Thursday, August 29, 2013

Where does a digital source really start?

True Audiophile does digital justice

We get so many customers who are confused about digital audio or for many, computer audio. This topic goes from deeply technical to overly complex to voodoo.

First your whole system depends on the source. We touched on the base source of power ie the electricity and its importance. Next is your signal source. Everything starts there. If your source isn't right then the signal going down the chain into the speaker will never be right. Obvious and simple yet with new tech people are reinventing the concept.

Clean power also need clean signal. If your digital audio is feeding a dac from a device that has loads of jitter your entire playback is compromised. Many, many customers have something like a squeezebox or other popular units which are great for background music. Not for critical listening. Putting a good DAC behind one is futile because the SB or the like is dumping so much noise into the DAC you will never hear its potential.

Everyone knows the buzzword jitter. It simply means noise. There are hundreds of types of jitter and they come from many places within the digital signal path. Reduce the noise and you'll be astonished. We have many customers with Audio Note DAC's and they love how musical they are. But these DACs cannot reduce jitter and are as susceptible as any DAC. Once one of these customers buy a Human Audio Tabla or bel canto link they'ree floored how their beloved DAC has been reborn. Here's a customer quote that is like everyone who buys a good converter from us. The tabla’s amazing -- I’ve never heard my system sound so good before.  Especially on jazz or symphonic music.  Highly, highly recommend the tabla and looking forward to spending more time with it.  Thank you for talking with me yesterday and today.

Its not just older DACs although we can guarantee you never heard your older dac without a good converter that reduces jitter.

Just as you wouldn't buy a smokin' turntable and put a $10 cartridge on it the same is true with your digital. Get the best source you can that offers the lowest jitter between your server and your DAC. We recommend a Mac Mini as a music server that is optimized for audio and goes out to a good converter into a good DAC using Revelation Audio cabling. You will be astonished. Yes, someday someone will invent a great music server but that day is not today. They are overpriced and still complex.

Once you have a proper music server that is exactly what it is. Its no longer a computer. Its your music server. Leave it alone. Don't update it. Don't monkey with it once its optimized for audio. Its just your new source.

You can control it with your phone or tablet or another computer wirelessly. Wireless control is fine because the unit itself is hardwired. Wireless playback also creates jitter so relegate those devices to whole house music not your critical listening.

Customers of True Audiophile get the wealth of our digital knowledge. There are many times we had to bring the entire source to a customer so they could hear what they were really listening to previously. We've never had a single customer that wasn't amazed.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Soap, Suds, Rubber and Skins

Carrot and Banana discussing finer points of the derby

This was the first time we got a chance to see the Mt. Tabor Soapbox for adults. The entire mountain was filled with spectators which amounted to families and friends laughing, running around, drinking, sunning and, well, drinking.

Probably the best quote of the day was from a volunteer who told someone, "Its been beer-thirty since stupid-thirty in the morning". I think the day was wearing on him. :)

JFK and Jackie O prepare for a ride down the mountain
The questionable taste award goes to the JFK/Jackie-O soapbox caddie. Jackie was tastefully outfitted in full beard and wig while JFK wore a rubber mask. Driver was dutifully somber.

The carts in motion were shot on the part of the course called "Blood Alley" just before a nasty turn. Lots of hay bales around just in case these non aerodynamic rigs couldn't make it.

Great fun. The drum band was LRSD (Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers). Deafeningly wonderful. They smacked those skins like a bad habit. Now that's low end down to the teen Hz. For those who couldn't make it enjoy.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Power of Power

We blogged about power cords a little bit back. To reinforce this we wanted to relate how the electrician made the audio system sound better.

In our appointment only showroom here in Portland we're busy working on acoustic treatments. One problem we've been wrestling with is a very annoying high frequency. Even with a custom graph of the room and digital EQ correction we couldn't get rid of that frequency which was above 18K. Its enough that it would make the reproduction annoying unless you rolled everything off.

As we deliberated about solutions the electrician came and put in the dedicated lines and ground for the audio wall plugs. When he finished we fired up the system to continue working.

Except there was a problem. The problem was gone.

That high pitch was carried on the lines regardless of whether what it shared was turned off or not the lines carried it. Tubes that we liked while in play yet too noisy when music wasn't playing suddenly went quiet. The soundstage was more natural, deep and open.

If you're in the Portland area we can recommend our electrician. But those of you outside of Portland think about investing in your electricity before you chase cables, conditioned etc. We have very good conditioners but with power issues there are frequencies that can sneak through. Once the power is right all the audio toys will make that much more of an impact.

To emphasize the point. All the power in this place was completely redone only 3 years ago. So audio grade power and proper house power is very different.

The Ambient Bomb that went off at the Alberta Street Fair

The Alberta Street Fair:  good musicians, food, beer --- even kombucha on tap.

Four stages, and then at the beer garden where we hung out for a couple hours. Heard some good music. Then these guys came on stage. 1939 Ensemble. Ambient mash up and what the drummer did to the skins was brutal. Then they switched! Ok what is going on?!

Don't be fooled. While they've lived here for over decade they have heavyweight backgrounds. You wouldn't know it by talking to them. The drummer in this video (Jose Medeles) was a well sought after pro drummer in Los Angeles for a long time including the drummer for the Breeders. He also has a vintage drum store here and hosts well known musicians as they pass through town.

The other musician is David Coniglio who teaches at The School of Rock here in Portland and his music's been picked up by syndicated shows.

So these guys sure don't do it for the money! :) The do it because they love it. Check them out. They have a new LP of their music which we immediately bought. Except we were on bicycles. Peddling back 7 miles holding on to an LP. So Portland.

Here's another better video of the 1939 Ensemble.

Never too old to swing

A wonderful example of how music doesn't ever have any boundaries or age. We doubt anyone in this group was under 70 years old. It happened at the Hollywood Farmers Market here in Portland.

Doesn't even matter if you like banjo music its a great tribute to musicians who feel that they have to make music until the physically can't raise their hands.

According to their website the band first formed in 1972. Check them out.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Never a quiet night - One Man and the Himselfs

Clarke and the Himselfs

True tribe is sitting minding their great Oregon beer and food at Interurban on Mississippi when we start hearing music. One of the True people says they saw gear going into a house and they must be practicing. More music and people are on the seats trying to look over the fences to see what's up. We leave looking for the music and one us finds it and goes up to the people asking if we could listen. They invite us to crash the birthday party and aside from more great beer, loads of fun new people we heard a one-man-band. 

Before Clarke and the Himselfs walked up to the mike and drum kit we were imagining the horrors of a one man band. Of course not. This musician knew his distortion and could jam. Very fun set. Sorry about the lighting.

You can find his music on bandcamp. Click here to go to his page. Here's his facebook page.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Steel, Rages and Blues at the Pearl District fair in Portland, Oregon

Another weekend another beer, BBQ and music soaked street fair here in Portland. Too young and not enough lines on his face should stop Tevis Hodge Jr. but he's convincing.

Naturally there was a beer man with a keg on his back roaming around in case the 20 beers on tap weren't enough of a variety.