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It's all connected!


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Anyone got a blue pill? Or at least an antidote to the red pill.

 

I don't want to know the 'truth' anymore, I've seen the truth, and the truth is very simple - it's all f&*king connected, and apparently in the worst possible way.

 

Everything apparently affects everything else in this matrix(-ed) system we call computer audio. And apparently, the electrical power is just using us all for it's own nefarious purposes.

 

The simple truth is (only?) now staring me in the face. There are way too many variables to even begin to sort out 'which' thingy is causing 'what' effect, forget simple attribution (of effect to cause), the multitude of factors is such that isolation is impossible for all practical purposes, which can only lead to another matrix - a spreadsheet of all the possible factors and their possible, and even impossible (read unknown), interactions with each other.

 

To make matters worse, parts of the whole can affect other parts without even a direct, physical connection (let's label this the 'Mini' effect, aka the proximity-compounding effect).

 

I believe there's a reason many come here, searching for answers like so many armchair engineers (duh!), it's because building a computer audio system (that flourishes within one's own audio system) is NOT unlike designing a 'product' ... from scratch.

 

Not to go all 'eastern philosophy' on you, but...allow me to share something I believe apropos. A few years ago, I took weekly classes in anatomy intended for yoga instructors - taught by a yogi/dancer/anatomy professor. At the end, the thought foremost in my mind was this: "it's all connected", followed by, "what an amazing design(er)", the last syllable being silent. :)

 

enjoy,

clay

 

PS, We don't have a [fill-in-the-blank] prayer.

 

PPS, In eastern philosophy, one of the most telling characteristics of having reached nirvana is this: no more searching. :0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the world - reality- is contingent: everything interacts with everything else; and to our dismay, we learn that 'we' are not running the show; the show is running us. technocratic rationality is a dead-end street.

in this regard, i strongly suggest that you read some thomas pynchon. dig in with his masterpiece" "V".

of course, just sit back and dig the music. that comes first. you deserve it.

 

johnnyturbo

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Hi Clay - You said it very well. I'm actually really happy you posted this. I've tried to tell the same thing to people as well, but another set of fingers typing the same thing is always helpful.

 

One thing I always say is that changes made to a computer based audio system don't have a linear outcome for everyone. For example, putting in a Lynx card gives someone a certain sound with that exact system. But, it's not just the Lynx card effecting the sound. The Lynx in a way was the cause, but because of the Lynx the computer now loads additional drivers, sucks more power. Is there a step variable involved such as if x amount of power is consumed the fans must speed up a bit, or if certain drivers are loaded then the OS must compensate by prioritizing differently etc...

 

Then install a patch or service pack and do the testing all over again only to find different results.

 

My ramblings may not make sense and I might not have got across exactly what I was trying to say, but hopefully people get my drift.

 

Get bit perfect output, get music, and get happy :~)

 

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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"Is there a step variable involved such as if x amount of power is consumed the fans must speed up a bit, or if certain drivers are loaded then the OS must compensate by prioritizing differently etc..."

 

I've no idea, it's like solving simultaneous equations without even having identified the equations...who the hell knows.

 

One thing I'm pretty convinced of, to your point, none of this is very linear. And, of course, depending on where you start, an improvement in the beginning could be detriment later on.

 

And then there's the diminishing returns factor, e.g. there may be three products that can be claimed to improve mpg efficiency (in your car) by a certain percentage, but those percentages are not cumulative when added together, and - this is the important aspect - three different people implementing all three products, but starting with a different one, will each likely claim the bigger benefit from the one they started with.

 

And, of course, all the three together won't improve the gas mileage as claimed by the least ambitious of the three. :0

 

Time to get back to First Principles, perhaps.

 

For me, the first and foremost is always - simpler is better, i.e. when trying to choose between two options, the simplest solution is usually the best, although not always (the most) obvious.

 

Here's an example. We've got a myriad of AC line conditioning products, re-generators, power cables, etc. to choose from. And OTOH, we've got batteries. Hmmm....

 

There's a gazillion preamps out there, none of which actually can legitimately improve upon an already good signal. Dump it!

 

There's more speaker manufacturers than anything else. Everyone's got an idea of how to improve upon the ideal, which would be a single point source, aka single driver system. Single drivers are not for everyone, but if you deviate, understand why, and stay with the simple solutions. Hint - high efficiency is a product of simpler speaker designs. Can you say 'no crossover'?

 

As for amps, what's more simple than a single ended, single gain stage Class A amp, with as little negative feedback as possible, a la Nelson Pass. Okay, so it can't run off batteries easily, but, if there's a single reason that tube amps sound so great, it's the simplicity of the circuits, IMO. Of course, you can't use an amp like this not having already 'simplified' your speaker choice. Trust me, I know, I'm trying right now, and I need new speakers.

 

For computers, 'simple' is the most complicated of all to deliver on as it comes in a kit. Stay tuned for Chris' report on his Alix board Linux implementation. :)

 

I think you get the idea. You did get the point, didn't you?

 

Computers are too damned complicated to serve the simple need - sending a digital signal to your DAC. Convenient as hell, yes, but not simple.

 

Tuning turntables, tonearms and cartridges is relatively simple by comparison, but this is not seen until you get under the hood and start tinkering.

 

 

Ahhh, did someone mention tinkering, yes, this is one hell of a life!

 

http://new.music.yahoo.com/katell-keineg/tracks/one-hell-of-a-life--177678163

 

as always,

enjoy,

clay

 

PS, there's a fly in the ointment of the simplest is better approach as well. The simpler the relative number of components, the greater the impact of each one, as compared to the relatively homogenized sound provided by the "parts is parts & we need lots of them" school of design.

 

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wow Clay you're really on it tonight :~)

 

I listened to the Alix board this afternoon. It's pretty cool. I'm actually powering the board over Ethernet PoE and sending output to a dCS stack. A tiny read-only operating system so it's impossible to screw up on hard reboots etc... Full iPhone control and nothing running in the background.

 

I'll hold off on the details for now :~)

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Chris ...

 

What at you using on the Alix board - is it running MPd? I was trying playing with MPd myself a couple of days ago - but on an old laptop I had around. Quite interesting except for issues with tags - it reads the "Composer" field (if there is one) instead of the Artist field.

 

My other thought was using MPd on one device (call it the player), then transport the audio to a second device (the renderer) with JACK. Could even use fixed IP addresses and a simple crossover cable connected to a second ethernet interface in the player to eliminate network traffic and therefore delays and collisions.

 

Eloise

 

PS. Clay... when I first read your subject heading, I was thinking you were going to talk about cabling :-)

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Hi Eloise - Yeah, mpd on the ALIX. I have it working great right now. Bit perfect and auto sample rate changing from 16/44.1 to 24/96. I need to get an audio card that supports 24/176.4 and 24/192 though.

 

Did you adjust the mpd.conf file to read more metadata? I'm seeing the artist field just fine. A lot depends on the client you use as well.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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the other writer of note,is kurt vonnegut. where to begin? "cat's cradle".

a quick antidote for the dreaded technocracy syndrome: john coltrane, in copious amounts. take care and i do sincerely learn much from your emails and those of the "technocrats" :), thanks jt

 

johnnyturbo

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not that i want to be argumentative, chris, but bit perfect music is not, i think, a required element of getting music and happiness. just sit back, just for a moment, and enjoy what you have.....but if you must go on that journey ( which leads, it seems, to continual disputation, and forgetting why you started out, hey, tis fun ( and not uninteresting !) to read the posts.

regardless of my pov, CA has 'grown up' into being a first rate online 'zine (of sorts), due to your hard work and the continuing interest and good will of the CA community. props all around.

 

johnnyturbo

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"My other thought was using MPd on one device (call it the player), then transport the audio to a second device (the renderer) with JACK. Could even use fixed IP addresses and a simple crossover cable connected to a second ethernet interface in the player to eliminate network traffic and therefore delays and collisions."

 

Eloise,

John Swenson - one of the two most knowledgeable posters on AA-PC Audio, IMO - had this to say about the type of configuration you mention last December:

 

http://www.audioasylum.com/forums/pcaudio/messages/4/42367.html

 

Also google 'nycparamedic' for Linux implementations.

 

"PS. Clay... when I first read your subject heading, I was thinking you were going to talk about cabling :-)"

 

Yeah, I thought that, and even wondered if people would read it at all.

My other thought for the title was "someone give me a blue pill, dammit". :)

 

clay

 

 

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"the other writer of note,is kurt vonnegut. where to begin? "cat's cradle"."

 

I began years ago with "breakfast in America", followed by "Slaughterhouse-Five", and have read them all, many more than once. I agree, I'd (recommend to) begin with Cat's Cradle. As with most all (musical or literary) artists, I enjoy the earlier works more than the latter.

 

cheers,

clay

 

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Hi Clay:

I know exactly how you feel. After 15 months I finally have my music server working fairly well after one trial and error after another. All the while wondering where is the simplicity? I mean my 15 year old son is shooting, editing, and adding surround sound to HD videos and I'm having trouble playing back a downloaded CD.

 

Actually, now that I think about it, the Computer Audiophile forums have been a blessing. After many failures, as I was going to ask a question, I found someone was experiencing the same problem. Correct one problem only to discover it uncovered another. Is there no end? Are we all gluttons for self-punishment? Perhaps it is all about the joy and frustration of feeding our Audiophilia. Look at it this way; five years from now you can boast being a pioneer in the industry.

 

For my next adventure I am planning to tackle Amarra. My new speakers are just revealing far more detail than I expected.

 

Oh, and I look forward to the day when someone will introduce a portable headphone amp with a decent DAC.

 

Daphne

 

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Simplicity is maybe an way of ignoring all the variables you are talking about.

 

Single drivers are a bad answer to solve your problems. Show me a single driver thats flat (+/-3db) from 20hz to 20khz and doesn't have any nasty breakup modes and I will buy you a DCS stack.

 

Nyal Mellor, Acoustic Frontiers LLC.

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Oh, stop whining! My head is starting to hurt.

 

This problem is no different than any other system problem. You have to attack these things one at a time and work your way through. There's a name for that, now what was it?? Oh yeah - scientific method.

 

The big challenges always are the number of variables, the conflicting results, and the abundance of help.

 

If you want simple, get a pair of Sennheiser HD800s, a really good battery powered low power amp, and a reel to reel tape deck. Acoustic space problems: zero. Crossover problems in the transducer: zero. Power problems: almost zero. Complaining neighbors: zero. Space taken up in an NYC apartment: almost zero. Available program material: almost zero.

 

If you want easy, develop your humming-to-yourself skills...

 

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"Simplicity is maybe an way of ignoring all the variables you are talking about."

 

In my view simplicity is a way of eliminating the "self-inflicted" (read unnecessary) variables, and reducing them to a manageable number such that the 'scientific method' (thanks CG) can be implemented within a timeframe less than infinity.

 

I posited single point source (single driver) as the ideal, not as a solution. My point was, using this as an ideal, one can begin to more easily recognize unnecessary complexities created by one's choice of speakers, i.e. the more complex the configuration of the speaker, the more likely it will pass additional constraints on to devices used to amplify them.

 

Thanks for your response, Nyal, as it helped me clarify my thoughts.

 

YMMV, of course, as many are willing to overlook speakers with difficult loads, esp, when they provide unattainable (by other methods) sound characteristics deemed desirable.

 

OTOH, complex speakers seem to require more complex amplifiers - that's all I"m really trying to say here.

 

cheers,

clay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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we have a winner!

 

"The big challenges always are the number of variables, the conflicting results, and the abundance of help."

 

and....keeping the constants 'constant'.

 

Even perfect auditory memory is pretty useless (from a scientific method standpoint) without a reference (i.e. dbA) output level that remains constant across comparisons in question.

 

Given that speakers and amplifiers change character depending on load, one man's 'soft' amp can easily be another man's 'hard, bright' amp, due to listening at different sound pressure levels.

 

I believe this to be responsible for some of the difference I heard between the G5 and the Mac Mini, about which I posted in a different thread. This is all the more disconcerting given that it is rather well known that louder will usually sound better. Said another way, any time one suspects increased resolution, a controlled test with strict volume calibration should be required, BEFORE opening one's mouth.

 

Ditto for perceived hardness/brightness, due to onset of this characteristic at some volume level for many (if not all) amp/speaker combinations.

 

And, on and on...

 

clay

 

PS, Don't know about others, but I find the sweet spot volume settting to vary significantly from song to song, which makes any listening but rigorous testing rather useless for purposes of making observations. Personally, I'd rather just listen and enjoy. :)

 

 

 

 

 

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"Personally, I'd rather just listen and enjoy. :)"

 

That's the real test.

 

As I've bleated on many times previously, most everybody is created differently with regard to response to music and therefore audio systems. Partially this is due to genetics, partially due to learning at an early age, and probably 654 other reasons. To think that there is a universal solution is wrong-headed.

 

My wife graduated from a hoity-toity music school. Guess what? There wasn't any kind of agreement at all by the faculty as to what aspect of a live performance was most interesting, or even where the best place to sit was. They all had their own preferences.

 

Stereo reproduction is an attempt at creating an illusion. Hopefully, a plausible one. When you lump in all the variables, you can see the problem. Yeah, you can point to areas that are generally less un-helpful in that regard, but that's it. Where the progress is is in those areas. YMMV.

 

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This problem is no different than any other system problem. You have to attack these things one at a time and work your way through. There's a name for that, now what was it?? Oh yeah - scientific method.

 

What if we'd just listen to that ! It is just so true.

 

The big problem is, of course - and I think it has been said before - that 99,9999999 % of people do not have access to these methods and can only buy. I heard someone saying that the solution to that is just audition carefully. Yeah ? well, how would that bring a solution if the whole element-for-element 100% solution just doesn't exist ?

 

Each of those elements (name them again) just *can* be at the 100% to their best, and when all are connected it is hardly a matter of a system as such. It is just good and the best there will be.

Note though that part of the elements are the connections (like impedance etc.), which are elements by themselves (hey, this just looks like real ICT !).

 

I dare tell you one other thing :

 

there is no such thing as subjectivity ...

 

as long as you have taken the hurdle of judging reality instead of trying to get rid of anomalies/distortions (harshness being the most commonly known in digital).

 

Did you take this hurdle ?

If not, you are just in the blind. Nothing to steer, nothing to control for the better. No directions.

 

PS: It looks like I was responding to CG's last post, but it wasn't there yet. So to keep things straight, I still agree with CG who just seemed to back out a bit per his last post. Don't do that.

 

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Thanks for the recommendation Clay:

 

I must admit to feeling a little foolish for making that statement. I can't believe I have missed the introduction and reviews of the Wavelength Proton on this website over the past 10 months. I thought I was keeping up with just about all the reviews and comments.

 

Currently I'm using the HeadRoom Portable Headphone Amp/DAC which has a wonderful amp, but not so nice of a DAC. USB connection does not deliver anything beyond 16/44.1. To play 24 bit, up to 24/96, one must use a TOSLINK cable. I'm just looking to improve the sound quality of my high res downloads while traveling, especially on long flights.

Daphne

 

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In some ways I feel I have spent too much time on trying to build or buy the best computer music server. Endless choices and options usually lead to endless comparisons and decisions. In the meantime I still have thousands of LPs to listen to and perhaps digitize, perhaps another thousand CDs to rip and probably several hundred more of each to buy.

 

I was seriously considering trying to save time with never ending evaluations, upgrades, testing, debates and deliberations by just purchasing the best DAC I couldn’t afford now. Then I realized that even the best current production DAC wasn’t really the best DAC so my quest for digital perfection would still be elusive. What’s the point of a never ending consumer purchase for a better current production DAC when my current DACs are still excellent and future production DACs are likely to be even better?

 

So I decided to progress to the next stage and do what I have put off for over a year when I first bought a TC Electronics Konnekt 8 to digitize my vinyl. Instead of buying a new and better DAC now, I bought a Korg MR2000S to digitize my vinyl. To date I have only digitized all my SACDs and DVD-As for comparisons to the playback from my universal player and computer music servers. Once I am satisfied with the settings and playback qualities it will be full steam ahead for digitizing all the vinyl I care to digitize. One thing I have realized since digitizing my SACDs and DVD-As at double speed DSD, is that I probably would want any future DAC to have DSD and double DSD capabilities.

 

 

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I think a lot of audio fans would be surprised at what some well known people in the audio industry use at home for their own listening enjoyment. Many are more focused on what Zorro alludes to, and spend more time and money on new music (for them anyway) than being equipment oriented.

 

No, I won't give any hints - use the internet to find out.

 

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CG said... "I think a lot of audio fans would be surprised at what some well known people in the audio industry use at home for their own listening enjoyment. Many are more focused on what Zorro alludes to, and spend more time and money on new music (for them anyway) than being equipment oriented."

Well Jools Holland uses Yamaha HiFi ... it say so on the Internet so it MUST be true!!

 

I'm pretty sure in his biography he talks about buying a Quad system - but that was in the 70s/80s.

 

And Daphne commented about portable music and using the Wavelength Proton ... made me think what we need now is a portable device which supports audio via USB ... then can eliminate the Laptop from the playback device.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Eloise

How about if we could go to a Vending machine, electronically pay for , and download our favourite high res material onto a USB memory stick from the machine, and plug it into the portable device which supports audio via USB ?

 

SandyK

 

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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