· · Audio
Speaker Dust Cap Dent Repair
· As previously noted in this space, I’m a deranged audiophile, and for some years my speakers of choice have been from Totem, out of Montréal. In a recent renovation a woofer got a dent in a dust cap, where by “dent” I mean it was pushed in. I’m posting the solution here in the hopes that future searchers will find it ...
The Wrath of Heaven
· May it afflict intermittent left-channel outages, and an audiophile neighbor who lives for operetta, on the gormless enthusiasts who maladjust the audio in the car-share cars so everything sounds like a Bad Hair Band ... [2 comments]
CL XXVII: Cheap Audio
· We’ve finally arranged, after five full years of Cottage Life, for music playback. There were complicating factors, notably my being a deranged audiophile; and the installation isn’t 100% complete. But it sounds nice, and I’ve already saved $259,404.01! ... [5 comments]
· Being the story of how I stumbled into buying one, and why you might want to also. If you’re any kind of Home-Theater weenie you’ve already had one for a decade or more and you can safely skip this. On the other hand, if the collection of boxes plugged into the big TV has grown like fungus and the rat’s-nest of wires behind it has become intimidating, read on ... [10 comments]
· As an engineer and Internet guy, I feel almost guilty about the fact that I like listening to LPs so much; the technologies used to record the music and play it back should be obsolete. But I do ... [12 comments]
Living in the Future
· The other day I got a Roku and some Plex software; now everything in the house is connected to everything, and to the Net, and remotely-controllable from our mobiles. It feels pretty magic ... [2 comments]
· I spend quite a bit of time in hotel rooms. This is how I arrange my musical backdrop ... [13 comments]
· I’ve been listening to a Shure 3C in-ear headset for seven years; wow! It’s been just fine; but on a recent flight a clumsy seatmate bent the jack, so I needed something new. Audéo is made by Phonak, a Swiss outfit who’ve historically been about hearing aids not music. Apparently the disciplines are closely related, because the Audéo PFE 122 offers, by a wide margin, the best headphone sound I’ve ever heard ... [10 comments]
· We finally got a universal remote for the video setup at home. We’re not early adopters and this is a pretty mainstream category, so quite likely you know all about it. In case you don’t, just wanted to say that Logitech Harmony 650 is a super-nice product and works really well for us ... [5 comments]
· I own too much stuff and have begun to hate my possessions. I love a few things still, notably not including any computer technology, some of which can be admired for a brief period before it is superseded, and I enjoy helping that process along. The things I love include a few pictures, some books, but mostly hand-made artifacts that produce music: chief among these would be my cello (although that relationship has become complex), my djembé, and my record player. I know it’s a “record player” because I bought it from the man at recordplayer.com; please follow that link before moving on ... [20 comments]
· Early this year, I reconfigured the video setup, among other things adding a little Velodyne “MiniVee” subwoofer that worked really well, but made me think that perhaps the big Serious Music system could benefit from subwoofer love. So I added a Totem Thunder; herewith an unashamedly sicko-audiophile (but quantitative, with measurements) fragment that obsesses about music in general and Really Low Frequencies in particular; with a side-trip to a church in Paris. I’ll provide some introductory material in hopes of maybe luring innocent readers into this obsessive and expensive hobby ...
· I gather that on stage today, Mr. Jobs freely flung about the word “audiophile” while pitching the new iPod Hi-Fi. Well, I’m one of those: wrote for the mags, have gear from obscure British manufacturers, turn off a fridge thirty feet away to listen. I’ll look forward to giving the Hi-Fi a listen. It seems fantastically dubious that something 43 cm wide, with a listed bass floor of 53Hz (the bottom string on a bass is 42Hz), weighing 6.6kg, and costing $349, could actually produce “audiophile” sound. But you know, it’s not impossible; if they design for truth and accuracy as opposed to fake-bass thump and scary volume, it could turn out to be pretty useful. In which case, it’d be a complete waste to play your average iTunes-store-sourced lo-rez lossy-compressed MP3 through it. But you can get audiophile sound out of your iPod, and for quite a bit less than $349. Go out and buy one of the good in-ear headphones from Etymotics or one of their competitors (I use the Shure 3C) and, most important of all, get your music off CDs and use lossless compression. The D/A in an iPod is really not bad at all; if you send all of the music through it and play it through first-class transducers, you’ll be happy. (By the way, is it just me or is this thing butt-ugly?)
· A year ago last fall, we got a plasma TV for high-def; 90% of the time it’s on, it’s tuned to a sports event. So sound quality, even for a confirmed audio weenie like me, just wasn’t a big deal, and I plugged in a pair of excellent little PSB Alpha speakers, $299 or so if I recall correctly, and they were plenty good enough. The only problem was, where the TV’s sitting there’s hardly any room to spare either side of the screen, and the PSBs stuck out in an ugly and awkward way. So I dropped by the Boxing Day sale at Sound Plus, my friendly local high-end salon, and picked up a couple of decent little KEF mini-speakers that fit in beside the screen and sound perfectly decent if you don’t ask them to play any low notes, which I left to a MiniVee subwoofer from Velodyne and I have to say, it’s a honey. Rather than using the specialized subwoofer feed, I ran the preamp-out line-level signals from the nice old NAD integrated amp through the Velodyne and back to the power-in, which has the useful side-effect of rolling off the signal at 80Hz, so the little KEFs don’t have to waste energy trying to go where they can’t. The Velodyne has a clever circuit where it powers down and wakes up when it sees an input signal. It sounds good; not close to the Totem Forests on the big music-only system; but for the price, remarkable. I’m sitting here typing this listening to the Ambient channel from Galaxie (that’d be channel 904 if you’re on the Star Choice satellite), and while admittedly it’s brain goo not music, it’s very silky-sounding goo that’s also giving me a friendly kidney massage on the low notes.
The Great CD Migration
· I’m beginning to think about migrating my CD collection to hard disk, and it’s starting to be feasible (even for a hard-core audiophile), but there are some interesting music-technology issues. [Update: Wow, did I ever get feedback; this area is action-packed.] ...
· I may not entirely get it, but I can’t ignore it, so herewith some thoughts and predictions on the subject, plus obviously, a teeny little podcast ...
Live Radio Mmmmmmmm
· I’m sitting here trying to work, but distracted because we have the CBC turned up on the good radio through the big speakers, listening to In Performance; tonight it’s the Edmonton Symphony playing the Eroica. The sound is extraordinary; get the mixers and dubbing and multi-tracking out of the way, hook up the microphones to the broadcast gear and turn on some good receiving hardware, and it does a better job of putting you in the room with the orchestra than most recordings do. Highly recommended.
The Problem With Online Music
· The New York Times today hits the nail on the head: if you’re buying music over the net, you’re buying it in severely damaged condition. When I plug my computer into the really good stereo at home, the difference between the way music sounds coming off CD or vinyl or a good FM signal, and the crippled version from MP3 compression isn’t subtle. I used to think that if you were listening to music on headphones on a bus or train or plane or in a crowd, the MP3 lossage really didn’t matter much. But recently I’ve been listening to the Shure 3C phones, and it’s obvious that we really shouldn’t be ignoring these compression issues; in particular since lossless compression is available right here, right now.
· I should confess that I am the worst kind of obsessive high-end audio weenie. Fortunately, it’s my only really expensive hobby; I distinctly prefer beer to champagne. Anyhow, this creates a problem: when you upgrade your system to get better sound, what do you do with the old stuff? High-end gear tends to last more or less forever, and unlike computers, is usually 80% as good as what you replace it with. So, I’ve used some of that stuff to cobble together a home-office system. I’m taking the audio feed out of my PowerBook via USB to a (now apparently discontinued, sigh) Stereo-Link D/A converter, then through very decent Linn interconnects to an all-tube (and very beautiful) Cary Audio Design “Rocket 88” power amp, driving a pair of the original Totem “Model One” speakers (a dozen years old now). You can bet that I’m happy that iTunes now includes a lossless music encoder; I’m going to have to go back and junk all the existing MP3s I’ve ripped and grab ’em again. Anyhow, I just had my first audio iChat talk since I got this wired up, with Paul Hoffman, on the subject of Atom and the IETF. It was astounding, remarkable, unlike any mere “telephone” experience. Had I shut my eyes and you’d told me that Paul was sitting across the desk, I would have believed you.
By Tim Bray.
I am an employee
of Amazon.com, but
the opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.
A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.