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Archive for the ‘Audiophile’ Category

Selling my Pioneer DV-47ai to Raise Blu-Ray Money

Monday, November 24th, 2008

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The time has finally come for me to jump on the Blu-Ray band wagon with my discovery of the Samsung BD-P2550 (finally a player that can decode all HD audio formats over its analog 7.1 outputs so I don’t have to invest in an HDMI capable HT receiver, plus HQV DVD upsampling all for $350).

Unfortunately, like every other middle class American, I cannot afford this new player without trying to sell my beloved Pioneer DV-47ai Universal Disc player. Boo. I guess I’ll have to settle for vinyl (heh) and uncompressed digital computer audio.

I’ve posted a classified ad for the Pioneer DV-47ai on Audiogon. Go check it out if you’re interested in great digital audio playback, I’ve sweetened the deal with a set of Black Diamond Racing Cones v3 and some SACDs and DVD-As. I have more pictures of the Pioneer at Flickr.

This Blu-Ray deal better be worth it. I spied the Samsung at the local Best Buy and was not impressed by its build quality: no heft, ports askew, fan, and a captive power cable. I’ll let you know how I like it after the holidays.

Popularity: 29% [?]

TW Acustic Four Armed Turntable - WTF?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

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At only $20,000, TW-Acustic’s Raven AC four armed/motored monster of a turntable answers no one’s need to run and compare four different cartridge and tone arm combos on one turntable rig. I would not allow this thing in my house for fear that it would come alive at night and terrorize my children with its foreboding-quadruple-diamond-tipped-death-tubes. I can’t figure out if the tone arms and cartridges are included in the $20K price tag, maybe not.

Home Theater Hi-Fi’s comment from the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest:

Here’s a close-up of the turntable (TW Acustic - $20,000). Notice that there are four tone arms. I thought this might just be for demonstration purposes, but no, you can purchase it this way so that you can use different cartridges for various sound characteristics.

[via Secrets of Home Theater and Hi-Fi]

Popularity: 67% [?]

M-Audio IE-10 Professional Reference Earphones Review

Monday, October 15th, 2007

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I picked up the M-Audio IE-10 In-Ear Headphones over the weekend. They headphones are replacing my Ultimate Ears Super.fi 3 which just stopped working a few weeks ago (ugh, just before I was traveling, so I had to borrow way too bassy Griffin in-ears from Fuzzy). I had to wait for a Guitar Center replacement check to show up in the mail before I could go pick up the new earphones. Though I’ve only had the EI-10s a few days, my first impressions are so good that I had to post a quick review.

Continue reading M-Audio IE-10 Professional Reference Earphones Review

Popularity: 28% [?]

Craziest Hi-Fi Room Interference Ever - “Paint Does Matter”

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

I was catching up on my obscure hi-fi blogs last night (is that the only kind?) and ran across this post from the Desirable Audio Boutique blog (I think they’re out of Malaysia and run a print rag called “AudioXpress”). This is definitely a case of taking the room interactions way too seriously. Paint? Really? Wet versus dry? Really?!?

paint does matter: “i just repainted my whole house. based of advice from wong tatt yew, i changed from ICI pearl-glo paint to pentalite, which is supposed to be better for the sonics.

lo and behold, when i switched on my system last night (with all the positionings and furnitures intact), it sounded vastly different and dare i say, slightly worse than be before. the midrange becomes brittle, hollow and slightly grainy and sibilance was high; it just doesn’t have the solidity and concentration of the previous sound.

i am no sure if that is caused by the new coat of paint not fully dried up but it certainly is an ear-opening experience for me. i suspect the moisture in the paint creates havoc in the sound reflection on the wall and maggie being a dipole, is one well of a sensitive speaker.

p/s i tried listening again tonight, it is much better now with the mids getting fuller and more bodied. amazing!

latest update: this is the 3rd day, and the sound has more or less come back in full force. i marvel the experience!”

I am painting my utility room this week and it is adjacent to my listening room, I can only hope that the new paint job doesn’t ruin my next listening experience (tongue firmly planted in cheek).

(Via Desirable Audio Boutique 欲望音响.)

Popularity: 29% [?]

Steve Albini’s 24 Bit Downloads and Home Audio Setup

Friday, July 6th, 2007

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Oddly enough, Steve Albini (of Electric Audio recording studio, the bands Shellac of North America, Rapeman and Big Black) has been answering questions on a poker forum as a “micro celebrity.” He answers any question about favorite bands, musicians and recording sessions.

An interesting excerpt about digital and analog home audio listening:

Q: For your own listening pleasure, digital music (CDs) or analogue (vinyl)?
A: If I’m going to put on a record for pleasure, it will be a vinyl record, unless I’m at work. Understand though that I listen to original masters all day every day, and so I’m less likely than most people to want to throw on an album when I knock-off at midnight or whatever.
Q: Any thoughts on the new higher sample rate/bitrate SACD or DVDA releases?
A: Doesn’t matter, since both formats are now dead, but I think a greater bit depth (24 bits is plenty) grants a bigger quality improvement than increasing the sample rate. The downloadable version of the new album from my band (Shellac of North America) is available in compressed formats, but also 16-bit or 24-bit 44.1kHz versions [ED: these are 24-bit WAV files, I’ll have to research if these will work over my Airtunes setup (or I could maybe burn to a DVD with Roxio Toast). We did it as an experiment to see if anybody appreciates having it available.
Q:I thought the Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones remasters sound great on regular systems. Maybe SACD would be better.
A: No, I’m pretty sure they’re still going to have Dylan and the Stones on them.

Continue reading Steve Albini’s 24 Bit Downloads and Home Audio Setup

Popularity: 49% [?]

Wii Transfer - iTunes Music Library on Your Nintendo Wii

Friday, July 6th, 2007

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I scored a Nintendo Wii a few weekends ago. Between Wii Sports Boxing sessions with Paige, my 3 year old (we each won a match), and throwing out my neck driving and putting in Super Swing Golf, I realized that I could use the Wii to send my digital music collection to the living room stereo. We’d been missing music upstairs in the kitchen/dining/living room area. I had even been considering getting a second Airport Express, especially since their price reduction, to handle music in the living room.

To my surprise the Wii can stream music through its Internet Channel. A buddy at my day job recommended Wii Transfer by Riverfold Software to handle this task. Wii Transfer gives you access to both your iTunes music library and iPhoto albums through the Wii’s Opera browser. It can also transcode video files to a format the Wii can understand when copied onto an SD card and viewed through the Photo Channel, and backs up game saves.

Wii Transfer works as advertised though it has some annoying limitations (though some may be the Wii’s limitations):

Continue reading Wii Transfer - iTunes Music Library on Your Nintendo Wii

Popularity: 56% [?]

Vinyl + Digital Downloads - Why Not Lossless Digital Audio?

Friday, May 11th, 2007

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Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible was finally released on vinyl (Merge copy: “LP is double 180-gram audiophile quality with three sides of music and an etching on the fourth side.”). I picked up my copy yesterday after work. On the way home I noticed a red sticker on the shrink wrap promising a coupon for digital downloads (pictured above).

Continue reading Vinyl + Digital Downloads - Why Not Lossless Digital Audio?

Popularity: 31% [?]

The Long Tail - Audiophile Niche Not For Everyone

Monday, May 7th, 2007

I’m reading Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail. If you’re not familiar with the concept or the book, the “long tail” refers to an economic graph that begins with few high selling hits and flattens out (but never to zero) to many low selling niches. The book goes into detail of how digital distribution and filtering pushes consumer demand into the large market of the long tail. Anderson’s examples of business and marketing models that succeed and fail in this new territory are really sparking my mind with new business ideas. Who knew I’d ever read an economics book.

In one niche example, Anderson nutshells the audiophile electronics market refusal to cater to the lowest common denominator [p 118]:

If you’re interested in audiophile stereo equipment, the finest gear is not going to be among the top-sellers at Best Buy. It will be too expensive, too complicated, and too hard to sell to the average customer. Instead, it’s going to be available at a specialist, and in overall sales ranking will be far down the Tail. Because this gear is so right for the audiophiles, it’s probably not right for people with less focused interests. Niche products are, by definition, not for everyone.

I don’t know if I agree with “too complicated” if he is talking about operation, most audiophile class components are pared down to their primary function (gain and source switching only for a stereo pre-amp). What may be “too complicated” is the appreciation of design that services sonic quality over jazz DSPs. He is right about the “too hard to sell” bit, though.

If you want to know more about the economics of the Long Tail, check out its excellent wiki.

Popularity: 16% [?]

Major Label Vinyl Disappointment - Dirty Mint LPs

Friday, April 20th, 2007

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The cynic in me blames Capitol Records for Side 1 of the Decemberists’ Crane Wife not sounding its best. I assume the major label cut costs on the vinyl manufacturing and all us crack pot record lovers have to suffer.

When I first pulled the record from its sleeve it caught the light in a way that revealed mold release residue spots like dusty finger prints all over the playing surface. When I spun the record on my Music Hall MMF-5 turntable, it had a definite warp. Dropping the needle confirmed the warps sonic signature: noise, pops and snaps with every 33 1/3 rotation.

Shu-shuk, shu-shuk, pop.

I’ve never heard Crane Wife before, not on CD, MP3 or internet radio. Beyond the rough surface noise the album presented a nice, clean soundstage with good separation between the many layered instruments. Colin McCoy’s voice, though, sounded hard, as in hitting the ceiling flat to the point of caustic distortion. Again, with no reference point, I don’t know if this is in the recording (done with the iZ Tech 24 track RADAR V, 24 bit/192 kHz at Chris Walla’s Hall of Justice), pressing or if I need to bust out the mirror, mini-torques, magnifying glass and bright lights and re-align my cartridge. I hate it when a new software title makes me doubt my hardware, I usually find the hardware was fine all along and the software is just buggy.

This noisy record has inspired me to investigate $40 DIY record cleaner machines again. I hope my local Goodwill has the right components to harvest: ice cream maker, air pump, vacuum cleaner with a 10 amp motor and a turntable platter. If I cannot find the right parts I can always spend $159 on a KAB EV-1 manual RCM.

Just as the turntable’s needle hit the run out groove, Beth arrived home from some quick Target shopping. “This new Decemberists album sounds terrible, so noisy,” I showed her the record and tried to get the right reflection angle so she could see the smudges. “Yeah, that’s bad,” Beth has an expert eye as she used to grade used vinyl for a living in the Nineties. As we were checking it out I also noticed how carelessly the label was affixed to the record and picked off some fine vinyl shavings from the record’s edge. “Plus, it’s warped.”

I slid the record back into its sleeve and returned it to my shelf. I was looking forward to listening to the whole album, but got discouraged in the first 15 minutes. I even pulled out all my acoustic treatments and carefully placed them around the room. Now I had to remove them back to the laundry room storage.

I probably won’t play the album again until I find or build a cleaning solution. This hobby is frustrating and rewarding.

Popularity: 19% [?]

Analog Versus Digital Music - Not an Either-Or Proposition

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

I keep reading articles with harsh statements like: “So, I put the record on the turntable, dropped the needle and, let me tell you, it sounded terrible!” or “I’ve never listened to a digital source and been able to relax, you can only really enjoy music through analog playback.” Why are we presented with such a black and white music listening world? Why can’t we strive for the best playback possible through analog and digital paths?

Continue reading Analog Versus Digital Music - Not an Either-Or Proposition

Popularity: 11% [?]