Friday, February 23, 2007

February Newsletter

Hello and welcome to the return of the Hawthorne Stereo Newsletter! We took some time off this winter to attend a few independent-hifi-shop-newsletter-writers-workshops, we bought tons of records, sipped plenty of red wine, and now we're back with fresh and exciting news and reporting on the strange and wondrous sounds emanating from the corner of 63rd and Roosevelt Way.

First of all, we're happy to report the construction that had our building surrounded in scaffolding all winter is close to completion. The scaffolding is down and our building is resplendent in its new galvanized exterior. Secondly, we're very excited by some new turntables from Rega which you'll find detailed below, some very interesting powered speakers from our friends at Quad and downright revolutionary news from our friends in Salisbury . But first, some music news:

DEAD MOON forever!
As of this writing, we've been informed that northwest stalwarts Dead Moon have broken up. December's passing of Mr. James Brown was a momentous occasion for the world of music, but, for the NW scene, Dead Moon have had an impact over the last 25 years that's rivaled the mighty King of Soul for dedication, integrity and butt shakin' tunes.

Formed when pocket calculators outnumbered cell phones in Clackamas, Oregon by Fred and Toody Cole, Dead Moon have long been the Northwest's premier garage rock band, their sound a glorious mix of soul tinged blues garage punk, often self released, and always recorded in pure massive mono. Though they formed at the advent of the CD age, Dead Moon records often appeared only on LP, cut on the same lathe as the Kingsmen's legendary version of Louie Louie - you can't beat that for cred! Furthermore, if you go back to the original Nuggets collection of great American 60s garage and psych tunes, you'll find Fred Cole fronting the aforementioned Lollypop Shoppe, so the low-fi sound is in his blood.

After almost 20 years of delivering like no other to rabid audiences around the world, Dead Moon have called it quits. For the uninitiated and faithful alike, Seattle label Sub Pop has just released a 2CD best of Dead Moon called "Echoes of the Past" that's a great place to start. Whether it sounds better on a mono CD player is not something we've yet determined, but, if you want to rock out in style, look no further!


Rega P1
Rega Research Ltd, designers and fabricators of much of our favorite audio gear, have outdone themselves once again. After supplying parts and tonearms for other brands' entry level belt drive tables (NAD, Goldring,) Rega have decided to bring out their own basic player and, simply put, it's the best sounding and best built table we've seen at this price. The P1 shares the looks and fundamental design of all Rega tables: An onboard power supply drives a one-speed synchronous motor which in turn drives, via a two speed pulley, an inner platter with a hardened steel bearing shaft sitting in a brass sleeve with oil and a precision ball bearing. The platter is composite like the old P2 and the RB100 arm is a new design, similar to the RB250 but using bonded construction rather than the expensive cast alloy of the higher-end models. The P1 package includes a dustcover and an Ortofon moving magnet cartridge and comes set up and ready to play. We would always expect good sound from them, but Rega have once again exceeded our expectations! The P1 is full bodied, coherent, and very fun to listen to with surprising bass extension for a table at this price. The price: $349 complete! (that's maybe 20 new LPs so why are you still listening to that old Technics?)

Rega P2
Rega have just announced the reintroduction of the P2 table featuring the RB250 arm, a brand new stabilized extra thick platter, and a great price of $495 alone or $595 with factory installed Bias2 cartridge. We'll have it available for demo very soon!
Stay tuned for another evolution of the famed P3! The current P3 has been discontinued and we're down to two tables in our inventory - one red and one green. Now's your chance to get hold of the classic at 10% off. No word yet on the new version, but we expect only minor changes. Word is they'll be shipping in a couple months.

Hi-FI + in the UK have just reviewed the Rega Apheta low output coil cartridge and have this to say: "...record surface noise is somewhat emphasized (into a Naim K phono stage lacking electrical damping -ed.) , but if this is a downside, in every other respect this is a stunning an superb sounding cartridge, with a freedom from congestion and a dynamic realism that is utterly and completely beguiling. It simply makes vinyl replay sound more vivid, real and exciting, inspiring one to dig out and enjoy old favorites afresh (provided they're in reasonable nick.)"
Needless to say, we're very excited about the Apheta and will provide you with our own observations soon.

Rega Apollo and Saturn
The Rega Apollo CD player continues to garner rave reviews, often being acclaimed as simply the best player anywhere near its price. This has lead to a few backorders, but we endeavor to fill every order within a few weeks and hope to reduce the wait time soon! The Apollo's bigger sibling, the Saturn, is now out and getting similar praise. We expect our demo unit very soon.

Look, there, up in the sky! This just in: Naim Audio is preparing to release their new SUPERNAIT integrated amplifier! This crime fighting wonder features 80 watts per channel, subwoofer out, front panel analog and digital inputs, and a headphone jack. Naim has included toslink inputs for use with consumer digital devices such as computers or wi-fi receivers as the optical connection isolates the unit from noisy digital power supplies. The Supernait includes mappable inputs, a power supply socket for the Stageline phono preamp, and is upgradeable via connection to a Flatcap or HiCap power supply. Also bullets just bounce right off its cast aluminum low resonance casework! That's right, Naim has stepped firmly into the 21st century with this beauty. We expect US retail to be about $4750 with units arriving from the UK in mid April. We'll let you know as soon as it's available for demo.

The L series dynamic speakers from UK greats Quad have been Hawthorne favorites for some time now. From their balanced, open sound and tremendous musicality to their hand rubbed lacquer finish and select hardwood veneers, the L series are an amazing overall package at a reasonable price.
Quad have now introduced active versions of the 11L and 12L monitor speakers and we're extremely impressed. By pairing a set of their solid state amps with the drivers of each speaker, they're able to deliver incredible clarity, speed and dexterity from an elegant small monitor. These are a perfect match for a volume controlled source like a computer based music system or wi-fi receiver. Come audition them today!

Some picks from the Hawthorne Used Room

Quad 11L bookshelf. Open box rosewood pair with a very small ding on one side. Sold with full warranty. Regularly $700/pr, this pair $600!

Nakamichi - we have a huge selection of fine Nakamichi cassette decks in our used room. Every one has been gone over by our technician and has received new idler wheels and calibration. Starting at $139.

Here's an outstanding vintage Naim set! NAC32.5 preamp with 72 board upgrade, HiCap power supply, and a pair of NAP135 monoblocks. Outstanding sound in the classic chrome bumper finish. $3,250. Too cool for words!

NAT101 with Snaps power supply $895. A very good deal on one of the finer tuner ever produced on this earth.

Currently Revolving - The Hawthorne Stereo Pick(s) of the Month
Andrew Hill - Passing Ships

It's hard to think of this record as almost 40 years old. Firstly, because it sat hidden in the Blue Note vaults until 2004 and secondly because Jazz has hardly surpassed the combination of inventiveness, clarity and melodicism found on this nonette recording by Andrew Hill, one of the first names in avant jazz and a piano player of outstanding ability and compositional genius.

At the end of the '60s, jazz was in decline, with many of the players and band leaders forced to change their sound and adapt to new recording techniques and electric instruments. Some dove wholeheartedly into smooth jazz, funk, r&b, and the dreaded (and often misunderstood) fusion styles, while others backtracked on their avant explorations of recent years to the hard bop style that schooled them, finding audiences still receptive in Japan and Europe. This is a time when, in retrospect, the period of brilliant inventiveness spanning most of the 1960s came to an end. Make no mistake, there were many forward thinking players continuing the rhythmic and melodic exploration that began in the late 50s, but the public ear and record labels were no longer in strong support, instead turning to new sounds and commercial opportunities.

For various reasons, I suppose probably relating to changing times, the Passing Ships session was never completely mixed and remained shelved until archivist and Mosaic Records founder Michael Cuscuna dug it up, mixed it down, and arranged its release in 2003. How lucky we are he took a careful look at those tapes - the complete story can be found in the liner notes. The larger band affords Hill a larger palette of sound and he uses it to great effect. Only rarely to the many horns mass into a big band, but in turns Julian Priester's trombone, Joe Farrell's English horn, and the twin trumpets of Dizzy Reese and Woody Shaw, provide a dazzling array of colors to complement Hill's forward thinking compositions. Like Miles, Hill is a subtle leader of immense surety of purpose. His playing is often the most restrained of the band, but his ideas are the strength and framework of the tune and consistently brilliant in rhythmic and harmonic contrast to the other soloists.

This record, coming at the very end of the '60s, has one foot in hard bop structure and playing but looks forward to electric jazz and soul jazz, especially on compositions like Plantation Bag drive on a rock beat, but the melody is dense, funky and fragmentary, carrying an especially brilliant trumpet solo from Reese. Blue Note CD, 2003.

Thanks for reading! As usual, check our website for more goodies and stop in for tunes and a cup of tea anytime.


Labels: , ,

My Photo
Name: Hawthorne Stereo
Location: Seattle, WA, United States

I sell music systems to music lovers

Previous Posts