Saturday 27 January 2024

Cautionary Tale: Audiophile's dream's end... Make sure to find balance, audiophiles.

 I remember a couple of years ago, I saw this YouTube documentary on Ken Fritz:

That is certainly an impressive demonstration of dedication and passion poured into the sound room and audio system! Few would have such tenacity, disposable financial resources, or apparent family support. Admittedly, I wondered while watching that video just how well those massive DIY speakers integrated into the room and what measurements would have told us about frequency response and time-domain performance. There's a low resolution frequency response graph here. Yeah, I'm sure the system could play loud with 35,000W* of amplification.

And 2 years later, sadly, the final chapter of the life story was published a few weeks back:

I guess we'll never know exactly how that system sounded like now that everything has been taken apart. What looks like 27 years of labor and $1M original price was dismantled and sold off for $157k total in a comparatively short time. Clearly, neither the family nor the new home buyers had need for the extravagant system in the large room. The dead might at best influence, but cannot declare the will of the living.

Here's a detailed description and list of components. Obviously, audio/music items are generally not investment vehicles unless it's attached to someone very special (like maybe say Hendrix's guitar amp). These things we talk about are for the consumption of music primarily. The non-investable nature of these products is especially true of DIY items given that the quality of such items are unknown even if the bits and pieces like speaker drivers could be from a reputable brand. Over time as components degrade, it could be difficult performing repairs on non-standard builds.

Saturday 20 January 2024

On Stereophile's "Dolby Atmos: A Bleak Shadow?" - really? ðŸĪ”

I saw Stereophile's "Dolby Atmos: a Bleak Shadow?" article the other day. Honestly, I found it a bit irritating. The ideas seemed poorly contextualized with little background or meaning for what I imagine would be the average audiophile reader. It basically consisted of hearsay-level cherry-picked concerns as if these are significant (including that title).

Let's be clear about this. It's not like any of us must or even should love Atmos or multichannel. We can easily get through a lifetime of music enjoyment with 2-channels. Even though I like and even prefer multichannel/Atmos for many of my albums, it's just an option for those like myself who want to explore the surround-sound music experience as a superset of modern audio reproduction technology. Some artists and audio engineers these days are also exploring the extensive flexibility and ways to best create the mix. So if a traditional audiophile magazine believes that staying at 2-channels is all that's needed, well that's fine. But one doesn't have to write articles that seem to be trying to induce some kind of emotional response, stirring intrigue or concern even in just that title. (These days, sound bites and headline titles might be all that many pay attention to.)

So what do you mean by "bleak shadow", Mr. Lindberg (as reported by Jim Austin)? Are we talking just about numbers like bitrate going down when a lossy stream is delivered to the consumer, or are we implying that sound quality changed significantly in a negative, "bleak", way? If it's only bitrate reduction, that's totally fine, isn't it? Since the consumer isn't keeping the data, there's no point wasting network bandwidth! Streaming services like Netflix or Disney+ all stream lossy video and audio. Many customers, I'm sure including discerning ones, will not complain if they understand the nature of the technology and the quality limits depending on how it's consumed.

Saturday 13 January 2024

MUSINGS: On YouTube listening tests and the sound of "high-end" vinyl vs. streamed digital playback.

The Internet is wonderful, isn't it?!

In the span of a few decades, we can all make our presence known to the far corners of the world and express (almost) anything we want whether it's sharing what we had for lunch, whether we're "available", our political/moral/ethical affiliations, or even esoteric blog topics. ðŸĪŠ

Even better, we can project sounds and videos on YouTube and the like, opening up the opportunity to reach others though a modern "boob tube" where instead of the TV station programmer telling us what to watch next, good-ol' YouTube algorithms choose what we might desire from tracked search preferences. Amazing, if not also creepy...

Of course, if we have an entrepreneurial spirit, one could receive great rewards. Monetization potential can be impressive as witnessed by some of the elaborate content on YouTube channels! That's great so long as we're seeing knowledgeable, verifiable content presented in fair ways that can help teach and promote understanding. Not so great when information is perpetuating falsehoods, potentially destructive conspiracies and propaganda.

For this post, let's talk about something we've seen presented over the years on a number of audio channels. There is at least an implied idea out there, thanks to YouTube, we can now "hear" the sound quality of an audiophile system. Furthermore, that we can make comparisons of the sound quality. Is this true?

Saturday 6 January 2024

MUSINGS: Fidelity, Immersion, and Realism (FIR) - Levels of Audiophile Attainment

As we start 2024, let's think about a "big picture" topic. Like with most things in life, I find it useful to think about the overarching philosophy - the "forest" if you will - alongside the details - the "trees" - which is when we get down to measurements and tests of specific products. Hopefully by doing this we can develop a more comprehensive understanding of whatever it might be we're engaged in.

As discussed years ago, I don't think the audiophile hobby is a monolithic entity based on only one core pursuit. In reality, it's a multitude of hobbyist pursuits ranging from the "music lover", to the "hardware audiophile", to subgroups like the "gear hoarder", "LP collector", even "high end (luxury) enthusiast", each of us at varying levels of emotional intensity; even resulting in more "fetishistic" extremes! ðŸ™„

We're not a particularly large group of hobbyists. Sure, there are billions of music lovers out there, but when it comes to guys (mostly) wanting to talk about audiophile hardware, geeky high-fidelity (transparency) reproduction, and things that appear extravagant to the general public, there really are not many of us. It's also hard to know if this hobby is growing, stagnant or diminishing in numbers.

As I look around at magazine reviews and YouTube videos, that idea of stagnation has entered my mind many times over the last few years. Not just wondering about the numbers of audiophiles and whether the hobby is growing, but rather, in what directions are we as hobbyists going forward, if even at all!

Approaching the mid-2020's, are we still in search of "High Fidelity" after all these decades and the multitudes of products? Maybe, maybe not... Let's talk about some ideas which I believe are the goals that audiophiles can aspire to which I've acronymized as FIR - Fidelity, Immersion, and Realism.