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Cross breeding 17

Posted 3 weeks ago

Purity is appreciated when it comes to purpose, water, and immorality. It’s not so great when it comes to a power amplifier’s architecture, where hybrids rule. For many years, amplifier manufacturers were determined to keep their designs pure: 100% solid-state, all vacuum tubes, nothing but FETs, class D from input to output. Over time we’ve […]
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What is standard? 15

Posted 3 weeks ago

In Australia, the moon is upside down. At least to my eyes. In the United States, the moon is upside down. At least to an Australian’s eyes. Our view of things becomes our standard. If I immerse myself to the point of accepting surround sound as normal, then stereo feels pale and lacking. The same […]
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Reverb 55

Posted 3 weeks ago

Reverb is short for the word reverberation. It’s a method of adding “life” to an otherwise lifeless recording. You hear reverb mostly on voices. Recording studios add it when the original voice recording was made devoid of any room interactions. To explain reverb in another way, it’s created when a sound or signal is reflected […]
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Guide books 31

Posted 4 weeks ago

In all my years of designing, building, and playing around with stereo systems, when it comes to performance the two constants have always been equipment choices and setup. And setup trumps equipment choices. The best equipment poorly setup sounds worse than the best setup of poor equipment. We have reviews and in-home trials to help […]
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Hard to imagine 46

Posted 4 weeks ago

When Stereophile reviewer Michael Fremer writes “on electric bass… the M1200 is a monster”, he’s not alone. More and more emails daily come across my screen extolling the virtues of the M1200’s bass. How can it be that one flat measuring power amplifier can sound remarkably more powerful in one area than another model of […]
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Story time 36

Posted 1 month ago

We catalog and explain concepts like careers, hobbies, science, heritage, family, and even our stereo systems as stories. Stories help us wrap our heads around that which is unknown, complex, or only partially understood. In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that long ago we believed the Earth was the center of the universe: […]
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It’s not meant for you 27

Posted 1 month ago

Not everything is going to fit you and your particular needs. Yet sometimes we get the wrong cues about the intended audience for a product or service. When that happens, we often blame the product rather than the message. Here’s a silly example. As a vegetarian, I might get excited that a fast food chain […]
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SACD Transport 51

Posted 1 month ago

The Super Audio Compact Disc was Sony and Philip’s follow-up format to the original Compact Disc—itself an innovation that fundamentally changed the world forever. It’s hard to get lightning to strike twice, which is why it should have been no surprise at the SACD’s tepid success. The problem for Sony and Philips getting their new […]
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Closest to accurate 49

Posted 1 month ago

Despite the fact we use some of the most expensive in the world, a microphone’s output isn’t even close to what I hear in person. And this charade of realism carries forward through our speakers. Different speakers make the microphone’s feed sound different again. It’s an endless loop. When I declare a microphone sounding one […]
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Abstinence 51

Posted 1 month ago

“Total abstinence is so excellent a thing that it cannot be carried to too great an extent. In my passion for it I even carry it so far as to totally abstain from total abstinence itself.” Ahh, yes, another wonderful Mark Twain quote. Some audiophiles are such purists they allow no consort with what they […]
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Side by side 26

Posted 1 month ago

I think most of us are comfortable with side-by-side comparisons. Take two amplifiers and within the space of a few minutes decide which sounds more musical. Easy peezy. It gets exponentially more difficult when we make comparisons from memory because we each remember differently. For instance, my memories of specifics are weak while those of […]
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Over etched 26

Posted 1 month ago

The search for inner detail is somewhat like a treasure hunt. We get excited when new cables and/or equipment peel back obscuring layers, exposing that which has been waiting to be heard. More detail. Closer to the truth that waits to be heard. Yet sometimes instead of uncovering new details, we get a false sense […]
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Stay tuned 39

Posted 1 month ago

In 1967, LSD and counter-culture advocate Timothy Leary produced an album mirroring his famous call to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” Though it’s unlikely to have made Billboard’s top 100 list, his ideas of tuning in and dropping out sparked a worldwide movement that forever changed the culture. (The album’s available on Spotify if […]
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Walls vs. ceilings 21

Posted 1 month ago

The four walls of our rooms are both friend and enemy. They contain and support the generated sound field while at the same time distorting music’s reproduction. We cannot live without our walls yet it’s a struggle to listen within them. I can mitigate problems to my room’s walls through acoustic treatments such as bookshelves […]
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Distance affirmation 37

Posted 1 month ago

One of the more satisfying affirmations happens when two or more unrelated people make the same sonic observation. We send out an update and emailed observations roll in. “What happened to the bottom end?” Or, “The top end just opened up.” For better or for worse, it is fascinating that so many unrelated listeners hear […]
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Pete Kelly 31

Posted 1 month ago

When I think of the actor, Jack Webb, I cannot help but think of Dragnet’s Sgt. Joe Friday. But there was much more to Jack (real name John). Jack Webb had a lifelong love of jazz. His interests started early on when a former jazz musician—one of the tenants in his mother’s boarding house—gave him […]
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Staying relevant 23

Posted 1 month ago

Our minds are like muscles. They need exercise, change, and challenges to grow and stay relevant. We all know this to be true yet how many of us actually give ourselves permission to change? We get our news from the same sources, trust some opinions but not others, stay with the tried and true. Daily […]
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Microphone madness 21

Posted 1 month ago

Without microphones we’d not have much in the way of recorded music. We’d instead be stuck back in the days of yelling into a horn in the hopes of directly moving a cutting head. This was the state of recording onto wax cylinders when Edison was inventing them. At about the same time Edison was […]
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Processes 42

Posted 1 month ago

As one whose direction is steered with his engineer’s nerd brain, I am continuously fascinated by processes. For example, what kind of process do nut processors employ to individually open pistachio shells? Is it the roasting process? Automated insertion of a hypodermic with compressed air and blowing them open? Somehow, 95% of pistachios are opened […]
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Nyquist 20

Posted 1 month ago

Swedish electronic engineer Harry Nyquist figured something interesting out. If you want to capture sound using digital audio conversion, you need to sample at twice the frequency you hope to preserve. Thus, if your goal is to capture without loss frequencies as high as 20kHz, you need to build a system that gathers twice that […]
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Conflating D and A 27

Posted 1 month ago

In yesterday’s post on tone controls, there were a number of comments about the use of DSP, yet few about the differences between analog and digital controls. There is no question that if one is happy staying entirely in the digital domain, DSP EQ and correction is a near-perfect solution. We can design extensive tone […]
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Tone control 64

Posted 1 month ago

There was a time in our HiFi history that the ability to electronically control music’s tone was necessary. Necessary because the entire chain of electronics and speakers were bad enough to warrant their intrusion. Sure, many bemoan the lack of bass and treble controls, even full band graphic equalizers, but for the most part, we […]
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Decaf 37

Posted 1 month ago

The taste of decaf coffee isn’t the same as caffeinated, in the same way that Diet Coke, vegetarian bacon, or high-end MP3 players aren’t the same as what they started out as. It’s good we call out differences between the original products and their derivatives, but at times it can seem a bit odd. As […]
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Hertz 33

Posted 1 month ago

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve written the abbreviation, Hz—1 kHz, 1,000 kHz. It is, of course, short for Hertz. The car company? Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was a German physicist who first proved the existence of electromagnetic waves. Invisible forces that had a specific periodicity (frequency) that later were named in […]
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Sample rates 37

Posted 1 month ago

There sure is a lot of confusion over sample rates. We hear about CD-quality sample rates at 44.1kHz (and its multiples), or another common sample rate, 48kHz (and its multiples), and then there are multiple higher sample rates (176kHz, 192kHz as examples) and of course DSD. Lots of numbers. All very confusing. Perhaps a short […]
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