Audio/Video

Audiophile Sound Systems, Home Theater, Computer Audio - Purchasing and Upgrades.

Automotive

Purchasing, Storage, Detailing, Aftermarket.

Wine and Spirits

Wine Tastings and Tours, Cellaring, Collecting, Purchases.

Travel and Leisure

Resorts, Hotels, Restaurants, Destinations.

Kitchen, Cooking and Food

Design, Appliances, Knives, Entertaining.

Welcome to Connoisseur Corner - Luxe Consulting and Executive Services

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer. Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at: 916.952.9529 Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

5/17/17

KettlePizza – Instant Pizza Oven..!



Eat more pizza…!

The folks at KettlePizza want you to adhere to this mandate.  It just so happens they can provide a bit of assistance. 

If you have a gas grill out back, you are now good to go.  The KettlePizza Gas Pro – Deluxe kit comes with the stainless-steel insert, built-in thermometer, a 15” pizza stone, grilling gloves, and the all-important pizza peel, available in wood or aluminum. 
The prerequisites...?

Your grill surface needs to be at least 24” wide and 17” deep, and you need a minimum of 3 burners.
Simply place the insert and the stone on the grill and fire it up.  Preheat the pizza oven for approximately 20 minutes and you are ready to start turning out the pies.  Temps will be in that 750-degree range, and the pies will turn out quick and perfectly cooked.  Provided, of course, that you pay attention!

There is even a charcoal kit for the old-school grillers out there.  Pricing starts at $209.95 and up, depending on the kit.
Oh, I almost forgot…  Another important prereq…?

Come hungry!  It’s time to eat pizza...!
Cheers!!!


Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

4/16/17

Benchmark Media DAC3 – The Review



Musical truth…

I began the preview blog of the Benchmark Media DAC3 with the above comment.  It was my thinly veiled intimation as to where the review, this “part 2” blog, is heading…
So, what exactly is musical truth?  The truth is when your senses receive what the artist intended to portray.  When the audio quality gets to your ears at a more accurate level, the groove and emotion of the music improves accordingly, getting you closer to exactly what occurred in the studio or at the live concert, in a blood, sweat and tears kind of way…

Trust me on this one…!
The folks at Benchmark Media, with their background in the recording industry, are driven to get that musical truth into the home with their products.  With the release of the original DAC1 models and the second generation DAC2, Benchmark has been on the bleeding edge of digital technology trends, especially from a price/performance perspective. 

The new DAC3 ups the performance ante with the new ESS Technologies ES9028PRO converter chip, the brain or “centerpiece” of the DAC3.  Utilizing this new and impressive chip, along with other engineering creativity generates improvements in lower THD and noise, reduction in jitter of the digital signal, better harmonic performance and better headroom. 

A quick rundown of the feature set of the DAC3 HGC shows a similar setup to the previous gen DAC2, starting with the clever Hybrid Gain Control, essentially a way to combine volume control in both the digital and analog domains.  Add in Benchmark’s excellent HPA2 headphone power amplifier with 2 headphone outputs, a home theater bypass, configurable digital pass through, 5 digital inputs (1 USB, 2 Optical, 2 Coaxial), balanced and RCA analog outputs…  you have one flexible and capable DAC.
Now that I’ve properly introduced you to the DAC3, you’re probably curious how this little dynamo sounds…

My time spent during the review process consisted of both critical listening as well as casual, a benefit of having my system in a central living area as opposed to a dedicated room off in some west wing.  Of course, room acoustics suffer a bit, but fortunately my wife has green-lighted several décor-friendly moves to eliminate as much unwanted resonance as possible.  The majority of my listening was done with the DAC3 connected directly to my Pass Labs X250.8 amplifier, but you can configure it for use with a preamp or integrated amp if preferred.  As usual, the Feldmann music selection runs the gamut from classical through jazz, R&B, folk, and all the way to Disturbed… er… metal.  I feel strongly that all genres of music are necessary to completely wring out a product. 
The first thing I noticed, in casual listening and without any hours of break-in on the DAC, was nothingness… a vacuum, or if you prefer, a “sonic void”.  There exists no extraneous noise between or behind notes or sounds.  You don’t realize the noise is there until you hear a system without it.  The difference can be illuminating! 

After running the DAC for several days off and on, I spent more time in critical listening mode.   Along with the aforementioned black backgrounds, I became enamored with the transient speed of the Benchmark unit.  Whether the leading edge of the thwack of stick hitting drum, or the decay of a plucked guitar string or cymbal, the DAC3 nailed it with absolute realism.  Harmonic structure also stood out as being properly balanced and sorted, with piano and other stringed instruments fleshed out with excellent presence and weight.  Matt Haimovitz with his baroque cello playing Bach, Emilie-Claire Barlow’s jazz vocal stylings, or Billy Howerdel’s rock guitar work with A Perfect Circle… all presented with nuance, detail and life!
Are there any negatives here?

Nothing that comes to mind.  One could nitpick about the design aesthetic being too utilitarian as opposed to audiophile jewelry, but the build quality is without fault.  You might also find a DAC that has a smidge more soundstage size, but you will likely pay 3 or 4 times as much to get there.  The price/performance ratio of the DAC3 is in the stratosphere...! 
In my time with the DAC3 I kept going back to my musician days, and the time I would spend in the studio.  The immediacy and intimacy of how everything sounded, from single tracks to the completed mix of a song all came to mind.  That says a lot to me about this DAC…!  Musical truth…
Kudos to John Siau and the Benchmark team.  Impressive…!


Review system:
·         Logitech Squeezebox w/custom power supply
·         Parasound Zdac DAC
·         Simaudio Moon P3 preamp
·         Pass Labs X250.8
·         Dynaudio Contour S3.4 speakers
·         Richard Gray power
·         Cables from Transparent and Zu Audio
·         Dedicated 20-amp circuit
·         All music in FLAC format




Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…


Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

4/15/17

Benchmark Media DAC3 – The Preview



Musical truth…

Today we are going to visit the world of digital music.  I’m referencing high-definition tunes – no mp3 files allowed...!  Why no mp3, you ask?  Remember how your TV picture looked in 1989?  Compare that to how your hi-def TV looks today.  I think you get the picture…  (the application of this pun was thoroughly intended by the author!)

Back on point, you need gear to turn those digital files into an analog signal that you can hear.  This brings up the subject of DACs.

“What, pray tell, is a DAC”, you ask?

Digital to Analog Converter is the acronym, and these high-tech wonders turn a digital signal into an analog signal.  DACs are pretty much everywhere these days.  (my apologies to the turntable crowd.)  Any device playing digital audio has one in some form.  Hi-def televisions? Yep…  Cell phones?  Yep…  The list goes on…

As with any other device, quality and ability vary greatly in the world of DACs.  This blog’s focus will be the audiophile world, where DACs proliferate the market from manufacturers near and far.  Pricing can range from wallet bucks on up to a comma and a whole bunch of zeros.

Enter Benchmark Media Systems and their newly released DAC3…

The year was 1983 and the garage was located in Garland, Texas.  Benchmark founder Allen H. Burdick engineered and built professional audio gear used by television broadcast facilities.  Over the years, Benchmark relocated to Syracuse, NY and grew their audio product line into several markets, including the recording industry.  Many of those products, including the Benchmark DACs and amplifiers, are being scooped up by the at-home audiophile crowd for use in high-end sound systems. 

The DAC3 is, of course, the 3rd generation of Benchmark’s DAC, and utilizes a brand-new converter chip from ESS Technology, along with improvements in parts and engineering.  The result is a DAC that sounds…

Not so fast…  Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon to a blog near you...!



Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

2018 Lincoln Navigator – Escalade Killer?


For years, the Cadillac Escalade has ruled the full-size luxury SUV market, at least from the American-made perspective.  Lincoln’s Navigator stood in the shadows as an outdated heap that attracted little public interest.  That is all about to change…!

Unveiled at this year’s New York Auto Show, the new 2018 Navigator is a legitimate player in the field.  In fact, the new Lincoln behemoth has trumped the Escalade in terms of oversized luxury! 

The exterior hews closely to the Navigator Concept from last year’s New York show, minus the crazy gullwing doors.  The turbine wheels, highly detailed grill, headlights and taillights are pretty much carried over, and easily recognizable as Lincoln design cues. 

With apologies to V-8 purists, the only engine choice is a revised turbocharged and direct-injected V-6.  Don’t scoff folks.  This 3.5 liter powerplant is rated at 450 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque!  That will get you to your kid’s soccer practice right now!  The transmission is a new 10-speed unit, and it appears that both rear and all-wheel drive will be available. 

Now to that luxury part…

The team at Lincoln knew they had to swing for the fences on the interior, and at a glance it appears they have hit one out of the park!  The design has an updated, modern Lincoln-esque feel, yet is still pleasing to the eye.  Fit and finish and ergonomics are top shelf, and technology overflow-eth! 

30-way adjustable thrones, referred to as Perfect Position Seats by the Lincoln marketing folks, are not only endlessly adjustable, but come with the requisite heating, cooling and massage functions.  Even the third-row seats have a power recline feature.  Analog gauges have been banished in favor of a digital gauge screen, along with the separate infotainment screen and rear-seat entertainment screens.  An available audiophile grade 20-speaker stereo from Revel is available as well.

Connectivity?

You bet!  Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity, six USB ports, four 12-volt power sources, wireless charging, and a 110-volt AC outlet are all available.  The Sync 3 infotainment system has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability ready to go.

Bling…  Luxury…  Technology…  Power…  Presence…

The new Navi is due in showrooms this fall.  Pricing has not been released at press time, but expect it to climb a few duckets above the old model’s MSRP.

Kudos to Lincoln…

Cheers!

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

4/14/17

Aluminous Audio – The Gravity of Music



One of my favorite finds at this past year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was a cleverly engineered and excellent sounding set of speakers from Aluminous Audio.  I was immediately struck by the excellent soundstage they were producing in the sonically challenged demo room at the show.

Visually I did a double-take as well, as the Gravitas loudspeaker system uses gravity as an isolation technique.  The results look like nothing else out there, and judging from the sound, it appears to be an effective bit of engineering innovation.

Owner / designer Luke Zitterkopf apparently harbors ill-will toward vibration and resonance.  Not only is he pioneering the gravity isolation, but he also uses fully-sealed aluminum cabinets in the name of vibration banishment. 
Another design decision applied to the Gravitas speakers is that of a separate stereo pair of subwoofers.  The reason here is more flexibility in room placement options in order to better tune the speakers to the listening room.  The mids and highs generally sound best in a different location than the lows.  Careful placement of the monitor speakers and the separate subwoofer pair will reduce room resonances and open up the ever-important soundstage. 

Not willing to leave things be, Luke has recently made a couple of upgrades to the speaker system.  The first is the application of a crossover component referred to as HDB (High Definition Balance).  This update “removes distortion generated by the mechanical action of the drivers.”  The benefit is a reduction in high frequency distortion.
Yes folks, better sound…!



The second update is the use of new, patent pending IVCM (Isolation and Vibration Control) footers for the subwoofers.  These footers provide a level of mechanical isolation from the floor, further eliminating deleterious room resonance effects and tightening up the bass for an improved soundstage presentation.

Even better sound…!

The Gravitas Generation II will be debuted at AXPONA 2017 in room 542.  Stay tuned for my listening impressions in Connoisseur Corner’s follow-up show coverage.
Cheers…!



Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com


4/7/17

AXPONA – Great For Your Ears...!



Coming to the City by the Lake, the Windy City, the City of Broad Shoulders (a.k.a. Chicago) on April 21 – 23 is a musical feast for the ears, and that brain between them...!
The 2017 edition of the Audio Expo North America, residing at the Westin O’Hare, will occupy several floors with 125+ listening rooms of killer sounds!  That, my friends, is a lot of tunes…! 

Over 400 manufacturers, retailers and brands from around the globe will be on hand with their latest and greatest wares.  The full gamut of pricing will be represented, from highly affordable all the way up to the rarified unobtanium.  Do you like to spin the vinyl?  AXPONA will have you covered with demo turntables galore.  Digital fan?  Everything from affordable portable players to mega-buck statement gear will be present for your listening pleasure.  Speakers of all shapes and sizes, amplifiers, pre-amps, DACs, cables… the list goes on…
Headphones?

I would certainly be remiss not to mention the growing throngs of headphone fanatics out there.  Roll over to the Ear Gear Expo and you will find the latest “cans” and supporting gear for your mobile / high-end personal listening pleasure. 
Looking to make some purchases?  The Marketplace area will have manufacturer reps and gear on hand for your perusal.  You can bet there will be show discounts galore...! 

There will even be seminars, lectures, and live performances available to attend!
The bottom line here; if you love music, whether or not you are looking to purchase gear, it is well worth a visit to AXPONA to see and hear everything that is available.  Truly a great way to educate the ears.  They will be in sonic bliss…

Stay tuned to the Connoisseur Corner for a full recap in the coming weeks...

Cheers! 


Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

4/5/17

Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo – Another Cool Wagon


Wagons, wagons, everywhere…!
I recently wrote about the slowly building coolness of wagons.  SUVs have been selling like hotcakes, but all of a sudden, the forgotten long-roofed sedans are reemerging, with slick engineering and eye pleasing design. 

In my previous article, I touched on new entrants from Mercedes, Volvo and BMW.  Now another German has decided to throw a hat in the ring!
Porsche

If I may introduce the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo.  Sport Turismo apparently being Porsche-speak for “wagon”. 
Sure…

What we have is the beautiful new generation Panamera adding an elongated roofline, increasing that all important storage space for those in need of a bit more utility in your Panamera.  There are currently 4 models you can spec:  the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo with all-wheel drive, the 4S Sport with a bit more power, the 4 E-Hybrid Sport with electricity, and the top of the line, peel-your-face-off fast Turbo Sport.  Motivation for the models start with a 330 hp V6 in the 4 Sport up to a thundering 550 hp from a 4.0 liter V8 in the Turbo model. 
Other equipment levels essentially mirror that of the standard Panamera counterpart.  You’ll find the same well-done interior and various available go-fast hardware bits.  As with all Porsche models, the level of specification will only be dictated by your wallet, not your imagination.

Pricing starts at $96,200 up to $154,000 for the coveted Turbo.  Expect to see a two-wheel drive base model arrive within the year, likely priced close to the 90K mark.
Wagons indeed…!




Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

4/4/17

Fox Knives’ Sommelier Saber – Awesome Cork Popper!




You’ve all seen it in the movies, or perhaps at a celebratory event.  The highly-trained Sommelier or other somewhat loopy individual using a saber to open a bottle of champagne.  It looks impressive and is a guaranteed crowd pleaser!

You want to try it at home?

Of course you do!  The first step is to acquire the blade.  Italy’s Fox Knives, maker of fine sport and military blades, has just the ticket, er, steel.  Part number FX2006, their Sommelier Saber is one beautiful piece of craftsmanship.  Forged from T5MOV stainless steel and sporting a stunning hand-crafted handle, the Sciabola del Sommelier is a true showpiece.  Fox Knives sells it with a proper wooden display case to complete the package. 
Once the saber is acquired, not to mention the bottle of bubbly, how exactly does one attempt the art of Sabrage?

I recommend a visit to the fine folks at Bon Appétit and their instructional video presented by Patrick Cappiello, Wine Director at Pearl & Ash in NYC.  The Connoisseur recommends great care in your attempts…
Cheers…!




Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

3/7/17

The Ferrari 812 Superfast Truly Is…


The Maranello-based maker of automotive dreams has been a bit quiet of late.  No need to worry.  The silence has been broken with a 789 horsepower V12, sonorous at full-song, no doubt...!  12 cylinders spinning at an 8,500rpm redline will do that!

Debuting at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, the 812 Superfast is the successor to the renowned F12 Berlinetta.  Ferrari claims this 6.5 liter 12-cylinder masterpiece is the most potent engine they have ever designed.  I see no reason whatsoever to doubt that declaration...!  Expect a 0-62 mph sprint in 2.9 seconds with a claimed maximum velocity of 210 mph! 

Super…
Fast..!

Typical Ferrari beauty is certainly present and accounted for.  Styling variations from the F12 are fairly evolutionary, but a step in a contemporary direction.  Full LED headlamps and quad tail lights are among the notable changes. 
Aerodynamic changes to the body account for a 30% increase in downforce compared to the previous F12, increasing roadholding capabilities at speed.  The 812 also debuts Ferrari’s latest 4-wheel steering system.  All very high-tech stuff aimed at making this one of the best handling cars extant. 

Pricing has yet to be announced, but expect a commensurate increase over the F12.  The Superfast will arrive at moderate speeds, due in showrooms later this year.
Cheers…!



Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

2/5/17

2018 Lexus LS – Flagship Sedan Redux



Lexus vehicles have long been perceived as luxurious and reliable, but possessing high degrees of solemnity in driving behavior and design. 

Zzzzzz…

In recent years, the Lexus folks have been working to rid the public of this perception, first with the rather ghastly “spindle grille”, and now the infusion of sportiness in driving dynamics and overall design.  You see it showing up in their RC-F coupe or GS-F sedan, not to mention the upcoming LC uber-coupe.  Now it’s time for a total redux of the stately LS sedan, and fortunately the designers and engineers at Lexus managed to go in the (mostly) right direction. 
Debuting at this year’s NAIAS in Detroit, the LS now presents itself with a lower, sportier and almost aggressive stance, which should imbue the car with substantially more road presence, lacking in previous generations.  Even the interior has been well thought-out, as the design queues now show some cohesiveness and direction compared with recent Lexus cockpits.  Judges at the Detroit show were impressed as well, bestowing the EyesOn Design Award for Interior Design Excellence…!

A quick scan of the tech bits reveal a 200 lb. diet in overall vehicle weight, a 415 horsepower turbo V6 and a 10-speed transmission.  The interior sports 28-way power front thrones with the requisite massage capability, all the better to relax while scanning the 12.3” infotainment screen.  Tech and safety features will be comparable to other entrants in the luxury yacht class.

Due in showrooms this fall, pricing has not been officially announced.  Of course you can expect a premium over the current generations $72,520.00 starting price. 

A step in the right direction, the new LS should add some needed excitement to the lineup.  That Lexus automotive solemnity may yet ebb into the past. A job well-done...

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com