May 102014
 

I have always held Oppo in high regard based on their extraordinary Bluray players, I have every reason to believe this new headphone amp/pre-amp with HT bypass will operate at the highest quality level.

From Oppo:

Shortly after the successful launch of its PM-1 planar magnetic headphones, OPPO Digital released another member of its family of personal audio products today – the HA-1 headphone amplifier.

Oppo-HA-1-and-PM-1OPPO Digital is well known for its reference quality universal Blu-ray Disc players, and the HA-1 headphone amplifier builds upon the success of the BDP-95 and BDP-105 audiophile players. Drawing upon the proven circuit design of these award-winning players, the HA-1 combines an uncompromising analog audio section with the latest technology in digital audio.
The analog audio section of the HA-1 is a fully balanced design with an emphasis on keeping the audio signal in the analog domain once it leaves the DAC. The HA-1 is anchored by a hefty toroidal power transformer, and linear power regulators and filters with custom made capacitors ensure that the headphone amplifier has a clean power source with plenty of reserve energy. The fully balanced Class A power amplification section uses hand-picked and paired discrete components to ensure symmetry, and a motor-driven precision volume control knob allows for both manual and remote control volume adjustment while keeping the audio in a pure analog audio path.

The HA-1 is especially suitable for high-resolution digital audio playback. Its digital inputs include coaxial, optical, balanced AES/EBU, and an asynchronous USB DAC. It is easy to connect the HA-1 to digital audio players or to a computer running the listener’s favorite playback software. The USB DAC supports PCM audio up to 384 kHz 32-bit resolution and DSD audio up to 256x the CD sample rate. The same ESS 9018 Sabre32 Reference DAC and output driving stage used in OPPO audiophile Blu-ray players ensure extremely low noise and low distortion performance. The HA-1 is compatible with Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad for use as an external DAC, enabling the listener to directly tap into digital music played from these devices. For additional convenience, the Bluetooth audio transport with high quality aptX CODEC sets music free from your mobile phones with a performance boost.

OPPO designs the HA-1 headphone amplifier with the same versatile approach as the Blu-ray players. The HA-1 is a high performance headphone amplifier, and it doubles as an asynchronous USB DAC, a stereo pre-amplifier, a digital audio dock for mobile devices, and a Bluetooth audio transport. Users have a choice of using the 4-pin balanced XLR or the traditional quarter-inch headphone jack. Line level analog inputs and outputs are provided with both RCA and balanced XLR sockets.

The HA-1 sports a classic design with contemporary elements. It is a desktop component housed in an aluminum chassis, and the familiar volume and source selection knobs are complemented by a 4.3-inch color screen for easy operation. While music is playing, the screen can show a classic VU meter, a modern spectrum display, or detailed technical information about the audio signal. A supplied IR remote and a smartphone app provide complete control and convenience.

With its exemplary sound quality, versatile connectivity, and energetic driving power, the HA-1 headphone amplifier is a good match with any high performance headphones or stereo sound system. The black version of the HA-1 is available now directly from OPPO Digital’s web site at a retail price of $1199, and the silver version is estimated to be available in June.

How to Deactivate Your Laptops Closed Lid Sensor

 Budget, Computers and Technology, Home Theater  Comments Off on How to Deactivate Your Laptops Closed Lid Sensor
May 012014
 

I haven’t done many technical posts for some time but I have spent a great deal of time looking for a solution to using Wake on Lan (WOL) on an Acer laptop when the lid is closed. In my case it sits in an entertainment center and I have to pull it out and open the lid to wake it, but I want to be able to wake it up remotely with WOL.

benturrin460I found posts that said to use a registry hack with the ‘LidAlwaysOpen’ command and the ACPI lid fix, neither of these did what I wanted, WOL would not work when the lid was closed. No power settings or bios changes fixed the problem.

I knew from searching that the sensor for the lid position on the Acer laptops is magnetic so after more than a year without a fix I got brave and started looking around inside the laptop, which incidentally is a 5552 but this should be the same for most Acers.

I gently, GENTLY pried the plastic back from the bottom of the screen, on the left side (when you are facing the screen) and found a small bubble of masking tape. I picked at the tape with a paper clip and uncovered a rectangular magnet, which I easily removed with a small pair of computer pliers.

Fixed, it works like a charm, the computer no longer knows when the lid is closed and WOL works like a charm. The screen snapped together again easily, it is a super easy fix.

  1. Shut down the computer and remove the battery just to be safe!
  2. Pry the plastic away from the bottom left of the screen
  3. Locate the magnet (may be covered with tape) just to the right of the hinge
    1. If you are unsure it is the magnet, use a paperclip to see if it sticks, if it does, well that there is a magnet my friend.
  4. Remove the magnet, being careful not to scratch the screen or plastic bezel.
  5. Snap the bezel back in place and you are good to go.

If you are careful and keep the magnet you will be able to reverse this very easily.

Jul 212011
 

Spotify is now available in the United States so it seemed appropriate to do a comparison with iTunes. For serious listening in my main system I do not use iTunes, the sound quality even with lossless files is terrible in my opinion. I do however use it on my computers, day in and day out. It has been a constant companion since the day it was released. For ease of use it has been tough to beat iTunes.

Enter Spotify, a free service that gives you access to a virtually unlimited catalogue of music. Yes, I said free and unlimited. You can also load any of the music you find on Spotify onto your iPod or other MP3 device, stream your and their collection from your iPhone or Android device. In short it does for free what so many, like Rhapsody, have been trying to get paid for.

Like anything online free comes with a couple of gottchas. You will be forced on occasion to listen to short advertisements. This isn’t bad and over the last few weeks I have found them to be fairly unobtrusive. If you are listening to your own library you do not have to listen to the ads, they only appear when you are dipping into the seemingly infinite Spotify catalogue. So let’s get down to business.

iTunes VS Spotify

In order to compare iTunes and Spotify I lived with both, side by side for a couple of weeks. Being so familiar with iTunes I focused more on Spotify for much of the testing, simply trying to see if it would become as second nature as iTunes had. All comparisons were performed on Windows systems, XP and Windows 7.

Installation

Installing either software is as easy as clicking NEXT a few times. Spotify is a much smaller application and thus installs and loads faster, uses fewer resources, and is less likely to mess with the rest of your system. On my slower XP machine I found iTunes to be a sluggish beast but it works.

iTunes and Spotify both want to know where your music is however, Spotify automatically finds your iTunes folder among others and imports them, without moving them. This allows you to continue using iTunes without the fear of changes.

Spotify found and loaded my collection of 40,000+ songs in about 1 minute compared to the hour or more with iTunes. Once either application has found your files, you are ready to rock. Overall, Spotify is faster to install and run than iTunes.

Using the interface

I have been using iTunes for so long it has become second nature, let’s face it, iTunes is simple to use even for my mother. Setting up playlists is a breeze, the Genius feature is brilliant, and you have a lot of options in how you want iTunes to look and behave.

Spotify on the other hand took a little getting used to. Nothing about it was difficult, it was just different, but that isn’t a bad thing. The differences are there because in addition to your own library of music, Spotify lets you listen to just about any piece of music you can think of. You don’t have to go to the Apple Store to add music (and pay for it) you simply search for music and add it to either a playlist or your queue.

Spotify playlists are easy to create and add music to, plus you can mix your own music with songs or albums you find on Spotify. Let me get back to the queue because it rocks. One of the things I love most about the software I use in my main system (Ultimate Jukebox) is that I can create a queue instead of creating a play list. A queue allows you to move songs up and down, insert where you want, add one to the top of the list, and in general control what you hear as you feel like hearing it.

Overall, I give iTunes the edge for simplicity of use while Spotify nudges iTunes out for actual control.

Sound quality

I have to admit it never occurred to me that Spotify might sound different from iTunes. My MP3 files are all 320kbits and Spotify free version uses Vorbis format, 160kbits. I have been vocal about the iTunes software sound quality for some time. Anything you play through iTunes loses life however when you play a file purchased through iTunes on other software, it sounds better, meaning iTunes software sucks for sound quality.

I expected the same, more or less from Spotify but as soon as I played the first song I was shocked. Spotify seemed to bring David “Fathead” Newman to life through my AKG 702 headphones. It sounded much more open, faster, and more detailed. David sounded much closer to the FLAC files I use in my main system. Not perfect by a long shot but much, much better.

To verify all of this I level matched iTunes and Spotify, to remove any possible preference based on the brains preference for louder music. it was night and day as I switched back and forth between the two.

Now I moved to my main system, fired up my XP box feeding an analog signal through my ASUS Xonar STX sound card into my Emotiva USP-1, XPA-1 amps, and sat back to listen through my Magnepan 16QR speakers. Through this system the differences between the two were even greater. iTunes was like nails on a chalkboard. I have never been able to listen to anything, including Apple lossless files on this system, through iTunes.

Spotify on the other hand was smooth, open, listenable, but not audiophile. I would never sit and do any serious listening to either but for background music, Spotify is more than capable. Eventually I will get a premium account and try it again but I am seriously doubtful it can match my lossless FLAC files through Ultimate Jukebox.

Conclusion

If you care even a little bit about the sound quality move to Spotify. It sounded better even on the worst set of earbuds I could find in the house. It sounded better over crappy desktop speakers, it always sounded better. The slight learning curve associated with Spotify is well worth the boost in sound quality.

For a free program to do so much is impressive and the best part is that you will never have to pay the Apple Mind Control Group another penny for music. As an added bonus, it will sound better too.

Netflix Customers Outraged at Price Hike

 Blu-Ray, Budget, Computers and Technology, DVD, General Ranting  Comments Off on Netflix Customers Outraged at Price Hike
Jul 132011
 

If Netflix had filed Tuesday’s price-hike news in a movie genre, it would be either drama or horror.

U.S. customers of the DVD-by-mail and Web-streaming service are storming the Internet to protest Netflix’s plan to increase the prices of its most popular packages.

“The changes you guys have made in the last 4-6 months have turned me from a serious Netflix Geek into considering cancellation. It’s a damn shame,” wrote a customer named Justin Block, one of almost 6,000 commenters on Netflix’s blog.

Netflix’s Facebook page attracted more than 28,000 comments as of Wednesday morning, most of them critical of the move. And thousands of consumers were voicing complaints under #DearNetflix on Twitter.

Netflix has adjusted its offerings, separating physical disc mailings from Internet video. DVD-only subscriptions start at $7.99 per month, the same price as a streaming-only plan. But a monthly plan that combines physical DVDs with Web streaming costs almost $16 — a 60% price increase.

For prospective customers, the new pricing structure went into effect on Tuesday. For current subscribers, the rates will change on September 1.

Netflix, which did not respond to a request for comment, outlined the adjustment in a company blog post. In the message, a spokeswoman was very upbeat, describing each plan as “a terrific value.”

Commenters weren’t as enthusiastic.

“The only way that this is terrific for the customer is if you plan to offer your entire collection available for streaming,” wrote Scotty Fagaly, a self-described longtime customer whose comment was “liked” more than 4,800 times. “Otherwise, this is just yet another way to choke more change out of your customers.”

Netflix has more than 23 million subscribers. The company has a very popular online streaming program that’s available on dozens of electronic devices, including computers, video-game systems, television set-top boxes, smartphones and tablets.

In Canada, Netflix offers only the streaming service, not the DVD mailings.

However, the streaming program’s convenience and ubiquity is sometimes overshadowed by its dearth of quality movies available for streaming, relative to those contained in Netflix’s extensive DVD catalog.

“I realize Netflix cannot stream what the studios do not allow, but this is a disparity that really should be acknowledged in the price scheme,” wrote Travis McClain, a decade-long Netflix subscriber who felt compelled to express his frustrations on the company’s website.

The price hike came shortly after Sony Pictures Entertainment pulled its films from Netflix’s streaming program last month — a move Netflix maintains is “temporary.”

Rivals Hulu, Amazon Instant Video and other online subscription programs have failed to match the size of Netflix’s catalog.

However, Netflix can’t fall asleep on the couch. The cost to license from Hollywood is likely to increase substantially as deals expire and Netflix gains more influence on the studios’ businesses, analysts say.

As a workaround, Netflix plans to ink exclusive licensing deals with high-profile producers, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said at a technology conference last month. For starters, the company will broadcast “House of Cards,” a show starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher, maker of “Fight Club” and “The Social Network.”

Media executives have not been bashful in their recent panning of Netflix.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts wasn’t convinced about Netflix’s impact on the industry, he said at a recent event hosted by Fortune magazine. Likewise, Jeffrey Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, which is working on competing initiatives with HBO Go and TV Everywhere, likened Netflix to the unthreatening Albanian army. Time Warner also owns CNN.

In this case, Netflix is likely in search of additional revenue to offset the growing bandwidth and infrastructure costs, analysts say.

Until now, customers have been getting streaming services at a bargain, said Robert Levitan, the CEO of Pando Networks, a firm that provides streaming software to gaming companies and previously to NBC Universal.

“Consumers have an unlimited appetite for consuming streaming right now,” Levitan said. “We all tend to think, as consumers, that we just click ‘play,’ and it comes down. We don’t realize the physical and financial costs of serving that data.”

Among many consumers, Netflix is beloved. The company has ranked No. 1 for customer satisfaction in four consecutive years, according to surveys by market research firm ForeSee Results. But Amazon.com, which recently launched its own video-streaming service, narrowly edged Netflix in the most recent annual survey.

Wireless USB Brings Freedom To Your Desktop

 Computers and Technology  Comments Off on Wireless USB Brings Freedom To Your Desktop
Apr 042009
 

With the overwhelming success of USB technology as the preferred
interface, comes the challenge of organizing all of the cabling from
desktop peripherals. Users with multiple USB peripherals find the
clutter of cables unsightly and inconvenient to their workspace. With
many different USB connections for mobile devices, such as cellphones,
cameras, MP3 players and PDAs, it becomes increasingly difficult to use
them on the go.

To overcome these challenges a new method for connecting peripherals
has come to fruition. A method, which offers the same benefits of a
physical USB connection without the need for unsightly cables, a
technology known as certified wireless USB. Using an ultra-wideband
radio frequency ranging from 3.1 – 10.6 GHz, 127 devices can connect to
a single computer up to 10 meters away without a hub. Connections made
less than 3 meters away from the host can benefit from speeds typically
USB 2.0, while connections from 3 to 10 meters will operate at 110
Mbps. Devices that support dual role or direct connections with each
other can also operate with wireless USB technology.
Read the rest of the article HERE.