Hello. Yes I know it’s been awhile since my last post yet again. It was my birthday yesterday and it was pretty nice – I went out for a great dinner with my family and got tons of new vinyl. Which leads me to the topic for the day.  Yes, I am now officially a hipster  – vinyl is definitely better.  Which is a volatile statement in itself.

Here’s the deal.  Awhile ago I hooked up my old Technics SL 1700 turntable to my pretty decent home theater system and was soundly (ahem) disappointed –  no high end.  No, it wasn’t due to my age related hearing loss; I am now bionic.  So I replaced the ancient Micro-Acoustics cartridge with a Grado Black – no good. My son had given me a pretty high-end phono preamp, a Lehman Audio Black Cube so I was pretty bummed. Could my NAD T 748 receiver, Sonus faber Venere 2.5 speakers and REL T5 subwoofer be calibrated in some way for digital sources? Logic would say no and  that a good receiver would amplify the sound as close to transparently as possible, and that a high-end speaker system, while offering some inherent coloration as all speakers do, would not contribute to significant high end and high mid-range frequency roll off.

So, after a long period of procrastination fearing it would make no difference, I replaced the table with a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable with a built in Ortofon 2M Red cartridge.

The difference was astounding! The high end was back and then some!  And interestingly enough the “brittle” high end of theCDs was gone! (For reference I’m using a Sony BDP S-790 Blu-ray player.)  I won’t get into the argument about analog vs. digital and the fact that from a purely “scientific” analysis at a high enough resolution people can’t hear the difference between digital and analog (vinyl record) playback.  I also won’t get into a discussion of bit rate and sample rate.

What I will do is tell you that after A/B ing several albums between CD and vinyl the difference is immediately obvious.  Not only (and I realize I’m using subjective language here) do the LPs sound “warmer” (or as I like to say less “brittle” than CDs – I think that term is more descriptive for me than saying CDs sound too “bright” for example) but the bass is smoother and the listening experience is less fatiguing.

But was really eye -opening was when I was comparing the Eric Clapton album from 1989 “Journeyman”.  The comparison was between an Audio Fidelity SACD and a new double 33 1/3 180 g pressing from the original analog master.  Not only did the vinyl sound “better” but I HEARD MORE DETAIL and in fact HEARD THINGS I HAD NEVER HEARD BEFORE on the tracks.

I should point out that it could be argued that the Blu-ray player I’m using is fairly high-end and that the turntable I used is considered by audiophiles as an entry level table into higher-end audio – the Ortofon 2M Red is the lowest end of the 2M series.

As far as the SL 1700 – my son took it and is using it as a science project.  He thinks a resistor or capacitor may have drifted.

So there you have it.  My totally unscientific test of digital versus analog.  Comments welcome and…



Guitars, Medical Insurance and Other Musings

Wow,  I didn’t realize it’s been 6 months since my last post.  I can’t say it’s because I was busy – retirement and all that.  Wait,  no actually there is a reason for at least part of the delay:  Medicare and health insurance.

I’ve spent a sizable portion of my time navigating the byzantine corridors of Medicare and Medicare Supplementary insurance.  While I was able to resolve most of the issues my wife and I had including the necessity of filing and even filing and eventually winning a Medicare appeal having to do with date of eligibility, I can’t help thinking of the large number of people who don’t have a clue or the persistence to deal with some of the more arcane regulations to at least understand them well enough to be able to explain their situation and be able to plead their case.

You really don’t know the complexities of our I think punitive health care system unless you have to deal with it.  And let me state right here that the people who work for customer service at Social Security, Medicare and in my case United Health Care are absolutely wonderful – knowledgeable and helpful to the max.  It’s the complexities of the system based on a series of legislative compromises, that we have in place an obscene nightmare of a healthcare system for most people, especially the ones who lack the financial cushion they are definitely going to need.

Which is why it is absolutely disgusting and criminal that in the United States, unlike practically every other industrialized country in the world, we don’t have universal healthcare or at least, like for example Israel, a hybrid public/private system.

On an entirely different note,  I just had some setup work done on my Fender Masterbuilt Clapton Strat by my local guitar tech at Coyle’s Richboro Music and it is simply fantastic!  If ever you need any work done on your guitar or bass, please see Kevin.  You will be glad you did!

And let me know what you think of my healthcare rant and if you see Kevin for any TLC for your guitars.


Guitar Pedals

I haven’t posted for awhile so I thought I’d share what I’ve been up to.  I decided to revisit the idea of refreshing my guitar equipment – that is amplifiers, effects pedals etc.  It was triggered by a recent visit to my son and experiencing his very well thought out and generally awesome pedal board.  I had a blast playing through it and so I decided it was time to update.

I have a couple of DigiTech pedals that I really wasn’t into anymore so I had my first go at posting them on the musical instrument website (kind of like an eBay with a better reputation.)  It’s pretty cool as the site has tools to research the going rate for what you are selling complete with a list of recent transactions and an accompanying line graph. I posted three pedals (DigiVerb, DigiDelay and ChorusFactory) and sold the DigiVerb within 24 hours for my asking price!  I used PayPal as the vehicle and the transaction worked flawlessly.  Reverb also helps with shipping recommendations and even prints out a USPS shipping label for you.  I also posted a Peterson StroboFlip strobe tuner.

I also have two amplifiers I want to sell (a 1977 Fender Princeton and a 1994 Fender Pro Junior) which I put on Craig’s List to avoid shipping hassles.  Not much luck except for a couple of lowball offers; I used Reverb to come up with a realistic asking price.  I have a big amp so I’m looking for something like this.

My goal is to get a decent pedalboard tuner, clean boost, delay, tremolo and reverb and possibly a chorus.  I have a great overdrive – a Lovepedal Eternity and an original Dunlop Cry Baby Wah.  I also have a DigiTech Clapton Crossroads modeling pedal which has one of the best rotary speaker emulations I’ve heard.  I found out something interesting: several  well known rock guitarists including Page, Johnson and Van Halen use an old EchoPlex EP-3 tape delay unit for the great sound the preamp provides even with the effect off.  Several companies have made boost pedals emulating that circuit including the Xotic EP Booster.

I’ll keep you posted with how I do and what new stuff I end up with.


Space – The Final Frontier

About the title – yes, I am a geek!  Well, it’s been quite awhile since my last post.  It seems that with all that’s happening around the country on the political front I find myself getting a little obsessed – also a little angry and depressed as well. And if start writing about it, I’ll be breaking my prime directive not to talk about politics on this blog.

Fortunately, something happened yesterday that got me off the couch enough to write about it:  The SpaceX launch of Falcon Heavy yesterday afternoon.  Since I am, um, retired I was able to watch it live.  I have to tell you, I haven’t felt like this since being glued to a black and white TV to watch brave and somewhat crazy men and women being blasted into space as part of NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Space Shuttle and ISS programs. Watching Elon Musk’s brainchild’s test flight (Carrying his own red Tesla roadster playing David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” ) reminded me that despite all the demoralizing stuff going on every day, mankind is still capable of incredible things.  And that it takes a somewhat crazy,  stubborn and singleminded entrepreneur like Elon Musk to make it happen.



Climate Change and the Bomb Cyclone

As I write this post, here in the Philadelphia area we are experiencing  hopefully the last day of a record-breaking 2-week stretch of extremely frigid temperatures. And I can hear the voices of climate science deniers  snarkly saying, “well, so much for global warming” and think back to Senator James Inhofe throwing a snowball in the Senate chamber to make a point that extreme winter weather disproves climate change – when in fact it proves just the opposite!  You can certainly choose to disregard the consensus of 97% of climate scientists that human activity is the major factor in the rising global surface temperatures but as Neil deGrasse Tyson has said,  “Science doesn’t care what you believe.”

Let’s think about that for a moment.  We’ve all heard of the dreaded “global vortex” and that it is somehow responsible for this latest extreme cold snap.  The global vortex is nothing new.  What it is is the circular polar winds which serves to keep the arctic air mass confined to, well, the arctic region.  What is new, according to recent research, is that the polar vortex seems to be weakening due to the rapidly rising Arctic temperature resulting in reduced amount of Arctic sea ice allowing more heat to escape from the ocean.  As a result the polar vortex is seen to slip southward more frequently.  And so we turn up the heat and try to prevent our pipes from freezing.

According to NASA, 16 of the 17 warmest years on record in the 136 years of record keeping have occurred since 2001 and again, scientific consensus is that human activity  causing increase in greenhouse gases is the most likely cause.

And as for the seeming disconnect between rising global temperatures and more intense snowstorms, It actually makes scientific sense – the maximum amount of water vapor that the atmosphere can contain increases with temperature.  This increase has been 4% over the last 30 years. Therefore, there is more moisture to invigorate storms; if the atmosphere is cold enough this moisture will fall as snow.  This effect will typically intensify all storms whether the result is rain leading to increased flooding chances or more intense snow storms.

But what of the “Bomb Cyclone” we experienced last Thursday?  It actually is not all that uncommon; the meteorological term is actually bombogenesis also called explosive cyclogenesis which is defined as a extratropical cyclonic low-pressure area.  Coupled with the dreaded global vortex we’ve been experiencing made it quite an event this past couple of weeks.

Stay warm everybody!



Retirement.  What does that mean anyway?  You work X amount of years and when you reach a certain pre-determined age you stop?  And depending on what that age is you receive a check from the government each month that is just enough to pay for cat food and kitty litter.  So I hope you’ve saved something.  Or maybe you’re lucky and worked for a large old-school company or a government entity that pays a little more.  But I still hope you’ve saved something.

Heres what I learned.  Things don’t always go as planned (wow, profound, right?)  I “retired” last year even though my full retirement age (66) was this month.  The company I worked for decided to merge with another company and realized that to make it work they had to part ways with some people.  The way it happened  was pretty funny – that is if you have a very cynical sense of humor.

Last year, in the last week of August, we had our yearly technical meeting.  You know,  the kind where they demonstrate all of the company’s  latest advances and talk about how with them we were going to demolish the competition ( I love all the violent metaphors everybody in corporate america uses – Oorah!)  Last year’s meeting was in Dallas so they were sure to include a couple off-sites involving barbecue and line-dancing.  It was great;  I even got an award for successful completion of a deep-dive (there’s another corporate buzzword – sorry) training class.  So cut to Thursday, the next-to-last day.  My boss casually walks up to me during lunch and says, “by the way, tomorrow will be your last day at XXXX – but hey, if you decide to keep working you got some really good training to use in your new job!”  Right, thanks a lot, I know a lot of companies out there that are looking for a soon-to-be 65-year-old to round out their technical sales force.

Continue reading Retirement

Harder than it looks

Well I’ve discovered that setting up a new website is a bit harder than it would first appear.  I’ve been struggling a bit with things like the general appearance of the site, Menu structure, where blogs appear, what should the homepage is, etc.  What’s frustrating is that when you change the appearance template,  most times it changes the behavior of the menus, where blogs appear  (or do’t) and how the framework handles changes of the media.  So I’ve decided to keep it simple for now – I will be adding features and functionality as I go along.

Welcome to The Level Fret!

So I actually did it.  I’ve started a blog.  Believe me, I have little idea what I’m doing but they say the best way to start something new is to just start doing it; you’ll figure it out eventually!  What will this blog be about?  I’m not really sure but I have a lot of varied interests which I plan to get into moving forward.  As we go on I expect you’ll find out quite a bit about me.

I’ll avoid the “I started out as a child…” stuff simply because i know I’ll bore myself to sleep and I don’t want to subject you to that.  So for now,  let’s hope I can at least get the site to work and maybe give you something a bit interesting to read and ponder.  Stay tuned.