Why I embraced DSD


Mr. Hansen

Charles Hansen at Ayre has published a lengthy article about the evolution of high resolution digital playback. As is often the case, DSD is criticized heavily based on scientific analysis and lack of mixing/mastering toolsets.

Several members have asked me why I, a self-proclaimed mad scientist and inveterate tinkerer with an engineering degree, have embraced DSD playback.

I’ll share my answer with you:

For me it’s simple. There are amazing recordings on DSD that I want in my collection. They are not available at the same quality in PCM. With one or two exceptions, the best DACs in the world play DSD “for free.” I own such a DAC. Done.

The fact that I can (and do) rip SACDs to DSD is gravy.

Most of us read a lot about our hobby. Analyze and over-analyze. Sweat minutiae. That’s cool – it’s what men (and some women) do. But ultimately I just let it rest and listen. Then decide.

Shouldn’t you too?


Friday, January 17th, 2014 Audiophile, Bob, News 4 Comments

Can We, Should We – Save the Stereo?

It’s early days for this fledgeling project, so plans are understandably vague.

But the future of the high end is an important topic, and I urge you to visit the site and determine whether it aligns with your beliefs.



Sunday, January 5th, 2014 Audiophile, Bob, News Comments Off

The Biggest News in High-End Audio?

I believe that this is a really big deal. Nouveau business model meets “old World” market. LH is also canny to be riding the headphones wave. The title of the CES presentation is bold – How Indiegogo Will Help Save an Old Dying Industry – is a stretch for me (but not insanely so).



LH Labs’ 2014 CES Panel Discussion Takes Place on Heels of $1.1 Million Dollar Indiegogo Campaign

Indiegogo Director of Design and Technology along with High-Performance Audio Experts will Discuss How Crowdfunding Can Help The Dying Audio Industry

December 30, 2014-Sacramento, CA – LH Labs will be holding a press conference at the 2014 International CES discussing how non-traditional marketing, using crowdfunding and crowd- designing, has helped the high-performance audio manufacturer raise nearly 1.5 million dollars in five months.

LH Labs’ second crowd-funding campaign, running since October 28 on Indiegogo, raised $1,174,075 from 6,340 backers of Geek Pulse, a desktop digital-to-analog converter (DAC)/ headphone amplifier. The campaign was the 6th most-funded campaign in Indiegogo’s history.

Light Harmonic, known for industry-leading audio products such as the $31,000 Da Vinci Dual DAC, established LH Labs to offer mainstream-market audio products of exceptional performance and value. LH Labs’ first offering was Geek Out, a $299 portable USB

DAC/headphone amp introduced on crowd-funding site Kickstarter, where it raised over $303,000 from 2146 backers. LH Labs will debut Geek Out at the 2014 International CES in the iLounge Pavilion.             <snip>


Monday, December 30th, 2013 Audiophile, Bob, News 1 Comment

Do we judge classical music performances by sight or by sound?

The ever-entertaining Priconomics web site has followed up their report on subjectivism in wine tasting with a piece on classical music performances.closedeyes

The conclusions are surprising, and the author ties them in to the Gladwell book Blink.

Yet another reason to close your eyes for any critical audio analysis. I do, and I have come to believe that it’s an essential practice.



Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 Audiophile, Bob, News Comments Off

Two-speaker Surround Sound – The future?

spkr cloudAs some of you  may know, I went to grad school at Princeton. Professor Edgar Choueiri, one of the prof’s in my old department is an audiophile and doing very-cool research (funded mostly by Sony). He’s also partnered with David Chesky.

Anyway, he came over to my lab (AKA house) last week and set up his gear as a source to my system. Oh my, the sound was truly incredible – a 200-or-so degree soundfield with only two speakers – and no change in tone, transients, or level.

Then he did the same thing with my AKG 701 headphones. That was even better. in fact, if I had it I’d seldom tum on my power amps.

He later embedded the loudspeaker transform into a plugin (VST and AU) before he left. So I can still approximate the effect in my home.

There are caveats: (1) binaural recordings are required  to get the wrap-around effect; (2) the transform is valid for one speaker/room configuration only; and (3) the effect is only good for one listening position. But IME only the last constraint is hard & fast. Most well-recorded stereo recordings benefit as well. Demonstrably so. And I switched speakers and still prefer to keep the plugin active.prin

I also prefer the this technology’s sonic presentation to most “surround sound” that I have heard. It sounds more natural.

At some point, I may run a BAAS open house so that folks can hear this tech. It’d be tough given the narrow sweet spot though. In fact, the tighter the dispersion of the speakers, the better the effect. (Based on my recommendation, Edgar now uses electrostats from Sanders Sound as his references.)

- Bob

Saturday, July 27th, 2013 Audiophile, Bob, General, News 1 Comment

The Absolute Sound (TAS) Issue #1 Download

Celebrating their 40th anniversary, TAS is offering their first issue as a free download (PDF).tas1

Printed in 1973, this was the all-analog age. LPs and tapes ruled, as did the Phase Linear 700 amp. And no advertising (Stereophile had just started accepting dealer ads).




Thursday, May 30th, 2013 Audiophile, Bob, News Comments Off

Sound from Sight

The recordings are analog, but the medium is ink on paper.

This article describes the process used by Indiana University, and contains recordings from the nineteenth century.


Friday, April 5th, 2013 Audiophile, Bob, General, News, Technical Comments Off – Where the young and hip audiophiles hang out

This is one place where a new generation of audiophiles are hanging out.rvinyl

You may have heard of it. The site is

Other such places include /r/audiophile and Head-fi and even /r/audiojerk.

Headphones and vinyl define the new frontier. If pressed to name a third, I’d be hard pressed between Sonos and desktop DACs.

Get with it. join in. Be hip. Chat with Steve Mejias tomorrow.




Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 Audiophile, Bob, News Comments Off

Scientists Had Underestimated Human Hearing Acuity

hearing limitsResearchers at Rockefeller University in New York recently empirically tested the accuracy of the so-called “Fourier Uncertainty Principle (FUP).” In a nutshell, human hearing is much better than the FUP predicts.

Such news indirectly bolsters the subjectivist arguments that careful listeners can discern sonic elements that are opaque to engineering testing.

But we already knew this, right?


Friday, February 8th, 2013 Audiophile, Bob, News 1 Comment

It had to happen: First 3D-printed Record Albums

3dprintedrecord-660See this Wired article for a demo and an explanation by the engineer.

OK, so sound quality is about that achieved by Edison. But I predict that it’ll improve – a lot.

Is this the ultimate audiophile DAC?



Thursday, December 20th, 2012 Analog, Audiophile, Bob, Equipment, News Comments Off

The Price of Audiophilia

Not much new here, but this article from seeks to plot the price spectrum of audiophilia – with the aid of local McIntosh vendor House of Music.

Also referenced is a framework that I had almost forgotten about: The Gizmodo Audiophile Sound Quality Index. (Site currently down due to the storm.)



Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 Audiophile, Bob, General, News Comments Off

Life at 33 RPM – A Vinyl Story

“Vinylmania” is coming to San Fran – details here.

Also, you may want to check out this charity record sale on Nov 10th (same day as the movie), proceeds to Palo Alto Library.



Monday, October 22nd, 2012 Analog, Audiophile, Bob, Events, News, Video Comments Off

Did Frank Zappa Invent the Hires Music Download?

Way back in 1983, Mr. Zappa – a genius IMO – described the rudiments of an HDtracks-like service.

First, he succinctly described the problem:

Ordinary phonograph record merchandising as it exists today is a stupid process which concerns itself essentially with pieces of plastic, wrapped in pieces of cardboard. These objects, in quantity, are heavy and expensive to ship. The manufacturing process is complicated and crude. Quality control for the stamping of the discs is an exercise in futility. The system is subject to pilferage…Dissatisfied customers routinely return records because they are warped and will not play…Large numbers of people are employed in the field of ‘record promotion.’…these salaries are, for the most part, a waste of money.

Then, his proposed solution:

We propose to acquire the rights to digitally duplicate and store THE BEST of every record company’s difficult-to-move Quality Catalog Items (QCI), store them in a central processing location, and have them accessible by…direct digital-to-digital transfer…All accounting for royalty payments, billing to the customer, etc. would be automatic, built into the initial software for the system.

Sound familiar?

Of course, FZ described the details of the system in terms of then-current tech (e.g., Betamax). But the core underpinnings of today’s reality were there – even the piece about high-resolution digital transfers of archival analog media.

One sharp cookie…



Friday, October 12th, 2012 Audiophile, Bob, News Comments Off

Rock Star Champions High-resolution Digital

Can rock legend Neil Young accelerate adoption of high-resolution digital (“the sound of analog”)?

Let’s hope that Mr. Young (and his Pono player and service) follows Mr. Chesky (HDtracks) in widening the options for music lovers.

Articles here and here.


[Thanks, Aaron!]

Sunday, September 30th, 2012 Audiophile, Bob, News, Video Comments Off

HRT and Schiit Impress NYT Listening Panel

‘Tis not often that a publication like the New York Times conducts a DAC shootout. But they just did.

Further, they even use audiophile terminology: “[the HRT] sounded closest to the original CD versions” and switching from the Schiit “was like going from stereo to mono.” Whoa.

I’ll leave it to interested readers to delve  deeper….


Thursday, September 13th, 2012 Audiophile, Bob, General, News 2 Comments

CNET Writer Claims Audiophiles Shun Accuracy

Long-time CNET writer Steve Guttenberg now claims that audiophiles – like most consumers – prefer colored

Sound Analyzer

sound (article here).

IMO, the article is simply chock-full of unsubstantiated assertions. In fact, I think that a more reasonable thesis can be drawn from the evidence presented: manufacturers of audio gear make equipment that produces flawed sound.

In any case, decide for yourself….


Monday, August 27th, 2012 Audiophile, Bob, General, News Comments Off

A Pictorial History of a BAAS Event – EBTB Pre-launch Party

BAAS just completed a well-attended (over 50 members) gig featuring the rich product line of Everything But The Box (EBTB) Loudspeakers.

Held at the impressive 1340 Mission building – home of Michael Romanowski Mastering, Coast Recorders, and the Tape Project – the event featured 3 demo systems, a nice lobby for extended member discussions, an open bar, great snacks (loved those brownies!), and an expresso bar. But for me, the highlight of the facility was the acoustic qualities of the main studio. It’s hard to find such a neutral sonic environment.

In addition to the facility itself, we were blessed by the participation of several audio experts, most notably Bob Hodas, Michael Romanowski, and Piper Payne. Holding it all together was our sponsor, Konnie May – North American rep for EBTB. And we all thank Parasound, MIT Cables, and VTL for their support via equipment loans.

The sounds were great, the atmosphere light and collegial, and our hosts gracious. A beautiful thing.

Here are some pics, courtesy member Kevin O, to document things….


Reception Lobby

The Piper Room

The Main System

Mains Up Close

Wrapping Up / Debrief

Sunday, August 26th, 2012 Audiophile, Bob, Equipment, Events, News Comments Off

BAAS Does CAS – The 2012 California Audio Show (CAS)

This year’s CAS may have been moderate in size (three floors of rooms), but it was big on quality. The rooms generally sounded good, and the crowds were decent and enthusiastic. In fact, the enthusiasm was so great that BAAS increased in size by 17% in two days, and took in proceeds enough to sponsor a major event. Cool!

The BAAS Room. Many thanks to Constantine/Dagogo for providing space to BAAS for a hospitality suite. Our seemingly-conflicting plan was to provide: (1) a good listening experience on equipment that most audiophiles can afford (2) facilitate non-commercial conversation among enthusiasts; and (3) the means for BAAS to advance the cause by showing the flag and signing new members. I think that we did reasonably well on these.

The system in play for most of the show included:

  • Custom speakers featuring the 15″ Audio Nirvana Neo drivers. I installed the 15″ full-range Neos in cabinets that I bought used, and tuned the boxes for the new drivers. The AN drivers are available on the web for $1000.
  • Oppo Universal Player model BDP-83SE “Audiophile Edition.” Capable (and discontinued) player, sometimes available for about $500 used.
  • Denon Integrated Amp Model PMA-A100 “Anniversity Edition.” A real gem. Research the Denon POA-4400 mono-blocks. The circuit in these is similar in design. Discontinued. Available used on eBay for $1400-$1700.
  • ASC tube traps. Four of them. Thanks, ASC!
  • Various DIY cables, $100 medical power conditioner, DIY room treatments (703 rigid fiberglass), etc.

Other delights. I quite frankly had my hands full in the BAAS room, and didn’t spend much time in the others. I therefore think it’d be a diservice to readers to comment on room specifics. I can generalize and say that maybe 25% of rooms had great sound, 20% had obviously-flawed sonics, and the rest sounded OK. I think that this quality mix is above-average. As always, Cookie and the Blue Coast room were a boon. The show organization and hotel staff were great, the elevators worked, AC power was fine, and food (I had burgers) was tasty (if very slooooow in coming).

Our volunteers. I can’t say enough about the great job that our volunteers did in our room. Bravo! Our folks embraced their jobs with tremendous enthusiasm and energy. It was catchy. And I was astounded when some of our most laid-back members started pitching BAAS membership to prospects. Wow. No wonder we gained so many new members. To hone their games, I started espousing the “Always Be Closing (ABC)” method that I used to teach software salespeople! LOL.

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 Audiophile, Bob, Events, News 1 Comment

The NPR “Tiny Desk” Concerts (Adele) and the Master of Autotune

Beautiful 3-song set, huh? The sheer power and authenticity of “live” is tough to beat. Masterful artists combining in real time in ways that machines never will.

For more of the same, I would urge you to explore all of NPR’s “Tiny Desk” videos – they are as cool as they are diverse. (Thanks to my brother Dave for pointing them out to me)

Contrast this with the world described in this NYT feature detailing the efforts of Kuk Harrell and the “vocal producers” of today’s major pop acts. Oh my, what a difference.

I’m not writing this to suggest which is better. And I’d guess that Adele has used vocal producers. I’m just contrasting (for the n-th time) the differences in approach and feel.


Saturday, June 30th, 2012 Audiophile, Bob, General, Music, News Comments Off

BAAS History from One of the Founders

Wanted to introduce myself. Dennis Davis and I started BAAS circa 1995 after we met at a audio show (Stereophile?) in San Francisco. We hit it off immediately and thought it would be cool to start up an audiophile society. As you know Dennis was active in the Northern CA Audiophile group that eventually faded away for lack of participation (no one wanted to organize events). We published a want-ad in the SF Chronicle and at (I wrote that piece you published in a recent BAAS note I think). There were really no officers (sort of just Dennis and myself).

Anyway the first meeting was at my house in SF and we had about 30-40 people if I recall there, including some of the current members such as Jason Serinus, Herb Cygan, Manny LaCarrubba (inventor of the cool B+O 360 degree speaker) and Manuel. Anyway, the first few years was a lot of fun and we had some excellent meetings including ones at Mobile Fidelity at their vinyl pressing plant in Petaluma, presentations of various audio products at a now-defunct high end dealer in Sausalito (Music by Design) as well as discussions about vinyl vs. digitial. A number of our get-togethers were at the Josephine Randall Museum Theater in the City. My participation waned after a few years because of personal issues. Dennis was left pretty much on his own to run the ship. Mea culpa.

Part of the difficulty at that time was lack of volunteers to organize meetings and events. System hopping was just getting started. Organizing and producing get-togethers was a lot of work and usually only a small number of people (2-3) were willing to put in the time to develop these. I believe that is why Dennis eventually also dropped out.

Fortunately people like yourself and Jason have kept BAAS alive and thriving. My hat’s off to both of you. The BAAS web site is wonderful, promotes ongoing interest and provides a way of sharing ideas and news without publishing a hard copy newsletter. I thought the High Note in its day was great but was pretty labor-intensive. I still remember stuffing envelopes! The title was “borrowed” from the name of an audio salon we found in one of the audiophile magazines. We also had a cool looking membership card that we distributed to members – I thought I still had a stack of these but couldn’t find them – maybe I gave them to Dennis.

Wilson Lem

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 Audiophile, Bob, General, News 4 Comments