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2006 just flew by making me wonder where the year went. Fortunately there was lots of audio fun and games this year that made 2006 an ongoing pleasant event. This year I wanted to organize my 'Years Best' around Cheers & Jeers to cover a little more ground. Cheers to those people, products and trends that make our quaint little hobby such a rewarding pastime; Jeers to those that diminish it. So in no particular order, here's my Cheers & Jeers for 2006.

Three cheers for musicians and live music! None of what we love about audio would be possible if not for those hard- working musicians whose music makes our lives richer and so much more rewarding. I had the good fortune to spend an evening with jazz guitarists John La Chapelle and Larry Coryell as they performed at Battelle Auditorium in Richland/ Washington a few weeks back. What a treat! You can add John La Chapelle & Larry Coryell to the list of super musicians and bands hailing from Washington State like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Bing Crosby, Kenny G, Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Oleta Adams, Nirvana, Heart, Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney and the like. John La Chapelle is a beloved 85-year-old master Jazz guitarist who lives in Richland and can be found performing live locally nearly every weekend. During the weeks between performances, John has taught thousands of aspiring guitarists in his Richland home studio, one of those being a young Larry Coryell who would go on to world stardom as a pioneer guitarist in jazz-rock fusion and world-music jazz.

Coryell formed the first jazz-rock fusion group The Free Spirits with alto saxophonist Jim Pepper and drummer Bob Moses. Pepper, a Native American, infused their Jazz with Native American rhythms, most notably those of the Native American peyote chant in the song "Witchi Tai To". That night a few weeks ago at Battelle Auditorium was the first time Larry's been able to return home and wow the home-town crowd since moving away in 1961. He chose to honor his early mentor John La Chapelle by including him in the night's songs - cheers to Larry for honoring his elders! Certainly no one is more deserving than John La Chapelle. Their music together was nothing short of amazing, bringing the crowd to a standing ovation at every song. Make a commitment and do yourself a favor - go hear live music performed by living and breathing musicians. You'll be glad you did. Cheers also to Jazz aficionado and pal Dr. Kannan Krishnaswami for allowing me to use a few of the photos he shot of the night's event with John & Larry.

Cheers to all the readers who wrote to me cheering for The Music Lovers intro article. You said, "It's about time!" that we HiFi hacks figured out the difference between HiFi gear that plays music well vs being designed to excel at sonic fireworks but which can't hold a tune. As a result of my own desire to immerse myself in the gestalt of the music, I started exploring the world of HiFi gear that excels at playing the music. Music lovers have weighed in telling me that their equipment must be tolerant of all levels of recording quality because not all the music they love is recorded well. In fact, much of it isn't. Jeers to equipment that forces the listener to narrow their listening to audiophile-approved recordings because it's too finicky for real world music. Imagine that, equipment that serves the music instead of the reverse. What's the world coming to? If the gear can do both music and sound with equal prowess, so much the better - but it's not mandatory coz music rules! Because I've wanted to focus on systems for this series, it's taken a while to assemble the first one but one is now in place and I'm ready to rap about my first discoveries. Stay tuned.

Cheers to Matt Rotunda, owner of Pitch Perfect Audio, for hosting me over two very enjoyable evenings of warm hospitality and great music during my recent visit for the Music Lovers Road Tour. Matt carries a variety of gear that appeals to music lovers - like Shindo, Leben, 47Labs, Living Voice and Auditorium 23, to name a few. This stuff will get your mouth watering. Matt pretty much blew me away with his two Shindo-based systems, one of which was a Shindo head-to-toe statement rig that cost more than my first house, the other within reach of mere mortals, either of which I'd personally love to own for their outstanding musical prowess.

I recommended both systems to those music lovers whose wallets are feeling a little too heavy lately. Jeers to those audio dealers who don't know how to treat a customer with hospitality, kindness and good service. For the Jeers crowd, you'd be wise to take a lesson from Matt. I've had a number of Matt's customers contact me to say that it's not just audio writers like me who get the deluxe treatment. Matt treats all of his customers that way. Matt's low-key and friendly approach makes him beloved by his customers and has them return time and again for their audio needs. Way to go Matt!
Cheers to Jonathan Halpern, proprietor of Tone Imports and chief supplier to Matt. Jonathan imports tasty audio treats like Shindo, Leben and Auditorium 23 products. Jonathan was delighted by my reaction to the Shindo gear at Matt's place. He is now sending over the whole Shindo electronics stack that earned my admiration in 'Frisco for a formal review - the Shindo Arome CD matching transformer; the Shindo Monbrison full-function preamplifier; the Shindo Cortese stereo amplifier; and a full Shindo cable set. I have the Leben 600 integrated amp from him in-house already and I think I'm in love - the full story on this little honey is to come shortly. I have to hand it to Jonathan. He sure knows how to pick 'em!

Cheers are also in order for Kevin Scott, designer of the acclaimed Living Voice loudspeakers. Kevin is sending a pair of his brand-new model IBX-RWs which use the exotic and expensive aged Kondo Japan silver wiring and KSL (Kondo Sound of Lexus) capacitors. He's building them right now as you read this. Kondo says their silver cables have "the ideal quality level with smoother sound, the least distortion and superiority in separation of minute signals. All Kondo silver wire manufactured by Audio Note Japan is 99.99% pure silver coated with six coats of a special polyurethane varnish applied immediately after drawing. This prevents oxidation and provides mechanical surface damping of the proper 'Q'. The wire is then age annealed ... to have a purer and gentler sound than the hot or cold or chemically annealed wires. Audio Note is the only audio manufacturer to use this expensive age-annealing process to make their wire." The Living Voice IBX-RW has the same specifications as the top-of-the-line OBX-RW owned by our Edward Barker but uses internal instead of outboard crossovers for those like me trying to declutter their listening rooms. I was bowled over by the standard IBX model heard at Matt's place and reports from the field say that the RW version is simply breathtaking. This means I'll be able to reproduce the system I heard at Matt's almost exactly in my own home, with the bonus of having the latest and trickest pair of Living Voice loudspeakers on planet Earth to listen to. If you imagine me rubbing hands together in glee and anticipation, you've got the right idea. I'll be sharing this story with all the gory and glorious details in 2007 as I explore the Living Voice IBX-RW loudspeaker with and without the Shindo gear.

Cheers to Yoshi Segoshi of Sakura Systems who is one of the finest individuals in the US audio scene. Yoshi's friendliness, gentlemanly behavior and impeccable integrity make him a role model for all those who want to succeed in the audio biz or life in general. Cheers also to the remarkable performance of the Miyabi 47 that Yoshi loaned me to write about for. The Miyabi 47 is my favorite phono cartridge by a mile for its magical combination of rich musicality and stunning sonics, making it an easy Best of 2006 pick!

Cheers to Mark Baker for his Origin Live Silver Mk II tonearm. With its new arm wand, it takes a major step forward in musicality for those with low-compliance cartridges. The Silver Mk I tonearm landed upon my Best of 2005 list so it should come as no surprise that the new and more musical Mk II gets my nod as one of my Best of 2006. I'd also like to say a special thanks to Mark and all the folks at Origin Live for the extended loan of their Silver tonearms which made possible my Garrard Project Series of articles that have been favorites among our 6moons audience. You guys rock!

Speaking of the Garrard Project: cheers to all of you Garrardissimos around the world that have shared your Garrard adventures with our readers and with me in photos and words. A special vintage cheers is reserved for those restored vintage turntables that continue to warm the hearts of music lovers around the world. Not only do vintage tables look cool, they sound fantastic and play music wonderfully well. These vintage treasures allow their caretakers to appreciate our audio heritage up close and personal in a way that gives far more satisfaction than any modern table is capable of.

Another special cheer goes to mastering engineer Mike Paschetto who is restoring vintage Empire 208 turntables and making them available to a lucky few who have the good sense to buy one instead of those soulless acrylic wonders hawked to the masses ( that's an acrylic jeer - I hate that stuff!). I've got one of Mike's Empire 208 tables in for review. It's a honey. It's in the same league as the Garrard 301 and Thorens 124 and the beautifully crafted Paschetto Empire 208 is a real-world price winner too. I'll tell you now before the full review comes out that Mike's Empire 208 is highly recommended by yours truly. At $2495 sans arm, it's a red-hot bargain. Like a finely crafted Navajo rug, Stickley furniture, pre-war Martin guitar or Filson jacket, these vintage turntables are treasures built to a standard that means they'll be enjoyed by you and generations of music lovers to come.

Cheers to Walter Swanbon of Fidelis Audio-Visual who is another one of the audio industry's truly terrific men and known for outstanding customer service. Some year's back Walter showed the Harbeth Super HL5s & Monitor 30s he imports with Art Audio electronics at T.H.E. Show in Las Vegas. I was blown away by the rich musicality and natural-sounding sonics of the pairing and have never forgotten the experience. Following up, I reviewed the Monitor 30s and have been blabbering about Harbeths to my audio pals ever since. Stephaen told me one day that since I liked Harbeths so much, I should quit bloody talking about them and get a pair myself. I took Stephaen's advice. I am happy to report that I am the giddy new owner of a pair of Harbeth Super HL5s dressed for a night out on the town in a striking tiger ebony veneer. Here's a free hint if you need amplification for your new Super HL5s: the Leben 600 integrated makes for a synergistic combination and easy Music Lovers recommendation. My Supers arrived this week and are already playing tunes so well that I'm positively beside myself. Three cheers to Walter and Harbeth!

Cheers too to Noel Nolan of Skylan Stands who has been making audio-video furniture, racks and speaker and amp stands in Calgary/Alberta for over twenty years. Noel provides an excellent product at very fair prices along with superb customer service. It's
no wonder that Alan Shaw, the wizard of Harbeth, recommends Noel's stands as his first choice for Harbeth speakers. I've been using Noel's stands for quite a few years with my Omega Super 3s and they're awesome. I've got a pair of new Skylan stands sitting under my new Super HL5s and the pairing is exceptional. I'm one happy customer!

Cheers to Tom Evans and his astounding and innovative Tom Evans Audio Design electronics. In case you're wondering, yes I'm still crazy about my Linear A amplifier, Vibe line stage and Pulse power supply. Tom's gear is a real milestone in high performance audio electronics design and in many ways rewrites the script of what is possible in combining superb sonics and musicality in one package. The Linear A was an easy Best of 2005 recommendation and the Vibe & Pulse is an equally easy Best of 2006 recommendation.

In the tradition of saving the best for last, many many cheers to Srajan for following his dreams and producing the best audio & music webzine on planet Earth. Srajan has worked his butt off to make 6moons the best resource on the web for those of us who love this goofy hobby called audio. Very deservedly Srajan is now able to live anywhere in the world he wants -- Cyprus at the moment -- and ply the trade he loves. That's about as cool as it gets and something most of us can only dream about. I don't know about you but in a world where it seems good people seldom receive the good in return they deserve, it's a really nice change to see a really good guy like Srajan receive some rewards for his efforts. Six cheers to Srajan for being the best person in audio to write for!