Learning patience

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If you’re party to our forums you’re likely aware we have been working on a new music server as well as the music management software that operates it. It’s a long-term activity that’s been going on for a few years and is likely to keep us busy for the foreseeable future.

When building products there are typically two sides to them: hardware and software. In the Octave Server, there’s plenty of both. Our hardware platform’s been worked on by chief engineer Bob Stadtherr for the better part of year. It’s hard because one of our goals is complete isolation between the onboard processor and the output Digital Lens—something not found in little or big computers running servers. Isolation to this extent requires electrical separation of everything that makes it tick: power supplies, digital processing, inputs, outputs, etc. Imagine a computer “miles away” from its output supplying digital audio data to your DAC. The only thing connecting the two is an optical cable. That’s pretty much what the hardware’s attempting to do.

As work progressed on the hardware it was my job to be patient, something I am not skilled at. In fact, let’s be honest. I am one antsy SOB. What if after all our efforts the sound sucks? That’s a lot of work only to find out it doesn’t sound right. But neither impatience or patience could get the hardware running faster than the time it actually takes to engineer. But finally, I have been able to sit with the prototype hardware for a day in Music Room One and I wanted to report my findings.

Our reference standard for digital audio output is the DMP. I have had the opportunity to listen to just about every digital source possible and none have ever matched the perfection of DMP. Thus, the first goal for engineering is to beat the performance of DMP as a source. I am sorry to report we did not succeed. DMP still betters the Octave server hardware. But, that’s ok.

The good news is we got somewhat close and that thrilled me more than I can say. After waiting a year to hear this thing, biting my nails that we’d have to redesign from scratch, I am confident we can start tweaking the basic design to get where we need to go. That’s all the good news.

The not so good news is that the next step is for Bob to perform what we refer to as another “board spin”. That is, a redesign of the board I just heard. Between the time he designed board number one, and my chance to audition it, we’ve made major advances such that we need to respin that board.

And then I must be patient again. Something I just hate.

But, I am trying to learn patience. I just am not a good student.