TONEAudio Magazine Issue 21


Old School: Bringing Back the Naim NAIT 3R
By Marc Phillips

Budget Gear: Anthem’s Integrated 225
By Jerold O’Brien

The Vinyl Anachronist: Cambridge Audio’s
Phono Preamplifier – Respect Yourself
By Marc Phillips

Maiden Flight: The Premiere of
Iron Maiden’s FLIGHT 666
By Bob Gendron

Caelin Gabriel of Shunyata
Takes Us on a Tour of Their Facility
By Jeff Dorgay

Tone Style

Metallica’s M4 Jacket
Warm Up and Rock

Chrysler’s GEM Peapod
Finally, a Car for Your iPod

Cool Tees:
Celebrate With Some Fresh Gear

The Olympus E-30
You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Metal Ring Tones of Death,
Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses and a
Caffine Boost Via the Butterfinger Buzz

Sonic Lighter: Raise Your Favorite
Flame With This App


Live Music: The TONEStaff Covers Recent Shows
By Brad Paisley, India.Arie, John Scofield, Spinal Tap,
Chick Corea, Calexico and Keith Jarrett

Current Releases:
Fresh Releases in the Pop/Rock World
By the TONE Staff

Club Mix: A New Crop of Beats From
Some Favorites and the New Guys on the Scene
By Scott Tetzlaff

Audiophile Pressings Presented by Music Direst
Pearl Jam, Marshall Crenshaw, Sonny Rollins, Otis Span,
John Hammond, Plack Sabbath, Louis Armstrong and
John Coltrane


The Burmester 061 CD Player
Art for the Ears Indeed
By Jeff Dorgay

Burmester’s 082 Integrated
A Perfect Balance
By Jeff Dorgay

The PNB Audio Groove Master
By Jeff Dorgay

McMini: The McIntosh MC252 Power Amplifier
By Rich Kent

The Naim SuperLine Phono Preamplifier
Analog Mountain Top
By Jeff Dorgay

An Affordable Reference From Furutech
By Jeff Dorgay

AV123 X-Head Headphone Amplifier
By Marc Phillips

Boxless Beauty: The Gradient Helsinki
Series 1.5 Loudspeaker
By Marc Phillips

Mulitpurpose Digital: The McIntosh MCD500
By Rich Kent

An Ear Opener From Rega: The Exact 2
By Jeff Dorgay

Eartha Kitt and Gear Classics

Black Label Society, NYC

Black leather, long hair, tattoos, and smiles united under the golden mosaic roof of the NY Hammerstein Ballroom to feel the heavy metal thunder of Black Label Society. On April 10th The NYC chapter members brought on the SDMF (Society Dwelling M.F.’s) attitude as BLS performed the new greatest hits CD/DVD, “Skullage”. Representing the West Coast (San Francisco, CA) as a Metal enthusiast and performer it was a treat to begin my recent NY trip attending this bash. Having seen the sold out opening show of the tour back in my home town at the Fillmore on March 6, I was impressed that Zakk Wylde and company had fine-tuned the show and camaraderie even further. Edsel Dope’s band, Dope got the party started with some of his originals, including “Addiction” and finished with a mixed bag of covers, ranging from Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” and NWA’s “Fuck the Police.”  Shots were delivered to the band via a Hustler dancer, inviting the crowd to join the after party at the Hustler Club.

Sevendust took the stage next with master metal frontman Lajon Witherspoon.  They played their hits and covered metal standards “Master of Puppets”, “Walk” and closing out with “We Die Young” , pouring out a lot of energy to pump up the crowd even further.  Just before BLS took the stage, they played Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” as intro music.  I had a great time singing along with this one, but it did seem to confuse some of the audience.  I chalked it up to Wylde’s Southern influences.

Then, the enormous BLS banner hit the floor and the siren kicked in; they hit the stage and opened with “Black Mass Reverends.”  Wylde’s voice was heavy with reverb as he ripped away on his new orange Gibson “Zakk Wylde ZV Buzzsaw” guitar, one of only 50 produced.  Nick Catanese lived up to his title of “evil twin guitarist” scorching riffs on his PRS guitars, with the backbone of BLS, JD Deservio on bass and drummer “Louisiana Lightning” cranking out some thunderous beats.  Wylde went on to blast out his hits, “Destruction Overdrive”, “Stillborn”, “Blessed Hellride” and “Suicide Messiah” with he and Catanese using their double stacked Marshalls to blow the roof off the Ballroom.

Zakk swears on every tour he will play the tribute song “In This River” dedicated to the late Dimebag Darrell Abbott (Pantera).  Wylde, put the chest pounding metal studs side of his personality down for a few minutes as he sat down at the piano to play this tribute to his good friend; the piano adorned with a BLS American flag and two large photo banners of Abbot.  “Fire It Up” was laden with multiple crowd delights. Black Label icon beach balls were tossed into the crowd frenzy as t-shirts were shot out of a CO2 cannon. Zakk ended the blaze by soloing ala Randy Rhodes style with the Flying V over his back and with his teeth. A blistering Star Spangled Banner further unleashed Wylde’s guitar playing soul while touching many hearts in the Big Apple.

Leslie West of Mountain appeared as a special guest proving he still has a great voice. West, Wylde, and Catanese all unleashed impressive guitar solos, with both BLS guitarists using double neck guitars. Following the Mountain special was “Concrete Jungle” and the infamous finale of “Stillborn”.
The BLS NYC Chapter shined their faithful colors with hours of metal mayhem, admiring Zakk Wylde as the Metal Messiah and frequent gestures of respect went back and forth between the bandmates. Thankful pointing gestures to the power that be, personal Wylde hugs and lots of one on one eye contact with the fans in the front row were soaked up as Wylde made his exit.

It’s always great to see guys this talented have a dose of humility.  I think it’s safe to say that Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society successfully destroyed and conquered NY’s Hammerstein Ballroom this evening.

One Revolution’s Grand Opening Party-Nashville

Several hundred guests packed the 9th floor and roof (though most stayed inside in the chilly weather) of Nashville’s ICON condo building in the Gulch Tuesday night for the launch party of One Revolution Entertainment. With a record label, publishing company and other music business interests, One Revolution is the brainchild of Dean Miller, Nashville recording artist and the son of the late country legend Roger Miller.

Nathan Barlowe, front man of the Rick Rubin-produced Luna Halo, sported a newly-dyed semi-Mohawk, while Nashville Music Guide publisher Dan Wunsch, in his ubiquitous baseball cap, worked the room looking for stories and advertisers and beer. Fine young saxman Eddie Vance brought his band up from Oxford, Mississippi to provide a night of funk, fusion and mellow pop radio covers.

The ladies looked fabulous as they always do at Nashville music industry parties, and the food from Maggiano’s was stellar. Also on hand were One Revolution Entertainment’s first two signings, Nathan Lee and Rob Blackledge, both of whom are singer/songwriters whom owe more of a nod to classic rock and Americana than country.

Indie labels popping up on every corner in Nashville, but One Revolution is a little left of center and may be just what Music City needs. The festivities were enjoyed by all, with One Revolution making its presence known in style.

– Rick Moore

Could this be the future of the SL-1200?

Well, we’ve been bashing it on and off for years, but I’ve got a feeling that we are on to something good after all.

The kind folks at Sound HiFi in the UK ( have sent us their power supply upgrade and adaptor plate to mount an SME tonearm to the workhorse SL-1200.  I’ve always felt the arm (and its dreadfully dark wiring) was the weak link in this table, combined with the relatively primitive power supply.  The Sound HiFi mods promise to fix this, and from looking at the goodies in the box, I’m confident.  The armboard is a work of beauty!

Most importantly, the directions for installing the power supply upgrade are concise, well photographed and in color!  Impressive.

Proprietor Dave Cawley is a cool cat that did not make outlandish claims either.  When we spoke, he said, “Look, it’s not a world beater, but I think you will find the Technics deck with the SME arm very interesting.  I made the first one for a customer that had an older SME arm.  I had no idea he would mount a current 309 on the 1200, but it works very well.”

Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted. (Photo courtesy of Sound HiFi)

Unwigged and Unplugged a Smashing Success

Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer kicked off their “Unwigged and Unplugged” tour in Vancouver, BC last night and played this evening at Portland’s Keller Auditorium.  Watch for a full report next week when issue 21 of TONEAudio is ready for download.

But we will tell you this much; if you are even a little bit of a fan of Spinal Tap or The Folksmen, this is not to be missed.

Eastwind Imports now featuring vinyl!

If you are a jazz lover and haven’t heard of Eastwind Imports, that’s reason number one to head over to their website.  The proprietor Hajime Sato is one of the friendliest guys in the business and he specializes in nearly impossible to find Japanese import CD’s that were originally recorded in Japan.  We’ve reviewed a few of their discs over the last year and every one I’ve had the pleasure to listen to has been of exquisite quality.

Reason number two to zip over to Eastwind Imports, they are now starting to carry LP’s!  When Hajime first opened his shop, I asked him if he would be carrying vinyl and he told me, “as my business improves, I will do my best to stock some vinyl; I love it!”

Keep your eyes on our music reviews, as we have about ten new titles from Eastwind that we will review shortly.  In the meantime, head over to Eastwind Imports and grab a few LP’s!

Slug alert!

Slugs are a way of life in the Pacific Northwest and here’s our way of sharing a little bit of our culture with you.  To keep the slug mood rolling right along, it’s time to spin John Hiatt’s Slug Line.  Hey, what else could we play after seeing this little monster?  Just so you know, this one is about 9 inches long!

Sunday Morning 8-Track…

What a better way to start Easter morning than cranking up the 8-track deck?  There’s plenty more where this came from!

MartinLogan Summit X in for review

Finally getting down to some serious listening with the new MartinLogan Summit X.  You can cruise over to the MartinLogan website ( for all the techie bits and some sexier photos, but suffice to say that even after a brief listen, there’s definitely more magic in the newest version of the Summit.  How much?  We’ll see as the hours rack up.

Watch for a review soon and some sexier photos!

And for what it’s worth, I really dig the back and bottom lighting!  I do wish it was blue though…

Clearaudio’s Goldfinger v.2


The recently updated version of Clearaudio’s Goldfinger cartridge weighs in at 18 grams; a heavyweight by any measure and in part due to the body being made from 16 grams of pure gold.  The coils making up the generator are also wound from 24 karat wire.  This cartridge will require a heavier than standard counterweight, so even if your wallet is up to the task,  be sure your tonearm will be also be up to it.  The big question is what does the GF2 bring to the dance and do you want it as a partner?

If one accepts the principles of audio Darwinism, then Clearaudio cartridges have survived because they have continued to adapt to the higher resolution playback systems that can brutally expose the flaws of moving coils, cantilevers and stylus tips.   In the 1990’s, the Clearaudio Insider Wood changed how I listened to vinyl.  It extracted information from the well-traveled grooves of my lps that had been kept waiting in the wings for the proper cues.

When the original Goldfinger was released in 2006,  I took the Clearaudio plunge again with some trepidation. The Goldfinger was heavy and I was always nervous about its vulnerable, exposed canteliver; not to mention the high sticker price (about $8,500 back then).  I lived with the Goldfinger for 3 years.  It rejuvenated my record collection, particularly discs that I have had since the 1950’s and 1960’s.  When the GF2 was announced, my curiosity was piqued and I was anxious to see how much higher Clearaudio had raised the bar.


I followed Clearaudio’s suggestion and let the GF2 play for about 100 hours with a load of 47k ohms before switching to 200 ohms and eventually settling on 100 ohms. VTA was set to be level, with the body of the cartridge perfectly parallel to the platter.  The cartridge was mounted on a VPI HRX with the 12.7 arm, rim drive, and the SDS speed controller.  Nordost Valhalla interconnects went between my Pass X-ONO phono stage and Pass XP-3 linestage.

From the beginning,  I could hear something special with the cartridge and it improved considerably over time.  After some experimentation, I settled on the factory tracking force setting of 2.8 grams.  The GF2 has an output of .9mv, so it should be very easy to mate with most MC phono preamplifiers.

A definite improvement

Though I could not compare the cartridges side by side, as I had to remove the original Goldfinger and remount the GF2, less than 24 hours had elapsed between auditions.  I felt that after three years of listening to the original on a daily, its sonic signature was well burned into my memory.  What the original did best was bring out the subtle details in my favorite recordings without being harsh and etched; it still had that lovely analog warmth.

The GF2 takes all of these characteristics to the next level with no downside.  Groove noise is lower with the detail and warmth of the original still in place.  However the GF2 peels one more big layer away from the presentation, offering a more holographic soundstage with the images and placement of acoustic instruments having a better and more realistic size relationship than before.

Voice reproduction is the standard that I use for auditioning any component that I am seriously considering.  The GF2 does the best job in exploiting the human quality of vocal recordings that I have ever heard in my system.  On the opening cut of the Tony Bennett and Bill Evans Album (Analogue Productions Original)  “Young and Foolish” has a touch of Tony’s vocal rasp that is perfectly reproduced by this cartridge.  The unique qualities of Sheila Jordan’s voice (Sheila, Steeplechase Records) are characterized by her wavering around the notes which she eventually hits; another bulls-eye for GF2.

Sonny Boy Williamson’s Keep it to Ourselves (Analogue Productions Original) was recorded in a hotel room in Copenhagen. It has an immediacy that few studio recordings can match, including the sound of spittle on the harmonica and the accompanying tap of leather-soled shoes on a wooden floor. The GF2 does an amazing job at retrieving these details as well as the extraneous room noises present.

The GF2 was equally at home with big orchestral recordings.  The opening of the legendary Solti/VPO recording of Wagner’s Das Rheingold (Decca) exposes an unearthly progression of low string chords that gradually build to a crescendo before the first Rhinemaiden’s voice is heard. This effect is nearly inaudible with lesser cartridges but is rendered beautifully by the GF2.  The original 3-microphone Mercury recordings are another great way to road test the GF2; it and the original model were the first to tame the aggressive Dorati recording of Aaron Coplands’s Rodeo on Mercury.

For those of you that delight in microdyamics, Mamba Percussions (Pierre Verany) is one of my touchstone albums for many years. It features unusual South American instruments and a big soundspace.  The GF2 brings these sounds at you with an immediacy that is rhythmically engaging and an in-your-room image that is the essence of “being there.”

If you can’t find this album (no surprise, it never jumped off the shelves in its hey-day), there’s still the old reliable Jazz at the Pawnshop (Proprius). I rarely make it past the first track, just because the performance and musical values of this venerated 1970’s set are a cut below.   However, there is something to be said for listening to something repeatedly on many different analog setups that makes it easy to judge a new component.  Putting that aside, you will hear standing bass articulation which was mercifully overpowered by the upfront reed and percussion players when heard through lesser phono transducers.

How does it sound with the new WB pressing of the first Van Halen album?  For that, you will have to wait until our publisher gets his hands on a Goldfinger, as that is not my cup of tea.

Excellence with a few caveats

Even if this cartridge is well within your budget, there are still a few items to consider before you call your favorite analog dealer and order the GF2.  Tonearm matching is critical; not all arms can handle such a heavy cartridge.  The fragile, exposed cantilever demands great care in mounting and stylus cleaning.  Finally, your phono stage must be fairly flexible in loading to acommodate the break in procedure and ultimate loading.  What worked best in my system may need some fine tuning in yours to achieve perfect tonality.

For those of you that find the GF2 intriguing but are not quite ready to spend $10k on a phono cartridge, the Clearaudio Stradivari offers a decent helping of the GF2 sound for $3,500.  I use one with excellent results on my second table. (a VPI Aries with flywheel, HRX Acrylic Platter/Stabilizing Ring, and running into a second Pass X-ONO). For those who have already invested in a Clearaudio cartridge, many retailers offer an upgrade path that makes moving to either of these cartridges that much easier.

In summary, many would not consider a $10k cartridge a “best buy.” However, if you audition this cartridge in a properly set up playback system,  be prepared to redefine your priorities.  I suspect you will immediately begin working on a strategy to amass the requisite capital for its purchase.

The Clearaudio Goldfinger v.2
MSRP: $10,000

Musical Surroundings
5662 Shattuck Avenue
Oakland, CA 94609


Turntables         VPI HRX w/12.7 Arm/Rim Drive, VPI Aries w/10.5i Arm w/Flywheel, SDS Controllers
Phono Cartridges           Clearaudio Goldfinger v.1, Clearaudio Stradivari
Phono Preamplifiers       Pass X-ONO (2)
Preamplifier         Pass XP-20/Lexicon 12HD-B
Power Amplifier     Pass X-350.5/Pass X-3
Speakers        Martin Logan Summit/Stage/Script-i/Descent-I (2)/Descent (2)
Interconnects         Nordost Odin/Valhalla
Speaker Cable     Nordost Odin
Power Cords/Conditioning Nordost Thor/Nordost Odin/Valhalla
Vibration Control     Black Diamond Racing
Room Treatment    Echo Buster/ Corner busters/Bass Busters/Double Busters

Yogoman Burning Band

The Pacific Northwest music scene has been steadily embracing a pure party music aesthetic over the last year or so, and in that spirit the Yogoman Burning Band delivered a loose and exuberant set in front of a friendly, eclectic and enthusiastic crowd at the “World Famous” Kenton Club in North Portland. Yogoman, based in Bellingham, Washington and led by drummer Jordan Rain, mixes reggae, rhythm and blues and soul into a familiar package. Their fun and celebratory performance was the perfect match for the first warm spring night after a particularly long and grueling winter in this region.

It was a treat to see Sarazin Blake in person after being recently introduced to his latest album, The Air Your Lungs Forced Out. He stood at the rear of the stage and adapted his usually folk-tinged guitar rhythms to the traditional reggae upstrokes, giving Rain (who placed his drum set right at the front edge of the stage) the reigns. Rain also sang lead vocals with a perfectly relaxed tone that makes this music a perfect antidote for the end of a hectic day. Bassist Norah McLaughlin, trumpeter/cornet player Joel Ricci, saxophonist Thomas Akihiro Deakin, trombonist Mars Lindgren and guitarist Josh Holland crammed themselves onto the small stage and provided the audience with an unusually high caliber of musicianship.

You can find out more about Yogoman Burning band by checking out their MySpace page, where you can get more information on their new album, City of Subdued Excitement, MP3 downloads and tour information.


Want to see what 4500 CD’s looks like?

Yes, they are all loaded in the Sooloos and tucked away neatly.  It’s a wonderful feeling.

No April Fools Jokes Here!

It’s April 1 and hopefully none of your PC’s have been doing anything crazy.

Working away on the new issue and still ripping CD’s to the Sooloos!  Hope you all had an uneventful April Fools Day…