Profile Jerry Babbar

 

Businessman jewellery & pearls

University degree

Age 55

Audiophile by nature

 

A note of sadness is passing through this house, as Jerry lost his wife recently and is slowly emerging from the process of mourning, until then, the dust will continue to fall and hi-end and music will be secondary in his thoughts.

 

Jerry has a passion for live performances and expects the same reproduction within a given limit, but nevertheless, he wants close reproduction of the recording at home.

He feels music has to be very emotionally lived and the search for perfection by the artist has to shine through the recording. 

 

Jerry’s story,

 

“The love with audio started with the purchase of BW 801 & Crown power amps, however pleasure was short lived with this set-up quite quickly as I found the sound to be lifeless. The combination seemed like being put to sleep by a surgeon prior to the operation. Next up was a Mark Levinson amp, the amp was build like a Rolls Royce and the specs went the same way, no specs given for max power, the analogy goes, how much horse power does the rolls have?  The answer is enough of course.”

 

Next up was the electrostatic quad speakers, which I felt was already a big step in the right direction, more air more liberty in the sound, thinner bass but that didn’t bother me, you know its like Bach, he launches a theme and the instruments follow that and then they stop but in our mind we still follow the theme, and I think it’s the same for the bass, even if the lows are not so low we can follow in our brain the lows and we can imagine them even if they are not very present.

The main problem with things made in the UK is you need a service department just to keep them running, same way you have a Porsche, but that lacks the soul of a nice old Triumph or MG or an Alfa.

 

At the time a local artisan Etude in Antwerp was making the headlines here locally with all hi-fi shops and I fell for a speaker of this local Antwerp company but that pleasure was alas also short lived, good soundstage, good balance but quite not the right harmony.

Then at a high end trade fair I listened to Magnepan big planar speakers through Jadis tube amps and it was the first time I heard tube amps, I immediately fell in love for the combination, till then I never had big thrills and here it was I fell in love and thought we are getting close.

 

My research for tube amps led me to Verdier, I think the whole line of Verdiers amps are here, I like the man a lot and find his amps are honest performers to the buck, certainly affordable by the common mortal man.  There is no striving for beauty lost in their design and this suits me fine.

 

That showed me that not much power was needed for supreme quality and with high efficiency speakers another step forward was possible, this led to the idea of the one-watt amplifier.

 

This final step of simplification was also the last step forward managed. With the lower power amps now in my possession, I also needed a suitable speaker, and Lowthers name is mentioned from top to bottom, so I went to listen and fell for the Audiovector made by a German woodworker and renowned Lowther specialist.

He uses the PM4 speakers and the set up is extremely musical, I tried other Lowther units EX  & DX but none have the musicality of the PM4.

 

Through one of my suppliers of cables I learned of the existence of sound practises and Lowther and small power tube-amps, and with the help of Verdier I started building slowly.

First thing I build, a pre-amp from an article that appeared in Sound Practises; simple homebrew 76 type pre-amp, already I owned many pre-amps, Audio Notes and Jadis and Graaf  & Nagra, but since I discovered the pleasure of building I vowed never to purchase a pre amp again, as this ones performance is musically blameless and has plenty of gain, but its main quality is especially musically. Of all my pre-amps, the Graaf is the most open, certain clarity inherent to its nice design and, guess what, it uses 2C51 tubes, unfortunately Graaf 13. 5B changed to 6DJ8 tubes and that’s not anywhere near the 2C51 version.

The Audio Note has the advantage of using just 1 tube per channel but lacks the charm of the Graaf. The popularity this E88CC tube has is amazing, so many pre-amps use it and yet it doesn’t convince.

 

Because along the way I purchased some OTL Graaf power-amps, some Audio Note integrated amps, some Wavac power-amps as well and last but not least then a Nagra famous pre-amp and its PP 845 power-amp. As a small anecdote, Benny criticised the sound with the Nagra pre-amp playing, we removed it and to my surprise I had to conclude; Nagra out, music back. I had two Nagra pre-amps, I sold one and another one to go, anyone interested (preferably with the Nagra 845PP as a combination).

 

Picture of the set playing in his working room

 

My first listening zone is the main living room, which is also the biggest room of the house. I bought some Spendor SP100 speakers, using SEAS units and Scan Speak tweeter, because they are renowned studio reference monitors, the main reason for buying them is the fact that they are used in many studios and so I wanted to hear the same thing as the artist / mixing technician would hear. 

I find them very pleasant to listen too and tonally correct. I use them especially for the bigger orchestral works like the 9th of Beethoven or Brückner or Mahler, those are gigantic orchestras and to have an idea of what’s going on it is preferable to use systems that give you the impression of being live there, and in this sense the Lowthers sin a little bit, hence more powerful amps for this listening area. I feel they are very good, the important things come through and the things not so important are rounded off.

 

Picture of living room main set:

 

 

Benny was very disappointed in their performance, and very happy to hear the Lowther (which I also find weaknesses but on another level altogether I agree with Benny).

The set is playing with a Mosfet amp by Gamut, which I haven’t purchased yet but that is just a formality, as I am satisfied and the Gamut should also be able to drive my Magnepans.”

 

Picture of alt set living room:

 

 

His favourite musical listening pieces (and he has many but I forced him to narrow it down) would be Bachs entire work, especially played by Solo instruments. Currently he is listening to Brückner directed by Celibidache, and he likes the analogy this man had on a recording, (he didn’t do many);

 

“Like walking through the Alps, his eyes bathe in beautiful landscapes, in natures purity, and what he sees he knows is true, and a record is like bringing back a few pictures to describe what you have seen, its not the same and off course not as good”, but Jerry says, in his head, he has written tons off letters to the man admiring his legacy and live performance, but he feels the answer to this mans view, is, that it still is better to have a picture and a story than just a story without a picture, for the picture is visible to all even if not in magnitude of the original.

 

So restitution on a record of a musical event is still a sensuous way of reliving the ballad through the mountain but without its fierce original and cutting beauty. 

 

We enter the Main listening room, which is build specifically for audio (good acoustics) and many power outlets. This is where he listens to chamber music and a few quartet jazz band pieces on his reference loudspeakers the Audiovector with the Lowther PM4. These he finds irreplaceable if they are correctly set up.

 

Oriented towards classical, this is his state of the art listening piece, at the back the Jadis power amps and Graaf OTL have found parking space, please notice this room has been build for high end listening and is shaped accordingly, with many electrical outlets strategically placed.

 

In the middle WAAAAOOOW a beautiful Audio Note PSE 300B amp, asked about Audio Note, he says; “you must be careful with them, I am not going to comment on the English side because my experience has been less then positive with them, the Japanese side has made nice things and has chosen for the exotic and succeeded in this, there sales philosophy is they want only the extreme rich clients, who can pay that, and I don’t think it is necessary to own such a product if you wish to listen to music.” On which I comment; “there are people who own so much money, they don’t know what to do with it, so they buy a few paintings of a few million $ and an a tube amp costing 100000$ and they consider it an investment.”

Jerry answers; “yeah, its defendable, your Outerlimit at least is honest, there is serious work in it and its not overpriced.”

 

Picture main listening room

 

 

The Audio Note are currently fitted with Vaic AVVT tubes, and next to it, his reference 1Watt amps, made and designed together with Mr Verdier around the famous WE437a or iTT 3A/167m tube, and behind these 845 SE Verdier amps and a WAVAC completing the rear set-up, the front is covered by 2 Verdier Turntables, 16 kg platter necessary, because the weight adds sonic stability and a genius idea of using a magnet repulse system for reducing the rumble and the load on the bearing, it can be adjusted to 100 grams drag on the central bearing. Each player is equipped with two arms, one standard SME arm and one SME carbon, both 12 inch length, currently an audio note preamp in between, and under each turntable Jadis pre-pre-amps, preferred to the WAVAC pre-pre-amp that uses ECC88 tubes, the funny thing with the Jadis pre-pre-amp is that it sounds excellent and uses… six EF86 tubes/channel, triode connected! The signal then goes to an Audio Note M7 pre-amp and from here to the 1Watt Verdier-amps.

 

Picture of the 1Watt amp

 

 

My eye also catches a very rare SME top turntable of immense value and I ask him why its not connected.

“They are in the same league but the Verdiers are 10x cheaper and better!”

 

 

Picture of Verdier La platine

 

 

 

“What about cheaper record players?” Many cheaper ones are quite good, but they all add something, the Verdier adds nothing and that’s the way to go, previously I also owned a Linn which is quite good a lot of midrange presence, a Garrard and a Thorens but in my youth I had a Toshiba and that brought a lot of joy and good fun too. ”

 

“What about modifying cables in the arm?” You can do everything but the way SME supplies them they are perfect for me, I tried the Graham arm as well and its also quite good.“

 

With Needle pick up systems he finds an analogy.

“In the musical reproduction chain, you have two products, one in the beginning and one at the end; the coil and the speaker. Both can be labelled as having a taste; amplifiers, cables etc. have a job to do and stay neutral, but speakers have each their sonic signature and so it is with cells. Basic things have been made by the industry for the broadcasting industry, like the Denon DL103 and the Ortofon SPU. They don’t have the frills of exquisite cells that claim to reach 50Khz, but have honesty in their performance, that is unmatched in my opinion. 

 

The nice thing of such a set up is, that he has 4 arms, and therefore can test 4 cells simultaneously, currently mounted is Ortofon SPU, Denon DL103, Shure VX15, and Dynavector old Ruby Cantilever.

 

His preferred ones are the SPU & the Denon, he thinks there is a very simple reason to this,

Back in the 50’s and 60’s the big broadcasting companies needed references and most of these where actually the SPU and DL103, and therefore these have simple but excellent construction. His position and attitude also allowed him to try many different cartridges, namely those from a Japanese mnf ‘Koetsu’, in the beginning he made extremely rugged cells, which he also found quite good, until the commercial aspect changed the company to make super expensive, super sophisticated cells, with Onyx housings, then wood housings, and the results where indeed worse. He also owns many Allaert cells, they are all for sale.

 

Cables; the journey through cable jungle land was quite an extensive challenge and Jerry went all the way, what they advised he bought and tried, so his conclusion today is, a cable has to disappear, and therefore a silver cable is no good, as you can always hear it, it adds a brilliance with a slightly nasal sound to it, and you can’t get rid of it, so after the initial thrill you’re left with a flattered image and after a while you realise this is not natural. I can’t honestly recommend them.

 

Nowadays after Kimber and other brands passed the review he rest his case with Nord Ost cheapest interlink (Solar Wind)

 

Connectors, after the big and bulky WBT and other heavyweights, he prefers a lighter connector with good solder ability and no frills.

 

For the speaker cable simple copper (pre-aged!!! so mono crystal) many small conductors together and that’s perfect, the pre-aged ones don’t oxide as easily.

 

The record collection is impressive and one wonders how you get out of the house everyday.

He also owns many Wadia CD-players, likes them, although he is very aware that better, cheaper ones probably exist. They are very high end oriented and he thinks Jitter-reducing is the key to a good player, I asked him about SACD:

 

“ Well you know back in the early 80’s they told and brainwashed us this new medium CD would blast Vinyl completely away, but that is clearly a long shot away. These records wear and lose their qualities after many replays and the record companies started making eighty grams vinyl, then started using the same matrix for 5000 pressings instead of the 1000 intended for. So now, when they came with the SACD/DVD thing, they better have a good story, so they say we are almost as close to vinyl now!!!”

 

Still very little decent software exists, and many studios are not really equipped to make good recordings with the new media, but I feel that it has the potential to get there. For the moment vinyl reproduction is superior musically then anything I heard yet, SACD is better then CD that is for sure but well made vinyl is unsurpassable, just a shame it loses its quality over the years, and nevertheless a well made recording even on the CD medium with good tube microphones and simple recording techniques give extraordinary results, so all in all I like CD a lot, though you have like one CD in thousand that is as good as, a good vinyl record!!!”

 

The audio journey teaches me that you have to stay curious and not get stuck with a fixed idea. To listen to other people’s systems and visit hi-end fairs had also taught him that bigger usually doesn’t mean better, and that simpler usually is closer. Eagerly he waits for new things to do, as he has a very nice working place as well.

 

Jerry now, owns more tubes, then the average tube dealer, see the picture.

 

He has a collection of WE300B’s, Krone 300B’s & 2A3, AVVT 300B’s & 2A3, RCA 2A3 and many others (845 cetron & RCA)

 

Picture part of his stock of tubes

 

 

Jerry also uses his tube tester for selection and matching them. Clio is the name and its made by Audiomatica. His working table contains the best Weller soldering irons, a Hitachi oscilloscope and digital frequency generator and many Fluke multi meters, just in case.

 

Last quote from Jerry about high end and why specs are irrelevant:

 

“ Imagine you’re sitting in a bar, a beautiful women walks by, nobody is going to stand up and measure here sizes to see whether she qualifies as a model (unless they are sick), we are just going to have an emotion from seeing her. Trying to have an emotion of happiness for as long as we can. We don’t need measurements to be happy!”

 

And now the new century has started Jerry feels like going back to basics again. He is currently having his big Magnepans refurbished and is expects a lot from the new Mosfet amp he bought and so he is going back again to start the journey with his experience to guide him

 

Isn’t it nice to have such good listening conditions?

 

Thanks for the tour Jerry.

 

Copyright Benny Glass 2004