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Everything posted by philipbarrett

  1. Let's clear the decks here as we seem to be following each other down the digital vs. analog rabbit hole which was not the point of this thread. I have nothing against digital audio systems per se. I use them daily and could not begin to imagine life without them. However, all digital is not created equal and we cannot make blanket statements that accurately describe all the various formats, types and qualities. Likewise with analog. Another sweeping term and again we need to be sure we're comparing apples to apples. A good turntable and signal chain is capable of stunning results and an old changer is not. In the end of the day, it's what you prefer. There is no "bad" gear or "good" gear. There is gear better suited to certain environments and listening conditions. There is gear that appeals to certain tastes and musical preferences. Nobody is wrong and everybody is right. A friend loves hearing background music throughout her house, her Bose Lifestyle set up is absolutely perfect for her. My father listens exclusively to classical music with a penchant for early 20th century recordings. A set of Spendors and Quad amplification is the perfect pairing. And so it goes on... I call it the Tao of Audio and sometimes I wish everyday life was this simple.
  2. The man whose name is on the masthead would have a word (or is it 2 words) for that. :-) Digital error correction makes an assumption of the data that is missed based on the pre and post bitstream. There is no actual restoration, it's a best guess. And like all guesses, its' accuracy is affected by a number of external factors including the amount of data missing and the quality of the system replacing that data. "Perfectly" would imply that 100% of the missing data is replaced by identical 1 and 0's. This can never be the case.
  3. The physics would agree with you. And in the case of discs sounding better, I believe the repeated playing is removing dirt and also manufacturing debris allowing better tracking of the signal. However, back to our original discourse. As with the mechanical interface problems of vinyl, CDs also suffer from the same ailments manifesting themselves in different ways. And as you said, test equipment will verify increasing levels of error correction being induced as players age and discs pickup microscopic pieces of dirt.
  4. My father who is a huge collector of classical album (25,000 and counting) claims that to be true. If often plays new (to him) purchases through a couple of times to "clean out the grooves."
  5. There is no superior or inferior just different. One person is thrilled to find digital because they no longer have to listen to the noise & degradation of analog. Another is prepared to overlook the obvious limitations of analog and finds digital reproduction fatiguing. In 1985 you were prepared to overlook some horrific mastering mistakes and crude digital signal chains because the advantages outweighed the drawbacks to your mind. Others would not agree but nobody is wrong. Imagine how we used to feel, listening to our recordings for months only to get the released album home and hear so much of what we knew to be there was missing? But I also remember looking in a CD store with a producer one lunchtime and finding a release of a famous musical he'd produced. "Pretty scary" he mused, "the master tapes are in my house!" Also, I said above let's be sure and compare apples to apples, 192K/24bit digital playback is a long way from 44.1K/16bit. As is an old cassette mix tape from a good LP on a well made turntable. Before you get too smug about your lack of degradation over time with digital, that only applies if you're playing back from a hard drive based system. With a CD player you're dealing with microscopic physical data and laser alignments. I've seen error correction go through the roof as both players and discs age or get dirty.
  6. I've spent a long time thinking about this. I was originally inspired by watching my cat's reaction to the Dead's Shades of Grey. If I played the vinyl version she would start investigating the speakers immediately the animal growls started. The CD got no reaction whatsoever. Not very scientific but it was repeatable. Our ears are the most sophisticated and misunderstood of our senses. The huge range of frequencies and power we can detect dwarfs the capabilities of our other senses which are, by comparison, very limited. Why is this? Probably because for millennia they were our first warning of danger or our first detection of lunch. Not blessed with the olfactory talents of our fellow mammals we got very, very good at perceiving and locating sounds. Eyesight is the close up fight or flight sense, hearing is the long distance warning system. So how does this relate to audio playback? Analog is a contiguous waveform. Even with artifacts, noise and distortion added, the medium carrying it is in a continuos flow. Digital is small slices of data extrapolated to replicate this continuous waveform. A portion (albeit a very small portion) of the signal is only a best guess at what's coming next. We've gotten very good at the accuracy of that best guess (revisit a first generation CD player & you'll be horrified at what we thought was perfect sound forever) but it's still a guess. I believe the human ear (and my cat's ear apparently) can perceive this and to some small part of the brain it does not quite register with the millennia of reference data stored back there. The brain tries to decode this information into patterns it can recognize, hence the fatigue, particularly pronounced on lower quality digital systems. Another case in point; I was always surprised when people visited a studio control room for the first time they claimed it felt "strange" or "weird." I came to realize that their brain, having learnt to correlate the spatial information being presented by the eyes to the ears, was now being confused. The eyes said BIG ROOM but due to the acoustic deadness, the ears said small room and this made the visitor uncomfortable. We lived in this environment and had grown used to it but I can attest that a full size anechoic chamber is a very strange place to be in. Back to our digital signal path. In the less than perfect world we live in the actual data we hear from a digital source is generally much less coherent than the specifications would attest to. Dirty CD lenses and CD discs, bandwidth compression systems, mistracking error correction systems, all of these combine to make a much bigger contribution to the "made up" part of the signal than we would like. So our brain is desperately trying to tie this "not quite right" information together, a task it finds difficult. If we return to our Serengeti grasslands for a moment, we can appreciate that the artifacts of analog can be compared to the wind in the surrounding trees, distant thunder or a whole host of other extraneous sounds that do not interfere particularly with our ears primary mission. The artifacts in digital are something fundamentally wrong in the sounds we are hearing. I think this also explains why better digital playback formats and systems are less fatiguing. The closer we get to the original source waveform the less the brain feels the need to decode the information. Perhaps one day we'll reach a point where the original and the digital reproduction are indistinguishable from each other, not just ot our direct hearing but also to our perception too. Professionally, the next generation of high-end equipment is running at 24bit/192KHz, my favorite mixing console (Digico SD-7) is one piece of equipment just so capableand we are staying in the digital realm (AES/EBU or MADI typically) all the way to the amplifiers. Unfortunately a comparison between it and vinyl is a little difficult to pull off. And obviously the pricing is still stratospheric (not much change from $350,000 for a Digico) but as with all things electronic this will come down soon enough.
  7. I think we're talking blow ups here? Certainly the Carvers could produce some mighty sparks but frankly the bolt of blue lightening that comes out of the front of a QSC 4.0 as it leaves this mortal coil is a sight to behold. Crown's have become fairly uninteresting, traditionally the DC-300s went with a whimper but the PSA-2 was capable of some serious smoke, now they just don't power up and where's the excitement in that? Now the Phase Linear, that was an amp capable of kicking some serious snot. Smoke, fire and a serious danger to anyone within 15 feet. Plus a transformer on the far left side meant a rack of them would easily topple over and break your shin bone. An amp that demanded respect and generally got it. Good times, good times...
  8. If you have an external drive permanently connected or multiple internal drives it will back those up too. Time Machine automatically adds them to it's "Exclude" list, go into the preferences and take them off that list (so they are included as it where). Carbon Copy Cloner does all this, I'm not sure about the WD software, it used to be pretty iffy maybe it's improved. We have our company servers backing up every night with CCC. As I said before, get the biggest HD you can for Time Machine, other than that and the aforementioned CCC, you're good to go.
  9. I have Nightfly on both vinyl and SACD. One of my favorites questions is to play both, switch back and forth and ask people which one they prefer (emphasis on prefer, not think sounds better). No one has ever yet picked the SACD. That someone was me I believe. At least in the days of the session date you got to be in the studio setting up while the musicians played so had a good point of reference to how it should sound back in the control room. That all went out of the window with the "put an effect on me and make me sound different 80s" and today, apart from Country and Folk, a session date is a rare bird.
  10. Further proof that it's marketing over quality - http://gizmodo.com/5981823/beat-by-dre-the-inside-story-of-how-monster-lost-the-world Or...predatory snake oil salesman gets stiffed by guy who engineered some of the worst records ever. The irony is somehow satisfying.
  11. If you double click on that file (bundle) it will open in the Finder and you can see and grab all the contents. However, if you go into the Time Machine application "ENTER TIME MACHINE" you can restore any file or fils by date or folder to your System Drive. I'm not sure I see a question in the rest of your post? You want to use as larger drive as possible with Time Machine as the system makes incremental backups which is a really great feature for recovering that file you accidentally erased 45 minutes ago. Also, storage is now so silly cheap there's no point not to. For backing up your external drives use Carbon Copy Cloner - http://www.bombich.com/
  12. You can use Apple's brilliant Time Machine with an attached Hard Drive or their Time Capsule. Either function is automatic, the Time Capsule syncs via WiFi. If you go the HD route just plug it in and name it "Time Machine." Your Mac will then ask you if you want to use this for backup, click YES and you're good to go. It will pop up every so often and do it's thang. And a word to the wise. If you don't think HD failure can happen to you or you'll get some warning, think again. Some months ago I closed the lid on my Mac Book Pro, made a sandwich and a coffee, came back, opened the lid and my HD had suffered a complete failure! Of course, I was 100% backed up and had Apple Care so was up & running again in 24 hours.
  13. http://www.manley.com/m162l.php It's OK to drool.
  14. In the studio world I get a chuckle seeing gear we couldn't wait to boot out of the control room trading hands for 10x it's value on ebay. It's vintage so it must be good.
  15. I got to work briefly, during a short hiatus from another album, with a fairly well known rockabilly 3 piece band. The entire album was cut and done in 16 days, half the mixes on the record were push ups from the monitor panel (old Helios desk) done at the end of tracking sessions. We worked so fast and so loud I had no idea what the finished product sounded like by the end. I shouldn't have worried, thanks to a great producer and talented band it sounds as hard, fresh and vibrant today as it did back then. I returned to the other ongoing project. By this time we'd been working on this album off and on for 9 months. I remember one night, the artist (an incredible blues singer working in a pop world) cut a one-take vocal that reduced the control room to complete silence. We then went on to record 20 or so more takes and finally comp'd the "best" into a finished song vocal. This was pretty much the modus operandi for the rest of the album. When we finished the mixes the first comment from the producer's mouth was "now for the remixes!" Needless to say we reduced some spectacular songs, played by the top echelon of session musicians (even the strings were laid at Abbey Road Studio 2) into a beautiful sounding, emotionally vacant record. I learned a lot that year.
  16. One of audio's most respected designers and engineers passed away. It's a rare singularity who is equally recognized by both the home and professional markets for their outstanding designs. Condolences to Eve Ana and the rest of his family. No more fitting than to post here a thoroughly irascible and enjoyable article he wrote in 1994; http://positive-feedback.com/Issue65/manley.htm
  17. Sadly David Manley passed away this week. So pertinent to this thread is his article from 1994 linked below. http://positive-feedback.com/Issue65/manley.htm Here's wonderful snippet from their Mahi owner's manual which about sums up this conversation: Will Scratch Your Floor: Use pennies under pointed feet to avoid marring cabinetry. Try quarters if you are in upper tax brackets. The bargain performer would be nickels. Paper currency does not function as well. Euro coins work 1.54 times better. Concrete pavers or wooden chopping blocks serve fine for amplifier platforms.
  18. I blushed! Just an insider's view and some not so humble opinions. But look at the rooms. Of the 24 shown only 4 have monitors that cost more than a good pair of used Klipschorns. And only one would qualify as an old school "real" monitoring system (the updated take on Eastlakes at Red Door). The culture now prevailing in recording is that it's all about the gear. Sure we used to talk kit all the time but it was always subservient to the music. Now, like the hi-end hifi owner buying music to showcase his system, it's all about what pre-amp was used and the summing mixer, not about the content. I talked to a band recently who had been convinced that they could not make a good record without recording to analog tape. The tape stock alone was 25% of their entire budget! Some of the world's greatest records were made on the shittiest gear (hello Stax and Studio One) imaginable. But gear sales feeds the machine that the big studio manufacturing groups have become. What kept records vibrant in the past was that the artist had to make decisions right then, on the spot. The label expected an album a year and had right of refusal to all the material presented and also held the purse strings (big studios were costly places to screw around in). During that same year the artist was expected to tour for 6 months to promote the record. There just wasn't the time, money or technology to spend years "perfecting" a record, the Grateful Dead released Workingman's Dead and American Beauty in the same 12 months whilst touring almost continually. Nowadays guitar tracks are re-amped, vocals are comp'd from hundreds of takes and every track has a plug-in that requires days of soul searching to perfect. I'd be much more impressed if Taylor Swift or Diana Krall went into the studio and cut a 2 track album straight to acetate in 6 hours. Then there's the businessmen. Back in the honest-to-goodness mob days of music moguls you had a bunch of grumpy old geezers who didn't care (or care to understand) what the music was as long as it sold. The cost of production was low (the artists were getting stiffed) and the rewards high so throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. But when the top 40 market exploded and the money went from merely good to completely stratospheric they figured out they'd better hire some young 'uns who can maybe figure out what the kids want to hear. Well by the late 70's these young 'uns were using market focus groups and strategic plans to decide which records got made and which didn't (would any one of them have signed Captain Beefheart)? The along came MTV, the 800lb gorilla and a perfect storm of marketing and appearance over talent. It was 1964 British Invasion all over again, a hook and a good look was all you needed and guess who had now ascended to the executive suites of the labels? The rest you know...
  19. Not yet, the joke comes with the 150 - 500 hours needed to break in a power cable. "Use only music to break in our wires, preferably music with strong transients (i.e. music with lots of percussion and/or plucked instruments)" I threw up in my mouth.
  20. I think a number of factors have contributed to the decline of the hifi industry. Most of which can be laid at their's and the record label's own doors. 1) Volume, volume, volume, and no I'm not talking about turning it up! The good mid-level manufacturers cannibalized their own brands to bring down price points and shift more units, this coincided perfectly with the rise of the big box retailers. In turn this eliminated the specialty high street stores and turned an educational and aspirational experience which hopefully led to a lifetime of sales into a on-off high pressure transaction. This business model is now failing under the weight of online retailing and I would hazard to guess that the large majority of systems are now sold without ever being heard or seen. 2) Pear Cables; OK I've singled them out but they are a perfect symptom to describe where the industry has gone. A consumer can see the value in amplifiers, speakers and players but then to be told that unless they spend another $1,000 on cables their system will not sound it's best will have even the most interested prospect running to Costco. Then there's little wood blocks and carpet insulators... 3) Music as background; we've come full circle, popular music started out as a disposable medium (which is why no one ever thought about rights), it became a more long-term product in the late 60s until the early 80s (I know there are exceptions but before pointing them out Google "Billboard #1 hits, 1973") but is once again relegated to disposability. To most modern listeners it's background, they like the hit and then move onto the next one. Although your typical Stereophile reader probably buys music to listen to their system, most consumers buy a system to listen to their music. Without compelling music the sale is lost. 4) Audio Quality (1); speaking as a pro-audio mixer it stinks! I know I'm preaching to the choir but everyday I hear "hit" records with actual identifiable problems, stuff that would have not made it past the cutting lathe when I started. This is in addition to the multiband compression that ensures everything sounds louder than everything else on every playback medium except a decent stereo system. So why own a decent stereo system at all? 5) Audio Quality (2); we have a generation of producers and engineers who have grown up never hearing a good playback system. Many in my industry get all grumpy old man about this (most of us came into the business through an interest in home systems) but I can't blame the newcomers. With the demise of the local hifi store where are they supposed to be exposed to anything beyond a Bose Lifestyle or ear buds. Combine that with marketers (and Jimmy Iovine who's made some of the worst sounding records known to man) who've convinced them that the truly atrocious Beats headphones are the ultimate in fidelity monitoring. 6) Audio Quality (3); the demise of the big studio. Big studios had big control rooms, they had to, they had big consoles and big tape machines to fit in there. Consequently they had big studio monitors which were used for most of the recording process alongside the veritable Auratone for a quick reference. In the 80s large systems were starting to be augmented by desktop monitors (the infamous Yamaha NS-10) which engineers felt gave a better reference to the increasingly poorer quality home systems people were using. Fast forward to today, most of the big studios are gone as are their fantastic monitoring systems. Music today is mixed on smaller reference monitors that are incapable of the big open soundscapes of the JBLs, Tannoys, Uries, Eastlakes and such and therefore produce music uniquely tailored to sound good on them. 7) A brief and unique moment in time; The early gramophone really took off when it became portable as the new found freedom of the automobile combined perfectly with a wind-up suitcase player and a handfull of 78s. For the first time in history music required no musicians and it was portable. Serious home stereo didn't really come into being until the 1950s and event then were highly expensive, targeted at a small segment of the community and outsold by a hundred and one brands of cheap semi-portable record players. Like popular music, the 60s and 70s were the heyday of the home hifi (no coincidence that my 3rd point is at the same time period) but by the early 80s and the Sony Walkman it started going portable again. CD Walkmans alleviated the problems of creating your own cassettes and gave you a better quality medium that could be used on all your systems. The iPod was inevitable and like the HMV player of the 20s the return to portable (albeit with your entire music collection on board) was complete. I have news for you, the heyday is not coming back. People are too attuned to listening to what they want, where they want, when they want. 8) Competition; Back in the hifi glory days it was music, music, music. Video games were a gleam in a BASIC programmers eye, TV was 4 channels without anyway of saving or time shifting, sports fandom as a lifestyle did not exist, casual dining as a way of life had yet to appear, the list goes on. People have many more entertainment options to spend their money on and music is now just one of those options. The dollars are there but spread much thinner. So there you go. My very personal opinion and blinkered view from the inside.
  21. No but that's funny. It's a little private joke. Remember when CDs first came out and people invited you over to listen to their new player they would always pull out Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms for the demo? I've noticed anytime someone wants you to hear their HT system they pull out Top Gun!
  22. Pretty much sums it up except for the poking fun part which couldn't be further from the truth. As I replied above, my knowledge of home equipment is very poor and I like this forum because I get great "real world" input from folks like y'all who have a strong grasp of the gear and the physics but are not easily swayed by the HiFi BS. Personal opinion from people you trust is a huge asset in our business where the only chance to really evaluate new products comes in front of a paying audience. Half that. I brought the JBLs into the mix (hahaha) because I can buy them through a dealer. I'd like to spend $10K, that's the price of a shipped pair of K-Horns from Hope & seemed like a good place to start. I'll jump in to defend a lady who has been married to a sound engineer for half her life. She would actually happily sign off on whatever choice I make but one of the secrets of our long relationship is understanding and respecting each others' agendas. And once again, thanks everyone for the input so far. I don't know if I'm any closer to a decision but I do have a lot more clarity around the subject.
  23. Apples & oranges my friend. I can talk VerTec, L'Acoustics, d&b and Meyer all day long, but my knowledge of the domestic market is extremely limited. To my ears the Klipsch range does the best job of replicating the dynamics of a good live system at the house.
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