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INTERVIEW ⸜ The Editors series № 32


Title: “Twittering Machines”
Publisher: Michael Lavorgna

Publication type: ONLINE MAGAZINE
Frequency of publication: IRREGULAR
Year of establishment: 2007




Images: Michael Lavorgna

No 205

June 1, 2021

THE EDITORS is a series of interviews with audio magazine editors from all over the world – both printed and online magazines, and portals. It started on January 1st 2012 and 30 interviews have been published so far – the one below is No. 31. Our aim is to make our readers more familiar with the people who usually hide behind the products that we review. It is the “WHO IS WHO?” of specialized audio press.

T’S BEEN FIVE YEARS, FOUR MONTHS AND 64 issues of HIGH FIDELITY since MICHAEL LAVORGNA was my interlocutor in an interview from “The Editors” series. At the time, he was the Editor-in-chief of the online AudioStream magazine, being part of an online portal run by the “STEREOPHILE” monthly. I praised the publisher (TEN - The Enthusiast Network) then for the perfect idea of running a few thematic portals that supplemented the offer and strengthened the market position of the printed magazine.

Five years, four months and 64 issues of HF have been enough for everything to change. JOHN ATKINSON, the man who had contributed to the success of the “Stereophile” magazine since the year 1986 is no longer its Editor-in-chief. Since March 1st 2019, the function has been taken over by JIM AUSTIN and the magazine is now published by another company, AVTech Media Americas Inc. Some employees have left: among others, STEPHEN MEJIAS and JOHN MARKS, while the deputy Editor-in-chief ART DUDLEY has joined the great orchestra in heaven… The publisher has given up running both the portal related to headphones and the aforementioned “AudioStream”. The only independent online being to have been left is MICHAEL FREMER’S “Analog Planet” (more HERE).

Nature hates void, so new information sources are created in the place of those that disappear and journalists try to cope with such new situations. MICHAEL LAVORGNA has also found his place, as he is now the Editor-in-chief of the “Twittering Machines” magazine. He is being interviewed by WOJCIECH PACUŁA and in this conversation for the first time we are returning to a journalist we have already interviewed as part of “The Editors” series. Let me add that I am the author of all the highlights in the test.



WOJCIECH PACUŁA We talked 5 years ago – it’s been a long time...
MICHAEL LAVORGNA Time is a funny thing. Of course much has changed over the course of the past 5 years, yet much is the same. I suppose it depends on the perspective and level of interest. 

I still work in the barn and sit in the red Eames chair when listening to music. As you'll see in the photos, there's more art on the walls, while there are fewer records and books on the shelves. If we meet in another 5 years, my best guess is there will be more records and books. The pendulum never stops swinging. 

WP Many things have changed since then. “AudioStream” is no longer published, can you tell us why? What happened to such a great magazine?
ML “AudioStream”, along with “InnerFidelity”, were taken offline last year. I wish I could tell you why, but I have no idea concerning the reasons for this decision, nor do I know what the future holds for all that work (i.e. the so-called content – Editor’s note). When the new owners took over back in 2018, they let a number of employees go, including me, so I am out of the loop regarding current internal affairs within “Stereophile”.

WP Now you run your own Twittering Machines site. Tell us about it, how did it all start?
ML The Twittering Machines magazine was originally launched in 2007. The purpose of the site was to create a place where friends could share their favorite records. We also wrote about other areas of interest, including art and broadly understood culture.  After I was let go from “AudioStream”, I spent a few months thinking about what to do next and decided to continue as an editor and reviewer by re-launching Twittering Machines in the fall of 2018 with its current focus on hi-fi, music, art and culture.

The main reason for this decision was the fact that after 6+ years as the editor of “AudioStream” and having spent a number of years writing about hi-fi before that, I'd made a very comfortable home for myself in hi-fi. There's a very strong sense of community here and this community is unlike any other I've worked in, as it is filled with people who are passionate about their work, with creativity in the foreground. 

To fill in all the gaps in time, let me add that I decided to shut down TM after a year, in September 2019. I simply needed a break for many reasons, all of them personal. So, I worked in a very different industry where I performed manual labor. After nearly a year of that, I was fully ready to get back to “Twittering Machines” which came back online in August 2020. TM is once again my full-time job.

The site's name is a tip of the hat (and a wink) to Paul Klee's painting Twittering Machine which I first saw as a boy in the Museum of Modern Art. It made a lasting impression and I enjoy the work both in visual terms and for its title. Its playful nature seemed to be the perfect fit for my approach to writing about hi-fi – serious play.


DIE ZWITSCHER-MASCHINE is a 1922 watercolor, pen and ink oil transfer on paper by the Swiss-German painter Paul Klee. Like other artworks by Klee, it blends biology and machinery, depicting a loosely sketched group of birds on a wire or branch connected to a hand-crank. Interpretations of the work vary widely: it has been perceived as a nightmarish lure for the viewer or a depiction of the helplessness of the artist, but also as a triumph of nature over mechanical pursuits. It has been seen as a visual representation of the mechanics of sound.

Originally displayed in Germany, the image was declared "degenerate art" by Adolf Hitler in 1933 and sold by the Nazi Party to an art dealer in 1939, whence it made its way to New York. One of the better known of more than 9,000 works produced by Klee, it is among the more famous images of the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It has inspired several musical compositions and, according to a 1987 magazine profile in New York Magazine, has been a popular piece to hang in children's bedrooms.
LINK, date of access: 20.05.21

The painting has been reinterpreted many times by other artists and a lot of installations that “brought it to life” have also been created. One such piece can be found on, date of access: 0.04.2021.

WP How has the way you work changed in the last 5 years, if at all?
ML I'd like to think it has changed, but I suppose you could argue that my point of view, my perspective if you will, hasn't shifted all that much. I continue to try to expand my interests by keeping an open ear when reviewing and listening to music, allowing the new and the different to inform my perceptions as opposed to imposing my views on them.

Dogma is stifling, yet alluring, so it's important for me to expand my areas of interest and keep an open mind, rather than contracting into a narrower and narrower field of vision as time goes by. On a related note, one concrete and rewarding change with “Twittering Machines” is that I am no longer confined to reviewing just digital gear, as was the case at “AudioStream”. 

WP Tell us please how digital audio has changed in the last few years, in your opinion.
ML The most significant changes in digital audio, to my mind, are simplicity and streaming. We're seeing more multi-function devices that incorporate DACs and, even better, streaming DACs. I am a proponent of the streaming DAC, Ethernet in / analog out, because it just makes sense. Add Roon to this picture and you've got multi-room, multi-manufacturer audio that's truly plug and play. 

The pièce de résistance of digital's dish is lossless streaming. Immediate access to a great sounding, millions-of-albums library for less than $20 month is more than a dream come true. It's music lovers’ heaven.

What has gotten worse with all of this cheap access is that the people behind the music we love are essentially being left out in the cold. While this isn't necessarily new news, as the big record labels have always been taking advantage of artists, new high-tech middle men have entered the picture, taking an even bigger piece of the pie. I truly detest Spotify's free tier as it completely devalues music. 

That being said, we can all support artists by buying their work. While I don't have an unlimited budget for music, if I find myself streaming an album over and over, I buy it. My favorite place to do this is Bandcamp for two reasons – they give a large share of the cash to the artists and, if you buy physical media (I typically buy LPs), you also get the lossless download. A win, win, win.

WP Have you seen any pattern of change in audio lately? What about audio magazines – have they changed?
ML The most exciting development on the reviewing front has been the move to other media, namely YouTube and Podcasts. These platforms are reaching new audiences, something the industry has been talking about forever (while not doing much of anything to cause change).

Because of these new platforms, we're seeing new people enter the reviewing arena with fresh ideas and energy. This is great news. As someone who is an admitted movie junkie, I value quality when it comes to video, which we're seeing from people like John Darko at Darko.Audio. On a related note, I am also a book junkie, so I value the written word. I also value experience, so you can call me old school. Go ahead, I don't mind ;-) 

The subtext here is demographics. I doubt print magazines are seeing continued growth fueled by new young subscribers. When was the last time you saw someone with a magazine? Compare that to the last time you saw someone under the age of 60 (or so) who was not looking at a screen.

If I dip more than a toe into the wider audio scene, I also see a growth in extremism. Take a look at any forum or read comments anywhere on anything (!) and you'll see more dogma-driven close-minded intolerant rigidity than you'll find in any morgue.

WP Has your reference system changed much?
ML Yes, my system has changed and grown.

The foundation includes the DeVore Fidelity O/93 speakers, Ayre EX-8 Integrated Hub, Hegel H95 integrated amplifier and the totalDAC d1-tube DAC/Streamer, all wired with cables from AudioQuest. This is the system I use when reviewing integrated amplifiers, DACs and streamers. 

The O/93s are wonderful speakers that present a very friendly load, so they allow me to review low-powered amps. They also love power. The reason for the two integrated amplifiers is to be able to offer comparisons with similarly priced gear for reviews and I think the Ayre and Hegel are super fine examples that I am very happy to live with. As far as totalDAC goes, I've been listening through DACs from totalDAC for well over 5 years, so we may be legally married in some states.

The newer news is the system I've put together for reviewing big speakers. The story here reads like this – the Barn (the place where Michael listens to music – Editor’s note) is big, so why not review big speakers? For this purpose, I've just welcomed the Parasound JC 5 Stereo Amplifier and VTL TL5.5 Series II Signature Preamplifier in Barn. This combination offers all of the muscle I need to drive most speakers while being supremely musically minded. 

If I were to be accused of having too much fun, I would have no choice but to plead guilty as charged.

WP Is there anything in audio that has recently made your heartbeat faster?
ML Nearly everything I review makes my heart beat faster. That may sound corny or hard to believe, but it's true nonetheless. Every piece of hi-fi gear has something unique about it and in most cases represents someone's work and passion. So, reviewing hi-fi gear is like getting to know new people, where it takes time and intent to hear, and understand what each of them have to say. 

This is why I review things over weeks or months of time. Being a useful reviewer, at least to my mind, isn't about positing oneself as the ultimate judge, but it’s rather about first understanding and then describing the particular voice found in the thing under review. Revealing, if you will, its character, its sound, and how this particular voice affects the listening experience. Ideally, in an entertaining manner.

Getting back to your 4th question, as to how my work has changed in the last 5 years, I would like to think I've gained some ground in this approach, fine tuning my ability to listen, feel and describe. There's something to be said for experience.

One highlight for me, and a deeply personal one, was my review of the WAVELENGTH AUDIO JUNIOR Integrated Amplifier (manufactured ca. 1997, more HERE). Through a friend who is in the business of buying and selling vintage gear, I was able to spend a few weeks with Junior which I first read about in Art Dudley's “Listener” magazine back in 1997. “Listener” was largely responsible for my interest in writing about hi-fi and Art's review of the Wavelength Junior has always been my favorite. Getting to spend time with Junior, which occurred after Art's passing, was a special bittersweet experience. 

After my review was published, I learned from Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio and Junior's designer, that the Junior I had was the same one Art had. This news touched my heart.

WP How about music, any new findings?
ML At “Twittering Machines” I've carried on the tradition I started at AudioStream of posting a favorite new album every Friday. If my math is correct, that's more than 300 records, give or take, so to answer your question: yes! If we count the original “Twittering Machines” site, I've written about well over 1,000 'favorite' records.

These “Album of the Week” choices are nearly all new releases, meaning music released within a few weeks from the date of the post. The reason for this focus is twofold: I love listening to new music and I think it is vital for our hi-fi industry to openly embrace new music. I also have an unsubstantiated belief that listening to new music is good for my aging brain, like learning a new language. It gets me back to the theme of the importance of expanding rather than contracting.

Since it's always fun to talk specifics when it comes to music, some of my current favorite albums include Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher, Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud, Fontaines D.C. – A Hero's Death, Adrianne Lenker – Songs and instrumental, Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song, A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Invisible Cities and Porridge Radio – Ever Bad.

WP How have you been coping with the Covid-19 situation? What have you been missing? Perhaps you have gained something? ML I miss going out to dinner with my wife, traveling with our family, seeing friends, as well as going to museums, galleries and hi-fi shows. But on the surface, my day-to-day life hasn't changed in a dramatic way. I wake up, play with Lulu Bear, one of our dogs, fill a thermos with coffee and walk to the barn where I do what I do.

One of the reasons I took that year-long break from TM was to focus on making art (two examples are presented in the photographs – Editor’s note), which is also the reason for the manual labor – this kind of work did not intrude on my thoughts. I am happy to say that some of this new work was selected to appear in a few group shows at galleries. The restrictions of dealing with Covid are partly responsible for my rather intense focus on art making, so that's one thing I would add to the 'something gained' column. 

Of course, I'm making all of this sound neat and tidy, but that's one of the funny things about recounting time.

WP Will the audio niche change because of the coronavirus crisis?
ML I'm not very good at predicting the future. Covid has certainly changed our lives in very real and dramatic ways, forcing us to spend more time with our own lives, with our thoughts and with our dreams. 

One of the challenges for a reviewer in these past months has been dealing with shortages in available review gear due to overwhelming demand. Putting 2 + 2 together, I would like to think people are (re)discovering the importance of having music in their lives in a meaningful way. When this happens, the natural progression is to seek out ways to improve the listening experience, which has resulted in more people finding the real value in hi-fi. While I doubt this wave will continue at its current peak, there's that pendulum again, but I hope the swing will be less dramatic as more people choose to make time for music.