Top Artists – Gino Vannelli

Gino Vannelli and The Amazing Audio Research SP3A-1 Tube Preamp

Making Audio Progress 

Unsolicited Audio Advice

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Storm at Sunup used to be my favorite Gino Vannelli album. I played it all the time back in the ’70s. It was one of a handful of recordings that made me want to pursue audiophile equipment in the hope that higher quality playback would allow the album to sound even bigger and more exciting.

It was pretty damn big and exciting already, but I wanted more. 

Right around that time I got my first audiophile tube preamp, the Audio Research SP3A-1, which replaced a Crown IC-150. As you can imagine, especially if you know the IC-150 at all well, playing this album through that state-of-the-art tube preamp was a revelation.

From then on there was no looking back. I started spending all my money on better and better equipment and more and more records. That was forty plus years ago and I haven’t stopped yet.

This is also the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Stereo Systems driving Big Speakers. You need a lot of piston area to bring the dynamics of this recording to life, and to get the size of all the instruments to match their real life counterparts.

For that you need big speakers in big cabinets, the kind I’ve been listening to for more than forty years. (My last small speaker was given the boot around 1974 or so.) To tell you the truth, the Big Sound is the only sound that I can enjoy. Anything less is just not for me. (more…)

Gino Vannelli / Powerful People – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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This is some of the best sound we heard in our shootout, coming in right behind our winning sides. Few copies were as BIG and BOLD as this, and that is unquestionably our sound. 

Overall this copy is far richer and fuller than most, and that’s a big deal on Powerful People, an album which is almost always pure midrange — no bottom, no top, just midrange. Until we did this shootout I wasn’t sure we would ever find a copy with any real bass or top end. For that very reason we had more than once abandoned this project in past years.

Then, a few months back I came across a cheap CD of the album in my local record store and started playing the hell out of it in my car. I had completely forgotten how good the music was, but it all came rushing back to me — once I had cut the CD’s treble and boosted the bass so that it sounded rich and smooth like the MoFi vinyl. Soon enough I knew we had to do the shootout, and fortunately for all involved the best copies of the album sounded amazingly good, much better than I remember and a whole lot better than the seriously flawed MoFi I used to play. (more…)

Gino Vannelli / Powerful People – What Was I Thinking?

More Gino Vannelli

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Sonic Grade: F

At the time of our last shootout in 2014 I still had the MoFi pressing of Powerful People in my personal, very small (at this point) record collection. Almost all the best sounding records from my collection had long ago been sold off, going to good homes that I can only assume would play them more than I had in the last ten years. If it’s a record you see on our site, chances are good I have listened to it until I’d practically turned blue in the face.

But I had kept my Powerful People half-speed these 30+ years because the domestic pressings I’d played were just too damn midrangy to enjoy. At least the MoFi had bass, top end and didn’t sound squawky or hard on the vocals.

Well, let me tell you, played against the best domestic pressings, of which this is one, the MoFi is laughable. (In that respect it shares much with the current crop of audiophile reissues.) It’s unbelievably compressed, a problem that is easily heard on the biggest, most exciting parts of the tracks — they never get remotely as big or as loud on the MoFi as they do on the lowly A&M originals. (more…)

The Amazing Audio Research SP3A-1 Tube Preamp – A Giant Leap Forward for Me, Circa 1976

A stereo blast from the past.

In the commentary below I talk about buying the amazing Audio Research SP3A-1 and what a difference it made in the quality of my system’s reproduction. You could call my old Crown system BTM (Before Tubey Magic) and my new Audio Research-based system WTM (With Tubey Magic) is you wanted to be cute about it.

We talk a lot about Tubey Magic on the site and on this blog. This preamp is the very definition of it.

I was running Crown gear at the time, the DC-300 amp and the IC-150 preamp, so you can imagine that this tube preamp was a real game changer for me. The improvement in the sound was far greater than I ever imagined.

(Now we provide the same effect to the audiophiles of the world through our Hot Stamper pressings. Better sound than you can imagine. It’s practically a credo.)

As an ignorant, credulous audiophile with far-too-little experience in the world of audio, I soon found myself in one audio cult after another. Eventually I had sharpened my critical listening skills to the point where I could hear for myself what was better and what was worse, but it took more than twenty more years to do it. (You may be able to get there faster than I did, but don’t bet the farm on it.)

Recently I came across an old picture of me at the control center to my system, dating from the late ’70s or thereabouts. Sure enough there’s the ARC preamp. Brings back fond memories to this day!  But I sure wouldn’t want to go back to that sound. The changes to my stereo systems from that day to the present would number in the many, many hundreds.

OUR PREVIOUS COMMENTARY

Storm at Sunup used to be my favorite Gino Vannelli album. I played it all the time back in the ’70s. It was one of a handful of recordings that made me want to pursue audiophile equipment with the hope that higher quality playback would allow the album to sound even bigger and more exciting. (more…)

Gino Vannelli / Storm At Sunup – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

This White Hot Stamper side one was CLEARLY the best sound we heard in our ENTIRE shootout. No other copy had any side that sounded as BIG and BOLD as this. It’s richer and fuller, and that’s a big deal on Storm at Sunup, which is almost always pure midrange — no bottom, no top, just midrange. Until we played this copy I wasn’t sure there was EVER going to be any bass or top end. Thank goodness this side one came along, otherwise we would have been tempted to junk the whole project. (more…)

Gino Vannelli / Brother to Brother – A Desert Island Disc

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

I love this album! It’s very pop, beautifully arranged, the kind of popular music they just don’t make anymore. Four stars in my book! Gino doesn’t get a lot of respect, but he has plenty of talent and his music still holds up today.