• Bits & Bytes

    by Published on 02-05-2016 02:31 AM
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    It all started with an email on December 4, 2014. “Hi Chris, It is my great pleasure to provide details on Meridian’s breakthrough technology, MQA (Master Quality Authenticated). The press release is pasted below. And attached is a white paper …” That seems like forever ago. In the ensuing months MQA has been growing like a snowball rolling downhill. More manufacturers getting on board, more content partners signing up, and more chatter within Computer Audiophile community (among others). Based on objective site analytics, I can easily say that since CES 2016 the interest in MQA has grown immensely here on CA. Much of the talk since MQA’s first introduction has been speculative because only a relatively small number of people have actually heard MQA music. Even those who’ve heard it, have likely not heard it in their own audio systems. That was until Meridian officially released the MQA enabling firmware for its Explorer2, Prime, and select components (818v3,*808v6 and Special Edition Loudspeakers) Thursday February 4, 2016. I downloaded the firmware and updated my Explorer2 to v1717. It’s now MQA enabled and I have a DAC that decode and render this content through my own audio system in my own listening room. I’ve been waiting for this forever. I’ve heard MQA at shows plenty of times, but never in my own familiar environment. Now that the hardware was enabled for MQA playback, I needed some MQA music to play. Late afternoon I received an email with a link to download ten MQA FLAC files. Click, save, unzip, play, listen … MQA rules, it’s the best thing since sliced bread. If only it was that cut and dry. ...
    by Published on 12-30-2015 01:32 PM
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    At the end of September Google released its Chromecast Audio device. The device is simply a WiFi connected digital to analog or digital to digital converter that supports Google's Cast protocol and streaming music directly from Spotify and other cast-enabled apps/services. The Chromecast Audio is distinguished from the original Chromecast and generation two Chromecast by its lack of HDMI output and lack of video support. I ordered a Chromecast Audio as soon as Google announced it, and of course opted for the fastest shipping method available at nearly the same price as the device itself. For $35 I was excited, as was the Computer Audiophile Community. I set my expectations low and hoped for the best. When the unit arrived I plugged it into my system for some straight forward testing. I wanted to know if the device passed the digital audio unaltered. After about three seconds I concluded the Chromecast Audio, in its current state, was a failure. All audio was converted to 48 kHz no matter what sample rate was sent to the device. I put the Chromecast Audio on the shelf and waited to see if Google cared to make firmware changes enabling audio to pass through unaltered. To my surprise, in December Google released a firmware update that not only enabled audio to pass through the Chromecast Audio unaltered, but also enabled support for sample rates up through 24 bit / 96 kHz. It was time to retest and hopefully write a little about the successes or failures. ...
    by Published on 08-11-2015 02:51 PM
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    Anyone who reads Computer Audiophile likely knows I'm a humongous Pearl Jam fan. I've been known to mention the band or its music in my writings on occasion. It also goes without saying that I'm an equally fanatic audiophile. I care dearly about sound quality. Therein lies the conundrum if you believe that the quality of music is inversely proportional to the quality of the recording. For example, there are countless audiophile recordings of bells, cellos, drums, vocals, violins, etc… that sound spectacular, but you couldn't pay me to listen to them because they don't contain music. Too often great recordings contain sounds without "real" music or emotion. On the other hand, like most Rock bands, Pearl Jam isn't well known for releasing audiophile standards. Much of PJ's music is best heard live with thousands of people singing along and watching the band put on a spectacular show. PJ's albums certainly aren't low-fi, but you'll rarely hear them at a HiFi show or read a product review where the writer used a PJ track for evaluating a component's sonic performance. OK call me a weirdo, but I've often dreamt of ways to connect Grammy winning recording engineer Bill Schnee with the guys from Pearl Jam. I would pay $1,000 for a PJ album recorded live to two-track at 24 bit / 192 kHz like Bill's Bravura Records recordings. I've thought of starting a petition, tweeting, emailing, etc… in an effort to persuade Pearl Jam to create such an audio gem, but I always stop short of clicking the send button. Where am I going with this? To paraphrase the infamously quotable Donald Rumsfeld, you listen to the music you have, not the music you might want or wish to have at a later time. With this in mind, I've created my PJ4CA playlist containing thirty of my favorite sounding Pearl Jam tracks with five honorable mentions. These tracks aren't the most popular, but I believe they have the best balance of music and sound quality. I love being exposed to new music, especially music that sounds good. I hope you enjoy the following tracks and maybe, just maybe get on the Pearl Jam bandwagon (if you aren't already) :~) ...
    by Published on 07-15-2015 02:18 PM
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    Here we go again, Uncle Neil is grabbing headlines talking about sound quality. This time Neil is pulling his music from streaming services because, "I don't need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution. I don't feel right allowing this to be sold to my fans. It's bad for my music."


    For the most part I like when Neil talks to the masses about sound quality. This time he's rubbing me the wrong way. I'm calling BS on this move being about sound quality. Never mind the fact that Neil's music is still available on Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, and Tidal, I'm assuming he will pull everything from streaming services as his statement says. In my view this has nothing to do with sound quality. ...
    by Published on 07-09-2015 01:46 PM
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    I must start by saying that I'm a diehard card-carrying audiophile. I've loved great sounding music for as long as I can remember. I've had some form of "high end" audio system for almost as long. Sure, the equipment can be a marvel of engineering and very aesthetically pleasing, but nether trait equates to anything without enjoyable music. Thus, the reason I'm talking about the much hated MP3. I've loved great music, with or without great sound, forever. MP3 is a lossy codec that's "responsible" for removing much of the music from the music. However, when it comes to enjoying music, I'd rather listen to Pearl Jam on an AM radio than listen to some audiophile classics pristinely recorded and mastered at the highest sample rate and word length. This brings me to a well known, yet somehow unknown, MP3 "album" that's available for free. Yes, free as in beer. ...
    by Published on 07-02-2015 02:44 PM
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    Hi Guys, just a quick update from my travels this week. I’m currently flying over northern California on my way home to Minneapolis. I’ve been in the Bay Area for four days working on a couple music servers. My task was to install Windows Server 2012 R2 and Audiophile Optimizer to squeeze every ounce of sound quality from a computer. The end result surprised me very much. I had some reservations about the install and the efficacy of going to such great lengths tweaking a PC. I figured the sound would improve, but I didn’t figure it would improve by so much. This week I heard the best digital playback I’ve ever heard. Period.


    I’m not at liberty to divulge the entire hardware formula used this week, but I will talk about the software and the final outcome. What I found was similar to what many computer audiophiles have been saying for quit a while, the combination of Windows Server 2012 R2 and Audiophile Optimizer is fantastic.



    I started the project by getting a copy of Windows Server Essentials 2012 R2 and downloading Audiophile Optimizer. I prepared the hardware with a new SSD for the operating system and a couple 1TB SSDs for music storage. Installing 2012 R2 was pretty simple and nearly identical to installing any new Windows OS. On the other hand, installing and configuring Audiophile Optimizer is a different story. This software isn’t for those who can’t or won’t read the 52 page setup guide. Fortunately the setup guide is thorough and provides enough information for users to at least get their systems up and running.
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