Saturday 29 August 2020

SUMMER MUSINGS: Modern Tech Life; obligatory home computer mechanic - NVMe replacement, WiFi Router. And thoughts about "high end", high priced DACs and value (Recent Darko & Sircom).

I was actually planning to just take a little break this week but given that it's almost September, I'll be away for Labour Day and school's starting for the kids with likely some virtual elements, I thought I'd just pen a not-too-long post not so much about audio but rather the highly computer-dependent world we're living in (with a bit about audiophile stuff to end).

Saturday 22 August 2020

SUMMER MUSINGS: The Soundroom - speaker layout, vibration control & correction. (And importance for the subjective reviewer!)

I thought before summer's over, it was time to "shoot the breeze" again and talk generally about a very important topic that affects all of us audio enthusiasts with what I hope are some practical suggestions from my own "journey" here at home.

The image above of a room set-up came from an article back in 1960 entitled Room Acoustics for Stereo by Abraham B. Cohen (Electronics World, January 1960 - make sure to also check out Part 2 here from February 1960). This was a time when many homes were still transitioning from the monophonic single-channel era to the bold new world of stereophonic "3D" playback with an opportunity to virtually experience an actual soundstage in the comforts of the living room. Those must have been exciting times, perhaps comparable in my lifetime to the late '90s with the release of AC3/DTS receivers providing discrete multichannel home theater.

As you can see from the pair of articles, already back in 1960, the groundwork had been laid out for what constitutes conditions for good "stereorama" sound. Best practice tips to achieve a sense of realism, the variables related to speaker placement in a room, angles to target for from the sweet-spot, distance between speakers and orientation like toe-in. Room characteristics like absorption characteristics of materials, reverberation time, room layout were discussed as well; all this informed by decades of professional recordings and studio design that came before.

Saturday 15 August 2020

RETRO-MEASURE: Pioneer SX-880 receiver (1978). And the amplifier "THD Wars" of the '70s?

Back in the 1970's, Pioneer among various Japanese brands like Sansui, Sony, Yamaha, and Technics brought popular, budget-conscious audio gear to the masses. With the prices of solid state components dropping, these amplifiers powered many college parties and brought music into the homes of many audiophiles of that generation.

Check out this ad from back in the day featuring the Pioneer SX-780 (45Wpc):

Nice to see that the idea of "high-fidelity" featured prominently rather than some nebulous idea of "high end" audio. Today, let's measure and discuss the sound of the last in the Pioneer SX-800 series of receivers, the Pioneer SX-880 featuring up to 60Wpc into 8Ω. The SX-880 came out in 1978 with a retail price around US$425. Thanks to a large part to central government mismanagement... err... inflation, this would be about US$1700 2020 dollars which would buy a rather advanced multichannel receiver like the Denon AVR-X4500H these days.

Saturday 8 August 2020

DIY: Raspberry Pi "Touch" Audio Streamer (2020) and RoPieee - US$160. Spectral tilt, educational articles, and anti-audiophoolery...

It has been awhile since I built my Raspberry Pi "Touch" Streamer discussed back in 2017. We're here now in 2020 and I had the need to put another one together. Since 2017, I've been using Roon more than Logitech Media Server (LMS) in my sound room so I thought I'd focus on installing RoPieee for this article although piCorePlayer remains my preferred software for LMS use (I still have LMS running on a Linux VM on my Server machine for remote playback of music away from home).

Build price for this simple Pi USB streamer is very reasonable. Based on Amazon US$ prices at the time of writing:
Raspberry Pi 3 B+ - $42
AC Adapter 5V/3A with switch (microUSB for Pi 3) - $10
Official Raspberry 7" touchscreen - $64
SmartiPi Touch 2 case - $30
SanDisk 64GB microSD - $13 
RoPieee software - donation-ware download, your choice "standard" or "XL"
Grand total of <US$160 for this USB audio streamer with 7" touchscreen.

Saturday 1 August 2020

PREVIEW: RME ADI-2 Pro FS R Black Edition AD/DA Converter

Look what showed up at my door (finally!) the other day. This is the latest hardware update to the RME ADI-2 Pro line of converters, the RME ADI-2 Pro FS R "Black Edition" - quite the mouthful! Let's just use "FS R BE" for the rest of this article for short in reference to the name.

Currently, the street price is around US$2,000.

Back in mid January, RME debuted this latest iteration of the ADI-2 Pro at NAMM 2020. Since 2018, I have been in contact with Matthias Carstens (co-founder of RME) off and on about the ADI-2 Pro FS that I have been using for measurements on this blog. Shortly after NAMM, I contacted Matthias about getting an upgrade as I could use two of these ADI-2 Pro devices - one for the soundroom and another for my test bench - when the company starts shipping these.