30 December 2010

The World Seen through a Glass of Scotch

As I've often said, I love Kodachrome. Kodak pulled the plug on it about 18 months ago, but today the last roll is being processed at Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, KA.

Kodachrome was not just another film. It was for about 50 years the principal way that the world was described in color. As one photographer recently put it, "Study any color photo book from this era. Almost invariably you'll see the Kodachrome ├Žsthetic: rich warm tones and relatively subdued greens, with deep shadows as an artifact of the slight underexposure required to get decent color saturation. As long as you kept the highlights under control, you'd reliably get that nice palette: lovely blue skies, subtle cool greens, and burnished warm colors with impact out of proportion to their size in the frame. To me it sometimes seemed like looking at the world through a glass of Scotch. For folks my age, learning color photography meant learning to see the world like K64 did."

28 December 2010

16 December 2010

Bandstand [Payson 18/52]

My photo Forgotten Shoes just hit 400 views on Flickr. What a trip. Anyway, another photo from my Gakkenflex. What's a Gakkenflex? That's another post I've been meaning to write . . .

Bandstand [Payson 18/52]

13 December 2010

Audio Bliss for a Ten-Spot

I'm an audio quality fetishist, to the degree a poor man can be. And for broke audiophiles, it's a great time to be alive. I've had a post-in-progress queued up for a while now on cheap audio bliss, but can't seem to finish it. I was going to talk about audio file formats and bitrates, players, headphones, etc. It can be a bit complicated.

But right now I'm listening to some Sting through $10 worth of gear, and it sounds superb. Really, truly superb. I have a whole pile of audio gear at my elbow, including a tube amp, $200 headphones, a hand-wired DAC, etc. But right now, to my ears, this sounds as good as any of it. And this rig is both cheap and dead simple:

One used Sony Discman portable CD player ($3 from a thrift store) and one pair Koss KSC75 headphones ($5 on closeout).

The Discman I picked up is a D-191 that is probably about 10 years old. It's beat up and has almost no features, not even a pause button, but it sounds much better than another Discman I own that is loaded with (mostly useless) features. There was a whole pile of players at the thrift store priced for couch change, and any random Sony in working order will sound good to terrific.

Koss KSC75 headphones are legendary cheap-fi darlings. Amazon sells them for $14. They are clip-ons, but a lot of headbands from other cheap headphones work fine (I use the bands from these $2 throwaways). The KSC75's are light years beyond anything else south of $80. Koss PortaPros are also very much liked, and cost just a bit more (with headband), but I have not heard them.

Of course, you also need CDs. And they're a big part of the bliss equation here. CDs contain much more audio information than mp3s, and a simple, quality CD player can resolve that detail very impressively. Sony figured out how to do that many years ago, and in fact made their best, and most expensive, portable CD players back in the '90s.

Quality mp3s on any current-model ipod, with the same headphones, sound a solid 80% as good as what I'm hearing right now. Lossless audio files might sound 95% as good. But this old silver disc and my salvaged $3 Discman still owns them.

08 December 2010