Saturday, 16 January 2021

RETRO-MEASURE: Radio Shack / Realistic / Tandy Minimus 7 speakers (early 1980s, Cat. No. 40-2030A)

While the "latest and greatest" gear is always nice to check out, read about and measure, over the years, I've also loved the opportunity to examine some of the vintage, "retro" stuff from back in the day. For example, today we have a pair of all-metal, black, Realistic (Radio Shack / Tandy Corp.) Minimus 7 speakers from the early 1980's.

These were "classics" back in the day, found in many college dorms, restaurants, doctors' offices and available for sale at your friendly neighborhood Radio Shack for >25 years. For some more history, check out this page.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

MEASUREMENTS: ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 Atmos Speakers

Well, with the pandemic of 2020/2021, one thing that has changed markedly in my family is that we're spending way more time watching movies and miniseries at home this past year. In fact the last movie I watched at the local "cineplex" was 1917 right before the Oscars on February 9, 2020. As such, 2020 has been a year of microwave popcorn, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and the occasional UHD Blu-Ray played on my Oppo UDP-205 with the family on the sofa.

Wanting to use the Energy C100 bookshelf speakers elsewhere (see what I was doing here), I figured it was time to grab a pair of actual "Atmos elevation speakers". Not unexpectedly, the ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 Dolby Atmos Add-On Speakers were on sale before Christmas which you see in the image above.

Friday, 1 January 2021

MUSINGS: Noise, Jitter, Faith & The Autistic Fantasies of Digital Audiophilia ("For adults only?" Darko/Lavorgna conversation.)

Happy New Year dear audiophiles!

I hope 2021 brings with it many happy returns in the year ahead.

Note that this post will be of a rather critical tone... So if on an auspicious New Years Day you want something a little less confrontational, I suggest coming back another time :-).

Let's address something which I think many well-heeled digital audiophiles will probably have observed being discussed if they read typical "mainstream" audio magazines, online sites, or watch associated videos. It's the simple observation that when it comes to subjective-only reviewers discussing why something (often expensive!) can improve the sound of a digital system, it almost always comes down to 2 factors they want you to be concerned about:

1. Jitter
2. Noise ("electrical", RF/EMI, conducted/induced)

Monday, 21 December 2020

As We Hear It: A High Dynamic Range Christmas Playlist by Allan Folz

A High Dynamic Range Christmas Playlist

[Guest Post by Allan Folz]

For this Christmas I'd like to share with Archimago and readers the albums that have become a large part of our family's holiday tradition.

In the old days, when all our music was on CD's I'd load up the 5 disc changer with these albums the Sunday after Thanksgiving and they were almost the only holiday music we'd have for the next month. Streaming wasn't a thing in the early Internet years. You listened to the albums you had and you liked them.

I bought all but one of these CD's more than 20 years ago and got them largely by (some really good!) luck of the draw. For the longest while I thought they were my favorites because they were such a constant part of our lives from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Later, after I learned about dynamic range I realized it made perfect sense that they were my favorites.

After getting more deeply involved in the hobby I discovered that all my favorite albums had a high dynamic range. This was interesting to me because I had formed my opinion on my favorite albums long before I'd learned about album dynamic range. Only after looking at the dynamic range of my favorite albums did I realize that almost always the common element was a high dynamic range. The corollary also held true. The albums I bought that were disappointing once I got them home and had a few listens had a low dynamic range.

Saturday, 19 December 2020

MEASUREMENTS: Tannoy REVEAL 501a powered monitors

Today, let's have a look and listen to the speakers you see above.

These Tannoy REVEAL 501a, though discontinued now and replaced with the newer Tannoy REVEAL 502 released in 2014, have been well-regarded over the years in home studio use (check out some user reviews here and on Amazon). They were first released back around 2010 and there's a good Sound On Sound write-up from mid-2011. These were budget priced at <US$500/pair on release (typically sold as individual speakers) although over the years, could be found for a relative steal down at US$200/pair.

These are biamped powered speakers - 40W mid/bass and 20W tweeter, unknown without opening them if these are Class A/B or D amps. There's a 1" soft dome tweeter, 5" mid/woofer, flared front port, and the box is MDF with curved front baffle. Dimensions are 11.9" x 7.3" x 9.4"; relatively small speakers. Each box is individually powered unlike the AudioEngine A2 or Edifier S2000 Mk III previously discussed where there is a cable tethering the speakers together, weighing about 6kg and quite solid in the hand.

Saturday, 5 December 2020

MUSINGS: "People, please, you want to grow our industry?" - Comments on Jonathan Scull's Stereophile article and what is "High End" audio good for?

Make sure to consult this site if you see anyone ever consumer one of these mushrooms BTW... :-)

As you can see, I have a picture of George Carlin (from 2008, RIP), known for the quoted comment beside some arguably "pretty" Amanita mushrooms above. These pictures represent some ideas I'll be talking about in today's post. The mushrooms by the way grow around these parts of Southwestern British Columbia and Pacific Northwest US. They look quite pretty in the wild, but these are toxic if consumed. They're bad for ya... Of course, there are many things (and people) in life that look good on the surface, but ultimately unwise to be enmeshed with, pretty mushrooms are just an innocuous example. :-)

When I say that those mushrooms are actually "bad for ya", I trust nobody would disagree, right? After all, it's easy to say that as humans, since these mushrooms will damage our health, we can easily judge them to be "bad" and should simply avoid getting near.

I could not help thinking about this a week back when I read Jonathan Scull's article "Something's Coming" in Stereophile.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

MEASUREMENTS: Fluance Reference XL8S Bookshelf speaker. (Blog post #401 with a brief look back...)


Let's continue with discussions and measurements of bookshelf/desktop speakers. As I expressed a few weeks back, these days I've transitioned to using passive speakers on the computer workstation table with the S.M.S.L. SA300 Class D amplifier. It has enough power I believe for almost any speaker one might want to use nearfield with great energy-efficiency.

What I have on the tabletop today is a pair of new Fluance Reference XL8S speakers that was released recently in summer 2020. These are the walnut veneer version (known as XL8SW). Fluance is a Canadian brand and over the years, may be more well-known for their affordable turntables (eg. the Fluance RT81 Elite looks nice with the RT85 Reference for their higher end), but their product line also includes speakers - other passive bookshelf models include the SX6 out since around 2014, and more recently the Signature HFS (released 2016). I see that they also have floor-standing versions.

Saturday, 21 November 2020

On "Measurements, Listening, and What Matters in Audio" by Robert E. Greene, with unfortunate Robert Harley "counterpoint".

It has been a busy week, so alas, I didn't get a chance to finish some recent measurements in time for the weekend. Will aim for next week!

The other day, I read Robert E. Greene's editorial on The Absolute Sound's webpage titled "Measurements, Listening, and What Matters in Audio". Nice, I didn't think I would ever read such coherent introspection in those (virtual) pages. Probably also one of the first times I have seen the mainstream audio press willing to consider the "beginning of audio wisdom" (hat tip to Proverbs). Of course, seeking wisdom plus achieving a more rational basis in this hobby are overarching themes in many of the articles on this blog. So too, Greene's reference to concentrating on the "fundamentals", the foundation of acoustics whether it be in the production chain (ie. "microphones") or the reproduction/perception system (ie. especially "speakers and their room interactions") are not unfamiliar to readers here - we covered some of this earlier this year. Absolutely agree, Dr. Greene, including the part about "I think that almost everything in audio can be explained by measurements" is a fair and in these days, a very safe statement to make.

Wishing you good health.

Now as for Robert Harley's "counterpoint". Oh my... Surely Harley's ramblings cannot be the last words on this topic because clearly there are issues!

Saturday, 14 November 2020

MEASUREMENTS: S.M.S.L. SA300 - Infineon MERUS-based Class D desktop amplifier. (Screwed up New York Times - Wirecutter/Butterworth measurements/review?! And Klipsch on TIM.)

"BAS" on screen indicates I'm using the bass-boost EQ here.

Today, let's have a look at the little SMSL SA300 desktop amplifier I'm showing above sitting beside the Topping DX3 Pro V2 DAC (previously measured and reviewed here).

As mentioned previously, I found myself in the position of needing to update my computer workstation desktop speaker system. I figured, instead of staying with powered/active speakers, since I do have a few bookshelf speakers around the home, why not try some passives on the desktop as well?

While active speakers are great in that the built-in amplifiers and transducers can be well-matched and optimized, the ability to "mix-n-match" passive speakers while opening up the potential to upgrade amplifiers I think is fun for the hobbyist. As such, I found myself drawn to getting a small low-power Class D amplifier like this.

Since the amplifier will likely be left on 24/7, I wanted something that's highly efficient but provides adequate power. This SMSL device internally is powered by the Infineon Technologies MERUS MA12070 Class D amplifier which uses their "multi-level" modulation such that the switching output can have half-voltage levels which adds an extra level of control and power savings. The device is rated to provide up to 2x30W continuous into 8Ω or 2x80W into 4Ω but realize this is with 10% THD+N. What will be more interesting to me is how much power is available into something like 4Ω with ≤0.1% THD+N, and the noise this switching device produces. Let's see if this amp lives up to hopes of "high-fidelity" playback...

Saturday, 31 October 2020

qSpins: AudioEngine A2 & Edifier S2000 Mk III 2-Way Bookshelf Speakers

Hi everyone, thought I'd just publish a couple of "qSpins" today as I might be away for a little bit to attend to other duties in the next couple weeks.

In the last while, I've been looking at getting another pair of speakers on my computer workstation desktop. Here's basically what my desktop speaker system has looked like for years:

Saturday, 24 October 2020

MUSINGS/HOW-TO: Raspberry Pi 4 "Touch" Audio Streamer, and CRAAP settings! ;-) The decline of public feedback, virtual showrooms, value-added content and Darko Audio?

Left - Raspberry Pi 4B, Right - Raspberry Pi 3B. Heatsinks installed on both boards.

Back in August, I wrote an update on building and running the of Raspberry Pi "Touch" audio streamer with RoPieee software. The article was still written with the Raspberry Pi 3B(+) in mind.

Well, on Prime Day recently, I was able to get a Raspberry Pi 4, 4GB "Starter Kit" for a price I could not resist. It's nice to have all the parts including the appropriately sized heatsinks, ready-to-use microSD card, and 5V/3A USB-C power supply. For now, I have no need for the Pi 4 case and the micro-HDMI cables can go in my box of miscellaneous cables.

For audio streaming purposes, a basic 2GB Pi 4 kit (<US$55) would be even cheaper and works just as well. Given the minimal difference in cost, no point going with a 1GB model although that would still be fine - remember the Pi 3 was limited to 1GB. There is also an 8GB Pi 4 but that's a huge amount of memory for just an audio streaming "appliance"!

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Musings/Measurements: quasi-Spinorama "qSpin" & the KEF LS50 bookshelf loudspeaker...

Auditioning the KEF LS50 Black Edition, powered by SMSL SA300 Class D amp on computer workstation.

With autumn here, sunlight hours reduced and looking towards the rainy months ahead, I thought it would be good to start expanding measurements and be a bit more "serious" with evaluating loudspeakers.

As you know, speaker measurements have been done since the start of the audiophile hobby and there are all kinds of ways to get the job done to varying levels of precision and reliability. Stereophile has been doing this for years with John Atkinson's use of the MLSSA (DRA Labs) system as he summarized in this review which formed his 1997 AES paper. More recently, it's great to see Audio Science Review's use of the Klippel Near Field Scanner (NFS) for many speaker measurements already!

For many of us interested in speaker performance, probably introduced to the ideas with Floyd Toole's book Sound Reproduction - Loudspeakers and Rooms (first edition 2008, now in 3rd edition 2017), there has been a rise in loudspeaker measurements using the "Spinorama" technique. This measurement method plus its standard representation of data has since becoming codified in the ANSI/CTA-2034-A "Standard Method of Measurement for In-Home Loudspeakers" (you can get a copy of the current CTA-2034-A R-2020 here), first published in 2015.