Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

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Let's #TBT to a timeless article trying to answer a timeless question:

"Record players have made a comeback over the past decade. Some of the credit probably goes to the hipster trend toward retro everything, but music lovers often claim records just sound better than digital music. I played my part in boosting record player sales after finding my mom’s old record collection in my parents’ house. The collection itself was not particularly exciting, but the possibility of listening to the exact records she had played as a teenager felt like some sort of time travel.

So we bought a record player. I distinctly remember playing The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I had dutifully met the college student stereotype of blasting The Beatles on a regular basis, so I had heard those songs a hundred times. But when the cacophony at the end of “A Day in the Life” came on, it was not the one I had heard before. It sounded much deeper and fuller, like there were new noises in it. I was skeptical of the claim that vinyl sounded better, so I was surprised to be hearing a difference. Being a scientific-minded person, I’m not exactly swayed by one data point, but the experience did pique my curiosity.

So what’s the deal with the vinyl phenomenon? Is it really possible that records just inherently make a fuller sound? To have any hope of answering these questions, we have to start with something more basic: What is sound and how do we hear it?"

Read the rest over at The Atlantic.

When Public Enemy Toured With The Sisters Of Mercy. Really.

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Yes, Public Enemy once toured with The Sisters of Mercy. And it didn't go well. Post Punk's story opens like this:

"Perhaps ill advised or way ahead of it’s time—given that Death Grips toured with Ministry recentlySisters of Mercy frontman Andrew Eldritch made his vision thing a reality by enlisting Hip Hop legends Public Enemy to go on tour together, along with post-punk legends Gang Of Four, hard rock band Warrior Soul, and rap group Young Black Teenagers for 1991’s “The Tune In, Turn On, Burn Out” tourThis combination was most likely inspired by the fact that Public Enemy’s third studio album Fear of A Black Planet released the previous year bore a similar name to The Sisters’s 1985 First And Last And Always track Black Planet."

But the really fun story is the concert review in the Chicago Tribune from 1991:

"Friday night`s incongruous matching of the Sisters of Mercy, Public Enemy, Gang of Four and Warrior Soul at Poplar Creek Music Theatre challenged fans to play 'spot the theme.'

The four groups play in jarringly different styles-gothic rock, rap, alternative guitar funk and hard rock-but all resist the mainstream.

The Sisters of Mercy wallows in the horror and illogic of the world while Public Enemy tries to make sense of it and shake things up. Gang of Four is alienated by society, while Warrior Soul wants to dismiss it with contempt.

The result was a fascinating cultural event and a frustrating concert in which the groups` disparities became more apparent than any shared bond."

If anyone has video from any of the shows they did together, we really really really want to see it. Please share any links in the comments

What Is The Biggest BS In HI-End Audio?

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We at Noho Sound love music, so of course we love anything that makes music sound better. What do we hate? BS. And there's no BS like the BS being shoveled in h-end audio reviews. All of us have been Stereophile fans and readers for years, but the latest issue contains something that is seriously nuts. And this is coming from a bunch of true believers.

Read this passage from last month's issue of Stereophile for yourself:

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WTF is going on here? Even if you believe cables can make a difference — and we do — none of us have ever seen or heard anything suggesting that "bending" your cables resets a mystery clock on how electrical signals pass through them, and that your sound will suffer as a result.

There are lot of serious people doing real work engineering the best possible hardware and software intended to reproduce music at the highest possible levels, at all price points. We carry many of those brands. But we will never sell anything we don't believe in, and can't demonstrate.

Advice: Buy what you hear, not what someone claims.

Bel Canto is great brand we don't carry. Stereophile is a great publication. Stereophile's review is positive. But hi-end audio as a hobby doesn't benefit when unserious claims about "cable bending" are buried in an otherwise serious review.

If anyone can prove us wrong about this, please tell us in the comments or reach out to us so we can try to reproduce this.

What is the craziest claim you've ever heard in audio, especially hi-end audio?

Please share in the comments.

Is This The Craziest Marital Fight Video Of All Time?

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They say love is never hurting someone where they are most vulnerable. This video excerpt depicts the worst case scenario; two people striking each other where it hurts the most. Watch to the end for the coup de grace.

We at Noho Sound recommend a softer approach to resolving marital differences. For example, the traditional IKEA vase or Muji T-shirt are easily replaceable after making up, Couture and tube amplifiers are not.

Watch the video for yourself:

Have you seen or heard of a marital spat more vengeful than this?

Please share in the comments below.

McIntosh Announces MT2 Precision Turntable At $4000

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Noho Sound is thrilled to announce that McIntosh Labs has finally released their long awaited MT2 Precision Turntable. Scheduled to ship in April, the MT2 will retail for $4000.

From the official press release:

McIntosh is pleased to announce our new MT2 Precision Turntable. 

The McIntosh MT2 Precision Turntable combines the latest in turntable technology and design to deliver both superb performance and accurate playback. The MT2 is a great way to upgrade your home audio system to play vinyl albums. 

A full complement of features allows for all recordings to be reproduced with flawless realism. Its advanced electronic and mechanical design will give you many years of smooth, trouble-free operation. A subtle green glow emanates from under the platter and the outside edges of the plinth for a touch of refined ambiance and connection to the McIntosh design aesthetic. 

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The MT2 plays both 33-1/3 and 45 rpm records. It’s virtually ready to use out of the box as tracking force, anti-skate force, cartridge overhang and arm height are all preset from the factory for maximum performance. The remaining setup steps are simple and you’ll be enjoying your vinyl in no time. 

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The MT2 comes with a moving coil cartridge that has a high enough output to make it compatible with not only moving coil phono inputs but also moving magnet inputs. The cartridge’s high impedance and high output voltage ensures noise free musical reproduction. This unique cartridge design features an alloy cantilever and an elliptical diamond stylus with exceptional tracking capability. 

The tonearm is constructed from dural-aluminum with special damping materials and is light weight yet highly rigid. The noise free vertical bearings feature two precision ceramic surfaces with damping fluid; the horizontal bearing is a gimballed sapphire design. 

The belt driven, solid black outer platter is made from a special dynamically balanced polyoxymethylene (POM) and is over 1” thick. This heftiness helps to both resist and absorb external vibrations that can cause noise during playback; its large mass also provides the perfect flywheel action for stable playback speed. The inner platter is made of CNC-precision milled aluminum. The platters rotate on a polished and tempered steel shaft in a sintered bronze bushing. 

The DC motor is driven by an external voltage-stabilized power supply and is completely decoupled from the chassis, isolating your records from any mechanical interference. Its sturdy plinth has a resonance optimized and highly compressed wood base with black lacquer finish, while the top and middle acrylic plates help absorb unwanted vibrations. 

A clear, contoured dust cover is included. The MT2 turntable is compatible with a variety of McIntosh phono preamplifiers, stereo preamplifiers, integrated amplifiers and home theater processors with phono inputs; virtually any of our amplifiers and speakers can be used to complete your audio system. 

Want to hear the McIntosh MT2 in downtown NYC? Call or email Noho Sound for an appointment.

Why The McIntosh MA252 Hybrid Integrated Amplifier Is Worth $3499

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McIntosh is the Leica of audio, and their all-new MA252 Hybrid Integrated Amplifier is their breakthrough product. The MA252 retails for $3499, but looks and sounds like $10,000. Why? Because it’s got tubes, and tubes sound better. Also, like all Mac, it weighs a ton, so you can use it for home defense. If the average brick is 2 pounds, the MA252 is equivalent to 14 bricks of ammunition. You could take down a flock of birds with it if you had a big enough catapult. Burglars may want that sound quality, but they’re going to pay in blood.

It will outlive you and your kids. If you get divorced, your spouse will want it. You'll want to look at it even when it's not playing. You want to look at it even when it's off. It's not wimpy like those plastic little amplifiers for babies. It will literally stop bullets. Your kids will want you to put it in your will. Your neighbors will be jealous. It will outlive you and your kids.

Specs? The tubes glow green, and there are four of them. Which is awesome even though the light has no effect on the sound. Also, it puts out 100 watts/channel and comes with a remote control and a phono stage, so you can connect a turntable directly to it.

In a world where nothing is built to last and almost everything at any price is mass-market junk, McIntosh is one of the last honest companies making things that are real. Built to last. Designed in America. Made in America.

Sold in downtown New York City exclusively at Noho Sound & Stereo.

Come by to hear it. Bring friends. We'll take care of the drinks.

CALL OR EMAIL
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Is Vinyl's Comeback Here To Stay?

 Noho Sound co-founder Chris Petranis contemplates the big issues. Also, records.

Noho Sound co-founder Chris Petranis contemplates the big issues. Also, records.

Is vinyl's comeback here to stay? Everyone at Noho Sound says yes, and Marc Hogan at Pitchfork has written a wonderful article explaining why:

"It was extinct. It was a fad. It was a bubble about to burst. Vinyl has been consigned to the garbage heap of history more than once. Yet it’s still here—and still growing.

But as 2018 begins, the business and culture of vinyl stand at an unlikely juncture. After more than a decade of increasing American sales, vinyl’s comeback is no longer a quirky, look-at-those-hipsters novelty. Instead, the bustling ecosystem of turntables and records is surprisingly close to being mainstream. Last year, vinyl was featured in commercials for insurance companies and arthritis pills. It was on “The Price Is Right.” In November, Jack White was able to describe such once-unlikely crossovers during the millennium’s first vinyl manufacturing conference. At the same time, though, vinyl still represents an infinitesimal slice of the $16 billion global recording industry. Even within the shrinking realm of physical media, only one in 10 new albums sold last year was on vinyl according to one industry report—aside from a negligible smattering of cassettes, the other nine were CDs.

Yet the numbers—and observations from industry insiders—suggest that physical records will probably continue to remain a meaningful and lasting presence in many music lovers’ lives. In the years ahead, vinyl will likely maintain its status as a complement to the impersonality of streaming, a scruffy anachronism consistently hanging out at the margins. As of now, here are the big trends from the world of spinning wax..."

Read the rest of Pitchfork's article for yourself here.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

The World's Worst Turntables And Why You Should Avoid Them

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I recently heard that Urban Outfitters is the largest seller of vinyl records in America. Sadly, it also sells turntables that aren't very good for your records. The proof? This amazing thread over on Reddit detailing exactly why you shouldn't place your valuable records on suboptimal turntables.

The list of offenders is crazy.

The Reddit thread's intro alone serves as a warning as to what not to do with that $25 vinyl you just splurged on:

Playing vinyl records is a great hobby. It's easy to get started and you don't need to spend a fortune to do so. However, like any hobby, there is both good and bad products out there at both ends of the price/performance spectrum. In general, a record player or turntable needs to do three basic separate, interrelated jobs to successfully play a vinyl record. Some players perform these three jobs better than others and cost much more for the commensurate research, development, and precision manufacturing costs that went into producing them.

Job #1 Provide a stable, extremely flat, non resonant platform for the record to rest on.

Job #2 Turn the platform and record precisely at the correct speed.

Job #3 Position a stylus and transducer above a revolving groove, allow the stylus to follow the grove and faithfully reproduce the vibrations encoded within.

As one moves up the record player/turntable food chain, more of the build budget gets dedicated to improvements that affect audio quality either directly or indirectly.

Most mass-market turntables are made by three OEM factories: Hanpin, Skywin, and Leetac. They all make a low quality, non upgradable, low performance, budget-friendly, entry level model with built-in speakers, a heavy tracking ceramic or moving magnet cartridge, and a barely adequate tonearm prone to promote stylus mistracking. Even the more expensive mass-market turntables tend to place emphasis on convenience features such as automatic play, sometimes switchable built in phono-EQ, USB connectivity, and cosmetics, instead of design improvements that increase audio quality.

Reasons to not buy these brands/specific models:

• Skipping during playback of loud passages, including but not limited to heavy bass/drums, and/or loud transients due to exceeding the tracking abilites of the included stylus.

• No upgrade options, nor serviceable parts that can be sourced easily other than the stylus and belt.

• The included sapphire sylus on many Leetac and Skywin-manufactured players, which has a maximum lifespan of between 65 to 100 hours due to the stylus' softer material than diamond. Yes, you can upgrade to a diamond tipped stylus for increased stylus longevity, but you will still have the exact same problems as described in this list.

• Heavy, inconsistently set, tracking force (Leetac and Skywin tonearms) with ceramic cartridges require vertical tracking force be set at roughly 5.0 grams but is measured anywhere from 4.0 to 10.0 grams. The Audio Technica AT3600L moving magnet cartridge, found on some Crosley models (i.e., the Collegiate) and Hanpin FU-700/R200 OEM models have measured anywhere from 4.0 to 6.0 grams. This can shorten the lifespan of the stylus, specifically the tip, cantilever, and suspension, but also accelerate groove damage to the records. Note that the AT3600L moving magnet's stylus has a recommended tracking force between 2.5 to 3.5 grams.

• Non-adjustable or fixed counterweight that severely limits cartridge and stylus selection (usually to just one).

• Shorter tonearms also experience higher levels of tracing error, where the stylus is not perfectly parallel to the groove, causing audible distortions The short tonearm also further contributes inner groove distortion, where groove speed is the slowest and tracking is most difficult. IGD is audible distortion that affects the midrange and treble frequencies during playback at the most inner grooves near the center label.

Click here to read the rest and get the full list of the worst offenders...

Is This The Best Cover of A-ha's "Take On Me" Of All Time?

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Is this the best cover of A-ha's "Take On Me" of all time? That depends on how many covers of it you've heard. We're big fans of covers, at least co-founder Alex Roy is, so we've done the heavy lifting for you and found some more of them, ranging from jazzy to metal.

Let's start with the original 80's classic:

Then we've got this fun acoustic version by Seven Handle Circus from New Orleans:

And then you have this which could almost be by Fishbone, but is by another band with "fish" in it, Reel Big Fish:

How about a very 80's-style metal cover by a very Nordic metal band called Northern Kings?

If that soft metal cover wasn't metal enough for you, here's a speed metal version from Triphon. Starts heavier than it ends:

Sadly for the cover bands, it seems that the best cover us actually the acoustic version by the original A-ha for MTV unplugged. Yes, we know it's not really a cover, but it's certainly the loveliest version:

The Absolute Sound Reviews The TAD ME1 Reference Bookshelf Speakers

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Japan, once the source for ultra-high audio equipment, fell into a funk for several decades, but no longer. TAD, a name heretofore unknown in the USA, has now arrived with what can only be described as surgical grade reference hardware. Noho Sound just received a pair of their new $12,500 ME1 bookshelf speakers for evaluation. Resolution has never seen such resolution. They need big power to sound as good as they can, but OMFG, these can deliver a level of detail and imaging that is ghostly.

We thought we were crazy, but The Absolute Sound has just dropped their review confirming our impressions, and the fact that Noho Sounds needs to be a TAD dealer, as of now:

"The ME1 has very few obvious drawbacks, and its shortcomings are mostly attributable to the limits of its modest dimensions. However, its top-end still retains some residual dryness, and can’t quite summon up the same velvety harmonics of the CR1 or the barn-storming macro-dynamics of the CE1. In spite of the stellar imaging I’ve written about, soundstage width and depth were only adequate in my smallish listening space. But I’d imagine better results could be had in larger rooms. Finally I can understand how some listeners might not cotton to the sharp specificity of a concentric driver. The precision with which it draws boundaries around images seems natural to me, but it may seem mechanical to others. (Experimenting with speaker positioning is very helpful in finding an ideal balance between too much focus and too little.)

A lot is expected from TAD loudspeakers. And having now reviewed three of its compacts I can put them in perspective with one another. The CR1 leads this pack, as its $42k price would imply. Its uncompromising quality and performance remain a high-water mark for a stand-mounted loudspeaker. It has earned its flagship title. The CE1, in spite of its high-octane performance, is still the odd duck of this trio: It’s a little awkward visually, cooler in character, and frankly a little pricey in its segment. The ME1, however, gets it just right, emulating much of what is so musically satisfying about the CR1, and doing so at a cost that is more than justified in a highly competitive category.

So satisfying is the ME1 that, in the right room at the right levels, you’ll easily hear what all the hubbub over the CR1 was about. It can utterly destroy preconceptions about what a small speaker can do. Pound for pound, the ME1 is truly one of the greatest little loudspeakers to hit the audiophile market in years."

Read the rest of the review for yourself.

Want to hear them in NYC? Call or email us for an appointment. Bring friends. Come late. We'll supply the drinks.

Is The Focal Kanta No. 2 The World's Best $10,000 Loudspeaker?

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The Focal Kanta No.2's have been among our favorite speakers at Noho Sound since we received the very first pair in the world shipped to a dealer nearly two months ago. Some call it the world's best $10,000 speaker.

Now the first review has dropped over at Tone Magazine, and it's incredible:

"One of the most impressive things about Focal, is that their speakers all have a similar voice and tonality, but as you go up the range, progressively more music is revealed in terms of dynamics and fine detail resolution. But not everyone can afford $60k for a pair of Maestros or $20k for Sopras. $10k for a set of Kantas isn’t inexpensive, but by the time you add an amp, source and cables, marvelous sound can still be achieved for way less than a decent sportbike. Think of all the money you’ll save on speeding tickets!

If you’ve read this far, you know I’m a big Focal fan, and the new Kanta exceeds all expectation. They combine sound and build quality with fantastic dealer service and support, world wide. If you’ve enjoyed the sound of the bigger Focal speakers, but desire these sonic attributes in a slightly smaller package, the Kanta is for you."

Read the rest of the review over at Tone.

Want to hear them in NYC? Call or email us for an appointment. Bring friends and decide for yourself. We'll even stay open late, and provide the drinks.

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Noho Sound & Stereo In Stereophile Magazine!

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Why did we open Noho Sound & Stereo? Stereophile was kind enough to publish this interviewwith Ron, Chris and myself, where we go deep into our vision for rebooting audio, events, and the experiential aspect of live and recorded music. Basically, if it isn't fun, what's the point? 

"In an industry constantly perplexed by the absence of youth, diversity, and appreciation for the hobby, three audiophiles set out to revolutionize the industry with the opening of a new hi-fi shop in New York City that is anything but ordinary. NoHo Sound & Stereo (NoHo Sound for short) is located in a loft in the lower Manhattan district NoHo—open seven days a week, by appointment only, with a second location in Chelsea. They offer: Analog Domain, Audio Research, Aurender, Box Furniture, Croft Acoustics, Devore Fidelity, Focal, Grand Prix Audio, Larsen, McIntosh Labs, Micromega, Musical Fidelity, Naim Uniti, Sonos, Sonus Faber, Vicoustic, and XLO Electric. In addition to selling hi-fi, they host weekly—yes, weekly—live music events of all genres, where startups like Groupmuse and Sofar Sounds use their space for performances, with 100% of proceeds going to the musicians. They also host events in collaboration with the nearby World of McIntosh Townhouse.

It's not very often—actually, it's almost never—that you hear about a new hifi shop opening, so I sat down with co-founder/CEO Alex Roy, president Ron Kain, and co-founder Chris Petranis to hear their take on where the industry's going, how they plan to attract millennials, and why they're starting a new venture in a market so deeply set on discussing its own decline.

Aside from all having extensively worked as hi-fi salesmen in New York, Alex is the editor-at-large for The Drive, co-host of the show Drive on NBC Sports, and has set eight Cannonball Run Driving records in the USA, Sweden, and Spain; Ron has origins in pro-audio and was consistently the top salesman at NYC hi-fi retail giant Stereo Exchange; and Chris is a restaurateur, real-estate developer, and film producer. With a crew like this, it's no surprise that NoHo Sound has already been mentioned in Billboard despite only having been officially open for a few months."

"Alex Roy: I worked at Stereo Exchange in college because I was obsessed with high-end audio but I couldn't afford anything. By working there, I could afford to pay for the gear and get the discount. I bought a pair of [B&W] DM602s . . . and eventually 802 Series 3s, which are sitting over there. [gestures] I always dreamt of opening an audio store, but in the 90s it didn't make a lot of sense. Then AudioGon arrived and the used business got crushed. But I always knew that sooner or later, something had to change in this sector, because high-end audio stores haven't changed at all, but the world's changed around them. AudioGon and eBay crushed the used high-end audio business for brick and mortar retailers who weren't operating online. If you look at how they operate today, the majority of stores on the ground still haven't changed. And that's why NoHo Sound..."

Read the rest over at Stereophile...

Who Is The Best Subway Performer Who Should Be Playing At Noho Sound?

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What is the best subway musical performance of all time? We're located in lower Manhattan, which means not only do we get to take a lot of subway rides, we get to take a lot of different subway lines. If you're headed to midtown, there are at least four different trains one can take. Which means on any given day, one can hear five different musical performances. Sometimes we come across something crazy.

But I've never heard anything as incredible as this rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide", shot in Chicago last year:

The performer is Slim Freedom, and totally deserves as much love as possible.

And then you've got these guys:

I started poking around Youtube and couldn't believe how good some of these subway performers are:

And then there's Mr. Reed, who is a genius:

Who is the best performer who deserves to move from the subway to Noho Sound? Please let is know in the comments.

Is Reel-to-Reel the New Vinyl?

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Is reel-to-reel the new vinyl? We don't carry new reel-to-reel hardware, but we've fielded a few calls asking if we did. So we did some digging around what appears to be a growing trend, and came across this recent article in The Robb Report, "The Most Expensive Music of Today Is Recorded on Mediums from the Past," suggesting that reel-to-reel is making a comeback:

"It turns out the audiophiles were right. Despite decades of pundits predicting its demise, analog audio has made a big comeback in recent years, with vinyl records, reel-to-reel tapes, and even cassette tapes gaining interest in the mass market. At the high end, this has led to more interest in limited physical album releases—often produced with painstaking care using esoteric methods—and high price tags. Enthusiasts are spending hundreds on single albums in pursuit of sonic perfection and the chance to own something truly special.

One of the primary drivers behind this is sound quality. Despite vinyl’s imperfections, many discerning listeners prefer the warmth, presence, and emotion communicated through a record—qualities that are simply missing from digital reproduction. In some cases, however, it can be challenging to collect recordings of vintage performances in good condition, so some modern vinyl reissues are mastered from inferior digital sources rather than the analog master tape."

Read the rest of the story and tell us what you think...