Archive for November, 2010
This is incredible:
BAAS members got a special treat treat today, served up hot at 1340 Mission Studio in San Francisco.
Members coming out of the mastering room uniformly commented that they had just experienced the best sound that they had heard in a long time. I had to agree.
In my experience, this level of fidelity requires attention to all elements of the reproduction chain. In the case of today’s event, four elements stood out:
- THE TAPE PROJECT SOURCE MATERIAL – Have you ever heard a master tape? We came about as close as mere mortals can. We listened to direct dubs of the master, recorded on 1″ two-track media at 15 ips! Wow. Nothing quite like it. And I’m not sure that I ever heard an analog source this quiet.
- SUPERB ELECTRONICS BY EAR and VTL – These premier brands need no introduction. Top-of-the-line line-level components designed by Tom deParavicini himself. And power from the mighty Siegfrieds.
- FOCAL GRANDE UTOPIA LOUDSPEAKERS – About 7′ of pure linearity. The effortless bass was striking to me. The smooth treble from a Be inverted dome was also quite moving. But the degree of driver integration was perhaps their most impressive quality. These huge multi-driver boxes sing with a single voice.
- CUSTOM, PURPOSE-BUILT LISTENING ROOM. No parallel surfaces. Balanced use of absorption and diffraction. Ballast (mass) in key areas of the structure. A great showcase for sound.
Benchmark hosts a “young artists in the studio” series on the web site “Masters of Their Day.” It’s excellent.
Not only can you watch the recording process (in 720p), but you can download 24/88. My favorite is #2.
BAAS members enjoyed a hours of great listening yesterday, courtesy Tim Ryan of Simplifi Audio. [Thanks, Tim, for bringing your entire inventory up from San Diego!]
Loudspeakers from DSPeaker, Gradient, and PSI Audio were all on hand. Resolution Audio provided the front end. Regrettably, the Audiovolver II DSP platform did not quite survive its recent round trip through Germany.
Judging from member comments, the PSI Audio full-range, self-powered speakers were the star of the show. An honorable mention goes to Resolution, whose new component line is GORGEOUS (see pic).
Also, many thanks to Blaine and Gerald at West Valley College – a great place for BAAS events!
Many audiophiles and music lovers will remember him for his moving “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.”
This 1992 classical piece has enjoyed widespread popularity in both classical and pop circles.
Turn down the lights late at night, cue it up, and tell me you aren’t moved.
I had a good time at the AES 2010 Conference in San Francisco.
I saw interesting people: Dan Weiss, Bruno Putzeys (Hypex Class-D inventor), John Curl, Jack Bybee, Alan Parsons (really!), etc.
I listened to cool stuff: the new Antelope DAC that Head-Fi’ers seem to like, various pro monitors (JBL, Adam, Genelec, ATC, Grimm), Apogee’s cool modular DAC, etc.
But – most importantly – I learned stuff. Like this….
It seems to me, that of all the cables in a modern audiophile rig, the one with the toughest job is the digital cable (SPDIF or AES/EBU). Why? Because it has to carry a very-dynamic, very-high-bandwidth analog signal. And it can’t be noisy.
Well, it turned out that the Prism folks – who make both pro audio gear and test gear – had a perfect rig to put this to the test. Specifically, they had the gear to analyze the dynamics, jitter and noise of a word clock signal. Further, the gear could be configured to use either internal soldered connections or an external cable. I took pictures of the results on my Droid. (Yes, the quality sucks.)
Word clock jitter was discussed in detail almost 10 years ago in “The Jitter Game,” an epic treatise appearing in Stereophile in early 1992. The illustrations below depict “eye patterns” of the word clock signal. Both these references are recommended.
Let’s get to today’s measurements….
For all of the pictures that follow, a key metric is that the signal be stable at its max or min during the time depicted by the horizontal red bars. Another key metric is the cleanliness of the zero-crossings. Finally, it’s vital that the eye stay open! As the area within the eye closes down
The first image (below) shows an eye pattern for the Prism clock at 48khz. Importantly, the signal is both generated and measured in the same box, i.e., the wiring between the clock and the o’scope is internal and soldered. As you can see, this curve is very clean in terms of both the red bars and the zero-crossings. In fact, the only flaw in the signal is the slight-but-well-damped overshoot.
At 192khz, the signal remains very clean, but rise time starts to become an issue, closing the eye slightly.
But what happens when an external cable and its connectors enter the mix? To find out, we patched in a 100′ balanced AES/EBU cable of typical studio quality between the word clock and the o’scope. This should represent a ‘worse case’ scenario – long cable, noisy XLR connectors (BNC would be preferred), and mediocre cable quality.
The result: jitter! At 48khz, the signal showed noticeable variations in timing. Notice how the timing errors lead to amplitude errors. This signal would still be usable, though it might lead to audible distortion.
At 96khz with the cable in place, things get worse. Jitter becomes sizable, and the eye shuts down significantly. This signal is a mess.
We couldn’t even get the scope to sync at 192khz with the cable in the loop.
So what can we conclude from all this?
Given that we threw this exercise together in real time on the AES 2010 show flow, documented it loosely with my Droid camera, and had no scientific controls in place – not a lot. Let’s put it this way: I’m not rushing these results into peer review!
But on this day with that system we seemed to show that ‘regular sudio’ cables can create signal distortions in a word clock signal that are likely audible.
Your milage can – and quite possibly will – vary. Caveat lector (reader beware)!
Anyone care to try Nordost Odin? ;~)
Disclosure: I own a Prism Orpheus.
Guest post by
I just returned from my annual trek to the Acoustic Sounds mothership in Salina, Kansas. The concert at Blue Heaven Studio, Chad Kassem’s over the top recording and performance venue was excellent as usual – assuming you like the blues.
But this year along with all of the SACD, vinyl and equipment goodies to drool over, we received a tour of Chad’s soon to be operational record pressing plant.
As we know, vinyl has been making an amazing comeback, so strong that the existing boutique record pressing plants just can’t keep up. So Chad decided to do his own.
Easy formula: figure out who the very best record plant setup person is, find him, convince him to leave Arizona for the frozen tundra of Kansas by promising him too much $$ and the chance to do what he always wanted: make records the right way. That would be Mark, from the old Wakefield Manufacturing record plant in Arizona. You know, the plant that pressed Rounder, ECM, and the other great records back in the day.
Below is Mark showing off the new feed augers that they had built along with new barrels to feed the vinyl to the press. As he says, if the tolerances aren’t right, make new ones …
You know the problem, you drop the needle on the lead-in groove and hear a bunch of noise before the music starts. Mark tells us that the reason is that the vinyl was burned during the process – a basic problem when using the stock water temp controller which used a thermocouple. Max precision was +/- 15 degrees F and it was better to burn than go too cool as the vinyl wouldn’t flow.
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