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Philip’s Essential LPs Survival Gift Guide

Tis the season and off to the mall with our shopping list we go, except, what do I get a man that does not need anything but deserves it all?  Yup, audiophiles are difficult to shop for.  While he does not care about many things, of the things he does care about, he is very picky.  Year after year, he turned back the majority of my holiday gifts.  So this year, I am taking on this challenge to surprise him with music he won’t bring back to the store!

Instead of playing guesswork, I thought I would get some advice from someone qualified.  Ask and you shall receive!  What I got back was a pot of gold and am writing to share!

Philip is a true master in music enjoyment and has often been referred to as a Music Evangelist. Many of us at one time or another during the last decade may have heard a track or two from some version of compilation CD titled “Philip’s Demo __”.  Truth is that making compilation CDs has been Philip’s hobby since he was a teenager (well, they were cassette tapes back then but that is a topic for another writing).

“I take a wholesome view when I make a compilation.  It is not just the separate songs, it is how the pieces flow together and the mood an entire compilation takes me through.  Music triggers different emotions.  So the order of songs is just as important as which songs I put in a compilation,” said Philip.

Rumor has it that each year around September, Philip would begin assembling a list of music for the next annual “Philip’s Demo” compilation to emerge in January as a new year gift to his close friends.  I figured that I could interview him to get a few pointers on which CDs might be on this choice list.

“Oh, that is not something I can tell you right now as at this point, I have two or three CDs worth of new music on my list.  I really won’t know until I trim that down and spend time listening with some of my friends who have served as my ad hoc review panel the last many years,” said Philip.

“As you know, I have a huge collection of digital music and am absolutely thrilled with what our Merging Technologies DAC is doing to my listening experience here and when I do demos at dealers’ venues,” proclaimed Philip, “however, I love the analog medium and spinning LPs still gives me great joy.”

“Here’s the next best thing I can share though: I have recently curated a list of choice LPs for a dealer friend of mine for his demo collection on our Luxman PD-171 turntable.  It is organized by genres so there should be something in there that you can pick from depending on his music taste,” said Philip.

Wow, that is such a generous offer!

Philip continued, “This list is not meant to be the definitive collection but rather a list of tried & true LPs that are currently available in different genres that will provide countless hours of enjoyment to the music lover who is just getting back into vinyl. I have deliberately left out the Beatles, Eagles, Led Zeppelin etc in an attempt to open listeners ears to a tiny portion of the outstanding music that is available today. Music Lovers have never been so blessed with such a wide variety of genres, some of which are really well recorded to boot.”

I did some research with that list and found that Philip has written about some of these in his prior musings so I am linking to those write-ups in this article.

Blues & Soul

Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
Doug McLeod – There’s a Time RR
Harry Belafonte – Belafonte Sings The Blues or Belafonte at Carnegie Hall
Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul (MoFi)
Junior Wells – Hoodoo Man Blues
Keb Mo – Keb Mo (MoFi)
Miles Davis – The Hot Spot 45
Roy Gaines – I Got The T-Bone Walker Blues (Groove Note)

Classical

Beethoven / Gould / Bernstein – Piano Concerto NO. 4 (Impex)
Beethoven / Solti – Symph no. 9 (Speakers Corner)
De Falla / Ansermet – Three Cornered Hat 45 ORG
Gershwin / Bernstein – Rhapsody in Blue (Speakers Corner)
Mahler / Solti – Symph no. 1 (Speakers Corner)
Oue – Mephisto RR
The Power of the Orchestra (APO)
Rachmaninov / Oue – Symphonic Dances RR
Tchaikovsky / Ansermet – Sleeping Beauty (Speakers Corner)

Country

Alison Krauss and Union Station – Live (MoFi)
Nickel Creek – This Side
Shelby Lynne – Just a Little Lovin’ 45 (APO)

Jazz

Al Di Meola / Paco de Lucia / McLaughlin – Friday Night In San Francisco on 45rpm 45 ORG
Ben Webster meets Oscar Peterson 45 (APO)
Count Basie – 88 Basie Street
Chet Baker – Chet (APO)
Diana Krall – Live in Paris (ORG)
Duke Ellington – Jazz Party in Stereo
Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges – Back to Back
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Frank Sinatra – Sings For Only The Lonely (Mobile Fidelity)
Gene Ammons – Boss Tenor
Gerry Mulligan meets Ben Webster 45 ORG
Horace Silver Quintet – Song For My Father
Jacintha – Here’s to Ben
Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue
Nat “King” Cole – After Midnight
Nina Simone – Little Girl Blue
Oliver Nelson – Blues and the Abstract Truth
Ray Brown Trio – Soular Energy
Sonny Stitt – Boss Tenor

New Age

Bjork – Vulnicura
Dead Can Dance – Into the Labyrinth
Enya – Watermark
Bob Marley – Exodus
Michael Hedges – Aerial Boundaries

Rock

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic
Beck – Sea Change
Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat & Tears
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms 45
Doors – LA Woman 45
Grateful Dead – American Beauty
INXS – Kick
Jimi Hendrix – People, Hell and Angels
Kraftwerk – Maximum / Minimum $$$ but stunning
London Grammer – If You Wait
Lorde – Royals
Lou Reed – Transformer (Speakers Corner)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine
Nevermind – Nirvana (ORG)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here or DSOTM
Police – Synchronicity
Roger Waters – Amused To Death
Santana – Abraxas 45 MoFi
Steely Dan – Gaucho
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Couldn’t Stand The Weather
Supertramp – Crime Of The Century
White Stripes – Elephant or Icky Thump
Yes – Drama
Yello – Baby or Touch

Vocal

Adele – 25
Cassandra Wilson – Blue Light ’til Dawn
Cat Stevens – Tea For The Tillerman
Cecile McLorin Salvant – WomanChild
Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Session Classic Records 33rpm.
Donald Fagen – The Nightfly
Eva Cassidy – Songbird
Jeff Buckley – Grace 45 ORG
Jennifer Warnes – Famous Blue Raincoat
Joni Mitchell – Blue
Melody Gardot – My One and Only Thrill 45 ORG
Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
Pink Martini – Hang On Little Tomatoe
Ray LaMontagne – God Willing The Creek Don’t Rise
Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones 45
Tracy Chapman – Self Titled

Happy shopping!

Oh, here are a couple resources that I use to buy music for my audiophile husband:

Acoustic Sounds – 888 926 2564 or www.acousticsounds.com
Music Direct – 800 449 8333  or www.musicdirect.com
Vivid Giya G3 in front of fireplace
Vivid Audio’s Giya G3 loudspeakers

Sound rooms don’t have to look like a rough and tumble man cave. According to some of the design-centric high-end audio dealers, sound rooms can be a statement of taste and high-living—sound-wise and aesthetically. Jason Lloyd from Audio Elegance in Fort Lauderdale works with designers to help their clients achieve what used to be thought of as impossible – combine great sound, luxurious aesthetics and functional living in their homes where playing great music is as much a feature of their living environment as this Balthazar chandelier by Nancy Corzine.

Balthazar chandelier by Nancy Corzine
Balthazar chandelier by Nancy Corzine

Little do we know, a chandelier, when placed properly can be used as an acoustic diffusor to scatter or disperse sound to break up and scatter the sound waves, giving the room a live ambient sound while at the same time reducing standing waves and slap echo. Similarly, plants properly placed in a sound room can help condition the sound room beyond the pure aesthetics.

On how to deliver sound with design, Jason’s motto is that “regardless of where your starting point is, don’t forget your music”. Gone are the days when one uses decorative table cloths to cover loudspeakers or subwoofers. “Your loudspeakers stand out in the room, period, and you need them untethered to achieve great sound. Know what music you like, how loud you listen to them and find the best loudspeakers that specializes in delivering that without adding sonic signature to corrupt the sound you love,” exclaimed Jason.

Jason is highly sought after by designers and installers whose clients are unhappy with their music playback, be it in their home entertainment rooms or in a multi-purpose room in their living and working environment. “In the case of home entertainment rooms, most of them have flushed cabinets that hide all their electronics, including the loudspeakers,” lamented Jason. “If you are limited in space, with one simple change and without engaging more real estate, our clients are able to enjoy both their action movies and Chopin with little distortions,” commented Jason, “but on the other hand, if you have more real estate to play with, the trick is to create a stereo listening environment that blends into your living, most effortlessly, most rewardingly sound wise and most elegantly from an aesthetics standpoint.”

His favorite loudspeakers to achieve that with happen to be the Vivid Audio GIYA series (#LoudspeakersInTheKnow). “Vivid Audio strives to deliver zero sonic signatures where sonically, it feels like they disappear from the room. Coupled with their museum quality design offered in any automotive color, these are true works of art from an engineering design and from an aesthetic design standpoint, allowing our interior design colleagues the creative room to balance their clients’ living space with other design elements while making a feature out of them.”

Vivid GIYA G3 with <em>Purple with red and yellow</em> from the Symbiosis Collection by Yuroz
“Purple with Red and Yellow”, from the Symbiosis Collection by Yuroz (limited edition, 5/9, digital print)

Here’s the same pair of loudspeakers in a different room where the equipment and wires are nicely tugged away.  Starkly positioned on the blank wall in between these shapely GIYA G3’s is the “Purple with Red and Yellow”, from the Symbiosis Collection by Yuroz complimenting the rest of the design elements.

Symbiosis is a private collection that Yuroz, a well celebrated Los Angeles based artist, has been working on during the last five years. This new contemporary collection will debut next March in the Coral Springs Museum in Florida for public viewing. Blending his signature cubist structure with vibrant colors in a completely new contemporary style of painting, Yuroz (#Yurozart) expresses the symbiotic relationship between human beings and our environment, in this case, between us and the trees in the forests.

Much like sound energy, the flow of energy between us and the different elements in our environment determines our state of health and balance as the energy moves through the seven human chakras. In representing the interdependency between us and the trees, Yuroz’s Symbiosis collection manifests through the vibrant use of the seven colors of human chakras, calming or stimulating viewers to an ultimate state of overall harmony and tranquility.

Find out more about Yuroz and his upcoming museum show featuring his Symbiosis Collection here.

If you are in South Florida, Jason is hosting a music seminar this weekend to share sound advice and has invited some of his interior design colleagues as well. Join him for a fun musical delight, also featuring the private music collection of Music Evangelist, Philip O’Hanlon of On A Higher Note. Register here or call (800) 918-0597 to RSVP.

In photo above: Special matte color finishes of the Vivid Giya and Oval series available upon request. (photo credit: Timeframe Fotografie – Riksmuseum Matte Blue for G4 and Matte Monarch for V1.5)

I was on LinkedIn and saw a post in a group I belonged to, mentioning how over 50% of a line of speakers this gentleman retailed was purchased by women.  That piqued my interest. For years, I have been hearing rumblings in the high end audio industry that “we need to bring both the younger generation and the women into the hobby”.

I scrolled down but saw the conversation degenerate with someone, a male audiophile, explaining how WAF really meant “Tiffany for her and high-end audio purchases for him”. That struck a nerve but a different one than you are probably thinking. 

I am not going to attempt to explain why women audiophiles may or may not be growing in numbers, nor am I going to discuss how the headphone market boomed and whether the high-end audio industry had anything to do with attracting the younger generation into the hobby.

I have no intention to discuss whether this growth is truly high-end growth at this moment which would surely lead to a debate over music resolution and format. What I want to talk about is how I fell in love with the products my audiophile husband put into the listening rooms and how I made my decision for my first personal high-end audio purchase.

He did not say, “Honey, here’s a Tiffany and here’s my Class A amplifier.” As I wrote on the LinkedIn comment, I have never been the Tiffany type.

He did not say, “Sweetheart, isn’t this gorgeous?” but even if he did, I remembered I scored the lowest in the aesthetics value amongst the eight values surveyed in a personality behavior test.

He certainly did not say, “This is my man cave and let me do what I want.” Trust me, that really would not have gone down very well.

He started with music!

He shared music with me, paid attention to what music I liked and purchased far too many different versions of the same thing (of my beloved Mozart horn concerto) to see which version I prefer (I have this problem of liking what I like and other versions really never did anything for me).

He shares his new finds and explains the background and any anecdotes behind it, engulfing me in a piece of someone else’s history. He listens to an old song and tells me how he discovered the album, where he was at the time, how many miles he walked to get that (as he forsake the budget of maintaining a car to put the money into his music and gear), sharing a chapter of his life history with me.

He makes me compilations and themes them to my mood, sends me test copies to make sure I like every song in there and meticulously takes out what I object to before the final version gets burnt.

Appreciation and love of music started my path but what deepened my support had to do with a few other things:

Very early on in our relationship, he began dragging me into “A/B” tests, making me as much of a part of the component purchase decisions as possible. I remembered being dragged into a Santa Monica store to listen to the Thiels and fell in love with the sound but objected to the brown box, and loving the looks of the Magnepans but objected to the sharper sound they gave.

Even though my vocabulary was (still is) more of a layman vocabulary in describing what I hear, he listened to my input carefully and understood that when I said, “it felt like the musicians were lined up in a line but were mushed together” that it meant there was “no soundstage”. Or, when I said “it felt like I am leaning to the left to listen to the music that “the balance was off”. Or, when I told him “someone put a film over my ear” that it meant “it was not transparent” enough for me.

One thing that never fails, I always pick out the most expensive item in any blind-tests or any A/B/C/D tests.  My husband would lament about how I was “killing him” as each time he would have to stretch his budget.  Having said that, once I was told the price of each item, using the never-failing concept of marginal utility, we have always been able to agree on the exact components to purchase.

I remembered one day he and a proprietor dragged this large, weird, floor-standing silver box with wooden feet into our living room and told me it was an amplifier. That was at a time when amplifiers sat in the component rack and were highly indistinguishable from another box of the same or different make. Most of you by now probably know I am talking about the Halcro amplifier. I absolutely loved the transparent sound but found myself not able to listen to it for long.

So that Halcro amplifier stayed.  We compensated that by having a separate smaller listening room with very warm sound. Later in life, we switched entirely to the warmer and non-fatiguing sounding systems and never looked back, as being able to keep me in the room for as long as possible was one of my audiophile husband’s objectives.

Kids! Most audiophiles keep their kids away from their gear (for right reasons when they are very young).   However, it gave me so much joy when our kids were younger to see them spontaneously dance between the speakers with the Beatles playing or watch them fade to slumber on Schubert in the listening chair.

Now they are teenagers and one of their favorite pastimes is to hang with their friends in our house, some bring their choice LPs for music sessions and others bring their keyboards to make new music, blasting away in our living room. Our son’s favorite music to showcase the system remains “Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon”. In this day and age, there are so many other things teenagers could be doing that are not so healthy, to say the least…

Having a great sounding system in the house means there is always music in the house. The kids get to listen to what we listen to, and nowadays, they monopolize the car stereo controls with their iphone plug to show us samples of music they love. Their ulterior motive is to lure my husband to purchase the LP rather than them having to spend the money for download. Car rides become prequels to high resolution sharing in the living room of our favorite music. Everyone is involved.

This is how the purchase decision begins:  I remember many years ago, another proprietor brought in a pair of shapely loudspeakers, quite unconventional looking and had the temerity to install them right in front of our beloved custom QUAD ESL 57 loudspeakers in the smaller listening room. My audiophile husband and I were looking at each other in absolute dismay, thinking that no way will they unseat our QUADs.

Many music demonstrations later, I was hooked.

Two years later, the same proprietor brought in their new flagship loudspeakers, which in my opinion was drop-dead gorgeous. Talk about “Functional art”.  They are so pretty that even one of the renowned reviewers confessed that he initially dismissed them but did a 180 degree turn (see video).

The boys positioned these flagship loudspeakers and had a conversation around one of them. I am a very tactile person and I found (after the fact) my hand running up and down the curves of the cabinet while listening to the conversation and was dying to listen to how they sounded.

However, it wasn’t until I slowly understood the “why’s” behind the “what’s” and the “how’s” of the features that I became a solid and giant evangelist. Such understanding allows me to see through the lens or hear through the ear drums of the inventors and audio designers who built the equipment.

This pair of loudspeakers became the ice-breaker for anyone that enters the house. My girlfriends all love them and their husbands all want their private music sessions to hear the A/B’s. In more kids parties than I can remember, I would inevitably find the husbands congregate in our living room, steeped in music listening and discussions all around these speakers.

I felt proud that I could talk about the what’s and the why’s of the catenary domes, the tapered tube, the reaction-cancelling woofers, the light but stiff cabinets etc. and how all the technologies added together to make such overwhelmingly present loudspeakers “disappear” when the music is playing.

I never knew that cabinet finish is my thing (come to think about it, it kind of is as we spent a solid six months deciding on the finish of our Carr loudspeakers and took such pains to finally decide on the Burl finish). However, given how these loudspeakers satisfy all of my other criteria, it is no wonder that when I saw the custom Dutch Museum Blue matte finish on the Vivid Audio’s entry level V1.5’s at CES this year, a color and finish that I fell head-over-heels in love with, I vowed to make them the first personal purchase of high-end audio in my life. This form follows function and highly engineered innovative loudspeaker line not only got my left brain to buy in but also completely captures my heart. Describing it as wife “acceptance” is a definite understatement.

The growth of the headphone market is great for business but I desperately hope that this generation of new audiophiles (young or old, male or female) develops this hobby to a wider soundstage than what’s constrained between their ears. My husband’s decision to involve his wife, the children and everyone that comes through the door has certainly created many sweet memories so far in our lives.

I am all for getting infected by this hobby whichever way you can and if it involves initially just the real estate between the ears, so be it. I urge the new and old generations of audiophiles that as you continue in the battlefield to weigh between the best sound, convenience and good looking gear while balancing the budget, please involve both the left and right brain of your family so they can grow with you.

– written by the wife of an audiophile, posted here anonymously at her request