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Owner: Joe G.
Analog: VPI Scoutmaster with JMW 9 tonearm, Shelter 501 MKII cartridge, Walker Precision Motor Drive
Digital: Sony NS500V CD/SACD, sent to Matt Anker's; multi-channel disconnected, power supply shielded with copper jacket, all caps replaced with BlackGate caps, word clock replaced with upgraded clock
Preamp: Supratek Chenin
Amp: Wolcott Audio Presence P220 monoblocks
Speakers: Magnepan MG 3.6R
Cables: Signal Cable Silver Resolution, Synergistic Research Signature Ten X
Stands: DIY Racks made from John Boos butcher block and brass rods
Tweaks: 3 Walker Valid Points & 5 resonance discs (3 under points, 2 on top) for Walker Audio Precision Motor Controller, VPI 16.5 Record Cleaning Machine
Power: 3 x 20A lines from service panel to equipment on 10-gauge Romex to cryo treated Porter Port (Hubbell 8300): 1 line for each amp, 1 line for front end
Room Treatment: room treatments by RPG, Quest Audio Interiors, design by Rives Audio
Room size: 23 x 17 x 10 ft.
Listener: Michael Lavorgna

Exit 2: Joe's system
My second stop on the Garden State tour is in Cinnaminson/NJ. Where? As a born and mostly bred NJite, this was a new one for me. Near Philly is the answer. As I mentioned in my first road tour, having a dedicated listening room is dependant on a number of possible factors. Let's just say that Joe has married well in the Hi-Fi sense. Dorothy Kirsten, a soprano with the New York Metropolitan Opera, was 'Aunt Dorothy' to Joe's wife. In fact music and its enjoyment played a role in the family life for all. Joe recounted that when he was a child, his parents used to listen to Jazz on their console HiFi after putting the children to bed. One night Joe awoke to this amazingly cool sound of what he thought were live musicians. He crept downstairs to find his parents sitting contentedly together just listening. The next morning he found out it was a new release - Kind of Blue, played on the console.

The dedicated listening room is a generous 23 x 17 x 10 (10ft ceiling over the speakers, sloping to 8ft behind the listener). The component rack sits on one of the 17' walls. Interconnects run 26' under the floor through PVC suspended from the basement ceiling to the Wolcott monos behind each speaker.

A classic rig: VPI/Supratek/Wolcott/Magnepan
Magnepan has been around for over 35 years. Doesn't that deserve a wow? That 70's telly show could feature a pair and it'd be historically accurate. Then you could go on-line in 2005 and order a pair. Yousa. The Mylar and aluminum endowed 5' 9" panel is everything I've always heard about the Maggies and more. The Magneplanar 3.6s are the second from the top in the house of Magnepan. "The MG3.6 is a 3-way system with a low mass, line-source midrange and a true ribbon tweeter. The bass driver has 537 square inches of radiating area."

Driving the Maggies are the Wolcott Audio P220 monoblocks in gold trim version with wide-band transformers. The 200 watts per block are derived from a grand total of 16 EL34s run in push/pull pentode mode. There's a lot more to the Wolcott story including a slew of patents. Their website makes for some interesting reading: "Soul and intellect went into the making of the Wolcott Audio Presence." The P220s are perhaps best known as the amp of choice for Sound Lab owners, as tube amps for the speaker load from hell.

The Supratek Chenin hails from Down Under and the hands of Mick Maloney. A two-chassis pre including an MC phono stage, the Chenin is a handsome piece of gear. Our own Edgar Kramer bestowed a cherished Blue Moon award on the Supratek Chardonnay, which is the next one down the ladder of Supratek's preamp stable.

Taking on front-end duties is another classic combo, the VPI Aries Scoutmaster/JMW 9 tonearm and Shelter 501 MKII cartridge. Joe has added the Walker Audio Precision Motor Controller to this mix. The VPI/JMW/Shelter team have garnered more awards and appeared on more best of lists than Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson combined.

An interesting similarity in Road Trips is the absence of power treatment or conditioning with the exception of an Ultimate Outlet on the CD player. Digital is present mostly as an accommodation and for the occasional recordings of interest that don't show up on vinyl.

Rives, the icing on this classic audio cake
From Joe's system entry on Audiogon 2/13/2005:
"Pretty much have made complete changes to my room as per design concepts from Richard Bird at Rives Audio. Room has improved so much in aesthetic and sound that over the course of the past 6 months, I have completely rethought my choices in gear. Save for the Magnepan 3.6R loudspeakers, I have replaced every component, crowned with the recent acquisition of a pair of the Wolcott Audio P220 mono tube amps and the arrival at Thanksgiving 2004 of the Supratek Chenin preamp. For the time being (yeah, sure) I will keep my system in "ever evolving", but I suspect that I have reached a point where the law of diminishing returns will kick in. Now is the time to kick back and enjoy what has evolved."

While I've only heard Joe's room post-Rives, I can say it is one of the most non-intrusive rooms I've ever had the pleasure to be in. This is apparent before any music plays. Let's just say a game of Marco Polo would not be possible. You can pinpoint a live sound source blindfolded, no sweat. What this means for audio reproduction is hair-raising imaging. As in surround-your-ass-sound, way up there, way back here and sometimes just way out. Can you hear me know? You bet. My suspicion is that if the Maggies ever received less-than-stellar marks for imaging, the room they were reviewed in was being reviewed, not the speakers.

From Quest Acoustic Interiors, there are absorption and deflection panels on the ceiling and sidewalls. The rear corners harbor RPG Acoustic VariScreens. Screen location and type are clearly indicated in the Rives documentation. I saw the plans and detailed instructions that Rives supplies as part of their deliverable and was very favorably impressed. Exact equipment placement, listening seat position, brand names and parts detailed for those inclined to make some of the absorption/reflection panels themselves, even proper twist to blind openings and carpet pile height. Absolutely no stone's left unturned. "Some of the best money I've ever spent on audio" according to Joe. I'd have to agree wholeheartedly.

Dead and DAT Heads
From John Potis' review of the Slappa 600, "Grateful Dead fans are a relentlessly obsessive bunch, too. One CD from any given concert tour doesn't do it. A recording from each and every single concert venue may quench their desire." How about over 1,000 hours of raw tape (DAT) of Grateful Dead, Dead-family bands and post-Jerry bands? The Dead encouraged the recording of their concerts, even provided a designated area for the more hard core. And Joe was hard-core. His DAT rig:
  • AKG 480 & Earthworks SR77 mics (depending on venue)
  • Audio Magic Presto II 15 ft mic cable
  • Grace Designs Lunatec V2 preamp
  • Audio Magic Excalibur II 2 ft interconnect
  • Apogee ad1000 analog/digital converter
  • Apogee Wyde eye digital interconnect
  • Tascam DA P1 DAT deck
  • Everything powered by Eco-charge gel cell batteries, carried in a Lowe Pro camera bag.

The whole raison-d'être for recording was sharing. Yes, that same old lesson parents can still be heard pleading with their kinds in strained voices in Walmarts around the globe. Share. Please. Well, the Dead and their DeadHeads knew how to share. These live recordings spread through word-of-mouth and from hand to hand. The only rule was that they'd be freely distributed. Imagine that. The rule was they had to be free. Now there's an alternative approach to that debate.

And while there's a strict no DAT policy, Joe and his wife support & attend the concerts by the Haddonfield Symphony Orchestra. The Haddonfield Symphony is one of three professional training orchestras in the United States.

Philadelphia Area Audio Group (PAAG)
While we're on the sharing theme, Joe is also a member of the PAAG. The group going on 50 strong meets en masse every other month and there's usually smaller events going on more frequently. Informal and geared toward mutual enjoyment, there's "no dues, no pressure, just fun". No furrowed brow, chin-stroking hyper-critical heaviness please. Anyone interested in joining can contact Judging from my visit with Joe, these guys and gals know how to have fun.

Meetings, or more appropriately get-togethers, take place at member's homes, manufacturer's and retailers. In September, the group hosted a listening session with appearances by Zu Cable & Loudspeakers, Consonance Audio and Hudson Audio. Lloyd Walker has made appearances in the past as well as other industry notables.

Spinning Heads
We listened to a host of great music on vinyl: Ray Brown/Laurindo "Almeida" from Moonlight Serenade; Patricia Barber "Modern Cool" Mofi 45 rpm reissue, Miles Davis "Flamenco Sketches" from Kind of Blue Classic Records 200g 45 rpm reissue' Crosby Stills & Nash "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" from CSN Classic reissue; Doc Watson Home Again Cisco records reissue; Holst's Savitri, a Chamber Opera in one act Argo LP, and many more. One convenient feature of the Walker Motor Drive is the ability to switch from 33 to 45 with the flip of a switch.

In-between, we played a few tracks from CDs including Dead Can Dance "Yulunga" from Into the Labyrinth; Dawn Upshaw/Kent Nagano Canteloube: Chants d'Auvergne; and Sanjay Mishra/Jerry Garcia Blue Incantation. We also played track 3 from Roger Waters' Amused To Death. For those unfamiliar with this cut, it's a veritable test drive for imaging. The system & room at Joe's passed with frighteningly flying colors. Yes I'll admit, I even had to look to my left and behind doing the "where's the rear speaker?" stooges-type mugging.

Audio Heads
From my way of seeing, Joe is not an audiophile. Joe is an Audio Head. I'd like to think that I'm one, too. What's the difference? Short of an official Audio Head Manifesto -- which I fully intend to pen -- the most distinguishing trait of an Audio Head is a complete lack of guilt or remorse over their HiFi hobby. It's conspicuous consumption of fun. With a capital F or PH if you prefer. Hand-in-hand with this is the admission that you dig the gear. And since I'm note-taking here for that manifesto, I can place the most important thing third; a love of music. HiFi lets us enjoy our music. And when music has been a part of your life for decades, putting on a certain album can also be a remembrance of things past; your parents as they enjoyed a song and maybe a dance; a first date with the mother of your children; the hazy
recollection of a hazy concert with hazy friends. Making music an event in your home -- with listening being a verb with lineage -- helps build strong minds, families and friends more than twelve ways. Audio Heads know this and don't want to keep it a secret. They like to share. I left Joe's with two very cool DAT transfers of RatDog in AC from '98.

Joe's son goes to college in NY State. One day while shopping for some appropriately non-collegiate attire in a local thrift store, he came across some Digital Audio Tapes of, you guessed it, Dead concerts. He immediately called his dad on his cell. "Dude, I just found a box of DATs of some of old Dead concerts. Are they yours?" Joe told his son to open one and check for a code on the back of the tape. "Yup, it's there." "Time to bring 'em home, son."