Saturday 28 August 2021

SUMMER MUSINGS: On the dreaded "Digital Glare" in audio, and conversely, exaggerated analogue evangelism.

A reader E-mailed me the other day asking about what I thought of the dreaded "digital glare" because it was mentioned by a "more subjective reviewer" he was also connecting with.

Basically, I don't believe "glare" exists as a generalizable phenomenon that is somehow special to digital audio. Rather, my guess over the years on how some audiophiles started using this term is that many of the early CDs (not necessarily subsequent remasters) did sound overly bright and harsh. As much as I love the music on The Nightfly (Donald Fagen, 1982), Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms (1985), Dead or Alive's Youthquake (1985), OMD's Organization (1980, 1985 CD release), Culture Club's Kissing To Be Clever (1982, ?1984 CD), ABBA's The Visitors (1981, 1983 CD release), despite excellent dynamic range, the sound of these albums are just "bright", too "thin", a bit "glassy". Perhaps some of this also has to do with the synthetic instrumentation and studio techniques of the time.

Saturday 21 August 2021

SUMMER MUSINGS: Room EQ Preferences - Vintage Spendor SA1-like curve, Hang Loose Convolver (HLC), and the increasing relative importance of software.

Getting ready for an evening of digital filter evaluation!

I mentioned a few month back in my Spendor SA1 (1976) review/measurements that I really enjoyed the sound of these classic speakers!

While it would not be possible to exactly replicate their sound - these are complex devices with all kinds of unique properties including distortion idiosyncrasies and unique radiation patterns - to some extent, we can try to replicate the frequency response via DSP.

These days, we have the technology available to modify the sound we hear in the soundroom without great difficulty; the trick is to make sure the sound has improved, at least subjectively, when we add things like EQ or applied other signal processing.

Although some (typically more traditional) audiophiles will speak of maintaining "purity" of sound with minimalistic set-ups, if one is a contemporary technologically astute music lover and audiophile, especially one already using complex streamers, computer gear, networked libraries, I don't believe there should be any fear in going all the way using high-quality DSP to shape and adjust what we hear. In fact, from the frequency response perspective, we can "emulate" almost whatever we might want depending on the flexibility of the software used.

Saturday 14 August 2021

MEASUREMENTS / REVIEW: Topping D10 Balanced (D10B) DAC. Simple, no-nonsense USB DAC, excellent balanced sound quality.

Last month, I published on the Topping D10s DAC which performed excellently for such a small, USB-powered device. Fantastic price to boot!

Today, let's have a look at the newest sibling in this line of DACs released in July 2021 - the Topping D10 Balanced (I'll just call it D10B for short). As you can see in the image above, the contents in the box are similar to the Topping D10s, with manual (including measurements), pamphlet with various other Topping products listed, generic USB A-B cable, and for this model a couple of TSR-to-XLR male-male adaptors.

At <US$150, this is certainly still inexpensive. And as the name suggests, this baby is capable of balanced analogue output. Balanced transmission provides improved common-mode noise rejection and this should result in quieter analogue output including rejection of potential issues like mains hum in the signal.

I bought this DAC through the usual retail channels; no relationship with the company.

Saturday 7 August 2021

SUMMER MUSINGS: No... Not all amplifiers sound the same (but many do! ;-).

With both my Class D Hypex nCore NC252MP amp and linnrd's Class A Pass/First Watt SIT-2 in my sound room a couple months back, this allowed me to switch reasonably quickly between them to listen. You might be wondering about some comparison comments on how the amps sound. Certainly much has been said in the press about sonic differences between amps over the decades, but relatively little has been shown with measurements in an actual room using what comes out from the speaker.

First thing I'll say is, "No, not all amplifiers sound the same!". This should be obvious actually when looking at the objective measurements of the amplifiers and what they mean if we extrapolate the results to a known system.

Like I said, it seems uncommon to see measurements "in situ" with amps connected to the same DAC, preamp, and speakers to show differences. To demonstrate the differences in my room with my speakers, I set up the miniDSP UMIK-1 microphone in the room like so to run some sweeps and tonal FFT's for comparing: