Text 3

Text 3, 2011, performative work, from the exhibition Third Family of Objects and Confrontational Reading, hunt kastner, Prague, 2012, photo: author's archive

So... how did I get from industrial machines to electronics. Actually... this blog was originally supposed to be about audio; about equipment with brand names such as Mark Levinson, McIntosh and Accuphase. These amplifiers and preamplifiers immediately attract our attention – with their front panels with knobs and buttons, potentiometers, analogue or digital indicators of the left, right channel... There’s something about them reminiscent of machine tools, lathes and horizontal drills.

The L-590AX did the magic and completely erased the loudspeakers from my listening room so that with my eyes closed I was not able to identify their positions. Instead, I could identify the musicians within the three-dimensional soundstage and that was why (with the lights still dimmed) the listening turned out to be a be-there experience. As if the L-590AX could render also the cigarette smoke, heavy curtains and a worn out carpet, fingers dancing on strings and the ice, slowly melting in the last glass of whisky.[1]

ear impressions for custom earphones, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=212rP5zwtpo, 6. 9. 2012

With their dangerously looking corners and branched coolers jutting out into space they really are reminiscent of industrial machines. In reality they’re merely consumer goods - like motorcycles, sports cars and pleasure boats; just like them they’re a source of joy and a symbol of social status. Even so, there’s something here... something that makes them different... these goods are capable of creating a semblance of reality. That’s why I myself refer to them as machines, even though they do not manufacture anything, but merely reproduce compositions from a record, tape, CD or MP3 device.

Have you ever had a chance to listen to a plucked double-bass from the distance, let’s say, of 1 meter? If your answer is yes then you would probably agree that it is not just the deep strumming sound we all know from our home audio systems but that it is very palpable. One can see the effort a player has to put into the plucking a string a when he does than the mighty THUNG! shudders a room. Well, such a THUNG!… The guitar that joins the track at around  2´50 is precisely outlined and introduces delicate details like microresonances of strings, resonating bodies of instruments or a soft hiss of an analogue master tape. We travel against the flow of time to the age when digital silence did not exist and one could listen to the breaks between songs.[2]

HEADSTAGE ARROW 3G.wmv, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUGCH-z054Q, 6. 9. 2012

In order for audiophiles to be able to listen to their favourite song they need a source of audio signal, in other words a gramophone, CD player or computer, a device to amplify it, i.e. an amplifier, and equipment to reproduce the sound, i.e. loudspeakers. This is known as framing. It’s like looking at an empty space bordered by a beautiful steel frame. The whole situation is as follows: a room and in it a sound system, opposite a seat, and as a general rule one or more men. They are listening to music, staring into the space in front of them. Their eyes are scanning the surfaces of the devices. They’re examining each element of the player, the amplifier, the speakers; and they’re dissatisfied. They were expecting something to happen, that reality would vanish and instead members of Kiss would appear in their prime, or Metallica in their heyday or those crazy guys from The Cure... but they’re simply not materialising... there’s a hitch, somewhere. Their inner voices are saying – “If I could just buy that amplifier and those speakers and those wires to go with it... then... then it would surely work... then they’d finally materialise right here... right here, right in front of me.”

You may not be familiar with Siesta movie by Mary Lambert but you may be familiar with the soundtrack to the movie that was composed by Marcus Miller and Miles Davis, the latter also playing his trumpet throughout the score. The title track of the album (Marcus Miller/Miles Davis,Siesta, Warner Bros 7599-25655-2) is, apart from being compositionally the most complex one, the most acoustic piece on the disc with live drums… The trumpet line hovers over the background music in a simple melody… The trumpet was impeccable through the Titan; subtle microdynamic shifts were documented with ease and self-assurance and very close to what you can hear in concert. I did not find any trace of congestion or transient limitation of peaks and this did not change even at higher-than-appropriate playback levels. There is an extreme power reserve in the Titan; I cannot imagine a load that would drive this amp to be short of breath.[3]

Ibasso D4 Mamba Portable Amplifier Unboxing, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H2KarMwf-4, 6. 9. 2012

I get plenty of ideas about how to write about these machines, but I still don’t have the exact key. Articles posted on audiodrom.cz have helped me a lot. Thanks to them I grasped that meld of social schemata that define – for all of us – how we listen to something... how we look at things. It’s actually quite simple. Each one of us in their own way believes that it’s possible to control space and time; through the use of technology. We have accepted this faith, and audiophilia is just one of the most radical, and therefore also most interesting, sects. It’s an unbounded faith in machines and their abilities. A belief that one day the breakdown of the time continuum really will be achieved and it will be possible to travel through time; and it’ll be done thanks to musical recordings, or if I stray to other media, with the aid of photographs, film or video.

Rick Fryer of Spectral Audio admits that the development of home audio is somewhat limited by our little understanding of aspects of human auditory perception and by some controversies in interactions of digital and analog technologies. He also warns against a purely scientific approach in designing an audio equipment as this never overcomes our subjective aesthetic issues. Though Spectral Audio’s team has the access to the most advanced audio technologies they keep following the rule that in any contest between theory or test bench measurements and what the ear actually hears, the ear ultimately decides.[4]

[1] http://audiodrom.cz/en-version/314.html?start=2; 19.6.2012.
[2]http://audiodrom.cz/en-version/286.html?start=1; 19. 6. 2012.
[3] http://audiodrom.cz/en-version/293.html?start=1; 19. 6. 2012.
[4] http://audiodrom.cz/en-version/280.html; 19. 6. 2012.