Saturday, 7 July 2018

MUSINGS: Zen and the Art of High Fidelity Audio. On transparency, in response to "Measuring Emotional Connections to Music".

Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities, the most monstrous, and like a ship without a rudder is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck.     --Thomas Jefferson
I ran into this article on Inner Fidelity: "Measuring emotional connections to music" penned by Rafe Arnott & Vinnie Rossi the other week that got me thinking about the hobby and the different "sensibilities" of those who partake and who write.

As you know, recently, I measured and discussed the sound of the Oppo UDP-205 player/DAC. I said that the device is "transparent". I believe that this is an important aspect to focus on because it touches right at the heart of the ideas and philosophies expressed in the article. Today, let's explore the themes brought out in that article a bit. As you can imagine, I come at audio from another perspective compared to Mr. Arnott and Rossi.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

MUSINGS: Thoughts on audio device "modding" (eg. a tube modded Oppo BDP-105). [New Oppo UDP-205 firmware out with MQA USB-B...]

Couldn't resist the similarity :-). I'm sure the sonic output of both devices have been affected by the modifications! Notice that this Oppo is also sitting on a "Base" device that IMO is very much of the Dubiousness Class A variety...
Have a seat and let me tell you a tale, my friends. A number of years ago (summer 2013), around the time I started this blog, I had the opportunity to check out an interesting device that a friend had just received... It was a "tube modded" Oppo BDP-105 Blu-Ray player.

One afternoon, I went over to this friend's house to have a listen to this brand new device. He obviously spent quite a bit of money on it. The BDP-105 at that time was new and had an MSRP of US$1200. He is clearly an enthusiast so he "drop shipped" an unopened brand new player to the mod-shop and it came back to him with tube sockets for the analogue stage along with a fancy new external power supply. As you would expect, the modding itself being laborious, hand-assembled, and using premium parts was rather costly - about twice the price of the Oppo.

That afternoon, I had the opportunity to hook up my old test kit (with the Creative E-MU 0404 ADC) to the device to grab a few measurements. Since another friend already had a stock BDP-105 for me to listen to and measure, it allowed me to compare the results...

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

MEASUREMENTS: Oppo UDP-205 Part 3: Jitter, some conclusions, discussions, and suggestions.

We've reached the last of the "trilogy" measurement posts I'm planning to make on the Oppo UDP-205 (at least for now!). We've already examined some "microscopic" measurements like the oscilloscope reading of square waves, talked about the filter settings and relative differences. Then we've looked at the RightMark measurements demonstrating excellent low noise level, low distortion readings, good frequency responses, and minimum crosstalk across the different outputs.

With this post, let's have a look at the J-Test results from the various outputs to make sure there are no issues, and of course in the process examine temporal stability with the various digital inputs including USB, ethernet, S/PDIF, HDMI, and of course as a CD player. We will then close off with some general thoughts, suggestions, and opinions around this device and broader about the features that might be worth pursuing in audiophilia.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

MEASUREMENTS: Oppo UDP-205 Part 2: Frequency Response, Noise and Distortion Levels. (Plus a look at the new v60 beta firmware.)

Let's continue today with the measurements of the Oppo UDP-205 as started a few weeks back when I looked at the digital filter settings and output levels for this device.

As promised, this time we're going to dive into some RightMark measurements of this device looking at the quality from the different analogue outputs, whether the digital inputs make a difference and we'll even explore a little around multi-channel.

As I noted in the preview, this device is based on the ESS ES9038Pro DAC, currently the "top of the line" reference DAC available from ESS. The results here I think would be interesting by providing comparisons with other DACs such as with the previously measured Oppo BDP-105.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

MUSINGS: Why Do People Equate High End Audio with Snake Oil?

I ran into this video post by Paul McGowan a few weeks back... "Why do people equate high end with snake oil?" (Start at 3:00 to skip past the chat on building their studio...)

Interesting discussion I guess...

If you do a search for the words "snake oil" on this blog, you'll see that I typically don't use the term much in my writings. But we do find it used in the forums and in discussions online. It's certainly not uncommon for people to express opinions that certain marketed audio devices or components belong to this understandably maligned category of product.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

MEASUREMENTS: Oppo UDP-205 Part 1: Output levels and digital filter settings... (And a few words about recent Munich 2018 MQA interview videos, McGill listening test out.)

Well guys, with this post, I'll begin a multipart look at the Oppo UDP-205 4K Blu-Ray player as an audio component "more objectively". Clearly, as I presented in the preview a couple weeks back, the UDP-205 is very much a device created to appeal not only to videophiles but audiophiles. Why else would Oppo go the extra mile and use dual "reference" ESS ES9038Pro Sabre DACs, provide 2-channel asynchronous USB 2.0 input, both multichannel and stereo analogue outputs plus balanced XLR? It even provides a secondary HDMI 1.4 "audio" output for lower jitter to an external DAC compared to the higher spec HDMI 2.0 which is of course a necessity for 4K/60fps/HDR video; something that I have not seen before. IMO, for home video purposes as a 4K player, the UDP-203 would in fact be very much sufficient - the upgrades found on the UDP-205 are primarily for those who want elevated audio performance. We'll look at whether this is true through these objective measurements.

For the post today, let's start with a few of the "microscopic" measurements that I typically put devices through. The reason I'm breaking measurements into multiple parts is because there are so many ways you could use this device! You could spin disks and make this a CD/DVD-A/SACD/BluRay-Audio player. Hook it up to a streamer/computer through the USB 2.0 interface. Use HDMI input for multichannel audio decoding. Of course it could be used as a S/PDIF DAC with TosLink or coaxial inputs. How about use it as a DLNA/UPnP streamer (works fine with JRiver, even 5.1 multichannel FLAC)? We'll look at bits and pieces in the performance of this device over the next while, concluding in a general assessment of quality and shortcomings once all is said and done...

Sunday, 27 May 2018

REVIEW: Sony HAP-S1 [by Allan Folz]

Editor's Note:
Life has been extremely hectic over the last few weeks! As a result I am extremely grateful that some fellow hobbyists like Raoul Trifan a couple weeks ago and this week Allan Folz have been able to dream up some relevant content for me :-).

For the post this week, Allan has worked on a review and discussion for the Sony HAP-S1 high-resolution audio player with integrated hard drive storage. I appreciate Allan's honest look at the device, discuss real-world situations, benefits, blemishes and quirks encountered, and by the end, provide a thorough pros/cons evaluation. Enjoy!

Sony HAP-S1 Review
Guest Post
by Allan Folz

Sunday, 20 May 2018

A Look at the Oppo UDP-205 & The Great Audiophile Debate AK vs. JA of 2005.

Oppo UDP-205 and Black Panther.
Although I have already collected quite a bit of objective testing results from the Oppo UDP-205, I have not had the time to analyze the data or constructed the graphs and charts due to time constraints. Rest assured, the number, graphs, and charts will come :-).

At the time of this writing, I see that while the UDP-205 is in very short supply if even available any more (excluding the speculative price gouging on eBay of course), the UDP-203 is still available.

Today, as a start, let's just spend some time talking about this device and the features. By now there's no mystery since reviews over the last year have been thorough such as from TechHive and Audioholics. Oh yeah, even The Absolute Sound put in a review. In fact, the Audioholics review provides some excellent data on the performance of the Oppo UDP-205 versus its sibling the Oppo UDP-203.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

MEASUREMENTS: Computer USB +5V Power Noise by Raoul Trifan & MQA's Bob Stuart Speaks Again...

Editor's Intro:
Hey there guys. One of the joys of running this blog has been the opportunity to meet some of you and connect through E-mail with folks from around the world with shared interests.

Every once awhile, I get the chance to see some of the measurements and work you guys have done. Today, I want to show you some work from Raoul Trifan from Romania.

In the last year, we've been in contact about his work with USB ports using the various computers he has at his disposal. What he's sharing today is literally the "tip of the iceberg" in terms of the data and measurements collected over the last while. He has done all kinds of other work with power supplies, modifying audio gear and such which I'll leave for future discussions.

Today, let's just consider the noise on the +5V USB line from computers:
Using a PicoScope 2204A, he has produced some interesting screen shots to consider with the various machines.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

MEASUREMENTS: MSI X370 SLI Plus AM4 Motherboard Audio (RealTek ALC892 codec). [And the importance of measuring the "low end".]

Image on the right shows the multicolored multi-channel "speaker" audio output. The standard "front" stereo channel is the left middle-from-top light green one.
Hey guys, I managed to find some time this week to write up the measurements on the inexpensive MSI X370 SLI Plus AM4 motherboard I described in my AMD Ryzen 1700 CPU workstation build from last year (note the other details like the Antec power supply used).

GlÜÜkZ reminded me that I had not posted the results which I had already collected on the motherboard a number of months back. As you'll see, I also gathered a bit more data to show what happens with the internal DAC when the computer is strained with high processor and GPU loads.  You may recall that years ago, I showed that indeed we can detect noise from a computer running at high load with my old ASUS Xonar Essence One DAC. Let's see what that looks like these days with integrated motherboard audio output!

Saturday, 28 April 2018

MUSINGS: On DRM, MQA, the (supposed) Techno-Libertarian opposition, and Honesty... [Plus a quick look at MQA-CD]

Eugène Delacroix - "La Liberté guidant le peuple" (Liberty Leading the People).
Looking around the audiophile press this past couple of weeks, we see the next installment of Jim Austin's exploration into MQA - "MQA, DRM, and Other Four-Letter Words" in the pages of Stereophile.

I asked myself after reading the article, do I and others who share my views on MQA fit the description of being "in a state" about the threat of DRM? And am I and others who oppose MQA the kind of person he generalizes about when he said this?
Because they are a certain kind of person: advocates of open-source, open-standard software. We meet them at the intersection of audiophilia and information technology. These are the Internet libertarians I mentioned earlier: audiophiles whose sensibilities were nourished in the software industry.
For this post, let's think about comments like those above, and consider some peripheral yet important aspects around freedom in audio data file formats, DRM, MQA, and more...

Sunday, 22 April 2018

MEASUREMENTS: Going 10 Gigabits/s home ethernet (10GbE) on Cat-5e cables. (ASUS XG-C100C cards & Netgear GS110MX switches)

Over the years, I have upgraded many parts of my computer system. New motherboards go in and out, new CPUs updated, more advanced GPUs, gigs of RAM, faster and higher storage size hard drives and SSDs...

A few months back, I mentioned that one of the more "boring" parts of the computer system with little actual need for updating has been the wired network system. I have not significantly upgraded anything in many years. While I suspect many of us over the last decade have upgraded our home ethernet systems to 1 gigabit/s ethernet (1GbE), since the mid-2000's, 10 gigabit/s speed has been waiting in the wings for larger scale adoption. In business and enterprise settings, one may have already seen fibre-optic networks (for example, those using enhanced Small Form Factor [SFP+] connectors), but 10GbE in the form of standard copper modular RJ-45 8P8C connectors (also known has 10GBASE-T) has been talked about since 2006 with relatively few of us I suspect incorporating the technology into the home yet (in early 2018). The price point is only starting to dip into consumer territory.