Monday, April 11, 2005

Up & Running

Last Friday, the flooring guys installed the remainder of the basement carpet and, when they finished, construction was complete and the space ready for living. After trundling the new gear from the dining room table to its permanent home in a 12x21x8 room along the back wall of the basement, I began tinkering. I didn't get too far along before Tim, my basement contractor, showed up with his assistant, Eric. They had stopped by for a little sidework helping me get the projector, screen and speakers properly situated on the walls, which, due to the wall materials, is a bit more difficult than installing to drywall.

We worked for about three hours on Friday night, managing to get the projector installed on the ceiling. It is rock solid -- not going anywhere. Plus, the part of the assembly above the ceiling is tied up to the joists just in case. On Saturday, we tackled the screen. I thought it would go quickly, but securely wall-mounting a 40 pound 96" screen is no easy task. After the better part of the day, though, it was up and up for good.

After getting the screen and projector in place, I went back to work on the sound system, feeding wires through all manner of interesting spaces within the Owens Corning system. It worked fabulously. Unfortunately, my Aperion center channel is backordered until next week (as are the front speaker stands) so I had to make due with an old Bose 301 series reflection speaker as a center channel. It did very well, but was clearly the weak link.

The system rocks. Movies -- we watched the Incredibles to break it in -- are phenomenal. The pixels on the InFocus SP 4805 are visible, but not distracting at about 14-15 feet. Overall, I am very happy with the projector. The Carada screen too does its work flawlessly. Kudos to InFocus and Carada.

The highlight of the system, though, is the sound. The Aperion speakers are, in a word, unbelievable. Being a deadhead, I began with some old favorites -- shows that I knew like the back of my hand. It was like hearing them for the first time. While the Aperions revealed much more detail on the high end, it was the subwoofer that opened up entirely new sonic vistas. Never before had I heard Phil's bass sound as powerful in a recording as it did in the hall. All in all, the soundstage is amazing. And, here's the kicker, since the rear speakers are not yet in their final resting place and the center channel is not here yet, I have not actually calibrated the system yet. In other words -- this was how the Denon DVD and Receiver sounded through the Aperions with all components being taken straight from the box. Once this thing is dialed in, I'll be at the third stage of nirvana.

I can't wait for the workday to end -- I want to get home and play with my new toys some more.

From iPod to TANG

The New York Times still won't give up. In a story concerning the tracks that President Bush has loaded onto his iPod, the NYT manages to wedge in a brief discussion (and denigration) of the President's time in the Texas Air National Guard. Of course, the story -- in unfailing fashion -- describes Bush's position as having been "coveted." Gratuitous? You be the judge:

As for an analysis of Mr. Bush's playlist, Mr. Levy of Rolling Stone started out with this: "One thing that's interesting is that the president likes artists who don't like him."

Mr. Levy was referring to Mr. Fogerty, who was part of the anti-Bush "Vote for Change" concert tour across the United States last fall. Mr. McKinnon, who once wrote songs for Kris Kristofferson's music publishing company, responded in an e-mail message that "if any president limited his music selection to pro-establishment musicians, it would be a pretty slim collection."

Nonetheless, Mr. McKinnon said that Mr. Bush had not gone so far as to include on his playlist "Fortunate Son," the angry anti-Vietnam war song about who has to go to war that Mr. Fogerty sang when he was with Creedence Clearwater Revival. ("I ain't no senator's son ... Some folks are born silver spoon in hand.") As the son of a two-term congressman and a United States Senate candidate, Mr. Bush won a coveted spot with the Texas Air National Guard to avoid combat in Vietnam.

And the NYT wonders why people are cancelling their subscriptions. When a breezy story about iPod One devolves in snide insinuation, the so-called Paper of Record underscores its own irrelevance.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Almost There . . .

Yesterday, the basement team finished installing the Owens Corning system and the floor team laid the carpet for the theater and installed a 5x6 hardwood square in the den for my desk chair (it looks kind of like a dance floor right now, sitting all alone in the middle of a large uncarpeted room). Today, the floor team will lay the carpet in the den, the kids' playroom, and up the stairs. With that, the basement will be finished -- all for slightly under $50,000.

Tonight, one of the contractors who installed the Owens system is coming over to help me get the theater set-up -- we have to mount the screen and center channel bracket (the center channel itself is on backorder and will arrive mid-month) to the front wall, mount the projector to the ceiling, and mount 2 surround speakers to the side walls. Concerning the speakers, I received the set-up from Aperion yesterday. One of the Intimus speakers was badly damaged in shipping, the whole woofer assembly loose from the housing and rolling around in the cabinent. Aperion is overnighting a replacement. Their customer service is the bees knees -- they really want you to love their speakers and their company. So far, I do, but that kind of depends on whether the replacement arrives today.

Also received the Carada screen and AVR-2805 yesterday. With that, all the equipement is finally here and we're ready to go. By 11:00pm tonight, it should all be up and running. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Aperion Audio

As I've been mentioning on my other blog, I'm in the process of finishing out our new basement and installing a really dynamite front projection home theater. All my recent posts over there have dealt with this process. I wanted to mention the sound system over here. For purposes of getting the music to the speakers, I'm running a Denon DVD-2910 through a Denon AVR-2805 by way of a Monster THX Digital Coaxial Cable. The DVD-2910 is capable of handling CD, SACD and DVD-Audio (according to the fine folks at audioholics, the CD transport is so good that they've backed off their long-standing recommendation that one install a standalone CD transport even where the DVD is CD capable). I've tested, albeit minimally, the SACD and DVD-A through a low-end Panasonic HTiB system. It sounds pretty good, but I am confident it will truly sparkle through the Aperion Audio 5.1 system that, as I type, is currently in the back of a brown UPS truck wending its way through the by-ways of my new home town.

I have been trying to decide what should be the first CD pumped through these new speakers. Of course, there's the new Elvis DVD-A, which would allow the King himself to inaugurate the system. But, as great as Elvis was and is, I'm a deadhead at heart. Hence, it must be Jerry. I think I have settled on the Scarlet>Fire from 06.21.84 (tracks d2t01 and d2t02). Although, for whatever reason, this Scarlet>Fire never makes Deadbases' periodic list of favorite versions, it has been my favorite, by a long way, from the day I first heard it. It's got everything I look for in a Scarlet>Fire: a long bouncy intro, a smokin' guitar, some interesting vocal flubs, a well thought out transition, and a Fire that really shows off the band's inimitable ability to know exactly where their going before they get there. Having roughly 2000 shows on disc, and having everything played between 1980 and 1990, I have heard all but a handful of the Scarlet>Fires, and nothing tops this version. So, then, this will be the inaugural disc. I'll let you know how the speakers sound afterwards -- for what it's worth, they are supposed to be just amazing.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Meadowlands Redux

Today, I thought I'd post about another Dead show -- I'd only done one and tonight is the anniversary of an especially good show in 1987. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I had already written about this show. I must have 04.06.87 on the brain lately.

I want to add to the prior post a mention of Peggy-O, which really jumped out at me while re-listening to Set I on the way to the office this morning. Overall, the whole song is perfectly rendered, with Jerry clearing his pipes a bit during the final verse. If you have the disc, pop it in and celebrate the 18th anniversary. If not, follow the link in the prior post and give Set I a test drive in mp3. Other than Peggy-O, Franklin's and Jack Straw are the Set I highlights. The rest of the set is also quite good, with Rooster just edging out Deal for the best of the also rans. Set II is not quite as good, but the Terrapin coming out of Space was really just perfect at the time even if it doesn't hold up quite as well outside the hall.

Historically speaking, both set openers of this show are noteworthy: The Set I opener -- Dancin' in the Streets -- was the last Dancin' we'd get; the Set II opening combination -- Feel Like a Stranger, Cumberland Blues -- is the second of only two Stranger>Blues ever performed, the other opening Set II at the Berkeley Community Theatre back on 11.03.84 (the BCT iteration wins hands down).

Whenever I hear this show, I think of Joan from UMBC circa 1987. She could down a bottle of vodka like nobody's business. I wonder what she's up to now . . .