About Larry

Covering the music section, with an emphasis on Vinyl and Classical, is Larry Toy. Can you do better than an astronomy professor who plays piano, viola, and violin, and owns two grand pianos including a Bosendorfer? Who has built up a collection of around 15000, including 6000 original Deccas and EMIs over the last 50 years, plus around 1000 tapes, about half are 15ips, 2track? Who attends around 70 concerts a year and was actually present at many of the concerts performed by the legendary conductors and performers, concerts which were later recorded onto a Decca that is today considered an original collectible? Who, on Winston Ma’s request, wrote a book about the history of Decca Records of the UK, focusing on the era of stereo analogue recording, from the mid 1950’s to the early 1980’s? The book, titled “Decca:Supreme Stereophonic Legacy” came out in 2014 and included 4 FIM CD’s which were remastered excerpts from many of the greatest Decca classical recordings of that era.

More about Larry in his own words – Kedar

Professional Life I spent most of my professional life as an astronomy professor and then made a switch in the last decade of my career becoming the CEO of a non-profit educational foundation. I’ve been retired for the past nine years and music, ever present in life, has grown more important.

Music in My Life , particularly classical music has played an important part since childhood. In the mid 1950’s, my parents played classical music from records (mono at first) on an early Heathkit hi-fi system that my father built. I heard opera every Sunday morning, our substitute for going to church.

Live Music In college in the mid ‘60’s in the Boston area, I began to attend concerts – almost all classical music, and was fortunate to see and hear some of the greats – Rubinstein, Rudolf Serkin, Cliburn, the Budapest String Quartet, Joan Sutherland, Margot Fontaine and Rudolph Nureyev, Maya Plisetskaya, and many more. This has turned into a lifelong avid activity and now, being retired, my wife and I attend an average of about 70 classical music concerts a year. They are mostly in the SF Bay Area, where we live, but also in London where we spend at least 3 weeks a year.

I studied piano when I was young, through high school and my wife is an accomplished amateur pianist. In retirement, I have restarted playing the piano and try to practice every day. My wife has performed all five of the Beethoven piano concerti with local orchestras and was an awardee at one of the early Clburn piano concerto competitions for amateurs, where her prize was performing the first movement of the Emperor Concerto with the Fort Worth Orchestra. We have two grand pianos, a Boesendorfer 225 (225 cm or 7’4”) which we picked out at the factory in Vienna in 1985. It is called a “Half Concert” and is often found in chamber music venues in Europe. Like the giant 290, the 225 has extra keys, in our case, 4 extra bass keys, for a total of 92. Our other grand is a Yamaha S-400E, Yamaha’s answer to the great European pianos – built in a separate factory with limited production. We had it fitted with a Disklavier mechanism, so we can record ourselves playing. I also learned to play the violin and viola, learning with my daughter in Suzuki lessons, starting 30+ years ago. I sat in with her youth orchestra playing in the back row of the viola section (where youth orchestras are always short of violas).

My music collection is substantial, mostly vinyl and tape, but with a large digital collection that I mostly self generated. The collection, almost all classical, started when I was in college, but really accelerated beginning about 20 years ago when we started visiting the UK and Europe almost yearly. It currently numbers about 15,000 records, and over 1000 prerecorded tapes, with many 15ips 2 track tapes in the collection. For many years I focused on collecting the two major UK classical labels, Decca and EMI and have very complete collections of both labels (analogue stereo). When I retired nine years ago, we discussed how to best leave this legacy to our daughter and her family, who enjoy classical music. I investigated what was at the time the state of the art in digitalization and decided to take the plunge and digitize about two thirds of my vinyl and tape collection, the most important parts. It took me about six years, including post processing, and now I have over 10,000 albums digitized at 192/24, nearly 40TB of data. I also have several TB of digital files that I have purchased as downloads or SACD rips, using a Sony Playstation 3. Many of the files are multichannel DSD.

My System is a mixture of old and new. It also combines a stereo and multichannel system. Finally, it is both analogue and digital.

Main Components:

Speakers: Avantgarde Duos for Left Right and 3 Avantgarde Solos for Center, Left Rear, Right Rear. Sub is a Velodyne DD18. All were purchased used, the Duos have been in my system for 15+ years, and the 3 Solos and Velodyne were added within a few years. The Solos and Velodyne are all self powered, while the Duos have powered bass units.

Amps and Preamps: My main amps are a pair of Cary 2A3 Signatures which are SET’s, generating about 3.5 watts per channel. The stereo preamp is a Herron VTSP-3A tube, and the multichannel preamp is a Conrad Johnson MET-1 tube. I have a custom switch built by Scott Rust to switch between the two systems, using the Cary/Duo’s for both systems. All components were purchased used. The Carys have been in my system for over 15 years and were the reason I bought the Avantgarde Duos.

Analogue: My Turntable is a VPI Classic 3, with 10.5in 3D arm and Soundsmith Zephyr II cartridge. An alternate VPI 10.5 arm wand is for a Miyajima Zero mono cartridge. I have a custom Bottlehead tube phono preamp with adjustable phono eq settings. When I use the low output Zero, I add a Graham Slee Elevator step up amp into the chain.

My Tape Machines are a pair of Ampex ATR-102’s which I can use for playback and copying tapes. The 102’s have ½” and ¼” head stacks. The half inch head stacks both have Flux Magnetic extended range record heads and my playback machine also has a Flux Magnetic extended range playback head. The ¼” head stacks are both stock Ampex. I added a ¼” 4 track stereo playback head by Flux Magnetics to play ¼” prerecorded 7.5ips 4 track stereo tapes. External playback tape prepro is a Doshi 3.0 updated in 12/16, using Siemens tubes.

I also have a Nakamichi Dragon cassette deck which doesn’t get much use.

The Turntable and related equipment were all purchased new in the past few years. The tape machines, except for the Dragon were purchased used and reconditioned. The Ampex ATR-102’s originally date from the late 1970’s. ATR Services restored one unit, and Soren Wittrup restored the other unit.  The Dragon was purchased new in the early 1980’s. Accessories include an ultrasonic Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner, Air Tight Record Flattener, and food dehydrator for baking old tapes with sticky shed.

Digital: My digital system has both old and new components. I assembled my PCM based system in 2010 for my vinyl/tape ripping project. The heart of the system is a Pacific Microsonics Model Two ADAC, built around 2000. I use Merging Technologies Pyramix software and a Merging Technologies Mykerinos card in a custom computer with a fanless Zalman case, built by Chris Connaker. For post processing (including declicking and denoising) I use Izotope RX3 Advanced. Several top consulting recording engineers have taught me how to use this complicated equipment. They were Michael Romanowski, Paul Stubblebine and Mark Willsher. For multichannel and DSD decoding I have a year old Merging Technologies multichannel NADAC. I use both Merging Emotion and HQ Player software for playing files. Except for the Model Two, all digital hardware and software were purchased new.

Power: Art Kelm installed his Ground One system.

My Decca Book In 2013, Winston Ma of First Impression Music asked me to write a book about the history of Decca Records of the UK, focusing on the era of stereo analogue recording, from the mid 1950’s to the early 1980’s. The book, titled “Decca:Supreme Stereophonic Legacy” came out in 2014 and included 4 FIM CD’s which were remastered excerpts from many of the greatest Decca classical recordings of that era. They were produced by Winston Ma and mastered by Michael Bishop and Robert Friedrich of Five Four Productions. The book is in two volumes. The first volume focuses on the artists, producers, engineers and venues including many never before published photos from the Decca archives and Decca personnel whom I was able to interview in the UK. The second volume includes detailed liner notes of the recordings as well as the four CD’s.