How is it that an audio engineer, an Amazonian tribesman, and a small child think alike?

In audio:

  • Frequency bands are commonly expressed in octaves and decades
  • Volume settings (attenuation) and gain are expressed in decibels (dB)
  • Treble falls off rapidly with distance – exponentially in fact

The common ground is that all of these quantities are logarithmic (the inverse of logarithmic is exponential).

Well, it turns out that reclusive tribes deep in the Amazon think the same way. So do small children.

Click the link above for a fascinating look at the Munduruku tribe and its numerical methods. (They can only count to five!)

And click here to learn more about logarithms in audio.

Friday, April 2nd, 2010 Uncategorized Comments Off

A Tiny (Audiophile) History

I happened across an insightful rendition of audiophile history from wax to SACD.

Not much new here (the text was last revised in 2005), but the treatment of the subject is both well-considered and insightful. Kudos to Lynn Olson for yet another contribution to our hobby.

This piece complements Perfecting Sound Forever and the other fine books describing the saga of recording/reproduction.

One thing is abundantly clear from my studies: the Bay Area has played (and is playing) a BIG role in recorded sound.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 Uncategorized Comments Off

Amplifier Group to Meet in San Francisco

Where:  Randall Museum (http://www.randallmuseum.org/)
When:  Saturday, 6 February, 1:00PM to 5:00PM
What:  A V-TUG meeting
Why:  To listen to and compare a new solid state amp by Alex to several new vacuum tube amps by Ori.  Rick has new speaker cables for audition.  This will be a not to be missed meeting.
Please forward this email to anyone you think may be interested.
Anyone interested in getting on the V-TUG email list, please email Norman at norman.dan@ieee.org
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 Uncategorized Comments Off

Audiophile Heaven on a Sunday in Denver (RMAF)

mbl-101.pngGuest Article by Steve C

I spent time on Sunday listening to the 3 or 4 rooms that I had singled out from Saturday’s recon. I wanted to hear four speakers, but only got good time in the sweet spot and under good conditions for two of the four.

After reading Harry Pearson’s review praising the Reference 3A Grand Veena speakers, I spent 90 minutes – almost all of it in the sweet spot – listening to these, as I am very interested in something so highly praised AND which I might possibly actually someday afford.  They did not disappoint; I loved them. They were shown with a front end and pre-amp of which I had never heard, though I do not think they are cutting edge or state of the art, and on Sunday, Arion Audio 500 watt digital monoblocks, which were part of what I though was a great sound.  I was listening to Diane Krall, and other female vocalists, and jazz trios.

I could not get good quality time in either the Hansen room or the Focal room. People talking or laughing, or no seats, or bad source material.

Though I thought that I wanted the Benchmark DAC, the system was one being used in was unimpressive in the time I was listening, (and there has been almost a retraction of the very amazing initial review in TAS). I heard one, the Hegel HD-10, for less ($ 1,200) in an all Hegel system (with Dali Mentor speakers). This system sounded SO good that I figure if the DAC is the worst / weakest link, it is still way good enough. According to the rep, Hegel is just entering the American market.

But, the highlight for me, and best sound I heard at the show, and the best sound I have EVER heard…

…is the new mbl model 111. Here, demonstrated in a system fed by the mbl CD transport, mbl DAC, mbl preamp, and mbl monoblock power amps – 880 watts, “at this load” per side. The rep was using cd’s, alternating with an Apple G5 computer used as music server. Actually, there were computers used as servers in almost EVERY system at the show. Some also used cd, and fewer also spun vinyl, but everyone had computers. And some show attendees brought music they wanted to hear on portable hard drives! Some were also asking to copy one-of-a-kind demo material onto their drives.

I don’t know where everyone was Sunday – they were at the show in great numbers – but they were not where I was. It was ideal. I had more than 90 minutes in the best chair in the mbl room. Occasionally, others would come in, and if they sat, I would offer up the best seat in Denver. Most declined, and a few took it, but it was only a few minutes before I could once again have it.denver.png

I cannot wrap my head around the fact that there are TWO speakers above this one in the mbl line, especially when this one is SO good.

According to the rep, all midrange and high frequency drivers  – the pulsing spheres – are identical throughout the mbl line. At the bass end of the spectrum, this new 111 speaker is flat down to 20 hz, according to the rep. I do not doubt him.

I can tell you that I was listening to a pop singer with acoustic guitar from a recording made in an LA FM radio station studio. While listening with my eyes shut, I heard someone else in the room start singing, and in one of those “sounds-too-much-like-bullshit-to-really-have-happened” moments, I opened my eyes to see who was rude enough to do this, and  – say it with me – it was the backing vocalist from the recording. The reproduced voice was indistinguishable from a live person directly in front of me, which was my immediate assumption.

My hand to God, I was fooled.

The show was to end at 4 on Sunday, and at 3, the gloves came off. The rep said “the other manufacturers always complain about the mbl display, but you have to have some fun, right? Besides we are the only ones who CAN do this.”  He brought the volume. The pre amp display said 65 out of 100. It was perhaps louder than I have ever heard music, but FAR more clean. The bass just never stopped coming – there didn’t seem to be any limits to anything. Yet, the high hat was just as it had been at volume 30; no detail was lost whatsoever.
Kick drums threatened  to blow out windows. It was louder than I had ever heard music, WAY louder than most anyone would ever listen, yet, bad-auto-accident compelling – just as you know you should look away, you cannot; here, it was probably not good for one’s hearing to subject your ears to sounds at this level, but I could not leave.

nin.pngHe played more or less two minutes of many things, during this end of show binge. Led Zeppelin (from II or III, I am not that familiar with this stuff, but it was a I – I V – V that I have heard many times) was in there, and while it was certainly not among the best of recordings, it was still amazing. There is so much detail revealed with this system, you can tell when the singer last showered.

Nine Inch Nails’  “Closer” was the closer. Evidently, word has gotten around and it has become notorious from the previous shows, and is the crowd pleaser (the huge volume brought people streaming in). Staggering, amazing. To my ears, this system isn’t just better than anything else I have heard, it is also different than everything else. The more I listened to this system and these speakers, the more I wanted to listen. Instead of slowly becoming accustomed to the quality, they become better and better, for as long as I was lucky enough to hear them.

They are like music, only better. God’s loudspeakers.

Friday, October 9th, 2009 Uncategorized 2 Comments

Fall Event for Vinyl Lovers

THE RECORD MAN, 1322 El Camino Real, Redwood City, Ca 94063

Web site.


Monday, October 5th, 2009 Announcements, Audiophile, Bob, Events, Uncategorized Comments Off

“Good enough” is the New “Great”?

- Guest Contribution by Tristan N -

earbuds.jpgI just read a fascinating article in Wired called “The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine.”

We audiophiles might find the following paragraph more than a little alarming:

Of course, there are those who appreciate the richer sound of uncompressed files, CDs, or even vinyl records (regarded by some audiophiles as the highest-fi format available). But most of us don’t give it a second thought. In fact, there’s evidence that consumers are simply adapting to the MP3′s thin sound. Jonathan Berger, a professor of music at Stanford University, recently completed a six-year study of his students. Every year he asked new arrivals in his class to listen to the same musical excerpts played in a variety of digital formats—from standard MP3s to high-fidelity uncompressed files—and rate their preferences. Every year, he reports, more and more students preferred the sound of MP3s, particularly for rock music. They’ve grown accustomed to what Berger calls the percussive sizzle—aka distortion—found in compressed music. To them, that’s what music is supposed to sound like.


Thursday, September 10th, 2009 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Awesome Computer Music “Toys”

tone-wheels.jpgIf you are into audio, toys, and experimentation, check out this fantastic web site.


  • Requires the latest Flash Software
  • Better if your computer is hooked up to your sound system (yet another reason to do so!)
  • Can be addicting

Quite enjoyable whilst facilitating learning!


by Bob Walters

Monday, April 6th, 2009 Uncategorized Comments Off

World’s Smallest Music Server (potentially)

sheevaplug_01.jpgMost of us blogged about the “big audiophile toys” at CES – as it should be.

But there was lots of other interesting stuff, some of it relevant to our hobby.

One such device was the Pogoplug, which – coupled to a suitable micro-hard-drive and USB DAC – promises to become the world’s smallest music server.

Also, check out the SheevaPlug (pictured).


Bob Walters

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 Uncategorized Comments Off

It’s (Almost) Official – The CD Player is no Longer #1 with Audiophiles

cracked-cd.jpgAccording to a recent Stereophile poll, audiophiles now rely on musics servers more than CD players.

In fact, there are now 4 server listeners for every 3 CDP listeners!

My own experience supports this.  In fact, I have not even turned on my high-end CDP since “going server”!

Not only is my server more convenient, it sounds better!

Note: I use an external DAC (with both).

Friday, July 18th, 2008 Uncategorized 1 Comment

T Bone Burnett Says CD-quality Sucks

sand.jpgAccomplished producer Burnett lashed out at CD and [iTunes-quality] downloads in this interview:

“We’ve been fighting digital sound since it came out twenty years ago…music’s gotten to a place that’s harder to listen to. It’s stepped down from tape to digital to compressed digital, so people are now listening to a Xerox of a Polaroid of a photograph of a painting.”

So what does T Bone recommend? Interestingly, its not vinyl (or other analog media). Rather, he focuses on DVD-A (?) and other re-res digital formats.

T Bone has produced “Raising Sand” (left) and many other hit recordings.

Friday, June 13th, 2008 Bob, General, Uncategorized Comments Off

432 Hz Anyone?

a-freq2.jpgTrivia question: Which famous leader imposed a law changing the “A” tone from 440 Hz to 432 Hz?

Answer: The Nazi Joseph Goebbels.

For more on this fascinating (and very sad) saga, click here for the website dedicated to the topic.

For a broader discussion of the history of pitch, try this or this.

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008 Bob, Uncategorized Comments Off