Andrew Quint’s Reviewer Background
I’m a classical music generalist, a necessary requirement for a TAS music reviewer. Certainly, I’m always up for the late-Romantic and first-part-of-the-twentieth century “Power Music” orchestral repertoire dear to so many audiophiles—Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Bruckner, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Shostakovich and so on. Hindemith and Messiaen have been favorites since I was in high school. But I listen to lots of Classical and Baroque era material as well and favor a historically informed approach for that music. There are a bunch of active, that is to say, living composers that I consume enthusiastically including Osvaldo Golijov, Christopher Rouse, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Michael Daugherty, Jennifer Higdon, Arvo Pärt, John Adams, Bright Sheng, and Steve Reich. I listen to a good deal of smaller scale music, solo piano and chamber music. I enjoy some early music, especially when it’s brought to life as vividly as, say Anonymous 4 or Stile Antico.
If there’s a composer I’m “expert” in, it’s Richard Wagner. I write for Fanfare magazine as well as for TAS, and well over half of my last 100 reviews have covered that composer, and I pretty much do all of their Wagner video write-ups. I read a lot about Richard W. and I’m a moderate-to-low-level “Ring-Nut”, occasionally traveling to see the cycle and having made the pilgrimage to Bayreuth once.
Other than classical, I enjoy New Orleans music—my wife and I have gone to JazzFest for all but one of the last 20 years. And I still listen to the rock music that I enjoyed most when I was younger, music that appealed for its combination of honest pop craftsmanship, braininess, and just plain good musicianship: Steely Dan, Little Feat, Todd Rundgren, Paul Simon, and, of course, the Beatles. I have a small collection of jazz, much of it as LP reissues, mostly material from the 50s and 60s.
1. Realism Triggers: A sense of a real performance space is important to me, whether that space is an actual concert hall or a recording studio. That goes a long way to providing the “sense of occasion” that pulls me into a performance. This, more than anything, has driven my devotion to multichannel audio over the past seven or eight years. With multichannel, one gets a better appreciation of the deployment of the musicians on stage, a feel for the room, and—with the very best surround efforts—a sense of music in the air between the listener and players. A lack of tonal coloration is key as well, as I want to be able to reliably distinguish among singers and instrumentalists based on the sound I know them to produce in person. Violas shouldn’t sound like violins with the strings tuned down.
2. Realism Inhibitors: Dynamic compression, whether it’s a recording of a solo piano or a 100-member orchestra playing full out. Once there’s a sense of strain heard on a recording, I’m lost: I’ll be tensing up the next time a musical climax comes around. Another inhibitor is when a recording or piece of gear distorts the scale of an instrument or voice. The violin shouldn’t seem as large as the cello, and that cello shouldn’t seem as large as the double bass.
Room: Just moved to a condo that’s very solid new construction. My room is 15’ x 15’ with the ceiling mostly 10’, 12’ in places. There’s a large, rounded window comprising most of one of the lateral walls and shelving for a couple of thousand CDs and DVDs as well as a television on the wall behind the front speakers. Beneath the carpet, I had installed a pad that’s a composite of mass-loaded vinyl and polyether foam to attenuate the transmission of sound to the unit below in our building—the only surface that’s contiguous with someone else’s living space. So far so good: I’ve listened to Die Walküre at a reasonable volume in the wee hours without incident.
Music Background: I was a trombone major at the Oberlin Conservatory, discovering early on that I didn’t have what it took to be a professional in a top-flight orchestra. Still, I had four years of intensive playing experience there, and performed a Senior Recital. I also played keyboards in a rock band during those years, and beyond.
I’m now an enthusiastic concertgoer. I’m fortunate to live in a city with a first-rate orchestra (and, despite what you may have heard, a first-rate concert hall). I subscribe to the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as to a visiting orchestra series and the local opera company. I have a piano series and a chamber music series as well, with most of the performances in the excellent Perelman Theater, located in the Kimmel Center along with Verizon Hall, the orchestra’s home. I get up to the MET in New York for my fixes of Wagner and other “grand” opera productions that wouldn’t be as convincing here in Philly.
Current Equipment: It’s probably not fair to call this “reference equipment”—I’m not an equipment reviewer so, like most readers, I find something I like and stick with it. I do tend to gravitate to new products from companies I’ve liked in the past: this is my fourth AR preamp and my second pair of WATT/Puppies.
Loudspeakers: Main: Wilson Watt/Puppy 6; Center and surrounds: Wilson Duettes on Wilson’s stands. Subwoofer: Martin-Logan Descent
Preamplifier: Audio Research MP 1
Phono Stage: Audio Research PH 1
Amplifiers: Pass Aleph 0 monoblocks; Pass X5 for center and surrounds.
CD/SACD/DVD-A player: Esoteric DV-50
Blu-ray player: Pioneer BDP 51FD
Turntable: VPI Scoutmaster with JMW Memorial Tonearm
Cartridge: Benz-Micro Ruby H
Cables: Transparent Ultra and Music Wave Plus speaker cable and mostly Transparent interconnects, both balanced and single-ended. A few MIT and Purist Audio Design interconnects and speaker cables as well.
Television: Panasonic 58” Plasma TH-58PZ800U.
Other: Transparent Power Bank Ultra. Walker Audio Valid Points and resonance control discs.
View from right front corner.
Rear of room.