Welcome to the eleventh installment of our Meet the Audiophile Style Community series. All previous installments can be found here, in the series index.
Please send me a message, email, or telegram if you'd like to participate. The response so far has been wonderful. It ranges from hardcore audiophiles to those who are more interested in numbers and graphs, and even people in the industry are eager to participate. This series is all about getting to know everyone and sharing a bit about yourself that others will find interesting.
Thanks for participating. I look forward to publishing more of these in the coming weeks and months.
Thanks to Audiophile Style community member @ARQuint for participating in volume eleven of this series. We've had more interest in participating from members of the trade lately, including this one. I love reading this stuff even more than publishing it. As I say to myself after reading each one of these, you guys are so much more interesting than me.
1. General area of the world in which you live?
Philadelphia, about three blocks from Betsy Ross. Ok, so she hasn't lived there for a while.
2. General description of what you do or did for a living?
I'm a board-certified endocrinologist and split my time pretty much 50/50 between audio/music writing and medicine. Obviously, it's the latter activity that pays the bills though I'm now at an age when I'd consider winding down. Very few audio writers make a living from it; most of us are freelancers. Yes, I get a 1099 at the end of the year but the number on line 7 isn't going to pay for anyone's college education.
I was in private practice for 30 years, a busy single-specialty group in the Philadelphia suburbs. My partner and I sold the practice about 10 years ago to a Philadelphia health care system, continuing on as employees, but they wrecked what we'd built over decades and it seemed like a good time to retire and do nothing but music and audio. That's what I did in 2014 and, to my surprise; I found I really missed seeing patients. So I went back to work as an endocrinologist for a Federally Qualified Health Practice with 85,000 medically underserved members, a demographic with an exceptionally high prevalence of diabetes. My job is to see the tough cases, up the game of the primary care providers when it comes to diabetes management, and keep track of the data. I may be enjoying myself as a physician more than I have at any prior time in my career
3. What are your hobbies?
Trout fishing. I'm terrible at it, but I usually go with a good friend who knows what he's doing and we've traveled to some beautiful places. It gets me outside, and it's not a terribly high-risk situation for the fish.
I have a hard time calling it a hobby because it's so important to me, but I make it to around 30 musical performances a year. Or did, before the pandemic. My wife and I have gone to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for most of the last 30 years and we missed that sorely this year.
When I thought I'd retired from medicine, I joined the boards of several musical organizations. The three I'm on currently on are very different: the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society (a presenting entity), The Crossing Choir (a choir devoted to new music of all stripes—two Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance in recent years), and the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia that, at 200, is among the oldest arts organizations in the US. I've done some meaningful committee work for these groups that's helped me to understand the challenges faced by classical music organizations.
4. When did you start this wonderful journey into music listening?
It was the realization that I had an aptitude for music that gave me anything resembling a sense of myself as a kid and I was good enough to get admitted to Oberlin as a trombone performance major. I quickly discovered that I wasn't good enough to ever land a spot in an elite orchestra and backed away from a career as a symphonic musician. After that realization, recordings and good sound became especially important to me. I came across The Absolute Sound in a friend's apartment around 1980 and started writing for the magazine in 1995, first as a music writer and then as an equipment reviewer.
5. What was your first “album?”
At age 12 at music camp in Maine (the New England Music Camp—"By the Shores of Messalonskee"—they're still thriving) I heard Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 3 for the first time, which blew my mind. When I returned home, I bought the sheet music and played the four concertos continually (on a baritone horn, in the wrong key) and found an LP—the soloist was Albert Linder, accompanied by Hans Swarowsky and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. I still have it, of course. I guess it's been played on every turntable I've ever employed for the past 50+ years, beginning with my parent's 1950s tabletop record player.
6. What does your music collection look like, number of physical records, CDs, etc… and number of “favorited” albums streamed?
- I have around 7000 physical discs, 2000 LPs and 5000 silver discs (CDs, SACDs, DADs, DVD-As, music-only Blu-rays.)
- I have around 10000 albums as digital files. 6000 are high-resolution, 24-bit PCM or DSD, so a fair amount of storage is necessary. My NAS has a 52 TB capacity (less, of course, because of RAID requirements.)
- There's a fair amount of content redundancy here. I've ripped most of my CDs and SACDs, and there are stereo and multichannel versions of many of the ripped SACDs.
7. What was your first audio component / stereo?
As a teenager, I convinced my parents to buy a real system to replace the mahogany box mentioned above—a Dual turntable, an AM/FM receiver, and KLH 17 loudspeakers. Spending my own money on a stereo for the first time after college, I purchased another Dual, a Kenwood integrated amplifier (my record collection was beginning to grow and I disdained a "radio") and—you guessed it—Large Advent speakers. After that, it's all a blur.
8. Is there one component that you no longer have that you wish you wouldn’t have sold or that you wish you still had?
My Krell MD-2 CD turntable. An incredibly sexy (and overbuilt) top-loading player with a hinged Lucite cover that descended slowly after you uploaded the disc.
9. Is there one current component that you wish you had in you system?
Really, no. My system is far from the best I've heard—among other things, the size of my room precludes that—but it's been performing at such a very musically satisfying level for some time that changes I make result in only small improvements to the listening experience (or no improvement.) One of the great things about being an equipment reviewer is that somebody else usually decides what you're going to be trying out next and usually…usually… I conclude that, good as it may be, it doesn't surpass what I own. That said, I know I'll be upgrading for the remainder of my sentient life as an audiophile. That's the nature of the beast. I just don't know what I'll be upgrading to.
10. How much time to you spend listening to music each week and on which systems does this listening take place (main system, car system, mobile system, office system, etc…)
I just can't listen to music in the background—that's a function of my nervous system. To the considerable annoyance of my wife, I'm always aware of what song's coming out of the ceiling at a TGI Friday. (And she's annoyed to be at a TGI Friday in the first place.) So virtually all my home listening always happens with me sitting in front of my system in a dedicated room, whether taking notes on a component or recording for a review or just for fun. It adds up to 10-14 hours per week. That doesn't sound like much to some people, but it's (hopefully) as intensely experienced as the many live performances I attend. Attended.
11. What’s the first concert you ever attended, best concert you’ve ever attended, most interesting concert venue you’ve ever attended?
First classical: At the music camp noted above, there were faculty and student recitals on a weekly basis and there I learned the paradigm of sitting and listening, program in hand, giving oneself over to the music.
First rock concert: Ten Years After at the County Center in White Plains, NY. Still probably the loudest concert I ever went to.
First blues concert: Buddy Guy played at our high school. He had a very long guitar cable that allowed him to leave the stage and continue playing as he visited the restroom. That made an impression.
Most remarkable venue: The Bayreuth Festspielhaus where each summer 5 to 7 of Richard Wagner's operas ("music dramas") are performed. I've been twice, in 2003 and in 2011, attending a total of a dozen performances. It is, by a long shot, the most memorable aural experience with large-scale orchestral/vocal music I've ever had, with a sense of the sound being palpable in the air around you from any seat in the house, the voices embedded in the luxuriant orchestral fabric, exactly as the composer intended. (He designed the hall.)
12. What components are in your current audio systems and can you provide a photo?
My system is optimized for multichannel music but sounds great with stereo sources that are, of course, mostly what I listen to.
Digital: Oppo BDP-103 (transport), T+A DAC 8 DSD, Baetis Reference 2 music computer running JRiver, MusiCHI SRV-01 server running MusiCHI, Ideon Master Time re-clocking platform, Synology DS1813+ plus DX 513 NAS file storage, Fidelizer EtherStream network switch.
Analog: VPI Scoutmaster and JMW Memorial tonearm, Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO III cartridge
Preamp/processor: Anthem D2v
Phonostage: Audio Research PH2
Power Ampifiers: Pass XA 60.8 (3), Pass Aleph 0s, David Berning Quadrature Z monoblocks
Loudspeakers: Magico M2, Magico S3 Mk2 (center) Magico S1 Mk2 (surrounds), Magico S-Sub
Cables: Transparent Gen 5 interconnects and speaker cables, Cardas interconnects, Furutech GT2Pro-B USB, Ideon USB, Revelation Audio Labs AES/EBU, Shunyata Anaconda AES/EBU, Transparent Premium HDMI, Apogee Wyde Eye SPDIF, Supra CAT8 Ethernet cables, Pangea AC-1 45E power cord
A/C Power: 20-amp dedicated line, Transparent Ultra PowerBank
13. Anything else you’d like to say?
Just this. I feel that my own journey has not been unlike Chris's, the others who have so far participated in this feature, and most audiophiles I know. It makes no difference if you're 30 or 60. It matters not if you listen mostly to jazz, blues, rock, or classical. It's the same if you're strictly a hobbyist or have some tangible connection to the "industry." I do this for the same reasons everyone else does: To explore intellectually interesting technical developments; for the relationships one has with creative engineers, with the people that market and sell the stuff, and with other devoted hobbyists; for the chance to connect more completely with the music I love. Let's be kind to one another—we have an awful lot in common. I'll leave it at that.