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MQA, The Press, The Industry, Consumers, etc ...


Melvin
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Just did, thanks for posting it. This is interesting:

 

" and after years of paying attention to composers and musicians and recording engineers who taught me what to listen for when making assessments, MQA still escapes me. "

 

Given the context. The author is not some guy playing highly processed gaming music through $2 earbuds saying "there is no difference between mp3 and CD - Hi-Res is a myth!!".

 

After sitting in the Nordost cable and Synergistic Research rooms at RMAF, it is all too clear me that the "audiophile press" is in the main "anti-consumer" for reasons they really don't understand. This author goes some way in explaining the depth of the collusion, which is not really intentional or "evil" but more circumstantial. The "audiophile press" is simply too close to the industry (and too distant from actual consumers) to actually be all that useful to consumers from a comparison point of view.

Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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Thanks for the link Melvin. That was a good read. I don't agree with all of it, but for the most part I'm onboard with what he said.

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Just did, thanks for posting it. This is interesting:

 

" and after years of paying attention to composers and musicians and recording engineers who taught me what to listen for when making assessments, MQA still escapes me. "

 

Given the context. The author is not some guy playing highly processed gaming music through $2 earbuds saying "there is no difference between mp3 and CD - Hi-Res is a myth!!".

 

After sitting in the Nordost cable and Synergistic Research rooms at RMAF, it is all too clear me that the "audiophile press" is in the main "anti-consumer" for reasons they really don't understand. This author goes some way in explaining the depth of the collusion, which is not really intentional or "evil" but more circumstantial. The "audiophile press" is simply too close to the industry (and too distant from actual consumers) to actually be all that useful to consumers from a comparison point of view.

Hi crenca - I know you and I don't always agree, but I enjoy your posts and thank you for the honest commentary and contributions to CA.

 

I have a request of you, and all the members of the CA Community. You mentioned the "audiophile press" and your pretty negative assessment of the audiophile press. No arguments from me, it's illogical to argue about one's opinion. However, can you be specific? I have my own negative opinions about some of the audiophile press and positive opinions as well. My main concern though, is how myself, CA, and its writers, are viewed. I highly encourage people to be honest and offer constructive criticism when they can. When I say I am concerned with how CA is viewed, it has nothing to do with wanting to be liked by people or writing articles that people like rather than articles that are interesting to us, but it has everything to do with misperceptions. In other words, perception is reality and if CA is viewed the same as other audiophile press, then I need to do a much better job to change this point of view.

 

I really understand when you say, "The audiophile press is simply too close to the industry." From my perspective, and I'm being very honest here, it's difficult to find the right balance. My number one priority is, and must always be, to the members of the CA Community. You aren't here for me, I'm here for you. Without the readers and contributors, CA doesn't exist. Period.

 

Now add in the industry side of this coin. CA accepts advertising dollars from many companies in the industry. I would love for CA to work the same way as Consumer Reports, by reader subscription only, but based on the revenue generated from the CA subscription model, this won't currently work. CA is my full-time career. I quit working for Ameriprise Financial back in 2009 to focus solely on CA, and have generated my sole income from CA ever since. Note: advertising on CA gets manufacturers a banner on the site. There is no pay-to-play around here.

 

Now add in the fact that CA must maintain relationships with companies in the industry. It's how we get (pretty much) carte blanche when it comes to obtaining products we want to review. CA could have a billion readers per month, but without the relationships, we aren't getting the hard-to-get equipment for review. At the recent RMAF I went to dinner with a few manufacturers / dealers / distributors. At each dinner it would have taken an act of Congress for me to pay for my own meal. This is just how much of the world works. Fortunately, at these dinners I have the opportunity to tell people what CA and its community is all about and to push our agenda. I can't count how many times I mentioned the word education and that I want to find more ways educate readers. I told manufacturers how they could help the CA Community by offering question and answer sessions. I also made very clear that each manufacturer could help themselves and the community by coming on the site and giving rather than taking. I continued by suggesting they offer up their knowledge and expertise to the community by interacting with everyone and answering questions not only about their own products but about technologies and other items they have researched etc... That said, spending hours with people at dinner enables me to get to know them on many levels. Perhaps more than I should, but this is always in the back of my mind and I work very hard to eliminate any bias this may bring into my product reviews or comments on the forum. one really nice thing about CA, with respect to any bias shown by a writer, is that the comment section is wide open tot he world and we don't like to moderate the comments of respectful adults. In other words, if I show any bias, the members of the CA Community would literally call me out instantly for the entire world to see.

 

Anyway, sorry for the winded posts. You raised a very good point that got me going. I'm always concerned with peoples' mis/perceptions of CA and welcome all comments good, bad, or indifferent.

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Bluesound Node 2 used for most comparisons?

Just doesn't seem to fit with what's in the rest of the systems.

I read that as well and it was one of my first thoughts with respect to the system. Fortunately, the writer was transparent by listing the system. We can elect to factor this in when considering the source of the information or not.

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Bluesound Node 2 used for most comparisons?

Just doesn't seem to fit with what's in the rest of the systems.

 

So if the difference between MQA and non-MQA material is not obvious on less expensive gear, than what is the point since MQA isn't being marketed to the audiophile community? A bit of a paradox. More and more I am failing to see the whole point of MQA.

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So if the difference between MQA and non-MQA material is not obvious on less expensive gear, than what is the point since MQA isn't being marketed to the audiophile community? A bit of a paradox. More and more I am failing to see the whole point of MQA.

Very good point as well.

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Thanks for the link Melvin. That was a good read. I don't agree with all of it, but for the most part I'm onboard with what he said.

 

I think we live in an age where we are very close technologically to the limits of human hearing. As a result, increased "resolution", sampling or bit rates, of the recording is paying ever smaller dividends in the quality of what we hear, perhaps vanishingly so.

 

I think the main valid complaint about MQA has been the inability for most to hear a demo that is satisfactory in objective terms in its setup in demonstrating comparatively what it can or cannot do vs. no MQA. I also tend to accept for now that Stuart et. al. may have through careful research found some perceptual issues in how we hear and may have fully or partially overcome these issues with MQA. I say that having read some of the interesting AES papers by Stuart et. al.

 

But, perceptual issues are more controversial vs. simple quantitative measures like "lossless" playback of hi rez or even of standard RBCD rez. We all know that MQA is not lossless in a purely technical sense. But, is it still "perceptually lossless" without an MQA DAC and do its perceptual improvements, if any, more than make up for its reallocation of low order noise bits to support its hi rez encoding?

 

I am not expecting some breakthrough to sonic nirvana from MQA, and I have a number of practical implementation concerns which are still not addressed by it. But, I think it is still too soon to reject or naysay the idea without giving it a fair chance to prove its worth or the lack of it by listening ourselves.

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So if the difference between MQA and non-MQA material is not obvious on less expensive gear, than what is the point since MQA isn't being marketed to the audiophile community? A bit of a paradox. More and more I am failing to see the whole point of MQA.

 

I see MQA being most advantageous to the record companies who will only need to produce 1 MQA master per album. Distribution to streaming services and download sites will only require 1 file per song. I see an unlock mechanism built into the file that would allow for upgradability if desired along these lines:

 

- purchase 16/44.1 at $15/album and the MQA file will only unfold and play at 16/44.1

- purchase 24/192 at $40/album and the file unfolds to 24/192

- purchase 24/384 at $50/album and the file unfolds completely

- upgrade lower bit rates to higher ones by purchasing an unlock code

 

Simplistic idea, yes. Just rambling ...

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I have a request of you, and all the members of the CA Community. You mentioned the "audiophile press" and your pretty negative assessment of the audiophile press. No arguments from me, it's illogical to argue about one's opinion. However, can you be specific? I have my own negative opinions about some of the audiophile press and positive opinions as well. My main concern though, is how myself, CA, and its writers, are viewed. I highly encourage people to be honest and offer constructive criticism when they can. When I say I am concerned with how CA is viewed, it has nothing to do with wanting to be liked by people or writing articles that people like rather than articles that are interesting to us, but it has everything to do with misperceptions. In other words, perception is reality and if CA is viewed the same as other audiophile press, then I need to do a much better job to change this point of view.

 

Chris: I think this is an important issue, but it has to be understood in the broader context, so I'm actually going to try (hopefully with a bit of humor) to parallel the issues of the audiophile community and the press with those of our Presidential election and the press.

 

1. Paranoia: We are almost as paranoid about what the big studios and their henchmen in the audio hardware community are trying to do to us as we are about Washington insiders. Rather than step back and try to understand that without a commercially viable recording industry, we would have far less access to music, we are convinced that their attempt to discover viable business models is really an attempt to steal from us. Rather than acknowlege that there is a great deal of music piracy going on, we would rather pretend that we are all above reproach in our own behavior and that the industry is just "out to get us." The less we actually know the people behind this, the easier it is for us to objectify them and classify them this way.

 

2. False Comparisons: If in reality you are arguing that something is a 10 and my view is that it is really an 8, I instead state "no, its not a 10, it isn't even close, it could never be more than a 5." The press, in following the debate concludes that we are arguing about the difference between 5 and 10 and comes to the conclusion that the middle ground must be a 7.5 (making my originally desired outcome of 8 look as those I was hugely rerasonable if I ultimately move from 5 to 8. This creates an obligation on the press to do their homework and to ultimately call my bluff and say that the real debate is between 8 and 10 and 9 (not 7.5) is the middle ground.

 

3. Lies, Lies and More Damned Lies: Truth, libel and slander have all been thrown under the bus in favor of a twisted interpretation of free speech that pretty much allows everyone to get away with saying whatever they want. I used to say, "we are all entitled to our own conclusions, be we are not entitled to make up our own facts." Today, it appears, we are also allowed to make up our own facts and the press here too fails to call us on them. Part of the reason for this is that controversy sells. The press has far more to write about and it seems far more interesting when people are screaming at each other about something (or even about nothing). A lie is often infinitely more interesting than the truth. But somewhere the propagation of lies must catch up with us -- or maybe not (as we seem quite willing to believe we hear things that we cannot then distinguish in A/B testing, which then only makes us label A/B testing as invalid in order to protect our belief in the lie). Sooner or later we arrive in a place where there are no truths, no absolutes, no safe ground, and no basis for us to truly agree or disagree.

 

4. Keeping it Close: Landslides (except when they really do involve the earth moving) are BORING. Close contests are far more entertaining and pay for more advertising. So it isn't really in the press' interests to actually "settle" anything; far better to make things seem unsettled and open to more discussion, dispute and uncertainty. This too, leads us poor readers/audience to a further state of unrest and confusion. Is MQA only for streaming? Is it only for high end systems? Is it a secret plot to reinsert copy protection? Rather than settle anything, we simply keep growing new questions and debates.

 

5. The Loss of the Fairness Doctrine and the Influence of Money: At least as far as politics was concerned, the press once had an obligation to frame both sides of the issue. In addition, one voice, one vote was once also more representative of "one dollar," but today we have allowed corporate voices far, far stronger influence in our politics, and through advertising, into our lives. The press once served as the voice of the people against those monetary influences, because we, the people, used to asctually pay the press to provide that to us - by paying for subscriptions. Today, we are too cheap to pay for subscriptions. We expect someone else's advertising to pay for our reading privilege. And then we express surprise when the press pays more attention to the opinions of those who pay the bill than of those of us who just want to read it for free, but not pay for it. How we assume that in a world of advertising paid content, we are going to get the "other side of the story" is beyond me.

 

6. Having it "Our Way": Ultimately, our only defense is to change what we read. If we don't like the truth the way Fox tells it, we switch to MSNBC and vice-versa. But more and more we only listen to the news that we want to hear. How we determine whether that is actually in our best interests/good or healthy for us, I have no clue. But this becomes the ultiate governor on your (the press') behavior. So long as you keep us coming back here, the advertising will pay the bills and the cycle goes on. And the best way to keep us coming back is to engage us in a series of controversial debates about issues that aren't really issues. It is about entertainment, not about truth.

 

Now, for those of us searching for a few truths...I'm not really sure where we should turn.

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Bluesound Node 2 used for most comparisons?

Just doesn't seem to fit with what's in the rest of the systems.

 

Not so much the Bluesound gear (which sounds quite good, btw) is the fact that only superbly mastered music is available in MQA at this point. Any difference between 24/192 (Bluesound's limit) and MQA is likely to be subtle at best, much like the best PCM vs DSD.

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MQA MQA wherefore art thou MQA!

 

I like many have been anxiously awaiting MQA. After being out of this hobby for many decades I got back into it a few years back. I even went to my first audio show in 2015 at Axpona. I had read about MQA in a TAS article a couple of months prior and was quite excited to listen and learn more. At Axpona there were two seminars that I attended, listened in the Meridian room etc. What I heard I liked but like many of us there was not an A/B comparison. Tidal was supposed to start streaming MQA that summer then last I heard this summer yet still waiting. I remember talking to vendors at the 2015 show and the majority did not even know what I was talking about. Today more hardware is capable but really no content or content that I would like to listen too. It’s certainly praised in the media as mentioned in the article in Melvin's post. So at this point I have lost some interest in MQA - tired of waiting mainly. There is another thread in CA that describes that there may be little economic reasons for Tidal to ever stream MQA. The reasoning centers around - will it bring in more subscribers and at least for now that does not seem the case. I was fully expecting some A/B comparisons at Axpona 2016 but I did not and I think the same will be at 2017. Personally I think there is some merit to MQA but without more content and personal comparisons it remains unknown to me.

 

I also agree that the media is way too close for objective reviews yet there is are ways to get them in forums like here on CA. The mainstream media like TAS with advertisers is a bias out dated model as the article describes. Yet we all look for confirmation of potential new purchases. Currently I'm looking for new amps. Reviews help me narrow the selection. I neither have the time, energy or enough dealers in the area that handle many brands to haul in dozens of amps to test in my room. This is not my only input but I consider it as a good starting point.

 

I do have a few issues with the article. His listening room threshold is at 35dB and his friends is at 28dB. I wonder how that works for critical listening. I agree that maybe many rooms are like that but how can we take it serious for critical listening or his conclusion on MQA. My room is well below 10db and when I turn up the volume to max with a source on pause I hear absolutely nothing. He talked about his perfect hearing yet if that is so a 35dB background noise would drive me nuts.

 

 

 

After sitting in the Nordost cable and Synergistic Research rooms at RMAF, it is all too clear me that the "audiophile press" is in the main "anti-consumer" for reasons they really don't understand.

 

I have also read this quote from Crenca a couple of times and I think this is a negative comment on these two companies. If it isn't I apologize in advance. I do believe in cables making a difference and own a SR black box. I can't wrap my head around anyone not hearing how these products make a difference. Yes some of the SR products I do question but not the black box. MQA Vs other audio formats maybe but power cables - stock, somewhat expensive and then Nordost there is absolutely a huge difference. I know this starts another whole string of he heard she heard but really I just don't get the head in the sand with this topic.

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Is there any significance to this? It's not even just about MQA; little more than, as the Onion might put it: "bloke on another audiophile forum blames alleged cosy relationship between specialist press and audio industry for the fact he can't tell difference between CD and hi-res when using low end source equipment ."

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snip....

I do have a few issues with the article. His listening room threshold is at 35dB and his friends is at 28dB. I wonder how that works for critical listening. I agree that maybe many rooms are like that but how can we take it serious for critical listening or his conclusion on MQA. My room is well below 10db and when I turn up the volume to max with a source on pause I hear absolutely nothing. He talked about his perfect hearing yet if that is so a 35dB background noise would drive me nuts.

 

 

How did you get a room with below 10 db background noise? That would be extraordinarily quiet. Studios struggle to reach that low a noise level. How did you measure it btw?

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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How did you get a room with below 10 db background noise? That would be extraordinarily quiet. Studios struggle to reach that low a noise level. How did you measure it btw?

 

There is a iPhone app called Db Decibel Meter Pro meter and I used that. Maybe this is not the right way but I know as I removed background sound it keep measuring lower to the point that I'm at now. Its in a basement with 9' high walls one egress window with double glass facing the backyard with little noise. There is one walk way into the room, I can close that door and the main cold air return I have made a special box filled with sound damping material to cover it when I listen. The room on the other side of the walkway is in the basement also and usually is not occupied.

2 Channel: Bricasti M21 / M28 SE /Aurender W20SE Treatments: Acoustical panels(F, S, Bass Trap & R walls) Misc.: SR Orange Fuses

Speakers: Martin Logan CLX ART (Dark Cherry) w/30# weights / 2-ML 212's Subs tuned w/PBK and Special Phase technique

Grounding: QKore 1&6 / Networking: Sotm switch and Pwr Supply / AQ Diamond Power: Furutech GTX-DNCF / Oyaide inwall  wire

Nordost: QV2's, QK1's, 2-QX4, QPoint's,TC Kones, Sort Fut & LIft / Full O2 Loom / QSource & Points 

Misc.: iPad 3 /Lovan Rack Media Rm: ML: 13A's, Descent i's, Vanquish, Focus / Parasound: 3-A23 / Mark Levinson 433 / 77" LG 4k OLED / Anthem AVM60 / Pioneer Elite DVD Nordost: Odin/V2/T2/H2, BC Kones, H2 Network, V2 HDMI

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There is a iPhone app called Db Decibel Meter Pro meter and I used that. Maybe this is not the right way but I know as I removed background sound it keep measuring lower to the point that I'm at now. Its in a basement with 9' high walls one egress window with double glass facing the backyard with little noise. There is one walk way into the room, I can close that door and the main cold air return I have made a special box filled with sound damping material to cover it when I listen. The room on the other side of the walkway is in the basement also and usually is not occupied.

 

The problem with the app is your phone mic almost surely drops response below 200 hz and even more so below 100 hz. Lots of the noise most rooms have is in those frequencies. Some such apps know what phone they are running on and are more or less calibrated to the phone. Some also offer to let you calibrate the app do a known meter.

 

Now I am not saying you don't have a very quiet room. Your description of it sounds like it would be quieter than average. I would be very, very surprised if it was really below 10 db however. Using apps on my phone show around 20 db. Using a microphone I calibrated to a real Sound Level meter I know the genuine answer is low 30's late at night, and high 30's daytime when there are no obvious lawn mowers, vehicles or leaf blowers running.

 

Like so many things in audio, you need reference or yardstick to go by.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I see MQA being most advantageous to the record companies who will only need to produce 1 MQA master per album. Distribution to streaming services and download sites will only require 1 file per song. I see an unlock mechanism built into the file that would allow for upgradability if desired along these lines:

 

- purchase 16/44.1 at $15/album and the MQA file will only unfold and play at 16/44.1

- purchase 24/192 at $40/album and the file unfolds to 24/192

- purchase 24/384 at $50/album and the file unfolds completely

- upgrade lower bit rates to higher ones by purchasing an unlock code

 

What I find funny now is that at highresaudio.com for example original hires album costs 15€ and the MQA version costs 17€!?

 

So even though the MQA one is claimed to save storage and bandwidth, it actually costs more. Who wants to pay extra for a lossy version that can be used in very limited scenarios!?

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Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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Now I am not saying you don't have a very quiet room. Your description of it sounds like it would be quieter than average. I would be very, very surprised if it was really below 10 db however. Using apps on my phone show around 20 db. Using a microphone I calibrated to a real Sound Level meter I know the genuine answer is low 30's late at night, and high 30's daytime when there are no obvious lawn mowers, vehicles or leaf blowers running.

 

I've been building equipment racks for audio purposes in the past and had to demonstrate that the cooling systems were quiet. To demonstrate the background noise before turning the rack on, I always did some measurements with ventilation system and everything else turned off. The lowest figure I got this way was 28 dB and that was when I was standing 2 m away from the meter and stopped breathing. If I was 1 m away from the meter, I couldn't breath so silently that it wouldn't bump up to 32 dB or so.

 

The meter we used was a calibrated Brüel & Kjær dB meter.

 

I've also been in an anechoic chamber several times, and I have to say it is painful place. You hear all your body organs and bone joints making "loud" noise.

 

So I would say reaching much below 26 dB begins to make the environment really uncomfortable. And one is going to have hard time to keep their self-noise much below 30 dB.

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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What I find funny now is that at highresaudio.com for example original hires album costs 15€ and the MQA version costs 17€!?

 

So even though the MQA one is claimed to save storage and bandwidth, it actually costs more. Who wants to pay extra for a lossy version that can be used in very limited scenarios!?

Glad you pointed this out. The pricing just adds to my cynicism about the new format's true intentions.

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I have a request of you, and all the members of the CA Community. You mentioned the "audiophile press" and your pretty negative assessment of the audiophile press. No arguments from me, it's illogical to argue about one's opinion. However, can you be specific?

As you pointed out, and ideal model would be wholly member sponsored with you and other CA writers insulated from manufacturers but that is so challenging to pursue.

 

I really appreciate your disclosures and candor but, big picture, it's flawed at the core just like political lobbying. However, we just need to remember CA is community/entertainment/information sharing/learning with no lives at stake so we should not get hung up on your relationships with manufacturers nor their influence on your writing.

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What I find funny now is that at highresaudio.com for example original hires album costs 15€ and the MQA version costs 17€!?

 

So even though the MQA one is claimed to save storage and bandwidth, it actually costs more. Who wants to pay extra for a lossy version that can be used in very limited scenarios!?

 

My guess is that as labels convert all of their files over to MQA, these will eventually replace the files currently available on download sites (and charge a premium). At this point, if the day arrives when you can no longer download non-MQA files, that will likely be the day I stop downloading music. There is no reason for the labels to offer more than one file, this way they will not be giving away their "crown jewels."

Auralic Aries G2, Ayre QX-5 Twenty, Ayre KX-5 Twenty, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, Revel Ultima Studio2, Iconoclast speaker cables & interconnects, RealTraps acoustic treatments, Sonore opticalModule (X2)

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There is a iPhone app called Db Decibel Meter Pro meter and I used that. Maybe this is not the right way but I know as I removed background sound it keep measuring lower to the point that I'm at now. Its in a basement with 9' high walls one egress window with double glass facing the backyard with little noise. There is one walk way into the room, I can close that door and the main cold air return I have made a special box filled with sound damping material to cover it when I listen. The room on the other side of the walkway is in the basement also and usually is not occupied.

 

For reference, 10dB ~ the sound of breathing. Anything close to that is fantastic!

 

 

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Chris,

 

OK a few examples of the audio press. First let’s pick on the dead staring with Wes Phillips. Read his review of the Wilson Watt Puppy 8 then read his Wilson Watt Puppy 5 review. I dare you to reconcile them.

 

Next dead guy Harry Pearson. Begin with his first review of stacked Advents. Ten of us tried to duplicate his review but could only do it at very high average volumes that none of us would listen at. Now add the fact that Harry felt it was ok to make a market for certain equipment as was disclosed in a 40th anniversary article about Harry. Finally read his Wilson Watt Puppy 6 review and then read the prior Wilson Watt Puppy 5 review in The Absolute Sound. Good luck reconciling those two as well. Starting to get the idea?

 

Now a personal pet peeve men like a managing editor American publication from 1985 until it went broke in the early nineties. Then he had his own publication for a few years and it went broke. He writes a column in another American publication. Gets back on the payroll as an editor apparently without being asked if we put you on payroll will the magazine be here in five years? He has minions in the audio press of course. The audio press is in many cases a recycling bin of people who have messed up but can write well and have connections in the industry. You should easily be able to figure out who this is and his minions are.

 

I’ll add more examples when I post my thoughts about RMAF 2016.

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