An overview to enable novices and shy audiophiles alike to move ahead with hi-resolution music playback.
Have you heard of Pono? It’s the soon-to-be-released, portable high-resolution music player from rock legend Neil Young, and it’s one of many “hi-res” players that are all the buzz. Some months back, the media was flooded with reports of Pono’s Kickstarter campaign, which raised an unprecedented $6.2 million dollars from supporters. That’s a lot of money from people whose enthusiasm for better quality playback via high-resolution sound has led them to endorse Young’s efforts to “rescue an art form” from the throes of sonically degraded MP3s and the limitations of red book CD sound.
You may think that Pono, LH Labs’ forthcoming Geek Wave, and the portable high-resolution players currently available from Astell&Kern are relevant only to young, headphone-toting, pop music diehards. They’re not. Rather, Pono and crew are the market response to demand for higher quality audio at affordable prices. <snip>
West Bay Opera brings its season to a triumphal close with a production of Mozart’s Magic Flute, which showcases what a company on a tight budget can achieve. <snip>
Tremblay expects about 80 exhibitors—the same as last year—holding forth in 80–100 rooms. To please up to 7000 attendees, <snip>
To get the skinny on UMG’s plans for Blu-ray and hi-res, I conducted two separate interviews with folks in the UK. The first, with Barry Holden, the extremely committed and highly articulate VP of Classical Catalogue at Universal Music, appears below. A second discussion with Joshua Phillips, High Fidelity Pure Audio Product Manager for UMG’s pop catalog, and Olivier Robert-Murphy of the Pure Audio Association, will follow <snip>
To fresh your memory, the data on Red Book CDs is limited to a sample rate of 44.1kHz—44,100 samples of data per second—and has a word length of 16 digital bits per sample. This yields a range of 65,536 possible values. UMG’s High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-rays, on the other hand, are sampled at 96kHz—96,000 samples of data per second—and have a word length of 24-bits per sample, which yields 16,777,216 possible values. Among the sonic benefits of this increase are richer tonality, truer timbres, increased air and depth, and a greater sense of “you are there” reality. Utilized at their full sonic potential, Blu-rays up CD’s dynamic limit of 96 decibels to 144dB. Not that anyone who values their hearing would want to listen to 144dB
One of UMG’s slogans for its 24/96 High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray initiative is “No compression • No video • No compromise.” While there’s more than a fair amount of hype behind the claim that listening to 24/96 material, whether on High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray or via uncompressed downloads, delivers music just as the artist intended it to be heard, there is no question that, with material originally recorded and mastered without compression in 24/96 digital format, that 24/96 has the potential to get you close to what the recording and mastering engineers heard on their studio monitors or through headphones.
Jason Victor Serinus • http://www.jasonserinus.com
Music and audiophile critic, and Whistler Extraordinaire.
**The Voice of Woodstock • The Pavarotti of Pucker**
Last Saturday, BAAS members were treated to a private sitting with the trend-setting DaVinci DAC.
Impressive in both design and specs, members noted in particular the impressive soundstage that the unit projected.
The music played, all hi-res except for the Montserrat Figueras tribute, was either classical or jazz: excerpts of Haydn and Beethoven string quartets, Mozart, Ole Bull’s very romantic violin, Paul Motian and Vince Guaraldi’s jazz, Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall’s period instrument Monteverdi, and, in the second session, Kumiko’s Steve Reich on marimba. A fine tribute to a pair of fallen artists.
Thanks again to Jason Victor Serinus for hosting. His fine room, system, and expert musical selections make auditions a treat.
And, of course, special thanks to Larry Ho and Light Harmonic for supplying this elegant piece of reproduction equipment. You can learn more here.
BAAS membership reflects the current trends of audiophiles worldwide. As such, the majority (including myself) listen to digital these days. So it was interesting to see how our first “analog event” in several years would be received.
About 30 BAAS members gathered at Jason Victor Serinus’ home yesterday to listen to the latest in analog source technology, delivered by Allen Perkins of local manufacturer Spiral Groove (SG).
The system featured the following gear from SG:
- Spiral Groove SG 2 Turntable ($15,000)
- Spiral Groove SG Tonearm ($6,000)
- Lyra Cartridge ($6,000)
- Lehmann Audio Decade phono section ($2,400)
- Spiral Groove preamplifier (projected $15,000)
An impressive array, to be sure!
I am quite familiar with Jason’s system and listening environment, at least for digital sources. Here are my impression of yesterday’s sights and sounds:
- The SG gear is beautiful to look at, and even better to listen to. Furthermore, it’s practical. For example, it can be set up by one person in 30 minutes (!). Simple elegance.
- All told, I listened to the system for five hours. I heard fewer than a dozen tics or pops. This is a new record for me <g>. Especially notable: not a single record was treated in any way during the event. No rituals – just load & play. (Sorta like a CD…) [One member told me that the sound was clean because only
vintageolder "virgin" vinyl was used.]
- Allen’s description of the engineering design choices that guided him made a lot of sense to me.
- The sound in the second session was a bit tighter than the first. (This is not unusual. I think it’s caused simply by the gear being more fully warmed up.)
- Nordost Odin cables are the real deal. At one point we substituted the preamp’s power cable with a Odin. Wow.
- For the first time in a very long while, I was thinking “…maybe I do need a turntable…”
We also conducted several listening tests on digital sources. These allowed us to compare several digital exemplars to state-of-the-art analog. I’ll say here that two things were apparent:
- Analog rocks. There’s a reason why so many audiophiles are driven to turntables (see this article from today’s NYT). – they can sound great!
- PS Audio’s(PSA’s) new “Perfect Wave” stack combines outstanding ease-of-use with media flexibility and great sonics. That’s a tough combo to beat! Very nice kit, especially for audiophiles wishing to get into high-resolution without going to a computer. (Digital sources that I consider “reference quality” generally have price tags beginning at 2X the PSA tariff.)
- I preferred the sound of the Wavelength Wavelink USB audio interface to that of the the transport (many members agreed). I don’t think it yet matches the best in firewire converters, but it sounded quite detailed and transparent to me (especially on hires material).
Note that Jason’s description of the event – and activities leading up to it – can be found on the Home secrets Blog.
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008