Welcome to Archive Audio

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Ready for getting the most out of your music listening? Your musical sources have no doubt moved into new directions. Steaming? Downloads? Apple devices? Or just plain CDs, SACDs, Vinyl, all good formats. In any case, resolution is the best it’s ever been.

There is quite a bit that is new this season. In addition to the systems ready to be listed on our all new systems page, we will adding two new categories: Reference systems and Elite systems. In the field of high-end audio, one person’s high end is another person’s starter system. We all come from different places in this game and at Archive, we want to make sure we offer cutting edge gear-at all price points-a daunting task.

But let’s talk about reference points. Live music surely is, but all of us in this hobby for any length of time have ventured out to shows or audio demonstrations of various kinds in search of some sort of holy grail, some sort of absolute “best” sound you can get. At Archive Audio, I operate from a top-down perspective. Having assembled over the years, a number of systems that are truly reference quality (see Reference System 1) I can feel relatively sure that in listening to recordings of various kinds, few cheaper systems or products are likely to sound as good.

So, as we move down the food chain, how close can we come to the reference-that is, the sound coming from an in-house state-of-the-art set of components that are as tweaked out as most any audiophile (within reason) might assemble? Placing lesser cables, turntable, pre amp, amp, or speakers into the assembly diminishes the overall in what way? Or, in playing the buyer role at shows, how close does the show sound come to the “reference” at Archive? If it gets my attention in some feature of its performance, a cheap integrated will become a product available at Archive Audio. All products you see on this website found their way here by that process.

Believe me, I love the work. ‘This is work?’ I think sometimes as I sit in front of RS-1? No, it is play. Your listening sessions should be play too. After all, your music system is your leisure time-endeavor, right? I can tell you this-all the systems specified here have passed the “two week test” as I like to call it. That means that I have succeeded in spending two weeks of leisure listening time in front of that system without a glitch, a feeling of ‘something’s amusical, something’s colored, something’s bugging me, I gotta change it.’ So I have recommended them.

Inexpensive gear has it place in audio. Let’s not be snooty. We all started where we started. I can offer a killer little system for 1K-Monitor System One, and, neophytes will hear a good recording on that modest kit, and be shocked at how vivid it sounds. Moving up the food chain, there better be a difference-and there is-or I wouldn’t recommend it.

That said, at Archive, we take a system approach, but, that doesn’t mean there are not valid in-betweens. In fact the various permutations become rather mind-boggling. That’s what we’re here for. If you wonder how good any given system will sound if a change is made somewhere, add a bit of cash to the expenditure, we can tell you the best place to apply that increase. And I’ll tell you straight up-adding some Audience Au24s cables to the aforementioned system is not the best way to do it…they cost more than the system! Wouldn’t that help? Sure, but not as much as a pair of Joseph RM-7s would. Don’t believe me? Come and hear it for yourself.

All the systems in our systems lineups are here to be auditioned by you unless stated otherwise. That’s right, this is not a mail order operation. This is a home-based business with at least 8 systems set up and ready for audition at all times, and just about everything else ready to be set up for any interested party.

The proof is in the pudding. Call Archive and arrange an appointment, and listen for yourself to that system or piece of gear you are curious about. The decision will be yours and yours alone. Your ears will tell you.

Call me at 1-800-267-2305

Bob Kirk

The Archive Audio Philosophy

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Been to a stereo store lately? Can’t find one? The industry has changed in a huge way as anyone looking at this will attest; you wouldn’t probably be here is you weren’t looking for some help. So many businesses have tried to do it all-audio hardware, video projection, home theatre, home security, home automation, the list goes on. The problem is the range is too wide to do justice to the music. Too many side technologies get in the way of the fun of listening, tapping your foot.

Question- How can anyone who works for a living and is busy, with limited unstructured free time, who has all the financial burdens of life to contend with, and who must limit their listening space to a room usually shared with others for other purposes, hope to be a happy, music loving listener, with a system that is effective, and musical, and represents truly good value?

It’s hard, and you probably know this already. It’s also expensive, fraught with waste, throwing away good money after bad. As every hobbyist knows, taking stabs at gear that winds up being disappointing depletes the dollars mighty fast. Yet, we continue to read the equipment reviews, latch on to the glowing praise in the prose of the audio writer. What choice do we really have?

Sure, we go over to the closest dealer, hoping he carries that super duper new amp, CD player, speaker, wire…only to find that most of the attention being paid at his store is to the latest home theatre advancement or home automation gizmo that allows him to turn on his TV from his car. “We don’t carry many two channel amps,” says the salesman, “Nor pre amps, or CD players, but check out this picture…”

We’ve all been through this drill over the last decade.

At Archive Audio, that’s not the scenario.

Reading Reviewers

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

There are plenty of audio blogs. If they write well enough, and start writing “knowledgeable” reviews, a mag may just hire them…for compensation. Any reader of the audio magazines still extant, cannot escape the sense that if a person is writing equipment reviews for a living, they must know something. That is somewhat right and somewhat wrong. I have to think that any given hobbyist who can write a complete sentence is likely to tap out his/her opinion about great sound.

One catch-any given reviewer may have painfully limited experience and exposure. I once bought a pair of Coincident Troubadors from a guy who had praised them in a review in an audio magazine. He had raved about the speakers in the magazine and did so over the phone. As I probed just a little further however, I discovered these speakers were his third pair of speakers ever. Hmmm, an audio reviewer, a person of “authority” the proud owner of three sets of speakers, none priced above $1,500, crowing about these weird little speakers. They were decent, but flawed.

Secondly, reviewers work for others. Seasoned readers may remember Jack English, a reviewer for Stereophile some years ago. My own sense of his writing, his background and opinions was that he was sharp and knowledgeable, knew what he was talking about, and effectively described a product’s qualities, since, I actually purchased a few of the products he raved about and found them to be what he said they were. He is not longer writing for that mag, as of about 1999, maybe he’s retired, but it seemed a sudden departure with no explanation that I can recall and then the “feel” of reviews seemed to shift. Certain products seemed to get lots of great accolades and ads for their products were everywhere. You know where I”m going with this. I could be wrong, but it seemed to me that maybe a guy like Jack English wouldn’t play that game.

I stopped reading these reviews about then. I started trusting certain insider folk, people in the business who are music-loving hobbyists at heart. People in the biz can get comped just about any equipment they might desire, so when you ask them what they have at home, what they actually own, you get some pretty good ideas what they think is pretty fine. Mark O’brien of Rogue Audio isn’t trying to coax me into some speaker brand when he tells me what he has in his living room. He’s heard his gear on a lot of fine speakers, so what does he own?

And of course, I started trusting my own ears more. I almost called my business “Your Own Ears Audio”. Problem was, lots of people who sit down in front of an audio system haven’t done it that much, or only at their house mostly, in their one room, with their own system. Or, they don’t have a system at all and they come and see me.

The thing I’ve learned is that one’s hearing gets better as it is used for critical purposes. Tune in one of those hunting shows on TV. Ever notice how the guide sees the prey about a half hour before the “hunter” does. Same thing. He is out there every day, using his eyes to make discernments that are subtle, not obvious. If you drive for a living, you’re a better driver than I am, just for starters. Even if you hate it. Now, if you love to drive and drive for a living, and get a new car every two years…I’m sure I could learn from you.

So, here at Archive Audio, I’m a guy who has been goofy about audio for about 30 years, and since I do this from my home and have 10 systems set up at all times, and I like all my little places to sit and relax, I’m a little like that hunting guide…it doesn’t take me long to pinpoint something breathing in the bushes across the meadow…so to speak.

Experience is a great teacher and so I thought showing a comprehensive list of all the speakers I have ever owned might give some grounding to some of this opining I’m doing-like that old hunter, these represent my field experience.
I’m not talking about speakers in boxes in my warehouse. I ‘m talking about speakers I have owned and listened to over decades, in systems, at my house as a music-loving, critical-listening hobbyist.

System Synergy… a Message

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Some equipment won’t work together. For example, many loudspeakers on the market are rated at 4 ohms. Due to the drivers being used in the design, the crossover methodology, or the intention of the speaker designer, the load an amplifier “sees” may nominally be in this lower end of the resistance spectrum. If the “nominal” impedance is 4 ohms, the resistance may dip as low as 1 or 2 ohms somewhere at some frequencies. When many amplifiers see such a low load, they can begin to oscillate as they produce current, particularly at low frequencies where the sense of power and scale reside in music. As an enthusiastic partying music lover begins to feel the excitement of these special listening moments, all of a sudden something is wrong, the thrill is gone, and, worst case scenario, the amplifier fails, or goes into clipping, sending square waves into the loudspeaker cones, and speakers burn up. The performance envelope of a speaker must compatible with that of the amplifier. It is vital to pair right with right, not right with wrong.

Audio consumers often make decisions based on one aesthetic or another, without knowledge of electrical anomalies that can have very significant effect on the final result. Loving the look of the 301 Tube, or my favorite, the tall and powerful 845s is one thing. Expecting a superb result driving Dynaudio’s Consequence Ultimate Edition with a gold-plated 300B tube amp is a gross mismatch.

Sonic taste and aesthetics do come into play. At this level of two channel audio, system differences are almost like flavors. At some point, decisions have to be made, practicality must enter, variables must be lessened. Sometimes throwing more money at a system brings no return. Past a certain point, differences are exceedingly subtle, and not necessarily representative of “better”. On the other hand, change speakers and bigger differences are noticeable. Thus the Archive Audio “Speaker-centric” orientation.

In comparing choices for sources though, two front end performers are the references to which all others are compared. The Moon 750D is the reigning champion for digital sources at Archive. Compared to the Avid Acutus table with SME V arm with Lyra Helicon cartridge and Sutherland PhD battery powered phono section, the analogue reference, it is in some ways better, some ways, not as good. Never has digital been all that close. The real treat and “proof” that these two sources are the best I’ve experienced has come from playing old recordings, not new. When I pull out an “old” favorite, one that I haven’t played in a long time, if it sounds exceedingly good, better than I remember it, involves me more, that’s important.

A story-Shows are hard work. Four days of moving through 250 hotel rooms filled with sound and gear. Some rooms have enormously expensive systems, including sound treatment costing in the tens of thousands. This past CES, I was inadvertently trapped, and to protect the innocent let’s just call it, the Pipecleans room. I was looking for a friend of mine, but the showman jumped up, nearly grabbed a hold of me, and did a forced-choice demo, pre-planned of three songs. The whole electronics system was Budweister. The system’s out the door price was about $150,000. This is a true story.

I sat right in the sweet spot, eyes closed, the whole audiophile modality. The guy played Eva Cassidy’s “Songbird”, Patricia Barber’s “A Taste of Honey” and Roger Water’s “Amused to Death”. Well, seems these three particular songs have been receiving a generous amount of play time in my system, lately, so I knew them so by heart on my system. I completely loved the experience. I almost laughed out loud I was so happy-my system gave up nothing to the big-dog system. Not in realism, resolution, dynamics, soundstage, bass depth and realism, 3-D ness. Truly. Now I have to think the big Pipecleans system could play LARGER than my system, but, for that demo, I knew my system could render the music as well.

So, that said, I offer the above treatise regarding sources. That $54,000 front end I heard in that room ought to represent something pretty close to the “state of the art” for sources. ‘Course they coulda’ used a different digital cable and it would have made a huuuuuuuuge difference. Yeah…..throw some money at it.
Maybe come and talk to me. I might be able to help you get more value for your investment. That’s my goal anyway…have you heard that new Cambridge Audio 840 stuff? Hah! Ho ho ho, ha, ha, haaaa…Oh boy…here we go…