Editorial for December 2005

by | Dec 1, 2005 | Editorial | 0 comments


MONTH’S DRAWING is for a pair of the 632 bookshelf speakers from
Aperion Audio –  which we called “the entry-level bargain of the
year” in our recent review. A lucky AUDIOPHILE AUDITION reader will be
the winner of these great-sounding speakers in  early January. All
you need to do to be eligible for the drawing is to have either 
Registered on this site in the past or go HERE to register right now.
The winner will be  announced in our January issue. We won’t share
your email address.

The lucky winner of the Tivoli Satellite Radio in last month’s drawing was John Brown of Scottsdale, AZ.


I – How This Site Works

II – Fighting the Fast Food Syndrome in Recorded Music 
to the web publication for audio, music and home theater, emphasizing
hi-res and surround sound for music! AUDIOPHILE AUDITION began as a
weekly national radio series hosted by John Sunier, which aired for 13
1/2 years on up to 200 public radio and commercial stations coast to
This month is our 82nd issue, with AUDIOPHILE AUDITION having moved
away from monthly editions to an ongoing publishing schedule. Instead
of all reviews being published at the start of each month, they are now
added throughout the month as they are written. This ensures you get
the latest reviews, without having to wait a month for new content. See
our new component reviews of the Sunfire Theater Grand IV and the Integra DPS-10.5 and
Pioneer DV-59AVi universal disc players.
We have also reorganized the web site to make it easier to navigate and
find content. Instead of all reviews appearing on a Section Index, now
just the headline, album cover, and publication date appear. The most
recent reviews appear at the top of each Section Index. To read the
full review, click on the headline and you will be taken directly to a
page for that review. The Home Page lists the five latest published
reviews, the Section Index lists the past two months of reviews, the
Archive goes back to June 1, 2005 and for all reviews by month prior to
that you need to click on the Old Archive.  The Disc Index also
lists all reviews in every section for the past month.

We welcome your feedback, and have even created a “Reader Feedback”
section. Please send us your comments, and we will review and possibly
post them to that new feedback section. We have made these changes to
provide you with a more useful service, and  we look forward to
publishing many more timely reviews from now on!
Check back with us frequently for more reviews & news!


Fighting the Fast Food Syndrome in Recorded


explosive phenomenon of the iPod and its ilk in our society has made a
growing number of observers in the high end and recorded music arena
extremely concerned.  And well we should be. While for most of the
previous century the effort in recorded sound was to steadily improve
fidelity, that goal has now been turned on its head due to the needs of
our computer/Internet-oriented society. 

Although at its introduction the new digitally-based method of
recording and reproduction failed to measure up to the best of analog,
a long series of improvements in 44.1K PCM have resulted in many recent
standard CDs achieving the highest level of sonic quality we have ever
heard from the format.  Meanwhile, those few of us who seem to
want to pursue it have at our disposal two recent formats which greatly
improve upon the resolution of 44.1K PCM: SACD and DVD-A.  Now for
the first time many hi-res digital stereo recordings can actually match
or even surpass the fidelity of the best vinyl LPs played on the best
turntable and analog front end. (Although I find the very best direct
discs and 45 rpm pressings are extremely difficult to surpass in the
digital domain.) And we also have the enveloping realism of
multichannel surround sound on top of it.

The Sony Walkman made a similar impact on music listening some years
back. Although most audiophiles turned up their noses at the cassette
format, it was possible with some effort (such as the decks from
Nakamichi and a few others) to achieve excellent fidelity from the
lowly cassette.  And most users weren’t trying to make their
Walkman the source of all their music – in their home, office and
car  – as people as doing with the iPod. There was some
compression of the original high fidelity signal, but it was due to the
use of noise-reduction such as Dolby B, C & S, and to the
requirements of getting a good signal squeezed down to a pair of tiny
tracks on a tiny tape width at the slow speed of only 1 7/8 inches per

The requirements of the Internet plus those of efficient storage of
digital audio files on hard drives mean that nearly all music files
used in those environments must have their data compressed grossly
(referred to as “perceptual coding.”) This means completely deleting
portions of the music signal considered less important to human
hearing.  As a result the music loses its life and naturalness and
becomes musical wallpaper that no longer invites close listening and
experiencing. Even the satellite radio services, which are also making
a major impact not only on users’ listening habits but also on
terrestrial radio, must greatly data reduce their signals or they would
be unable to offer 100 channels or more of programming choices. Though
they claim “near-CD quality,” the fact is their signals are about
1/30th the sampling rate of a 44.1K CD.  (MP3 files are compressed
at a 12:1 ratio.) Terrestrial radio isn’t necessarily better because
stations today compress the heck out of their signal in order to sound
louder than competing stations and to be more audible in auto and
portable environments. Rock listeners are used to this because rock is
greatly compressed already to sound loud, but jazz and classical music
is totally distorted by compressing its wide dynamic range down to a
narrowness where a full orchestra climax sounds at the same level as a
flute solo.

Then we have the challenge of few people sitting down just to listen to
recorded music any more. David Chesky has observed that music loses its
value and is no longer important in our society when the capacity to
sit down and listen to it – doing nothing else – has been lost. He
feels this is responsible for the downward trend in audio quality –
society openly embracing the lower standards. Home theater and surround
sound can and are having some effect in interesting people in sitting
down just to listen to music, but it gets little attention in most
dealer demonstrations of home theater systems.

What can those of us do who value and appreciate top quality audio
reproduction to stem the tide of compressed, data-reduced music all
around us?  If you have an iPod or equivalent, start copying your
music files without any data reduction or at least at the less-damaging
rates of 256 or 320kbps. Yes, they will take up more memory on your
hard drives, but if you always use Variable Bit Rate (VBR) you will
save much space without affecting sonic quality seriously. The next
thing is to replace those poor white earbuds with some decent
earphones, such as the Shure E2C, 3Cor 5C, or the various Etymotic
earphones. The last improvement could be a small portable headphone amp
such as made by HeadRoom, Boostaroo and others. Then the next time you
encounter another iPod user, participate in one of those Pod-sharing
rituals I understand are all the rage now. Only along with digging your
music, that person will be introduced to the possibility of greatly
improved sounds on his iPod.

With radio broadcasts, both terrestrial and satellite, if you’ve had
enough of musical mayhem caused by over-compression, just stop
listening to that outlet and inform them why you have taken this step.
Many DVDs of both music and feature films, offer only Dolby Digital
tracks which use lossy compression and offer no Linear PCM option which
would be a higher-quality signal.  Let the studios know of their
poor decision on this. Get the younger generations to appreciate the
greater enjoyment possible from uncompressed full-fidelity music
reproduction or even the hi-res formats instead of making compromised
MP3s and inferior speakers hooked to their computers the center of
their entire music world.  As David Chesky says: “Let’s try to
keep the fast food out of the world of high end for as long as we can.”

— John Sunier



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Geffen, Donna Dorsett, Patricia Rimmer, Laurence Vittes, Tom Gibbs,
Lemco, Brian Bloom, John Henry, Peter Bates, Ron
Legum, Paul Pelon IV, Jeff Dorgay, James A. Fasulo, Calvin Harding Jr.,
Birney Brown, Jeff Krow, William Sommerwerck, John Sunier.

(For a description of John Sunier’s audio system used in his reviewing Go Here and scroll down about eight systems’ worth.)

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