. I cut my teeth on a Western Auto all-in-one, then moved to the amazing esoteric Realistic component line! (hehe)...Dreaming of Sansui and Dual, I tuned in FM and thought I'd gone to heaven. Shortly thereafter I discovered that The Beatles weren't the only great band from the United Kingdom!

Getting back to vinyl has been a great experience, and to be honest if I never own an ipod I won't lose sleep.

We'll see what we shall see the next time we contravene. Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Luxman PD277 comes home!

I have slowed down considerably when it comes to purchasing used vintage audio gear. Not from a change of heart about how it wipes up the modern competition in so many ways, but I have some really good combinations of receiver/turntable/CD player/speakers. And they all sound great when playing PC files through a quality DAC.

A Luxman PD277 recently became available from a good friend of mine, and he let me know that if I wanted it, he'd let me have it on approval/credit for 30 days. How do I pass that up??? I don't!

I picked up the table, transported it back to the ranch, and proceded to set it up. It had recently been serviced at AlphaTech in St. Louis, and that put my mind at ease. I basically had to get it in an isolated spot and leveled so that the cart and stylus could do its job properly. Once that was done, out came the records, one after the other.

Here's the fine print, from Vintage Audio:

Driving System: Direct-Drive System
Motor: DC-servo brushless & slotless motor
Turntable Platter: 30cm aluminium die-cast (weight 1.8kgs including platter-mat)
Rotation: 33-1/3 rpm, 45 rpm (2-speed)
Adjustable Range of Rotation: ±4%
S/N Ratio: No less than 60dB (IEC-B)
Wow & Flutter: no more than 0.03% W.R.M.S.
Tonearm: Straight Arm of static balance type
Effective Length: 240mm
Tracking Error: +2° 13', -1°08'
Overhang: 15mm
Cartridge Weight: 4g-11g
Cartridge Height: 16mm-19mm (by use of spacers)
Stylus Pressure: 0 — 3g (direct reading)
Accessories: Anti-skate Adjustment, Tonearm Elevation
Dust Cover: Detachable with semi-freestop hinge
Stroboscope: Mirror-reflex type.
Automatic Function: Auto-Start, Auto-Repeat Cut-Off
Power Consumption: 12W
Dimensions (W x H x D, mm): 472 x 152 x 348
Weight: Net 10kgs (22 lbs.) Gross 12kgs (26.4 lbs.) photo courtesy of AudioKarma

The Luxman is a direct drive model, from between 1976 and 1980, and features auto start and return. This is my first fully functioning table, as well as my first direct drive with strobe speed control. That feature (speed control) is a blessing, as some of these older tables are less than reliable, speed-wise. This one, other than a slightly swirly dust cover, is really well-made, well-kept and perfectly set up. The Grado Prestige Black 1.5 does duty, and comes well-reviewed, I was glad to note. It sounds well-defined, not too hot on the treble side (as I like), and has a nice wide frequency response on the whole, nice and flat across the entire spectrum.

Batman knows his shit, Robin. Dummy up!

Next time, with heroics, we'll uncover another superb audio product from the days when Adam West and Burt Ward ruled the prime time airwaves. Till then, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Alesis DM8 pro - first impressions

I recieved the kit yesterday, and it took less than an hour to assemble (I studied the contents beforehand). It was an easy set-up, no tools needed, and the rack itself was preassembled. I didn't have to mess with the clamps individually, which was a huge timesaver. They were all oriented correctly, and I would have fiddled with the thing for hours if I had a pile of unassembled stuff!

The sounds, as I predicted, were stunning, and the kits were well-voiced. With 100 preset kit sounds, there were maybe 10 kits I may never use as entire kits (maybe individual sounds as accents, perhaps). This is a HUGE percentage of useful patches, as many ekits are pretty loaded with useless patches. With 750 undividual sounds, I'm really anxious to explore the potentials of the DM8 Pro.

My only setback (and so far I might just need to get into the manual further to rectify my problem) is with the hi-hat pedal controller. This is such an essential element of the kit that if it were anything else I'd overlook a shortcoming. I can't accurately (and consistently) open and close the cymbal action on the hat. This is more than my lack of finesse on the instrument, it indiscriminately stays closed as I try to open it as an articulative tool. I need to explore further before I return the pedal, or complete the ebay feedback process, which is still pending my complete satisfaction. The communication with the seller before delivery was spotty.

At first I had no idea if I would have the room, considering my studio is my bedroom as well. Turns out it's fairly compact, and everything's postioned tightly in the familiar pattern of a five-piece kit with two cymbal arms. If I can program a tom pad as a second cymbal I'll feel like the versatility this kit provides will be perfectly adaptable to my playing style and configuration preferences. That and the hi-hat pedal problems are my only real concerns. Everything else works flawlessly.

The pads are hard rubber, the older sets had provisions to swap out mylar heads for mesh heads. Personally I'm glad of this, I'm not really a tweakhead. If presented with the potential for improvement I'll usually try the adjustment but this time I'm glad to save the money and trouble. The action is accurate and responsive, and the touch-sensitive feature is nice for a bit of dynamics overall.

So far, this is a go. If I can't adjust the hi-hat, that would be a big letdown. Sad to say, I may just eat the entire purchase and build an acoustic hi-hat (with mic for recording) if it gets too difficult. Repacking this kit would be a total nightmare! If I could return the pedal alone I'd be set. The sounds included are just too damn good.

More later, after the recording process progresses. Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!