Saturday 27 February 2016

MEASUREMENTS: Google Chromecast Audio - Part II: Digital Output

Chromecast Audio with optical TosLink adaptor & cable.
Alright, here's the follow-up to the Part I evaluation of the Chromecast Audio. Time now to have a look at the digital output using the mini-TosLink adaptor and standard TosLink digital optical out. Please refer to the previous post since I will be using the same settings and also the Plex Media Server system to run the tests today.

The first thing that needs to be addressed is whether the Chromecast Audio is capable of "bitperfect" output. Now, I do not have an easy way to capture the digital output, but one thing I can do is to make sure that a DTS signal encoded as 16/44 FLAC can be streamed from Plex to my digital receiver without audible issues... Indeed, in this regard the Chromecast succeeded.

Sunday 21 February 2016

MEASUREMENTS: Google Chromecast Audio - Part I: Analogue Output

So you've no doubt seen this device at the local electronics store like Best Buy. It's part of the second generation line of Chromecast devices, the Chromecast Audio released late 2015 (the other one being the HDMI video-enabled Chromecast itself). At a list price of US$35 (CAD$45), this is clearly the least expensive ways to stream audio off one's phone or other compatible network enabled server. Remember, this light, plastic puck-like device doesn't have much in the way of "intelligence" built-in which is why it needs to be connected to an actual streaming device that will basically "push" the audio data to it, either from a local server or link it with a cloud-based music source. Effectively, this is a basic "audio renderer".

Sunday 14 February 2016

MEASUREMENTS / IMPRESSIONS: Meridian Explorer2 Analogue Output - 24/192 PCM vs. Decoded MQA.

Image from here.
Well folks, the new Meridian firmware has been released, allowing for MQA decoding. And thanks to a friend who has an Explorer2 with the recent update, he was able to record the analogue output of the DAC playing a standard 24/192 PCM track and the same song as a decoded MQA (24/44)! This is the obvious next step in evaluating MQA after my previous post listening to and evaluating the undecoded MQA file.

The song selected for testing/listening was from 2L (of course) - the track "Blågutten" from the Hoff Ensemble's album Quiet Winter Nights (2011, MQA downloadable here). The recording ADC device is the excellent professional quality RME Fireface 802.

Of course re-digitizing degrades the signal very slightly but the Fireface is an excellent ADC so whatever slight change is likely very minimal though arguably it'll add some "blurring" to the signal if we accept Meridian's claims.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

MUSINGS: On High Fidelity & Audiophilia Hysterica (Herb Reichert, February 2016)

noun: hysteria; plural noun: hysterias
exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement, especially among a group of people.

"the mass hysteria that characterizes the week before Christmas"

synonyms:frenzy, feverishness, hysterics, fit of madness, derangement, mania, delirium;

"his fictional account of an alien invasion caused not-so-fictional hysteria among the radio audience"
So I was making my rounds on the websites the other day and noticed that some comments I made on AudioStream months ago got quoted in this article by Herb Reichert. I admit I find it mind-boggling how what I think are rather obvious and factual comments about audio technology can be considered so controversial or unacceptable to some people.

As an audiophile I want to be able to reproduce as best I can (ie. with highest fidelity) what's on that CD / digital file / LP / DVD / SACD / Blu-Ray / etc... As previously expressed, I hope the music I buy is in the form of a proper mastering which captured the details available in the magnetic "master tape" or digital "studio master". In this installment, let us consider a few of the comments made by Mr. Reichert and mull over the viewpoints expressed.

Friday 5 February 2016

MEASUREMENTS: Apple iPad Air 2 - Audio Output Quality

Although for the most part, I am a Windows and Android guy, I do have a little collection of Apple devices here at home. Despite taking a look at the MacBook's CoreAudio upsampling, measured the iPhone 6 when it came out, and explored various MacBook laptops over the years, I realized that I had missed out on one of the most important "line" of products from Apple - the iPad.

Last year, I needed to run an app for work that was only available on the iPad so I got one of these Air 2's. As a reminder, the iPad Air 2 is currently (early 2016) one of the latest versions of the iPad line (there are of course the parallel Mini and new Pro models). It was announced back in October 2014 and is considered the "sixth generation" iPad tablet. The model I have here is the 64GB gold-color version, Wi-Fi only, with newest iOS 9.2.1 installed. The screen is gorgeous with the "Retina" resolution of 2048x1536, nice and bright with great contrast. CPU is the Apple A8X (1.5GHz tri-core), 2GB DDR3 RAM internally. Physically, nice and thin with the standard 9.7" screen - great for surfing and media content consumption.