Friday, September 10, 2010

Furutech GT40 USB DAC with Phono Stage

The Furutech GT40 USB DAC with Phono Stage is a very intriguing looking new product. I'm wondering if anybody has heard one of these? The GT40 combines several essential functions for those of us who still listen to LPs, but also like to digitize (or "needledrop") vinyl, as well as use a computer or other music server as a source for high quality music. It combines a phono pre-amp, DAC (digital-to-analog converter) with USB input, ADC (analog-to-digital converter), plus a headphone amplifier into one package. I have no experience with Furutech products, but I know they are a highly respected audio manufacturer.

Currently, the top shelf of my stereo system is a tangle of cords and equipment. I have a Grado PH-1 phono stage, an Edirol UA-1EX USB ADC, and a Valab NOS DAC, along with all the cords necessary to power and connect them. I am always switching connections back and forth because my integrated amp has a limited number of inputs. While this arrangement is kind of cumbersome, each component does its job well, and I am happy with the way everything sounds (and that matters to me more than convenience). That said, if I could combine all these functions into a single box without taking a step back in sound quality, it would be nice. Really nice.

People often ask me for advice about digitizing vinyl and unfortunately I have no recommendations for them beyond assembling a hodge-podge of components as I have done. All-in-one USB turntables almost universally stink (with the possible exception of a Pro-Ject table I wrote about a while back). But even the Pro-Ject unit is limited to 44.1 kHz/16 bit digital audio output, and in my experience you need to capture the signal from the vinyl at a higher resolution than that before doing any processing to get really good results.

The Furutech GT40 is the first product I am aware of the combines all these functions, and also allows up to 96 kHz/24 bit analog-to-digital conversion. If you've heard or used one of these, I'd be very interested to hear your feedback. I am especially curious about in the sound quality of the phono preamp itself and digital to analog conversion. Kudos to Furutech for introducing such a forward-looking product. This is exactly the kind of component audio manufacturers should be creating if they wish to survive in our constantly evolving media environment.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Metal Box

Finally got it. This thing even looks cool in iTunes.

Cardinal Reunion On Again?

Eric Matthews was recently interviewed by Stereogum, and it appears his on again, off again collaboration with songwriter Richard Davies is on again for the moment:

"With Richard and I, there are always ups and downs. But, where we are currently is pretty much in a up," Matthews says. "And things are friendly. Often with us things can be tense. So this is a nice buffer, the space between us."

Plans for a new Cardinal album (their first since the 1994 debut) appear to be back on track. Matthews had previously posted a few demos online at a point when it looked like the collaboration would fizzle out, but those are now gone. You can download one new in-progress track, "Carbolic Smoke Ball," over at Stereogum.

Without any insult intended to anything either Matthews or Davies has done since Cardinal's demise, I think their individual talents complement each other very well, and it is good to see them working together again.

Kinks Kovers

I know this post will probably come off the wrong way to many Kinks fans, but I am struck by how many covers of Kinks songs I prefer to the original versions. Below is a list of some of the covers that I prefer to the Kinks' original versions:

"Lola" - The Raincoats
"David Watts" - The Jam
"Oklahoma U.S.A." - Yo La Tengo
"Big Sky" - Yo La Tengo
"Stop Your Sobbing" - The Pretenders
"I Go To Sleep" - The Pretenders
"Days" - Elvis Costello
"Fancy" - Redd Kross
"I Need You" - The Rezillos
"I'm Not Like Everybody Else" - The Chocolate Watchband
"I'm Not Like Everybody Else" - Camper Van Beethoven
"Love Me Till The Sun Shines" - Lyres
"Tired Of Waiting" - Lyres
"Victoria" - The Fall
"Where Have All The Good Times Gone" - David Bowie
"Waterloo Sunset" - Def Leppard

Okay, just kidding about that last one, I don't think anyone can touch the Kinks' version of "Waterloo Sunset" and they probably shouldn't try. Obviously, "You Really Got Me" has been covered at some point by every band to ever practice in a garage. There have been many worthy covers of the song, but for me none top the original.

Still, I'm struck by what a long list this is, as I'd be hard pressed to think of a single cover of a Beatles or Rolling Stones song that I prefer to the original. (Actually, I like Devo's version of "Satisfaction" better than the Stones', but that's the exception that proves the rule).

I'm at a bit of a loss to explain this, as generally I do like the Kinks' versions of these songs a lot, it's just that I prefer the covers for a variety of reasons that differ from song to song.