Saturday, 26 February 2022

Using the MeLE Mini PC for Upsampling/Filtering - HQPlayer Desktop 4 streaming from Roon. [Going forward, AVX2 needed for HQPlayer + Roon... For some reason.]

Hey folks, a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I've got the little MeLE Quieter2Q Windows 10/11 computer in my sound room these days used as a low-power (<10W) Roon streamer capable of 2.0 and 5.1 multichannel. The computer is relatively powerful for just an audio device handling Roon streams; 8GB DDR4 RAM, a 2.0+GHz turbo Celeron J4125 quad-core CPU is certainly much more than needed just to basically get data from the gigabit ethernet and shove it to USB or HDMI for playback!

It works fantastically also as a little fanless HTPC for movies with 4K video and audio bitstreaming. A tip: K-Lite Codec Pack works very well, it can even play MKV/MKA files with lossless TrueHD-Atmos like the 2019 Beatles Abbey Road BluRay rip which I know will trip up some HDMI hardware.

I mentioned in the previous article that it might be fun to consider utilizing the processing power of the little fanless box for audio. For many Roon users, one way of taking advantage of processing power is by using HQPlayer from Signalyst for high-quality upsampling with digital filtering, and possibly even PCM-to-DSD conversion. 

Saturday, 19 February 2022

DEMO: Listening to the Cayin RU6 R-2R noise and distortions with headphone load. Confirming subjective impressions. And Jim Austin / Stereophile's "Thoughts On Reviewing".

Notice that the quest for high fidelity has always been, almost exclusively, a male pursuit. A picture from the Edison Diamond Disc and the "tone tests" done back in the day circa ~1916.

I've been critical of many audiophile magazines, websites, and YouTube channels because it's hard to believe some of these individuals truly can hear what they report. I know, it's perhaps "rude" to question subjective claims, but unless one questions stuff like this, how are we to differentiate thoughtful critical listening from potentially biased claims of sound quality?

For example, I honestly doubt the folks who claim to hear big differences between cables. I think it's silly that some people insist they hear differences because of unsubstantiated "jitter" effects in digital audio. Those who think "bit-perfect" playback can sound very different have never over the years proved their case. Then there are those subjective reports that sing the praises of "hi-res audio" despite research never showing differences as being anything more than subtle. How about claims of the ability to hear the effect of "audiophile" ethernet switches, or USB noise/jitter devices?! As you can see in the links to these topics, I've tried to address them over the years so when questions come up, I can just point folks to areas covered already.

IMO, with time, more and more nonsense articles and claims have built-up in audiophile magazines and the Internet. I think young audiophiles must have difficulties making heads or tails about what is true anymore while negotiating this massive minefield of questionable information. I would not be surprised that some in this Industry actually prefer the presence of this "fog of subjectivity" because it allows people to make irresponsible claims about anything they want and not have to provide evidence so long as some key reviewers or readers have faith to repeat the belief over time! 

That the ongoing majority of audio hardware reviewing these days is purely subjective is a bit of a problem in the context of what I believe to be very poor reliability.

Saturday, 12 February 2022

MUSINGS: Speaking "As If..." claims are truths, Attribution Theories, and the Numerical Madness of Chord (Mojo 2 and 104-bit DSP)? (And quick note on Multichannel "Kind Of Blue".)

As you've seen, recently, I measured the Chord Mojo DAC and we discussed the imminent release of the Mojo 2 which was formally unveiled on January 31 (2022). With that of course comes the flurry of media posts, reviews and advertising material hyping the new features which might or might not be useful depending on your needs.

An interesting interview (and I'm sure one of a number in the days ahead) is the one Darko conducted with designer Rob Watts released on February 1st. As much as I've been critical of Darko over the years (like this), I appreciate the interview, the questions, and perhaps showing some guarded skepticism; good stuff John for letting Watts speak.

The DAC infrastructure of the Mojo 2 is basically an "evolutionary" upgrade to the custom sigma-delta design of the Mojo 1 which is already very good. Watts admits to this evolutionary step (12:50). As suspected, they needed to keep Poly compatibility (2:15) - a shame because I think the retention of micro-USB is a real turn-off in 2022. These days, Bluetooth in a premium product I think is a basic mobile feature. At this kind of price point >US$700 for the Mojo 2, I think it's a little silly to also have to pay another >US$700, tolerate the added bulk, just to get wireless options but still limited to Bluetooth 4.1 A2DP/SBC last I looked; no aptX, LDAC, or even AAC codec support for higher fidelity (lossless Bluetooth would not be high on my priorities, but aptX Lossless is good I guess). As a general rule-of-thumb in consumer electronics, I think expensive add-ons like this usually don't make much sense, much less insist on ongoing compatibility across generations of products in the mobile space.

Saturday, 5 February 2022

MeLE Quieter2Q (8GB DDR4, 128GB eMMC, Celeron J4125) Mini PC: An inexpensive, silent, multichannel Roon Endpoint. On Paul McGowan (PS Audio): "digital audio is soooo noisy", and "computers are the worst". [+ Windows 11 Update]

MeLE Quieter2Q (~US$250) box and contents. Notice VESA mounting plate (top left) included which is handy I think if used as a monitor back-mounted computer.

Over the last number of years, I've been a Roon user (lifetime membership, no I have not been subsidized in any way by the company). Although not perfect, it works well for me and I've certainly enjoyed the bountiful metadata this interface provides. The Roon software has unified control and access to my music library through Roon Core running on my Windows Server machine. In doing so, this has brought all the hardware playback systems in my home under the same "umbrella" whether it's my Workstation PC (listening to music writing these blog posts), on my phone using Bluetooth headphones while doing housework, or casually streaming Internet radio to the Chromecast Audio - Roon serves them all. The main item on my wish-list is for Roon to support streaming from the library remotely such as from the office.

For those who have read this blog over the years, you'll know that I like multichannel audio playback (discussed here, and here among elsewhere). No, I am definitely not one who thinks 2-channel is somehow "audiophile" territory and that multichannel is the domain of the "home theater guys". Audiophiles IMO should be greedy; we want it all because the love of music and the experience of great sound quality do not end the moment we go beyond 2.0 or 2.1 channel layouts! Some of the best sonic experiences I have had are with multichannel content and hardware.

As you likely know, I've been an advocate for Raspberry Pi devices, like the Pi 3B+ "Touch" and Pi 4 "Touch" builds discussed over the years. I still use these when I run my DAC tests given the convenience of the touchscreen and of course the price represents great value. However, there is a feature which still eludes the Raspberry Pi boards - I want easy multichannel Roon streaming in my main soundroom.