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  • The Computer Audiophile
    The Computer Audiophile

    CA Goes To Hollywood

    I feel like titling this article something similar to "what a long strange trip it's been," but I used that one after rescuing a pitbull and getting stuck for hours by an avalanche driving home from CES in January. This trip was like a rollercoaster, full of thrills, sadness, and scariness, and madness. I promise to mention dCS, Capitol Studios, Frank Sinatra, Shelby Lynne, Al Schmitt, Tom Petty, getting all my stuff stolen, and not being happy about it. Here we go. 


    Where to begin? At the beginning of course. I flew to Los Angeles last week, for a celebration of Data conversion Systems (dCS) 30th year in business. When I heard about the event and that it was to take place at Capitol Studios, I demanded, in the kindest way possible, that I be allowed to attend. Usually 30th anniversary parties are snooze-fests for those not actually involved in the company. Watching people pat themselves on the back gets old in short order. This event looked to be vastly different, and I had to be there. 


    The day started out at my hotel, the Hollywood Roosevelt, on the corner of Orange Drive and Hollywood Blvd. The hotel is across the street from the Chinese Theater, Michael Jackson's star on the Walk of Fame, and the Dolby Theater, Jimmy Kimmel's live concert lot, and the tourist trap that is Madame Tussauds Hollywood. 


    Given that the hotel was about one mile from Capitol Studios, I decided to walk to the event. Growing up on the Music of Motley Crue, I have a soft spot in my heart for walking around Hollywood. As I walked out the front door of the hotel, I Googled the location of Tom Petty's star on the Walk of Fame. Tom had died a couple days prior to my visit and I thought it would be interesting to see the star. As luck would have it, Tom's star is located literally one hundred steps from where I was standing, on the 7000 block of Hollywood Blvd. 


    Interesting is an understatement. As I walked up to Tom's star, I could see several flower bouquets, candles, and hand written notes surrounding it like a shrine. I'm not usually one to be interested in this type of stuff, but I must say it was touching to see the love people had for Tom. In addition to this love, some people miss his friendship. Sitting on the ground next to the star was a guy who claimed to be one of Tom's best friends. He was going on and on about losing Tom and that he never had the chance to tell him about some amazing news. This guy had just found out that he was the biological child of Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia. Honestly, the guy told me this, all in the 30 seconds it took me to snap some photos and take in the popup shrine to Tom. I don't judge, but based on the guy's appearance, his vocabulary, his stench, his belongings in a shopping cart, and several other factors, I may need to follow up on his story to do some fact checking :~) 



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    Continuing on my walk to Capitol Studios, I inadvertently walked through the set of a television show being filmed. Hollywood Blvd. was closed to traffic, but the sidewalk remained open. A scene on top of a double-decker bus was being filmed while cars drove about 5 miles per hour as part of the scene. Walking through the set, I ran into a sign with the following notice. Given recent Las Vegas shooting a few days earlier, I don't think it was wise to film a seen in public, that needed this warning sign. 






    Good day to you. Warner Brothers Television is currently filming scenes for the television show, "Lethal Weapon" in this building. The scenes we are filming involve gunfire with single shot and automatic weapons. Although it may startle you, please know that the gunfire is all fake and there is no cause for alarm. Thanks very much for you understanding. 


    I'm no Dr. Evil, but I can imagine a deranged person posting such a sign in an area and shooting real guns. Plus, the sign wasn't really that big. I could have missed it easily, and freaked out when the automatic guns started firing.






    Continuing on my walk, I ran into Eddie Murphy's star on the Walk of Fame. I took this photo and sent it to a friend as an inside joke that we have together. This may seem irrelevant, but I promisee to tie it in later. 







    On toward Capitol Studios. I walked down Hollywood Blvd. and took a left at Vine Street. The famous Capitol building was sight. A building I'd passed countless times while visiting Los Angeles, and first saw in Andrew Dice Clay's 1990 box-office hit The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. OK, maybe not a hit, but I still saw it in the theater. As a 15 year old, I loved it. Maybe that's indicative of the quality of the movie. 


    Walking up Vine St. I started to see the incredible mural painted on the wall of Capitol Studios. None other than Nat King Cole was painted larger than life. Nat is one of my favorite artists and as a music lover this was a moment I'll never forget. I got chills walking toward the mural, and Capitol Studios. After all, Capitol is known as The House That Nat Built. As I walked up to the door at 1750 Vine Street, I saw Al Schmitt's star on the sidewalk and the words The Capitol Tower. I'm sure people who work there every day are used to it, but this stuff was like a dream for me.



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    After signing in at the front desk, I was escorted toward Studio A. As I turned a corner, I saw the incredible photos of Frank Sinatra singing in that very studio and the illuminated sign above that said, QUIET - RECORDING AREA OBSERVE RECORDING LIGHTS. Again, I got chills thinking about the history made in this studio and the effect it has had on my life. 




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    Inside studio A, dCS had a nice event setup, with high tea and the new limited edition Vivaldi One digital player. Beyond the Vivaldi One with very cool nickel finish, was a neat Steinway piano and a so-so looking lectern where a singer could set sheet music, lyrics, or notes while in the studio. Little did I know, this was the very lectern that Sinatra use while recording at Capitol Studios. 



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    I should give props to the dCS team, John Quick, Chris Hales, and Andy McHarg, for putting on the event and telling us about the company's innovations over the years. As a big fan of music, technology and HiFi, I enjoyed seeing a long list of 'firsts" in the dCS accomplishments. However, it was good the dCS team took the stage first, because they couldn't have followed the rest of the guests. Sorry guys, there's no DAC that will one-up Al Schmitt. 


    Let's cut right to the chase (sorry Barak Moffit, your talk was really excellent but I have to cut out some of the event to get this under my self-imposed word limit). DEG's Mark Finer brought legendary recording engineer Al Schmitt to the stage and proceeded to ask him questions and pull awesome nuggets of information from him for about 30 minutes. Stories about recording Sinatra on his last album, and when Frank says he is going to stand directly in front of the hot section to record his vocals, rather than the custom vocal booth created specifically for him, the engineers jus say OK Mr. Sinatra. Never mind the difficulty of recording a vocal with horns leaking into the microphone. It's Frank Sinatra and he runs the show. 


    After Al's talk, we had a chance to ask him questions. I was 99% sure Al recorded Shelby Lynne for her album Just a Little Lovin'. I quickly looked it up on my phone, while Al was answering another question, to make certain this was true. Then, I asked Al if he had anything to say or any comments he wished to share about recording Shelby for this album of Dusty Springfield covers. His eyes lit up, as I'm sure mine were already lit up, given the circumstances. 


    Al told a story about recoding Just a Little Lovin' right there in Studio A at Capitol. I had fact checked using All Music, but didn't realize the album was recorded at Capitol. Whats more, Al said he recorded Shelby's vocals in the booth about five feet to my left. She brought her dog into the booth while recording and the dog barked once in a while. According to Al, Shelby's dog is on the record, but isn't given an official credit. I could have listened to Al Schmitt talk all night, but I'm sure he had better plans than to entertain me for hours on end. 



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    Following the Al's talk, I snuck out of the Studio and headed back to my hotel. I wanted to write down everything I just heard and compose an article for publication here on CA. I thought, if I didn't get it done then, I'd never get it done because I was headed to Rocky Mountain Audio Fest the next day. So, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning writing the article, but didn't publish it because I was too tired to collect the photos and place them into the text etc... I moved the document / article to my desktop, from the Google cloud, so I could finish it at the Coffee Bean cafe in the morning. I'd been there the day before and knew the internet connection was spotty at best. I'd need a local copy of the document if I wanted to get anything done. 


    The next morning I met a friend for breakfast at the Farm of Beverly Hills, on N. Beverly Drive. I had my bag with me, so I could finish the article after breakfast. About an hour into breakfast, I felt something on my leg. I looked down to see a backpack, but it wasn't mine! I guy sat down behind me, placed an empty backpack next to my backpack, and walked out with all my stuff. Laptop, iPad, custom in ear headphones, passport, medications, etc... were all gone. Including the article about the event the previous day at Capitol Studios. Note to self: always store files in the cloud, and always place a leg through a backpack strap. 


    The Beverly Hills police arrived on the scene, took a report and said they'd call me if anything showed up. When officer Blair gave me a piece of paper with the case number and his name, I couldn't help but say I was a bit disappointed his name wasn't Axle Foley (Eddie Murphy's character in Beverly Hills Cop, one of my favorite guilty pleasures). Sophomoric humor I know, but at that moment my head was spinning as I tried to figure out how to get my digital life back together. Plus, with a trip to Denmark planned for October 14th, I was freaking out about getting my passport stolen. The computer, iPad, etc... are all replaceable without too many issues. The passport and medications turned out to be a nightmare, that I won't bore anyone with here on CA.







    I'm still searching for the silver lining in all of this, but at least I was able to attend Vincent Dixon's seminar at The Audio Salon in Santa Monica that evening because I moved my flight to the following morning. Vincent talked about the intersection of audio and photography and the transition from analog to digital. Vincent is an accomplished professional photographer who has been into HiFi for many years. He was the perfect person to give such a talk. 


    After a fun, but anxiety ridden, evening, I was off to Rocky Mountain Audio Fest the next day. I plan to write about RMAF in the coming days. I really enjoyed the show and thought the quality of sound in the rooms was much better this year compared to the last several years. A fun RMAF and meeting members of the CA Community was just what I needed.  







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    Enjoyed your sojourn in Hollywood.  When I lived in L.A. in the late 70's I had an apartment not far from the Roxy and Tower Records, that was quite a neighborhood at the time.  Worked for IBM and most of my customers were in Hollywood or down Motor Ave. (A&M, Capitol as well as Paramount, MGM, and a few other studios).  Back then it was just mainframe tech. for running the business.  Brings back some interesting memories.


    Glad you made it to the Capitol event.  Just after the dCS folks were in L.A. they came up here to the Bay Area and spent dinner and the following day with customers at Music Lovers Audio in Berkeley.  Got to hear the Vivaldi One in conjunction with Wilson Alexia Series 2 powered by Nagra preamp and mono blocks.  Very nice.  


    About the Shelby Lynne album, I have found something curious: on a few cuts you can hear what sounds like tape print through.  By that I mean just before she hits a lyric there's silence followed by the lead in of her voice that's oh so quiet, which is quickly followed by the same phrase, with full on sound.  Really odd.  If you don't hear it that will have me chasing down other copies of the music.  These days the provenance of music is getting to be as tough to deal with as art work.

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    When you said "So, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning writing the article..." didn't you mean to say "in the wee small hours of the morning...?"

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    Hi Chris,


    It was a pleasure meeting you at RMAF. What a bummer about your lost bag. I've had it happen to me, and it is not fun. The good thing is - you're safe, it's just stuff, and life will go on!



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    8 hours ago, cbee said:

    I think you missed the Frank Sinatra connection Chris

    My brain has been spinning this week trying to get  a new passport and everything I had stolen, before leaving for Denmark in a couple hours. Yes, I totally missed it and I'm sorry for being a little terse with my reply. 

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