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A Bit More About Me

Like many, I grew up with music as a central part of my childhood. My dad was a real jazz lover. Every Sunday afternoon, our house echoed with the sounds of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Monk, et al. Thanks to my dad, as a kid, I was lucky enough to experience live performances from the likes of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, and Buddy Rich. It seemed natural to me to start playing trumpet in grammar school, and I continued playing on through college. Sitting in an entire orchestra or big jazz band is a fantastic feeling. Those experiences have left an indelible mark on what music is to me, my sense of what it sounds like – but also how it feels. Be it a live, un-amplified event or a rock concert, there are crucial aspects of that experience that make it unmistakably live – aspects that are missing from the home audio discussion and are indeed missing from most home audio systems because they are hard to measure and even harder to recreate. There are no manufacturer's specifications for these things. Still, they are at the heart of the music I grew up with – and how I envision and work with a home audio system.

I am grateful to have been mentored by some very bright people during my career, technically and in terms of understanding how to recreate the almost tactile immediacy and presence of the live experience at home. My most profound lesson was back in the mid-1980s from Dave Wilson of Wilson Audio Specialties. Using his WAMM speaker system and UltraMaster tape machine, Dave demonstrated to me just how fundamentally crucial low-frequency pressure could be to music. Astonishingly, he gave me this lesson using a solo flute recording. That experience underpins the foundation of how I approach and set up a home audio system today – but it also helped explain a significant event from years earlier.

Back in college, I saw The Moody Blues in a big enclosed auditorium. The opening act was none other than the great Stevie Ray Vaughn. But on this night, the house gave Stevie the "small sound system." The experience was deficient and uninspiring, and the audience almost fell asleep. Imagine Stevie sounding that way? Then The Moody Blues came on using the "big system" the band travels with, and the place came alive. The venue was thoroughly and uniformly pressurized with the big rig from the lowest frequency to the highest. The performance was heard (and felt) the way the musicians intended. Suddenly, the audience was on its feet, responding, and we had a rock concert.

These two experiences taught me that pressure matters, not just low bass response. Or, in other words, how to maximize and use the bass your speakers are capable of in your room to recreate that pressure. It's typical of the cumulative experiences that have contributed to my ability to achieve a sense of "live-like" communication and performance from a simple two-channel music system. Collectively, they have allowed me to create a skillset for and appreciation of what matters in audio system setup and optimization, allowing them to deliver the sort of musical performance their owners seek and are capable of.  

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