April, 2018 SFAS Event – Michael Fremer
On Saturday April 28, 2018 the SFAS membership had the pleasure of another informative and entertaining presentation by Michael Fremer at our new conference room at The Shops at Hilltop. In addition to the 50 plus members in attendance we were lucky enough to have Allen Perkins of Spiral Groove, Roger Modjeski of Music Reference and RAM Tubeworks, Richard Schram of Parasound, and John Curl of Parasound, Vendetta, SOTA and Mark Levinson participate in the event.
The music system is evolving at our new space and for this event we were fortunate to have the RM 200 II amplifier, and a preamp and phono stage from Music Reference. A Spiral Groove Revolution turntable with Centroid tonearm and an Audio Technica OC9 Mk III cartridge played the source material and Leslie’s venerable Vandersteen 3 speakers generated the room-filling music.
As kind of an amuse-bouche to awaken our taste buds before the main course we had the visual treat of the unveiling of a David Bowie painting by Tom Matousek. The painting is an “accessible” abstract that is truly unique. For more information about Tom and his work check out his website athttp://tommatousek.com/index.html.
On to the main course! Michael Fremer regaled the lucky crowd of SFAS members with stories of his personal experiences, HiFi industry lore, and his knowledge of records, their pressings, and mastering engineers.
The first story Michael told was his experience of being an expert witness for the Quincy Jones vs. Michael Jackson estate lawsuit (YouTube video can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qHvOaUYwWQ). This is a fascinating and fun story told only as Michael can tell, which included some technical aspects of how compression can affect the sound quality of recordings and Michael’s experience of becoming an expert witness, getting deposed, and a courtroom presentation with Wilson Audio speakers playing a Michael Jackson song at full blast! Of course Mr. Fremer the expert witness was successful in presenting his case.
Michael also brought some records to share with the membership. He first played Mood Indigo from Ellington Masterpieces, the 45 rpm mono version by Analogue Productions. Simply a wonderful reproduction of this 1951 recording.
Following the Ellington listening session Allen Perkins discussed his Spiral Groove Revolution turntable with Centroid tonearm and 3D printed arm base. Allen explained how he worked to make this ‘table one of the quietest on the market through damping and the use of layering different materials that make up the plinth. The Revol ution is a sight and sound to behold!
We then moved back to Michael, who talked about what happened after he published a critical review of a reissue of the Beatles stereo vinyl box set. Michael received a call from the UK asking if he would be willing to help with the vinyl edition of the Beatles mono box set reissues. Of course Michael accepted and was able to revel at the experience at Abbey Road studios with the original Beatles master tapes during the process of producing the vinyl mono box set.
Michael then talked a bit about the sale of Stereophile magazine, a publication that actually makes money. Stereophile was bought by AV Tech which seems to be a good fit.
Next, he spoke about his work on the old Animalympics movie currently on YouTube ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDjR65KHoeM), featuring the voices of Gilda Radner, Billy Crystal, Harry Shearer and Michael Fremer! Michael talked about the making of the animated movie and told a story about speaking at a Furry People (also known as “Furries”) convention. Evidently that particular special interest group has established somewhat of a cult following of the movie.
- Nina Simone – her first album was played in both mono and stereo versions, and both sounded quite good.
- Bobby Darrin -“Every Day Now” – reissues from original metal stem and the original master tape – the metal sounded appreciably better!
- UHQR release from Analogue productions (name stolen from MoFi), The Who – Teenage Wasteland
- TV Jazz Themes -Video All Stars, great 1959 recording by studio musicians with big soundstage
- Dionne Warwick – Walk On By – engineered by the late great Bill Ramon. Michael played two versions, both on the original Scepter label, one pressed by Bell and one by Columbia. The Bell pressing was much better.
- Beatles – The Abbey Road UK pressing is considered the best pressing and sounded great!
The sonic differences between different pressings and mastering engineers never cease to amaze me.*
As always, Michael was entertaining and educational and the near capacity crowd at the Shops at Hilltop seemed to enjoy every moment.
* As a side note if you’re interested, click on the following link that discusses in great detail all the variants and complexities of just the Blue Note label: https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/record-labels-guide/labelography-2/the-blue-note-labels/