Author Archives: Nan Pincus

Primephonic Classical Music Streaming | REVIEW

When approaching Primephonic (website), one of the few high-res (24-bit/192kHz) streaming services devoted to classical music, I was interested to see if they could go beyond the existential questions of survival that tend to dominate any discussion of the genre. Working a fundraiser at a classical radio station, I was once told by a listener making a donation that she also gave to endangered species protection funds. This well-intended listener revealed that the questions of survival are pervasive and exist at every level of the classical ecosystem from the local symphony and radio station, to agencies and record labels. As I logged into Primephonic for the first time, I was hoping that this angst would lead to genuine creativity in the streaming platform rather than just be a streaming platform without all that pesky stuff known as other genres of music. I was also hoping that it would advance the conversation in classical music, moving from the yes/no question of “will we survive?” to the broader question of “how will we survive?,” and maybe to provide part of the answer. After listening for several months now and seeing continuous updates to the platform, I feel like Primephonic is taking major [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

FOCAL Stellia Headphone, Arche Amplifier | REVIEW

I don’t listen to headphones like the Focal Stellia (website). Okay, let me back up—I listen to headphones all the time, just not for pleasure, but rather to check my work in the studio and occasionally to make eq decisions on a master. Words by Dave McNair and Nan Pincus When Eric Franklin Shook asked me if I wanted to review some headphones, I said “Uh, I don’t think so.” “Wait, these are special ‘phones—the Focal Stellia AND their killer headamp the Arche,” he says. “Okay, I’ll give it a shot,” I reply since I know Eric to be the best at deciphering the fake news you can trust. Dave McNair’s Take So here I am with these gorgeous, French-made beauties. The Focal Stellia headphones look like they’d be at home on location at the season’s showing of the new Chanel or YSL line. Not too blingy but a certain unmistakable French elegance in fit and finish. After I whipped up a batch of Coq au Vin and got out a bottle of vintage Bordeaux, I sat down to listen to some Serge Gainsbourg. Tonight, the headphones will deliver you the words I can’t say The first thing I did [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Homebody’s Hi-Fi Halloween: Posing My Dog as Nipper

When it became clear that I wasn’t going to be hitting the Halloween parties this year, I was still eager to participate somehow in the ritual. I decided to let a season of quiet isolation at home intersect with fulfilling a longtime ambition: posing my dog, Winter, as Nipper, the RCA dog made famous in the Francis Barraud painting “His Master’s Voice,” which was used promotionally first by the Victor Talking Machine Company, and then by its acquirer Radio Corporation of America. Words and Photos by Nan Pincus Let me give a little background on Winter first. When I finished graduate school in 2016, I felt like a grown up who was ready to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue and give her a loving home in exchange for the steady companionship, knowing looks, and forced stability of habits that a dog requires. I ended up adopting Winter when she was four months old and fairly quickly I realized that despite not having any fox terrier ancestry, she had a great resemblance to Nipper. Winter is a fairly typical dog, partial to chamber music, squirrel watching, and rambling through the woods with me, her foolhardy human. She prefers [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

McIntosh Labs’ Charlie Randall with Nan Pincus | INTERVIEW

The RIAA has released their midyear report, and for the first time since the 1980s, vinyl sales have surpassed CD sales. This news comes with no surprise as vinyl sales outpaced download sales back in 2017. In honor of the occasion, our own Nan Pincus connected with McIntosh Labs President and CEO Charlie Randall to get his perspective on the turntable side of hifi, how McIntosh connects with consumers, and how the Dead can inspire us all. Interview by Nan Pincus Nan Pincus: Vinyl sales have outpaced the sales of CDs for the first time in over thirty years, largely driven by millennial consumers. A lot of people ask why millennials and gen Z buy records, but that’s not something I wonder, because I’ve been combing through vinyl at thrift stores since I was in high school, and everyone I know in their 20s owns a turntable. So I’m going to ask a different question: why do you think older generations are surprised that young people buy records? Charlie Randall: I think it’s natural for any generation to think that the technology of their time will be replaced by future technology and go extinct. In large part I think that’s [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Joseph Audio, Jeff Rowland, Chord, VPI, Sonore, Roon, Transparent, and the Technicolor Dreamsound | Now Listen Here 2020

Reporting by Nan Pincus Your hat and coat You know the one thing that is guaranteed to hold a room? Hospitality. Walking around the exhibit space housing Joseph Audio Pearl 20/20 Graphene speakers at Now Listen Here 2020, I felt transported back to the story of Joseph, his colorful coat, and his brothers in Egypt (Jacob’s oldest son, remember? G’mar chatimah tova, yall). After stabbing him and leaving him for dead, years later Joseph’s brothers showed up at his house in Egypt. When they rang the bell, despite their dastardly past, he welcomed them into his home and, by all accounts, treated them as the perfect host. The sweet spot’s still there, but the rest of the room gets service too Jeff Joseph is absolutely worthy of his namesake. Everything about the experience of his equipment suggested thought and consideration for his listeners. That’s right, I said listeners. The speakers are designed to sound great throughout an entire space and to provide a superior and communal listening experience. Tweeters are dual section dome designs which utilize a unique Hexadyn magnet array for refinement and extension. The mid-range drivers of the Pearl 20/20 Graphene speakers are each made of a rigid [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Rat Tale: How a Fictional Audiophile Got Me into Hi-Fi

This story originally appeared in our print publication, The Occasional Magazine. Words by Nan Pincus, Photos by Eric Franklin Shook I had dark hair and she had blonde. She stayed out all night watching movies in the city and I woke up early to run trails in the woods. She was in high school a decade before I was born. And of course, she was entirely fictional. But Bentley Saunders Harrison Matthew, called Rat by her friends and foes alike, was my closest pal, my wisest mentor, and the first time I really saw myself in literature. Even if she had the kind of technical know-how, nonchalance, and independence that it seemed unlikely I could ever achieve. She also was the one who introduced me to Hi-Fi. In 1982, Daniel Pinkwater, a radio humorist, published a young adult novel. This book, tastefully titled The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, was seemingly about two boys and their adventures trying to outwit a mad scientist. But for me, it was a book about the girl named Rat who taunted the boys. Where they had passing interests, she had interesting passions that she pursued with diligence and verve. One of the [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Pitch Don’t Even: The Global Quest for a Lowering of the Standard Tuning Pitch

Forgotten Audiophile History This series explores little-known stories of twentieth century audio technology, sound experiences, and radio chicanery. There are some ideas so compelling that you want to drop everything and take up the cause full-time. The fact that it gives you a reason to drop all that job, house, and spouse baggage is an extra bonus. Ideas like this correspond to something akin to the hot-crazy-matrix, where the idea is so distractingly lovely that you may find yourself at a Berlin conference surrounded by neo-Nazis particularly interested in tuning forks. It happens. Words by Nan Pincus In 1989, Pavarotti, Birgit Nilsson, Joan Sutherland, and Plácido Domingo got seduced by one such idea, namely that if the international standard for middle C was lowered from 262 Hz to 256 Hz, (and correspondingly, the tuning for the A above middle C would be lowered from 440 Hz to 432 Hz) classical music would be restored to its place as the pinnacle of art and civilization, and the world would stop decaying like an antebellum tooth. In this case, the hot crazy lady was Helga Zepp-LaRouche, a German woman with no musical pedigree, who got the financial resources and the type of [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

“Beethoven Pleads The Fifth” Won’t Stay Silent

Since the pandemic hit, most of us are just trying to make it from one day to the next. A small few of us are making it easier for everyone, through music, through the fight for social justice, and sometimes the intersection of the two. Ezinma (pronounced eh-zee-mah) is a classically trained violinist who became a sensation when she started posting videos of her classical covers of trap hits. She then toured with Beyoncé and has also collaborated with Stevie Wonder and Mac Miller. Reporting by Nan Pincus While I’ve enjoyed her instrumental interpretations of electronic music, her new song, and accompanying music video that dropped on August 28th, “Beethoven Pleads The Fifth” on Decca Records (Universal) was more exciting to me as the reverse: a beats-backed interpretation of a classical standard, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Few pieces are as iconic in the classical canon as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Its quarter rest, four eighth-notes, one half-note motif is iconic, and as 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birthday, the classical world has been producing Beethoven albums this year with fervor. The Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, and famed musicians such as Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Daniel Barnenboim are just a few [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

The Golden Spinning Wheel: Classical Music Radio Keeps Bringing Us Back to Life

Czech composer Antonín Dvořák wrote a series of fantastical tone poems in 1896 that are some of my favorite short pieces in the classical canon. One called The Golden Spinning Wheel tells the tale of Dornička, a young woman who receives a marriage proposal from a king. She is on her way to the castle to wed the king when her evil stepmother and stepsister decide to kill her in the forest and send the disguised stepsister in Dornička’s place so that she can have the royal marriage instead. The king unknowingly marries the evil stepsister and remains fooled until a magician bewitches a golden spinning wheel and brings the forest-lorn remains of Dornička back to life. The king learns the truth of Dornička’s short-lived-murder from the now magically animated golden spinning wheel and runs to the forest to reunite with his love. Words and Photos by Nan Pincus As the Assistant Music Director of The Classical Station, an independent FM and digital radio network that broadcasts original playlists of classical music 24 hours a day, I get to make a lot of people listen to my favorite music. It’s a wonderful power because like Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel, [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile