* John Coltrane: The Ultimate Blue Train (Blue Note CD)
* John Coltrane: Dear Old Stockholm (Impulse!/GRP CD)
* Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto: Getz/Gilberto (Verve CD)
* Antonio Carlos Jobim: The Composer Of Desafinado Plays (Verve CD)
* John Abercrombie/Dan Wall/Adam Nussbaum: Tactics (ECM CD)
* John Abercrombie Quartet: 39 Steps (ECM CD)
* Rodger Coleman & Sam Byrd: [Untitled] (WAV)
* William Onyeabor: Who is William Onyeabor? (Luaka Bop 3LP)†
* Iasos: Celestial Soul Portrait (Numero 2LP)
* Dawn Of Midi: Dysnomia (Thirsty Ear CD)†
* Grateful Dead: Dick’s Picks Vol.19: Oklahoma City 10/19/73 (GDP 3HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Dave’s Picks Vol.8: Atlanta, GA 11/30/80 (GDP/Rhino 3HDCD)
* Mickey Hart/Airto/Flora Purim: Däfos (Ryko CD)
* Emmylous Harris: Wrecking Ball (Elektra HDCD)†
* Can: The Lost Tapes (Spoon/Mute 3CD)
* Can: The Lost Tapes (Spoon/Mute 3CD)
* Camel: Mirage (Deram/Decca CD)
* Pete Namlook: Air I+II (FAX 2CD)
* Jonah Sharp/Bill Laswell: Visitation (Subharmonic CD)
* Bill Laswell: Axiom Dub: Mysteries Of Creation (Axiom/Island 2CD)
* Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (R&S CD)†/‡
* Beck: Sea Change (Geffen/Mobile Fidelity CD)†
* Agalloch: The Mantle (The End CD)†
* Grails: The Burden Of Hope (Neurot/PSM LP)
* Zombi: Surface To Air (Relapse LP) †/‡
As you all know, I recently renovated my home studio and held a successful pair of recording sessions over the Christmas holidays with my friend, bandmate and drummer extraordinaire, Sam Byrd. Well, there is so much good music “in the can” that I have decided to put out an album – on warm, delicious vinyl (with a cold, digital download included, of course).
But when it came time to mix-down the multi-track recordings, my old Yamaha MSP-5 active monitors were just not cutting it. They served me well for a many years, but their lack of frequency response below 60Hz (or, to be truthful, 100Hz) was making it impossible for me to work in my new, high-res environment. I would make what I thought was a good-sounding mix, take it upstairs and play it on my reference system—only to hear booming, window-rattling bass which was completely inaudible downstairs. Then I would go back and inevitably overcompensate, resulting in a thin, lifeless re-mix. It was incredibly frustrating. It was, therefore, time to bite the bullet and invest in some serious monitors.
After doing some research (and speaking with my sweet Sweetwater rep, Ryan Holquist), I decided to go with a pair of Focal CMS 65s and a CMS Subwoofer. Besides getting outstanding reviews for their sound quality, their compact design fit my tiny studio setup perfectly, making the decision that much easier. Moreover, they are designed and built in France, with their proprietary speaker drivers manufactured in-house. Focal’s top-of-the-line models are found in the finest studios and mastering facilities around the world and the consumer-level CMS series benefits from the technological “trickledown effect,” offering high-level, professional performance at a reasonable price. To be honest, I didn’t need much convincing.
As usual, Sweetwater went above and beyond, getting them to my doorstep just days later—on a Saturday, no less. How exciting! However, the packaging repeatedly stresses the need for a gentle extended break-in before driving the speakers too hard, recommending at least twenty hours of continuous program material with significant low-frequency information, played at a moderate volume level. And, let me tell you, this is a conservative estimate. After first setting them up, I was ecstatic! They are, of course, a huge step up from my puny MSP-5s. But I noticed right away that the midrange was kind of wonky and the monitors did not seem to mesh very well with the subwoofer. I knew patience was going to be necessary; I let Dawn of Midi’s Dysnomia play on repeat for days on end, checking in periodically to see how things were going. After about ten hours, it was starting to sound pretty decent. After the recommended twenty, it was even better. Now, after over forty hours of burn-in time, the Focals are sounding truly magnificent, open and smooth from top to bottom.
Really, I could not be happier. What a pleasure it is to be able to actually what I’m doing downstairs! The near-field detail is stunningly holographic: put yourself in the sweet spot and the soundstage is deep, high and wide. It is a cliché to say this, but I am hearing things in my favorite records I had never noticed before. While the CMS 65s have a decent low-end, extending down to about 45Hz, the CMS Sub seamlessly adds the crucial lower octave without sounding hyped or artificial. Most importantly, what you hear is what you get: I made my first remixes just the other day, brought them upstairs—and no surprises! That is what I need in a studio monitor and the Focals deliver beyond my wildest expectations.
Now I can finally get to work: track selection and sequencing for the LP is pretty much complete and I met with Griffin Norman this week to talk about graphic design. The plan is to make a numbered limited edition letterpress cover—a one-of-a-kind work of art with a record inside. It is going to be beautiful!
SHAMELESS PLUG DEPT:
Our CD (also designed by the amazing Griffin), Indeterminate (Improvisations for Piano and Drums), was recorded live at Zeitgeist Gallery on September 12, 2012 and is still available by clicking on the link below. Thank you all for your interest and support!