Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

Have You Seen?


Since I’m mostly* unable to spend paycheck money on this hobby, I tend not to hold on to extra gear for very long. Freeing up old and unused gear on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace is a great way to meet like-minded local enthusiasts, but it also allows me to fund other, later purchases. It was with both these thoughts in mind that I listed my Ortofon 2M Bronze ($419, all prices USD) moving-magnet phono cartridge for sale, even though it saved my butt for a few weeks recently.

We’re still getting a feel for the new home’s interior climate. Things haven’t been as tidy and clean as we’re used to, and that’s been worsened by our ongoing DIY construction projects in the guest bathroom and the atrium walkways and garden beds.


You could say there’s been some dust . . .

And dog-hair clumps floating into each room’s corners and crevices and cracks . . .

Plus, my turntable dust cover broke in the move . . .

. . . so it’s been hard keeping shiny black discs clean.

But you know what? I’m not going to blame it on the maid.**

Or the spouse.

I, Jason Davis, bent my cherished Zu/DL-103’s cantilever while dusting my turntable.

I just got tired of seeing dust caked onto the ’table’s black acrylic arm board. So I grabbed the tonearm in one hand and a cloth in the other, and I swept over the dusty surfaces and then, without thinking, under the arm. When all the surfaces looked fresh, I placed the arm back into its rest and—ohhhh, crap.


Look, I’m not one of these audio writers who has a stash of expensive extras. I’m not cozy with the manufacturers and their PR teams, and I don’t have any loaners or review samples. A $500 cartridge is meaningful to me—and not easily replaceable!

I was so distraught that, after 15 minutes of listening to the backup 2M Bronze, I turned it off and went digital for the two weeks it took to get it fixed/upgraded (not because it was bad, but because it wasn’t the same).

Gloating over others’ mishaps, or how I made myself feel better

To make myself feel better, I reached out to Instagram audio friends and others on the SoundStage! crew, asking them to share their own audio oopsies and embarrassing stories. Nothing reputation-threatening, mind you, just the, ahem, valuable lessons we’ve learned along the way.

“Never pull the goalie,” my friend Rob shared. “My ’table didn’t have a dust cover, and I didn’t have the stylus cover on. I snagged the stylus and bent it beyond repair. It could have been worse. To this day, unless I am playing records, I never pull the goalie. And, funnily enough, a buddy of mine bought the same cart a year ago. It’s not ultra-expensive, but it’s not cheap either. He’s had it for about a year. Loves it. I imparted my advice about the goalie. He wasn’t worried. ‘What could happen?’ he said.”

In 1980, SoundStage! Simplifi senior editor Gordon Brockhouse invented lightning. True story.

“I purchased Hafler DH-101 preamp and DH-200 power amp kits,” he told me via email. “Both kits consisted of populated circuit boards and several bags of parts. You had to attach the circuit boards, power supply, input and output connectors, and controls and switches to the chassis, and trim and solder wires connecting each section. It took me the better part of a weekend to assemble the two components. I was delighted that they both worked properly the first time I plugged them in.

“A couple of years later, the DH-101 began to crackle slightly every time I adjusted the volume. So one day, I opened it up and grabbed what I thought was a can of contact cleaner, fastened the straw, and sprayed some of its contents into the volume pot. It wasn’t contact cleaner—it was WD-40! That little crackle turned into a thunderstorm every time I changed the volume!”

Inventing lightning is tough to top, but SoundStage! Access contributor Thom Moon revealed an innovative (nay ingenious?) approach to tonearm geometry.

“I was reviewing an Audio-Technica turntable. It was not long after I’d had back surgery, and my balance was impaired. So I was moving the turntable a bit, lost my balance, and landed on top of the tonearm. That created a very unusual tonearm geometry; unfortunately, it was not one that would allow the playing of records.”

SoundStage! Ultra writer Aron Garrecht, an admitted homer, no longer gives the benefit of the doubt to, like, people, to do the right and courteous thing.

“I placed a pair of brand-new B&W bookshelf speakers on their stands in a high-traffic area, expecting people to be mindful. That lasted about three weeks until a friend bumped into one of them and knocked it clean off the stand. It landed on the top corner, leaving a quarter-sized dent in my hardwood floor, ruining the speaker’s cabinet.

“About a year after that I found out the hard way why one should always power down an amplifier while swapping speakers—I shorted the leads and blew the left channel in what was, at the time, my beloved Rotel RMB-1095 amp.”

And, finally, my favorite kind of oopsies, featuring self-deprecation from very responsible adult and SoundStage! contributor Hans Wetzel.

“Despite all evidence to the contrary, there might still be some trusting souls who imagine that all audio reviewers are consummate professionals so seasoned in the ways of audiophilia that mistakes aren’t just few and far between, but non-existent; that their judgment, honed through years or even decades of experience, is infallible; that the process of sitting down to conduct some critical listening is highly ritualized, even sacred. The reality, at least for this reviewer, is a lot less glamorous,” he wrote in a review of the Xavian Electronics Classic Quarta loudspeakers.

“My graduate degree implies that I have my life together. But having just turned on my integrated amplifier-DAC and begun listening to a song, my brow furrowed as I began to question that premise.

“I’d recently hooked up Xavian Electronics’ big, standmounted Classic Quarta loudspeakers. They sounded very broken. Instinctively assuming that I’d miswired something, I popped more SweeTarts in my mouth and double-checked everything.

“The two pairs of gold-plated binding posts on the back of each Quarta are laid out horizontally in a row of four—something I’d never seen before. Jumpers were included for each pair of binding posts, but there were no labels on the speakers themselves about which pair to use if you weren’t biwiring, and no notes in the accompanying documentation.

“Rather than emailing Xavian and asking for guidance like a responsible adult, I experimented with different cable hookups with my amp set at a very low volume. No dice—the speakers still sounded all kinds of wrong.

“Digging through Xavian’s website, I eventually used Google Translate to decipher a review of the Classic Quarta from a Czech hi-fi magazine that included pictures of the Xavian importer’s listening room, and a rear view of a correctly wired Quarta. Turns out that, when single-wiring a Quarta, you must secure your cable leads to either the two LF terminals or the two HF terminals. I recommend that Xavian include a note regarding the proper wiring procedure in their user manual, for more challenged listeners such as me.”


OK, I do feel better, but I’m not gloating. Aside from the valuable lessons, there’s something comforting and sweet about a community that embraces and shares its mishaps with anecdotal cheer. So whether you’re laughing with my fellow scribes or at them, cheers to all for a happy and oopsie-free 2023!

* Paycheck money fronted the cost for the fix/upgrade, as well as a temporary replacement that would slide into future backup duty. Of course, the costs of these would later be reimbursed by hobbyist means, meaning non-paycheck monies.

** Yeah, right, we don’t have a maid, LOL.

New noise

This month’s new noise gives praise to the Lord, the side/solo project for Greg Anderson, prolific guitarist of Sunn O))) and Goatsnake, and cofounder of Southern Lord Records. Sunn O))) (pronounced “sun”) is known for its experimental and even meditative drone-metal albums and collaborations, with noted artists like Boris, Merzbow, and the late avant-garde musician Scott Walker, among others.

Sunn O))) seems to always be busy, and the band released Metta, Benevolence BBC 6Music: Live on the Invitation of Mary Anne Hobbs exactly a year ago. It’s a live album featuring songs from 2019’s Life Metal and Pyroclasts, featuring guest vocals and synths from Anna von Hausswolff, whom I mentioned in “NN #1.”

In 2022, Anderson released “Forest Nocturne,” a solo cousin-like project that feels riffier and less experimental than typical Sunn O))) albums. But it’s 2022’s “Devotional,” a collaboration with Petra Haden, that really shines. Haden, the singer-musician-violinist, is the triplet-daughter of Charlie Haden, and she’s appeared in or with Bill Frisell, Beck, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Weezer, and too many others.

The result is my kind of church.

Here’s more, via Southern Lord: “A rapturous and heady offering of wordless vocalizations, droning guitars, and heaviness explored in unexpected and intoxicating ways. Inspirations from deep listening to Indian classical music, as well as a fascinating look at the chaotic and unbelievable life of Ma Anand Sheela and the Rajneesh community . . . Haden’s voice rings out over constant drones in ecstatic chants throughout this musical investigation into the myriad of ways in which worship can lure and intoxicate. This is a journey that Haden and Anderson go on together, the guitar and vocals combined like the call and response of a guru and their congregation.”

2022 Associated Equipment

  • Speakers: Klipsch Cornwall, ESS AMT Monitor.
  • Amplifiers: Linear Tube Audio ZOTL40 Reference+, DiyAudio First Watt Aleph J.
  • Preamplifiers: Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL, Parasound Zphono MM/MC phono preamplifier.
  • Sources: Oppo BDP-83 universal BD player, Denafrips Ares II DAC, Raspberry Pi4 streamer.
  • Turntable: Thorens TD 125 MKII.
  • Phono accessories: Jelco TS-550S tonearm, Zu/DL-103 MC cartridge, Denon DL-103 MC cartridge, Auditorium 23 step-up transformer.
  • Interconnects: Auditorium 23, AudioQuest Black Mamba II, Kimber Kable Hero (XLR).
  • Speaker cables: AudioQuest Rocket 44.
  • Power cables: AudioQuest NRG-Z and Y.
  • Power conditioning: AudioQuest Niagara 1200 power conditioner, PS Audio PowerPort Classic outlet, PS Audio Noise Harvester.

2021 Associated Equipment

  • Speakers: Klipsch Cornwall, ESS Transar, DIY Fostex BK-12m.
  • Amplifiers: DiyAudio First Watt Aleph J, Emotiva XPA-2 Gen2.
  • Preamplifiers: Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL, Parasound Zphono MM/MC phono preamplifier.
  • Sources: Oppo BDP-83 universal BD player, Denafrips Ares II DAC, Raspberry Pi4 streamer.
  • Turntable: Thorens TD 125 MKII.
  • Phono accessories: Jelco TS-550S tonearm, Zu/DL-103 MC cartridge, Auditorium 23 step-up transformer.
  • Interconnects: Auditorium 23, AudioQuest Black Mamba II, Kimber Kable Hero (XLR).
  • Speaker cables: AudioQuest Rocket 44.
  • Power cables: AudioQuest NRG-Z and NRG-Y.
  • Power conditioner: PS Audio Dectet AC power conditioner, PS Audio Noise Harvester.

2020 Associated Equipment

  • Speakers: Altec Lansing 846A, ESS Transar.
  • Amplifiers: DiyAudio First Watt Aleph J, Emotiva XPA-2 Gen2.
  • Preamplifier: Emotiva XPA-1 Gen2.
  • Source: Rotel RCD-955AX CD player.
  • Turntable: Thorens TD 125 MKII.
  • Phono accessories: Jelco TS-550S tonearm, Zu/DL-103 MC cartridge.
  • Interconnects: AudioQuest Black Mamba II.
  • Speaker cables: AudioQuest Rocket 44.
  • Power conditioners: PS Audio Dectet AC power conditioner, PS Audio Noise Harvester.

Jason Davis
Contributor, SoundStage!