Archive for October, 2008

Wayne’s Desert Island Disks

sultan.jpgAll listed are on vinyl (LP), my only format.  However, some of them have been released on CD, which I have not listened to.  Many of these will be available only in used record stores or used online sources.  My listening bias is for live performances as they often are more inspiring than studio recordings, even though the studio recordings often have better sonics.  I think this is true especially on jazz and rock recordings.

JAZZ
Ltd. Ed. German pressing, Enja ENJ-80781
Dave Brubeck Quartet: The Great Concerts…Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Carnegie Hall   Columbia 44215
Miles Davis: Nefertiti   Columbia 9594    and    Sketches of Spain   Columbia 8271
Chico Freeman: The Outside Within    India Navigation 1042
Erroll Garner: Concert by the Sea   Columbia CL883  (wonderful live recording, get the original Mono “6 eye”, the later digitally re-mastered pressing is a sonic tragedy)
Hawkins! Alive! At the Village Gate: Verve V6-8509 – Classic Records
Dick Hyman: From the Age of Swing   Reference RR-59mann.jpg
Ramsey Lewis Trio: At the Bohemian Caverns in Washington DC   Cadet 741  and  Hang on Ramsey!   Cadet 761   (These are early 1960’s live recordings of Ramsey Lewis at his creative best IMHO.  Especially memorable is the cut “Billy Boy” on side 2 of Cadet 761…9+ minutes of marvelous improvisation)
Herbie Mann: Impressions of the Middle East   Atlantic 1475  and Memphis Underground   Atlantic 1522 (these are some of Mann’s best work, I think.  I own a lot of his albums)
Incognito.  Acid jazz at its best.  I own 3 albums, all excellent and I suspect all of Incognito (a British group) releases are comparable.
Oliver Nelson: The Blues and the Abstract Truth   Impulse IMP-154   (find the analogue re-mastered release 180 gram)
George Otsuko: “You are my Sunshine”   Three Blind Mice TBM-35   (all the Three Blind Mice jazz recordings that I have heard are wonderful Japanese 180 gram pressings)  I also have Isao Suzuki: Black Orpheus  TBM-63 and Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio: Midnight Sugar  TBM-23.  I think these were also released in CD.

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Friday, October 31st, 2008 Desert Island CDs Comments Off

The Best-kept Secret in Mac CD Ripping?

ishot-4.jpgGreat news for audiophiles who, like myself, love all-things-Mac — we now have our own ripper with most of the capabilities of “EAC” or “dbPowerAmp.”

And it’s free and open-source!

The product is called XLD (X Lossless Decoder) and boasts the most impressive feature list of anything Mac. You can download it here. If you use it, I heartily suggest that you donate here. You can get free forum support on Hydrogen Audio here.

NEW: This tutorial on ripping is must-read!

ishot-5.jpg

XLD’s feature list is so strong that it may put my favorite cover art program (Cover Scout, which has just gone V3) out of business.

I truly wish that I had known about XLD before my recent multi-month rip-fest (1125 CD’s). It’s clearly the best there is on Mac…

Saturday, October 25th, 2008 Bob, General 2 Comments

Does Bandwidth Beyond 20khz Improve Sound Quality?

audiogram-presbyacusis-rgb.jpgSome folks over at the SlimDevices Forum (here) are currently debating the impact of this 2000 psycho-acoustic scholarly research from Japan.

The results of the study support some remarkable and far-reaching conclusions:

  • Frequency content beyond 20khz enhances human perception of music – test subjects favor it over lower-bandwidth material.
  • Brain activity can be measured and used to correlate subjective assessments of the subjects.
  • The form of ABX testing most commonly used in listening tests – several seconds of sound separated by less than a second of silence while switching samples – is inappropriate to measure a human’s assessment of musical content. The brain takes longer to form aesthetic judgments.

These tests were conducted in a controlled setting using double-blind protocols, direct measurement of brain activity, and  a statistically relevant sample size. Pretty solid.

These conclusions could have far-ranging implications to audiophiles:

  •  A high-bandwidth system is necessary to full enjoyment of music. surprise.jpg
    • Ever hear of a super-tweeter?
  • Properly done, “high resolution” formats (e.g., SACD, HrX) enhance listening enjoyment.
    • More material please! And affordable high-resolution DAC’s….
  • The rapid-fire “test tone” method of audio ABX testing is inappropriate to measuring human satisfaction of reproduced music.
    • Ban their use in audiophile settings and discussions.

Wow. Weighty stuff to consider this weekend.”Hypersonic” indeed.

In a future piece, I’ll discuss some of the factors that both the paper and the often-didactic forum discussion miss….

Friday, October 24th, 2008 Bob, General, Technical Comments Off

Free Download – Blue Coast “The BAAS Sessions”

baas-sessions.jpg

Click here for exclusive recordings from our Blue Coast Records event.

The tracks are available as both playable MP3 and downloadable 16/44.1 WAV. So most everyone should be able to play them with good fidelity.

You’ll find not just the mixed versions, but also the “raw mic” tracks from the various microphones that Cookie used.

Listening to these tracks will give you a real perspective on “reproducing the original sonic event.”

As far as I know, this type of opportunity is very rare. So take advantage of it – especially if you weren’t at the event!

Thanks again, Cookie and Jason McGuire!

Saturday, October 18th, 2008 Bob, Events, General Comments Off

Greeks Scientifically Test “Vinyl vs CD”

event08-9_listen3.jpgThe Audiophile Club of Athens remains very active.

Its latest endeavor (documented here) tackles an issue that seems to plague many audiophiles – “is CD/digital (finally) better than analog/vinyl”?

Their answer is an emphatic  “NO!”skal_jakintha_pawnshop.jpg

While I disagree with some of their methodology, it makes for interesting reading. And I certainly applaud their effort.

I’ll leave you to form your own conclusions….

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 Bob, General 1 Comment

Best Systems at Rocky Mountain (RMAF 2008)

head_scratch.jpgLet me begin with a quotable quote:

  • Audiophile: “I just don’t understand how a power cord can matter.”
  • Well-known cable vendor: “The first thing to understand is that the improvement has nothing to do with power….”cable.jpg
  • Audiophile: “Huh?”

Yep – believe it or not – a lot of hype and misinformation flowed in Denver this weekend. But so did a lot of knowledge and great access to very interesting sound systems.

For my list of “best sounds at the show,” read on…

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Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 Bob, Equipment, Events Comments Off

The Worst Album Covers EVER!

deadfriends.jpgHow do you like the one on the left?

It’s actually one of the more tasteful ones on this site, which is a unique “worst of” collection.

Note: Folks with delicate sensibilities should not click the link.

Enjoy!

Sunday, October 5th, 2008 Bob, General, Humor Comments Off

Want to compare high-res digital formats?

2l.jpgClick here for an excellent source of music samples in widely- varying digital formats – right up to 24/353!

I’ve not downloaded any of them yet, so please share your experiences if you have!

Saturday, October 4th, 2008 Bob, General Comments Off

On Bandwidth (and Sampling Rate)

For our technically-minded members, I’m sure that you’re aware of Fourier Analysis and the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) that revolutionized signal processing. For others, the core idea is that any signal can be efficiently decomposed into a number of sine waves. The more sine waves, the better the approximation.

square.jpgThe graphic at left shows a number of such approximations to a square wave. Engineers (even audio engineers) love square waves because of their infinitely rich harmonic structure. Listen to this sound clip (sin-sq-440-128k.mp3) to hear the A above middle C (440 hz) – first as a pure tone for 10 seconds, then 10 seconds as a square wave.

Sounds a bit like clipping, doesn’t it? It should – as the illustration below clearly shows.

Getting back to the first graphic (above left), we clearly need a lot of sine waves to approximate harmonically rich sound signatures like a square wave (or a bowed string). And those sine waves must be of increasing frequency. Thus, we need a lot of (analog) bandwidth. If we’re in the digital domain, this translates to a fast sampling frequency.clipped.jpg

Hopefully this analysis helps to illustrate why many audiophiles desire 96+ khz  sampling (e.g., SACD) and/or ultrasonic analog system bandwidths (e.g., ribbon tweeters or supertweeters).

But the jury’s still out on whether these characteristics are needed to render a truly accurate musical event.

Saturday, October 4th, 2008 Bob, General, Technical Comments Off

Burning Amp 2008 (Oct 19th)

burning.jpgFor many of us, tweaking or building our gear is a key part of our musical expression.

We Bay Area folks are lucky to, through DIYaudio.com and others, be a mecca for this activity.

I highly recommend dropping by Burning Amp, the annual celebration of DIYaudio. Among other things, you can meet folks like Nelson Pass – a real treat!

See below for the link….

Bob

————————-

Dear Bob,

Burning Amp is October 19th this year. Could you please alert your members?

Thanks,
Mark Cronander

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008 Announcements, Bob Comments Off
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