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  1. Servers, Servers everywhere but not a bit to drink!


    As I outlined when talking about the DAC, music data is sent serially to the DAC.   I like the record player analogy.  The stylus on the turntable is transferring what is in the grove at this very second.


    So what does the server or streamer do?  In the most basic form, it provides the user interface to operate the software.  That software then reads the data from the local hard drive, or it connects to an online service and reads the music file data from there.  Finally, it sends that data to the DAC for decoding and playback.


    Streamer or server software can be designed to run on all kinds of hardware: your PC or Mac, or NAS, an iPhone or iPad.  In more advanced systems the server/streamer is run on dedicated equipment purchased for the purpose.  One example is the Chord Poly.  It is a dedicated streamer that only works hooked up to a Chord Mojo DAC/AMP.  There is streaming software built into some network bridges like the Sonore Rendu series.  Another example is the Roon Labs nucleus products that are purpose-built for this work.


    The Roon Labs How Roon Works webpage is a cleanly done pictorial overview of their software.  They break their system into multiple parts and explain them succinctly.




    I have a lot more to say about servers and software.  There will be more posts on this subject.


  2. Everything

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    I just made an account here. First post. I'm a 26 year old musician/producer/mixer. I started taking interest in audiophile questions about two years ago, stemming from a quest for dead-accurate monitoring. I've been all over the audio internet, and I've heard a good deal of systems in person. Audiophile and pro, analog and digital, cheap and expensive. It's funny how the audiophile world and the pro world don't really like to mix, even when they're taking interest in the same questions.


    One of my favorite audiophile writers is Herb Reichert, because he's obsessed with sound that is -direct- and -naked-. Corporeal and palpable. "In the room" explicit. He is allergic to sheen or gloss. His writing asserts that there must still be technological aspects essential to convincing playback that we haven't yet learned to measure, since systems with textbook A+ measurements can still lack this elusive naked quality. Herb prizes this directness over perfect frequency response, dynamic response, or resolution. For him, it is its own parameter with its own merit, and its origin and relation to the others remains mysterious, though he is constantly investigating. Systems that check other boxes, but lack this essential quality, are for Herb false and deceptive, since they offer everything but the soul of the music.


    Now of course, there are many in the audio world who feel this way, or who perhaps feel similarly about some other quality they've discerned. Most people call them "subjectivists". To me...it seems like they're misunderstood. Their general claim is simply: we haven't learned to measure everything that's important, so one has to keep an open mind and seek undiscovered correlations. We hear differences outside of what is reflected in the measurements.


    Philosophically speaking, any measurement that reliably correlates to reality, ever made, in any science, was initially correlated to the human subjective senses, or rests on proofs, which ultimately rest on correlations to our naked senses. The most basic proof for 1+1=2 is that you can pick up one twig, pick up another, and there, you have two twigs in your hand. The subjective layer is the FIRST data layer. You always view numbers on pages THROUGH this layer, and interpret them through mental proofs BASED on it. All accepted science is based on subjective impressions our ancestors agreed on.


    Even the number one is based on subjective experience. The experience of a whole. The experience that an object can be separate from it's environment in the first place. The experience that a pebble is a separate thing from the air or water around it, and that it has a high enough degree of self-consistency to be given a name at all.


    It seems wildly arrogant to assert "we're at the end of audio science" the way "objectivists" do. What if we aren't? In the past, whenever we thought we were, in any field, were we? No. It's not an intelligent position to take, as far as I'm concerned. Staunch objectivists make a wager: "I bet our theories are perfect." Does that seem like a good bet?


    The measurements obsession, in my view, and the philosophy it begets, becomes a kind of fascism that grows in the mind. One ends up losing trust for one's sensory impressions, and dogmatizing the impressions of others. OBVIOUSLY blind tests are better. Obviously people's minds can trick them. Obviously measurements are useful. But the fact is, with self-awareness and curious self-skepticism, one can improve one's recognition of sound, in incredibly various ways. We aren't aware of the limits. There are hearing masters who slay blind tests. Charles Hansen posted about a man he knew who could reliably make insane calls blind, including about gear riser materials, etc.


    In science, data has to be critically interpreted, and fit into hypotheses and theories. Data is also reinterpreted. Endlessly. It always should be. Hypotheses are recrafted and retested. Ultimately, the human is the master of science, not the tool. People seem to be forgetting this...and it honestly creeps me out.


    One of the most magic parts of life is that you can actually improve ALL of your senses. And you can have a critical, evolving relationship with how you interpret them. It's amazing. You don't need to be a measurement machine's bitch, or a slave to whatever theories are in hegemony. You get to develop your own experience and your own ideas. You can actually plumb the depths of human sense down paths no one has gone before. And you can craft interpretations which are entirely new. Forever.


    We ought to hammer this out more so we don't lose more folks to the personless, non-critical void.

    Latest Entry

    Nicky Hopkins (1944-1994) was one of the best keyboard artists of the classic rock era.   He passed at only 50 years of age, much too early.  He worked with the Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Who and many other groups.


    Listen to Sympathy for the Devil on the Beggars Banquet album and you will know what I mean.   Maybe the best rock piano track ever.


    Thanks Nick.

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    The Songs Remain the Same Only Better (previously published at blog.talkofthemountain.com)

    Over the last couple of years I converted my compact disc collection to digital files. This allows me to enjoy the music in whatever venue I happen to occupy: car, living room, basement lair (aka the "country bunker"), MARC commuter train, interplanetary shuttle or molecular transport. No need to lug the discs and player with me and through the magic of miniaturization I simply plug a AudioQuest Dragonfly Red DAC (digital-analog converter) into the lightning connector on an iPad. Said iPad reads the files from a terabyte-sized storage device and to the headphones via the DAC which happens to include a headphone amp.

    Apple has presented a bit of a hurdle in connecting high capacity storage to their portable devices. You cannot just plug something in. In this case a tiny RAVPower FileHub connected to a 1TB external storage device is wirelessly sending files via a built-in wi-fi. Does one terabyte seem like overkill? Au contraire, so far my music collection consumes over 250GB. To date this does not include video but someday ...

    Once down the path of hosting a file-based music collection, purely digital distribution attracted my oft fleeting attention. These days my favorite purveyor is HDTracks who has become one of if not the largest seller of digital music files. My travel system is optimized for 24 bit/96kHz and the remastered version of the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club" album presents an incredibly clear sound at this bit depth and resolution. At this point let me say that not all recordings will present in an improved fashion in uncompressed format(s). Something that was heavily manipulated, compressed during recording, mixing or mastering, or otherwise adulterated may not offer a perceptible sonic improvement at 24 bit/96kHz (or for that matter anything over the lowly CD's 16 bit/44.1kHz) and occasionally one may even prefer the MP3 rip. YMMV but modern recordings and remasters from quality source material including HDTracks cofounder David Chesky's Binaural+ Series do quite well in the upper stratosphere of lossless file containment.

    Of course after I had "ripped" all the discs to digital files using MP3 encoding, the benefits of a lossless format became obvious as my audio playback chain improved. Nothing wrong with MP3 when listening in a noisy environment but with KEF headphones running through the Dragonfly, baby wants, even needs lossless compression. So a second pass was made of digitizing the CDs using the dBPoweramp CD Ripper and saving to the Apple ALAC file format. In the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished department, I now wish I had used the open-source FLAC format but hey, who's to say I won't re-re-rip all those discs?
  4. People have asked how I go about sorting out systems - and find my answers very unsatisfactory. Well, I have come across a book which very nicely addresses some of the key areas where I find a lot of the issues arise - and gives a lot of suggestions of very, Gasp!!, technical gear that can be used to chase these things down. It's a very practical book, minimum high falutin', equations for equations sake guff - what I find especially endearing is that there are a lot of cheap and cheerful tricks and tips offered; these are what I would instinctively go for  ...


    The book? https://www.amazon.com/Troubleshooting-Cookbook-Product-Designers-Electromagnetics/dp/1613530196

  5. bgarris

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    The Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings’ primary goal is the preservation, publication, and education of music awareness. It seeks to accomplish this through its vast catalog of recordings, currently 3000 albums and 43,000 tracks, as well as a national educational initiative. Please help a group of MBA students assist this non-profit record label with this short survey (approx. 2 min).  We need your opinion to assist in the survival of this important music collection.





  6. This is a brief blog outlining my journey through various audio management & playback apps which took me to where I am today.

    Dial the clock back to around 1997. I had gotten into minidisc as a way of making my own compilations and recordings of music - a definite step up from cassette. Also in the mix were CD-Rs which would allow music to be burnt to a CD and played in a regular CD player. Though as time went on, the step of copying the music to some form of physical media became increasingly redundant; the advent of the iPod a few years later in 2001 further accelerated this trend. 

    I began with keeping my "digital" music collection in a folder on my PC (at the time, probably a 486 or equivalent). Downloading was of individual tracks due to low connection speeds. As my collection expanded, full albums were placed into individual folders within Windows. As it grew further, the root folder was divided into genres and the album folders placed within those. As I was keen on being able to browse via album art, I set the folders to be displayed in "thumbnail" mode, which allowed an image (called folder.jpg) to be superimposed on the folder icon. I spent some time acquiring the front covers of the albums, renaming to folder.jpg and placing them within the individual folders. If a folder had a few albums in it, then up to 4 album covers could be displayed on the thumbnail icon. Eventually it looked something like this:


    At this time I was using Winamp to play the music. As can be seen in the screenshot above, it allowed for a small unobtrusive player to be situated somewhere on the screen. Winamp could also read and display some of the basic file metadata such as artist and song title. At this time I also used the "visualisation" feature that a lot of these players had - graphics that moved in time with the music. Bit of a gimmick, looking back :)

    Around this time I also experimented with Windows Media Player. This was the next step up, as it improved on folder structure-based browsing by using file metadata to arrange and display the music. You could then browse by artist, album, genre and year. Album art was shown without the folder icon in the background, and if there were a number of albums by a particular artist, it would show a "stack" effect which was quite nice. I don't have any screenshots of my own of this, though it looked something like this:


    Always on the lookout for improvements, I think around 2006 I discovered Mediamonkey. This was a more versatile app and allowed for user customisation. What was great was that instead of just growing by artist, album and genre, you could define your own criteria and be able to browse via these criteria in the menu tree. As well as the above, I set it to be able to browse by "compilations by album" and "compilations by genre". As a snapshot, my setup around this time looked like this:


    Eventually, two other useful features came along. The first was "coverflow" type browsing as popularised by Apple. This was meant to emulate the act of flicking through CDs/the physical media. I found this more of a novelty rather than anything else, as I preferred the "grid view" which allowed a more organised and higher-level look. The second feature was the ability to display a second image relating to the album in a sub-window. For example, the rear album art could be displayed alongside the front album art - the following screenshot shows these two features:


    The problem with this particular setup was that the rear album art image was quite small - unless you resized the window, in which case it encroached on the browsing tree and made the main window too small. However it was a nice addition, though required quite a lot of extra work to make sure that all the albums had a rear album art image in their folder. The customisability of the browser tree allowed for some other useful features - for example, showing the number of items within each folder or sub-folder.

    I was happy with Mediamonkey for a few years, though soon something better came along: JRiver Media Player. This just seemed to be a slicker and more polished product than Mediamonkey. It was similarly customisable and had a very helpful user forum with good input from the development team. This forum was necessary, as modifying the tree required the understanding of the particular code that it used, which (to my mind) was not particularly intuitive! It also seemed to be in active development with regular updates. I was able to customise the tree further, e.g. to browse via decade before drilling down to year, along with a range of other customisations over time. It also had the "stacked" album view that I enjoyed in Windows Media Player. Here is a screenshot of my JRiver setup in October 2010 (ignore the albums themselves, as I was having an issue with the code at the time and the screenshot was to show an error):



    Here is another screenshot, showing the individual album view:


    However my quest to improve the album art aspect of things continued. I tried a range of media management apps including MusicBee, iTunes, Album Player and many more. Eventually I settled on FooBar2000. This took customisation to the next level, and finally (with a great deal of effort and input from the helpful user forums) I was able to customise it to show what I wanted - including the front and rear album art. It looked like this:



    To me, this made for a much more realistic browsing experience. Extra features which I added to the app included a detailed waveform seekbar (even the colour of the progress bar was customisable), having the front album art show in a jewel case, a number of information panes (including artist info, news & reviews, comments and other images in the folder), a customised information panel at the bottom (showing information including bit rate, bit depth and sample rate) and having the rating show after each file in the tree. A number of these addons required the installation of special modules - Foobar2000 is quite a modular app. 

    Foobar2000 was my music manager and player for a number of years. As always, I remained on the lookout for any new and interesting alternatives. Foobar2000 was great, and I liked the amount of detail you could get on a single screen (i.e. as per the screenshot above), though it looked a bit "computery". In 2006 the company Sooloos came on the scene; they offered a very slick and elegant bespoke media browsing experience, with great integration of a range of metadata (imported from the AMG service) - though tied in with hardware and with a price to match. In 2008, Sooloos was purchased by Meridian, an AV manufacturing & distribution company founded in 1977 and based in England and the product became (and remains) Meridian Sooloos. In 2015 however, some members of the original Sooloos team formed an agreement with Meridian to start their own new enterprise: Roon Labs. Further details are provided in a blog entry by Enno Vandermeer, founder/CEO of Roon Labs:


    Roon took all the things that were great about Sooloos and released it as a standalone software app that could be installed onto any PC or Mac. When it was released in May 2015 I knew that it was the app for me. The interface and paradigm was completely different to all the previous media managers (apart from Sooloos). It presented your music collection in a much more visually appealing way - in part due to the ability to run it via a touchscreen. It also (like Sooloos) drew on online sources to recognise your media and pull the appropriate metadata. Roon also has a very active user base with excellent input from the developers onto the forums - and has undergone a number of updates since the initial release, now up to version 1.3. There is also a strong focus on sound quality and compatibility with various devices. There are still a number of features that I would like included (in particular relating to its management of album art) - though there is a new version (perhaps version 2.0) in the pipeline with some big changes in store, apparently. Hopefully I have found my media management endgame.


  7. foodfiend
    Latest Entry

    11,000 Virgins: Chants for the Feast of St. Ursula was both my introduction to the works of Hildegard von Bingen, as well as to Anonymous 4. What an introduction it was! The recording surrounds pieces written for the Feast of St. Ursula, who, according to legend, was massacred by the Huns together with her 11,000 virgin handmaidens. While Hildegard von Bingen wrote only 7 of the 18 pieces, the imprint is clear. Having the four voices of Anonymous 4 then sing the pieces is amazing. Chants sung by ladies are very different from those sung by men, since they have a more ethereal quality. Anonymous 4 does well by letting the melodies waft into the soundscape.



    Link to the Album on amazon.com

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    I live at the bottom of a Helmholtz resonator.

  8. I recently replaced the bridge rectifiers with CREE SiC Schotty diodes in my Vega DAC and then Antipodes DX music server with very positive results. Mainly enhanced resolution, better space, blacker backgrounds, wider soundstaging and removal of glare. I had read some very old posts that advised against using Schottky diodes for audio power amps but these posts were ten years old so after getting good results from my front end I took a leap that these newer CREE SiC diodes would deliver in my Krell amp. When I first powered the amp up after the mod it initially sounded better but as time went by the sound got very squirrelly with a lot of added glare. After then adding shunting cap and resistor across each of the diodes and then across the secondary windings it marginally improved but something was still very wrong. I deduced that the Schottky's in the amp must be emitting EMI into the circuitry which I planned to absorb with some leftover TI shield which I have laying around. Maybe, as an outside possibility a neighbor coincidentally added some AC load that helped pollute the line. I could go back to the original 35A bridge rectifier in the amp to see what that sounds like but the more times you touch a mod in a tight space, the more you risk of breaking joints/wires etc...

    I randomly had planned on doing an AC line filter plugged into outlets distributed throughout the house and admittedly better lucky than good, this not only fixed whatever was occurring after the amp Schottky mod but took my system to the next level in lowering noise and glare and delivering spacial detail that I had to tell people about.

    I believe  this inexpensive mod will incrementally improve many-a-system for the cost of about $2 per filter.

    The cap is a WIMA  part number MKX2AW21002C00KSSD which is a  premium .01uF "X" capacitor meant to be applied across the AC line. It is rated for 305V continuous but is meant to take pulses of thousands of volts across the line and if overwhelmed by a lightning hit, is designed to blow open and not short like other capacitors....

    The size of this specific cap happens to fit perfectly into the rectangular cavity inside a  97cent Cooper Wiring Devices 2601W-BU Plug which passes the WAF in the 12 outlets I have these plugged into so far. I used WBT silver solder to solder the 1" 26AWG leads to the cap and I dipped the other end of the leads that I compression fit to the plug with CAIG contact enhancer. I opened the prongs which revealed a small opening near the hinge for the 26AWG leads. When the prongs are closed it will hold the wire with a tight compression fit. The 1" or so leads allow the cap to insert to the cavity sideways then rotated 90 degrees to fit into the rectangular cavity in the back of the plug housing. I used a woodblock to push and compress the plug prongs all the way into the housing. Then I checked with a continuity meter to make sure nothing was shorted and then measured the capacitance. It took me doing two or three units to get the hang of it. 

    I plan on doing the other 18 plugs in the next several days as I ran out of silver solder. The more plugs added the less effect the antennae effect of the house wiring and noise polluting loads will have. 

    Cooper 2601W-BU Add-A-Plug, Male, White





  9. After some time with Wordpress I've decided to move my blog to their platform at Melvin's Foolish Things. I have no interest in maintaining 2 blogs and unfortunately I've been unable to edit or delete the posts here (which have been tweaked/updated on Wordpress). Thanks for having a look.

  10. This USB configuration has been in place in my system since November 2016, so I'm just catching up with this BLOG post, but I think there are a few things worth saying about it.


    After fooling around with Regens and various USB cables, and with a lot of input from CA Forum experimenters reporting their experiences, last Fall I came to the conclusion that a galvanic isolator like the Intona, followed by a USB ‘cleaner’ like a Regen, and then the best short cable (Curious) I know of, was probably as good a USB connection as one is likely to get. A number of CA reporters found this or similar configurations to be their favorite. When I found a good deal on a used Intona isolator, I set out to complete my implementation.


    Now, as I complete this writeup, the UpTone Audio “Iso Regen” is marching its last steps towards its public release, I feel vindicated in my ‘design’, and confident that my SQ is not too far behind Alex’s and John’s fine new device !



    The six parts of my 'In-iso-Regen' USB connection:


    * A Supra .7m USB cable from my Mac Mini to the Intona input. Nice, but nothing special. I don't consider this cable all that important to the sound of the entire 'connection’. It was available and is generally good quality. The +5v line is unnecessary and blocked by a little tape strip on the A connector. ***


    * Intona ‘USB Isolator’ (the Standard version is fine with me, and I got mine used, so less expensive), I wrapped the circuit board in copper foil for RFI protection. *


    * USB ‘hard’ adaptor (similar to UpTone supplied one). The Regen input is closely attached to the Intona output by this adaptor **. I got it online because it fit better in the tight spaces behind my Benchmark DAC, also was useful in my dual Regen experiment.


    * Uptone Audio Regen - ‘Green’ version (I still like the sound of the original version, and don't think the the ground lift resistor in the ‘Amber' version is important in this isolated configuration) Managed to obtain a metal case for it (Thanks, Alex !), to protect from RFI.


    * My DIY low noise LPS (adj. voltage, 1 amp) for the Regen (see previous BLOG post for description). Unfortunately in this configuration the power cable plug into the Regen is pretty cramped, but doable.


    * Curious Cable 200mm "Regen Link" USB cable from Australia (also bought used for a savings) ***. Short, stiff, but oh, so transparent :)



    Implementation details:


    * Intona RFI upgrade: With a metal case for the Regen, I didn’t want to leave the Intona ‘out in the cold’, so I ordered some RFI blocking copper foil from eBay. After removing the Intona PC card by separating the halves of the plastic case, I insulated the bottom of it with bits of regular black electrical tape over the largish USB connector leads (trimmed short with nippers, and a little filing), then added a piece of packing tape over the entire bottom of the PCB. I built up a little (upside down, ‘U’ shaped) box from scribed and bent clear acetate to cover the lumpy top of the PCB, and taped it in place with transparent wrapping tape.


    Now that all the circuitry was protected from shorts, I wrapped the ‘box’ with the copper tape. First one end got two complete warps of the copper, then the other end, and then the middle, gently smoothing the foil down with a fingernail. I cut two 2” x 2” pieces of foil for the ends and pushed the foil side into the protruding part of the two USB connector shields to guide my X-acto knife in cutting out the holes for them. I left a gap around the ‘Device’ (A) connecter shield, and made the ‘Host’ (B) connector hole undersize to have the copper wrap grounded to the shield there, and open on the other side. Make sure of no ground loops through the cable shield, otherwise the whole point of the Intona (Isolation) is lost ! I figure that if radio waves are going to induce a charge into my shield, then, like an antenna, that charge should be routed to ground IMNSHO.

    The holes for the PCB hold-down screws are inaccessible now, but the wrapped PCB fits snugly enough inside the box that a small piece of foam is sufficient to hold it in place.



    ** Regen case support: I found a 2” x 4-1/2” piece of .090” ABS sheet to glue to the bottom of the Intona case (off-center to lineup w/ Regen) and cantilever out 3-1/2“, to support a small (1” x 1-1/2” x .090”) shim pad for the Regen. After applying Cramolin contact enhancer to all USB connectors, a piece of double-stick tape under the Regen, tucked it, the Hard Adaptor, and Intona solidly, and safely, in place together.



    *** Cabling: My two USB devices are now combined in one physical unit, making connections with the two USB cables easier and cleaner. The Supra cable has a ’S’ shape, coming from the back of the Mini server (sitting to the left of the DAC), looping to the front, secured to the side of the Intona box with a Velcro strap, and curving 180° around to enter the front of the Intona, sitting on top of my DAC. The Curious ‘Regen Link’ is bent to a ‘U’ shape, to curve down from the back of the Regen, into the back of the DAC. Short and sweet :)



    The Results (drum roll, please):

    My total cost ran to about $385 (excluding an Uptone Amber set, now available). Not too bad considering, but limited to my experiences. As they say YMMV. Well, that is if, you attempt to replicate my experiment here :) It’ll be interesting to see how the new Iso Regen prices out. But, of course, you have to add in an LPS-1 to the package ! As a matter of fact, I am rushing to get this write up done and posted before Alex release his new toy. Bragging rights ? Nah… :)


    After assembling all these parts, I was so pleased, I just wanted to listen to all my favorite music all over again ! You probably know that feeling, it is one of the reasons we are audiophiles :)


    I found the most obvious SQ improvements in Redbook material, not all, but the better stuff. The differences are more subtle with Hi Res files. As I attempted to quantify the magnitude of SQ changes I feel as if the SQ improvements I perceived with the initial Regen has been increased by about 3x with this new USB connection configuration, and along the same veil-lifting lines. I’ll call that 3RE (Regen SQ Equivalences). This is my new attempt to quantify SQ changes at this level. Will it catch on ?? Nah… :)


    What it comes down to is, color me a very happy camper :) !


    Dave A


    1) Intona and other parts laid out

    2) wrapping the PCB box in copper foil

    3) wrapping the ends with foil

    4) ready for finial assembly

    5) completed unit

    6) my DIY LPSU for Regen (on power strip)

    7) Curious 200mm USB(yellow), (blue/black) power leads, (gray) Supra USB

    8) front of my digital source with USB upgrade



  11. I think I found your problem. But seriously, it shouldn't that much matter. For convenience sake, use the iFi volume control to match levels with the second input on your Schiit and use the Schiit's volume control to match levels with the other sources to your Yamaha. Use the Yamaha volume to control final playback level.


    If you're using the Schiit volume because it's closest to you, then turn the Yamaha down and set the Schiit to maximum. Turn the Yamaha up to the loudest you'd ever listen, then use the Schiit volume control going forward. The last thing I'd recommend is leaving the Yamaha ragin', full on.


    Thanks, I am now getting more range of volume control with the Schiit SYS. I knew there was good answer out there. With my Schiit Modi2 it was not a problem. The nano has a built-in headphone amplifier and I just had the Yamaha repaired, so I was perplexed on which combo of settings would sound best. The volume control on the nano is great when used as a headphone amp, and my thinking was that Yamaha needed to be running 100%, but everything sounds better with the receiver at 50% output, the nano at 100% and the Schiit has full range of volume control...

  12. Intona is a great piece and they have indeed a great service, for a "poluted PC" it does a great job

    I used to have one intona and after that 2 regen in series with linear power supplies.

    I put that in the garage, because I found this amazing device the 3R by ideon audio.

    I also use 2 in series but with one you get 85% of the improvement

    It is cheaper than the intona, and works way better [than the regen as well]

  13. DM's Blog

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    Group Test: USB gadgets (AQ Jitterbug, Uptone Regen, iFi iUSB3.0, iPurifier, iPurifier2, Intona, w4s Recovery any more …)


    Disclaimer: For people who knew me, they all knew that I can be a bit critical, if you don’t like what you are reading, please simply ignore my reviews and enjoy the music.






    The title may be a little misleading, a few years ago, these groups of USB gears are surely classified as gadgets, but nowadays, I would say they are indispensable in a computer audio system, mainly because:


    1. USB audio device is one of the primary music sources now; and

    2. USB connection is horrible for transmission audio,


    so something has to be done.


    A couple years ago, I did a small group test of the USB DACs, link here.


    With those I started racking up different USB gadgets over time (man needs new toys). Again, I tested those with my Macbook, Shure 535 and Sennheiser HD 800, also with a pair of QMS active speakers. I also included some noise measurements result I took with a friend at his office lab (with a EMU0404).


    1. Computer USB port


    Lab (Power Noise Measurement)




    This is a measurement taken on the computer USB port with loading. In an idea world, the noise line should be around -140dB (~a few uV, the green line), but in reality, the computer USB port is a lot worst. In fact, the computer USB port is ~1000 times (60dB) worse than the ideal.




    When directly connected to the computer, all the DACs had the hallmark of the “digital sound”, dry, edgy, flat, boring and basically horrible.


    2. Audioquest Jitterbug ($49) and iFi iPurifier ($99, discontinued)


    The discontinued original iFi iPurifier probably was the first of its kind filtering both the USB Data and Power, later came the Jitterbug which did a Chinese copy (minus the Aluminum case) at half the price. As those two are so similar I lump those two reviews in one.


    Lab (Power Noise Measurement)




    Both of the iPurifier and Jitterbug’s graphs were so close, they basically overlap with each other, so I only posted one graph. they have almost no measurable effect on power supply noise in the range below 96kHz, above that they did reduce the noise spikes a little.




    Put is simply, they work, but the overall effect is subtle (but any improvement on USB audio is nice). The sound is slightly more coherent and has a bit more depth, jazz vocal is reproduced with a bit more clarity. I found that the iFi iPurifier might have a slightly darker background than the Jitterbug, but it’s very close call.


    Adding one more jitter bug into the system (one on the used port, one on the unused port), improve things a little but really not worth the extra effort.




    Overall, I will rate the Audioquest Jitterbug a score of 49 and the iFi iPurifier 50 out of 100, so so for the money and don’t expect miracle, they both had their days but it’s time to move on. I would not recommend getting any of them nowadays.


    50 iFi iPurifier (discontinued)

    49 Audioquest Jitterbug


    To Be Continued...

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    If you think this seems far-fetched, look no further than to HD video. To produce a Blu-ray player, you must agree to limit the picture to DVD resolution if the display connection doesn't have HDCP encryption. MQA could become the music industry's equivalent of HDCP.
    {just riffing off of your post mansr}


    This is why MQA = DRM in it's current form (which I put at 1.1 - 1.0 being the original hardware only version). You can not produce a hardware or software decoder TODAY without agreeing to limit the output to the 24/48 (putting aside it is only 'really' 17 bits at most) content. As a consumer, you can only access the "Hi Res" content TODAY unless you agree to the terms and conditions (purchasing a license, etc.) and if you do try to access said content you are in violation of the agreement, IP, patent laws, etc. You, as a consumer are being "managed", by a "digital product" - your "rights" are limited legally and technically - what is this called? That's right, it has a name and it is:


    DRM ("Digital Rights Management")


    Now, I know many believe DRM to be something different - they believe DRM = copy protection. This is one form of "digital management" that DRM can take (among many), and it is a specific technical implementation of DRM, but DRM can in no way be reduced to just copy protection, any more than all dogs can be reduced to Chihuahuas. Let's look at the first two sentences of Wikipedia's entry for DRM:


    Digital rights management (DRM) schemes are various access control technologies that are used to restrict usage of proprietary hardware and copyrighted works. DRM technologies try to control the use, modification, and distribution of copyrighted works (such as software and multimedia content), as well as systems within devices that enforce these policies.


    Notice the generality, the multiplicity, and the emphasis on "proprietary", etc. Copy protection is but one form of DRM, and DRM can not be reduced to copy protection/prevention schemes. It is the larger "Rights Management" of the consumer through "Digital" means, but more than that through legal (i.e. IP, patents, etc.) that is the important take away. DRM turns your software/hardware into a legal mechanism to control your behavior. Open formats and standards have neither the digital implementation and design to do this, and more importantly they do not have the legal status to do this. The Wikipedia entry does not mention "copy protection" until several sentences late when it is listing several ways DRM is implemented as an example.


    Now, I understand that many consumers are "ok" with all sorts of DRM as long as it is not the dreaded "copy protection", but remember others are not and DRM is not such a limited concept - never has been and never will. Not only is MQA DRM in its current form, it actually is a good example of it...

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    Hi All- I'm looking into some room treatment options and have found a few suppliers, Auralex and Vicoustic, that seem like good options. Attractive and quality are important for this project. Any ideas?! Thanks.

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    Selling Luxman da-06 230V European

    It was bought in march 2015 from Acoustic Gallary Paris

    it was a demo unit

    For paypal please add 4%, price is 3200euro,

    I replaced 7 fuses inside with SR20 fuses. which cost 350euros.

    Any questions are welcome.


  14. I wanted to build a server that is capable of running multichannel pipeline matrix processing (including convolution) and upsampling to the 8-channel exaSound e28 DAC at DSD256.


    One challenge was finding a nice CPU for the task. When the new Broadwell-E generation of CPUs became available the choice became easier. Either 8-core i7 6900K with 3.2 GHz base frequency, or 10-core i7 6950X with 3.0 GHz base frequency. I ended up selecting the 6950X because then there's a core per channel and two extra cores for other tasks like running the OS, Roon, etc. These also have four memory channels for DDR4 2400 RAM to keep the CPU employed.


    Next I wanted to select a GPU. Since the GeForce GTX 1080 (check the full specs) based on the newest Pascal architecture became available recently, it was a natural choice. The newest Titan X and Quadro P-series were not yet available. Since I was earlier happy with ASUS Strix-series GTX 980, I picked up GTX 1080 from the same series. Luckily I didn't choose anything bigger, as you'll see later, this is already a monster. Strix-series has three large fans and a large heatsink, making it fairly quiet because the fans then run at slower speeds making less air noise.


    Next interesting task was to select a motherboard for the system. I wanted something that was available, and some of the features in Gigabyte's G1 Gaming series are interesting. For example the DAC-UP USB interfaces that have noise filtering and also possibility to turn off the +5V supply from BIOS settings!






    Since the microATX size X99M-Gaming5 model had all the necessary features (including UltraDurable), no wireless components and was well available it ended up being selected.


    I wanted the computer look like normal audio gear, so I wanted a HTPC case with brushed aluminum front panel and typical measures. Based on previous good experiences, one from Fractal Design's range was a natural choice the Node 605. Now this choice started to place some interesting constraints. For example based on the specs, the graphics card wasn't even supposed to fit...


    Now it was necessary to find a PSU that could power all this and be silent as possible. The Corsair RM850x matched my requirements, was available in the store and based on the specs would also fit in the case.





    As last items, I selected storage for the OS (music is on a network server) and RAM. For storage, I knew I wanted something extremely fast. Samsung 950PRO M.2 NVMe fit the bill exactly. As an additional bonus it nicely fits on the motherboard which was good since I knew I'd need to remove all the HDD cages from the case to fit the GTX 1080 card. For RAM I ordered fastest spec matching RAM I could get and that was Kingston HyperX Predator DDR4 2400 with CL12 (not available anymore, but similar part is now available in the Savage-series with smaller heatsinks).






    Since this module had long delivery time and large heatsinks I wasn't sure if it's going to fit, I also purchased more regular Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR4 2400 with CL16.


    For CPU cooler, the only suitable one, that was both expected to be quiet and also fit the case was Noctua NH-U9B that I already had in storage, now replaced in the product portfolio by slightly updated NH-U9S model. The newer model directly supports LGA2011-3, for the older model I took mounting kit from the NH-D15 cooler kit I'm anyway going to use on another machine with LGA1511 socket.







    Getting started with the installation, the PSU just fit the case, one millimeter bigger and it wouldn't have fit there.





    Looking at the motherboard...







    This one has kind of "hifi" sound card on-board, with shielding on the DAC (box saying "AMP-UP Audio"), Nichicon audio caps, adjustable output gain and swappable op-amp (default is TI/BB OPA2134). I'm not going to use it, but there it is anyway... The board looks pretty neat overall.


    Then installing the CPU, cooler, RAM and the SSD. Here those parts installed, with the Crucial Ballistix RAM modules. Taller RAM modules would get pretty close to the cooler, I don't know yet if the HyperX Predator modules are going to fit or not.





    And then, everything goes into the case. This wasn't easy, I knew it was going to be tight with the Strix-series GTX 1080. In addition to the HDD cages, I had to remove the front panel USB/FW/audio connector board and even then bend top of the rear panel steel for the duration of installation, otherwise the card didn't fit in. But it doesn't matter, because those connectors would be behind front-panel lid and I don't need those anyway. The middle case stiffening rod will need to be left out.





    And at last, the machine running, still with lid open. You can see that only middle GPU fan is running because there's no real load on the GPU yet. Fancy led stripes on the motherboard and graphics card that can be adjusted to do different stuff. Not going to be visible in this case...





    Here are load figures from the first test run. Source is 5.1 channel 48/16 DVD-rip, upsampled to 12.3 MHz DSD256 using full poly-sinc-short-mp and ASDM7. CUDA offload is being used.




  15. I do most of my music listening on my phone in the car. That's where I have the most free time to pay attention to music. It's great when I have an opportunity to sit down and listen to an album all the way through on the HIFI but generally speaking, I'm jamming in the car.



    I used to have an iPod but got rid of it when I got my android as it has expandable storage and is customizable and I can do all my things with one computer (that can call people). So I went looking for the best music player on Android. I found it. It is called GoneMAD Music Player, GMMP. It is easily the most customizable player on android and I have been able to make it look close enough to the ipod to ease the transition. The best thing about it though is smart playlists.



    I have almost 8000 songs on my phone and mostly like to listen to albums but I do like to shuffle every once in a while and when I do, I don't want to hear and bunch of either intro tracks or 30 minute songs that take up the whole ride by themselves. So I made a smart playlist that only gives songs over 90 seconds, under 15 minutes and only greater than or equal to 3 star rating.



    Having so much music there's bound to be stuff I come across on shuffle that I don't like. Smart playlists to the rescue. I set the default rating of all my music to 3 stars out of 5. I have swipe gestures where if I swipe up it increases rating, swipe down decreases rating, left skips track forward and right skips backwards. So when I hear a crap song, I swipe down and then left. This decreases the rating to less than 3 and skips it. Given that my smart playlists update automatically, I'll never hear that song on my shuffle playlist again since it has to be at least 3 stars based on the rule.

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    My name is May and I’m working for SOtM as a marketing manager. It’s so pleasure to introduce myself here officially and great chance to announce the sMS-200 availability through this chance.


    Some may already have known our sMS-200 but some may not know about this brilliant mini network player, so here I briefly introduce what sMs-200 is,


    It features

    - Excellent modern design.

    - Use the separated audio power board.

    - Use the exclusive large audio condenser.

    - Use the exclusive audio components to reach forward to analog sound.

    - Use the heat sinks for the stable operation and anti-noise.

    - Use the high standard noise reduction technology which has been qualified by SOtM’s tX-USBexp, SATA filter and others.

    - Use the high standard active noise filter and UKJC which has been qualified by SOtM’s tX-USBexp, sDP-1000EX and others.

    - Use the High-End audio grade USB port.

    - Use the 2 x standard USB ports for USB storage device.


    The pictures below prove how sMS-200 is valuable. And the new features are planning to be also updated step by step.



    And there will be the same series of products coming up, the USB audio signal re-generator called tX-USBUltra will be the next up which has the upgraded "sCLK clock" board installed and the audio grade power supply will be following up soon. All these combinations will bring you the most satisfaction.


    This is the certificate of Richard Beers Innovation Award, the award honors “those who contribute to the growth of our industry and encourage innovation every year”.


    Please check more details including specification on our website, click here. and also you can purchase sMS-200 through our website. Click ‘Buy sMS-200’ button and it will lead you to SOtM shop to purchase sMS-200.


    Every user who purchases a sMS-200 would get a 2 months free trial Roon license and we can offer a 1 year Roon license at the very special price if you request.


    Lastly, we are preparing the event for our valuable customers who are currently using our sMS-100.The event will be arranged by this simple way, but this is not fully confirmed yet, I will need to discuss more details in next few days and get back to you shortly..

    Step 1. Return your sMS-100 to us.

    Step 2. Buy sMS-200 in US$350.


    Thank you for taking your time to see what sMS-200 is and how valuable it is. I may need to update few more information after this weekend. In the meantime if you have any question regarding sMS-200 or our products, please feel free to leave a message or question.


    Thank you very much.

    Warmly, May




    Do not allow cheap products. Don’t be blinded by well-advertised products. But enjoy your music life with the valuable audio products made by SOtM.

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