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Well its been about 2 years since I last posted on here...


maxg
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If there is a reason for that its probably simply that I didn't have much to write. Whatever changes have happened to my audio system over the years have not been in the interest of better sonics but rather aesthetics. As a result I now run a rather simple system, although still vinyl based largely. Sadly, due mainly to lifestyle I don't get to listen to it all that often.

My main music listening has been limited to my phone. Again, about 2 years ago I picked up an HTC Sensation XE with the Beats Audio profile and after junking the included Beats headphones settled on a cheap pair of AKG 311 earphones along with a pair of Senheisser HD 202's for home listening.

That was very much that - it sounded OK, probably very good for a phone, but nothing to write home about.

Now, I do have something to write about, so here I am again:

Last month, whilst in the UK, I started to investigate other alternatives and eventually settled on a pair of Sennheiser "On-the-ear" Momentums which appeared to be an easier load on the limited capabilities of the phone than the larger original Momentums and actually, to my ears, sounded better. (Note: I can't wear the in-the-ear type earphones. They just don't stay in for me which is why I didn't try the Klipsch S4 units).

Realizing that the phones were now much better than the source I started to look at what has happened in portable audio over the last few years to see if there was anything better than the Beats audio profile.

I have tested the headphones on a slew of moble phones and frankly - nothing better, in fact, excepting the newer HTC models, nothing as good.

It was then that I found, entirely by accident an app in the play-store called "Neutron" which claimed to be an audiophile's music player. I downloaded the free version and started to play about with it.

There are more settings in this software than you can shake a stick at. I've left the majority of them well enough alone but have selected a few options (like 64 bit processing) that were recommended.

To make a long story short - wow!!!

The software will play every format I own, including 192/24 recordings. These are downsampled, obviously but that is a limitation of the phone and not the software. My next phone (Samsung Galaxy Note 3) has apparently got a 192/24 chip so that will be interesting.

In the meantime anything FLAC or WMA lossless, even at a lowly 44.1/16 plays well. Some recordings, like my Dire Straits Private Investigations track, play so well its in uncanny. As a source for the main stereo its better than anything bar the vinyl (and that's a lot closer than I like to admit).

Strongly advise anyone with a reasonably powerful mobile phone (say 1GHz dual core) to download it and give it a try. The nice thing is that it seems to bypass the built in settings almost completely. Even my Nexus 7 sounds good with it- and that has dreadful sound out of the box.

In the meantime Tony, my best friend has gone the same route. Same phones, same software on this Samsung Galaxy S3. I haven't heard it on his yet but he reported that with a portably external amp it sounded "better than many $50K system's he's heard." Take that with a pinch of salt - Tony is prone to exaggeration.

Just thought I'd share.

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Hi Max,

Nice to see you posting, and thanks very much for the heads-up on the "Neutron" app.

Everything I own is in FLAC, which isn't supported by iTunes, so I don't have much music on my smartphone-iPhone (not so smart, huh). Never bothered looking for a dedicated app, but I'm glad you did. Only time I ever listen to music on the smartphone is when I'm out golfing with my friends, or watching the meat cook on the BBQ.

Anyway, been considering ditching the 3 yr. old iphone, and have been reading up on the Galaxy S5, though I'm not sure this it's the one I'll get. Samsung's suppose to finally put a nice case on their yet to be released new Galaxy line, no more plastic, or so I've been told.

I have a couple pair of Sennheiser Headphones, and like you, don't care too much for the ear buds. I shelled out 5 bills for a top of the line set of Sure ear buds, and they just won't stay in, at least not comfortably. Anyway, I love my Sennheiser's, they make some great sounding headphones.

Thanks again for the app info, will definitely be downloading it when I get my new smartphone.

Edited by Gilbert
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Max, it's always very good to hear from you. I have fond memories of your vast knowledge of the classical literature and all-out pulling together of superlative vinyl playback equipment. I've changed myself somewhat, not toward digital listening but rather toward what I can both watch and listen to. That kind of thing is always good to share. So, I have a nice little DVD collection. Very limited source and it will never match CDs or LPs, but nice to watch.

Larry

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That application sounds just like what I need. I hate the iTunes player. It doesn't make any sense at all to me. I wish I didn't have hundreds of songs in it.

I have an older iPhone 4. It is slow and I am ready to upgrade. I have been looking at the Samsung offerings. Higher processing power, better displays, and mostly NOT running Apple IOS, which burdens the phone so. I actually tap the screen and wait 2-5 seconds before the phone responds in any way. And forget swiping, I have to swipe slow to unlock, and then swipe twice more to get the pass-code screen up.

The phone I like best, the Galaxy Note. It's giant, but it fits in my pocket, and the screen is big enough for my bad eyes. As for headphones/earbuds, I usually don't listen with them. Mostly I push music to the Apple TV, or connect the headphone jack using RCA's. I have reasons for this. The main one is I need to be able to hear people come in. Another reason, and a big one, is I don't like carrying my phone when I'm at the shop or at home.

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Wow - thanks guys. Nice to be remembered - although I think time has embellished memories of my knowledge somewhat.

Larry,

Interesting move towards AV. I find that the video element makes me much more tolerant of the audio quality so the fact it ain't vinyl doesn't matter so much.

I've even been known to enjoy music on youtube from time to time - and that really isn't quality.

One thing you might enjoy though is this:

Its the 2011 comedy proms. Generally hilarious whilst smuggling in tons of the sort of music you and I like. There's a wonderful montage with Orchestra playing one thing and piano playing another that will drive you mad attempting to identify which piece each is performing.

Apple owners:

Sadly I don't think there is any equivalent to Neutron for Apple. The real pity here is that iPhones, out of the box, probably have about the best sound quality of any phone but there's nothing you can do with it beyond that. Its pretty much my opinion of iProducts on all fronts. Initial user experience is the best but as soon as you want to go a bit further you are out of luck. Android is a PITA for the simple stuff but unlimited thereafter.

Edited by maxg
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Interesting move towards AV. I find that the video element makes me much more tolerant of the audio quality so the fact it ain't vinyl doesn't matter so much.

Exactly right. I have good DVDs of The Planets (and another obscure but good one on the way), Carmina Burana, Dvorak's New World (I know, war-horsey), Alpine Sym, and the Michael Tilson Thomas SFO series, among numerous others. I'm not at my collection right now, or I could expand the list.

In all of these, I find the quality to be very very high for hearing and watching instrument and vocal detail, which I find especially interesting.

Also opera -- Berg's Wozzeck (fascinating staging), Hansel und Gretel, and Les Troyens (ditto) as well as the Damnation of Faust (Solti), Mass in B Minor (Blomstedt), Berlioz Requiem (Colin Davis in the Regensburg cathedral), several Carlos Kleiber (fascinating conductor), and numerous more.

The biggest problem is the small, hit-or-miss availability in the classical DVD catalog. That said, the sound quality, lighting, and camera choreography is largely spectacular in these very challenging recordings, like the orchestra, brass, orchestra, chorus and soloists in the Regensburg Berlioz.

The great Claudio Abbado -- may he RIP -- who did the above New World, even has a reduced-size orchestra playing the Beethoven 9.

Larry

Edited by LarryC
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Hi, Max! I'd been wondering how you were doing. When Greece has been on the news, it's often not been good news.

Glad to hear you're still listening to music in one way or another. Is ACA still as active as it used to be?

I remember you expressing doubt about my driving La Scalas with a Yamaha MX-D1 power amp, but it worked very well, and then I bi-amped them with Jubilee tweeters and a pair of MX-D1s.

Last summer, I replaced the La Scalas with La Scala IIs, which were immediately set up as 510 JubScala IIs. The old La Scalas are now my side surround speakers, and still work perfectly after 5 years of having 500 watts available to each driver, with nothing but cable between the drivers and the amps. Listening levels rarely exceed 100 dB, so nearly all of that power serves as headroom for peaks, not for continuous power. That said, the authority and clarity of the amps makes them a pleasure to listen through.

As for smartphone/headphone listening, that's what keeps me awake some nights. When lying in bed with the headphones on, viewing and listening to YouTube videos on the phone, it's so easy to watch "just one more", until it's really late (or really early in the morning, depending on how you see it).

The phone is an HTC One S, and the headphones are Panasonic RP-HTX7s. During last year's Black Friday sale, I picked up a pair of Sennheiser HD360 Pros at a great price, but after using them for a while, I've gone back to the Panasonics, because they're much lighter and more comfortable, and the cable and plug are sturdier. For non-critical listening with the smartphone as the source, both headphones sound good enough.

BTW, have you seen any ASMR videos? They're always in stereo, and many are binaural, making headphone listening pretty well mandatory. One of my favourites is the Departure/Space Travel Agent series, created by ASMRRequests. The production values are very high for something made by a hobbyist, and the technical references are correct, not just made up, as you see in some more amateurish efforts.

Unfortunately, there are only two episodes so far, and it was nearly a year between the first and second ones. I hope Episode 3 comes out sooner than that.

Departure Ep. 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oapgiZc5i-g

Departure Ep. 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYpI8847naw

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Great to see you posting Max, hope all is well and I won't discount Tony's opinion at all as I have several portable music rigs (all Apple based right now) but about to branch out with an iBasso DX-50 http://www.ibasso.com/en/products/show.asp?ID=81 JDS Labs C-5 http://www.jdslabs.com/products/70/c5-headphone-amplifier/ driving CIEM's http://www.jhaudio.com/content/sirens-roxanne which may be your answer to great fitting IEM's http://www.jhaudio.com/collection/why-custom . JHA does have some very good compitition out there as well (check out the Kaiser 10's under acrylic customs, obviously the Kaiser has a place close to my heart already :o ) http://nobleaudio.com/products/custom/ . If your going to have $20K sunk into your home rig why not travel with a home unit on you!

Here's a few portable setups I currently run with IEM's and over the head cans :D

1st a JDS Labs C421 strapped to a 4th Gen iPod Touch:

2nd a iPod 7th Gen Nano with a Ray Samuels Tomahawk:

3rd and somewhere under that U2 version iPod classic is a Ray Samuels P-51 Mustang:

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Great to see you posting Max, hope all is well and I won't discount Tony's opinion at all as I have several portable music rigs (all Apple based right now) but about to branch out with an iBasso DX-50 http://www.ibasso.com/en/products/show.asp?ID=81 JDS Labs C-5 http://www.jdslabs.com/products/70/c5-headphone-amplifier/ driving CIEM's http://www.jhaudio.com/content/sirens-roxanne which may be your answer to great fitting IEM's http://www.jhaudio.com/collection/why-custom . JHA does have some very good compitition out there as well (check out the Kaiser 10's under acrylic customs, obviously the Kaiser has a place close to my heart already :o ) http://nobleaudio.com/products/custom/ . If your going to have $20K sunk into your home rig why not travel with a home unit on you!

Here's a few portable setups I currently run with IEM's and over the head cans :D

1st a JDS Labs C421 strapped to a 4th Gen iPod Touch:

2nd a iPod 7th Gen Nano with a Ray Samuels Tomahawk:

3rd and somewhere under that U2 version iPod classic is a Ray Samuels P-51 Mustang:

WOW!!! I think I found what I've been looking for, thank you so much for posting, great info.

Question about your Cambridge SoundWorks speaker(s), how do you like them. From glancing through their website I think I'm in love with the Ambiance 2, with Bluetooth. Gonna try and see if I can find a local vendor where they allow touchy-feelys

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  • 2 weeks later...

For listening to music on the smartphone, I decided recently that I wanted better headphones. I checked out the B&W P7s, which sounded good and looked great (all chrome and leather, no plastic) but fit too loose, and the Sennheiser 650s, which sounded good and were very comfortable, but could needed an amp to drive them, due to their high 300-ohm impedance.

The Klipsch STATUS headphones look interesting and really well-made, but no local dealers seem to stock them. Buying headphones is a bit like buying shoes. If they don't fit, you won't like them, no matter how good they might sound, so a listening and fit test is mandatory.

The Yamaha PRO500s looked good on paper, but apparently only fit well on medium or larger heads, so I needed to try before buying. Luckily, a local dealer had some and I tried them. They fit my medium head (just) and sounded really good. I had brought along the Sennheiser HD360Pros along for comparison, but didn't bother taking them out, because there was no comparison.

To sweeten the pot, the Yamahas were on sale, so I went home happy, with a wallet that was not as light as I had expected.

The PRO500s have a very low impedance, only 23 ohms, and the sensitivity is 106 dB, so the HTC One S phone drives them really easily. The sound is clear and full-bodied, so added bass is not needed, unless the recording sounds really thin.

I just thought I'd post this for anyone who might be headphone shopping.

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