Saturday, 22 May 2021

Modding the Dekoni Blue ("Arch-Mod5"). Streaming audio: Apple Music to be "true hi-res lossless" stereo with multichannel (Atmos) in June.

A couple weeks back, I measured the Dekoni Blue headphone which as I noted, is itself a "modded" Fostex T50RP Mk 3 planar-magnetic (aka "Regular Phase", aka "isodynamic") headphone. It would be completely remiss of me if in a review/discussion of the Dekoni/Fostex I were not to spend some time talking about modding!

Modding has an very long tradition in the 'head-fi' world and I think it's been generally recognized that the Fostex headphones are the classic headphones to perform surgeries on. Much of what I'll be talking about here will be nothing new to those deep into this stuff already. For more on modding, check out this Headphonesty article for a background.

To start, as always, we need a plan and a "vision". As I mentioned in the last article, the Dekoni Blue sounds pretty good for the most part, so my job isn't to change the performance completely, but to rather refine what is there. If a headphone sound highly objectionable, one should really just move on and buy something else! Let's review the measurements I published last time for the Dekoni Blue with the supplied earpads and see what we can try...




I showed the measurements using the Elite Velour earpads first because those are what I preferred so any mods will be targeted to improve performance with the Velour. Looking at the measurements above, there are a few things we could try to do that could meaningfully impact the performance in a positive way.

1. I'm not a "bass head" so I think the bass is too strong. I also don't like that 100Hz bass hump; let's see if we can reduce the bass response by a few dBs and push the 100Hz mid-bass hump to a lower frequency. 

2. Notice the 10ms waterfall plot and all those lingering resonances below 1kHz. Let's see if we can improve the time domain performance a bit and reduce what looks like resonances inside that hollow ear cup.

3. The headphone is rather "hot" in the upper treble above 7kHz, especially with the Velour pads. Let's tone that down a few dBs if we can.

While I would love to show you all the measurements I went through and materials I tried, let me get to the point and talk about the simple "Arch Mod5" changes I finally settled on. It works well and sounds great to me. In the process, it taught me a few things about personal preferences when it comes to frequency response.

DISCLAIMER: Modifying your headphone will break your warranty. And doing this may damage your headphone as well. Use your discretion. I'm obviously not responsible for what you do. While I very much like the final results with mine, you are the final arbiter of sound quality and each headphone will be different! While everything can be easily reversed, proceed with appropriate caution.

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For this simple mod, all you need are a couple of items as "materials". 

1. I used inexpensive 1.5mm thick felt fabric sheets I found at the local dollar store (light blue of course for these headphones, MultiCraft Imports brand used). Make sure this is the soft, low-density fabric and not stiff felt.

2. I looked around for "meta-materials" but came up short ;-). So the other material I used was some SilverStone EPDM absorption foam which is usually applied to computer cases to keep the machine quiet. For headphone modding, we need only a little bit of the stuff.


Otherwise, you'll just need a small screwdriver (to open up the headphones), pen, ruler, and scissors for marking out and cutting out the "craft" supplies.

I. Opening the Dekoni Blue / Fostex T50RP Mk 3.

First thing you do is remove the ear pads - it should be obvious how to do this. Stick your fingers into the ear cup, push on the edge from the inside, and release the ear pad "lip" from the headphone carefully. Make sure not to rip the pads (it's stretchy so should not be an issue).

Afterwards, you'll see the driver and baffle as below. There's a loose foam baffle pad around the driver that will just fall off (not shown), and you'll see the 4 small Phillips cross-head screws you need to remove:

This is why the Fostex headphones are popular with modders - these are the only screws you need to remove to access everything inside.

From here, we can easily remove the driver and baffle unit to reveal the rear and see inside the earcup:


II. Dampen the cup, slow down the bass decay.

As you can perhaps imagine, there's quite a bit of space inside the ear cup and this lack of damping is contributing to some excess vibrations seen in the waterfall plot. So, let's use that SilverStone foam material to reduce the magnitude and persistence of vibrations against that rear "cabinet":


You can see that I haven't bothered with any special shapes other than just rectangular cut-outs of the SilverStone foam material with the dimensions noted for the left and right. You can look at this Mayflower video and see that they have traced out some shapes if you want to get fancy. The difference between the left and right ear cup is the presence of the headphone cord jack in the left cup, so one of the long pieces has been reduced from 2.5" to 2" to fit.

Now, let's use the 1.5mm low-density felt fabric to dampen the space; reducing the air compliance within the cup. Cut out two 3" x 3" felt fabric squares, one for each ear cup. Take one of these 3" x 3" sheets and lay it across the inner cup like so:



Notice for the left earcup, I cut off the edges of the felt a bit to fit better (optional, did not make a sound difference) and also a slit where the connector is.

At first when I was experimenting, I used some cotton batting instead of the sheet of felt fabric but didn't quite like the inconsistent density. I also tried 2 layers of this felt material but it dampened bass amount and subjective "kick" to the sound too much to my liking. One could experiment with thinner 1mm fabric sheets as well.

Make sure the fabric doesn't cover the screw holes. There are 4 dense foam "bumpers" (you can see these sticking out in the pictures above showing the SilverStone foam in the ear cup) that will pinch the fabric in place when you close the cup so don't worry that over time there will be any significant shifting of the fabric inside the cup.

Here's a look at the back of the headphone driver before I closed it up - notice there's white paper-like damping material behind the driver with a selected open square portion. I believe the collective wisdom is to leave that paper alone.


We can see the plastic ridges around the driver on the baffle plate. I know that some modders will "mass load" this section with plasticine, Newplast, modeling clay or just BluTack (again, as shown in this Mayflower video). I tried this, it increased the weight of the headphones a little bit, but ultimately I didn't really hear much difference nor did the measurements improve significantly, so I'll leave it to you if you want to do this. I also tried putting some SilverStone foam in these areas; again, not much difference.

So what happened to the frequency response by just damping the headphone enclosure and reducing air compliance?


The quick measurement above shows me that the bass level is slightly attenuated by the mod (red) and the treble was mildly accentuated. I like that the mid-bass hump is no longer centered at 100Hz, but has a smoother, more extended profile down into the sub-bass with a peak at around 75Hz now. We can imagine that the headphone is now even less "semi-open" than before.

The other improvement we want to see is a smoother/quicker waterfall plot. Let's compare stock (top) vs. earcup mod (bottom):


Yup, damping has an effect particularly in that stretch from 200Hz to 2kHz. No, it's not like the smooth and clean decay we see with the open-back Sennheiser HD650/HD800, or the AKG Q701. An improvement nonetheless.

III. Time to tame that treble!

The headphone actually sounds pretty good at this point. In fact, if you mod one of the sides only and put the earpad back on and listen, you'll notice that the modded side does sound a bit "clearer" in the bass and mid frequencies, presumably on account of the improved damping. You'll also notice that it's quite "airy" due to the extension of the "brilliance" frequencies. To me, this sounds somewhat like a bass-accentuated Sennheiser HD800 but without as expansive a soundstage.

So to tame the treble, I again used the SilverStone foam damping material and cut out a couple of small rectangles 3cm x 1.5cm (~1.2" x 0.6").

Screw the headphone driver back to the earcup, and then stick the foam damping over the driver like so:


There's a fine mesh in front of the driver so the foam is only adhering to that mesh, not touching the driver itself. Notice in this picture that I have put the foam driver surround back on. It's interesting to see that the stock foam material is almost exactly the same density and thickness as the SilverStone material. I know this looks somewhat scary covering up 1/3 of the driver surface area! Due to audio wavelengths, only high frequencies are affected.

I know a few years ago, MrSpeaker sold stickies called "Doggie Treats" that seemed to do the same thing.

Okay, finish up and put the earpad back on and have a listen!

What does it sound like? Well, the high frequencies are now tamed and there should be an obvious reduction in treble harshness. On tracks like Quincy Jones' "The Places You Find Love" (on Back On The Block, 1989), Chaka Khan's vocals which can be quite harsh when a headphone leans too bright should no longer strip paint off the walls ;-). The dynamics on that track, bass and treble detail should be able to "tickle" the ears. Don't forget that these are low-efficiency headphones, I listened with my Drop + THX AAA 789 amplifier for excellent results.

And as for the frequency response after doing this including measurements for both the Elite Velour (dark green) and Elite Hybrid (magenta) pads...


Notice the stock frequency response is plotted as dotted lines and the modded response as solid lines. I have pretty well achieved my goal I think. If we specifically look at the Elite Velour magenta lines, we can see that:
1. Peak bass is toned down 2-3dB. Rate of sub-bass roll-off less steep.
2. Bass bump now in the low-bass, around 70-80Hz instead of mid-bass 100Hz. 
3. Treble tamed a bit to be consistent with the lowering of bass. There's a slight "harshness-dip" into 2-4kHz, and then the reconstitution of the "presence" and "brilliance" frequency ranges to give us "sparkle", "air" for higher order harmonics are reproduced but without too much energy into 10kHz and above.
While I focused on the Velour pads mainly, notice the effect of the mod with the Elite Hybrid pads in green. It's a significantly more "bassy" and "darker" sound. Not my favourite but some bass-heads might enjoy that kind of tonality or if you have a "bright" amp for some reason, this sound profile could be preferred. Instead of a 3cm x 1.5cm Silverstone piece over the front of the driver, something slightly smaller like 2.75cm x 1.25cm would brighten up the treble "sparkle" with the Hybrid pads. Experiment!

The treble mod does not change the waterfall plot and doing all of this did not change the headphone distortion characteristics to any significant degree.

For completeness, we can look at the change in impulse response:


I did not get a reading before modding the headphone unfortunately, but here is the "non-aliasing" 100Hz square wave (band limited to 20kHz) through the left channel at a playback volume of 95dB SPL with source square wave overlaid.


Interesting. Certainly not the "fastest" headphone in my collection as we see the reproduced waveform reaching its peak around 1.75ms. Can't say I've noticed any audible issues with transients and the dynamics hold up well with these headphones. I'll make sure to look at how other planar magnetic-based headphones perform in the days ahead.

One last check! I wanted to make sure that the mod did not cause any linearity issues. Let's play some sweeps at different levels from 65-100dB SPL:


Good linearity between sweeps spaced 5 and 10dB apart.

IV. Summary


Here then are the "core" headphone measurement graphs of the "Arch-Mod5" Dekoni Blue, averaged with 3 or 4 measurements each side. My preference is the modded Elite Velour version:

My preferred earpad.


With the mod as described, the Elite Hybrid pads were a bit bass heavy, and the treble lost too much "zing" for my taste. As suggested above, a smaller foam piece over the front of the driver likely would restore the treble amount to one's taste.

You can compare these with the stock Dekoni Blue as shown at the top of this article. As you can imagine, the reason I call this "Mod5" is because there were 4 other incarnations before I settled on this version. Five versions isn't bad, and that's the thing with modding, it can get quite addictive if one is obsessive and perfectionistic (check out this amazing thread on the Fostex T50RP - too bad most of the images are missing unfortunately). Sometimes, I've had to roll changes back in the process which is why doing measurements each step of the way IMO is essential to making sure I'm proceeding as envisioned!

By the way, the impedance curve has changed a little with the modding. While planar-magnetic drivers maintain very flat impedance, at the resolution of the measurements, we can make out a slight shift lower in the resonance peak which correlates with the shifting of the bass "hump" in the headphone's frequency response:


With the tweaked bass and treble amounts, sensitivity at 1kHz still remained essentially unchanged just shy of 89dB SPL at 0.25V or 101dB/V. This is quite low voltage sensitivity, and with ~50Ω impedance means one needs to supply both adequate voltage and current to have these headphones sound their best. A reasonably powerful headphone amp is important.

I've heard that some Fostex headphones including the latest T60RP can have audible "rattling" when playing loud bass frequencies. After modding, I think it's worth taking a few minutes to have a listen with a slow sweep like this one on YouTube to make sure no rattling, weird resonances or "lumpy" irregularities are heard in the higher frequencies. I know, it's not fun listening to test tones but it's something that needs to be done for "quality control". I had no issues with my "Arch-Mod5" Dekoni Blue.

Although not the most "airy" (I would place these between the Sennheiser HD650 and HD800 in terms of perceived size of the "soundstage"), are not the most precise headphones, nor have particularly low distortion level, on balance, I really like the result of the modified sound! Of course, I'm biased. ;-)

I mentioned Yosi Horikawa's track "Bubbles" on Wandering a couple weeks ago as a great track to listen to on the Sennheiser HD800(S). Well, it's also a great track to have a listen with these modified Dekoni Blues! While not as transparent as the HD800, the added bass weight on these add another perspective to the sound which actually makes the music more tonally balanced IMO.

As I was researching the Fostex T50RP Mk 3 during the modding process, something Tyll Hertsens said back in 2015 resonated with my impression while experimenting:
"The gentle rise from 400Hz to 2kHz of the Mk3 is highly desirable, in my opinion, and is quite similar to the Harman Target Response. My guess is achieving this rise is a tricky combination of a number of things, and may suffer during modifications. If you're a DIYer with a measurement rig, take care to note exactly what this area looks like on your measurements (they may look quite different than mine on a non-IEC-spec measurement system), and try to retain the profile between 400Hz and 2kHz during your mods."
Notice that the Dekoni Blue frequency response has a subtle rise from ~500Hz to 1.5kHz with a relative dip from 2 to 4kHz. While modding, I kept an eye on this mid-range region and made sure to leave these frequencies alone. This relatively gentle rising mid-range accentuation from 400Hz to 2kHz sounds good to me for vocals, adding a bit of "presence" and harmonic richness.

People talk about a "V-shaped" frequency response. As you can see, I like mine more of a "w" with the gentle mid-range accentuation. It seems to add sweetness and presence into female voices (like with Anette Askvik's album) but pulled down at bit by 3-4kHz to reduce harshness. Similarly, male vocals like Gregory Porter's "Don't Misunderstand" on the late Jimmy Heath album Love Letter sounded great - more full, resonant, and natural with that little bit of extra mid-range. 

I've mentioned it elsewhere in my posts. I think that dynamically compressed rock remasters these days can benefit from a little bit of 3-4kHz dip to reduce the sense of "congestion". I recently listened to a 2008 remastered AC/DC's Razors Edge CD which benefitted from a little bit of an upper-mid dip to improve clarity which one could also tweak to satisfaction with extra EQ.

Alright then. Certainly "good enough" sound quality from my modded Dekoni Blue headphones for hours of enjoyment which is ultimately what it's about! These are currently my favourite "go to" headphones for general listening with a nice balance of comfort, sound quality, some semi-open-back noise isolation with reduced leakage, and decent price. Again, make sure to have enough power on the headphone amp for these.

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The future of music streaming has changed substantially with recent announcements by Apple Music of lossless streaming starting June and a concomitant price drop in Amazon Music to match. The "800-pound gorillas" have made a move and the little guys will be taking notice. As of the publication date for this post, let's look at the monthly cost (in US$) for the most popular audio streaming services and technical specs of each:
Amazon Music - lossless FLAC up to 24/192: $9.99 ($7.99 if Prime member) 
Apple Music - lossless ALAC up to 24/192 for "Hi-Resolution Lossless" if one opts in, some Atmos content: $9.99
Spotify HiFi - likely 16/44.1 lossless (unclear if FLAC) to launch this year, possibly soon and stay at $9.99 
Qobuz Studio - lossless FLAC up to 24/192: $12.49
Deezer HiFi - lossless FLAC to 16/44.1: $14.99 
Tidal HiFi - lossless FLAC to 16/44.1, partial-lossy pseudo-hi-res MQA (bastardized PCM) up to 24/48 data rate, some Atmos content: $19.99
In my household, the girls (wife and daughter) use MacBooks and iPhones. The guys (me and my son) prefer our Windows PCs and laptops. While I'm no fan of Apple's closed ecosystem model, the way they're going with Apple Music is elegant and thoughtful for the consumer.

As you might already know, I have never really been a fan of all this "hi-res" music hype. Back in 2014, I was already critical that "hi-res" offered little benefit in terms of actual perceivable quality. Some of the earliest "hi-res" albums like Beck's Morning Phase were not hi-res and didn't even look lossless! All that hype around Pono and its graphs, and technical talk about stuff like 24/192 was typically meaningless. And last summer, we talked about being "post-hi-res audio" as audiophiles. Don't get me wrong however, there are benefits with hardware like DACs being hi-res capable for various reasons, not necessarily tied to the music itself being of hi-res though.

While we as audiophiles can argue about these technical details and minutiae as part of the perfectionistic, obsessive, "Golden Ear" hobby, don't forget that the world at large doesn't care. IMO, there was never much money audio companies were going to be able to extract from the market in music consumption just because they advertised something as "hi-res". As I discussed years ago, the value of "Hi-Res Audio" was low and as such the price has to reflect this! Now in 2021, this is exactly what we're seeing with Amazon Music and Apple Music... Lossless and high-bitrate lossy really do not sound very different, and hi-res lossless doesn't demand an extra monthly fee either - a flat rate of US$10/month is great. This has always been the honest trajectory for those who bothered to carefully listen or perform a blind test (whether something like this, this, or this).

All this IMO should also have been clear to the audiophile press including those online sites who have been touting "hi-res" as being "obviously" audible. The press has always been interested in promoting hype, not truth when it comes to a "new" money-making scheme, including ethically questionable advertising like with MQA over the years.

When it comes to truly high-resolution music, I contend that it's still inextricably linked to the production and mastering processes. As discussed in late 2015, I still think if an album deserves to be available as high-resolution audio, it should be mastered with that in mind. As with the world of high-definition video, you can have both Standard Dynamic Range (Rec.709) movies alongside High Dynamic Range (Rec.2020) content that use HDR10(+) and DolbyVision. For example, Taylor Swift's evermore is available as a 24/88.2 hi-res version but sounds no different than the usual 16/44.1 CD currently. What's the point?

If at all possible, why not release both the loud, compressed CD version and also offer an actual potentially "hi-res" version with greater dynamic range, and lower noise floor? What I suggested as resurrecting the "Advanced Resolution" idea. This will clearly sound different and music lovers can decide if a "non-Loudness War" version might actually be of value for them and to their tastes.

Good job Apple for finally jumping on the true lossless+hi-res train in style with no nonsense single-tier music delivery that's flexible, able to handle multiple bit-depths and samplerates, even multichannel Atmos all in one swoop! The competition among companies is great for consumers and I suspect will further erode Tidal's user base - not a bad thing as this will likely finally remove any hopes of the worthless, money-wasting MQA having a significant presence in the streaming space.

If Tidal goes down, this could be bad for Roon (which I use and I like, with a lifetime subscription). More than ever, it would be good to see Roon integration with other streaming services like Apple Music and Amazon Music particularly. The reality unfortunately is that Roon is a minnow in the ocean among whales, so the question is whether any of the "big boys" would be interested. I suspect some at Roon may be experiencing sleepless nights thinking about how things are going to play out.

Stay safe audiophiles. Hope you're enjoying some wonderful music!

BTW: I saw this SNL skit the other night. Couldn't help but think this kind of psychology might be at play when some "high-end audiophiles" fail a blind test and told the truth. ;-)


19 comments:

  1. What about measurements on Amazon Music HD?
    I certainly agree that for the majority of the casual users the "SQ" of Amazon Music HD is "good enough", but, what we can say about people spending thousands of dollars in their equipment (and paranoiac about the sound of the cables) but unable to appreciate the SQ of a "bit perfect" handling of their precious "liquid music"?
    Me, when I installed (and uninstalled immediately after) Amazon Music HD, I noticed immediately the lack of an important (at least for me) choice: the choice of the output channel.
    No WASAPI, no ASIO proprietary of the DAC, nothing! Everything though the Windows Mixer :(.
    No possibility to send (Qobuz can do it) the stream to JRiver Media Center for a manipulation via its DSP or up sample it in PCM or SDM (DSD), nothing!
    So, what is the "SQ" one can expect from Amazon Music HD?
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I hear you Teodoro.

      Amazon Music HD doesn't have a bit-perfect WASAPI/ASIO-type mode, at best just the "Exclusive Mode" which just hogs the audio system from other software.

      To be honest, I have not tested the sound quality because personally, if I want "perfect" playback, I own the music and the files go on my music server. I accept that for the most part the consumer has no control over the provenance of what comes across the Internet when streaming. We don't know whether we're getting a "loudness war" remastering for example. Also, albums can come and go depending on contractual arrangements over time...

      Having said, this, Amazon HD sounds OK to me even if it's going through Windows' DirectSound unsophisticated upsampling (I typically leave it as 24/96 or 32/96):
      http://archimago.blogspot.com/2015/11/measurements-windows-10-audio-stack.html

      Real 96kHz will not be resampled and could sound better from Amazon. Streaming to me is more for just "enjoyment" and "background". When I try to listen more critically like for my reviews and measurements, I use Roon serving content from my music library.

      Note that the upsampling algorithm is much better on Mac OS last I checked:
      http://archimago.blogspot.com/2015/11/measurements-apple-mac-os-x-yosemite.html

      Again this is why I really hope folks like Amazon will do the dance with Roon so we can optimize lossless from the service during playback!

      Delete
    2. Thanks.
      A friend of mine remembered to me that since version 1709 (released on September 2017) the stack and the API's of Windows 10 have been completely rewritten. On the other side your analysis dates from 1 November 2015.
      So, I guess, you should repeat the analysis and the measurements with the actual version. My friend says that you/we could have a surprise!

      Delete
  2. The appple announcements has me considering switching to apple from Tidal.
    Early on when setting up my raspberry pi server (s. logitech/iPeng software) I went with Tidal for the integration and full CD res. But if Apple offers full res with a larger catalogue I'm not sure I see benefit to staying with Tidal (which has a very clunky and crude method for building personal libraries for streaming favorites).

    I'm not sure how apple music would integrate with my server (if it would at all). And then, with anything music an apple, there is the specter of iCloud swooping in to make one's life miserable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let me guess that situation, in terms of SQ, with Apple Music could be even worse. Another product not having audiophiles in his target!
      From a marketing perspective they are absolutely right: #audiophiles/#casual users=0.00001% (or even less).

      Delete
    2. If Apple kills MQA, that will at least be one positive.

      Delete
    3. I'd wait and see Vaal about switching if that's the future for you.

      Agree, there's need to consider how Apple Music will integrate with servers and streamers. I'm sure there will be bugs to work through once ALAC goes on line. I'd wait over the next 2 or 3 months and see how this shapes up first if one already has a working playback system! We'll see if Apple at least "plays nice" with third parties.

      To me lossless is lossless as per my stance on "bits are bits":
      http://archimago.blogspot.com/2019/08/musings-demo-why-bits-are-bits-lets-not.html

      Whether it's Amazon HD or Apple Music, so long as the data is transported bitperfect, and so long as I have a playback system/streamer that doesn't corrupt the bits, and fills up at a fast enough rate to be buffered properly and sent off to the DAC, then no problem.

      Amazon HD on Windows with the poor upsampling algorithm is a bit of a problem as noted above for the audiophile. We'll see how Apple Music deals with lossless hardware playback in the days ahead.

      IMO, totally messed up that Tidal got in bed with MQA as if this served audiophile interests at all. Even more messed up that the "old guard" in audiophile magazines/press also got in bed with MQA and tainted the potential for just pure, "perfect", lossless delivery of streams. My suspicion is that if the audiophile press didn't get all rapturous about MQA from the start, Tidal might not even have adopted MQA due to bad press. Sickening that even basic 16/44.1 on Tidal is now stained with MQA data.

      Thanks for the disservice John Atkinson, Robert Harley, Jonathan Valin, Michael Fremer, Jason Serinus, et al. You dropped the ball for audiophiles and I hope will always be remembered for this.

      Delete
  3. Since this announcement I've been wondering the best hardware setup to get this to my stereo. I have yet to see a real solution that will take advantage of the "hi-res" offerings that it sounds like they may offer. I think that apple tv is limited but they may change that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, wait and see Hogues.

      The one thing for sure is that this will create significant shifts in the year ahead with repercussions for the "little guys".

      I'm sure companies will scramble to achieve compatibility in some way...

      Delete
  4. Roon also integrates with Qobuz, which you probably now, although it doesn't help you as it's not yet available in Canada. It would certainly be nice if more services were integrated.

    I recently tried the Roon+Qobuz combo when Qobuz launched in my country. I ended up paying for Roon, but not Qobuz, although I haven't yet decided for the long term. Pretty much all the music I've been looking for was available there (I'm mostly into classical, but trying to understand modern pop music as well), and in general it worked well, although there were a few glitches and dropouts. It was disappointing though to see playlists such as "Best of 192 - Rock" and then finding all kinds of very old rock with far from top-notch sound quality...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Freddie,
      Yeah man, what gives with the absence of Qobuz in Canada where we have a larger population than Australia!?

      Good to hear that what you're looking for is on there. Yeah, not surprised that the 192kHz has a lot of old stuff which was basically old analogue tapes digitized to the high bitrate. Waste of bandwidth IMO since there's no actual content - noise and distortion.

      Delete
  5. Hi Arch
    I hope that Apple and Amazon will put pressure on Spotify to offer lossless without a premium.
    Although, like yourself, I have reservations about Apple's monolithic approach to things, I'm trying the 3-month free Apple Music trial to see if it will work for me. I've found that the music selection might be slightly better than Spotify (fewer unavailable tracks: Spanish Harlem is available, e.g.) but the interface and features lag a bit (familiarity, maybe?)
    When lossless arrives on Tuesday (maybe) I expect my choices will be the iTunes app on PC over Windows mixer at 24/48k or Apple TV over HDMI. I suppose there would be an option for casting from my Pixel phone but I'm just not a phone guy. These would be fine for me, as I've been a hi-res skeptic from the start: perfectly content to downsample 24/192k and lose all that HF noise that I see on spectral analysis.
    Amazon music isn't even in the running for me: poor selection and terrible tools.
    But at any rate, the streaming option looks better than ever. I've probably saved a lot of money on downloads since getting Spotify. I only buy more obscure or surround downloads now.
    More reasons to enjoy the music
    Phil

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely Phil,
      Really love the options we have these days with streaming! Yeah, all that high frequency stuff - mostly noise anyways - on 192kHz material is simply unnecessary.

      It's good to see the competition at work. IMO sound quality is not a problem with the lossless streams so long as decent mastering used and the software isn't fooling around with stuff like loudness normalization using poor algorithms to cause distortion. It's now just a matter of preferences around how large the library is, familiarity with the UI, feature set.

      I know audiophiles are going to be obsessing over whether streaming "sounds worse". Or whether Amazon vs. Qobuz vs. Apple vs. Spotify lossless sounds better. Have at it ;-). I'm sure folks will be running more tests in the days ahead. To me it's rather moot since this is just "rental" music anyways.

      Delete
  6. I think the BluOs music management system, as seen in their own streaming products along with those from NAD and DALI, is nicely integrated with several different music streaming sources both big and small. Roon could learn a thing or two from that. Roon's superiority lies in it's user interface and search abilities. If you are managing a large music library or like to search for obscure music on Tidal or Qobuz, Roon is exceptional for that.It really will be interesting to see how Apple's arrival at the Hi-Rez streaming party will shake things up.

    Best... Carlo.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Arch,

    Thanks for measurements post mod, would you be able to provide some PEQ setting for the Arch Mod 5? I modded my T50rp' following your walkthrough and i like them better but definitely want to EQ them.

    ReplyDelete
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