Jana Dagdagan Pays a Visit, by David Hicks

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Jana Dagdagan was on The West Coast.  She had asked Michael Fremer if he knew anyone out in the San Francisco Bay Area who had a “vintage system” that she could video record for her EarSpace YouTube channel (https://tinyurl.com/ycqtn9ea).  Jana is probably most famously known from her time as a writer for Stereophile as well as the creator of the Stereophile YouTube channel.  The full story of her departure in 2018 can be found online in numerous blogs by everyone who thought her dismissal by the magazines new owners was a loss for Stereophile and the industry as a whole, not just because she represents the next generation of young audiophiles (almost an oxymoron) but because she is an engaging writer and charismatic video interviewer.  If your thoughts parallel these views, worry not.  Ms. Dagdagan’s talent is not so minor that it could be silenced by a boneheaded corporate decision.  Anyway, Michael put Jana in touch with Leslie who recommended me.  Her time on the West Coast was limited so I had no time to do my usual procrastination and think of all the things that needed to get done, cleaned, or fixed at my place before I could bring myself to consent to have someone come and record a video in my home!

Why me?  Other than a Stillpoints audio rack that doesn’t appear in the video, none of my equipment rises to the level of exotica that the other SFAS board members sport in their homes.  But, it so happens that among the four modest audio systems that I have scattered in various rooms of my home, I own a pair of vintage 1970’s QUAD ESL 57 speakers and a 1970’s Sansui integrated amplifier.  However, these two components did not occupy the same room when Jana called.  The Quad’s lived in my tiny office powered by some tubed gear while the Sansui resided in the front living room powering a pair of Gallo Reference 3 speakers.  The plan then was to move the Quad’s into the front room so they could be mated to the Sansui G-5000 receiver.  Two 1970’s “vintage components” would be joined together.

Connected to the Sansui for source material I have a Technics SL-1200 GAE turntable mounted with a Fidelity Research FR-1 MK3F cartridge fitted to an Ortofon LH-9000 Resonance free headshell running through an Ortofon T-20 SUT.  The Ortofon unit is a mid-80’s product, but the Technics is not a vintage turntable, although from across the room it appears essentially unchanged from the original Technics SL 1200 tables produced beginning in 1972.  There’s also a TEAC UD-501 DAC fed by a Mac Mini connected via Ethernet cable to a QNAP NAS in another room.  Roon, Qobuz, Tidal, and JRiver are all installed.  None of those things existed in the ‘70s.  In addition, the listening seat in this room is a Folke Jansson settee manufactured by S.M. Wincrantz, in Sweden, 1953.  And then there’s me, manufactured long enough ago that I too am easily considered a vintage model.

So, what is it like to have Jana Dagdagan pay you a visit?  Well, a week or so after her visit I found a piece of paper on my desk that I’d scribbled notes on when we’d first spoke on the phone.  Part of the note reads: Very Lengthy- intrusive- full day.  That was a quote from Jana when she was describing what her visit would be like for me.  In fact, Jana spent nearly two full days recording audio and video in my home. And, to give me an idea of what her end objective would be, she pointed me to her video of John DeVore’s listening space that she had posted on her Ear Space channel on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxVH-pMg9wA

If you watch the video, you’ll see that Jana doesn’t come alone to record.  In fact, she doesn’t appear in the video at all, except in the introduction.  Instead, she brings her friend, Alfredo.  Alfredo is a “binaural head” and serves as a stand-in for an actual human head when placed in the listening position that a human’s head would occupy.  Alfredo has microphones in his ears!  From the microphones, a recording is made of the sound in the listening space as a human would hear it using four control tracks that are played at each location that Jana video records.  There are a couple of other tracks that may be thrown in, but the control tracks will always be used so that the listener may compare the sound of the individual systems in their environment.  Sophia Pfister was kind enough to grant us permission for the use of her tracks in the video, and some portions of those may also be used in the video of my space.
But, why does all this take two days?  Well, if you’ve watched the video of John DeVore’s space, you’ll see that there’s quite a bit of information that goes into those few minutes of video.  It’s like asking, why does it take six months to shoot a two-hour Hollywood movie?  Well, maybe not exactly like that.  There were no hair and makeup people involved, so you’ll note my appearance will be unchanged from my non-Hollywood appearance.

Actually, in the end, I’ve no idea whether or not I may end up on the cutting room floor, and I’ve also no idea how long or short that video may end up being.  Jana tells me that the posting of my video should happen sometime around mid-December, and you can go to Jana’s Ear Space channel now, watch the DeVore video and subscribe and you should get a notice when her next video goes up.  She mentioned that there will be a New York Audio Show video going up soon, and then the video of my space should follow that one.

As a benefit to me, it turns out that I like the sound from my Quad’s better when I moved them out of my office into the larger living room space.  I also prefer the sound of my Gallo’s in my smaller office space- or at least more than I liked the sound of my Quad’s in this room.  And, probably most importantly, I was motivated to finally run a ground wire to the electrical outlet box in my front room.  There had always been a slight hum when using the turntable in this room, but with the Quad’s in place that slight hum grew to became intolerable.  I’d been planning to connect a ground wire for a couple of years, or ever since I placed a stereo system in this room, so I’ve been able to check that task off my list.

Finally, the fidelity of the Quad’s may not come across as ideally as it should in the video, only because I did no real listening to these speakers sitting down in the living room before Jana arrived.  It was only after her visit that I noted their tipped back angle sounded quite good while standing, and not as good while seated where Alfredo’s head, or mine, is positioned when sitting.  But Jana did not come to my house with the intent of fixing the sound in my system.  Her purpose was to record the sound in my system as it would be listened to by me.  That I wasn’t actually listening to this system as it was set up before Jana’s visit matters not now.  I’ve corrected the tilt back of the speakers and am open to Jana returning at any time for another two days of recording the improved sound.  Just kidding, of course, although, she is more than welcome to visit my home any time she wants.  And, maybe next time I’ll even have something better for Alfredo to listen to!

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San Francisco Audiophile Society

San Francisco Audiophile Society