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Recommended Products

Following are products that I own and recommend. Most items listed here have some relevance to the enjoyment of early music.

Willard Martin harpsichords. Each instrument is finished to the same high standard whether the customer is a beginner, a major recording artist or someone in between. Designed to survive in the extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations of the northeast United States.

Maid-o-Mist H2O inline humidifier. The best but far from the most expensive inline humidifier for forced air heating systems. Essential for owners of keyboard instruments with forced air heat.

Korg Master Tune MT-1200 electronic tuner. Caution: The octaves generated by the MT-1200 are not in tune. The temperaments are also off, so ditch the tuner if you can learn to tune by ear. Unfortunately, the MT-1200 was discontinued several years ago and replaced by an inferior model (OT-12) lacking user-programmable temperaments. Watch for a used MT-1200 on eBay. (See Paul Poletti's MT-1200 programming guide (pdf).) Peterson Tuners released a new programmable tuner, the V-SAM, in 2003, but even though they market it to early music aficionados, it only goes down to a=410! (The MT-1200 tunes to a=390.) To use the MT-1200: (1) Program your desired temperament and pitch on the MT-1200; (2) Match no more than one octave in the middle of the keyboard on the lower 8' to the octave you have programmed on the MT-1200 (by ear -- don't even look at the superfluous and inherently unreliable meter!); (3) Use the tuned octave on the lower 8' as a reference to tune the remainder of that set of strings; (4) Match the upper 8' (on 2 manual instruments) note by note to the lower 8'; (5) Working in the other direction, match the lower 4' note by note to the upper 8'. Obviously single manual instruments are not quite as easy to tune.

Swarovski EL 8x32 Binoculars. While my primary use is birding, the Swarovski 8x32 EL binoculars are also superb concert/opera binoculars, as they are very light (610g), bright, easy to focus and have sufficiently long eye relief (15mm) for eyeglass wearers. The Swaro 8x32 are ergonomically superior to the otherwise comparable Zeiss Victory FL 8x32 and 10x32, but Zeiss provides transferable lifetime US warranty while the warranty of Swarovski and Leica binoculars is not transferable.

EarPlanes Earplugs. Protect your ears on airplane flights from rapid changes in cabin pressure with these cleverly designed ear plugs.

Bose QuietComfort 3 Noise Canceling Headphones. This compact, on-ear design was new in 2006. US

Sony ICF-SW07 portable shortwave radio. The ultimate travel radio. It comes with a folding active antenna tuned specifically for the SW07. US | UK | DE

Quad ESL-57 speakers. Produced from 1957 to 1981 and still the most natural sound reproduction I've heard. Used Quads can be rebuilt regardless of condition. If not overdriven, the only necessary maintenance probably will be new capacitors in the power supplies after 15-20 years. Whereas the sound quality of cone speakers varies with sound pressure (ie, they sound best when played loud), electrostatic speakers such as the Quads offer the same high quality sound at low levels as at higher levels. I use a Berning EA-230 30-watt tube amplifier to drive my Quads. Like the ESLs, it is also out of production but quite easy to find on the used market. David Berning provides exceptional customer service should you need new tubes or adjustments. If you in the market for audio gear, keep in mind that most hi-fi components are designed for, sold by and purchased by people who have no conception of how real musical instruments and fine voices sound. Reviews in hi-fi magazines should be treated with extreme caution, as they almost certainly have been written by pop music listeners with damaged hearing. If auditioning equipment at a hi-fi store, bring your own software, maintain control over volume settings, and be alert for deceptive practices.

Lexmark Select-Ease (also marketed as IBM Options) ergonomic keyboard. This was the best computer keyboard ever made, IMHO. It was marketed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but went out of production at least eight years ago despite strong demand and fanatically loyal owners. I use mine folded in the middle to form a triangle, so that my hands are at 45-degree angles to the desk when typing. This helps prevent repetitive stress injury. All other ergonomic keyboards I have tried are significantly inferior to the Lexmark.

Itak Evolution Mouse-Trak Trackball. A very sturdy and reliable trackball on which the mouse keys are clicked with the thumb to help prevent tendon damage. It should be taken apart and cleaned every couple of years.

Philips SoniCare Elite Electric Toothbrush. Outstanding in every respect -- cleans very thoroughly, the brushes last about a year, and the rechargeable battery lasts three years or more. The Elite models are lighter than the original Sonicare, brush faster, and have a redesigned brush head. Sonicare Elite 7500 | Sonicare Elite 7300 -- Same tooth-cleaning performance as the 7500 without the lower second speed, which most people will never use, for about $20 less.

Zeiss Progressive Lenses - Optically superb, light and thin.


Copyright © 2002-2010 John Wall