May 19, 2019

Malini Rajurkar: Pure Classicism At Its Best [ECSD 2933] an LP recorded and released in India in 1983

For this post we have a wonderful LP by vocalist Malini Rajurkar, who was born in January 1941 in Rajasthan, India. She is an eminent member of the Gwalior Gharana and had at least two LPs released in the late 1970s to early 1980s by EMI.

There are several excellent live (audio) recordings of her on YouTube at the moment and I recommend searching for them. There is a video concert embedded here near the bottom of this post.

Equipment used in transfer:
Preparation: Ultrasonic cleaning for 20 minutes in water with a few drops of Triton X-100 added, then for 10 minutes in pure clean water.
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Audio-technica AT440MLb
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.
Recorder: Sony PCM-M10 recorder at 24bit/96kHz resolution
Software: Audacity, ClickRepair, and xAct.

March 3, 2019

Hidayat Khan and Sanju Sahai: live performance in Nuremberg, Germany on December 9, 2010

It's been a while since I last posted. I'm sure everyone reading this will have busy lives of their own so I won't belabor the point and detail a long list of less interesting topics which occupied my time over the past few months. Regardless, it's good to take a break once in a while and as usual after taking a break, I'm eager to get back in the game.

This post is an unofficial live recording by an anonymous (even to me) enthusiast who apparently lives near Nuremberg, Germany. I'll post a slightly edited version of the information they provided with the music and then add some information of my own. I did take the opportunity to remaster the sound slightly, so that some irritating audience noises have been removed, and a very small amount of audio compression has been applied while the tabla is playing. This can sometimes be necessary because the very sharp spikes of sound which the tabla produces can overwhelm the more linear notes from the sitar. Compression, when used inappropriately or indiscriminately, can push the life and "air' out of a recording, so I only use it very sparingly when I do.

The original information is as follows:

After a long, long while the local German-Indian friendship club Sangam has finally started to bring new concerts of Indian master musicians to town.

For the last 25 years it has invited some of the most famous masters but now they have changed their scheme and will bring only young players, accomplished masters all of them, but of the younger generation.

The first such concert took place last week [back in 2010] and it presented two excellent musicians: Hidayat Khan and Sanju Sahai.

Both actually are renowned players of both the sitar and the tabla but for this concert Mr. Hidayat Khan, son of Ustad Vilayat Khan played the sitar, like his father did and Mr. Sanju Sahai did play tabla, an instrument he plays in the sixth generation in his family.

The interplay between the two was interesting to observe, especially in the first part: Sahai kept encouraging Khan to explore the scale and the melodies of the raga further and further in the Alap and also the Jor for a full half hour until he finally did join him for the equally extensive Gat.

Unfortunately Khan did not announce the second raga and I couldn't quite identify the name of the third rag either. It sounded like he said 'Purvi.' [I believe it might be Pilu -- let me know what you think]

The graceful tanpura player, Mrs Jaymini Sahai is a bit low in the mix; she is a musical master, as well, by the way, and both practices and teaches Indian dance.

Hidayat Khan: sitar
Sanju Sahai: tabla
Jaymini Sahai: tanpura

total time = 123min 26 sec

I used the program Audacity to apply a small amount of compression, as noted above, and also to remove some (but not all) extraneous noises. The audio file was obtained on the peer-to-peer sharing site "Dimeadozen." I did not record it, and I obtained it in16bit, 44KHz quality so I cannot offer a 24bit version this time.

A lengthy lecture-demonstration by Hidayat Khan

Here's a little solo by Sanju ji which you can watch without leaving my cozy music-filled blog:

February 27, 2019

Please post general questions and comments here!

If you have a question or comment about a particular blog post, please enter that into the comments section of the particular blog post. Your comment (or question) will not show up immediately because i have set up the blog in a way that all comments are sent to an inbox. Only comments I approve will show up.

Please put any general questions and comments about general topics involving Indian music, blogging, and transferring vinyl and cassettes into the comments of this post.

I am going to attempt to date this so that it is always just beneath the most recent of my posts -- hopefully I can do that.

And lastly, THANK YOU for reading my blog and listening to this wonderful music!

September 20, 2018

“How Can 30-year-old Receivers Sound Better Than New Ones?”

Many of you might notice that I use a professionally refurbished late-1970s Pioneer receiver as my phono preamp. Maybe you might be thinking, “Why is Richard using that old piece of junk?”

That's a fair enough question. The bottom line is that a lot of home audio equipment reached its peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s, just as the first CDs were about to come to market. I noticed a nice article from with a more detailed version of the reasons.

Here is much of the article, written by Steve Guttenberg (link at end):

“It's a strange turn of events, but mainstream manufacturers long ago gave up on the idea of selling receivers on the basis of superior sound quality. I'm not claiming today's receivers sound "bad," but since almost no one ever listens to a receiver before they buy one, selling sound quality is next to impossible.

“Back in the days when brick-and-mortar stores ruled the retail market, audio companies took pride in their engineering skills and designed entire receivers in-house. Right up through the 1980s most of what was "under the hood" was designed and built by the company selling the receiver. That's no longer true; the majority of today's gotta-have features--auto-setup, GUI menus, AirPlay, iPod/iPhone/iPad compatibility, home networking, HD Radio, Bluetooth, HDMI switching, digital-to-analog converters, Dolby and DTS surround processors--are sourced and manufactured by other companies. Industry insiders refer to the practice of cramming as many features as possible into the box as "checklist design." Sure, there are rare glimpses of original thinking going on--Pioneer's proprietary MCACC (Multi Channel Acoustic Calibration) auto-setup system is excellent--it's just that there's precious little unique technology in most receivers.

"It doesn't matter if those features are useful to the majority of buyers, or if they're easy to use; no, the features are included to make the product more attractive to potentialbuyers. It's a numbers game, pure and simple. The receiver with the right combination of features is judged to be the best receiver.

“OK, so what's wrong with that? The receiver engineers have to devote the lion's share of their design skills and budget to making the features work. Every year receiver manufacturers pay out more and more money (in the form of royalties and licensing fees) to Apple, Audyssey, Bluetooth, HD Radio, XM-Sirius, Dolby, DTS and other companies, and those dollars consume an ever bigger chunk of the design budget. The engineers have to make do with whatever is left to make the receiver sound good. Retail prices of receivers, the ones that sell in big numbers, never go up. The $300 to $500 models are where most of the sales action is, just like 10, 20 or 30 years ago, when their $300 to $500 models weren't packed to the gills with the features I just listed. Something's got to go, and sound quality usually takes the hit.

The Pioneer SX-1980 housed a more massive power supply than the best of today's receivers. Photo by Brent Butterworth.

“I don't blame Denon, Harman Kardon, Marantz, Onkyo, Pioneer, Sony, or Yamaha for making "good-enough-sounding" receivers, but it would be nice if they could occasionally offer one or two models with a minimal features set, and devote the maximum resources to making the thing sound as good as possible. Oh right, that's what high-end audio companies do.

"As luck would have it, my friend Brent Butterworth just wrote an article where he compared the sound of a 2009 Yamaha RX-V1800 receiver with a 1980 Pioneer SX-1980 and a 1978 Sony STR-V6 receiver. In blind tests, where the listeners did not know which receiver was playing, most preferred the sound of the ancient Pioneer. Butterworth said, "Even with all the levels carefully matched, and even in conditions where none of the receivers were ever pushed past their limits, the Pioneer SX-1980 simply beat the hell out of the other receivers." Gee, what a shock; in three decades, the industry has gone backward!

“Right up through most of the 1990s power ratings differentiated models within a given manufacturer's lineup, but that's barely true anymore. In those days the least expensive models had 20 or 30 watts a channel, but now most low- to midprice receivers have around 100 watts per channel. For example, Pioneer's least expensive receiver, the VSX-521 ($250) is rated at 80 watts a channel; its VSX-1021 ($550) only gets you to 90 watts: and by the time you reach the VSX-53 ($1,100) you're only up to 110 watts per channel! Doubling the budget to $2,200 gets you 140 watts per channel from their SC-37 receiver. Denon's brand-new $5,500 AVR-5308CI delivers 150 watts per channel! The 31-year-old Pioneer SX-1980 receiver Butterworth wrote about was rated at 270 watts per channel. He tested the Pioneer and confirmed the specifications: "It delivered 273.3 watts into 8 ohms and 338.0 watts into 4 ohms." It's a stereo receiver, but it totally blew away Denon's state-of-the-art flagship model in terms of power delivery!

“So if you care more about sound quality than features, look around for a great old receiver! Go ahead and hook up your Blu-ray player's HDMI output directly to your display and get state-of-the-art image quality, and the player's stereo analog outputs to the receiver, and you may get better sound than today's receivers.”

I’ll be back soon with some more records to share with you!