« A Print is an Occasion | Main | Print Crit: ...Then I Said 'Uh-Oh' »

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Comments

Thanks for the Rejoice album recommendation. Can’t wait to listen to it.

Mike, take a look at the French company, Qobuz. They stream at CD quality, but they also sell content at high res, and once you have downloaded it, it is yours. You can keep a copy of it on your computer, or you can download it again from their site.

I keep mine on a Lacie rugged SSD (well 2 now), the first half TB filled up. I back my music up to a moving disk, on another old Mac in the Attic.

My system now consists of a pair of Linn Sara Isobarik speakers, a Linn Klout power amplifier, and a Linn Majik digital streamer. The whole thing can be controlled via the deskto, a phone or a tablet etc..

The Klout is one powerful amp that is well up to controlling the Saras which were notorious for being difficult to drive.

I have had this system for about ten years now, but before it was almost the same, I bought the Saras, in the 1980's, but I had a number of Electrocompaniet Power Amps, which were notorious for blowing up, to the point where I just gave up, and my good friend who sells new digital Linn stuff, pointed me in the direction of the Klout and said they have never bested it since. He just makes a fortune selling the latter.

The sound is all about that symbiosis between the power amp and the speakers. The real nerds have one power amp per speaker and active crossovers, but my blood doesn't run that rich.

Obviously before streaming, the turntable/CD player was the most important bit, since it controlled and was meant to keep the source stable, but a Linn Sondek (among many others that I used to have) is very pricey these days, and you have roomfulls of vinyl or silver disks getting covered in dust to contend with. It now all sits on my little LaCie, I can even take it on my holidays and plug it into my lappy.

As you say, the source from such firms as Amazon,and in my case Qobuz do the job for you.

Just for old times sake, I also have a genuinely analogue (no plug at all) HMV105 system that I serviced myself, and a couple of boxes of shellac.

That is a different sound altogether, but nevertheless pretty entertaining.

OK I will try this again. Years and years ago, when I was into stereo, I read an article that explained about hearing loss over time. I believe that they said that, at 18, a person could clearly hear between 20-20,000 hz. Over time, due to aging and outside factors, the high end hearing recedes. I forget what age it was where they said that the range was reduced to 20-13,000hz.

So, my first question would be: Is this in any way true?

Next: If it is true, does a major part of music fit into the 20-13,000 range?

If, indeed, there is a lot of music that goes into the 13,000-20,000 range and my ears cannot hear it how can I tell what is good reproduction?

I know that, once I got hearing aids, I could suddenly hear very high birdsong in my garden, so it may be conquerable.

As a Neil Young fan, you are probably already aware of the June release of the album Homegrown, which has been on the shelf for 45 years.
https://globalnews.ca/news/6948891/neil-young-homegrown-album/

[I'll believe it when I see it. Over the years Neil has teased many things and then not delivered--although sometimes he *does* deliver. It's just a trait of his at this point. No idea if he does it deliberately or if that's just the way things work out--I could believe either. In any event it might be a little late for a sequel to follow up on the success of "Harvest"! Which I believe was the best-selling LP in the US in 1972. In the top 5 anyway. :-) --Mike]

I'm pretty sure my 65-year-old ears are much cheaper ears than my 30-year-old ears were.

But back when, speakers were the main key thing (mid 70s, when I bought my first stereo), and they most certainly were not all the same. Probably because they were the least accurate thing in the system.

There's a bit of an analogy to digital photography work here actually. Getting to a fully color-managed workflow has made things vastly easier. Audio hasn't done that yet; but we're closer than we were in the mid 70s! (Fewer bad speakers from anybody trying to be decent, fewer bad anything.)

One thing I tried when I went to a computer based audio system that made a great improvement in sound is Audirvana software. Audirvana takes over the iTunes and streamers Tidal and Qobuz. There is a free 30 day trial. I did write Audirvana to see if they would carry Amazon Music. They didn't say no...so maybe that's coming.

DACs can be tricky to evaluate as price doesn't mean much it seems. I was lucky enough to demo a few over $1K DACs and ended up preferring a Beresford Caiman SEG DAC, about $218.00 depending on the pound value.

Re "There are better DACs for less nowadays. ", not sure how anyone would know that since Halide do not really provide performance specifications (I checked the link), just some basic rate capability - oh, and some meaningless (perhaps tongue in cheek?) stuff about how "the DAC HD is cryogenically treated to maximize the sonics" [sic].
DACs, perhaps even more than amplifiers can be assessed by the performance numbers if the seller has the capability to measure them and is willing to disclose them.
I do have to thank you, Mike, for making me aware of the NHT M00 speakers a few years back, I bought them unheard based on your comments and a few online reviews and have listened to them and enjoyed doing so just about every day since.
My first experience with decent quality sound repro gear was in radio, vinyl on Garrard 401 t/ts, 1/4" tape on a Revox A77 played through Leak speakers powered by a Quad 303, great looking gear but for me digital sources really are so much better in practice for SQ and ease of use.
Main thing is the music and it's been Chet Baker this w/e for me.
Happy listening,
Dave.

And Neil also is attributed to one of my favorite quotes when listening to one of his recordings with Graham Nash. The quote to his engineer “ More Barn..” while playing some tracks from Harvest for Graham.
Link: https://www.loudersound.com/news/neil-young-confirms-harvest-more-barn-story

I second your opinion of Amazon Music HD, it is my choice for popular music and jazz. I also would like to recommend Idagio to classical music lovers. It has a very deep catalog and can stream FLAC quality files.

Its what you like thats best for you! When you start believing other people's preferences are best is when you go wrong on cameras, books, food, music, anything. Me personally, its a set of JBL 100's sitting directly on the floor paired with some even older Electro-Voice sitting on top of the bookshelves about 11 feet above them- powered by a Marantz 1120. No big deal about CD player or turntable.

The Schiit brand makes great, inexpensive stuff for digital listening, too. They also make some pretty high-end gear, but you can hardly go wrong with their Modi (DAC) and Magni (headphone amp) stack. It’s $200 and the amp can drive almost any headphone you can think of, other than electrostatic. For lower-impedance cans you might get away with their $99 Fulla, which is a compact DAC/amp combo.

Topping is well-regarded, as is Fiio. There are some good inexpensive ways to get started in streaming audio.

You're welcome, Mike. I thought about getting an Echo Link for streaming, but it doesn't pass AMHD's top two sample rates through the device's optical digital output which I would've wanted to connect to my DAC. I hope Amazon produces an upgrade soon.

And I need to add to that that knowing just when some of the imperfections on my albums are about to happen makes listening to them even more special!

Hi Mike,

- Macs can output high-res files, even directly from iTunes, but Apple made it unpractical, you must manually select the correct format in the Settings panel for each file.
But then, internal Dacs, as with any computer ever built, are abysmally bad; the only wonderful thing I discovered was that the much-lamented disparition of the mini-jack output on my iPhone 7 Plus pushed Apple to offer it with a microscopic DAC in a small adapter... and this little chip turned out to be very musical; paired with decent headphones, it is a nice ear-opener for beginners!
- Bluetooth has a high-res format, aptX HD. But then again, not on Apple; then Airplay sounds better, and direct wiring even better... as always.
- Like most people, you seem "excited" about a DAC "specs"... sorry to "rain on the parade" (and maybe add a couple thousands "virtual attackers" :D), but specs have very little relationship with the musicality; as you konw, people would not consider defining the driving qualitiy of a car by "200 HPs, 4 wheels", or a cook's result will with "three potatoes, etc" :D,
A "chip" is a potential; the whole implementation is what makes a difference. as in anything...
- About streaming: for music lovers interested in classic and jazz, Qobuz is a very interesting choice, being the only ones with a decent search engine for classic, and interesting editorial content; on top, having compared them to Amazon, Spotify, Deezer and Tidal, we find them constantly more musical, on full stereo systems ranging fro 2000 usd to "the sky is the limit"; can be tried for free too, so up to anyone to test... as I always say, it's like for wines: if you don't taste the difference, don't spend your hard-earned cash on it, but leave those who can in peace, please :)
Happy music!
Pascal


Regarding needing better than CD quality, I would recommend people read this:
https://web.archive.org/web/20200426202431/https://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html">https://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html">https://web.archive.org/web/20200426202431/https://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

Since everyone's hearing and environment may be different, I would recommend people do some testing on their own equipment:
https://hearingtest.online/
https://www.audiocheck.net/blindtests_index.php

Before starting to buy the highest quality DACs and amplifiers, take a look and see what you can actually determine as far as distortion level:
http://www.klippel.de/listeningtest/?v=3

And then still buy a decently measuring piece of equipment because one that measures well, even if you can't hear the difference, will have been designed and built well by the engineers:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?pages/Audio_Equipment_Reviews/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?pages/SpeakerTestData/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?pages/Audio_DAC_Performance_Index/

Mike, I would like to read a comparison with Tidal, I think they have the best streaming quality right now.

Radioparadise has had .flac streams (free lossless audio codec) running for some time now. Pick one at:

https://radioparadise.com/listen/stream-links

Lee

As far as the “you can’t hear the difference crowd” is concerned, balderdash! And that applies to cables, too, but first let me comment on DACs - or at least two DACs.

I have an iPhone XS which, of course, doesn’t have the 3.5mm audio port. This forces one to either use Bluetooth for earphone/earbud use, or use some kind of adapter to connect from Lightning port to 3.5mm jack. The Apple adapter costs something like $20US and it’s ALSO a DAC, not just an adapter. How good can a cheap chip-DAC from Apple be? It turns out, not spectacular ...

So I used the adapter with my MEE Audio Pinnacle 1 buds which are very nice for the money. But the Pinnacle 1 has a VERY annoying set of cables; they are pretty stiff and unmanageable. So I set off to find replacement cable that could connect directly to the Lightning port. This is not as easy as one might think. But I did find a few that included an inline DAC, including one form a Singapore company that specializes in some pretty pricey headphones, cables and associated gear. It just so happened that the Capri Balanced cable with Hi-Res (24/96) DAC (now sold out) from Null Audio was on clearance at $39 - not much to lose except the wait for shipping from Asia.

I could immediately hear the difference with this cable/DAC combination. Instruments and vocals are more distinct (separated,) better tonal fidelity, improved bass, “blacker” background, etc. - all the things that deniers are sure don’t exist.

Similarly, I recently bought some Belden 9497 cable plus connectors to build new speaker cables for two systems, replacing some 10 or 12 gauge zip cord that was cheap but not “high end”. I paid less than $50 for about 40 feet of this 14 gauge, tinned copper, unshielded cable that according to some audiophiles shouldn’t be even barely acceptable. Once I built the cables and installed them, it took about 10 seconds to hear the improvement in the main system which is based on a low wattage Single Ended Triode (SET) tube amp of very high quality. In the workshop system, which uses a serviced Harmon-Kardon high current amp from the 70s, there wasn’t as big a difference, but the speakers in that system aren’t anything to talk about anyway.

So yeah - changes make a difference, sometimes big, sometimes not. My pair of ears even older than Mike’s can hear it.

Next I’m on to “rolling” rectifier tubes. It’s worse than camera/lens GAS.

Don't forget the Neal Young Archives where he lets you stream a different album for free every week in HD. Or you can subscribe and listen to everything he's recorded.

As far as I am concerned, AMHD is DOA because I can't subscribe to it through Roon.

Once you have used Roon, there is no going back.

No worries, I am more than happy with Qobuz.

[What is Roon? --Mike]

It seems to me that the general consensus here, apart from the stone cold mathemetically minded detractors, is that appreciation of the work, is not entirely about the ears.

There are other ways to hear!

As Brian Wilson suggested in another sense...

"I'm picking up good vibrations."

To name but one.

How did the great "Ludwig Van" create so much beauty when he was totally deaf?

It's always fun to read audio discussions.

No one can ever say for sure what another person experiences. If someone says they that X is better than Y and truly believe it is effectively impossible to prove them wrong.

However, it is well understood that the mind is a strange processing engine. It takes all sorts of shortcuts to reduce processing requirements. That results in perceptual and cognitive errors (Necker cube for example). It creates strange biases we are often not aware of of and even if we are, can do little to prevent. This is one reason why anecdotal evidence is such a poor basis to make judgements about reality.

So, while no one can say for sure that another person's perceptions are wrong, there is a strong need for some kind of independent way of assessing whether an individual's beliefs are widely applicable.

The gold standard method for this is the double blind test. Wherever there is a need to try and generalise one person's opinion to a large number of other people (or rebut that opinion), the DBT is the best way. It removes additional cues that bias perception and it doesn't care about how confident you are in your opinion.

The question of how audible the effects of different bit rates on music enjoyment are has long exercised audiophile opinion.

Fortunately, everyone here who is interested can put that to the test objectively with no setup effort and just a few minutes of your time.

Have a go at these blind ABX tests of different bit rate music. Can you tell the difference?

http://abx.digitalfeed.net/list.html

It would be quite fun to compile the scores...

p.s.

Someone mentioned the fading of hearing with increasing age. I'm 58 and need reading glasses so I suspect my hearing is equally compromised.

As I have the gear to do it, I subjected myself to some home brewed testing with a signal generator. I can hear very little above about 10-11 kHz. Even with the signal boosted 50dB, I struggle to convince myself I can hear a 11kHz sine wave. My teenage daughter can hear it just fine.

Subjectively, though, the loss of the top octave appears to make no difference to the brightness of music. I strongly suspect there is very little musically useful information in the top octave. It would be interesting to know how much of the music enjoying population would feel they have lost anything when missing the top octave.

[The big problem with DBX testing in audio is that everyone tests tiny snippets of music. When assessing equipment, most reviewers feel it takes something like three days of listening before the properties of a component begin to become clear to them, and a week or more before they really have a handle on it. That accords with my experience. It's almost a shame to lose that "honeymoon" when you're dazzled by something new, before you realize what "tricks" it's playing, or how it's doing what it's doing.

A test I'd like to see, to counter the DBT mob, would be to ask three experienced listeners (audiophiles or reviewers) to familiarize themselves with three different types of one type of component in the context of a particular system which stays stable. THEN do a DBT to see if they can reliable tell, blind, which component they are listening to. I'll bet audio reviewers would do very well on such a test.

By the way, you should look into Revel speakers, the high-end line of Harman International. They are the only speaker manufacturer that does DBT as part of their development protocol. They have a sophisticated machine that can quickly change speakers into the same positions so listeners can't tell from spatial clues that the speakers have been changed.

But the funny part is, do you know what they test FOR? Preference! They're doing DBT to see what people like best. --Mike]

At the moment the Thelonious Monk Quintet is playing the music for Les liaisons dangereuses, the film noir from 1960. My thirty years old cd player and speakers make it sound as if the guys are present in my living room. Just wondering what could be improved if I switched to streaming music. I would certainly miss the lovely little booklet that came with the disc.

But maybe it is the right moment to switch. My favorite music store did not survive the corona crisis. I must have been one of the last three clients.

Mike, I concur with you regarding the kind of testing Dave Miller referenced. To make an analogy to comparing prints, if I give most people two very similar but different prints of the same photo, switching between them quickly and ask them to explain any differences in what they see, they likely cannot provide meaningful descriptions or critiques. Being deeply familiar with a component or piece of music is a fundamental requirement for “valid” audio critique and review, at least in my opinion. Reviewers such as the late Art Dudley, Herb Reichert and a few others take this approach. In nearly all of their equipment reviews they use recordings they know intimately, and spend weeks if not months listening. Plus they write very well.

"The big problem with DBX testing in audio is that everyone tests tiny snippets of music. When assessing equipment, most reviewers feel it takes something like three days of listening before the properties of a component begin to become clear to them, and a week or more before they really have a handle on it. "

There are trained listeners that can ABX tell the difference between a 256Kbps compressed mp3 file and an uncompressed one. And it doesn't take more than a few seconds (because they're trained to listen for those compression differences). However even they will tell you that it doesn't really matter for actual listening (more future proofing).

When it comes to people claiming wires make a difference though, I really wish that would die off. It's a different story because you're not arguing about opinions, you're arguing about physics. No real difference than someone arguing about the Earth being flat. If one of the wires isn't broken, and all other variables are controlled (source, volume levels, connectors, wire gauge, length, etc.), you *cannot* really tell the difference. It's not something up for meaningful discussion any more than the Earth being flat. You can still have a valid preference about the tactile feel and the look of the wire and connectors, but as far as basic ability to transmit current, you cannot. If you are offended at that, imagine how offended a trained electrical engineer or physicist would be :)

I've posted a reply on the other article on DBT before seeing Mike's reply to my post here. But I'll follow up, even at the risk of repetition.

I have read many criticisms of DBT methodologies with respect to audio. Some of them are valid - running a rigorous experiment is tricky, it takes expertise and it is very easy to screw up and draw the wrong conclusions.

Nonetheless, this debate has been batted about for decades and all the criticisms have been satisfactorily dealt with many times and many very high quality tests have been performed, evaluated, critiqued and trustworthy error bars produced. There is no more reason to doubt the results of properly conducted DBT in audio that there is with other well accepted science. It remains the gold standard. There are lot of reasons to look very suspicously at people who try to argue away the validity of DBTs.

Unfortunately, DBT repeatedly debunks many, many audiophile myths. A lot of audiophiles have religious convictions when it comes to sound and don't like what DBT tells them. The pressure to come up with an ever-lasting, ever more demanding list of special conditions that have to be met before a DBT can be believed is enormous and the believers have delivered in spades.

I'm a music lover who has always demanded decent playback quality (unlike most normal people who simply don't care). But I'm also a sceptic about fairy stories and 20 years of the web has given excellent training in the games people play when trying to hang on to cherished beliefs. And I note that there are many DBT test articles around where the organisers have conceded to all audiophiles demands and conditions however absurd. Including having DBT testing done in the comfort of your own home, over as long a period as you wish and with as many repetitions as you desire. And still the results don't change.

There is a simple brute fact about DBTs that make them so powerful. It removes the biases that afflict all of us, so the result depends only on the music, you can't cheat and sneak a peak at the impressive chunky connectors.

I think audiophile believers need to do better than come up with pseudo-scientific excuses to discount DBTs results - afterall, the DBT exists exactly to counter the biases that encourage this behaviour.

Follow the evidence, not your heart or even your convictions.


"What is Roon?" - Mike

Oh, man!

MIke...check this out:

Hans Beekhuizen:

https://youtu.be/7RZpjkjt3Z4

https://youtu.be/2z1CaEvA0jw

John Darko: https://youtu.be/-ZVcNx-DlIc

Both these videos are a couple years old and Roon is way improved since these videos were made.

Roon also has a Radio mode that lets you discover other content related to what you are listening that is either on your hard drive/server or from streaming services like Tidal or Qobuz.

Pic of Roon and its interface:

It is, in a word...AMAZING.


Re (s.wolters) question about the recording of the Thelonious Monk Quintet playing the music for Les liaisons dangereuses: "wondering what could be improved if I switched to streaming music."
Answer: convenience? It's on YT so try it, the sound is likely indistinguishable (I'm listening on AKG701 headphones and it sounds fine, of its time with slight tape/tube hiss of course and everything seems very close miked, present and dry - but marvelous music. I don't have the CD to compare to but of course the YT file came from the same place as the CD - digitising the analogue tapes).
My criteria for sound reproduction is pretty simple, I don't want the equipment to have a "sound" (be a "filter" in Mike's terms). I want to hear whatever it was that was recorded, what the producer and musicians had in mind, not something coloured by inaccurate repro equipment at my end - however "musical' that colouration might be (what if I'm listening to speech?!). That goal is easily achieved nowadays with the electronic parts (amp, DAC etc) given an adequate budget (assigned to the BOM not marketing...) and competent design. Seems possible with speakers and rather difficult with headphones, especially if comparing closed with open backed.
Dave.

The comments to this entry are closed.