Tag Archives: high fidelity

Listen

When you’re in an anechoic chamber—a room full of pyramid-shaped, foot-long absorbers located on the walls, ceiling and floor (there is typically a large screen providing the footing) that keep sound waves from bouncing around—the silence isn’t, as they say, deafening, but it causes a sensation that makes it seem as though the atmosphere is somehow thicker in there. The sound goes away. You move through the space (I’ve had the opportunity to be in chambers capable of accommodating cars and instrumentation, so these chambers are sometimes like large rooms that you could even dance in) and because the nearly silent audible cues that you don’t even pay any attention to in normal activities—sounds like the fabric of your clothes brushing as you walk—are absent, it is a bit eerie. Or a lot eerie. You can hear your blood pumping, though the sound has more consistency than a rhythmic beat. It is not a place you want to be in for too long.

It makes you appreciate, well, sound.

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John Cage’s 4’33” (In Proportional Notation) was first performed by pianist David Tudor on August 29,1952 in Woodstock, New York. There are three movements to the composition. The movements, unlike those in other musical works, consisted of Tudor opening and closing the lid of the keyboard to mark each section.

Cage recalled, according to the Museum of Modern Art, “You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.”

Continue reading Listen

Salmagundi: Random Bits

Driven

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in a 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is, in a word, grand.

One of the striking things about it (no, not that it has 4×4 capability that allows the vehicle, which has civilized comfort, to drive the Rubicon Trail, which is something that is simply unimaginable unless there is a certain level of desire for potential catastrophe that one has) is the fact that it has a McIntosh audio system with 19 custom-designed speakers (including a 10-inch / 25.4-cm subwoofer), 950 watts of power and a 17-channel amplifier.

All vehicle manufacturers, nowadays, have high-end audio companies providing equipment for their vehicles. Many of these audio systems come from Harman International. Brands like: AKG, Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon, Mark Levinson, and Revel. (And Samsung owns Harmon.)

But Jeep is now the only auto brand on the planet with McIntosh.

What is interesting about the deployment in the Grand Cherokee is that on the 10.25-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard you can see a simulated image of the classic McIntosh dial with the needle sweeping up and down across the face.

Because of that recent experience, while flipping through The Absolute Sound, looking at audio equipment I’ll never afford, I spotted an item titled “McIntosh Announces MC35000 Vacuum Tube Amplifier Mk II,” which is a contemporary execution of “McIntosh MC3500 Vacuum Tube Amplifiers that exclusively powered the sound system used at Woodstock.”

Yes, that Woodstock.

Some quick math puts it 52 years ago.

Who knew that vacuum tubes would still be used today? While it might be like a carburetor in a 2022 Jeep, apparently it isn’t.

Continue reading Salmagundi: Random Bits

Cars, Turntables & Physical Objects

Last week I had the opportunity to drive a 2022 Honda Civic. It was the top-of-the-line Touring trim. It is an all-new, 11th generation Civic. It has leather seats, Bose audio with 12-speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an array of sensors for safety, moonroof, 180-hp turbocharged engine. . . and a lot more stuff.

It is really an impressive vehicle, and being a Honda Civic, I would imagine that whoever buys one is likely to have it for some years in reliable operation. A value play.

This morning I read piece by Jacob Heilbrunn in The Absolute Sound about his quest for getting a custom reference stand for his turntable. He contacted the chief engineer at a Buffalo, New York-based company, Harmonic Resolution Systems, about getting the company’s VXR stand. As things went, Heilbrunn obtained a custom VXR Zero stand.

It cost $52,000.

The Civic has an MSRP of $28,300.

I suspected that I was missing something.

So I looked at the turntable that Heilbrunn needed this very specific stand to accommodate.

A TechDAS Air Force Zero turntable.

According to Hideaki Nishikawa, who designed the reference turntable, “The goal of the project was to develop a truly groundbreaking product, building on our expertise and knowledge and incorporating new ideas and insights. To achieve this goal, the project had to be cost-no-object. And it had to have whatever technologies would be best suited for sonic performance, no matter how much it would cost.”

The result is a unit that weighs 727.5 pounds and measures 35.5 x 26.6 x 13.2 inches.

According to a recent review in Stereophile, the TechDAS Air Force Zero has a base price (i.e., there are models above it in the TechDAS lineup) of $450,000.

Continue reading Cars, Turntables & Physical Objects

All Things Must Pass on Vinyl, Hi-Res Download

All Things Must PassJust a couple weeks ago, we learned that Paul McCartney would be releasing his remastered Band on the Run album as a High Resolution (24bit 96kHz) download, and now George Harrison’s estate is doing the same thing with All Things Must Pass for its 40th anniversary on November 26. No word on whether you’ll be able to get versions with and without peak limiting like you can with Band on the Run, but the fact that hi-res audio is becoming de rigueur from the Apple/Abbey Road team is surely a good sign.

In addition to the digital download, All Things Must Pass will be also released on 180-gram vinyl in its original three-LP configuration, remastered at Abbey Road Studios from the original analog master tapes.

George Harrison: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, eMusic, wiki

Continue reading All Things Must Pass on Vinyl, Hi-Res Download

The End of the Loudness Wars?

Band on the RunThis is exciting news for audiophiles. While the general earbudder might not give a shit about audio quality or dynamic range, people who really enjoy listening—and listening hard!—to music are going to be surprised by the following note from Abbey Road’s Allan Rouse regarding Paul McCartney’s remastered reissue of Band on the Run.

As is common with releases using Topspin’s tools, customers have a number of options, including CD only, deluxe CD package, vinyl, MP3 download, etc. This time, you can also purchase a High Resolution (24bit 96kHz) download for $19.99. The really cool thing about this is you get both limited and unlimited versions of the audio. For non-audiophiles, “limited” audio is a little louder, while the “unlimited” version will “sound quieter, but retain the dynamic range of the original master recording.” The fact that they’re giving people both may signal a real turning point in the Loudness Wars. Let’s hope so anyway…

Read Rouse’s full explanation below…

Paul McCartney: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki, web.

Continue reading The End of the Loudness Wars?

Buying Records in Record Stores is Cool

Buying Records in Record Stores is CoolI put a lot of thought into the music I listen to. There’s a lot of music I really love, and I feel guilty if I neglect one of my favorites for too long. But I also feel bad if I’m not seeking out new music. And I feel obligated to actually listen to everything I add to my collection. I’ve concocted a smart playlist that makes sure I give new stuff at least a few spins before it drops off the radar.

So I’m vigilant about what I add. I’ll sample just about anything online, but if I’m going to add it to my library I have to be determined to give it a chance.

Continue reading Buying Records in Record Stores is Cool

Them Crooked Vultures – New Fang

Stream: Them Crooked Vultures – “New Fang”

Look at that waveform. No dynamic range whatsoever. It’s a good song, but imagine what it would sound like if you could actually hear the sound of the instruments. It’s as flat and squashed as a McDonald’s hamburger. For shame! Grohl’s drums still manage to sound badass though.

Them Crooked Vultures: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki.

Continue reading Them Crooked Vultures – New Fang

Kids These Days Don't Know from Quality

A professor of music at Stanford tests his incoming students each year to determine how we become attuned to what we like:

He has them listen to a variety of recordings which use different formats from MP3 to ones of much higher quality. He described the results with some disappointment and frustration, as a music lover might, that each year the preference for music in MP3 format rises. In other words, students prefer the quality of that kind of sound over the sound of music of much higher quality. He said that they seemed to prefer “sizzle sounds” that MP3s bring to music. It is a sound they are familiar with.

So there we go. High fidelity is doomed. Have fun, kids, in your lossy, over-compressed future. I’ll be in my basement with Steve Buscemi‘s character from Ghost World. Or maybe not.

Seymour

I hate my interests. You think it’s healthy to obsessively collect things? You can’t relate to other people, so you fill your life with stuff… I’m just like all these other collector losers.

Bob Ludwig vs. Loudness Wars

Mixonline talks to legendary mastering engineer Bob Ludwig about “the loudness wars, changing technologies, and more than four decades of musical inspiration”:

Hopefully this whole loudness war thing that we’ve been through with the CD, there’s no more room to go any louder. These things are just stupidly loud and annoying to listen to. There’s quite a big backlash.

I’m thinking people are realizing that there is a musical price to pay to have your iPod on “shuffle” and have your song be the loudest thing. I admit, to put out something that won’t sound as loud as what comes before and after it on a iPod shuffle does take a certain amount of guts as a producer, but more and more producers and artists are getting back into dynamic range again.

Ludwig knows what he’s talking about. He mastered Led Zeppelin II and tons of classic, great sounding albums. He recently mastered Chinese Democracy and was “floored” when they decided to go with his “full dynamics version” as opposed to the “loudness-for-loudness-sake versions” he also created: “I have already seen a new awareness and appreciation for quality from some other producers, I pray it is the end of the level wars.” We’ll see…

If It's Too Loud, Turn It Down (in mastering)

The Wall Street Journal has another good article about the loss of fidelity in today’s recordings: Even Heavy-Metal Fans Complain That Today’s Music Is Too Loud!!!

Over the years, rock and pop artists have increasingly sought to make their recordings sound louder to stand out on the radio, jukeboxes and, especially, iPods.

But audiophiles, recording professionals and some ordinary fans say the extra sonic wallop comes at a steep price. To make recorded music seem louder, engineers must reduce the “dynamic range,” minimizing the difference between the soft and loud parts and creating a tidal wave of aural blandness.

They interview a couple of mastering engineers, Ted Jensen and Bob Ludwig, who both put the blame on directly on musicians, producers and record-company executives who demand loudness at the sake of fidelity and dynamic range.

If it’s good enough for iPod earbuds, is that good enough?

Previously: Are Audiophiles Just Fogeyists? (2007).

Via Idolator.