Editorial for May 2007

by | May 1, 2007 | Editorial | 0 comments

Welcome to Adobe GoLive 6

The PureLink HS-42A Digital Extender we are awarding to a lucky Audiophile Audition reader this month will relieve the winner of having to manually plug and unplug multiple HDMI cables in order to view different video sources. It comes with a remote control as well as manual switching button on the front plate of the unit. In addition to the four HDMI inputs the PureLink provides optical and coaxial audio output jacks to make your high end AV system flexible and expandable. We reviewed the HS-42A Here.

At the end of May we will draw the name and address of an Audiophile Audition listener who has Registered Here on our site and they will be shipped the PureLink HDMI Switcher. 

The two April winners of the set of the complete works of J.S. Bach from Brilliant Records (160 CDs) are: Richard Poulin, Quebec, Canada & Francesco Benzi, Pavia, Italy.  Congratulations to both! 

                 Special Editorial

Hi-Res and Hi-Fi Stunted by MP3 Popularity

An Associated Press story last month on how both the standard and high end audio business have suffered from the incursion of data-reduced  audio file use has been widely reprinted in various newspapers. I’d like to reflect on that and to second the editorials I’ve noticed in some of the print audio publications urging audiophiles to be proactive and make an effort to educate the audio-ignorant about what they’re missing.

“I honestly can’t really tell the difference between CD, tape and digital;” “I’d even accept a lower quality as long as it’s digital and portable.” 
That’s the mindset of one of the people quoted in the AP article, and that’s what we’re up against. Many persons have never had the experience of hearing a quality high end system at all, so they have no standard against which to compare the sound they are getting with their iPod at 128 kbps – pretty much the standard for iTunes and other downloads today. One user reported “A CD is not relevant to me anymore,” because the iPod-type of portable music player has become the sole music source for millions.  Many buy a CD only to copy it to their iPod. It’s even become a primary source of some users who play much of their music from an iPod placed in a dock connected to their high end system.

That 128 kbps digital download contains only a small fraction of the audio data contained on the standard 44.1K CD. And even fewer people have heard a comparison on a high end system of standard CD audio to hi-res surround sound reproduction, such as from a SACD. The low-rate codecs are just a shadow of the original analog or digital masters.  The better your playback equipment, the easier it will be to hear the tremendous differences between any of the data-reduced options – even the 320 kbps – and standard CD or one of the hi-res formats. One challenge in making comparisons is the genre of the music.  Pop and rock are artificial creations of the studio and various processing – they are not intended to sound anything like real music performance in a real space.  You need jazz, acoustic music or classical to make accurate distinctions in fidelity.

Some of those users running an iPod thru their quality high end system are beginning to complain that they are noticing for the first time how dull and lifeless their compressed digital source files sound now that they are being reproduced thru high quality gear. If like many others they have converted their entire collection of music over to MP3-type digital files, they may eventually be very sorry they got rid of their original CDs or LPs. I recall back when the hi-fi stereo cassette was in its heyday, and some fairly high-quality cassette decks such as the Nakamichi were available.  One of my coworkers was very proud of his compact new collection of compact cassettes which he had dubbed off from his classical vinyl collection, and then donated the LPs to Goodwill. He loaned me some of the cassettes, and there were two little problems: One was that he didn’t have a Nakamichi deck as I did and much of the original wide range vinyl fidelity was lost in the conversion to the highly compressed cassette medium running at only 1 7/8 inches per second, even with Dolby B encoding.  (Dolby S was a huge improvement, but it came years later – way too late.)  The other little problem was due to the leader tape on all cassettes – there is about six seconds of it at the start and finish of each side. My acquaintance didn’t have a three-head deck like mine, where you could monitor from the playback head while it was recording. Everything sounded fine to him on his two-head deck, but in fact he was missing the first six seconds of all the recordings he copied at the beginning of each side of the cassette! And the LPs were gone.

What’s most important to the new generation of dumbed-down MP3 audio file users is the convenience and the mobile, portableness of their music players, headphones and small speaker docks. Well, there are ways to have almost as portable a music source and to also have high-quality playback at the same time. If I didn’t already have thousands of audiophile cassettes, a couple of small portable cassette players and a portable CD player not much larger than a CD, I would process all the music files on my iPod as AIFF or WAV uncompressed audio, and then play them back via one of the excellent portable headphone amps such as the HeadRoom Total BitHead, feeding a pair of high end ear buds from either Shure or Etymotic.

If you own a mobile setup such as that, you have a perfect way to blow the minds of MP3-centered music collectors wherever you go!  You might want to dub off some pop stuff the MP3 generation would like; you can’t go wrong with the Beatles or Beach Boys.  For a really rousing demo – if you’re a vinyl fan – dub off a few tracks from some direct discs!  A cut from “For Duke” or “I’ve Got the Music In Me” or one of the recent Acoustic Sounds vinyl blues will pin their ears back!  Invite MP3 users you meet who clearly are not aware of what they’re missing to come hear your high end home system. To some of them it will be revelation that will turn around their whole perspective on music listening!  We fundamentalist audiophiles just have to shine our light!

 – John Sunier


General Editorial 

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Geffen, Donna Dorsett, Patricia Rimmer, Ann Stahmer, Laurence Vittes, Tom Gibbs,
Lemco, Brian Bloom, Clay Swartz, John Henry, Peter Bates, Ron
Legum, Paul Pelon IV, Jeff Dorgay, James A. Fasulo, Calvin Harding Jr.,
Birney Brown, Jeff Krow, Daniel Krow,  Hermon Joyner, William Sommerwerck, Bob Moon, Steven Ritter, Randy Haldeman, Max Dudious, John Sunier.

  © John Sunier 2007 

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