However, I determinedly pound on the front door and before long I am comfortably seated inside surrounded by evidence of Phil’s trade. It is New Zealand Music Month and it seemed appropriate that Our Homes TODAY visit this leading musician to discover in what way he best enjoys music in the privacy of his Sandringham home.
The house has a contemporary, open plan design with the living area dominated by a grand piano, artwork and numerous curios reflecting the musical lifestyle of Phil and his equally well-known wife, jazz singer and musician, Julie Mason. But because there are times when even the most dedicated musicians simply want to listen to, rather than make music, I was keen to see how this jazzy couple accommodated those moments.
“Well, I’ve just bought my first iPOD because I wanted to catch up [with technology],” Phil confesses. “Being surrounded by music daily there are times when even I like a break so a portable device was not a priority. While, I never thought I needed one in the past, I’m going on holiday and will probably now use it in the car.” However, when it comes to seriously enjoying recorded music, Phil resorts to an eclectic stereo system he has built up over many years. His piece dé resistance is an A & R Cambridge A60 integrated amp.
This vintage hi-fi amp is a collectors’ item among stereo lovers throughout the Western world. The first model was released in 1976 and remained in production for approximately 10 years. Rebranded as Arcam, the company continues to manufacture audio-electronics in the United Kingdom.
Because Phil’s classic amp uses limiting DIN connectors rather than modern phono jacks, he decided to replace the system. Current equipment of the same quality was extremely costly, however a knowledgeable sales consultant convinced him to invest in a less expensive but still reputable brand.
After hours of toil ensuring leads were discreetly fed through the back of a stylish entertainment unit, Phil sat down to listen to his new system. The sound was so disappointing he immediately went back to his trusty A60 amp.
<!--page-->On the other hand, his medium to top end Sony CD player has survived and endured a tremendous amount of use. As a jazz pianist Phil opted for this particular CD player because it enables him to repeatedly play a small loop of music until he can pinpoint exactly what the musician is playing then learn the piece himself.
Music lovers and jazz exponents may also know Phil as the voice behind “The Art of Jazz” on Concert FM. As a radio host listening to radio comes naturally to him so, when looking for a quality radio tuner he opted for a Denon tuner. The FM broadcast is good enough that Phil can enjoy listening to jazz and classical programmes without losing any sound quality.
In true ’70s style, Phil’s Tangent speakers not only look impressive with their teak casings mounted on black steel legs but the sound is possibly as good as the day they were manufactured. These vintage speakers were manufactured in England and Phil suspects they are at least 20 years old.
Because Phil and Julie’s open plan home has good acoustics, they find the two speakers produce a sound they can enjoy anywhere in their living area.
“I’m not into surround sound,” Phil admits. “I like my music to come at me from in front. It’s more natural. You wouldn’t have surround sound at a concert unless you were sitting in the middle of the band.”
And as can be expected of dedicated musicians, Phil and Julie have hundreds of CDs stored alphabetically on purpose-built shelving in an upstairs office. There’s even a few old vinyl LPs to be found containing tracks they have been unable to source on CD. Phil considers the collection too big and wieldy to load onto a modern hard drive storage system and he still prefers to hunt out CDs with a hands-on approach.
When working in the office, a Sony midi system, including a turntable, suffices for music appreciation. However, Phil is extremely impressed with the sound reproduction achieved from Logi-tech speakers and a bass box linked through his home computer.
If he was to update his main system Phil says he would take his time. “There’s plenty of temptation in publications such as Tone magazine but I’m like most people. It would require a sizeable financial windfall for me to consider the expenditure for most systems so in the meantime this suits me fine.”
Return of wireless audio
The old days when ‘wireless’ referred to a large wooden-cased radiogram that tuned into a crackly AM broadcast are long gone. For the ultimate in home audio systems it is now feasible to store huge collections of music on a small hard drive, which can wirelessly transmit music to receivers anywhere in the home or even outdoor living areas.
Manager of Eastern Hi Fi, Botany Wayne Patterson says the latest hard drive storage technology brings music closer than ever to its original sound providing listeners with a virtually pure sound experience.
“The quality of the reproduction is directly related to the capacity of the system and user management,” Wayne says. “Once the system is set up it is simply a matter of loading in CDs or digital music and the NAS drive (Network Addressable Storage) files data from the CD, including the artist, genre, CD name and track titles. This information is on all CDs but sophisticated storage devices that can use the data have only recently become available.”
The advent of MP3 players has increased people’s awareness of diverse storage systems and with wireless, multi-room digital music systems the possibilities are incredible. The compact Sonos® system can access digital music, Internet radio, subscriptions to online music services and music from CDs or MP3 players. Homeowners can then listen to it wherever they choose.
A basic unit, which connects to a home theatre, stereo or amplified music device and can send music to two rooms starts at $2599. Only one Sonos® ZonePlayer 100 (amp) is required but receiving speakers are an additional cost. The more rooms the greater the investment.
Today’s combinations of sound quality and convenience undoubtedly make the latest audio developments top of the Christmas wish lists for music lovers but it pays to talk to experts before making the final purchase decision.