One Fine Evening...

Digital-to-analog converters,
One Fine Evening...

On a wet and windy Friday in late November, the day after Thanksgiving, Edinburgh's premier audio and video supplier, Loud & Clear, along with digitalmeister general dCS, made recorded music wonderful again. Playing to an invited audience of about 30, the event was an evening of classical music, presented and recently recorded by noted classical producer Tony Faulkner, from his own Green Room Productions. John Carroll of Loud & Clear and David Steven Jr of dCS were also on hand, with the rest of the team on tap to keep the food and wine flowing.

Taking Loud & Clear's large central listening space, the event was more like a concert recital than a hi-fi demonstration, as we listened to Tony's experiences and subsequently heard his latest works. And they really were 'latest'; one track was recorded three days prior to the event. In fact, the recordings were so freshly-squeezed that the high-resolution files were only delivered to Loud & Clear's computers on the afternoon of the event.

The program comprised music by Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky. This wasn't playing dozens of snippets of tracks; no three-minute excerpts, Tony played the entire piece of music after a brief introduction, discussing what he calls (with true British understatement) his 'lazy' approach to recording; careful, minimalist microphone placement in the concert hall, rather that the massed close microphone techniques commonly found in many classical recordings today.

As a result, he also reminded us - both in his lecture and in the music he played - that music is not all supposed to sound similar; halls, orchestras, conductors and - of course - the music itself should sound at times sublime and enveloping, at times hard and angular. The difference between two Rachmaninov recordings - Symphonic Dances (live played by the City of Birmingham Youth Orchestra, Jac Van Steen conducting) and the Paganini Variations (played by the St. Petersberg Academic Symphony Orchestra, with Hai-Kyung Suh soloist and Aleksandr Dmitriev conducting) - was marked, the energy of the former contrasting with the dynamism of the latter.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of this in a way is the event perfectly fitted the dCS tag line 'Only The Music'. The 'bits and pieces' that comprised the system itself were barely discussed, and then only in passing. There was no need to discuss such things in a way, the music spoke for itself. For the record, the system was made up of a MacBook Pro laptop, with 8GB of RAM for playing Pure Music in Memory Play. This fed into a dCS Debussy DAC, with a dCS Puccini clock raising the game still further. That was playing into a two box Moon 850P preamplifier and then to a pair of Moon's 880M mono amplifiers. This delivered whisper quiet, near boundless power to a pair of ProAc's Carbon Pro 6 floorstanding loudspeakers, and the whole system was slung together with Studio Connection cables.

In fact, 'slung together' is the least appropriate term here. The L&C approach is pretty far removed from 'slung together' and this system was selected and fine-tuned with inordinate care and attention over the course of the week prior. The company's professional, yet inherently friendly approach both in making this excellent event and in its day-to-day operation shines through. In a world where so much is thick with gloom, it's a rare pleasure to find people who are not only good at what they do, but are clearly so passionate about what they do that they constantly do it better.

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