Friday 27 January 2023

MUSINGS: On Michael Fremer's "How Best to Hear Patricia Barber's 'Clique!'" - selective hearing and more MQA nonsense. [Extended Edition!]

A little bit of dramatics for effect. ;-)

Like many audiophiles, I've been well aware of Patricia Barber's recordings over the years. Her discography of "reference"-sounding quality albums have already had decades of influence among hi-fi enthusiasts with increased exposure beginning in the 1990's (her first album was Split in 1989). Personally, I was introduced to her music with Café Blue released in 1994.

I think Barber is an interesting contrast to the other well-known female jazz vocalist we all know well - Diana Krall. Barber's material tends to be more original (less of the standards), more edgy, compared to Krall's accessibility and mainstream appeal.

Already, on this blog, I've mentioned the most recent album Clique! (2021, DR14 hi-res, DR13 MQA-CD) but we're not going to be mainly talking about the music on the album in this post. Rather, I want to explore the opinions and beliefs of Michael Fremer in his article "How Best to Hear Patricia Barber's Clique!" recently posted on Tracking Angle.

Saturday 21 January 2023

MEASUREMENTS: Knockoff "Kimber Kable" 12TC Speaker Cables. And do cable risers / lifters / elevators make a difference?


As I'm sure we're all aware, in the world of luxury goods, there will be fakes out there. Wandering the streets of basically any city these days, we'll run into all kinds of cheap "Gucci" and "Hermès" bags, fake "Rolex" and "Omega" watches, knock-off "Nike" sneakers, and counterfeit "Ray-Ban" sunglasses.

So too in the world of the audiophile. It's not hard these days to browse through "used" eBay listings or explore the copious products on Alibaba/AliExpress to find fake "High End Audio" products.

As you probably know, I'm not one to be impressed by most cable claims and believe that there's little value in a lot of what's being sold (collected articles here). Given the high prices for lengths of wire, is it any wonder then that some might want to capitalize on brand names to entice buyers?

A friend who knows I'm into audio stuff, "for fun", decided to get me the cables in the picture above from Singapore recently while on a business trip. The cables are more than likely made in China. As you can see, these are labeled as "Kimber Kable", with the same geometry and supposed build of 12TC speaker cables. He purchased them for <US$75 as a pair of 2.5m lengths.

[Back in 2015, I examined and had a listen to genuine Kimber 8TC.]

Saturday 14 January 2023

Home Network: Update on mixed 10 gigabit network, Roon stability & value? (And a quick look at Pi-Hole.)

Happy 2023, dear audiophiles!

While I typically publish articles like measurements of audio hardware, discuss albums (usually as part of reviews or examination of things like dynamic range), and offer critiques about extreme "High End" audiophilia, every once awhile I'll talk more generally about my computer hardware and local area network (LAN). I see the network stuff as part of a broader foundation of the modern digital audio system which simply has to work reliably and efficiently for digital streaming/computer audiophiles. Like other parts of the "perfectionist" audiophile system (like say the room which is often also neglected in audiophile hardware talk), this should be optimized for best performance such that those using it will not have to suffer from speed issues or dropouts. Sometimes it's easier said than done given potential interoperability nuances of the multitudes of network hardware!

Apart from silly "audiophile ethernet switches", or "audiophile ethernet cables", there's generally nothing specific to sell to audiophiles when it comes to home network hardware. As a result, it's atypical to see long articles at audiophile websites or in the magazines about this stuff despite the importance.

As a reminder, in my experience, unless we're dealing with faulty gear, "Bits Are Bits" when it comes to sound quality - that's just reality if you take the time to analyze the audio signal objectively or run some controlled listening trials. Despite all kinds of subjective voices/claims out there otherwise, high performance modern computer networks are simply not going to change the sound of audio playback so long as they're reliably "bit-perfect". After all these years, I find no reason to be concerned about ethernet cables, or switches transferring packet data around. Whether the data is of audio content or otherwise is irrelevant - the network doesn't care whether it's audio meant for the DAC or pixels aimed at the printer.

Digital data, given how it's packaged and transmitted, when corrupted will result in rather obvious audible anomalies if not corrected (like an error-prone USB cable). You will not hear subtle changes (like "more bass" or "better soundstage" or even more vaguely "improved presence") as some reviewers seem to promote when hyping nonsensical claims of what they supposedly "heard".