Visit to DDK

Ron Resnick

Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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#1
On Friday my wife and I commenced our-long planned pilgrimage to visit David in Cedar City, Utah.

We flew from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, and then we flew on a commuter-type flight from Salt Lake City to Cedar City ("CDC"). CDC is the smallest airport I've ever seen in my entire life. David proved to us that you can arrive at the airport 20 minutes before the plane is scheduled to take off, and not feel rushed. It almost is more like making a charter flight than making a conventional commercial flight.

David kindly picked us up from the airport and drove us back and forth to a bed & breakfast, and to his house every time we went anywhere. David was very generous with his time, and he made literally every step we took easy and stress-free.

We made a reservation at the bed & breakfast David recommended and which is a five minute drive from David's house. David has a big, beautiful house, and we were delighted to meet and to spend time with his wife, Kana, and their two girls.

Cedar City is a traditional small town in the Rocky Mountains -- a complete little town surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The town has the archetypal "Main Street" on which and near which most of the stores and restaurants and other businesses are located. When we were were not being treated to home-cooked meals prepared by Kana, we enjoyed pizza at the local pizzeria and drinks at the local bar (which we ourselves closed down at 10:30 pm on a Saturday night). People in Cedar City are stereotypically small-town sweet, helpful and kind. Even at Mike's Tavern the doorman/bouncer, a gigantic Norwegian seemingly descended directly from a Viking conquerer, was a gentle giant who patiently and carefully gave us directions.

On Saturday Kana made us a wonderful traditional Japanese lunch of miso soup and Zaru Soba (cold soba noodles with dipping sauce). David invited us to the Cedar City ballet performance of The Sleeping Beauty, in which his younger daughter performed. She was great and the performance -- at which it seemed most of the townspeople attended -- was beautiful.

On Sunday morning David drove us on a scenic tour through the mountains. On Sunday afternoon Kana treated us to Udon, a traditional Japanese warm noodle dish, and the kids made us some special pancakes with vanilla extract, chocolate and Nutella.

My audio mission on this trip was relatively narrow -- to behold the Thorens Reference turntable and to compare the sound of the Thorens Reference to the sound of the TechDAS Air Force One with LPs with which we are very familiar.

Visitors to David's listening room have posted photographs and comments previously of David's unique equipment, so I will not repeat those photos or descriptions here. Suffice it to say that the Bionor speakers are even larger and more impressive in person than they are in photos.

On Friday evening we began with just a short listening session to get a bit familiar with the system. We played "Send in the Clowns" by Bill Henderson, Live at the Times (Jazz Planet Records/Classic Records). I have heard this track more than 100 times; my wife has heard this track about 10 times.

At Munich High-End 2016 I listened for the first time to several different contemporary horn speaker systems. From that experience I learned that horns, especially for jazz and classical, and especially for brass instruments like trumpet and tuba, move air in a way which seems to be similar to the way those instruments themselves move air when they are being played. As I wrote then if I listened primarily to jazz there is no doubt I would buy some contemporary horn system -- probably a Viva Masterhorn or an Acappella Appolon.

In addition to how horn drivers in general seem to connect to the air in a way which recreates realistically the sound of brass instruments, David's speakers bathe the listening room in sound. The Bionors immerse the listener in a field of sound which is not directional, and which gave me more than I've ever experienced before the sensation of sitting in the audience at a jazz club and listening to a live performance on stage in front of me.

It is as though the sound flows out of the wall and is not emitted by boxes or discrete driver devices. In a sense the sound does flow out of a wall because the Bionors together effectively form a wall of speakers. You do not worry about being "off-axis."

Tinka and I agreed that this was the most involving and realistic replay of Send in the Clowns we have heard thus far in our travels!

We also played:

"The Rose" by Amanda McBroom, Growing Up in Hollywood Town (Sheffield Lab 13)

Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac (MFSL)

Jennifer Warnes, Famous Blue Raincoat (Rock the House Records/Classic Records) (I know this is a digital recording.)

Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah, Grace

For some reason the magical realism which David's system bestows on well-recorded jazz and classical performances does not extend to multi-track pop of unexceptional recording quality.

While my initial mission was to compare the Thorens Reference to the Air Force One, David wanted me first to hear and to understand the different presentations offered by the Thorens Reference and the EMT 927 and the American Sound. David advised that each turntable offers a noticeably different presentation of the recording in question. He was, of course, correct.

If I had heard only the Thorens Reference I would have said it's one of the best turntables I have ever heard. It has the naturalness and warmth and "musicality" (whatever that means) I could want. I would be "done." But David cautioned me "not so fast" in arriving at a conclusion or in making a decision.

On Saturday morning David insisted that I not ignore the EMT 927, and he reiterated that it is important to understand the differences in presentation among the Thorens, the EMT and the American Sound.
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After listening again to the Thorens we heard next the EMT. I found the EMT to be, in my words, higher in resolution and more detailed than the Thorens. I found the EMT to have a slightly lighter tonal balance, to be a bit leaner (less warm) sounding, and to be a bit less "natural," than the Thorens. The EMT definitely sounded to all of us more "alive" than the Thorens.

David understood these impressions, but assigned different meanings to some of my descriptive terms. It took a few minutes but we then began using a common language.

David suggested that what is "warm" to me is bloomy and "colored" to David, and that by describing the Thorens as more "natural" and more "musical" what I really was hearing is that the Thorens is smoother than the EMT. I think I heard the Thorens very slightly shave off some detail and thus appear smoother (or in my terms, a little bit lower in resolution) than the EMT. David disagrees, and hears the Thorens as smoother than, but not less detailed than, the EMT.

David suggested that what I was perceiving as detail on the EMT was actually the EMT revealing more of the recording, and sounding more "alive," and thus rather than the EMT being more "detailed" than the Thorens, the EMT actually was more natural than the Thorens. (To David whatever is more revealing of the recording and is more "life-like"and "alive" sounding is more natural). What I heard as more detailed and higher in resolution, David hears as more life-like and, therefore, more natural.

I felt the detailed (to me) presentation of the EMT would fatigue me over time. Between the EMT and the Thorens I preferred the Thorens. (For the record David believes the Thorens is just as detailed as the EMT, but that the Thoren's presentation simply is "smoother.")

We switched, thirdly, to the famous but elusive and mysterious American Sound turntable. The American Sound sound combines the aliveness of the EMT with a slightly smoother presentation than the EMT. After hearing the EMT and the American Sound I felt I would be losing a small amount of presence and aliveness with the Thorens. Again, if I had never heard the EMT or the American Sound I would never have second-guessed the Thorens Reference.

The American Sound, which captures almost all of the aliveness (and, to me, resolution) of the EMT, but offers a slightly smoother presentation than the EMT, represents a desirable middle ground between the EMT and the Thorens. We did not listen to the Air Force One.

There is nothing vintage about the sound of David's vintage speakers and turntables. David's system displays full frequency extension from low to high, but it does so in a natural, non-irritating manner.

Fundamentally I agree with David's philosophy of natural sound reproduction. I do not want to notice consciously "extended highs" (which I hear as brightness) or deep "bass extension." If a system makes me consciously aware of "bass extension," then something probably is amiss. I want to lose myself in involvement in the musical performance; I do not want a system to cause me to fall out of the musical "moment" and to cause me to start thinking about audiophile "check-the-box" sonic attributes.

David's objective in high-end audio is not at all archaic. He is not looking for a warm, vintage tube sound or a rolled-off high end. David aims for neutrality and transparency and resolution as much as most audiophiles.

Whereas I might perceive detail as analytical and warmth as natural, David perceives warmth as colored, and detail which originates in the recording as natural. To David, aliveness is not brightness (unless it is brightness) but rather naturalness, if that detail is truly part of the recording. In this I may like a "vintage" sound even if David does not, as I might perceive too much detail in the recording as analytical and undesirable. Thinking of David's system as "vintage" misunderstands David's objectives in sound reproduction, and misunderstands the sonic results of his components.

I found David's system to sound very musical and extremely natural. If you want to spend an evening in a jazz club without leaving home, go to David's listening room. The sound was the antithesis of most of what we hear at high-end audio shows and at retail salons.

There are several enjoyable aspects to this hobby and meeting in person people who share our passion for the hobby certainly is a very fun and rewarding aspect of this hobby. After corresponding via e-mail and talking on the telephone with David for the last couple of years it was great to meet him in person and to make a real friend of a virtual friend.

My wife and I thank David and Kana for an amazing weekend of audio revelations, music, mountains, ballet, Japanese food and incredibly warm, generous and gracious hospitality! We look forward to reciprocating in the future!
 

LL21

Active Member
Dec 26, 2010
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#2
Great reading!
 

Lagonda

VIP/Donor
Feb 4, 2014
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#3
Great writeup ! Same cartridges and arms ? Is the Thorens still your future Turntable ?
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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#5
+1 ... We seemed to have missed out on the AF1 .
Yes I did not get the AF1, and were the carts on the Thorens, EMT, and AS the same or were you using the SPU on the Thorens only, which is lower resolution
 

Harlequin

New Member
Jul 30, 2013
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#6
Yes I did not get the AF1, and were the carts on the Thorens, EMT, and AS the same or were you using the SPU on the Thorens only, which is lower resolution
Whilst enjoying reading Ron's impressions I to was wondering about the relevant configurations employed during these comparison listening sessions, as unless the same tonearm and more importantly cartridge and phono section are deployed with each turntable in turn then I am at odds to understand how the variance and nuance in replay as commented upon can be attributed to the contending turntables alone.
 

FrantzM

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#7
Whilst enjoying reading Ron's impressions I to was wondering about the relevant configurations employed during these comparison listening sessions, as unless the same tonearm and more importantly cartridge and phono section are deployed with each turntable in turn then I am at odds to understand how the variance and nuance in replay as commented upon can be attributed to the contending turntables alone.
+1. I have made similar remarks in the past.

I intend to visit ddk too and others... ;)
 

ddk

INDUSTRY EXPERT EXPERT
May 19, 2013
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#8
Dear Ron,

Thank you for the great write up and more importantly taking the time to visit. It was a pleasure to have you & lovely Tinka over for the weekend both of us are looking forward to the next time :)!

david & Kana
 

ddk

INDUSTRY EXPERT EXPERT
May 19, 2013
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#9
To answer some questions;

I use the same Lamm phono stage and SME 3012-r on all tt setups with different cartridges. It's a false premise to assume that these turntables don't have their own VERY individual and distinct character. After more than two decades living with them they're mated with cartridges that best match their qualities and character. It's all about the emotional content and presentation moving the same cartridge over won't reveal anything different but the combinations won't be at their best. AF-1 was already dismantled and in the middle of being moved to the 2nd system.

david
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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#10
To answer some questions;

I use the same Lamm phono stage and SME 3012-r on all tt setups with different cartridges. It's a false premise to assume that these turntables don't have their own VERY individual and distinct character. After more than two decades living with them they're mated with cartridges that best match their qualities and character. It's all about the emotional content and presentation moving the same cartridge over won't reveal anything different but the combinations won't be at their best. AF-1 was already dismantled and in the middle of being moved to the 2nd system.

david
Hi David, that's true but the SPU you had will be much lower resolution than the Neumanns, and also to the EMT. Just to address Ron's point on the resolution difference
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Co-Owner, Administrator
#11
Congratulations to you and Tinka Ron for doing the trip to Cedar City. The city is just as you described with a high "arts" influence. When I was there David took me to see a stage production.

The display of his system is mesmerizing and on a scale that I have never before heard. As you said, the Bionor's are a wall of sound. Truly a fabulous listening experience which for me is in my top 5 listening rooms of all time. I too came away from my time there understanding better what David means when he says "above all else it must sound natural", yet getting taken to task when I mentioned the word natural. Once you hear David's system, "natural" becomes very obvious. Great time and great read Ron
 

ddk

INDUSTRY EXPERT EXPERT
May 19, 2013
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#12
Hi David, that's true but the SPU you had will be much lower resolution than the Neumanns, and also to the EMT. Just to address Ron's point on the resolution difference
It's not true, resolution as in amount of information present isn't an issue in fact the particular SPU Ron listened to has a wider frequency range than all the other cartridges I have mounted. He didn't like the EMT/Neumann combo as much and your favorite was the Thorens with a barely setup 30 year old Koetsu Rosewood (least resolving cartridges!) that we just threw in. It's all about the presentation, abilities and character of each tt.

david
 

bonzo75

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Feb 26, 2014
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#13
It's not true, resolution as in amount of information present isn't an issue in fact the particular SPU Ron listened to has a wider frequency range than all the other cartridges I have mounted. He didn't like the EMT/Neumann combo as much and your favorite was the Thorens with a barely setup 30 year old Koetsu Rosewood (least resolving cartridges!) that we just threw in. It's all about the presentation, abilities and character of each tt.

david
I would need more resolution on the Thorens from what I heard, but I think that can be adjusted with the cart, as I heard it with the SPU - which was rotated across TTs. I did not like the Koetsu as much on your AS. Of course with Neumann the AS had the highest resolution and extension. So my preferences are based on using the SPU across for comparison rather than comparing Thorens-SPU to AS-Neumann
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Co-Owner, Administrator
#14
For my ears the Neumann cartridge that David played for me on his EMT 927, AS and AF1 lit me up. The sound was stunning. Don't sell that EMT 927 short Ron. Did you notice how quickly it got up to speed after turning it on. The AS table I found spectacular to listen to esp with that Neumann cartridge
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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#15
For my ears the Neumann cartridge that David played for me on his EMT 927, AS and AF1 lit me up. The sound was stunning. Don't sell that EMT 927 short Ron. Did you notice how quickly it got up to speed after turning it on. The AS table I found spectacular to listen to esp with that Neumann cartridge
I agree, which is why I want to leave the Neumann out during compares as it gives a much higher advantage. I heard the AS with the SPU, Koetsu, and the Neumann, and the Neumann is just in another league
 

ddk

INDUSTRY EXPERT EXPERT
May 19, 2013
3,437
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#16
I would need more resolution on the Thorens from what I heard, but I think that can be adjusted with the cart, as I heard it with the SPU - which was rotated across TTs. I did not like the Koetsu as much on your AS. Of course with Neumann the AS had the highest resolution and extension. So my preferences are based on using the SPU across for comparison rather than comparing Thorens-SPU to AS-Neumann
AS itself has the highest resolution, tonal depth and frequency response than anything else I've ever heard specially in the bass region it's the most natural. My daily listeners are various SPUs of differing vintage, two of them on the AS, but that doesn't change the character of the tts. In certain aspects the Thorens & AS are very close, maybe because they're both belt drives but as far as dynamics go, the AS is in another class. That wouldn't change with any decent cartridge. Either the Neumann doesn't match the other tts as well or they can't get the best out that cartridge, it's not that special on the either the Thorens or the AF-1. This is where matching becomes critical and I've seen it with other cartridges too.

david
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Co-Owner, Administrator
#17
AS itself has the highest resolution, tonal depth and frequency response than anything else I've ever heard specially in the bass region it's the most natural. My daily listeners are various SPUs of differing vintage, two of them on the AS, but that doesn't change the character of the tts. In certain aspects the Thorens & AS are very close, maybe because they're both belt drives but as far as dynamics go, the AS is in another class. That wouldn't change with any decent cartridge.

david
Of all the tables I heard when I was there ( I didn't hear the Goldmund) for my ears the American Sound was the best I heard. It was in a league of it's own. Having said that the EMT 927 also with the Neumann was exceptional
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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#18
AS itself has the highest resolution, tonal depth and frequency response than anything else I've ever heard specially in the bass region it's the most natural. My daily listeners are various SPUs of differing vintage, two of them on the AS, but that doesn't change the character of the tts. In certain aspects the Thorens & AS are very close, maybe because they're both belt drives but as far as dynamics go, the AS is in another class. That wouldn't change with any decent cartridge.

david
Yes I concur dynamics are more, and resolution is more, just that when heard with Neumann it is much, much more, and Ron has before not preferred high resolution, high extension stuff (like Lyra, for example), hence my point
 

ddk

INDUSTRY EXPERT EXPERT
May 19, 2013
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#19
Of all the tables I heard when I was there ( I didn't hear the Goldmund) for my ears the American Sound was the best I heard. It was in a league of it's own. Having said that the EMT 927 also with the Neumann was exceptional
Actually Steve, you & I spent the longest hours listening together taking time to soak in all the tables and their cartridge combinations without rushing so you have a good handle on things.

david
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Co-Owner, Administrator
#20
Actually Steve, you & I spent the longest hours listening together taking time to soak in all the tables and their cartridge combinations without rushing.

david
Indeed. I was there for 4 or 5 days and each day was spent listening to a different table

As much as I love my AF1 with the ZYX UNIverse ll cartridge there was something so mesmerizing about the AS with the Neumann
 

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