I Am Becoming A Digital Man

 General Ranting, Music, Random Ranting  Comments Off on I Am Becoming A Digital Man
Sep 132013

I am a collector of media, I love arranging it in whatever form it takes. I plan occasional weekends around pulling my movie or music collection down and performing the collector’s ritual. I dust each case off carefully, verify it indeed holds a disc, that it is the correct disc, that all potential disc are there and that they are safe in their plastic confines. I then check the computer database to verify everything is in order and continue to the next disc. I do this over and over again, sometimes thousands of times before I begin placing them back into the order I have deemed appropriate this time around.

pileofcdsThe act of holding, cataloging, and organizing media is an important part of my world, it relaxes me, it is one part of my life that I alone control. This brings me to the changes that I, as a collector can no longer dismiss or ignore. Physical media is going the way of the horse and cart. With the exception of vinyl, which is enjoying a splendid resurgence, movies and music will soon only be available as a computer file. On one hand, I do enjoy the seemingly limitless tagging options digital files provide my OCD brain but, I can’t touch it, I can’t read the liner notes, or place them in a great line on a wall so all that see it are in awe.

In truth I adjusted to digital long ago, in fact way ahead of most folks, but where I differ is in how I went digital. I still buy a CD when it is available because it just feels right. Then I rip it with Exact Audio Copy (EAC) into FLAC format for my home systems and then a second MP3 copy for iPod use in our cars. The physical disc goes onto a shelf where it will reside for the rest of its life. On rare occasions, I do pull them down and flip through the liner notes again but in truth, I have moved fully into the digital age.

It is convenient and I believe when proper care in selecting and setting up equipment is taken, it sounds as good or better than CD for a long list of reasons I will have to save for another time. FLAC is my chosen lossless format and it seems to be the closest to becoming the standard. The limited capability MP3 provides has been the biggest reason I haven’t just moved to downloading everything. I find it fine for my car or background listening but it falls apart in critical listening situations. The exception to this is any current pop music or massively over compressed rock being perpetrated on the public today.

I do have an extensive SACD and DVD-Audio collection as well but have not ripped the hi-res content to digital, I actually drop them into the OPPO when I want to hear them. These formats are on their last legs and have been for years. The advent of Hi-Res audio downloads from places like HDTracks.com has caught my attention but the selection is just too slim right now. It is making headway though and I have found myself purchasing more all the time. One thing I dislike about HDTracks however is their lack of a coming soon database. I order my music online so I pre-order many discs only to find it available on HDTracks the same day. They lost the sale and I feel cheated, implement a full releasing soon list HDTracks!

One last word on Hi-Res, I do hear a difference on my main systems and I don’t care if you do or not. That said, I can only pray that the musicians going back to the superior, old analog recording methods have an impact on the people who buy music. I know caring about sound quality places me in a small group of people but the huge gains made around vinyl give me hope. The same can be said of the tremendous growth in the high-end headphone market, someone cares and I hope the labels are listening. There is money to be made in high quality recordings and with no media format wars to dilute sales it seems like a no brainer.

I don’t see the death of vinyl any time soon and it will be the last physical format for music in the future. Perhaps I will be saved from the future by a technology almost as old as recorded sound itself. How has digital music changed your music habits?

The Changes Within

 Random Ranting  Comments Off on The Changes Within
Apr 022013

Listening to music used to require dedication and effort. Every 20 or 30 minutes you had to get up, pull the LP off of the turntable, flip, replace, and set the needle into the starter groove again. You had to maintain your records carefully or risk a scratched or skipping album, making it useless. There were also many advantages to vinyl, including far better sound quality than even CD. Before you stomp your feet up and down over that consider that most people listen to music on systems that so poorly recreate the recorded music they play as to alter it completely. On a good system vinyl is more dynamic, more alive, spacious, and closer to being there than CD, MP3, 16 – 42 FLAC, SACD, and DVD-A.

rp I have argued the wonders of vinyl before so I will move to the meat of this article. Digital files have all but removed my ability to listen to a complete album. I know that albums are not always thought of as single works of art in the digital age, which is a shame but even when I listen to older music now I spend more time picking through my collection song by song than I spend actually listening. Unless I am doing a review I either use Turntable.fm or use an automated playlist. I have lost the ability to listen to a full album simply for enjoyment.

We live in a one off world where information and entertainment come in bite size chunks. At the same time virtually everything in our lives is being created to the lowest common quality factor you can get away with in court. This has changed how music is written, recorded, mastered, sold, played, collected… everything has changed.

I am making a point to listen to more full albums for pleasure, just kick back and enjoy. What is the last full album you listened to in a single sitting outside of your car?



Mama Say’s Don’t Eat Your Beats

 Headphones, Random Ranting  Comments Off on Mama Say’s Don’t Eat Your Beats
Oct 162012

Whether Beats are worth the money is open to debate. Reviews are mixed, but many people love them. The headphones are sleekly Apple-esque, which is no surprise, since they were created by a former designer at Apple. Beats also offer a celebrity vibe and a lot of boom-a-chick-a-boom bass.

So much bass, in fact, that some audio experts say that Beats distort the sound of the music.

“In terms of sound performance, they are among the worst you can buy,” says Tyll Hertsens, editor in chief of InnerFidelity.com, a site for audiophiles. “They are absolutely, extraordinarily bad.”

I agree 100%, they are terrible. What do you think?

Oct 012012

On October 1, 1982, the first commercial compact disc, Billy Joel’s “52nd Street,” was released in Japan. Since then billions of shiny discs have filled shelves, littered the floors of cars, spun blindingly from rear view mirrors, and spun countless hours inside CD players.

Happy Birthday!

Anyone who reads this blog knows how I feel about CD; I hate it but also accept that for the moment it is almost always the best option from a quality standpoint. That isn’t because it sounds perfect, it just sounds so much better than MP3. DVD-A is pretty much dead, SACD and Hi-Res FLAC see far too few releases, and the format that should be champion, Blu-ray refuses to become a serious player.

So let’s raise a glass to the CD, not because we should celebrate it but simply because I need a reason to drink today… To my frenemy the CD, I hope you live long enough for the public to finally see just how much they miss when listening to MP3.

How many CD’s do you own? I stopped counting when I hit 1k.

Beauty and The HiFiMan EF2A

 Amplifiers, Headphones, Random Ranting, Tube Amps  Comments Off on Beauty and The HiFiMan EF2A
Sep 152012

Trying to recreate a recording as accurately as possible is both an admirable quest and folly. There is no perfection available at any cost; the best you can do is get close. Making matters even more difficult is the simple fact that the only people who actually know what that exact sound was are the artists and recording crew. Even they have altered it in their minds, a moment in sound is exactly that and it is lost in the next moment, changed slightly by the mind’s eye if you will.

Perfection is therefore subjective and even fluid. The ears of an audiophile, despite what they would like to believe, change over time, preferences change. Many of us have equipment we call accurate and some we call fun. The HiFiMan EF2A is one of the fun pieces. It has no right to be sitting among my best equipment, it is inexpensive, ugly, and is anything but accurate.

I won’t address the terrible DAC as I bypass it and use the single RCA input, triggered by the push button on the front. I am interested in the tube amplifier section of this little gem. Yes, I called it a gem even after I said all those terrible things about it. I will even heap another negative onto the pile, it sounds bad if you don’t do some tube rolling.

I purchased the HiFiMan EF2A for use in my office at work where I had hoped to save space not only by adding a small amp but because it includes a USB DAC. I knew it wasn’t going to be great even matched to BeyerDynamic DT 990 600 ohm headphones. These phones are fairly accurate which can mean they are, well boring sometimes. This combination lacked life; it just didn’t sing with detail or jump out in any good way. The bass was muddy despite being laid back and it turned the sound of horns into a dull blat.

I decided it was time to do some tube rolling and replaced the original nondescript Chinese 6J1 tubes with a pair of NOS Mullar CV4010’s. After a few days of burning in the tubes I jumped upon hearing it for the first time. The music bopped along with a heavier bottom end and filled the frequencies around horns with life. This is not accurate sound but it is sure fun. It has just enough distortion to make MP3s listenable for use on Turntable.fm. These tubes pop up occasionally on Ebay at very reasonable prices and for anyone looking for an inexpensive amp I highly recommend this combination as long as you will be using it with an external DAC.

At $169 on Amazon, this is a piece of equipment that gets a surprising amount of use next to my much more accurate and more expensive amps. It is fun and while I can’t listen to it for long periods there are times I want a change, I want to live on the audiophile edge with some thumping bass and screaming horns.

Do you have a favorite tube, a fun piece of equipment? Tell us all about it now.