Mannheim Steamroller, specifically the first 4 Fresh Aire albums

This could have been the last entry on my impressions of the impact the P12 has made on my system but it seemed more a comment on music in our lives and why it makes our lives so much fuller. So yes, the P12 is thoroughly burned in and making a tremendous difference. Last night I pulled out and listened to Mannheim Steamroller’s Fresh Aire, Fresh Aire II and Fresh Aire III. Tonight I listened to Fresh Aire IV. I’d be curious how many forum readers have a least one of those in their collection? Listening to them I was struck by all the things the P12 made SO much more realistic than I’ve been hearing for the last 40 years but I also couldn’t help remembering a lot of the journey that brought me here.

If I rewind to about 1978, I was wrapping up high school and my brother was getting ready to get married. That meant he’d be taking the stereo that I’d grown so accustomed to being able to listen to whenever I wanted. To be fair, he’d paid for it. So now what? Fortunately, he’d just bought a pair or Dahlquist DQ-10s and he was going to leave me the old Infinities they replaced. He was also leaving an old Technique cassette deck. I scraped together $250 and bought a used 60 watt per channel integrated amp. My brother convinced my parents to buy me a Denon turntable for Christmas and I was in business. Such humble beginnings.

Over the years I’ve listened to those 4 albums on vinyl countless times. I’ve also pulled them out for demos to play for friends who endured my hobby (obsession) over the years. I always enjoy them and I’ve had a friend or two reluctantly admit, that sounds pretty darn good. Listening tonight I was struck by just how realistic the instruments on those CDs sound. By now I have them on vinyl, bought the CDs and even sprung for the remastered CDs. Every time my impression has been, “it doesn’t get better than this. It can’t get better than this!” Happily, it can and it does. The P12 is a magic box in my mind. I’m a mechanical engineer by trade so I can’t hope to understand the electronics inside and why they work. But I don’t have to understand. One thing I do know, without music to play on our systems, all the magic boxes in the world wouldn’t mean boo! I’m grateful to PS Audio for making magic boxes, and to Chip Davis for writing and recording the Fresh Aire series. I’m grateful to my brother, who long ago created this monster in me (most of the time).

So after many systems upgrades I still return to some of the albums that I first heard than made me take notice. I’ve always liked music but it was my brother bring home those Mannheim Steamroller albums the put the bug in me. They sounded amazing and they still do. Actually, more amazing than ever. So my hat’s off to PS Audio for the fresh breath of life the P12 has given every album, CD and tape I own. But if I can ever find that bug that bit me 40 some years ago I might just squash the little bastard. He’s cost me a fortune over the years.


I’m glad you are able to enjoy them, but to me they are audiophile candy; highly caloric but without nutrition. While they make pretty sounds, they are lacking in musical authenticity. Much like today’s pop music, they are as if composed and played by machines. I liked them myself at the time, but wince at the very notion now. Chip Davis wrote commercial jingles and Convoy, if memory serves.

I’m listening to James Carter right now and the compositions, organic sound and musicianship are individually stellar, combined they are masterful.

You will, of course, enjoy what you will. It is, at least for now, a free country.

Happy listening!

Yeah, he could get that way. I found with time the synths and drum machines really did take over the Mannheim sound. The early albums, thought, he had a keyboard player, Jason Berkley?, and some wood wind players that I really liked. And they were also formative years. What do they say? We tend to listen to the music we went through high school and college with?

I feel the same about the overrated Tool Fear Inoclum Album that came out last year.

I’m among those who found them lacking in substance, but I don’t discount anyone’s enjoyment of them (except maybe when I’m visiting my sister-in-law’s house at Christmas). Jackson Berkey is/was a fine pianist. In 1978 he released a wonderfully performed and recorded solo classical piano album on their American Gramaphone (their spelling) label called “Sunken Cathedral.” Gorgeous playing and sound, if you can find a copy.

That was why I said the first 4. I really enjoyed the acoustic feel to a lot of the pieces in the first 4 albums. He lost me more and more as the number go up. He had some very talented players with him. I’ve never found “Sunken Cathedral” but I do have “Berkey Meets Horowitz on the 303”, “Cape May”, and “Mountains and the Sea”. Now I’ll need to figure out which one(s) to listen to tonight as I haven’t listened to any of them in a while. It’s amazing the gems we probably all have hiding in our collections.

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While not the specific albums you listed…
One of my favorites is Classical Gas Mason Williams and
Mannheim Steamroller…great recording that has proven to
be really amazing with my former P12 and better still with

The soundscape imaging and soaring synth is spectacular!!

This album highly caloric non nutritional…hardly… not even close to that!!

Happy trails

davidnapo…congratulations on your P12’s success bringing
to you a much improved soundstage and sq improvement!!!

Best wishes
Happy trails

Classical Gas, that’s another one I haven’t gotten to yet. There were a couple other obscure artist Chip worked with that I really like. Can’t remember all the names right off. I like his Sunday Morning Coffee discs as well. So much old music to discover anew!

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Especially with your new P12 powering your system!!!

Way to go davidnapo!!!

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Ah yes – 18th Century Renaissance Classical Rock & Roll. I too collected the Fresh Aire I thru IV. Pre-Internet we really had to go out & seek new music. We had to hit the record/stereo store & hear the demo stuff… As a kid who was in grade 9 Royal Conservatory Piano but really spent most of my key time playing Supertramp, Elton, Cat Stevens, Paul McCartney & such, played in stage band in school & was absorbing anything music I could get my ears on…. I constantly craved new sounds! I wanna get into JAZZ, Blues… gimme it ALL!!! (Remember hitting the record store & starting at A and flipping thru EVERY album in EVERY genre in the store? – The interesting stuff was always UPstaris…) If only there was music like I’m playing in my piano lessons but a bit rockier…… So there it was Fresh Aire - a mix of stuff I liked – full instrumentation, Classical – with drums, rock, and keyboard based – and it sounded TERRIFIC!! Funny – I just did a Fresh Aire & Flim & the BBs night in the soundroom a couple weeks ago…. It’s cool to have source material you have known for decades, through umpteen system changes - it’s like going thru old musical photographs.
And if you told your 17 year old self you’d be listening to the same albums 40 years later by touching a screen that was somehow connected to a box that had ALL your music in it, thru audio system revision V18.3 beta - that probably cost as much as your parent’s first house…… would you believe you?

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Isn’t that the case…who would’ve thought…amazing isn’t it ? WOW…

What I think is interesting is the number of artists I’ve found now that sight artists I listened to 40 years ago as inspirations. One artist, Neal Morse, has even done a bunch of cover tunes of things I listened to and still listen to.

Chip Davis and co were all the rage in hi fi shops in the early '73- '75. The first 3 albums (maybe 4th as well perhaps) weren’t so heavy on the cheese and soulless synths. While they were and still are corny and a bit plastic, they had great impact and were stellar LP demo material to eager young ears at the time. They were, in their day, the equivalent of today’s ear bashing with anything by Diana Krall and many others (I’m looking at you, ‘Keith Don’t Go’ and, ‘No Sanctuary Here’).