Making House Calls

Here at Tenacious Sound, we pride ourselves on our customer service.

You've probably heard that a million times before, from a million different companies. Everyone says they have great customer service, but just how far are they really willing to go?

If you buy home audio products from Tenacious Sound, we are more than willing to go to your home and help you set everything up. We'll hook it up for you, show you how to operate it and even offer tips to make it all sound even better. As long as you live in the greater Syracuse metro area, we'll stop by and ensure that you're 100% happy with your purchase.

There are probably common sense limits to such a bold offer. If you buy a pair of headphones from us, we won't drive all the way over to make sure they're on your head the right way. But we also won't push you out the front door with a pair of 200 lb. speakers and say, "Good luck, you're on your own!"

We will, however, do everything we can to ensure you're completely satisfied with your Tenacious Sound purchase. Just ask.

 

Why the Long Tonearm, Buddy?

Once we started carrying The Wand tonearms from New Zealand, we thought people would wonder why they are available in three lengths--9", 10.3" and 12". Why would tonearms be available in three lengths? Isn't there a specific length that works best with all turntables? Wouldn't a longer tonearm screw up the tracking angle?

Actually, it depends. Most turntables do require tonearms that have arm tube that are 9" long, or slightly longer. But some older turntables actually accommodated arms that were 12", and sure enough many turntable manufacturers started coming out with models that could be fit with the longer tonearms.

Basically, it's geometry. A longer tonearm is better at maintaining the right tracking angle for the needle as it tracks across the record. Theoretically, the longer the tonearm the longer it will maintain the correct angle.

There's a trade-off, though...a longer arm tube is less rigid and that also affects performance. That's why Simon Brown of The Wand makes a 10.3" arm--it's the best of both worlds, a perfect compromise between a better tracking angle and more rigidity. Incidentally, Simon chose the 10.3" length because it is the longest arm you can fit on both a Linn Sondek and a technics SL-1200.

At Tenacious Sound, we can help choose the right tonearm for both your turntable and your cartridge. The tonearm is a very important part of the analog playback chain--and we can help you get it right.

Eyeglasses and Hi-fi: Not a Good Combination?

In the world of high-end audio, people like to tweak their systems in order to obtain better sound. This may include buying a number of devices, some of which are expensive, to reach that goal. Audiophiles do things like place pennies on top of their speakers, or demagnetize their CDs, or a number of other things that may or may not make a huge difference in the sound.

Here's a simple tweak that works for everyone, and it will cost you exactly zero money: removing your eyeglasses while you listen to your hi-fi system.

Jonathan Scull first mentioned this many years ago when he was reviewing for Stereophile. The problem with listening to music critically while wearing eyeglasses is that you're putting two very reflective surfaces on your face, just a few inches in front of your ears. Sound waves are going to hit the lenses and disperse into the room, away from your ears.

It's a simple tweak to try for yourself. Just do an A/B comparison during your next listening session. Listen to an entire song with your glasses on, and then listen again with them off. You should hear a giant difference.

Go on, give it a try. Let us know what differences your experience!

 

 

 

A Turntable Is Not a Toy

A curious thing happened yesterday at Tenacious Sound. We had three separate customers walk in the door several hours apart and ask for replacement parts for the very same brand of turntable. We're not going to mention that brand by name--let's just say it's one of those turntables that are made almost completely from plastic, where more thought is put into the USB port than the stylus.

Each time, we were careful not to bash the turntable in front of its owner. By the end of the day, however, we came to the conclusion that this particular brand didn't make turntables, they made toys. And if you're really into your music, you shouldn't use a toy to listen to it.

We totally get it. The vast majority of people buy these products because they're "just getting started" in vinyl. Even the most basic turntable, one that is well-built and competent at what it does, costs at least a couple of hundred bucks. When you see a turntable selling for $99 complete, it's tempting to just buy it and start listening to LPs. But there's a problem with that.

First of all, if you're getting into vinyl it should be because you want to enjoy that warm, musical, realistic analog sound, a cheap plastic toy can't do that. The secret to a great-sounding turntable is that it can spins records at an exact and precise speed, that it can minimize vibrations from the motor that can muck up the sound and that it has a needle that can accurately track everything that's in the grooves.

A toy can't do any of that.

While the finest turntables can cost $5000, $10,000, $100,000 or even more, Tenacious Sound does carry a selection of well-made, musical turntables from brands such as Denon, Rega and Thorens that can deliver music to your ears in a believable, musical way, and for a reasonable amount of money.

We're not a toy store. We're a store that will help you discover how good LPs can sound.

 

 

 

Tuesday Night Listening Club

Ever since Tenacious Sound opened on Jefferson St. in Armory Square last November, we've discussed having a Tuesday Night Listening Club. The idea behind such a club is that people can come in and listen to music--even their favorite music brought from home--on a variety of sound systems.

While it may seem like such a club is just another marketing opportunity, we see it differently. We've spent a huge chunk of our lives in other high-end audio stores over the years, and one of the most thrilling things about being an audiophile is to meet other audiophiles and listen to all sorts of music and gear.

Being an audiophile can be a lonely hobby. It's all about sitting in a chair, in the sweet spot, and listening to music critically--often by yourself. High-end audio is so much more fun, however, when you pursue it with friends. Hence, the Tuesday Night Listening Club!

Our first meeting will be tonight, June 21, from 6-8pm. It will be sort of a dry run for us--we're just going to open the doors and see who shows up. Maybe we'll order a couple of pizzas from Nick's around the corner. But in the future, we want TNLC to be a major part of Tenacious Sound.

So please stop by tonight. We're at 270 W. Jefferson St. in the heart of Armory Square in downtown Syracuse. See you here!

Headphones: Style vs. Comfort

Audiophiles are famous for stating that sound quality is the most important aspect of audio, and that all other considerations are secondary. Perhaps that's why there are so many subjectively unattractive products out there--because, as audiophiles declare, what goes inside of a component is far more important than what goes on the outside.

One hi-fi segment where this is absolutely untrue is in the world of headphones. Sure, sound quality is very important when you're shopping for a new pair of cans. But there's one more thing that's equally important...

COMFORT!

You see, sound quality and comfort work closely together when it comes to headphones. Here's an example. Recently we were evaluating and comparing two brands of very highly regarded headphones at Tenacious Sound. One sounded slightly better and the other was far more comfortable. We decided that we'd rather own the more comfortable set.

Why? Because if you're listening to a pair of headphones that sound great but make you feel uncomfortable, you'll eventually experience listening fatigue. It doesn't matter how good they sound, you'll get sick of listening to them.

Now imagine another set of headphones that are super comfortable. You'll relax more when you listen to them. Soon you won't even realize they're on your head. When you're comfortable and relaxed, music just sounds better.

That's why you need to listen to headphones before you buy them. One of the main reasons why people return headphones after they buy online is that they don't fit right. So it makes sense to come in to Tenacious Sound and sit for a while and listen. When you relax and let yourself melt, you'll know you've made the right buying decision.

Les Davis Audio 3D² Constrained Layer Damping

High-end audio is full of all sorts of tweaks--little things you can do to fine-tune the sound of your system. Some of the product tweaks out there work, and some require a little imagination so you'll feel as if you got your money's worth.

It's not often that a simple, effective and affordable tweak comes along, but Les Davis Audio 3D² (pronounced three-D-squared) definitely fits that description. These metallic discs can be placed under component feet, under power supplies and even placed between speakers and stands for improved vibration control throughout your home entertainment system.

3D² uses constrained layer damping (CLD) technology to dampen vibrations. CLD has been used for years to isolate precision equipment in aviation and aerospace--so it's a proven way to control vibrations. CLD consists of a layer of damping material that is sandwiched between two stiffer layers--that's it. Simple and effective.

You can come in to Tenacious Sound for demonstration of Les Davis Audio's 3D². Better yet, take a box home and test them inyour own sound system. So far, everyone has heard a remarkable improvement--noise floors are lowered and more music seems to flow through into your head.

3D² is available for a limited time at a special introductory price of just $99 for a box of 16. Come on down to 270 W. Jefferson St. in Syracuse and listen to 3D²!

Stepping Up to a Moving-Coil Cartridge

"One of these days I'll get a moving-coil cartridge for my turntable--when I can afford it."

One of our customers at Tenacious Sound told us this a few days ago, so we told him about one of the greatest moving-coil cartridges in history--the Denon DL-103. The 103 has been around since 1963, and it's still favored by many vinyl aficionados because it's such a solid design that has stood up to time. Best of all, it's only $229.

Moving coil cartridges can offer extremely high-performance compared to the more common moving magnet designs. The differences between the two are simple--in MM designs a magnet is placed between two copper coils, creating voltage.  In MC designs, the stylus creates vibrations in the groove that move the coils. The overall sound can be very different between these two types of designs, with MMs sounding more relaxed and laid-back, and MCs revealing lots of detail.

Vinyl novices may want to stick with MM cartridges, simply because they tend to be cheaper, they have a higher electrical output and the stylus is usually user-replaceable. Many MC cartridges have low outputs--although some have medium or high outputs--that may require a special phono preamplifier or step-up transformer to work properly. And that, of course, can cost more money.

But if you have a phono section in your receiver, integrated amplifier or preamplifier that can handle low-output MC cartridges, you might be ready to hear how natural and life-like a moving coil cartridge can be--and the Denon DL-103 is the affordable way to find out!

Integrated Amplifiers vs. Separates: Which Amp Is Right for You?

Which is better in terms of sound quality--a separate preamplifier and power amplifier, or an integrated amplifier that combines both in one chassis?

Twenty years ago, most audio experts would tell you to go for the separates. Having a separate power supply for each component was usually the number one reason, followed by flexibility--you could combine a tube preamplifier with a solid-state power amplifier, for example. Putting both components into a single chassis was usually viewed as a design compromise and reserved for affordable "entry-level" products.

But integrated amplifiers are starting to get some serious respect in the hi-fi world. Here at Tenacious Sound, we carry several great integrated amplifiers from such respected brands as Unison Research, Quad, Heed, Peachtree Audio, Rega and more.

We also carry great separates as well, so we're not saying one is better than the other. But when it comes to choosing between these options, it's obviously not a black-and-white decision.

Unison Research, for example, makes 14 integrated amplifiers and only 2 sets of separates. Their designer, Giovanni Saccheti, thinks that the added set of interconnect cables between a power amp and a preamp can create more problems than a shared power supply. Perhaps that's why they manufacture an integrated amplifier, the Absolute 845, that costs $50,000 and is considered one of the finest amplifiers in the world.

Integrated amplifiers can offer incredible sound. They can also save you space and money as well. Come in to Tenacious Sound for an audition of some of the finest integrated amplifiers available today!

 

Is Your Old Cartridge Still Okay?

The answer, in a nutshell, is probably not.

In the hi-fi world you'll find a lot of audiophiles who are into vintage turntables, vintage amplifiers, vintage speakers and more. But you won't find a lot of people getting excited about old cartridges. That's because phono cartridges and styli weren't meant to last forever like other hi-fi components.

You probably know that needles get worn after a couple of thousand hours of play. And they should be replaced or else they can really ruin your precious records.

But after twenty or thirty years, cartridges--and not just the needle--can develop other problems. The tiny suspensions inside can dry out. The body of the cartridges can develop tiny cracks. Stylus cleaning products can work their way up the needle and gum up the insides over time.

At Tenacious Sound, a lot of people come in and ask us about their old turntables that have been in their attics for decades. They say "Oh, the cartridge was fine the last time I used it, so I don't need it replaced." We also have plenty of people coming in asking for replacement styli for their ancient phono cartridges. Sources for replacement needles are becoming difficult to find, and in many cases it's just a little more money to buy a new cartridge.

We're not saying this to sell you another cartridge, one that you probably don't need. We offer plenty of affordable cartridges from companies such as Ortofon, Denon, Grado and more. Many of them cost less than $100.

Your record collection is worth that, isn't it?

Listening to New Music from Your Favorite Bands...the 21st Century Way

Your favorite band just released a new album?

Just a few years ago, that meant jumping in your car and driving down to the local record store, plunking down your money and driving all the way back home to listen to it on your home stereo.

I was thinking about that this weekend, when Radiohead released their new and possibly last album, A Moon Shaped Pool. The reviews have been stellar, with critics saying it's one of their most beautiful and accessible albums ever. I thought to myself, well, I better go online and order it.

And then I realized something. Here at Tenacious Sound, we have plenty of music streaming options. You don't have to order new music and wait. You don't have make a trip to the local record store-assuming you even have one in your town anymore.

I turned on the Naim Mu-so QB from my iPhone, logged onto Tidal and there it was, A Moon Shaped Pool, ready to go. And it was really good, one of Radiohead's best.

Having access to your favorite music is so incredibly easy in 2016. Visit us at Tenacious Sound and we'll show you how to keep it all at your fingertips any hour of the day!

 

Are Vacuum Tubes Right For You?

If you've visited Tenacious Sound in Syracuse, you've probably noticed that we love tube amplifiers. We love them so much that we even carry headphone amplifiers, CD players and other hi-fi components that are driven by tubes.

The reason to choose hi-fi components that are powered by valves instead of transistors (which is also referred to as solid-state) usually focuses on one reason--sound. Tube amplifiers often have a warmer, richer sound that many people find more to their liking. Solid-state amps have their own set of strengths--they are usually more powerful and have greater control in the lowest bass and the highest treble. But there's something about that tube sound that seduces many music lovers.

But is a tube amplifier right for you? In the past, many people shied away from tubes because, like the light bulbs they resemble, they need to be replaced every so often. Some tube types are downright expensive. In addition, an amplifier that has tubes that run hot may not be ideal for houses with pets and small children.

That's why Tenacious Sound focuses on tube amplifiers that are reliable and safe, and use tubes such as EL34s, 12AX7s and KT88s that are inexpensive, plentiful and last a long time.

We can also teach you how to care for your tube hi-fi components so that they will last a lifetime. For example, we'll show the correct order for turning off your components in a tube-based system (the power amplifier should always be the last component turned on and the first one turned off) and how to avoid blowing fuses and tubes (never unplug anything while a tube amplifier is on).

So if you've been thinking about buying a tube amplifier, come on over to Tenacious Sound and we'll show you some of the most beautiful-sounding tube amplifiers in the world!

Keeping It on the Level

"If you could give me just one tip for getting better sound from my turntable rig, what would it be?"

We've heard this question at Tenacious Sound more than once, and it's an excellent question. There are many acceptable answers--ensuring that your cartridge is perfectly aligned and set at the right tracking force is one good tip, and placing your turntable on a solid surface that reduces vibrations is another.

But the single best tip we can offer vinyl newbies is this: make sure your turntable is level!

You can usually check this out with an inexpensive level, especially a bull's-eye level or spirit level. Place it on the platter and see how level the playing surface really is. If it's off, you can usually fix it easily via the adjustable feet on your turntable. (Most modern turntables have this feature.) In a worst-case scenario, you might have to adjust the furniture underneath the turntable. But it's still a relatively easy fix.

Having a turntable that is not level will cause it to sound horrible. A lateral tilt can wreak havoc on the anti-skating, causing your cartridge to lean on one side of the groove more than the other. (That will usually result in distortion or additional surface noise in one channel.) The stylus on your cartridge will start to wear unevenly, as will your LPs! Even the main bearing on your turntable prefers to be level at all times.

Worst of all, your records will just sound terrible. So take a few minutes and ensure that your analog is perfectly level. Your rig and your LPs will thank you.

The Ultimate Music Box

At first glance, the Naim Mu-so QB looks like one of those boutique table radios from a well-known high-end audio company that features above-average sound and a big price tag. Then you start playing around with this humble-looking 8" cube and you quickly realize just how extraordinary the Mu-so QB is.

First of all, the sound is incredible. You've never heard bass this deep from a "table radio" before. It thumps, shakes the walls and hits you in the chest. The sound is immersive as well--this isn't a small box with one or two drivers--the QB has two bass drivers, two midrange drivers and two tweeters, all facing in three different directions. Walk into a room where the Mu-so is playing and you'll be astonished that it's coming from such a small cube.

Then you start playing around with the features. After loading the Naim app onto your smart phone, you have instant access to hundreds and hundreds of internet radio stations featuring hundreds of genres from hundreds of countries around the world--most of it in high-rez formats. The app is user-friendly and amazingly fun to use.

The Naim Mu-so QB also supports music download services such as Spotify, Tidal, Apple AirPlay and more. That's when the fun really starts. If one of your favorite songs pops in your head, you can pull out your phone and have it playing in seconds. You can also hook-up digital sources through Bluetooth, USB, uPnP...you name it.

Put this on your nightstand and you'll never get out of bed. Take it to your beach house and you'll never see the ocean. The Mu-so is that addictive, that fun and that good. Come to Tenacious Sound and ask us for a demo. You'll want it.

Don't Judge a Speaker By Its Box

We carry many different loudspeakers at Tenacious Sound. Both of our sound rooms are full of them. We carry all types of speakers, ranging from $350/pair to the five-figure range. We have speakers for every taste and every budget.

Still, customers often look at two separate pairs of speakers and wonder why one pair cost a few hundred dollars, and the pair sitting next to them may be two, three, five...even ten times the cost! These two pairs may even be roughly the same size, and with the same amount of drivers. What's the deal?

The easy answer, for us at least, is to have you sit down and listen to the difference between the two speakers. In most cases the more expensive speaker will have greater detail, deeper bass, higher highs--it will just sound more musical.

The more accurate answer is a little more detailed. In many cases the parts inside the speakers are more costly. The drivers may be more expensive, the internal wiring may be of a higher quality and the crossover design may be a little more complex.

Any manufacturer will also tell you that the most expensive part of a loudspeaker is the enclosure. Cabinets may be made out of plastic, plywood or rare, beautiful veneers sources from all over the world. The enclosure might just be a box, or it might have lots of internal bracing that requires a master carpenter's touch.

In most cases, this attention to detail will drive up the cost of the final product. But none of this matters if it doesn't improve the performance of the speaker.

 

I still remember back when I was young and just starting out in the hobby. I was visiting a high-end audio dealer, and I noticed a small but pricy pair of British mini-monitors in the corner. They were sporting what I thought was a rather large price tag. "Why do those little speakers cost so much?" I asked the salesman and he rolled his eyes. It took several years before I realized my mistake.

You certainly won't get treated like that at Tenacious Sound. We'll be glad to answer all of your questions, even "Why do these cost more than those over there?" We'll be happy to explain, and we'll be happy to let you hear the differences for yourself.

An Inexpensive, Mind-Blowing Speaker

One really hot market segment right now in the audio industry is cheap loudspeakers that "punch way above their weight." It seems like I'm constantly reading articles about some $100/pair speaker that sounds way too good to cost $100, or some $60 pair of speakers that has the reviewer wondering how they could possibly make any money on something that costs so little but sounds so good.

Then you see these speakers in person and it all makes sense. While these designs may feature some innovative and clever engineering, they look like they were stamped out of cheap plastic--usually because they are. In other words, they were meant to be heard and not seen.

That's what brings me to the Paradigm Atom, now in its "7.0" version. The original Atom, introduced about 20 years ago, was one of the first of its kind--a $200 pair of speakers that sounded like a decent pair of $500 speakers. The original Atom sold like the proverbial hotcakes.

The latest version of the Atom now costs a bit more--$398/pair instead of $200--but it is a much more advanced design. It also looks a lot nicer than the old V.1...the drivers are better, the cabinets are heftier and the overall visual presentation is quite attractive.

The Paradigm Atom v.7 is one of the smallest and least expensive speakers we sell here at Tenacious Sound. But you wouldn't know it by listening to it. You get plenty of air, space and texture, with surprisingly deep bass and crystal-clear highs.

Match the new Atoms with a decent amp and a nice turntable like the $450 Rega RP1 and you'll be listening to old LPs well into the wee hours. Come on in and ask to audition these little wonders at Tenacious Sound!

The Heed Elixir--The Little Amp That Can

I've known about Heed products for quite a while. They're from Hungary, they're small and they have some serious engineering behind them. In fact, the Heed Obelisk SE integrated amplifier and its outboard X2 power supply were the last pieces of gear I reviewed professionally. At the time I declared the $3000 combo as my choice for the best solid-state amplification under $5000. I still believe that.

I first heard their new entry-level Elixir integrated at an audio show last year, paired with the tiny Trenner & Friedl Suns (so tiny, in fact, that you can pick one Sun up with a single hand). It was the best sound I heard at the show.

Now we have the compact Elixir here at Tenacious Sound, and I'm still in awe of this mighty little beast. No matter the speakers I choose, they always sound their best with the modest little Elixir.

First of all, it has plenty of features. This is no minimalist audiophile amp--you get an excellent moving-magnet phono stage, a built-in class A headphone amp that can stand on its own and 50 watts per channel--enough to drive almost any speaker in the market.

A couple of reviews state that this amp was designed for beginners who want it all for not a lot of money. (It's only $1295, making it a steal!) But it's more than that. It sounds so flat-out awesome that it will make even the well-heeled hi-fi enthusiasts wonder if this is all they ever need.

It is! Come in and listen for yourself.

The Quad Vena: How an Analog Enthusiast Found Happiness with a Digital Product

It's no secret that I'm a hardcore vinyl guy. As someone in the audio industry, I'm expected to know all the ins and outs of the latest digital technologies, but I've never been that enthusiastic about wireless technologies, digital inputs and outputs, music servers, downloading music off the Internet...any of it.

Why? Because every time I try to familiarize myself with the latest gadgets, I hit a roadblock. Something doesn't work. Music doesn't come out of the speakers, and I don't know why. So I throw an LP on the turntable and move on.

I know it's not just me. Lots of audiophiles tell me the same exact thing. It's all too complicated. All they want to do is enjoy music and not futz around with files, formats, interfaces and connections.

I've even had so-called IT experts come in and push me aside and say, here, let me fix this. Thirty minutes later, they're shaking their head and saying "I don't know why this isn't working!" Uh-huh.

So imagine my surprise when I started using the Quad Vena integrated amplifier. Within seconds, I was using the Bluetooth connection and listening to my favorite music from my iPhone. I pressed a single button and boom! It worked.

Best of all, the Vena sounds great, something I can't say about most all-in-one digital products. It is, after all, made by Quad of England--a legendary audio company with a legendary pedigree. So I expected it to cost a fortune.

It doesn't. It costs just $900, an even grand with the optional and beautiful wood case, which I would definitely get.

So if you think these new digital products are too complicated and too expensive, check out the Vena. You'll be as amazed as I was.