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Sonic Reality

CES 2015: Neil Young’s Pono Player

Neil Young’s Pono Player Kickstarter project pledged of $800,000 goal and reached $6,225,354. Continue reading “CES 2015: Neil Young’s Pono Player”

Oculus VR to Facebook and near-future of Virtual Reality

Source: https://www.oculusvr.com/order/For the last two years Oculus Rift has stolen the show at CES. The once Kickstarter project is constantly improving its Virtual Reality device and its VR technology. Continue reading “Oculus VR to Facebook and near-future of Virtual Reality”

Geek Pulse Indiegogo DAC outperforms its goal - by Hi-Reality.
I took a screenshot after one hour of desperate try to place an order for a Geek Pulse S f (there is a picture below). The issue was to get my Paypal updated and linked to my bank account which would earliest happen after 2 days, anyways, painful it was.

Geek Pulse Indiegogo DAC outperforms its $38,000 Goal to $1,174,075! (more…)

Heard music in DSD? hear this!

dsdfile.com logo-blackI found what the Swedes, Hugo Thorsin and Jan Eric Persson at DSDfile.com, write as their intro is in fact a good intro to DSD too! If you want to start learning the story about the super sound format start with their piece of text.

The very first DSD album that I bought was Opus 3 DSD Showcase 1 (128). If you want to experience music in DSD make sure you experience Eric Bibb – Where the green grass grows! I can easily understand DSD fans’ passion for the format when I listen to great DSD tracks like this. For years I listened to this song via CD*, but in DSD the band’s performance is far more realistic.

With that said, is DSD as a format good enough for sound reproduction by an Hi-Reality Machine? No, it is not. The many decades old analogue tape still seems to be the king which is a sad indication of the audio recording industry’s pace of progress (not to mention that DSD itself is a decades old technology).

In the meantime, the old Audiophile society like to debate on things like whether DSD is superior to High-Resolution PCM or not? (a topic for an upcoming post). Perhaps, we should ask more interesting questions such as how will these two formats evolve into the next generation sound recoding and playback methods and formats?

For now, I plan to buy and listen to A Selection of Analogue Eric BibbDirect from Master Tape, in DSD 128 (5.6MHz).

A SELECTION OF ANALOGUE ERIC BIBB

* I was introduced to the prime society of Audiophiles through my university friend Mats, a.k.a HiFi Mats.

 

The brilliant Pet Shop Boys reminds us what to expect from Hi-Reality Machines

In Post-CD Era, Will Hi-Res Audio (HRA) Deliver Full Sonic Reality?

High Resolution Audio (HRA)Will Hi-Res Audio (HRA) be able to deliver full sonic reality? (exceed the Analog tape?) Is 384kHz/32bit sampling rate enough to deliver sonic reality? or maybe much higher sample rates are required? Maybe (and most likely) the entire recording to playback process must evolve?

In any case, one thing is very clear now: HRA, now officially coined by CES as acronym for Hi-Res Audio, is a significant step forward. Why? because:

  • It is higher than CD-quality
  • It is more convenient and flexible to use than CDs
  • and, incremental improvements in audio recording and playback are now possible in much faster rate than ever before which is great news for everyone

When I visited The High-End Show in Newport Beach I clearly saw the paradigm shift: the change of Source and format in audio playback. Majority of exhibitors don’t use CD anymore!! What?! Don’t Audiophiles run CDs anymore? Well, because they now run Hi-Res Audio files from their MacBooks  and change the songs on their audiophile-grade source players via their iPhones and iPads. Thus, a paradigm shift from CD to Hi-Res Audio file.

I think the Post-CD paradigm shift is now officially announced when industry heavy-wights like Sony launch Hi-Rez downloads & playback (see Stereophile). Or, when the Consumer Electronics Association, CES, announces ‘Expanded Support of High-Resolution Audio” (see CES press release). I read today via Audio stream and NPR that Analog tape recording still was superior even to DSD and high-resolution digital (better than CD). So the performance benchmark of Hi-Res Audio (HRA) should be to exceed the Analog tape recording in terms of Hi-Res quality and sonic Realism.

The rise of Hi-Res Audio should be great news for everyone: the goal is, ultimately, to experience full sonic reality whenever we want it. With other words: being totally unable to audibly distinguish between perceived sound in reality and its perceived reproduction (whether it is an e.g. offline playback or a live broadcast).

Will Pink Floyd disrupt music by franchising itself?

Brit Floyd at http://www.britfloyd.comI’ve been a Pink Floyd fan, always. Have experienced only two of their tours, but both true life highlights for me. I used to think “Pink Floyd cannot be replicated”. Then I saw “The Pink Floyd Tribute Show (2011) Full- Live From Liverpool“; I couldn’t believe…this band was brilliant. Super professional performers, charming, fantastic setting (scene, video, graphics). With the same level of energy Floyd certainly had when they live-performed The Wall back in the old days. Just check out “The Dark Side of the Moon songs” or take a look at their recreation of “Another Brick in the Wall” starting minute 1:57:51. Then you see the level of enthusiasm and authenticity this band has put to their work.

Pink Floyd masters all the dimensions required to disrupt the entertainment and music industry by franchising itself. They are the most disruptive band when it comes to the very essential attribute of entertainment and music: experience. They innovated and perfected the concept of creating the most spectacular and psychedelic live audio-visual experience ever created for any audience. Time for the next and final disruption?

Imagine the ability to experience Pink Floyd’s live performance so authentic as it gets?

Roger, Dave and Nick: Year 2071 kids in Stockholm want to experience a live Pink Floyd concert. Please make it a reality.

What qualities matter when buying headphones?

Grado_SR60i_headphonesI have previously published a post on “What qualities and parameters matter when searching for and buying the right home audio speakers?“. How about what qualities and parameters that matter when searching for and buying the right headphones? This should be be highly interesting for many buyers considering market indications that the audio industry has seen a tremendous growth of headphones sales over the past few years (most probably due to the less expensive way to achieve better sound experience for personal use and the march of portable electronics e.g. iPods and smartphones). I have modified (Sound quality unchanged) my equivalent list for speakers to answer this question: What qualities and parameters are important when searching for and buying the right headphones? Here is the list:

  • Sound quality (Acoustic characteristics)
    • Bass (deep, punchy, fast, accurate, extension, control)
      • Well control and extremely accurate lead to a perception of deeper bass than there might actually be)
    • Midrange (space and detail: e.g. vocal, piano sound)
    • Tweeter (High end, hights): crystal clear, detail, smooth, polished, off axis performance (e.g. where frequency response does not drop off nearly as rapidly as with other bookshelf models).
    • Imaging (precise), Spatial (spaciousness), holographic
    • Soundstaging (uncompressed, three dimensionality)
    • Timbral accuracy (good, bad, etc.) (e.g. piano sounding real)
    • Details
    • Clear & transparent
    • Disappear in the room
    • Dynamic: play loud without distortion, loosing
    • revealing of recording material quality/character
    • Tonal balance: (Neutral, not warm but also not cool, sounds like the frequency response from top to bottom is quite linear)
    • Tonal integration (mids and tops transition unnoticeable)
    • Minimum coloration: honest sound, realistic reproduction from the sonic & music point of view, boxy coloration
    • Engaging (long listening)
  • Environment sensitive/demanding (indoor / outdoor use)
  • System sensitive/demanding
  • Design and finish
  • Build quality
  • Features (e.g. Active Noise Control, ANC, etc.)
  • Improvement/tweaking possibility (e.g. replacing the ear cushions, etc.) 
  • Comfort (long listening without ears getting hurt)
  • Price (value for money)

Write a comment and say what you think about this list, does it lack any parameter / factor, should it be modified in any way, etc.

 

Audiophile-grade SACD recordings

If you have a good HiFi system an important question you should ask yourself is: “how good can my system sound?”. The rule with every sound reproduction system is: crap-in, crap-out. If your sound material is poorly recorded no algorithm/feature/system in the world can make it  sound better; including the so-called sound/audio “enhancers”. And the majority of main-stream recordings (both old and modern) possess a mediocre sound quality.

Luckily for an audiophile, there are some great recording labels that put their heart and soul into the entire aspect of recording. One of these labels is Chesky Records who records and produces high quality material. The following albums, which I own, are my recommendations:

Recommended audiophile SACDs (and CDs)

Rebecca Pidgeon – The Raven

by: Rebecca Pidgeon

Record label: Chesky Records

The Jazz Side Of The Moon (Music of Pink Floyd) – Limited 192/24

by: Sam Yahel, Mike Moreno, Ari Hoenig, Seamus Blake

Record label: Chesky Records

Audiophile-grade CD recordings

If you have a good HiFi system an important question you should ask yourself is: “how good can my system sound?”. The rule with every sound reproduction system is: crap-in, crap-out. If your sound material is poorly recorded no algorithm/feature/system in the world can make it sound better; including the so-called sound/audio “enhancers”. And the majority of main-stream recordings (both old and modern) possess a mediocre sound quality.

Luckily for an audiophile, there are some great recording labels that put their heart and soul into the entire aspect of recording. One of these labels is Chesky Records who records and produces high quality material. The following albums, which I own, are my recommendations:   

Recommended audiophile CDs

20th Anniversary Chesky Records

by: Various artists

Record label: Chesky Records

Grado SR60i headphones review: your sub $100 entry ticket to the audiophile world

What Grado SR60i headphones reminds me of

Back in 1995, I remember my friend Mattias had a pair of Sennheiser headphones Model HD 400 (or 414) with yellow pads which he really enjoyed the sound quality of. Back then I could not fully figure out why he preferred them over my awesome, and sexier looking, Sennheiser headphones Model HD 320. Well, I gradually figured out: it was due to parameters such as neutral, true, and more accurate and life-like sound quality.

How I got to know Grado Labs

Years passed by and little did I know, being a Sennheiser fan, about this little (less known in Europe) New Jersey-based vendor called Grado Labs and their headphones until I saw what What HI-FI magazine had to say about their Grado SR60i headphones. Afterwards, I went through a long series of highly teasing, amazing, and almost unbelievable user reviews on Amazon.com.

My first encounter with Grado SR60i headphones

I went to the computer store at UCI, University of California at Irvine, which was the nearest reseller location to me, to give them a listen. The guy at the store told me they had a demo pair (from around 8 years ago) that was functional but was a little worn out. Indeed it was, it looked like it had been hit by a 24-wheels truck and then misused by 100.000 people at a Walmart store; one of the cans was completely loose so I had to hold it against my ear. The environment was quite noisy, but the first notes of a jazz song from the radio channel smoothjazz.com (just 128kbps) played through a MacBook Pros iTunes revealed to me that the reviewers on Amazon had discovered an audiophile product that is possibly unbeatable at its $79 price point.

Look and feel of Grado SR60i headphones

My first impression of look and feel of Grado SR60i headphones easily correlated with Grado Labs’ claims that these cans are made to produce high quality audioWhy, you ask, because of signatures like its simple and functional box and packaging, thick cables, and general build quality and a retro look that goes beyond the Soviet Soyuz rocket era. However, its build quality is not top-notch compared to World-War II headphones which can be easily understood by comparing to photos of, say, the aviation headsets (from around 1930s) seen in the movie Amelia (2009) by Hillary Swank and Richard Gere; of course with no respect to a build cost comparison. I personally really like the retro look and feel of the Grado SR60i headphones but wish the quality of some of its building blocks was just a tad better; more about a wishlist later.

Sound performance

Here is the fact that users and fans already know: Sonically, Grado SR60i headphones are absolutely awesome performers. In fact most probably the world’s best headphones under $100 and one of the most valuable in the $$$ price range. Here is a note of my first sonic impressions: beautifully neutral and uncolored (flat frequency response), revealing, details, capable of differentiating sound sources and keep them separate, wide sound stage, dynamic (good transients capability), punchy, and open outside-of-head sound perception.

Does Grado SR60i need a break-in period of XX or X hours? nope, no need for that despite some reviewers recommendations / claims (e.g. that “they suck in the beginning before you break them in..” is what I believe complete rubbish). Naturally, any speaker perform finer after some initial break-in period but in the case of Grado SR60i headphones the sign of refinement after the break-in period has not been so tangible and hence a break-in period not necessary.

Intended / Optimum usage environment

The open type Grado SR60i headphones are clearly intended for use in indoor and not-too-noisy environments.

How would I change Grado SR60i headphones? Improvement wishlist to Grado Labs

My first tweak with Grado SR60i headphones would be to replace its ear cushions with, probably, the Grado L-Cush Large Replacement Ear Cushions (check them out at the end of this post). According to some users, after replacement a small sonic improvement is achieved (e.g. tighter bass, and clearer mids and highs). The padded ones that comes with them are comfortable but hurting my ears, slightly, after an hour of usage.

So here is my wishlist to Grado Labs before the next iteration of Grado SR60i headphones:

  1. Replace the padded ear cushions with the likes of Grado G-Cush or L-Cush Large Replacement Ear Cushions
  2. Keep the retro look of the headphones, to differentiate the product from the mainstream competitors, but improve the material (e.g. plastic Cans and synthetic leather headband)
  3. Improve/change the way the cans are connected to the headband (read my note above:
    My first encounter with Grado SR60i headphones)

Summary

In short, the Grado SR60i headphones are the most valuable sub $100 entry ticket to the audiophile world. Highly recommended.

Test equipment and sound source material

Playback by Macbook (from 2008)

Grado SR60i headphones technical specifications (source: http://www.gradolabs.com)

Tranducer type: dynamic

Operating principle: open air

Frequency response: 20-20

SPL 1mV: 98

Normal impedance: 32ohms

Driver matched db: .1

What qualities matter for audio speakers?

Have you ever wondered which qualities and parameters you should check when searching for and buying the right home audio loudspeakers? I spent the whole 2010 doing research for finding the best possible speakers in the market that matched my budget; I eventually found the best pair of speakers (not to mention I also ended up buying four set of different speaker brands, testing them with my system at our home, and returning them!). In the meantime, I developed a list and a structure of parameters and factors to help me in my selection. Here is the list:

  • Sound quality (Acoustic characteristics)
    • Bass (deep, punchy, fast, accurate, extension, control)
      • Well control and extremely accurate lead to a perception of deeper bass than there might actually be)
    • Midrange (space and detail: e.g. vocal, piano sound)
    • Tweeter (High end, hights): crystal clear, detail, smooth, polished, off axis performance (e.g. where frequency response does not drop off nearly as rapidly as with other bookshelf models).
    • Imaging (precise), Spatial (spaciousness), holographic
    • Soundstaging (uncompressed, three dimensionality)
    • Timbral accuracy (good, bad, etc.) (e.g. piano sounding real)
    • Details
    • Clear & transparent
    • Disappear in the room
    • Dynamic: play loud without distortion, loosing
    • revealing of recording material quality/character
    • Tonal balance: (Neutral, not warm but also not cool, sounds like the frequency response from top to bottom is quite linear)
    • Tonal integration (mids and tops transition unnoticeable)
    • Minimum coloration: honest sound, realistic reproduction from the sonic & music point of view, boxy coloration
    • Engaging (long listening)
  • Placement sensitive
  • System demanding
  • Design and finish
  • Build quality
  • Features
  • Expansion possibility (for developing into a home theater system)
  • Price (value for money)

Write a comment and say what you think about this list, does it lack any parameter / factor, should it be modified in any way, etc.

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