“Would you play this?” he asked distributor Brian Ackerman, who smiled and accepted the LP.
I couldn’t see the cover, as Ackerman removed the vinyl that already was spinning, a cut from Peter, Paul and Mary’s Album 1700. But once the music started, there was no doubt. It was the old Rat Pack crooner Dean Martin. And not just any Dino album, but Dream With Dean, the classic 1964 outing that featured him with a small combo, laying down ballad after ballad in what likely was intended as a late-night “set the mood” disc.
Dino is remembered for having a career a rung or two lower down the ladder from Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby. This album, however, recorded with little reverb and Martin’s voice way out in front, demonstrated just how talented a vocalist he really was.
“Acoustic Sounds, right across the hall. Brand new,” the disc owner said, passing me the handsome gatefold jacket.
Ackerman, who had disappeared, returned and handed the audio fan an album of his own.
“Garage sale,” he said, laughing. It was an original pressing of Dream With Dean.
Martin started wrapping his voice around “Fools Rush In,” with guitarist Barney Kessel playing some nice, understated fills, as I got up to examine the system Aaudio Imports had brought in. Spinning the Acoustic Sounds disc (presented as a double album at 45 rpm) was a Thales TTT compact turntable ($13,200), outfitted with a Simplicity II zero tracking-error tonearm ($9,200) and an Ikeda KAI MC cartridge ($8,500).
The step-up transformer was the new reference model from Ypsilon, the MC26L ($6,200), while a VPS-100 valve phono stage was also on hand ($26,000). That was plugged into a Ypsilon Phaethon integrated “bridged single ended” amp ($36,000).
I completed taking my photos and sat back down. I glanced again at the album cover, which caught Dean in his prime, cigarette in hand, cashmere sweater, relaxing as several logs burned in the fireplace. Looking up, I noticed that Aaudio Imports again was using innovative Lansche loudspeakers, which feature plasma ion tweeters. These high-frequency transducers are built around the “singing flame” principle and actually are lit up like tiny torches when operating. The concept may seem wild, but it works. Dino has rarely sounded as “in the room” as through the Lansches, this pair being the new No. 31s ($36,000). The tweeters showed good extension and surprising smoothness, coupled with the more traditional midrange and woofers producing tight bass, excellent tonal balance and good pace.
I sat there thinking that Ackerman really could have some fun with his vinyl demonstration and the No. 31s, perhaps spinning “Burning for You,” “Light My Fire,” or “Hot, Hot, Hot.” But, in retrospect, the Lansche speakers were perfectly served by Dino, recreating an alluring, candle-lit atmosphere.
I left just before last call.