a family portrait since 1967
“Robby” is short for Roberto, and that’s how they use to call me.
I was born in 1967 and among my first games there were transistors, valves, capacitors and resistors. The passion for electronics was already overbearing and the old record players – which magically played the tales at 45 rpm, already aroused great interest in me.
Over the years, these several passions have had various turns, especially from radio communications to audio “hi-end”.
But the real dream since childhood was to build a record with the means I had: I remember trying to make a record out of cardboard and wax and trying to record it rudimentally with the same arm and cartridge of a record player by simply reversing the amp’s verse: something clearly absurd, but these ones had been the first experiences.
In 1993 I bought one of the lathes left from an old recording studio here in Bologna (probably the oldest), in order to study and renovate it. My knowledge about it was simply “little and nothing”, except that obtained both by the old owner, old books and the inevitable experience paid at high costs both economically and physically. Most of all I’m referring to endless nights spent with technical friends studying the thing: one of these was also the repair and “transplantation” of the machine of the first Neumann SX68 engraver destroyed and badly repaired for the occasion.
Time after time everything has evolved as a result, thanks also to the advent of the Internet and the availability overseas of precious dedicated materials, including the engraver SX15, built by Neumann but on an original Ortofon project (given the particular internal configuration, very difficult to repair).
The passion for the thing has thus turned over the years into a real challenge, and thus resulting in real work, faithfully reconstructing amplifications and continually repairing the engravers consequent.
The amplifiers that I entirely reconstructed are Neumann VG66, completely transistor and FET, modified with RIAA tube encoder and passive equalization, instead of the original integrated circuit: in this way the sound is very characteristic and not at all metallic.
Of these pre-amps I made four, all as reserves and as real circuits to “test” the engravers in repair without intervening on the main machines. Also, even during the engraving, to me the fear of breakage has almost completely disappeared, due to the fact of the acquired knowledge, thus optimizing the possible levels of incision.
With the achieved over the years experience, I have learned the best way to repair these precious transducers – the best known in the world for recording analog audio discs.
The step to include the thing in the service business was now inevitable, using for repairs conductors produced specifically on demand by one of the best US industries, extremely robust, lightweight and with very high resistance to high temperatures, so as to facilitate the response of the power coils at high frequencies. Repairs to the Neumann SX74 and SX68 engravers are completely done by me with really capillary reconstructions.
Finally, to those who still firmly believe and want to continue working with this one “magical” means, I can just say that I can give (in almost all cases) new life to these heads.
New generations in comparison.
Chiara, 1997. At the beginning of the project of this small virtual space I had a different presentation about me, but at the moment I decided that I will spend just a few words on myself, instead giving space for facts, emotions, but especially music.
As it was said in the Netflix tv-series “The Playlist“, in my life there were only a few happy moments not connected with music. And that’s for real.
I grew between a class of the grandfather Gino’s music theory and a classical dance recitals. So I think I can say that, somehow, music literally raised me.
As I was little, my day was punctuated by italian radio broadcasts and children’s musical interludes. At home silence almost didn’t existed, except for the inner one. I practically grew Listening, switching from one type of headphones to the other, while creating in my mind my own happy world.
Since then, every time I have to travel I keep bringing with my little fm-radio, and what a quiet antenna! (yeah, my friends always make fun of me). And the first thing I do in the morning along with the moka is turn on the radio: maybe it could sound strange to you, but for me it’s a must have. I really don’t think I could survive without this kind of everyday-soundtrack.
Then, starting from the age of 23 I just started wanting to apply and re-discover the various venues of Bologna, my city, under the effect of these new perceptions acquired. And that’s how I’ve been searching – and I’m still trying to hone at most one of the five senses that human naturally possesses, but that he’s practically unconsciously neglecting.
Whether it’s airpods, daily traffic or the usual appliances, these are now our background music, leading to a general flattening of our real potential.
How many of my generation have recently been moved by listening to a record? When was the last time the chills grazed your skin for optimal listening to a melody?
It is these open questions that have led me to become more and more passionate about the audio system, in particular about analog devices: in fact, I have been working for two years now in the field of audio transfer to vinyl records, and it is precisely this culture of Listening with a capital “L” that I would like to pass on to today’s generations.
At the moment I’m just keeping supporting my father’s preciousness world, trying to follow him and to support him, also just with little details, like creating this little space in order to spread the voice of the beauty of analog systems.