Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Live at Montreux 2013Eagle Vision EV306789
Format: DVD

Musical Performance ***1/2
Sound Quality ***
Picture Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2


ZZ Top’s approach to blues rock has varied little in more than 45 years, even with the addition of hi-tech electronics in the 1980s (well, what was then hi-tech): Take a simple boogie blues riff, add a straightforward beat, and hammer away. Their best records, including Tres Hombres (1973) and Degüello (1979), had good songwriting and a sense of humor. The band never pretended to be blues purists, and guitarist Billy Gibbons played with enough flash to keep things interesting.

Live at Montreux 2013, available on DVD and BD, documents the band’s 90-minute show at the venerable jazz festival. The set list deftly mixes the big hits with tracks only hardcore fans will know. The sound is big, too. Frank Beard’s snare drum is explosive, and Gibbons’s overdriven guitar sounds as if it’s pouring out of a hundred Marshall amps -- as it very well may have been.

ZZ Top has always made a strong visual impact. Their 1976 Worldwide Texas Tour included a longhorn steer, a buffalo, and a few other animals, all on a 35,000-square-foot stage. The show at Montreux was not that extravagant, but the stage itself is huge, with a big video-screen backdrop. Gibbons’s Telecaster and Dusty Hill’s Precision bass are painted to look like antiques, with metal Texas Longhorn insignia affixed to the front. They sport matching long beards and embroidered jackets, and move in tandem onstage. Beard does little more than hit the snare and hi-hat, but his drum kit is enormous.

The sound is mixed and mastered for maximum impact, with a high output that pushes the music and the crowd noise into the room. “Got Me Under Pressure” is fuller and louder here than in the original recording, and even tunes known for overdriven guitar, such as “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” have more compression than their studio counterparts. It seems like the appropriate choice for a three-piece band, and it makes them larger than life. Every snare-drum stroke sounds like a gunshot. I preferred the overall smoothness and clarity of the DTS Digital Surround to the Dolby Stereo and Dolby Surround tracks.

The cameras move a lot, and while I occasionally wished they’d remain still long enough so that I could watch Gibbons more closely, director Romain Guélat frames the group well and maintains a high level of excitement. The occasional shots of the video screens behind the band are themselves filled with fast-changing images, and Guélat’s direction matches that kinetic energy.

Gibbons has adopted the minimalist solo style that characterized ZZ Top’s big ’80s hits; I kept waiting for him to cut loose, but second and third viewings left me appreciating how much he says in just a few notes. Extras include brief interviews with Gibbons and Hill, but it’s the main event that makes the DVD worth watching. Live at Montreux 2013 is an entertaining record of a band having a good time, and inviting its audience along for the ride.

. . . Joseph Taylor