Fred Crane at Prana Distribution - my personal audio journey

Fred Crane

Industry Expert
Apr 23, 2020
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Greetings, I'm Fred Crane of Prana Distribution


We’re headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts with a small format salon in West Medford and a large format showroom in Gloucester. We opened our Gloucester showroom after a year of preparation, the same week that Massachusetts closed public venues to curtail the spread of Covid 19. Like most, we battened down the hatches and prepared for what lay ahead.

Unlike most, we had lots of tubes, horns, vinyl, a cold press juicer, an espresso machine and a fully stocked bar to help us endure. Okay, we have solid state gear and traditional 2 ways as well, but you won’t see much in the form of a traditional cone 3 way loudspeakers on our floor. You’ll have to settle for horns, coaxial midranges, full range drivers, OB’s, dipoles, panels, bending wave drivers, etc.

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Over the years we’ve accumulated untold air miles, and over 50,000 miles driving, (excluding shows) in search of the best listen. These mini listening fests were derived from the finest sounds we’ve encountered at shows, in print or from the recommendations of trusted ears. The resultant portfolio has become Prana Distribution and on a local level, the newly named dealership, Boutique Audio Design. It’s a never-ending quest and one that has brought us long lasting relationships with some of the finest makers and engineers in the world.

Having had extensive time before live music and the recording process, (I am the sole non-professional musician in my immediate family, with my father having been a jazz pianist, my mother a singer and my sister a hybrid of the two) my approach to audio reproduction is promulgated around system synergy and engineering that limits amplification stages and complex crossover networks in favor of more direct forms of playback. “As simple as possible but not simpler.” could be our mantra but whatever the approach, the ears are our final arbiter. Can you relax? Does your spine tingle? The ability to portray dynamic shadings at low volume and a strong presence factor would be earmarks of our systems. Some of these traits were present in the playback systems of recording studios where I worked as a teen. Studios, like most businesses, are subject to trends, which could lead to their best gear being sold or even gifted to make way for the new and shiny. Hence the Urei Monitors that were shoe-horned into my tiny bedroom and anchored what became my first ‘high end’ audio system. (yes, Urei used Altec 604s in the 80's).

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In my teen years - my first 'hifi speakers.

After I left home, I lived with my surrogate aunt, Carmen McRae, was part of the original staff at SXSW, helped open a jazz club (Zanzibar Blue) in Philadephia where I stayed for 4 years. During my Philly tenure, aside from working at the jazz club, I attended the Philharmonic regularly and taught jazz history. Upon moving to New England, I lived in a house owned by Joel Press (7 years) that featured daily live music and tea.

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Zanzibar Blue, a jazz club in Philadelphia

As my late thirties commenced, the 5 plus days of live music per week began to scale back to a mere few days. So it has remained with the occasional reprieve for a festival or project. With our recently minted relationship with Fazioli Pianoforti, we aim to boost that average once more. During all of these years, achieving sound that honored music and the great endeavor of musicianship became more and more a fanatical undertaking to the chagrin of family and friends. Eventually they became converts and I felt justified to leave a perfectly good career to pursue high end audio full time.

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The Fazioli Pianoforti F-308

The high-end audio business has been the hardest job I’ve ever loved in this, my 12th year. Tess, my wife is my right hand and we have a helpful staff of audio experts that work part time when they’re not mixing for some of the venerable concert halls in the greater Boston area. Working with some of the finest audio manufacturers in the world has been, and continues to be, our privilege.

We’ve recently become worldwide head of sales for Destination Audio based in Poland. After travelling the globe and hearing every high-sensitivity speaker we could locate for a custom project, we came upon Destination Audio by chance in the parking lot of the Capital Audio Fest. Such coherence and natural presentation from a horn, we had not heard. Adding to that their magnificent array of electronics led Destination Audio and Sam Wisniewski to become a mainstay of our brand. With new field coil options and two new loudspeakers; the Ruby for smaller rooms and the ‘Malta’, launching later this year as an all out assault on the horn paradigm, round out an impressive collection.

We are also very fortunate to represent Trafomatic Audio. Sasa Cokic, who helms Trafomatic, has developed amplifiers for most every situation. At their pinnacle, amplifiers based upon circuits for Eimac transmitting tubes which must be heard to be believed. (not for the faint of heart with approximately 2600v on the rails in their largest Drina Mono Blocks) The Collins phono stage also breaks new ground, tipping its hat to the circuit advances made by Arthur A. Collins in the early 20th century. Likewise, the Tara 30A preamplifier is an entirely unique circuit, the dividend of which is being a boon for every system in which it's placed. Trafomatic has a large range of amplification, from the affordable to the humbling. The upper echelons are impossible to fathom until they’ve been experienced while the smaller offerings never fail to surprise. 'Trafomatic' means 'transformer' in Serbian, and as you might expect, they roll their own iron.

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Synaestec Audio is an anomaly in our portfolio, at least at first glance. Massive, overbuilt solid state isn’t necessarily our forte’. Look closer and you’ll see that it’s not so ordinary. Octal circuits, (think 6SN7 holography portrayed via solid state) with a transconductance (current based) first stage in their amplifiers and you know Walter Weiss is up to something special. Paired with Open Baffle speakers from SoulSonic results in an holographic vista with the kind of breadth and dynamics associated with live music.

I fear I can blather on ad infinitum about each of our partners. Prana Distribution is a passion project and our partners each hold a very special place in our distillation of the musical experience. Not the least of which is Falken’Ohr Audio Furniture. Ten minutes tuning a system with a Falken’Ohr rack puts to bed any conversation about the validity and importance of a proper foundation for a high-end system. Add to these, brilliance from Dynamikks Audio, Ilumnia Audio, SoundKaos, Camerton, Audionec, Kora, Ascendo, Diptyque, Semper Sonus and others, and we feel in a unique position to create special moments in a variety of listening environments.

Our latest passion project is The Epitome; A room-specific bespoke multi-disciplinary concept featuring a Fazioli F-308 grand piano, Credenza Basshorn Technology and the finest in both playback and recording equipment. A room for the enjoyment, performance and study of music which has its roots in European salons dating back to the early Renaissance. Features include media storage (matching the basshorns), furnishings by Timothy Oulton, retractable espresso and bar stations and much much more. It is a room far removed from the overdamped ‘high-end’ audio ethos borrowed from old studio lore.

In keeping with our love of music, we have aligned ourselves with a small number of similarly impassioned dealers in the US and Canada. It is our aim to keep our products in the hands of the few who will treat the music and the end user with equal care and respect.

It is our pleasure to share our love of audio with you and to join the What’s Best Forum Community. A big thank you to Ron, Steve and Julian for creating a niche out of their own interest and desire. It’s the best of what the world wide web embodies.

If you are interested in any of our brands, have a question about a component, or a particular audio goal in mind, I'd be happy to speak with you.


Prana Distribution LLC
Frederick Crane
617.669.3275
www,pranadistribution.com
https://boutiqueaudio.design/
 

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Fred Crane

Industry Expert
Apr 23, 2020
87
127
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Fred Crane

Industry Expert
Apr 23, 2020
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Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
Fred

Looking at the products you represent is like eye candy. What a stable of great gear you represent. I hope you'll be able to take some time and tell all of us the virtues of each of these components
 

Fred Crane

Industry Expert
Apr 23, 2020
87
127
40
Fred

Looking at the products you represent is like eye candy. What a stable of great gear you represent. I hope you'll be able to take some time and tell all of us the virtues of each of these components
Thank you Steve. That's very kind of you to say. We will be doing threads of varied pieces and what it is that sets them apart both technically and aurally. Of course, I'm also here to answer questions should anyone have a particular interest.
 
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ashandger

Well-Known Member
Jun 15, 2013
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Hello Fred, just FYI, I own Ascendo System MS MKII that I have had for about 15 years now. Great speakers and a great company. I visited their factory before purchasing them ( I am based in Ireland). I heard about them through Ken Stevens owner/designer of CAT as he was using them as his reference speakers back then. I use them with CAT amps as well. Best of luck with your business.
 

Fred Crane

Industry Expert
Apr 23, 2020
87
127
40
Hello Fred, just FYI, I own Ascendo System MS MKII that I have had for about 15 years now. Great speakers and a great company. I visited their factory before purchasing them ( I am based in Ireland). I heard about them through Ken Stevens owner/designer of CAT as he was using them as his reference speakers back then. I use them with CAT amps as well. Best of luck with your business.
Hi Ashandger, Ascendo is a class organization with some of the most advanced speaker designs in my experience. Their Live 15 (an active coaxial speaker, with a brilliantly over-sized horn tweeter) is one of the single best components I've had the pleasure of using near its price point. When fronted by a superb valve preamp, it really does get you into the top class. Of course, their totl M5S is similarly gob smacking (in a relaxed, live music fashion.) I'd look for something from Ascendo this year at Munich as well. There may be a new top speaker in the not too distant future. Thanks for saying 'hello'. I look forward to seeing you around the Forum.
 

antigrunge

New Member
Jan 17, 2022
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Seems the common denominators of your approach are point source high efficiency speakers to avoid unwanted interaction between non- co-located drivers and amplification from valves with moderate power to avoid large scale power supplies for trannies with their issues on linearity and EMI. I‘ll say Amen to that approach wholeheartedly. And btw: your approach goes back to what Western Electric et al propagated in the ‘30s.
 
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Fred Crane

Industry Expert
Apr 23, 2020
87
127
40
Seems the common denominators of your approach are point source high efficiency speakers to avoid unwanted interaction between non- co-located drivers and amplification from valves with moderate power to avoid large scale power supplies for trannies with their issues on linearity and EMI. I‘ll say Amen to that approach wholeheartedly. And btw: your approach goes back to what Western Electric et al propagated in the ‘30s.
Thanks for the input. In truth, I don't subscribe to one approach 'over all'. It's not too often in audio that you begin with an entirely blank canvas with a client. So, you have to know how to make something tasty with a variety of ingredients, so to speak. (not the least of which is the room) For instance, I love a pair of OB's, properly placed and fed. Regardless, yes, so much rests upon the shoulders of the WE and RCA engineers of the early 20th century. One can't help but wonder, what they would do today with the material, parts and circuit advances which have come our way over the subsequent 100 years. (I think about that all of the time.)

In those rare instances where we do have carte blanche, I can't imagine not doing horns and tubes (even low power) or some version thereof...or in a smaller space something like the Dynamikks Athos line. In a medium to large space, Destination Audio and in a larger space, Destination's Malta Horn or our Epitome System. In these instances, a modicum of control makes all of the difference. We fall in love every time.
 

antigrunge

New Member
Jan 17, 2022
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May I suggest you have a look at Duevel speakers from Germany: point source horn-designed Omnis, truly original. I think you would like them. (No association of mine, just a happy user)
 

Fred Crane

Industry Expert
Apr 23, 2020
87
127
40
May I suggest you have a look at Duevel speakers from Germany: point source horn-designed Omnis, truly original. I think you would like them. (No association of mine, just a happy user)
Thank you for the suggestion. I have heard the smaller Duevel's (the Planets and the Venus) but not their Sirius or Bella Luna speakers. I would enjoy hearing them. Do you remember Alkemia Vero? Initially they used a Manger driver for the mids, but eventually did speakers with proprietary compression drivers (all drivers made in house in the later iterations). So, it was an omni with 100db sensitivity. Great concept and truly original construction. My all time favorites in the omni camp are the Ilumnia Loudspeakers. Hearing a speaker with a cone, but without any cone distortion is quite a thing. Rather than having a surround or a spider in their driver, the cone is held in place via a vacuum and 3-5v of power. So, it's has some field coil like attributes while not having any cone distortion where the surround would be (no cone break up) nor a spider. Aspects of it are like the best qualities of a Quad ESL. They come on song very early. A sense of dynamics right off of the bat. Studiosessie-026-bewerkt.jpg
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Fred Crane

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