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Review of Lyrita Amp and Speakers

Wharfedale Diamond 11 Series

venkatcr

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This article is over over due, and my apologies to Viren and Kamal. What pushed me out of my laziness was a PM from SRRamanujam asking for my opinion on the Lyrita amps and speakers.

I visited Delhi on 25th of May to spend two days with Sound Of Music reviewing their Meridian, Avant Garde, Vienna Acoustics and other systems. I spent two days literally being overwhelmed with systems that are out of this world in price, technology, and delivery.

I had sent a PM to Kamal and was hoping to meet with him and just exchange some notes about music, systems and so on. Kamal, decided that we will meet at Viren's place and listen to his amp and speakers. Kamal was kind enough to pick me up from GK2, take me to Viren's place and drop me back after the demo.

First I would like to talk a bit about perceptions of people that we carry in our minds. My perception of Kamal and Viren were completely wrong when I met them in flesh and blood. I have a college colleague called Kamal Kumar Jain who also lives in Delhi and is a tailor by profession in Kamla Nagar. KK, as we call him, is a tall thin man who cannot put on too much weight as he stands for 8 hours a day cutting clothes that you give him. KK is a fastidious dresser, always wearing new and fresh clothes. My vision of our Kamal was always linked my own impressions of KK, and I was completely wrong. Our Kamal turned out to be very casually dressed, with a bit of a paunch, and a perpetually lost look on his face. Only when he opened his mouth could I match him with our HiFiVision Kamal.

I was even more wrong about Viren Bakshi. Based upon the threads I read about him and his replies, I always visualised Viren to be around 30 of age, short, wearing glasses, moody, US accented, and having his nose up in the air. In reality Viren turned out to be a very pleasant person, quite handsome, tall, and a little older than 30. And as others have vouched, he is a fantastic host.

Viren demonstrated the following equipment to me:

(1) Lyrita 2A3 SET integrated amplifier rated at 3 watts per channel. Single-ended output stage using Shuguang 2A3C valves, input and driver stage using 5687 valves. The rectified power supply is through 5V4G valve. All the transformers have been designed by Viren and manufactured from Delta Transformers, Delhi. The amplifier has just a single knob for volume control and nothing else.



(2) Harmony One single driver, full range speaker system, using 6" Fostex FE167E drivers. Cabinet design is a TWQT - Tapered Quarter Wave Tube - which helps reinforce the low frequencies. These designs are based on work done by Martin King. The cabinets are made from solid Sheesham, similar to Rosewood. To test the cabinets, I knocked on them and nearly broke my knuckles. This was a good sign.



The speakers cabinet are quite tall - nearly 5 feet in height. They are tapered slightly backwards. In essence, since the driver is parallel to the tapered front side of the cabinet, they will be facing a bit upwards and will not be perpendicular to the ground. This design is supposed to balance sharp peaks and dips in frequency as well as remove hearing fatigue completely. I have seen a similar design in a few other speakers and have personal experience with only Rajiv's Lithos speakers. But those are in a completely different league.

The Fostex drivers have cones made from banana pulp. They are completely white in colour. The drivers have been treated with the EnABL pattern invented and patented by Bud Purvine. The technology is a bit complicated to understand, but let me try to explain in layman terms as well as I can. It is believed that two distinct standing waves are present within all drivers. One of these standing waves is inherent to the driver's construction itself, and the other is a transient phenomenon at the outer boundary of the cone. Bud invented a effective solution to eliminate the standing waves by creating small energy gradients along the outer boundaries of the cone. These gradients are small rectangles that are created by using a glossy paint. The thin coating applied at the edges increases the energy density, enables a smoother flow of sound, and thus eliminates both standing waves.






For a full note on the Bud Purvine technology, please visit http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue21/standingwaves.htm

The source was a Marantz 5001 CD Player. All interconnects and speaker cables were made by Viren himself with spades and connectors imported from Taiwan.

I had forgotten to take my camera, so I had to request Viren to send me some pictures which he did.

Viren had kept the amp on for about 30 minutes before we arrived. This was the time needed for the amp to warm up and deliver to it's full potential. This was the same I heard from Sharath about the Wavac tube based systems.

Let me explain the listening room to make you understand the listening environment. Viren lives in a DDA flat in Sarita Vihar [Corrected (from Saket) after prompting by Amitnoida below. Thanks Amit]. The room the amp and speakers were set up was about 12 odd feet wide and about 20 feet long. The door to the room was at one of the 20 feet wall. As soon as you enter, Viren had placed two chairs along the 12 feet wall. The Amp and speakers were placed diagonally opposite just before the second 12 feet wall. As you are sitting in the chair, the CD player and power conditioning equipment were placed on a rack to your right somewhere in the middle of the 20 feet wall. There were long interconnect cables (again corrected from Speaker cables, thanks to ANM) that ran on the ground from the CD player to the amp.



The amp is placed on a small stool and sits squarely between the two speakers. The speakers themselves were a couple of feet from the wall to their rear and had a distance of roughly 7 od feet from each other. The room was completely bare excepting for what I had explained above. There were two small windows to your left as you sat on the listening position. The windows, if I remember right, did not have any drapes. The room was bare of any acoustical treatment whatsoever including a carpet. An ideal environment I would say for someone who wants to buy the amp/speaker combination and just use them in an untreated room. But then, I personally felt the sound stage would have been much much better with minimal acoustical treatment on the room.

Viren played some of his favourite CDs which included some Jazz, some Wind Instruments, and some numbers by Patricia Barber, Unfortunately, I had not heard these before so I could not comment on the delivery. But one things I must say. I was sitting some 10 to 12 feet from the drivers, and with the volume knob at 11 'O' clock position, the drivers were throwing nearly 80dB of sound at me effortlessly. I was stunned by the amplitude that a 3 watt amplifier could generate. I must say this was the first time I had come across a system where the amplifier and speakers were perfectly matched.

Viren, during this demo, was saying that the only thing the system lacked in delivering well was very low frequencies. I found the drums to be good and adequate. After some discussion with Viren, I realised that the system may not be able to deliver the artificially low boomy sounds of electronic drums, but plays real drums quite well. The beat of drums were tight and extremely fast, a feature of amplifier and loudspeakers I simply love.

OK, now was the time to take out my own CDs out and listen to numbers I am familiar with.

We started with Harry Belafonte as somehow I felt the system would be happy with a deep baritone voice. I was right. The 2A3 SET was really happy with my choice. It picked up and Harry's voice, and placed it dead centre between the speakers and surrounded it with the simple instruments played at low volume. The separation of the voice and the instruments was decent, and I could clearly hear the soothing violins that were played. Playing Harry Belafonte got Viren, Kamal and I reminiscing about 'Forces Requests', a radio program that used to be played by Delhi B many years ago at 2100 hours every Monday. It was in Forces Requests that we Neanderthals got close to Harry Belafonte, Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, and singers like that.

Next we played a few numbers from Katie Melua's Piece By Piece. In Shy Boy and Nine Million Bicycles, Katie's voice was silky smooth and caressing your ears. The instrumentals again were very decently separated from the voice, and the same time, working with her to present a good sound stage.

To push the system a little, I decided to play Raga Symphony by Pandit Jasraj and Shaarangadev Pandit. For those of you who are not familiar with this album, let me give a little background. Hindustani and Carnatic numbers are usually a single individual affair. These are either human voices or some instruments such as Sitar, Violin, etc. These are supported by a percussion, and a tampura to set the rhythm. Singers are generally supported by a single violin player, more to give the singer some breathing time than anything else. Some 10-15 years ago, Ravi Shankar attempted to break this mold by using the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to play some classical Indian ragas along with his Sitar. Conducted by Zubin Mehta, the Orchestra created a sound stage that is simply incredible. Called Raga Mala, this is one of the few albums I can listen to hundreds of times without tiring. Pandit Jasraj was the second artist to attempt this on a similar scale. With an ensemble of nearly 60 artists he plays the various ragas using keyboards, drums, chorus, Sitar, Chinese flute, Santoor, Veena, Sarangi, violins and violas. There are some 20 violins that are played together. Like the Raga Mala, the Raga Symphony is a mesmerising album that makes you sit up, listen, and dance to the tune.

When Viren played the Raga Symphony, I really sat up. It was as if the various groups of instruments and singers were lined one beside the other in front of me. The separation of some 15 odd groups of instruments were that clearly done. When a sitar would start, a Veena would step back, and take its place again when called to. When I closed my eyes, I felt I was sitting on the floor with the artists forming a semi circle in front of me. One thing missing was the throw of sound. But I felt this was because of my distance from the speakers. If I had sat some 10 odd feet from the speakers, I am sure I would have been completely enveloped by the sound. In Track 3 - A Faint Flutter - some halfway through the number, the violins start to crescendo the raga set by the Sitar. I was wondering if there was any space the violins could play in the sound stage and whether they would kind of get meshed with the other sounds. I need not have worried. The violins found a space between the amplifier and the left speaker and beautifully rendered themselves. Just imagine 20 violinists standing one behind the other in just two rows. The 2A3 SET was able to create that tight sound stage to give precision imaging of the artists and their instruments.

Viren opened the 2A3 SET and showed the internals to me. There was literally nothing inside excepting the power transformers and wiring that led to the tubes in the front. At the back were the good looking input connectors and binding posts. Very simplistic and very elegant. The 2A3 SET may not have the sophisticated finish of some imported tube amps, but they perform very well indeed.

The amp/speaker combination do have some short comings. If you are looking for earth shaking bass, you will be disappointed. As I said before, they cannot render electronic music, particularly drums, well, so hard rock lovers should look elsewhere. For all other kind of music, the combination is very good indeed. It will be particularly good for vocals and Western Classicals. Another area where the Lyritas may struggle with is extremely high pitched voices. I would like to hear a few Lata and Asha numbers to see how the 2A3 SET handles them. I did discuss this with Viren who was quite confident he could tune the system to individual tastes, if required. That is a great advantage from mass market players.

A couple of impressions that I would like to add, and these are purely my personal opinions. For one, I think Viren must do up his demo room a little in terms of acoustics. It will vastly improve his demonstrations. In a properly treated room, the amp/speaker combination can be heard at low volumes with really good clarity. This combination must be heard at some 40/50dB to be really enjoyed. With collateral noise, you may be forced to increase the amplitude bringing the possibilities of distortion, particularly in complicated albums.

Second in HFV and elsewhere I have often read people say the sound of tubes is more analog'ic' and more lifelike. I expected the Lyritas to sound completely different from a vast number of SS amps I have heard. This did not happen. I could not differentiate the Lyritas sound from a number of good and expensive SS amps that I have heard. I personally felt that a well constructed tube amp, and a well constructed SS amp would sound quite similar, at least to my ears.

Well done Viren.

Cheers
 
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anm

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Good review Venkat, quite similar to my findings. I too find the bass decent and adequate for music.

regards
 

heliumflight

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When I visited Viren's place the hospitality he offered and the humble down to earth attitude was enough to even melt a stone

I felt the enveloping bass experience was overwhelming..(loads of it as if a cloud came from below and lifted u in mid-air)

Full bodied presentation with weight in instruments that was tuneful. Unlike other speakers where there are 2 or 3 different sounds coming but here it was from one source and that's why I would like to retrieate it was music.


To be honest I'm considering it seriously with my ss amp.

I'll post a review for this combo if it Rocks my boat!
 
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AMITNOIDA

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Good review Venkat. There is a small correction - Viren's flat is in Sarita Vihar, not Saket. Venkat, during my two visists to Viren's place We have played Lata Mangeskar (Shraddhanjali vol-2) in Viren's system and it was an absolute gem to listen. Both of us (Myself and Viren) enjoyed it on no. of times. Lataji's voice was handled very well by Viren's system. I hope Asaji's voice also will get ample justice in Viren's system.
Thanks
 

mahiruha

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Hello Venkat,
very good piece of writing pinpointing the facts. could you please give more details about the test cds you mentioned. I would like to get them specially Pandit Jasraj and Raga mala by Zubin Mehta. I have the vinyl but I guess in this case cd would offer much better recording and clarity.
Thanks,
Mahiruha.
 

psychotropic

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while i have never heard tubes, it's very nice to see someone who's not saying that tubes are the be-all and end-all of high-end audio, and that once you hear tubes you must throw out your SS equipment :), once again, i have no personal experience, but it's just nice to hear a different viewpoint especially when it comes from someone with this level of credibility. From what I have read all over the place I have my own personal conclusions on tube v. SS and euphonic v. transparent (and analogue v. digital), but I think i'll keep my mouth shut till I actually hear some tubes and judge for myself.

PS. No offence meant to any of the tube guys, I am sure I'll love tubes when I hear them, I was just happy from an academic perspective, to see a different viewpoint.

Second in HFV and elsewhere I have often read people say the sound of tubes is more analog'ic' and more lifelike. I expected the Lyritas to sound completely different from a vast number of SS amps I have heard. This did not happen. I could not differentiate the Lyritas sound from a number of good and expensive SS amps that I have heard. I personally felt that a well constructed tube amp, and a well constructed SS amp would sound quite similar, at least to my ears.

Well done Viren.

Cheers
 

Asit

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Dear Venkat,

Thanks a lot for another very well written and informative review.

A few questions and comments:

1) Did you listen to any vinyl recordings from a TT? I have a personal interest in that because at some stage I want to consider Viren's phono stage.

2) You wrote the SET amp had only one knob in the front. It must have had another one for input selector (as the picture supplied by Viren also shows). Or was the unit you listened to was a special one with just one volume control knob?

3) Please correct me if I am wrong here. I always need a reference when I am auditioning. Otherwise, all reasonable gear I listen to, after I put on my favorite music, I get immediately lost in the music, enjoy the occasion and forget about the gear. This is a huge difficulty I personally face and I am sure many others must have felt this way too. The reason I bring this up is that I find it useful to compare the same musical renditions on two different gears of comparable price. In your review, you have not done that. Could you please add this part? This would be really helpful. It does not matter if the reference point is even SS, after all it's an amplifier and speaker combo.

4) What do you see different in the sound signature of Lyrita when in comparison to Audire's that you also did audition very carefully? I do not want to push you into a tight corner, just say what are the positives of each, if you please.

5) You say you did not find anything particularly "tube"-like, whatever that means, and found the gear to be similar to a good SS gear as far as sound signature is concerned. Do you want to attribute any part of that observation to the source (Marantz 5001) which in my impression does not really match Viren's amps and speakers?

6) Your mental pictures of Kamal and Viren were hilarious and adds a flavor to your review. I like the style, however, I wonder what sort of mental pictures you have of some of us:D. If you would be kind enough to describe, perhaps in another thread?

Regards
 

anm

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Venkat - the long wires you saw are probably interconnects from CDP to amp, and not speaker wires.

Psycho - I think what Viren said is true. A very good system would not come out hitting at you and you may even be slightly underwhelmed at a first listen for 10-15 mins. It is the harmonics of tube gear that make it musical. But again, I am not at all qualified to say anything :) BTW, I sent a PM to you, again!

regards
 

anm

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Exactly my issue :)

Otherwise, all reasonable gear I listen to, after I put on my favorite music, I get immediately lost in the music, enjoy the occasion and forget about the gear. This is a huge difficulty I personally face and I am sure many others must have felt this way too.
 

prem

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Hi Venkatcr

If you get a chance do listen to the Rethm Saadhanas. To my ears the Rethms excel in areas of coherency, immediacy, timing and staging. Sounds very live.

Also would be great to have a comparison between Lyrita, Audire and Rethm speakers since they all are single driver speakers
 
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arj

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venkatcr, thanks for putting a very good review .
 

venkatcr

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could you please give more details about the test cds you mentioned. I would like to get them specially Pandit Jasraj and Raga mala by Zubin Mehta. I have the vinyl but I guess in this case cd would offer much better recording and clarity.

Here they are:

(1)
61AI4%2BQHszL._SL500_AA280_.jpg


A few copies of this album are available in Landmark, but they disappear very fast. Please be aware that since this is a very old album, the recording may not be upto the mark.

(2)

41M53C5H04L._SL500_AA240_.jpg


(3)

51ZS0PBVC2L._SL500_AA240_.jpg


This is one of the best albums of Katie Melua. The songs that I really love are Shy Boy, Nine Million Bicycles, Piece by Piece, and Halfway Up The Hindu Kush.

(4)

adee1d90c3686373020c77b299c5642b.jpg


This is released by Times Music. An excellent album and a must for anyone who loves Hindustani Music.

Cheers
 

venkatcr

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Asit said:
1) Did you listen to any vinyl recordings from a TT? I have a personal interest in that because at some stage I want to consider Viren's phono stage.

No I did not listen to any vinyl. But I am quite sure they will sound even better with Vinyl.

Asit said:
2) You wrote the SET amp had only one knob in the front. It must have had another one for input selector (as the picture supplied by Viren also shows). Or was the unit you listened to was a special one with just one volume control knob?

I just spoke to Viren and confirmed this. The amp I listened to is Viren's personal unit and does have only one knob. He switches cables at the back when he wants to switch the source.

In regular production models he has a power switch, a source selector, and a volume knob that drives two pots inside for balancing.

Asit said:
3) Please correct me if I am wrong here. I always need a reference when I am auditioning. Otherwise, all reasonable gear I listen to, after I put on my favorite music, I get immediately lost in the music, enjoy the occasion and forget about the gear. This is a huge difficulty I personally face and I am sure many others must have felt this way too. The reason I bring this up is that I find it useful to compare the same musical renditions on two different gears of comparable price. In your review, you have not done that. Could you please add this part? This would be really helpful. It does not matter if the reference point is even SS, after all it's an amplifier and speaker combo.

Asit, believe me you are very fortunate. I used to have a disease that does not allow me to enjoy music at all. I read one of the professional reviewers (in Stereophile, I think) discuss this disease in detail. Over the last few years, I have had this virus that the minute I sit in front of a system, I start a critical review. I stop listening to the song, and look for details, dynamism, clarity, throw, separation and so many other factors that we all use in reviews. Then about a year ago, I developed a capability to switch to a kind of Jekyll and Hyde persona. I can, for example, insert a CD, and just enjoy the music even in a system that is wanting in many ways. For example, one of my favourite venues is my car where I have simple JVC system. When I buy a new CD I usually listen to it for the first time in my car and really enjoy it. Literally the whole day I have Worldspace playing music. I usually listen to the music as a background. But when they play a number that I love, I just drop everything, run to the Sony system that plays Worldspace, close my eyes and really enjoy the song.

You are right - we all need a reference standard. I have heard music in many systems - Arcam, Wadia, NAD, Onkyo, Primare, Audire, Music Hall, Meridian, Parasound. When I hear something special in any system, I kind of put it away in my brain and also take notes. This way I know if I heard a album sound better in some way and use that as a reference. As long as I hear what I expect from an album, I am happy and would say the system sounds nice and can extract the data well. That is the reason I use the same albums again and again as I have heard them so many times I am very familiar with each and every second of these albums. I must listen to an album at least 15 to 20 times and like the songs before I use them for auditioning.

Asit said:
4) What do you see different in the sound signature of Lyrita when in comparison to Audire's that you also did audition very carefully? I do not want to push you into a tight corner, just say what are the positives of each, if you please.

This would be a little hard to pin down. The listening environment were completely different. Audire had full acoustics done, while Viren did not. Viren makes low powered amps for clarity and musicality, while Audire makes behemoths that can throw a huge sound stage and drive very difficult speakers. The pricing are also completely different. Most important, Viren makes only tubes, while Audire makes only SS. I do not think it is right to do even a AB comparison of the two. One could maybe compare Viren's amps with Wavacs that Audire represent in India. But even that would be very unfair.

Even the time I spent at the two places were different. I was at Audire for over two days, while I spent just two hours at Viren's. I would have to listen to a lot more albums before I can say anything more.

All I can say is Audire systems create a much larger sound stage and can be used in very large room with a little bit of collateral noise. Because of their i inherently vast power, they can amplify all sounds in the albums and throw them at you. Viren's amps have to heard in comparative silence to hear the subtle nuances of the song. Audire equipment may be able to handle electronic music also reasonably well, while Viren's amps may not do that well. But then the philosophy of the two companies are different. Viren is particular about the king of music he listens to - Vocals, Jazz, Western Classicals, Wind Instruments, Soft Rock, gentle instrumentals, etc. I doubt if Viren ever listens to something like Pink Floyd even leave alone Grateful Dead.

Asit said:
5) You say you did not find anything particularly "tube"-like, whatever that means, and found the gear to be similar to a good SS gear as far as sound signature is concerned. Do you want to attribute any part of that observation to the source (Marantz 5001) which in my impression does not really match Viren's amps and speakers?

Well, frankly I don't know or understand what being 'tube-like' is. What I felt was that a tube amp and an SS amp made well with similar specs would sound very close to each other. Maybe my expectation were wrong. After reading I was given to understand a tube amp would sound completely different. That I certainly did not experience.

Yes, Viren's amp could sound more fluid with a more expensive CD Player that has a better DAC. But I think Viren is trying to extract the maximum possible music from regular CD players at the budgetary levels he is looking at. And I feel he has done that very well indeed.

Asit said:
6) Your mental pictures of Kamal and Viren were hilarious and adds a flavor to your review. I like the style, however, I wonder what sort of mental pictures you have of some of us. If you would be kind enough to describe, perhaps in another thread.

When you interact with people over the net, you hear neither the voice nor do you have any physical contact. Based on the way one writes, I suppose all of us create mental pictures of each other. Maybe we can start a thread where we can discuss what we think of each other. I wonder what sort of pictures people have of me.

Cheers
 

Rajiv

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You wrote the SET amp had only one knob in the front. It must have had another one for input selector (as the picture supplied by Viren also shows). Or was the unit you listened to was a special one with just one volume control knob?

Hi,

The standard 2A3 SET comes with a selector switch and the volume control,however Viren can custom build the amp.as per the customers requirements.I opted to have the amp with only a single input and do away with the selector switch,so my amp has only the volume knob also,the power switch in my amp.is at the back.

I guess the amp Venkat saw at Viren's home also has a single input.

Regards
Rajiv
 
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anm

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Hopefully I will audition the system with a different CDP soon (nad 542), as soon as I get one.

regards
 

venkatcr

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If you get a chance do listen to the Rethm Saadhanas. To my ears the Rethms excel in areas of coherency, immediacy, timing and staging. Sounds very live.

Also would be great to have a comparison between Lyrita, Audire and Rethm speakers since they all are single driver speakers

I would certainly love to audition the Saadhanas. I had seen them a long time ago in an exhibition and was intrigued by their size, shape, and price. I hardy travel to Kerala, so that may be a challenge.

Cheers
 

kneo

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I am a complete n00b when it comes to hi-fi audio. Phrases like sound stage, tube amps, tight bass, sound throw, etc. are all Greek and Latin to me. I am not even fanatic about music itself, and end up with listening it only in someone's cars or on FM or while traveling.

On my first day I joined HiFiVision, fortunately, I ended up reading a few of venkatcr's posts. In a few posts, he has described the songs that he was auditioning somewhere. The way he described the songs, the various crescendos, the instruments that played in it at various stages was just contagious. It was sheer joy to read those posts. It made me start looking at music in a different light. In fact it made me promise to myself that one day when I have the finances I'd end up buying a good stereo system for myself which can let me hear the music 'as described by venkatcr' !!

In this review too, the way he has described the music makes my heart fill with joy and happiness. I have not listed to any of these pieces but just reading about them made me feel as I was part of it.

As stupid and naive this may sound but thank you venkatcr for introducing me to music.
 

Rem

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Venkat

You can listen to the Rethem Saadhanas here in Bangalore as well I think Absolute Phase has them. So if you drop into Bangalore you can have their audition.

I was also curious to know what system(or systems) you have at home.
 

venkatcr

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thank you venkatcr for introducing me to music.

You are more than welcome. All I am doing is putting into words what I hear. This is trait that we have to develop over a period of time. This is trait that is common amongst writers of all genre.

Cheers
 

kneo

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You are more than welcome. All I am doing is putting into words what I hear. This is trait that we have to develop over a period of time. This is trait that is common amongst writers of all genre.

Cheers

You are too humble - the writing trait is far from common - it's rare, or rather, a gift amongst the rare!
 
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