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No. 84 May 2011
John Tu in Krakow (again)

Krakow is not the center of the world and never was. Once one of the biggest centers of Europe, since a long time has only the role of a provincial city, albeit with almost a million inhabitants, which is not remembered by many people, with the exception of historians. The second city in Poland in terms of inhabitants (a place it sometimes switches with Lodz), the former capital of our country it became now a slightly sleepy, very conservative, slightly xenophobic midsized town in Middle Europe. I know what I am saying – I am a Cracovian, I was born here and I live here - and I love this town. I cannot do anything about it – I do not claim that it is the best place in the world, the most beautiful or anything like that. I know where it hurts, what it needs, but you cannot do anything about love – it is blind. Anyway – Krakow is not the bellybutton of the world.
But from time to time, for a moment, it becomes the center of the audiophile microcosm, when something exceptional, unique comes here for testing, or when we meet in the Krakow Sonic Society (the last meeting was published by “” HERE). Or when somebody special visits us. So any place in the world can become such a center, when one of the conditions mentioned above is met, when this happens. As it turns out, the most difficult part is to get the last one – A VISIT.

But we turned out lucky also in that aspect. We meet in Krakow quite regularly with interesting people – producers, directors, sales heads from all over the world. Let me just remind the visits of Fabio Camorani (AudioNemesis and Audio Nautes), Gerhard Hirt (Ayon Audio) or Kazuo Kiuchi (Combak, Harmonix, report HERE). And yet one of the most important people we met in Krakow is a person only remotely related to audio; however this relationship grows lately – John Tu.
We were not ready for the first meeting with John – it just happened. One Saturday he just joined our Krakow Sonic Society Meeting (report HERE). And I think, that we were not really aware, that we listen to music, talk and laugh with one of the wealthiest people in the world, the single owner of Kingston Technologies. Everything cleared up when some of our Society Members were invited by John to install a special Ancient Audio system, which was custom made especially for him (reportage from the journey – HERE). Because when you have a chance to drive a Bugatti Veyron, one of John’s cars, eat in the fanciest restaurants, taste truffles and most expensive wines, then you realize with whom you are dealing.
But the most important thing remained – you catch a splendid contact from the very beginning, without a “fun-in” time, without the need to overcome any resistance and similar. Maybe because he has a healthy distance to himself, and his position, or maybe because he is just a good man. I will not tell you about how many people he is helping, even whole villages, because he would not want me to – he hides everything well before the eyes of people outside. He is a very “private” person. It is enough that I repeat – he is just a good man.

After the firs journey to USA, the boys visited John once again and invited him to visit us in Krakow. It took some time - people like our friend from America do not have spare time for themselves. But one cold March day I received the message: “He is coming, get ready he will be in Krakow in a few days!” This time the meeting was planned to be different to the first one, when we listened to discs with John – this time we wanted to listen to John... Yes, this is not a mistake, and I’ll get back to this topic later.
John came to us from Warsaw, where he visited the Polish branch of his company. And here we could see how caring he is – instead of just come and visit us, he chartered a plane, loaded it with his close friends, including the head of the Flash memory branch and they came all together.
The meeting started with a dinner at the Wentzl restaurant in the Krakow Market (Rynek 19). Good venison, desserts and splendid wine was one thing. But the conversation we had was more important. John is a very interesting interlocutor – he knows much about many things, and has first hand information, and his experience is completely different to ours. He has also an opinion on many things, he can backup with interesting, and sometimes revealing, arguments.
For a moment we talked about his visit years ago – he finally confessed, that he was embarrassed and stressed, how much he feared us, as he calls us “experts, the audiophile crème de la crème, who invited him, a simple mortal, placed him in front of an audio system and asked to respond to difficult questions”. I must say, that he did not show that...

Talking for the first time with John, we did not talk with the owner of Kingston, but with a musician – like I mentioned earlier he is a drum player and has his own band he plays with. And this is something we wanted to exploit this time – we wanted to have fun with our guest and allow him to play drums in Krakow.
And there are a lot of such places in Krakow, but for us the basement housing Jazz Club u Muniaka seemed best. From a logistical point of view, its localization on the Florianska Street, just across the Krakow Market, looking from Wentzl, was perfect. After a good dinner and a few beers we could not go for a long walk, especially after midnight... However more important was the owner of the club.

“Wikipedia” does not tell much about him. We can only read, that Janusz Muniak (born 1941) is a Polish jazz musician, saxophone and flute player, arranger and composer. He debuted in Lublin in 1960 and in the 60-ties and 70-ties he played with the biggest people on the Polish jazz scene, like Krzysztof Komeda (eg. Walc from the film Laterna magica), Tomasz Stańko (on the disc Music For K. (Polish Jazz Vol. 22), Muza XL 0607), Andrzej Trzaskowski, Jan Jarczyk, etc. We will however find there an impressive discography, which shows, that Janusz Muniak is the author or co-author of many important Polish jazz albums. We were in the right place.

The leader of the Janusz Muniak Trio was informed about our guest and he did not protest (at least not loud) and he also prepared in the musical way. His quintet – baritone and alto saxophone, contrabass, percussion and piano – played perfectly! Unfortunately except for the leader and alto sax player Marcin Ślusarczyk I did not know any of the musicians performing – I have to apologize for that! And they were young and great – I was stunned how well they found themselves with the master.
And although this was not the reason to be there, it was another time, when I noticed things important for audiophile listening sessions, like the one, that it is really hard to pinpoint the place, where the saxophone is placed on the stage, when you do not see it, and that a percussion, its dynamics, can cover everything and that it is very hard to reproduce it at home and finally, that the contrabass is a very quiet instrument. Truisms, known to everyone visiting unamplified, or slightly amplified, jazz concerts, but worth refreshing.
But we went there to listen how John is playing, and we were equally curious about that. Even more so, as he did not know about that... And when he learned about our plan, he ordered three shots of vodka he drank quickly and said, that he will not get on the stage – “I can hear how those people play” – he said.
But we have convincing skills, and Muniak introduced him, so John took his place behind the drum set. Initially tense he got at ease in time. And although he never played this program before, he did very well. This was even more interesting, as that day he had a trip from Warsaw, a long dinner and some alcohol in his veins. But visibly that did not prevent him from having a good time. Because we, in front of the stage, had a really good time. And the band helped him, favored John, what was for the benefit of all.

Meetings with John are always fun. Here it was also the case. I know, that this is not the last meeting with him, because before the dinner he had a business discussion with Mr. Jarek Waszczyszyn (sorry – just Jarek, because around midnight, after a dozen years of “mistering” each other we went to call us with our given names) when they discussed next steps regarding the SDMusA. W wrote about this idea in the edition 79 editorial (HERE), and we could discuss it with its creator during the Audio Show 2010. John is privately the co-owner of the patent and financial backup. I think, that the presence of the head of the Flash memory department was not a coincidence. I hope that everything will develop, maybe not quickly, but in stable fashion. Because whether we like it or not the future of audio, also highest class audio, is depending on the audio files market, especially the hi-res files one. And John may be a part of that.


Although the editorial was dominated by the meeting with John, I cannot go around not mentioning the tragedy, which touched our friends in Japan. I do not know how you feel, but I have enough of grand words, crying, etc. I think also, that the Japanese do not need that, that they would be embarrassed with that. But they do need support in the form of good words and a financial one.
The first kind of support was provided by many Polish institutions and I am proud of them. Also the press joined in on that – for three days, the Krakow supplement to the “Gazeta Wyborcza”, and not only it, had a red sun, a symbol of Japan on the title, instead of the characteristic red stripe. And inside we could read about the Japanese in Poland and about how we are trying to show our solidarity with that nation. A splendid idea, to show what we think and feel was the campaign “Tsuru for Japan”. As it turned out, this was incredibly moving for the people there, this “paper prayer”, and my Japanese friends wrote me, that even their TV showed it. I also made a tsuru.
This was the spiritual aspect. The material one is also important. Here we can do even more: as it is widely known, the Japanese economy is based on export. So we can help them by buying Japanese products – and here the audiophiles have a lot to say.

This is not a coincidence, that each May issue of “High Fidelity” is devoted to products from the land of the Cherry Blossom. May is our anniversary, seventh this year. I did not choose it deliberately; it’s just how it is. But I however, do not believe in coincidence, so I feel more bound to Japan now. Like I say – no grand words, no public suffering, just a few kind words and support. By presenting gear from Japan we want to contribute to that as well.

We planned:

  • Musica IBUKI - DAC + phonostage + power amplifier: a unique system in a special version
  • STAX SRS – 4170 – headphones + headphone amp
  • CEC TL3 + DA3 – transport CD + DAC
  • Acrolink 7N-DA2100 + 7N-DA5100 – analog interconnects
  • TRI TRX-1 + TRX-P6L – preamplifier + power amplifier
  • Air Tight AM211 – power amplifier
  • Accuphase AC-5 – cartridge
  • Accuphase DP-400/DP-510/DP-600 – CD & SACD players

As usual, plans are one thing, and life is another, so we will see what comes out of that, especially now, when supplies from Japan are irregular.

Wojciech Pacuła
Editor in Chief

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"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

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