Publisher Profile

John Atkinson & Newport Beach Show

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By: Jack Kenny

Jack Kenny is an audiophile as well as a recording engineer. He has done recordings primarily for archival purposes at venues as diverse as the SF Conservatory, Harmonia Mundi, MGM, etc. He even did some with Keith Johnson and Paul Stubblebine years ago. Because Jack started his own investment company he was able to travel during summers in Eastern Europe and record live music with his Sennheiser binaural mikes and Nakamichi 500 recorder. Per Jack, “I will say that binaural stereo can be reproduced on speakers – but not bad speakers or in 3D.”

The couple of people Jack met in his ethnic audio adventures included panpipe artist Zamfir, and Marcel Cellier, a Swiss audiophile who used a Nagra and two Neuman Mikes to record Bulgarian women. Marcel was the first to discover Zamfir and the ladies. Jack also obtained Shoeps mikes from Dr. Karl-Ing-Shoeps in Karlshrue, Germany, and a set from Jerry Bruck in New York, the same type used by Bob Fine of Mercury records. He also reviewed the Calrec-Soundfield Microphone and the recording operation of Nimbus Records. Of all the mikes Jack has used, his favorite is the AKG C-24, acquired when RCA was selling off its inventory some 30+ years ago.

Jack is now actively on the board of his Sonoma Classical Music Society, and does archival recording for the American Philharmonic, Cline Dixieland festival for the past weekend, and others during the year. Jack: “I do this because I take care to do my end of the recording right so I have a method to evaluate audio equipment. The result is something you can’t buy in stores and really shows me the mettle of stereo equipment, not what someone thinks it should sound like – a debate in and of itself.” It is noteworthy that all of his recordings are single-miked to two channels. He uses about seven headphones to listen, including 3 Stax, 2 Grado and Unisonic 9. Amps are by Stax and Melos.

The latest Newport Beach Show got me thinking. An unusual activity for a sound guy. I’ve been an audio fanatic somewhere on the order of sixty years. I built my first mono Knight kit somewhere in that time zone, along with a base reflex box with a 15-in Electrovoice TRX. I later added a Janzen tweeter and lots of stuff over the years.

John Atkinson gave a talk called Garbage in, garbage out. I had started doing live field recording around the early 70’s. I have always brought recordings I made myself to these shows. I could not understand how anyone could review any system without a frame of reference. John proceeded to speak on how recordings are made. How there were no real recordings that could be used to analyze systems. He made a startling statement: He had made one recording when he started out in the business in the 80’s that was not artificial. He played it for the audience. It was terrific! He had played various multi-miked pieces, all of which sounded very artificial. This piece he recorded using a single Soundfield microphone from Calrec.

Oddly enough, I had dinner with the Calrec people back in 77. I had also been to the house of the designer a few days prior. Although Michael Gerzon (I hope I spelled it correctly) has passed on, his formulae are still in use and have even been improved upon. A continuing homage to the Oxford math professor. Although I chose another microphone for my recording venues, namely the AKG C-24 tube, I was very happy to see his elation with the single mike. I actually had recent photos of my C-24 by itself, preparing for use in recording a symphony. I showed John a picture of my mike in front of the symphony. That’s when I found out what mike he used.

The irony of me trying to judge the sound of a system with my background can only be humorous if I don’t have a frame of reference. Hence my recordings.

It is very important to know that my orientation is toward live performance. I’m going for the energy, the nervousness, the tension, and the perfection. I record many mistakes, but every now and then a few spectacular pieces that I am thankful for.

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