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Archive for the ‘Home Audio Electronics’ 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% [?]

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: 47% [?]

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: 55% [?]

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% [?]

Hercules Wireless iTunes Controller - PSP Replacement?

Friday, March 30th, 2007

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My Sony PSP frustrates me. As a long distance remote in my listening room for my iTunes upstairs, it can be very slow when loading Coverbuddy/iTunes album art web pages. I have to wait for all the little album thumbnails to load on the page before I can pick the album I want and I guess because of the PSP browser’s poor caching every bit of the UI loads fresh including the play and skip buttons. The PSP/Coverbuddy combo is almost free so I put up with its clunkiness.

In moments of frustrated weakness, limited gadgets like the Hercules Wireless iTunes Controller look very attractive with its simple monochrome text display and scroll wheel:

Hercules Wireless iTunes Controller: The Hercules Tunes Explorer Wireless is yet another USB wireless iTunes remote control, but with a twist. It integrates a small back-lit LCD screen which ‘displays the song titles, play lists etc’ and so allows you to ’select your music without having to go to your computer.’ It has a side mounted thumbwheel for scrolling and since the device is RF and not infra red it is not limited to line of sight. I can imagine this could be a very handy little device for controlling your den computer from the bedroom, for example (provided of course that it’s compatible with the Airport Express).

The Hercules Tunes Explorer Wireless is €49.99 (~$65) and is PC as well as Mac compatible.

[Via Playlist]

I’ll stick with my PSP for now, but if you don’t have any iTunes remote the Hercules could overcome the feat.

(Via The Unofficial Apple Weblog.)

Popularity: 20% [?]

New Book - High-Performance Audio Systems

Monday, March 26th, 2007

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Robert Harley, the Absolute Sound’s editor in chief, has written a new book: Introductory Guide to High-Performance Audio Systems: Stereo - Surround Sound - Home Theater. Because so few books exist on my main topic of interest, high end audio, I already ordered it, sight unseen. I’ve learned many listening and system building skills from Harley’s previous books. I hope this new volume contains new information and isn’t simply a Reader’s Digest version of the other books.

Of the book’s contents, the inclusion of the now dead DVD-A and SACD optical coaster format is worrying, one would hope for some speculative coverage of HD audio on Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. Amazon’s description:

How to choose, set up, and enjoy the latest high-technology audio systems are all given expert insight in this indispensable guide for stereo shoppers. Consumers today often use home-audio systems for both stereo music and surround-sound music, they buy multichannel systems instead of two-channel stereo systems, they may have HDTV and flat-panel televisions, and they have largely moved to in-wall and on-wall loudspeakers rather than floorstanding units. Questions relating to all of these changes are covered in a novice-friendly way, as well as Super Audio CD, DVD-Audio formats, and all of the latest surround-sound formats for home theater. The emphasis is not only on solving shopping dilemmas, but also on getting great sound from an audio system.

Continue reading New Book - High-Performance Audio Systems

Popularity: 17% [?]

Arcam rDock Mates iPod with Solo Home Entertainment System

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

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Arcam is now selling the rDock, their audiophile iPod dock (not sure what the “r” stands for). The dock is part of Arcam’s Solo series of highly regarded integrated entertainment centers (not furniture but combo CD/DVD/processor/pre-amp/amplifier). Plus you can control the iPod with the Solo’s remote.

For $300 USD, the rDock sports high end electronic pre-amp components (fancy op-amps), vibration damping case, overbuilt, double regulated power supply and sturdy AV jacks. As most audiophiles know, steady battery power always beats dirty AC from your wall plug with blacker backgrounds and reduced digital hash. The rDock will not charge the iPod while music is played because Arcam feels the charging process introduces AC mains noise and degrades the sound quality of your Apple Lossless, WAV and AIFF songs (if you are listening to any lossy songs on your iPod then why are you buying Arcam gear?).

Continue reading Arcam rDock Mates iPod with Solo Home Entertainment System

Popularity: 22% [?]

Nirvana - In Utero CD Liner Notes Reveal Tone Control Easter Egg

Monday, March 19th, 2007

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I stopped by Virgin Megastore to fruitlessly shop for Broken Social Scene and TV on the Radio on vinyl Friday. Browsing through the book section I found the 33 1/3 book series. Each book is devoted to a different classic album. I was looking for Pixies Doolittle, but found Nirvana In Utero.

In Utero is one of he most frustrating recordings I own: my favorite Nirvana songs, recorded by Steve Albini and Bob Weston, but mastered for FM radio in a ‘78 Ford Fairmont by Bob Ludwig. To paraphrase Steve Albini’s opinion of the mastering, “…compressed dynamic range, closed down stereo image, reduced bass and treble…” Essentially, the final master approved by the band and Geffen had a sonic bell curve applied to it, appealing to the lowest common denominator.

The 33 1/3 book stated that bootlegs of Albini’s original recording exist and some versions of the vinyl LP contain the original. Searching ebay turns up domestic and UK pressings but no description mention a different mix on either. Nirvana fan sites don’t list the Albini sourced bootleg in their “Outcesticide” series. I’m losing hope that the original mix is available on any recorded media (or is so rare on limited vinyl pressings that it is lost to time).

Continue reading Nirvana - In Utero CD Liner Notes Reveal Tone Control Easter Egg

Popularity: 33% [?]