There are many secrets – acoustic and otherwise – in the realm known as the “Wholly Ohm-in’ Empire.” Perhaps the largest and best-kept one is that there IS a Wholly Ohm-in’ Empire. And I am its Empirical Wizard.
I am a good wizard. I make people’s lives better and more enjoyable. I seek to educate them – and I give them music.
A few months ago, we posted a column about albums we have used for demos over the years, and why they were selected. When this appeared on our Facebook page, many readers responded by sending in their own suggestions.
We felt that going through them, and making our own judgments and comments would be both fun and interesting. However, for reasons I cannot divulge having to do with the security of the Empire, I could not personally attend to such a task.
I searched my domain far and wide to find the perfect minion to perform this service. I searched the corridors and catacombs of the palace and the fields and cities of our lands.
And I found the ideal choice. Once having found him, I asked (although I could have commanded) him to look at the list, prudently prune it, listen and report back to me.
Below is his report.
John, Empirical Wizard
I give you the report that you honored me by asking for. First, let me say that the music list you gave me was remarkable – noteworthy as much for what was omitted as for what was included. The list was almost exclusively rock classics, yet I found no Beatles, no Rolling Stones and no Led Zeppelin.
With that said, let me share with you my list-listening and my comments:
Jane Monheit – “Come Dream With Me”
As you have oft’ noted, vocals provide an excellent way for the ear to “check” a system. Here, the miking was close and the vocals wonderfully clear and the piano sounding natural and full and crisp.
Pink Floyd – “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here”
“Dark Side of the Moon” is probably one of the most celebrated tracks ever put on vinyl – and deservedly so. It is a track “made for surround before there was surround.” Perhaps, that is the reason that it is more immersive than dizzying. The sound is clear, sharp and first rate, with distinct imaging.
“Wish You Were Here,” a much more plaintive and less dramatic piece that features close miking and distinct imaging. Nearly intimate in its sense of space.
Alan Parsons – “Pyramid,” “I Robot,” and “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”
Not surprisingly, ALL the Parsons material is beautifully and masterfully recorded. The man made his chops as a recording engineer and producer and is given major credit for such albums as “Dark Side of the Moon.”
“Pyramid” and “I Robot” demonstrate the Parsons penchant for precise imaging and clear separation, well as a spacious spread and careful phasing.
“Tales…” adds the fillip of one of the most innovative of ideas for a “concept” album.
Stanley Clark – “School Days” is both pleasant and well recorded. Its strength for
demo purposes is its midrange.
Doobie Brothers – “The Captain and Me” again demonstrates the value of voices in
making audio judgments. Here they are clear and well recorded. The overall recording shows broad spread with specific imaging.
Two discs I expected more from were “Black Sabbath” and “Highway to Hell.”
Black Sabbath – “Black Sabbath” My wife often told me that Ozzy (Osborne) was really pretty before the drugs took over his life. And while that is undeniably true, this recording – for me – is loud without being affecting. It is curiously flat.
AC/DC – “Highway to Hell” On the radio, this nearly anthemic song is strong.
Listened to critically, again, I find it loud and curiously flat.
And, the two surprises: Carol King’s legendary “Tapestry” and “Procol Harum Live”
Carol King – “Tapestry” I remember this disc lovingly, I believe I still have a copy on vinyl. Despite the Broadway show and the nearly iconic position Ms. King enjoys, I discovered that it could be tough to go home. It’s clearly dated. The stereo effect is an almost primitive Ping Pong – which does yield significant separation and specific imaging. When auditioned in surround, “It’s Too Late” opens up and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” demonstrates a more even spread and a good soundstage.
Procol Harum – “Procol Harum Live” Some may consider this group a “one hit Wonder.” But what a hit! Much to my surprise, amazement and delight, “Whiter Shade of Pale” holds up and is an excellent demo track. It’s meticulously recorded, with detailed articulation of parts and shows off voice, astonishing bass and organ. As an added bonus, the lyrics are pretty good poetry, too.
Respectfully, EmpWiz, that completes my review and report. It is, of necessity, a subjective and personal evaluation. One of the things that I have learned is that listening to music is an imaginative as well as aural experience and that, particularly with this kind of music, our judgments can be colored by the experiences that have gone with the tracks in the past. Music is truly evocative.
So, you may give no more weight to the comments above than you might to a feather floating to earth. They are but one man’s opinion and are subject to dispute without rancor.
It has been, as they say, “an honor to be asked.”
As was noted, these comments are subjective. We welcome yours.
See you in two weeks, until then
Enjoy & Good Listening!
John Strohbeen Author
John Strohbeen is the president of Ohm Speakers.