Audio News for March 8, 2016

New LG VR Headset Competes With Samsung – The LG 360 VR is the first attempt in this area from LG, and has some problems, but it is small and light and has its own low-res display rather than strapping a smartphone to your face. It uses the Snapdragon 820 SoC, optimized for better VR experiences. The tethered smartphone can also be used as a control. The hope is that LG will made some adjustments to make the unit more comfortable and immersive while keeping its small and light form factor.

Steps for a Better Whole-House Audio System – Choosing the right system for your needs is of course paramount. Keep in mind there are a number of reasonably-priced components now available. You must convert the digital signals, whether they come from CDs, downloads or streaming service, into an analog signal to power your speakers and then to your ears. While manufacturers usually provide inexpensive DACs as part of basic audio equipment, the improved quality of a good outboard DAC might be appreciated by many. There are lots of different amps available, with the Class D becoming more popular due to less heat and space required, but other classes still hold their sway.

With speakers, keep in mind that wired is always more reliable and usually gives better sonics than wireless. Bluetooth speakers and headphones may be nice but there is usually a sonic degradation. The correct placement of speakers can make a big difference in their performance in the room.  Few ceiling and in-wall speakers can equal the fidelity of standard speakers placed out in the room correctly.  Calibration of the room is also worthwhile. This can be done with various discs, free downloads, or a professional in the home. And don’t forget your source materials. Almost any sort of music in the world is now easily available. Most online and streaming services use different forms of compression technology to shrink audio files down in size. The majority of listeners may not hear the sonic degradation this causes, but for those that do, lossless compression is now available, including new subscription streaming services such as Tidal and Deezer Elite. They have free trials, so it might be worth it to see if you can hear the difference. Just don’t pay for higher-res versions of what were originally analog tapes and therefore not really hi-res at all.

Some Grammy Results – Best Score Soundtrack: Birdman; Best Contemporary Classical Composition: STEPHEN PAULUS: Prayers & Remembrances;  Best Classical Solo Vocal Album: Joyce DiDonato & Antonio Pappano “Joyce & Tony – Live from Wigmore Hall;” Best Classical Instr. Solo: Angustin Hadelich, DUTILLEUX: Violin Concerto; Best Chamber Music/Small Ens. Perf.: Eighth Blackbird, Filament; Best Choral Perf.: Charles Bruffy, RACHMANINOFF: All-Night Vigil;” Best Opera Recording: RAVEL: L’Enfant et les Sortileges, Sheherazade – Saito Kinen Orch./SKF Matsumoto Chorus & Children’s Chorus; Best Large Jazz Ens. Album: Maria Schneider, The Thompson Fields; Best Jazz Instrumental Album: Cecile McLarin Salvant, For One to Love; Best Surround Sound Album: James Guthrie & Joel Plante, Amused To Death;  Best Instrumental Composition: Arturo O’Farrill and Afro Latin Jazz Orch., The Afro Latin Jazz Suite.

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