Friday 28 August 2015

MEASUREMENTS: It's Balanced PonoPlayer Time...

As promised in my previous post on the PonoPlayer, I was going to be getting some 1/8" TRS-to-XLR balanced cables to try out with the PonoPlayer. Mainly I just wanted to see for myself the optimal level of functioning for this device... Already the unbalanced output is capable of respectably low noise and very reasonable distortion numbers especially with high samplerate material for a portable device. I therefore expect the balanced output to be better. As you see in the image above, those cables arrived; inexpensive ones off eBay at about $12USD for the two from China.

Saturday 22 August 2015

PREVIEW: A Look at the Light Harmonic Geek Out V2...

Well... I guess the good thing about not being a "professional" audio reviewer is that while on holiday, playing with my toys isn't really considered "work" :-).

Here's what the postman brought earlier this week:

From a bang-for-the-buck perspective, I suspect you can really get a lot of quality from the small "USB stick" type DACs. The reason being that manufacturing costs can be quite low with these devices. There's no need for fancy LCD screens, no need for a large enclosure (made of milled aeronautical aluminum of course!), no fancy connectors other than the USB port and some headphone jacks. The challenge of course is in making sure that noise levels are low in the analogue output given the proximity to the computer and dependence on the power rail off the USB port.

Previously I had already tested the AudioEngine D3 and AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2 DACs... This time, enter the Light Harmonic (LH Labs) Geek Out V2...

Saturday 15 August 2015

MEASUREMENTS: Audiophile Sound and Operating Systems. (Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Fidelizer & JPLAY again!)

If you look back at my writings and tests over the last few years, you will see a number of instances where I did measurements using different operating systems, computer hardware, different bitperfect software (for Windows, for Mac, "audiophile" JPLAY), and looked at things like computer CPU loads and jitter. Already, in the post on the AudioEngine D3 review, I demonstrated that even with disparate computer hardware and operating systems like Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, Mac OS X "Mountain Lion", and "Mavericks", I was not able to show measurable differences in noise level, dynamic range, distortion or jitter with this DAC which operates up to 24/96.

The results are not surprising really, as a computer audiophile in 2015, it's quite likely that one would be using a high-quality USB DAC which is asynchronous, thus avoiding issues like the potential for significant jitter due to timing problems in the interface (more below). Yet, I get questions still about uncertainty as to whether different OSes make a difference and then there are programs out there like Fidelizer (check out this review, or this one) and even the well popularized Audiophile Optimizer (through reviews like this one) claiming improvements; strangely none of those reviews bothered to tell us exactly what DAC was used!

Friday 7 August 2015

MEASUREMENTS: PonoPlayer - observations & opinions...

A couple months back, I mentioned that I got myself one of these PonoPlayers. I got it lightly used locally and saved myself quite a few dollars (remember, I'm in Canada so would not be able to buy it directly unless specially shipped across the border). As you can see, I got one of the standard black models. Although the yellow one looks iconic and was what Neil Young went on Letterman with way back in 2012, black is more my style... And it looks pretty cool.

Since its availability back in January 2015, I believe most have no doubt already read a number of reviews on this device... I don't think it's so much the device itself, but the promotion of the whole Pono ecosystem by Neil Young that has ruffled so many feathers in the world of consumer electronics based on his bold claims about the audibility and necessity of "High-Resolution Audio"; claims of an audio "revolution". On one side are the technology sites who view the claims as nothing more than "snake oil", while on the other side - among the "audiophile press" - we see repeated praises of Pono "raising the bar" in its promotion of better sound quality.

Saturday 1 August 2015

MEASUREMENTS: Room acoustic absorption panels... (GIK Acoustics Freestand)

"... of course you realize it won't sound exactly the same in your listening room, sir ..."

In the last few months, I've been doing more with REW measurements and examining the acoustics in my room, culminating in implementing digital room correction with my computer audio playback. It is because of this that I made the posts recently looking at speaker cables and the effect of speaker grill(e)s. Along the way, I also measured the effects of a couple of simple acoustic panels I have in the room to objectively examine the outcome.