Showing posts sorted by date for query MQA. Sort by relevance Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by date for query MQA. Sort by relevance Show all posts

Saturday, 9 November 2019

RETRO-MEASURE: Klipsch Forté I speaker impedance. (And it looks like Qobuz responds to Amazon...)

Well guys, I'm still working on the Autoranger amplifier test system looking at standardization of the measurement technique and settings which is a pretty big job still, so this week I thought I'd show you some data I grabbed a few months back while working on the speaker impedance measurements series (Part 1, Part 2).

Every once awhile, I'll drag up an old device for a quick measure. Previously it was stuff like my old Sony SACD player, or the old laser disk player. This time, I went over to my dad's place to have a listen and measure his main speakers - the Klipsch Forté (original first version) made back in the 1980's until the early 90's I think.

Front and Rear of Klipsch Forté from the 1980's. Note the large 12" rear passive radiator.
I thought it was good to have a look at this device since there's been buzz lately about the latest model Forte III (Stereophile review, Darko review, Darko bought a pair). Also, a couple years back I ran into this Stereo Review article by Julian Hirsch on these speakers from 1986 as an example of what SR tests looked like back in the day:

Saturday, 26 October 2019

On Audiophile Forums. Disagreements on MQA. (And Redscape preview...)


I thought for this post it might be good to talk about audiophile forums.

A couple weeks back, some of you expressed frustration with the Audio Science Review Forum, the opinions of the host there, and general MQA disagreement. Over the years, like probably many of you, I've had my share of participating in forums, disagreements with views expressed and the bickering at various venues. All in good fun however and nobody needs to get too perturbed... It's only a hobby, right?

I've read posters say that MQA is "the gift that keeps giving" :-). No doubt it's a topic that has provided for much discussion around here and elsewhere!

However future audiophile historians ultimately judge this time in our hobby, I think MQA will have its place as a controversy that divided the community deeply. I don't think this is a bad thing in that it has provided many opportunities for us to discuss and perhaps be enlightened by what is true vs. false, shown a divide between mainstream press with close industry ties vs. independents, objective vs. subjective testing, faith in (specifically one) authority of digital audio vs. skepticism. And this has played out publicly probably in its most dramatic fashion on audiophile forums these years.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Gone Building... Linear Audio Autoranger MK II.

Linear Audio Autoranger Mk II "quarter kit". Attenuator board (yellow-gold), Control/Display board (green-blue), SilentSwitcher power supply board, metal case, USB-A connector, and programmed microcontroller in the anti-static bag.
Hey guys, during the summer, I got the above kit from Jan Didden at Linear Audio. As you can see on the front, this is the Linear Audio "Autoranging Attenuator" - also known as the "Autoranger", standard 10kΩ version.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

MUSINGS: "Democratization", "Doublethink", MQA, and the Audiophile. Becoming "Post Hi-Res Audio". And some issues with vinyl...

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” 
“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows." 
“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?” 
"In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy."
--- George Orwell, selections from 1984 (1949)
It's sad sometimes reading how some (many?) in the audiophile press present products to consumers. Apparently, they'll stop at nothing to push a product even to the point of destroying their own credibility. It was bad enough a few years ago in 2017 when Robert Harley called for a "revolution" and that MQA represented a "paradigm shift"; making a mockery of the idea of paradigm shifts. And now recently he's "doubling down" to bring disservice to the idea of "democratization", linking it with the likes of MQA, in the article "From The Editor: Hi-Res Democratization" (The Absolute Sound, online September 6, 2019). Specifically, he seems to believe that those who oppose MQA is somehow fighting against the democratization of high-resolution audio for audiophiles! Really?

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Upgrade to AMD Ryzen 9 3900X Workstation Computer. (And Amazon Music HD/UHD opens to lossless and "hi-res".)

Being post-RMAF 2019 with all that talk in the last week or two with "high end" audio stuff, I figure I'll switch gears a little and take a look at computer tech instead.

One of the least enjoyable things I do every few years is to update the machines I use for work and the various ones I have here at home. While I don't enjoy the basic IT stuff and all the software installations that typically come with new computer builds, it's a good way to get updated on the machines out there, practice reasonable parts selection, and appreciate the price of the technology. Back in 2017, I updated my workstation here at home to an AMD Ryzen 7 1700 CPU which still is a very impressive processor for general use. But time marches on and my office workstation is really itching for an upgrade which hasn't happened since around 2014 and feels even slower than my laptop.

The idea then is to transition the Ryzen 7 over to the office and let's build an even more powerful workstation here at home where I do most of my writings and media encoding. Furthermore, let's try out one of the newer generation M.2 SSD drives that promise even higher transfer speed...

So, the result of a bit of online shopping:


Parts:
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-core CPU (MSRP US$500, current scarcity higher price)
MSI X570-A Pro motherboard  (~US$150)
EVGA Supernova 750 G3 80+ Gold 750W power supply  (~US$130)
Corsair LPX 32GB (2x16GB) 3200MHz DDR4 RAM (~US$160)
ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro 1TB M.2 Solid State Drive (~US$150)
Corsair Carbide 100R Silent mid-tower case (~US$70)

Saturday, 14 September 2019

MUSINGS: Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019 - Reflections...

Assorted RMAF 2019 items... Dr. AIX book, demo disks. Collectable MQA brochure and the beautiful 135-page Wilson Audio catalogue! :-) In retrospect, should have also grabbed a T-shirt.
Beyond memories and photos - many of which already shared on Day 1, 2, and 3, the picture above are a few items I've kept from RMAF 2019 now that I'm back home in Vancouver. Each room that one goes into, one can pick up all kinds of interesting pamphlets, specifications sheets, colorful brochures. Most of these I have discarded as these days almost everything can be readily found online and in updated form.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

MEASUREMENTS: AudioQuest Dragonflies Reviewed! Dragonfly Cobalt, Red, and v1.2.

Audiophiles following the news cycle know by now that the new AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt is out. About 3 weeks back, I noticed out of the blue (no pun intended), almost all mainstream audiophile websites had a post or promotional "give away" for one of these! Clearly this made a significant splash in the collective audiophile psyche.

Over the years, I've reviewed and measured these little USB DAC devices going back to the Dragonfly v1.2 in 2014. More recently, I wrote a series on the Dragonfly Black in 2017 with a good chunk of that looking at MQA "rendering". Note that I don't have the Black v1.5 here for direct comparison and will instead refer to those older results and articles as appropriate.

Here then are the 3 Dragonflies (Dragonflys?) I have in for a listen and on the "test bench" for direct comparison. From left to right - v1.2 (released 2014), Red (2016, ~US$200), Cobalt (2019, ~US$300):


As usual, I will start with building up the objective results and then later in the post, I'll talk about subjective listening impressions and broader ideas. I know this sequence appears backwards compared to how audiophile reviews usually are structured. Most reviews typically start with background on companies, personal anecdotes, people involved in the product, rationale, etc. If one is fortunate, maybe a sidebar or graphs at the bottom of the review for objective results.

As a "more objective" audiophile, the typical sequence above is not how I would prefer to learn about a new product. There are often insights one can gain through disciplined objective evaluation one simply cannot get based on company literature or even just listening unless one were truly meticulous. Objective results apply to us all, while subjectivity is the domain of the individual. As such, technical adequacy and fidelity IMO are much more interesting and significant than a company's history, who the "guru" was behind it, or to be honest, what the reviewer "heard" or probably more often than admitted, thought they "heard"; I'd rather leave many of those items as sidebars.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

SUMMER MUSINGS 2: Multichannel and the audiophile. MCh streaming with a TV Box. And Thoughts on the Future...


Hope you're all having a great summer... I thought I should take the opportunity to respond to this comment from Steven on the blog post last time broadly and with more details:
Steven 8 July 2019 at 21:07 
What about surround sound? Some of us are into that stuff. ;>
It does change things slightly. USB and S/PDIF won't suffice for lossless 4.0/5.1/and beyond audio data. That leaves HDMI or analog, afaik.
Excellent points Steven.

Surround/multichannel playback is important and sadly rather neglected in the audiophile world. I saw recently that the TAS website posted this article on the "rebirth" of quadraphonic sound.

Hmmm, isn't this actually the "rebirth of the rebirth" of quadraphonic? As I recall, there was a rather significant thing among home theater enthusiasts and audiophiles called multichannel SACD and DVD-A around Y2K :-).

Saturday, 15 June 2019

MEASUREMENTS: Topping D10 DAC. (And a few words on "absolute polarity / phase".)

Hey guys, getting busy around here as I'm preparing for summer holidays coming up in a couple of weeks :-).

I did want to post a "quick" report however on the Topping D10 DAC (<US$90) I got last week... It's for an upcoming project of sorts which I'll post on over the months ahead. What I wanted was a DAC that could be powered off USB, reliable with Window and Linux compatibility, that's reasonably portable, and of course of high signal accuracy.

Notice the DAC manual shows some AP measurement graphs... I guess Topping believes in showing objective accuracy :-). Nice.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

GUEST POST: Why We Should Use Software Volume Control / Management by Bennet Ng. (Plus discussions on resampling options, true peaks, etc...)


I received an invitation from Archimago to write something about volume control. While I am of the opinion that digital and analog volume controls can coexist to achieve an ideal gain stage, this article is mainly about PCM digital volume control.

The basic conclusion we can say regarding digital volume control is that as long as the playback device has higher bit-depth than the file source, it is possible to losslessly reduce the volume of a file until the playback device's bit-depth limit is reached. For example, with an ideal 24-bit device, it is possible to playback a 16-bit file 48dB lower without losing quality, because one bit has about 6dB of dynamic range (the exact formula of bitdepth and dynamic range is 6.02*n-bits + 1.76).

Saturday, 1 June 2019

POLL RESULTS: Music streaming service adoption among audiophiles in 2019...

Click on image to zoom.
Yeah, I know. Music streaming as a subscription model is the latest "revolution" for music lovers. This is why I decided to put up the recent poll in mid-March while we were concurrently also running the blind test as reported on in the last few weeks. Above, you see the overall results based on the visitors to this blog.

Remember that for the poll, I allowed voters to select up to 3 options. As a result, even though there were 616 respondents, a total of 809 selections were made. This means that up to ~30% of people selected more than 1 option and these are represented in the percentages above.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

BLIND TEST Results Part 4: "Do digital audio players sound different playing 16/44.1 music?" - Subjective Comments. Final thoughts on blind testing and critiques.


As we close off discussions and posts around the Internet Blind Test of devices playing 16/44.1 music, I want to publish some of the subjective comments from respondents who undertook this test... Impressions in the respondents' own words about the test when they submitted their results to me.

Remember that these are subjective. Human perception, especially when differences are at the margins of our perception are of course tough to describe. And when we compound that with the limited utility of words to describe ephemeral experiences (even with codifying the terminology as was attempted years back), it's no surprise that meaning can often only be conveyed as impressions. It's great to see the respondents trying their best and in many instances, I certainly appreciate the impressive use of language to express the experiences. Let's have some fun with these!

Thursday, 11 April 2019

COMPARISON: Roon DSP speed - Intel i5-6500 vs. Intel i7-7700K... (and the value of Intel Speed Shift!)


As mentioned, a little while back when I wrote about Roon, I was about to receive a "drop in" Intel i7-7700K CPU for my Server machine which runs Roon Core. I was able to find the i7-7700K used for a decent price and I didn't feel like dismantling the machine and upgrading the Z170 motherboard since the newest CPUs now need a Z3XX series board. Furthermore, for me, one of the least interesting "jobs" one has to manage as a technophile is reinstalling the operating system and software again... I try my best to avoid this mundane task :-(.

Note that if I were to rebuild my Server these days, I'd probably consider something like the very affordable Core i5-9600K with 6 cores. In fact, for most applications, this CPU will beat out the i7-7700K which I suspect would apply when using Roon for DSP as well.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

MEASUREMENTS: Roon 1.6 Upsampling Digital Filter Options & A Discussion on "Signal Path" Quality...


As discussed last month, I've started using Roon as my main music player for the sound room recently. Back in the days of Roon 1.2, many users performed upsampling using HQPlayer. While HQPlayer integration is still available (go to Settings --> Setup to access the installation option), since version 1.3, Roon has incorporated its own DSP samplerate conversion which I suspect would be completely adequate for the majority of users.

I was curious about the upsampling digital filter options available in Roon. If you look at the "Sample Rate Conversion" control panel, we see the four main "Sample Rate Conversion Filter" settings:


On the left panel, notice that Roon allows you to select the different DSP options and add various filters to the "chain" (left lower panel). "Headroom Management" is always available if needed which basically means you can set the amount of attenuation you want to use to prevent clipping while doing the DSP processes. Default setting is a very reasonable -3dB.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

MUSINGS: Of Jokers and Clowns... (On Soundstage and Perspective)

More info here.
As I sit here watching the early light in the tropics enjoying a cup of Java, I had a look again at John Atkinson's editorial "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right...". I believe this April 2019 issue is the last one where he is the Editor-in-Chief of Stereophile. The article examines a recent event which again brings up one of the age-old contentious issues we run into with the audiophile pursuit (perhaps the most contentious issue ever) - the subjective experience of listening/enjoying music and the use of objective and controlled methods to help us understand how well our audio systems function.

"Sunrise Sentosa" - March 2019, Singapore
Over the years, I've written on the unnecessary "war" between "objectivism vs. subjectivism" when I've thought it worth addressing articles written by some members of the press and at times the strange fear of scientific methodology in high-fidelity. We've talked about the basics of what subjectivity and objectivity mean, and further elaborated on it. In summary, "pure subjectivism" and "pure objectivism" are both extreme positions to take. The problem I find is that for decades in the audiophile press, subjectivism has been posited as somehow more important if not the only worthy position to take to the point where the vast majority of hardware reviews available these days including online sources have lost the objective component. In the process, most reviews have also lost the power to elucidate truth among the subtleties of sonic differences. Without objectivity, sound quality cannot be adjudicated based on the ideal principle of high fidelity.

Friday, 15 March 2019

POLL: Do you subscribe to a music streaming service? And a Wilson Sasha DAW, dCS, Audio Research listening session @ The Sound Room, Vancouver.


Alright guys, first off, I'm trying out a quick poll here since I was interested in how many of you are currently streaming music off a subscription site... No doubt we are seeing the shift towards the streaming, subscription model for music delivery and consumption.

It's interesting to see this article recently about the music industry's revenue growth in these last few years on account of streaming. Considering the decades of decline, I'm sure the music industry is interested in promoting any system that nets a profit. We will need to see however whether the rate of adoption in streaming wanes in the years ahead as warned by Forbes recently.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

MUSINGS: Let's talk about Roon (1.6) and DSP speed... (And an example of a poor quality "hi-res" classical recording.)


I mentioned a few weeks back in a comment that these days I've been using Roon for my music library and playback. A few years ago, I tried out Roon 1.2 and while good, it just wasn't quite compelling yet at that time for my needs. For years I've been using Logitech Media Server (LMS) given that most of my devices had been Squeezebox-based until recently. It certainly serves the purpose well to this day and in fact, I still run it on my server. I'll discuss why later...

I trust that you've already read or seen videos of Roon in operation so there's no need to cover the program's basics. In fact, I think I covered quite a bit of ground already back in early 2017 with the demonstration of Roon 1.2 on an Intel NUC and then subsequently talking about the use of Roon Bridge with the Raspberry Pi 3.

Since that time, with the newer versions, the program has, as expected, gotten better with even more features, more powerful user interface, etc... I appreciate the better support with display of track names and various settings with the older VFD Squeezeboxes. DSP has been added as of version 1.3 with support for room correction, upsampling options for PCM and conversion to DSD for DACs supporting the feature. We might look at measurements of these options in future blog posts. Of course, there's now also the ability to perform the first (and IMO only meaningful) MQA "unfold" in software as of version 1.5; not that I'm a fan of MQA of course.

For today's post, I'll highlight a few of the key benefits, discuss CPU and DSP speed, ending with a few suggestions I would love to see in future versions...

Saturday, 23 February 2019

MUSINGS / MEASUREMENTS: On why 24/96 sampling of the Blind Test of 16/44.1 devices is good enough. [On idealized filtering tests and "real life" music playback.]



As promised, I want to address a comment raised about the idea that the 24/96 recording using the RME ADI-2 Pro FS ADC was somehow inadequate for the 16/44.1 samples in the "Do digital audio players sound different?" blind test; that the 24/96 captures are somehow missing significant amounts of the output from the devices.

For reference, I've included the original comment here from Miska:
"It [the samples] just barely catches the first image band between 22.05 - 44.1 kHz and a little bit of next between 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz. One of the devices is clean though. The ADC anti-alias filter fixes rest by improving the reconstruction by removing further image frequencies. Strongest image for most current DACs is around 352.8 kHz.

Of course playback system then defines how much overlay of these come back again at different frequencies from the DAC, since it is now running at different rate family than the original source.

This doesn't really replicate real device playback performance, but at least it captures some apparent differences. So it gives kind of hint or shadow of how the device actually did."
Although the blind test is ongoing, I figure it's still good to talk about this while not revealing the devices used of course.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

MEASUREMENTS: A Look At HQPlayer 3.25; Filtering, Dithering and DSD Conversion.


Over the years, no doubt many computer audio users have heard or perhaps tried using HQPlayer Desktop from Signalyst for music playback. While there is a GUI for playback as well as a sophisticated network transport architecture, it's the upsampling and PCM-to-DSD features that are the program's claim to fame. There has been a good amount of talk about the sound quality of the upsampling algorithms and some swear by the sonic differences the program makes.

While admittedly I don't follow HQPlayer chatter closely, I don't recall reading about specific settings and what they do other than opinions about the sound quality. In this way, HQPlayer has been a bit of a mystery and I know some folks have had difficulty getting it running over the years. It has certainly been on my list of items to look into. In fact, back in early 2017 when I wrote about Roon 1.2, I mentioned installing HQPlayer but never got around to actually writing about it.

Well, after all these years, and now with the requisite pieces of hardware at my disposal for a more thorough evaluation (reasonably fast CPU/GPU system, ADC capable of >192kHz, DAC capable of DSD512), it's time to have a peek "under the hood" at what it does...

Saturday, 19 January 2019

MEASUREMENTS: Oppo UDP-205 DSD Playback (DSD64-DSD512), and PCM 768kHz. Plus CES2019 coverage thoughts...


Alright guys and gals, it has been months since I completed the set of measurements of the Oppo UDP-205 last year (here, here, and here).

In early December, David M wondered how the Oppo performed as a DSD player as I had neglected to measure that.

Over the years, I have measured DSD output performance but remember that this is a little bit of a pain :-). To obtain some results for comparison with PCM in RightMark, what I typically do is take the test signals (originating in 24-bit PCM), convert to DSD using software like Weiss Saracon, and then play back the DSD file through the DAC into the ADC which of course takes that analogue output resampled back into PCM for analysis. Doing this understandably adds other variables to the measurement system which should still be minuscule. Over the years, I have looked at things like PCM-to-DSD converters (here and here) to demonstrate that the conversion programs do have an effect as one would expect with different resampling and modulation algorithms.