Saturday 29 June 2024

Multichannel Digital Room Correction with Audiolense XO. And "What's your budget?".

As you might recall from over the years, I strongly believe that one of the most important things one should try as an audiophile seeking high-fidelity - after having a decent sound room, and getting good equipment - is to consider the use of room correction. It could be as simple as frequency-domain EQ correction for larger bumps and dips (as discussed with the Behringer DEQ2496 hardware back in 2013-2014, device measurements here), or the much more sophisticated frequency and time-alignment of filters created by software like AudioVero's Acourate (and 2019 update) capable of much higher resolutions.

The power that one has to optimize and customize the sound runs well beyond most hardware upgrades other than wholesale speaker replacements and changing sound room! The change one can expect with room correction dialed in is astronomical compared to all the snake oil tweaks, cables, hi-res DAC/streamers, even amplifiers you might want to throw at your system.

These days, I've increasingly been converting multichannel content over to my Roon server, typically 5.1 SACDs and DVD-As but also Bluray rips, ideally lossless TrueHD with 7.1 channels. Unfortunately, Roon is currently unable to decode codecs like EAC3-JOC (lossy multichannel/Atmos) or TrueHD (lossless, based on the MLP codec) so the content typically gets transcoded to multichannel FLAC-compressed PCM which can handle up to 7.1.  

Although Acourate can be used for multichannel filter creation, the manual procedure here is unfortunately quite involved and more than most audiophiles would like to get their hands dirty with! Which is why today's post is going to be about multichannel digital room correction using Juice HiFi's Audiolense XO (€390, currently version 6.21). I see that there is the less expensive Audiolense Surround which I suspect could be enough for many users, and if all you need is 2-channel stereo, there's Audiolense 2.0.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

MEASUREMENTS: Nordost-like flat silver-plated copper speaker cables. And, comments of a "high-end" cable insider compared with an apologist?

Cables are fun to play with! They look different, there are all kinds of brands available, and for some audiophiles, there's a sense that the sound has been "changed" if not "improved" when trying products at different price points. All without lugging big and heavy speakers or amplifiers around which makes the upgrade easy especially if one believes that the change can be equivalent to such component swaps! Speaker cables in particular would be the most interesting because they carry complex musical signals of potentially high current and voltage for longer lengths. (Digital and power cables are least interesting for me for obvious reasons - here's my summary post of cable measurements over the years.)

I've already talked about a number of different speaker cables in the past; most recently here, here, and here. Notice that morphologically, all of them have been "roundish" cables so I thought it would be fun to try something flat and measure to demonstrate the LCR changes that this kind of design provides.

Looking around AliExpress, I found the cables above - China-made Nordost-like speaker cables - I bought the 2.5m pair with locking gold-plated banana plugs for less than US$100. There are similar products found on Amazon but you'll need to shop around for a good price.

I think the design of these are probably most similar to the Nordost Heimdall 2 cables which currently retail for about US$2,500, 2m pair.

Saturday 8 June 2024

The E1DA Cosmos Stack: ADCiso and 2 APUs. An example of bad multichannel - Neil Young's 'Harvest' on DVD-A (2002), fixed in new Atmos mix.

E1DA Cosmos ADCiso Grade A center.
Cosmos ADC Prototype I've been using over the years to the left.

Readers here probably are aware that over the last few years, I've been using the E1DA line of devices, the Cosmos ADC, APU, and Scaler typically paired with PC-based software like Room EQ Wizard for most of my measurements, especially for the highest fidelity products like DACs. As a hobbyist exploring objective performance, there's obviously no need to spend thousands of dollars on devices like the Audio Precision (here's a peek inside the APx555B top-of-the-line model, around US$30k). Not enough return on investment unless one is doing professional product design and testing.

As usual, over time things evolve around here and since I needed an extra ADC for work-related purposes, I bought one of the newer E1DA Cosmos ADCiso Grade A to replace the prototype that Ivan sent me back in 2021 which I will repurpose elsewhere.

This post is mainly an update and comparison, refer to the original article on the Cosmos ADC for more details.

Saturday 1 June 2024

"High-End" DAC Blind Listening Results - PART III: Subjective Descriptions

In this last part of the "High-End" DAC Blind Listening Survey write-up, (see Part I, Part II) let me document the more qualitative aspects of the responses I received from listeners. These come from the comments section where listeners described what they heard. You'll also get to see in context some of the descriptions of the hardware used in the evaluation.

Comments will be posted verbatim other than removing any identifying information and names unless the person specifically says it's OK. Not all comments are posted, only the ones with a fair amount of subjective experiential content or description of evaluation procedure. It's interesting knowing which city/country some folks are from so I'll leave that information if mentioned.

So as not to neglect those who said they heard no difference (yet I know many spent a good amount of time on the test), let's start with that group of respondents... I'll add some comments/responses along the way.