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Seria: „The Editors”


Magazine: „AudioStream”
Type: Portal
TEN - The Enthusiast Network


f you return to previous interviews with journalists that I have conducted as part of “The Editors” series, you will find out that they represent both print and online magazines, as well as those that used to be printed and now are published on the Internet. You can use the same categorization to divide my interlocutors into those who work for print magazines, online magazines and those who have moved from the former to the latter medium. Please read carefully through their answers regarding the relationship between print and the Internet, and you will be able to mark a clear border between these two worlds, between two groups of interlocutors – one claiming that print is above the Internet and the other saying that it is exactly the opposite.

Without getting into detail, it is necessary to pay attention to two magazines that combine the two media very well. Both of them are American magazines – “The Absolute Sound” and “Stereophile”. Especially the latter one, or rather its publishers, have made an effort to move smoothly from Guttenberg’s invention to the virtual world.

I really admire the far-sightedness that resulted in decisions to transform the website of a print magazine into a portal for both “Stereophile” and other magazines that are only published online.
The latter ones include the “Analog Planet” magazine devoted to turntable technology and intended for headphone maniacs, prepared by Michael Fremer who also writes articles for “Streophile”, Tyll Hertsens’s “InnerFidelity”, “Sound and Vision” related to the domain of home cinema, the photography magazine “Shutterburg”, as well as the “AudioStream” magazine for fans of digital audio. It is a real empire that attracts the majority of those Internet users who are interested in audio and visual perception.
As regards the “Stereophile” family, I have already had an occasion to meet and talk to Michael Fremer, Stephen Mejias, John Marks who has recently started working on his own, as well as Art Dudley who became the Vice-Editor-in-Chief some time ago. This time we have asked Michael Lavorgna, the Editor-in-Chief of “AudioStream”, to tell us a few words about himself and his work.

WOJCIECH PACUŁA: Michael, tell us about yourself, please, and how you have reached the point where you are now.
MICHAEL LAVORGNA: My father was an audiophile and I inherited his joy in music and hi-fi. As I grew up, my main interests were art and music, while the first album I bought with my own money was The Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced. I ended up getting my BA in fine arts from Bennington College in Vermont after flirting with philosophy and film. I moved to NYC after college where I worked as an IT consultant, then as an IT consulting company owner, listening to music and painting at night and on weekends. IT remained my profession for over 20 years. All of this time I had hi-fi's everywhere I called home and lots of music always playing.

Some of the gear I owned in the past includes the Nelson Pass-designed Threshold SA3/FET10 pre/power combo, the Melos SHA Gold preamp, SimAudio Celeste W-4070s, NAD 3020 a much-loved Sun Audio SV-300BE amplifiers, and a number of SETs from Don Garber at Fi. Speakers included the Theil CS1.5, Von Schweikert VR3, Odeon 66s, Cain & Cain Abbys, Auditorium 23 Solovox, and the DeVore Super 8.

I sold out of the IT business is 2001 and ended up working for a small company providing custom applications and services mainly for hedge funds. It was also during this time that I started writing for “”. My favorite series of articles from that period was the “Road Tour” based on my visits at people's homes and related to their relationship with music and hi-fi.

I left IT altogether a few years later and spent some time sniffing the air for what to do next. About four years ago I was offered the job of Editor of “AudioStream”. I had written a few ASWIs and done show coverage for Stereophile, and, obviously, I accepted the job offer. “AudioStream” is part of the TEN network, which includes “Stereophile”, “InnerFidelity” and “Analog Planet”, as well as tons of print magazines including “Surfer” and “Motortrend”.

“AudioStream” is my full-time job. I also contribute a column to Stereophile magazine entitled “Audio Streams”. I owe this good fortune to many people, but two in particular: John Atkinson of “Stereophile” who made this job possible and my friend Stephen Mejias who inspired me in many ways, helping to lead me where I am now.
We moved just over a year ago to a new/old home that has a separate barn. This is where I work, play and listen to music.

Are there differences in the sound of particular devices, in your opinion?
Of course – and they are big! I think that the more you listen to music as a sole activity, the more interested you become in the quality of that experience. Over time, listeners develop a greater sensitivity to the listening experience, so they tend to recognize changes between different audio components more than a casual listener. Some people scoff at this idea but listening to music on a hi-fi is a hobby. Like every other hobby, the more involved you are, especially over time, the more adept you become at the intricacies involved.

As regards audio files, what is the main advantage of their lack of format?
Ideally, the freedom from formats, which means we can tap into an endless stream of music sourced from our own library and the near-infinite libraries online. To my mind, we are living in the golden age of music discovery. The access to millions of albums results in a real need for a fluid interface. For me, the combination of Roon and Tidal HiFi is the best solution I have come across by a very long shot.

What can we do to push this forward?
We need to focus on quality, both in the recording studio and in delivery.

How do you find the DSD movement – is it worth exploring?
Just a few years ago, there was a limited number of DACs offering DSD playback. This is no longer the case and DSD-capable DACs have nearly become the norm. There may be more DSD DACs than DSD releases!

Some people feel DSD is not worth exploring because of a lack of available music they are interested in and this makes perfect sense. Music comes first. I have a number of DSD recordings, including some sourced directly from DSD masters from Channel Classics, which sound superb, as well as a number of analog-sourced DSD releases which also sound amazing.

We can certainly spend years discussing the advantages and disadvantages of DSD but I am much more interested in listening to music. I happen to have DACs that support DSD, the Auralic Vega and the Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC, so the fact that I can listen to DSD whenever I want to nullifies any theory.

What is “reference” sound for you – the sound of another system, a live event, or something else?
My reference is musical engagement.

Is the Compact Disc still an important source of music for you?
I have never cared much about playing CDs, for physical, sonic and spiritual reasons. I grew up listening to vinyl records, so I lived through the early days of CD playback, which was, by most people's definition (and mine), pretty horrible. I have owned more CD players than I care to remember, including a number of players from California Audio Labs (Icon, Tercet, Delta/Alpha), Ah! Tjoeb, Rega Planet, Exemplar Audio's Denon DVD-2900, Audio Areo Capitole and, finally, a Sony Playstation (SCPH-1001), my favorite of the bunch back, when you could get them for $15 on eBay.

Whenever I find myself changing a piece of equipment over and over while listening to less and less music, I know something is very wrong. On the plus side, CDs are cheap, convenient and easy, and they are OK storage devices, albeit extremely inefficient and wasteful containers. I still buy CDs when there is no download available and rip them to my NAS. It turns out the problems with CDs had nothing to do with 16/44.1, but had everything to do with playback including the crappy digital filters found in some/most early CD players.

How about the “numbers game” – what number of bits and what sampling frequency are “good enough”?
The "numbers game" is an unnecessary distraction for listeners. Music comes first. If a record I am interested in is only available in CD-quality, I buy it. Only on LP? I buy it. In extremely rare cases, if something I am interested in is only available in lossy quality, I will listen to it. No harm, no fowl.

We really have to ask ourselves what is most important to us when it comes to listening to music on the hi-fi. Is it enjoyment? A better understanding of music? A better understanding of life? Please do not try to tell me it is “accuracy”. After all, accuracy means nothing in terms of outcomes, just output.

I would suggest that one of the most important outcomes of listening to music on the hi-fi, if not the most important one, is being inspired to create. This has been going down since day one of recorded music and has led to a lifetime's worth of new music that we all enjoy. There would have been no British Invasion if LPs did not exist. There would be no Sketches of Spain, no Jimi Hendrix and so on. If someone tries to tell you that higher sample rates and accuracy mean more than the inspiration to create, run away.

Of course, anyone who listens to music as an activity in itself cares about the quality of that experience. So, it makes perfect sense to look for the highest quality version of the music we are interested in buying. For digital recordings, the ideal is to get the original recorded quality, whatever that may be.

In the case of LPs, I prefer to buy as close to the original release as I can get. Reissues of analog recordings in a digital format are where all of the debate takes place for a good reason. I will buy a hi-res reissue only if I know the source and steps involved in the A to D conversion process. When asked to pay a premium for something, I need more information than the final bit rate. LPs and digital from 16/44 on up, including streaming from Tidal HiFi, can sound absolutely stunning, so numbers be damned.

What are the main advantages of online and print magazines?
Speed, space and cost versus engagement.

What kind of music do you listen to?
The good kind, to paraphrase Louis Armstrong ;-) I am kidding since there is no such thing as good and bad when it comes to art, there is only interpretation. As I have mentioned, the first record I bought was Are You Experienced and most of my early listening was rooted in the 1960s: Dylan, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Doors, etc. However, I quickly expanded that field of interest to include blues (classic blues), jazz, classical, and so on. When I was in college in Vermont, I mainly listened to industrial music from bands like Zoviet - France and Einstürzende Neubauten along with Black Flag, Hank Williams and Sonny Rollins’ Freedom Suite when I was painting.

While living in NYC after college, I focused on contemporary classical music. I would walk or run to Tower Records and spend a lot of time riffling through CD racks, click clack, looking for Luigi Nono, Giacinto Scelsi, Morton Feldman, Jean Barraqué and more. Part of the inspiration to explore this wonderful music came from a chance find of John Cage's book Notations (1969), which is comprised of graphical scores from 269 composers. I have always been fascinated with symbolic mark making.

Lately I have been all over the place. The best way to see what I mean by this is to take a look at my “Download of the Week” feature on “AudioStream”, which is published each Friday. It is where I talk about a current favorite record.

Could you give me the titles of 10 albums that “High Fidelity” readers should listen to?

The Lowell Davison Trio, The Lowell Davison Trio (ESP)
The Bill Dixon Orchestra, Intents and Purposes (RCA Victor)
Morton Feldman, Rothko Chapel (New Albion Records)
Eric Burdon & War, Eric Burdon Declares War (MGM Records)
Washington Phillips, What Are They Doing In Heaven Today (Mississippi Records)
Jacques Coursil, Trails of Tears (Sunnyside Communications)
Nils Frahm, Solo (Erased Tapes)
Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music (High Top Mountain)
FKA twigs, M3LL155X (Young Turks)
Le Butcherettes, Cry Is for the Flies (Ipecac Recordings)

Please tell us about your audio equipment.
It reminds me of the interview with Leon from Blade Runner: “My audio equipment? Let me tell you about my audio equipment...”

I have four systems: three in the barn, and one in our home. My work system is comprised of a MacBook Pro running Roon/Tidal HiFi, the Auralic Vega DAC and the Ayre AX-5 Twenty integrated amp, all standing on a Box Furniture Heavy Double Width Rack. My current speakers are a loaner pair of the DeVore Xs (I own a pair of the DeVore The NINES). All cabling is from Auditorium 23, except for the USB cables which I rotate between the AudioQuest Diamond and the Light Harmonic Lightspeed.

I also have a simple desktop system using my iMac running Roon and the Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC connected to pair of ADAM A3X speakers.

The other system in the barn uses the same speakers but is all analog. It consists of the Auditorium 23 Nouvelle Platine turntable with the Shindo RF-773 Mersault tonearm, Shindo SPU cartridge and Auditorium 23 Hommage step up, Shindo Monbrison preamp and Shindo Cortese power amp, all standing on a custom Box Furniture rack which I helped to design. All cabling is from A23 and Shindo.

At home we are using a pair of Altec Valencia speakers (c.1967), a Leben CS300-XS integrated amp and a Sonos Connect as the source. All of these systems sound different, but they all allow me to escape into music for as long as time allows, which is the only true value in hi-fi.

“THE EDITORS” series has included interviews with:

  • MICHAEL LANG, “Stereo”, GERMANY, Managing Editor (Geschäftsführender Redakteur), see HERE
  • SRIDHAR VOOTLA, “”, INDIA, journalist, see HERE
  • SCOT HULL, “Part-Time Audiophile”, USA, editor-in-chief, see HERE
  • ART DUDLEY, “Stereophile”, USA, editor-at-large, see HERE
  • Helmut Hack, “Image Hi-Fi”, Germany, managing editor, see HERE
  • DIRK SOMMER, „”, Germany, chief editor, see HERE
  • MARJA & HENK, „”, Switzerland, journalists, see HERE
  • CHRIS CONNAKER, “Computer Audiophile”, founder/chief editor, see HERE
  • MATEJ ISAK, "Mono & Stereo”, chief editor/owner, Slovenia/Austria; see HERE
  • Dr. DAVID W. ROBINSON, "Positive Feedback Online", USA, chief editor/co-owner; see HERE
  • JEFF DORGAY, “TONEAudio”, USA, publisher; see HERE
  • CAI BROCKMANN, “FIDELITY”, Germany, chief editor; see HERE
  • STEVEN R. ROCHLIN, “Enjoy the”, USA, chief editor; see HERE
  • STEPHEN MEJIAS, “Stereophile”, USA, assistant editor; see HERE
  • MARTIN COLLOMS, “HIFICRITIC”, Great Britain, publisher and editor; see HERE
  • KEN KESSLER, “Hi-Fi News & Record Review”, Great Britain, senior contributing editor; see HERE
  • MICHAEL FREMER, “Stereophile”, USA, senior contributing editor; see HERE
  • SRAJAN EBAEN, “”, Switzerland, chief editor; see HERE