Our community blogs
I am sure we have all witnessed the rising of a full moon. What is a mystery and amazing is how the moon changes size. From the time the moon first pokes over the very edge of the horizon until it is higher in the sky there is at least a 3 to 1 if not a 4 to 1 size difference. And while this is observed by billions of people no one can explain it.
How can the size of the moon possibly change? And why only the moon? What is uniquely special about it?
Ahhh- this is uite worth writing an essay about, given the humorous spirit t was posted in. Will hqve to write ine now that I accidentally blogged it... Later.
I have read this strange myth about major label engineers not caring about sound here a number of times and am unsure where this comes from. Sure they have deadlines and large volumes of work, so they have to draw the line on perfection somewhere.
These companies can hire the cream of the crop, and it is with any specialty where it is highly competitive, if you do not perform well you will be replaced. Add to that the quality of studio equipment they can afford.
Check out some of the vids here to gain appreciation for these highly skilled pros that do very much care about sound and making the artist sound as good as possible:
- Read more...
- 0 comments
The application of deconvolution to signal processing dates back to work by MIT's Norbert Wiener during the Second World War.
Deconvolution is widely used to deblur signals in both the spatial and temporal domains. http://alumni.soe.ucsc.edu/~htakeda/VideoDeblurring/VideoDeblurring.htm
End to end deblurring of an audio signal can be performed by deconvoluting the signal with a measured deconvolution kernel, extending what is the same process as room correction to the entire audio signal chain.
Room correction corrects the spatial domain, and a similar deconvolution kernel can be applied to the temporal domain ... or simply use a multidimensional kernel.
The term "temporal deblurring" has been used as a feature of MQA which promises end to end improvement in sound.
It is certainly possible that the way MQA works is to apply a system wide deconvolution kernel to the music file.
I have no actual knowledge of the details of MQA ... at the time that I am writing this they have not been published, and for all I know never may be. Any relationship to what I am posting and MQA is pure speculation.
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
First off, you have to ask yourself "Why do I want to transcribe my vinyl?" Do you have a collection of vinyl which is rare and unavailable in digital formal, or are you hoping to get better quality than you can get from CD?
If the latter, then you need to start from a point where you have good quality playback equipment and clean vinyl. Anything else is just trying to polish a turnip ... whatever you do it will still be a turnip. So with that in mind, do you have a vinyl playback system which is as good (ideally exceeds) your expectations?
Next you have to decide if you are happy with the record as it plays: pops, clicks and all; or if you will want to edit and correct these distortions. If you are trying to capture the experience and quality of the vinyl playback (without worrying about the distortions) then a DSD capture system would be best, if you want to do editing (beyond simply cutting tracks) then you will need PCM (or to convert DSD to PCM after capture).
Now IF you had an unlimited budget, then you would look at something like a Linn LP12 (or one of the other high end turntables) and a good cartridge, get a good phono stage, a Metric Halo ULN8 or Tascam DA-3000 and a good record cleaner, but this is obviously not an option for you.
So my advise would be (a) look what of your records you can get copies of on CD, buy as many as possible second hand, look at streaming services too for other material. For the material you can't get digitally, then look at transcribing. Start by getting your turntable set up well so that you actually enjoy playing the records and listening; that will be your benchmark. Not sure what is available where you are ... but start with something like Spin Clean Vinyl Washer System - Superfi to clean the records. If you have some in particularly dirty condition which are particularly treasured, try local record shops or hifi stores they may have a record cleaning service.
Now you need some method to get the "music" into your computer. Without spending a lot you can get a pretty decent 24/96 ADC - look at brands such as Focusrite and EMU as well as lower end products from RME and (if you have a Mac) Apogee. A good place to look is a local professional music store. You will need a phono-pre but if you have a integrated amp with phono input you can connect an ADC to the record loop of the amplifier.
One thing definitely to avoid is "all in one" recording turntables. Even if you are buying a new turntable you will get much better results from something like Pro-jects entry level turntable and phono-pre than these.
A couple of other comments - you asked about storage. My thought would be to store a straight recording of the record in WAV (or AIFF). This is your "master" copy and you never alter that (except for topping and tailing the rerecording and possibly splitting it into tracks). Some of this will be dependent on what software you are using of course. This master copy will be in 24/96 (or whatever resolution you feel best). Once you have the master, you can load that into your editing software and do any declicking, altering levels, etc. you need to do, convert it and save as a FLAC, reducing quality down to 16/44.1 if you prefer a smaller CD quality version - but whatever you do make sure you keep the master safe as if you want to go back do different editing you can then easily load it without having to rerecord.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Recent EntriesDear valued Readers
We'd like to proudly inform you about the new SOtM flagship product, the sMS-1000SQ Windows Edition with AudiophileOptimizer & Roon and take the chance to start the official thread in coordination with SOtM Audio and Chris Connaker.
The SOtM sMS-1000SQ Windows Edition is a joint-venture between SOtM Audio & Highend-AudioPC. For this high-end music server we are using the already well-known SOtM sMS-1000SQ hardware and combine it with Windows Server 2012 R2 and our AudiophileOptimizer. We combined the excellent hardware of SOtM Audio with all the know-how about Windows Server and audio high-end audio optimization of ourselves to create a "ready-to-run" high-end music server. What came out in the end is truly spectacular!
The Music Server comes with Windows Server 2012 R2 (Essentials Edition) as well as AudiophileOptimizer pre-installed and pre-licensed. All Updates & RollUps of Windows Server are already installed as of December 2015.
The coming upgrade for AO 2.00 is already included, so the upgrade will be free to all future sMS-1000SQ Windows Edition owners. On top of that the "AudiophileShell" is included as bonus. The AudiophileShell is a launcher Tool, it will make it very easy to launch your MediaPlayer, reboot or shutdown your music server, etc. By pressing "I" (a hidden option) the AudiophileShell will configure itself as Shell Replacement.
The image SOtM is using to deploy the music servers is made by Highend-AudioPC from A-Z, so you can be assured you'll get the very best installation of Windows Server possible. Alternatively you can choose between two software variants, the standard variant has no Media Players pre-installed and the second variant comes with RoonServer, TIDAL, Qobuz, Foobar2000 & JRiver pre-installed (only trial versions of the media players).
The unit is available in two colors (silver & black) and three different hardware variants: USB, Analog & Digital.
The USB version comes with a tX-USBexp based USB output.
The digital version comes with AES/EBU, Coaxial, Optical and tX-USBexp based USB output.
The analog version features balanced and single ended outputs as well as the tX-USBexp based USB output.
You can choose between various combinations of SSD's and hard disks, ranging from 32Gb SSD for the OS up to 4TB HDD for music storage. An Ultra Low Noise Clock-Upgrade (SuperClock based on sCLK-2224) is available as well for all three editions.
To see more details about all possible configurations, pricing or even directly place your order please visit: SOtM sMS-1000SQ Windows Edition with AudiophileOptimizer
Please also have a look at the very detailed guide (attached below) about how to setup the sMS-1000SQ with AudiophileOptimizer as Roon Endpoint.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Bury My Heart - Scott Clark 4tet
The story behind this stunning free jazz album: ScottClark4tet “Bury My Heart” on Clean Feed Records Nov. 3rd « Scott Clark: Percussionist // Composer // Improviser
Excellent recommendation. Thanks.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
OK, I'm a Genelec fanboy.
You know that if you are a regular at CA.
Do they really sound better?
Are Genelecs for everybody?
What is the secret technology?
Do they really sound better?
Genelec stands out as the best monitors for money (IMNSHO) because they just sound invisible.
But it is not magic and as any other system, they sound best when you feed a great signal and place them wisely in a treated room. Just like anything else.
But that is where the "Just like anything else" stops.
Genelec goes to great lengths to help you get the best sound in the room you actually have.
They use all the tricks in the book: technology, topology, acoustic adaptation and education of their customers.
Check the chapter on technology.
Are Genelecs for everybody?
But they can be for most audiophiles depending on your preferences and how you go about your hobby.
Where Genelecs definitely are not the solution:
a) Users that prefer no-linear coloured sound: bass heads etc.
b) Users that prefer wood veneers or other specific colours (WAF etc)
c) Users that prefer towers
d) Users that love exchanging equipment and influencing sound that way.
e) Users that just prefers a lot of separates.
e) Under USD 800 budget for a satellite CA stereo system including DAC/AMP/Speakers/Cables (8010)
h) High end users that dislike even subtle DSP room optimization (SAM series)
i) High end users that insists DSD is the only way to go (SAM series - PCM only)
j) High end user that insists on the excellence of DXD or higher files (SAM series downsamples to 96/48kHz mid/high & bass)
What is the secret technology?
None of them are secrets, most are actually just common sense for smart engineers.
Some are patented but most are available to any manufacturer in some form.
You could say Genelec just does many more things according to the forces of nature.
But let's have a look under the hood (bonnet).
I'll be stealing the points from this page and providing my own comment for easy overview
Directivity Control Waveguide (DCW™)
Enhances flat on- and off-axis response by using the curved cabinet as an acoustic lense.
Laminar Integrated Port (LIP™)
Makes for precise bass reproduction.
Minimum Diffraction Enclosure (MDE™)
The rounded design of the cabinet makes for uncoloured sound reproduction without refraction
Sharp edges would work as secondary sound transducers muddling up the sound
Vibration decoupling Iso-Pod™
Rubber stands that improves sound image definition and flexible horisontal angling.
Highly efficient Laminar Spiral Enclosure (LSE™)
Provides accurate low frequency reproduction, a super well thought out implementation of the bass reflex port on subs.
Reflex Port Design
Advanced reflex port design for extended low frequency response, a super well implemented bass reflex port on monitors.
Transducers and Materials
Acoustically Concealed Woofers (ACW™)
Provides controlled directivity down to low frequencies on the new 8351 monitor while allowing a coaxial driver in a cabinet size normally only suited for 2 drivers.
Minimum Diffraction Coaxial (MDC™) Driver
Implementation of a coaxial transducer that produces outstanding sound image.
Natural Composite Enclosure (NCE™) Technology
The environmentally attractive wood/polymer has been selected for its resistance and durability, its high internal damping and its resilience against impacts and physical damage. The material features many of the outstanding acoustical properties found in wood fibres, being 100% stiffer than the common ABS plastics typically used in loudspeaker enclosures.
Many options and accessories enables optimum installation in all spaces.
Electronics and Networking
Active crossovers operating at low signal levels.
Splits the audio signal into separate frequency bands so the individual power amplifiers and the transducers they drive can be fully optimized for a their frequency band.
Active crossovers come in both digital and analogue varieties.
Bass Management System
The bass content of the main channels and the Low Frequency Effect (LFE) channel are directed and reproduced only by loudspeakers capable of handling them, whether they are main system loudspeakers or one or more subwoofer(s)
Each transducer is driven by its own optimized amplifier, see Active crossovers
Room Response Compensation
Fully linear frequency response in real rooms is the aim of precise compensation.
Manual DIP switches on analogue input models
Automatic DSP room compensation on digital input models (SAM)
Sophisticated drive unit protection circuitry for safe operation on both analogue and digital input models.
Smart Active Monitor (SAM™) Systems
Networked Smart Active Monitor (SAM™) Systems feature automatic room compensation using a calibrated microphone.
SAM's take both analogue and digital inputs, but all signals are converted to digital.
Value for money
The Genelec 8260's IMO kicks the ass of Bower & Wilkins 800 Diamond speakers
The 800's may be better if everything is at its best: the room, the speaker placement, the DAC and the source and amps.
A situation where room correction will make no difference and where the amps are humongous Class A monsters.
The B&W's are notorious for being picky with amps, as they are insanely power hungry.
Somebody should probably rip those passive X-overs out of them and convert them to fully actives.
That is: do the proper job B&W didn't have the balls to do.
Now do the math:
USD 23000 - Two Bower & Wilkins 800 Diamond speakers - no DAC, no amp, no cables
Now go have a listen to some Genelecs ;-)
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
Well,just had the time of my life trying to setup my new system or should i say the audio through the HDMI of the GPU to the receiver.I tried always possible with the help of anwaypasible and i was about to give up and call it a day.I went through the settings on the AV receiver and found the solution in the HDMI settings.If you come across this yourself switch o the TV in the AV receiver in the HDMI.
Well heres to not going bed now and a very long weekend of films and beer .....
- Read more...
- 0 comments
For your convenience (and mine) I've created the `alsa-capabilities` script, which shows the available alsa interfaces for audio playback in (or connected to) your linux computer, including USB DAC's, and the digital audio formats and sample rates each sound card or external USB DAC supports.
You can run it straight from the web, by copying and pasting the following command in a terminal screen:
bash <(wget -q -O - "https://lacocina.nl/alsa-capabilities") ## or bash <(curl -s "https://lacocina.nl/alsa-capabilities")
Or, you can first download it and run it from your local file system:
wget "https://lacocina.nl/alsa-capabilities" && bash alsa-capabilities
To display the sample rates each interface supports, add the -s (or --samplerates) option. CAUTION: be sure to mute the audio outputs because sample rate detection plays (pseudo) random noise on each interface, except USB Audio Class (UAC) devices.
bash <(wget -q -O - "https://lacocina.nl/alsa-capabilities") -s ## or bash alsa-capabilities -s
More information can be found on:
I hope you enjoy it!
- Read more...
- 0 comments
OK, maybe not, but hear me out. I think I found the break-even point between Digital and Analog in my system, and I think it's an interesting data point for some who, like me, have spent years and years and years and countless 10s of $1000s wondering how good my digital system sounds in the grand "scheme," and how much better can it sound, and at what cost? And when the F are people going to stop suggesting I should try vinyl?
DIGITAL OR DIE
For the record (no pun intended), I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Digital man. I've only owned one vinyl album in my whole life--Thriller, yep--MJ. Bought it when it came out around Christmas in 1982, when I was in fifth grade. I bought it at Meier in Newark, Ohio while off from school on the holiday break. I played it on a Sears All-in-One stereo my parents bought me that same Christmas. Up to that point it had been radio and homemade mix-tapes of 80s goodies, taped off of the radio, or listening with my parents to their Neil Diamond on their console downstairs. Occasionally I would steal some 45s I liked from my parents' console and would play them up on the stereo in my room, but there weren't many I liked.
I quickly learned that records were a pain in the ass, especially when you were 11. They sounded like crap, too. Sears couldn't even make them sound good. Cassette tape is where it was at, I figured out. Sony Walkman to the scene, and my vinyl collection was one and done. My next two "albums" were Duran Duran's Seven and Ragged Tiger and Billy Idol's Rebel Yell--both released a whole year after Thriller--and I bought both of them on cassette tape. Somehow I lived with Thriller for an entire year with no other albums. I don't think I go a week like that now...a whole year with one album!
Some years of cassette buying went by, and in the summer of 1987, my younger brother shocked me by buying a CD player. It must have been a Sony D-5 or something close, that had been out for a couple of years and had come down in price. I can remember being surprised that he spent so much money on it...I think it was like $100, which to a fifth grader and a seventh grader, was a ton of cash where we lived. We already had Sony Walkmans--why did he need a CD? He told me CDs were supposed to sound better than cassette tapes, and WAY better than vinyl. He was like "it's digital." That made all the sense in the world to me--it must sound better. CDs had been out for several years, but we didn't own any, or know anyone who did. And as if the CD player wasn't cool enough, he brought home an album that his since become my all-time-favorite. The Joshua Tree.
We RCA-connected his portable CD player to my Sears All-in-One. Joshua Tree blew my mind. It blew my mind on CD. By the transitive property, CDs blew my mind.
I CAN AFFORD NICE STUFF FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE
Fast forward nearly 20 years to about 2006. I bought some mid-fi stereo equipment. NAD, Adcom, Krell, NHT speakers. I started to run a "CD" Digital rig with no CD player, and process my MP3s with Burwen Bobcat software. Well, I've since had to rip my CDs a second time--all of them--because I first ripped them compressed before I knew any better. Actually, I still have some of those Bobcat MP3s sprinkled throughout my music servers, and they don't actually sound that bad. But 10 years later, with vastly better 2 channel gear, like many of you, I would never go back to spinning discs--of any size or format. To date I have over 1,600 cd albums ripped. Many of the CDs I've had since not long after that fateful day in 1987 when I fell in love with U2. And CDs for that matter.
Sometime this year, I made it. My system finally sounded as good as I wanted it to. All digital. All the time. And it sounds phenomenal. Years and years and years of trading out speakers, DACs, amps, speaker cables, interconnects, power cords. And that f'#$@ing computer. All of them. Apple wasted about 5 years of my digital listening--don't get me started. I couldn't bring myself to go Windows or Linux native. Apple wouldn't build an expensive computer--in many different shapes and sizes--that wouldn't sound awesome through a nice DAC. Would they? Turns out, yes. But that's another rant for a different day.
Then I found the Aurender. So much better than all 6 MACs I've tried over the years. Then I added the Schiit Yggy DAC. Then I went back to my PrimaLuna, and it sounded great with my Zu speakers. Then I bought new Zu speakers, and a new PrimaLuna HP with upgraded KT-120s (yes, I hear the 150s are even better). Then I sat back, listened to the clarity, the soundstage, the cymbals, the guitars, the banjos, the stand-up basses, and I was finally happy. FINALLY. Super super musical with a sound that was as good as I wanted. Any my analog friends come over and reluctantly admit "that sounds like analog--doesn't sound like digital at all."
Well we all know it wouldn't last, or you wouldn't be on this site.
THE DARK SIDE CALLS
A day before I took my kids to see the new Star Wars, I stopped by a local stereo store (brick and morter!) that is literally 2 minutes from my work, and carries many of the brands I love, and many I already own. How in the hell did I not know this was here?
Super happy with my digital setup, a ton of turntables caught my eye. They were everywhere. And nice ones. Since this is a Digital site, I'll skip to the punchline. You know what happened. That was 3 weeks ago. I'm obsessive. I own 107 vinyl albums so far. That includes Thriller, which I found in my parents' basement.
SO YOU'VE GOT VINYL NOW...SO WHAT'S BETTER?
With this equipment, and CD-quality rips, the winner is...they sound nearly identical. But right now, tonight only. Not with yesterday's equipment (iFi phono stage)...digital was better. Not with what I'm going to have in a week with a better TT, cart, tonearm, and likely a new phono stage...I suspect analog will sound better. RIGHT NOW. THE SAME. WITH THE LONER turntable and phono stage, albeit very nice ones.
I did my comparison, unscientifically, using a cd rip of the Joshua Tree, and a used vinyl version which I cleaned like no one's business. I used some other album combos which I had as well. Ironically, while I found my original Thriller album, I don't own it on CD.
I a/b tested with two inputs on the PrimaLuna. They were eerily close--and many times I forgot which one I was listening to. And both sounded phenomenal.
So here is the perfect 1:1 matchup:
Digital--Aurender N100 and Schiit Iggy--$2500 + $2300=$4800 for a killer digital front-end.
Analog--VPI HW19 mk 4, Grace RS-9E MM cart (70s, but retipped?), Audio Research PH3SE phono stage with Bugle Boy Amperex NOS tubes--$1500 used TT + $500 used cart + $1300 used phono + $100 tubes = $3400 for a pretty killer analog rig, albeit 15 years or more old.
WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU JUST PROVED?
I'm not sure, except that if someone tells you a $400 turntable with a $100 MM cartridge and a cheap phono stage can beat an Aurender/Schiit Iggy digital combo, take the bet. I bet it can't in anyone's system. That $4800 is the best you will spend in a long, long, long time. It will take a $20K digital combo to better it by much at all.
However, if someone has a decent turntable (with clean power), isolated from vibrations, with a good cartridge and a good, tubed phono stage...they might give your killer digital front-end a run for the money.
My new VPI Signature table with speed control, a 3d-printed arm, a Lyra Kleos MC cart, feeding this same Audio Research PH3SE, should beat my digital front-end. But it will also cost almost $10K--2x what my digital front-end costs. Will it beat it by a lot? I'll report back in a couple weeks when it arrives and burns in for a bit. As much as I love my digital rig, my money is on the new turntable combo winning by some amount.
I'm going to try to buy a hi-res download of Thriller for that comparison.
The easiest way to try HQPlayer/NAA, is connecting directly the computer that runs HQPlayer to the mac mini with the NAA, just configure with static IPs on the same subnet, like 10.10.10.1 and 10.10.10.2, mask 255.255.255.0. Just run the NAA on the Mac Mini (you just see it running on the terminal window) with the DAC connected and working. Then run the HQPlayer, in settings select NAA, choose the DAC and play some música.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
This blog post sums up the influence of jitter in the recording-storage-playback chain in three simple but sound statements. [some additional insights and reasoning are given in brackets.]
Note: Statement two rules out systematic differences in the playback of bit identical files due to differences in noise stored along with the information (e.g. through varying strengths of the physical representations of 1s and 0s) when playing from RAM.
1) Jitter during analog to digital conversion is embedded into the digital data.
[That means the digital data is not an accurate representation of the analog signal. Nothing can be done (short of trying to second guess the jitter and correct for that - at best a statistical game), once the conversion has been done. And there are other reasons the digital data is not an accurate representation (fx the bit depth necessarily leads to rounding).]
2) As long as no errors in the data are introduced (which is rare and can easily be checked), copying, streaming, uploading, downloading, moving, ... the digital data does not have any influence on jitter.
[Even though the signal is stored by analog levels of something on the media, the reconstruction process will read data into many levels of memory hierarchy, obliterating any systematic differences due to potentially differing analog levels on the media. By design, this type of noise is ignored when moving data in the digital domain.]
3) During playback, many factors can influence the timing of how the data packets are delivered to the DAC, i.e., can introduce jitter.
[How much influence this has on the resulting sound depends to a good degree on how well-designed the DAC and its power supply are.]
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
Here's my review of the Nighthawk, and this time in a nicely-formatted pasteup. I cover the solidly good points as well as any objections I found in other reviews.
Well done Dale! I agree with you that these are very special headphones. I look forward to your extension to this with comparisons in fair detail with other excellent headphones.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
My DSD Template
Like you I’ve made the leap to deal with a technology oft maligned but which consistently sounds the best to my ears. It is a big investment in time and money to achieve full advantage of DSD in your system so buyer be ware. In a years time we may see shift to 32 bit music at which point PCM may reign supreme again, however, the file size vs quality leads me to say DSD will be relevant long into the future.
I though it might be valuable to some of you to share the way I’ve maximized use of SACD and DSD material to enjoy the music I love best.
Template 1: Surround Sound- DSD Surround Jute box via HDMI
I believe this is the real killer feature of DSD material. In order to enjoy DSD in surround, however you need a system capable of reproducing surround music (ie 5.1 speaker system or 5.0 I suppose) and probably SACD ripping capability (not easy) as most surround material is on physical discs (although you can purchase surround files from native DSD but they are usually more expensive than the discs). Many receivers, especially ones designed in Japan are capable of decoding DSD natively over HDMI. I think this is the crux of my blog post: how to get a DSD jute box going to store and reproduce surround DSD. So here it is, my template for doing so:
Hard drive 2TB or less with DSD rips in surround DSF format (formatted NTFS or Fat 32)-> usb input of Sony Blu-ray player capable of playing DSF files (ie BDP-S6200 cheap!)-> HDMI output to DSD native receiver-> 5.1 surround (its magic, really)
One could purchase a 4k+ dac and try to play from the computer but you can get a hold of a cheap Yamaha receiver with HDMI DSD native playback and a Sony Blu-ray player (check that it has this capability first) for pretty cheap. Spend the rest on good speakers.
Template 2: Stereo
My best stereo system is attached to my computer via a PCM only Dac that I bough last year for a considerable sum and I don’t really want to go through the hassle of trying to sell it in favor of a dac that can do dsd but probably not PCM as well (especially where most material is in PCM still). So here is my stereo template
DSD download or SACD rip in Stereo-> Hybrid DSh file using DSD Master-> iTunes -> PCM Dac -> rotel/b&w stereo system
Both of these setups allows on-demand play of music which was my aim and while the surround setup is a bit of a hack it is native playback and sounds amazing. Can’t wait for my SACD shipment from hong-kong to arrive. Keep it up Sony Hong-Kong!
Enjoy the music,
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
Modern PCM sigma-delta converters produce much lower error signals than1-bit sigma-delta DSD converters. The errors in the DSD system are due to the1-bit quantization that occurs in 1-bit sigma-delta DSD converters. Multi-bit PCMsigma-delta converters can be fully dithered and do not suffer from this un-dithered truncation. Plus, every added bit reduces the noise signal by 6 dB. A 4-bit sigma-delta converter is 24 dB quieter than a 1-bit sigma-delta DSD converter. Right from the start, 1-bit DSD signals have much higher losses than multi-bit PCM signals.
Conversion from 1-bit DSD to multi-bit PCM is a lossless process inside the audio band. The only thing that is removed is the out-of-band noise above the Nyquist limit of the PCM system. Nothing else is lost. Don't believe the DSD marketing hype.
In contrast, conversion from multi-bit PCM to 1-bit DSD is always a lossy process.The loss is due to the 1-bit truncation. This truncation introduces a very large ultrasonic error signal that makes the ultrasonic region unusable for audio. But remember the ultrasonic region of DSD is always unusable for audio because of the high noise levels. This ultrasonic noise produced by 1-bit DSD systems must always be removed before reaching power amplifiers and tweeters. When the noise is removed, the ultrasonic audio content is also removed.
Processing a 1-bit signal to create a 1-bit signal is also always alossy process. A volume control is one of the simplest processes in a multi-bit PCM system, but it creates a large error signal when applied in a 1-bit DSD system.The same is true for any other 1-bit to 1-bit DSP process. The lossy part of these DSP processes is the quantization back to 1-bit. Cascaded 1-bit truncation processes can rapidly degrade the audio quality. For this reason, DSD is almost always processed as multi-bit PCM.
Any DSP process applied to a 1-bit DSD signal produces a multi-bit PCM signal. No loss of information occurs until this multi-bit signal is quantized back to a 1-bit signal. Why incur the loss by going back to a 1-bit signal after the processing inherently produces a multi-bit PCM signal?
All practical DSD systems require some sort of DSP processing (gain control, mixing, filtering, etc.) and all of these processes produce multi-bit PCM results. Taking these lossless multi-bit results and adding loss by truncating them back to a 1-bit DSD signal makes absolutely no sense. DSD complicates the signal processing and adds unnecessary losses in several places along the signal path. DSD does not simplify the signal path.
There is absolutely no truth to the marketing hype that claims that 1-bit DSD is a simpler system than multi-bit PCM. The exact opposite is true. 1-bit DSD is a lossy system.
John Siau, VP Benchmark Media Systems, Inc.
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
USB and Other Digital Cables Round Up as of 2/5/2016
* Indicates an update since the previous posting.
When it’s time to buy USB or other digital cables, what’s the first thing to do? Well, you’re likely to turn to the audiophile mags and Internet sources for reviews and opinions. Info is out there but scattered about, so here is a round up that doesn’t pretend to be comprehensive to assist you. This is what I wished I had when I was in the market for cables to assist in narrowing down my choices. So, I hope you find it helpful my audiophile friends.
This round up is divided into a USB Cables section and an Other Digital Cables section. Items are listed by year and prices are listed after each section ranging from $8.25 to $3,595.
“Recommended Components” and “Editors’ Choice” lists are a convenient source so some are listed here.
Cables that audio reviewers state they use in their own audio systems are included too. For example, Stereophile magazine reviewers typically list digital cables in an associated equipment section of their reviews.
Notice that some cables are recommended often; that's a good clue wouldn’t you think?
*Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 USB cable was used by Chris Connaker in his MQA review dated 2/5/2016 at http://www.computeraudiophile.com.
*Audioquest Coffee, Nordost Blue Heaven, and Nordost Heimdahl 2.0 USB cables were used by Kirk Midtskog in a Hegel H360 amp review in The Absolute Sound, Feb. 2016, Issue 260.
Audioquest Diamond and Cardas Clear USB cables were used by Jon Iverson is his review of the Apogee Electronics Groove DAC/headphone amp in Stereophile, January 2016, Vol. 39, No.1.
Audience Au24 SE USB cable was reviewed by editor Robert Harley at theasolutesound.com in the Guide to Cables, Power Products, Accessories, & Music 2015 (free download). He concluded, "priced at the very top end of the scale, but if you want a no-compromise USB cable, look no further."
Oyaide d+ Class A USB 2.0 cable was reviewed and highly recommended by Karl Schuster at theasolutesound.com in the Guide to Cables, Power Products, Accessories, & Music 2015 (free download).
Kubala-Sosna Research Realization USB cable was given a Positivefeedback.com 2015 Brutus Award by editor David Robinson. He said it "is absolutely the best USB cable that I've heard to date. You can quote me on that…and you can take it to the bank."
Audioquest Diamond, Wire World Platinum Starlight 7, and Nordost Purple Flare USB cables were used by John Connaker in his review of the Schitt Audio Yggdrasil DAC in ComputerAudiophile.com on November 3, 2015.
Kubala-Sosna Research Realization USB cable was reviewed by Steven Plaskin at Audiostream.com on October 22, 2015. He compared it to the Audioquest Diamond, Light Harmonic LightSpeed 10G USB, and Synergistic Research Galileo LE USB Cables. He said that it "receives my strongest accolades as the most satisfying USB cable I have had the pleasure to audition."
The Shunyata Vemon and Audioquest Carbon USB cables were recommended as good matches with the Benchmark DAC2 HGC digital/analog converter by Steven Plaskin in the comments section of his review of the Kubala-Sosna Research Realization USB cable (see above).
DanaCable USB cable was reviewed by Wayne Donnelly at EnjoyTheMusic.com in the September 2015 edition.
Clarus Crimson USB and Kimber Kable KS2436 USB cables were reviewed by Neil Gader on August 26, 2015 in a The Absolute Sound online review. He gave the Clarus Crimson USB a Golden Ear Award 2015.
Stereophile online 2015 Recommended Components (queried May 15, 2015):
AudioQuest Forest iPod–USB cable
Transparent Audio Performance USB cable
Shunyata Research Venom USB cable. Reviewed positively by Steven Plaskin, Audiostream.com, April 30, 2015. In the review, he mentioned the Belkin Pro Series USB cable negatively and called the Audioquest Diamond USB cable one of his favorites.
DH Labs Silver Sonic USB, Cardas Clear USB, and Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7.0 USB cables were reviewed online by Jonathan Lo, EnjoyTheMusic.com, mid-December 2014. The Belkin Gold Series USB cable is also mentioned in comparison.
Nordost Blue Heaven USB cable. Listed as associated equipment by Art Dudley, Stereophile, July 2014.
Audioquest Diamond USB cable, Stealth Varidig Sextet USB cable, and the Synergistic Research USB Active SE cable were compared online by Andy Schaub, positive-feedback.com, Issue 72, March/April 2014.
The Absolute Sound (TAS) 2014 High-End Audio Buyer’s Guide, Issue 237 recommendations:
Belkin Gold Series
Wireworld Platinum Starlight
Wireworld Silver Starlight
The Absolute Sound 2013 Editors’ Choice Awards, Issue 241, March 2014 recommendations:
Belkin Gold Series
Wireworld Platinum Starlight
Wireworld Silver Starlight
Audioquest Coffee and Belkin Gold USB cables were used by Stereophile editor John Atkinson as associated equipment in a recent DAC review. Source: Stereophile, March 2014, Vol. 37, No. 3.
Audioquest Diamond and Cardas Clear USB cables were used by Jon Iverson as associated equipment in a recent DAC review. Source: Stereophile, March 2014, Vol. 37, No. 3.
Light Harmonic LightSpeed USB cable was used in the Ayre QB-9 DSD DAC review in Audiostream online by Michael Lavorgna on February 24, 2014.
Cardas Clear and DH Labs Silver Sonic USB cables were used by Erick Lichte as associated equipment in a DAC review. Source: Stereophile, February 2014, Vol. 37, No. 2.
Audioquest Diamond and Wireworld Sliver Starlight USB cables were used by Chris Connaker as associated equipment in recent reviews on 1/29/2014.
Light Harmonic LightSpeed and Synergistic Research USB Active SE cables were deemed the best sounding match with the Bricasti Design M1 DACunder review by Steven Plaskin in Audiostream online on January 20, 2014.
Stereophile online 2013 Recommended Components:
Transparent Audio Performance
Pranawire Photon USB cable won a Positive Feedback 2013 Brutus Award from editor David Robinson. He stated that this is his new reference standard.
Purist Audio Design Ultimate, Wywires Litespd, and Light Harmonic Lightspeed USB cables won Positive Feedback 2013 Brutus Awards from editor Dave Clark.
Audioquest Diamond and Synergistic Research USB Active SE cables were deemed the best sounding match with the Benchmark DAC2 HGC under review by Steven Plaskin in Audiostream online on December 4, 2013.
USB cables that Plaskin uses in his own high end system are: Audioquest Diamond and Light Harmonic LightSpeed.
In Audiostream.com there is a review of three cables titled “USB Cable Shootout” by Steven Plaskin on April 22, 2013:
Synergistic Research USB Active SE cable with Enigma Tuning Circuits
Wireworld Platinum Starlight
Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB cable won a TAS 2012 Golden Ear Award from Alan Taffel in the Sept. 2012 issue.
Audioquest Diamond USB cable review in TAS March 2012 by editor Robert Harley. This is his reference cable.
DH Labs Silver Sonic USB cable was reviewed favorably by Tom Gibbs in Positive Feedback, Issue 59, Jan/Feb 2012 edition.
DH Labs Silver Sonic USB cable won a Goodsound/SoundStage! 2012 Great Buy Award. Reviewed by Hans Wetzel on January 1, 2012.
Price List Of USB Cables In This Round Up
Audience Au24 SE USB cable (length not specified; $895 single connector; $995 double connector)
Audioquest Carbon (0.75m $129; 1.5m $169)
Audioquest Coffee (0.75m $279; 1.5m $349)
Audioquest Diamond (0.75m $549; 1.5m $695)
Audioquest Forest (0.75m $35; 1.5m $39)
Audioquest Forest iPod–USB cable (1.5m $39)
Belkin Gold Series (1m $15)
Belkin Pro Series (6ft $8.25)
Cardas Clear (1m $168)
Clarus Crimson (1m $250; 2m $350)
DanaCable (2m $895)
DH Labs Silver Sonic (1m $70; 1.5m $80)
Kubala-Sosna Research Realization (1m $3500)
Kimber Kable KS2436 (1m/$1195)
Light Harmonic Lightspeed (1.6m $1399)
Nordost Blue Heaven (1m $249; 3m $699)
Nordost Heimdahl 2.0 (1m $499)
Oyaide d+ Class A USB 2.0 (1m $50; 2m $70; 3m $90)
Pranawire Photon (0.6m $995; 1.2m $1295)
Purist Audio Design Ultimate (1m $995)
Shunyata Research Venom (.75m $125; 1.5m $195)
Stealth Varidig Sextet (1m $3,000)
Straightwire USB-Link (1m, $50; 1.5m, $60)
Synergistic Research USB Active SEe w/ Enigma Tuning Circuits (1m $595)
Transparent Audio Performance (1m $95)
Wireworld Platinum Starlight (1m $599)
Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 (1m $700)
Wireworld Silver Starlight (1m $275)
Wywires Litespd (1.5m $799)
Other Digital Cables Recommendations
*Audioquest Hawkeye 75 Ohm and Shunyata Anaconda Ztron S/PDIF digital cables were used by Kirk Midtskog in a Hegel H360 amp review in The Absolute Sound, Feb. 2016, Issue 260.
Empirical Design ED-120 Coaxial 75 Ohm Digital cable is part of reviewer's Karl Schuster's stereo system as noted in his review of the Oyaide d+ Class A USB 2.0 cable at theasolutesound.com in the downloadable Guide to Cables, Power Products, Accessories, & Music 2015.
Stereophile online 2015 Recommended Components (queried 5/15/2015):
Canare DigiFlex Gold model RCAPOO3F digital cable (75 ohm)
DH Labs Silver Sonic D-110 AES/EBU digital cable
Kimber Orchid AES/EBU digital cable
Kubala-Sosna Expression digital cable (75 Ohm)
Black Cat Veloce 75 Ohm digital cable (1.23m $123). Listed as associated equipment by Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile, July 2014. (Also, reviewed in 6moons.com, July 2010, by Srajan Ebaen.)
DH Labs Silver Sonic D-110 AES/EBU digital cable was used by Stereophile editor John Atkinson as associated equipment in a DAC review. Source: Stereophile March 2014, Vol. 37, No. 3.
DH Labs Silver Sonic D-110 AES/EBU digital cable and Stereovox HDVX coaxial cable were used by Erick Lichte as associated equipment in a Benchmark DAC2 HGC review. Source: Stereophile, February 2014, Vol. 37, No. 2.
Straightwire Info-Link AES/EBU and Coaxial Digital Cable in The Absolute Sound 2014 High-End Audio Buyer’s Guide (other digital cables) Source: Issue 237.
Transparent XL Reference Digital Link cable (75 Ohm; 110 Ohm) in TAS Editor's Choice Awards 2014. Reviewed by Jacob Heilbrunn in TAS January 2014, Issue 239.
Stereophile online 2013 Recommended Components:
Analysis Plus Digital Oval
Canare DigiFlex Gold model RCAPOO3F 75 ohm
DH Labs Silver Sonic D-110 AES/EBU
Kimber Orchid AES/EBU
Ocellia Reference Cables digital cable won a 6Moons.com Blue Moon Award in September 2012.
2011 and Prior
Stereovox XV2 75 Ohm Digital cable was reviewed by Rick Becker at EnjoyTheMusic.com in July 2006.
Stereovox HDVX Coaxial Digital cable was reviewed favorably in Enjoy the Music.com in January 2004 by Todd Warnke. This site has several other cable reviews.
Rick Becker, EnjoytheMusic.com, July 2010, reviewed three digital cables: Harmonic Technology Photon S/PDIF, Audio Sensibility Statement S/PDIF, and Teo Audio Liquid.
Kimber D-60 digital cable (75 ohm). Audio Advisor states that this was a Stereophile recommended cable in 1996.
Price List Of Other Digital Cables In This Round Up
Analysis Plus Digital Oval 75 Ohm cable (1m $190)
Audio Sensibility Statement S/PDIF digital cable (1.0/1.5m $199)
Audioquest Hawkeye S/PDIF 75 Ohm digital cable (2m $200)
Black Cat Veloce 75 Ohm cable (1.23m $123)
Canare DigiFlex Gold model RCAPOO3F 75 Ohm cable (3ft $19)
DH Labs Silver Sonic D-110 AES/EBU cable (1m $99)
Empirical Design ED-120 Coaxial 75 Ohm digital cable (3ft $96; 5ft $110; 8ft $131)
Harmonic Technology Photon S/PDIF digital cable (length unknown $1900)
Kimber D-60 75 Ohm cable (.5m $228; 1m $390)
Kimber Orchid AES/EBU cable (1m $757)
Kubala-Sosna Expression cable (1m $775)
Ocellia Reference Cables digital cable (1m $1027)
Shunyata Anaconda Ztron S/PDIF digital coaxial cable (1m $1250)
Stereovox HDVX coaxial cable (1m $100 in yr. 2004)
Stereovox XV2 75 Ohm digital cable (1m $150 in yr. 2006)
Straightwire Info-Link AES/EBU or coaxial cable (1m $220; 1.5m $280)
Teo Audio Liquid digital cable (1m $749)
Transparent XL Reference Digital Link cable (75 Ohm $3195; 110 Ohm $3595)
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Recent EntriesI've used J River offline to resample files to 176 or 192, and then use AcourateNAS (a great tool, by the way) offline to convert those to room/speaker corrected files.
I've also used J River inline and Acourate inline, and there were no noticeable differences versus the above.
I could buy a used Korg recorder, that I'd have no use for, to unlock AudioGate, but, I don't think it will mount an ISO file so it would only, I think, solve my DSF file issue.
If there's not something a lot better than J River's built in tools then it won't be worth it.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
This blog post will be a work in progress as time and motivation allow but in this first go round I wanted to start off by talking about the bandwidth requirements (As Observed) from a networking perspective while streaming several different flavors of music files found in your average Audiophiles music library.
To date, I have not yet seen anyone post this sort of information on the web showing the actual "flow" patterns and behavior of the various streamed files under test. Understandably, this is probably not all that interesting to many folks and maybe even a bit too far "in weeds" for this given topic but in any event I found it quite interesting and felt maybe the information could be useful to the Computer Audio community in some way now or in the future.
At this point its probably a good idea for me to first talk about how I went about gathering this sort of information to prove its validity and worthiness of posting. Afterwards I will move on to the meat and potatoes of the topic itself.
I built a dedicated NMS (Network Monitoring Station) using a fresh install of Windows 8.1. The NMS itself is a virtual machine which lives as an instance on Oracle's Virtual Box platform. The physical host machine which supports the virtual NMS runs a copy of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.
During the install of the NMS I chose to place its virtual disk files on the local Ubuntu Host as to avoid any unnecessary network activity which could have skewed the results gathered during this test. The virtual NMS had its network card configured as a "Bridged" adapter which essentially means that it is a dedicated resource on the network, has its own unique MAC Address and receives a DHCP IP Address all its own. This step should, I believe, help filter out any excess chatter taking place on the physical Unbuntu host itself where the virtual machine resides.
Once my NMS was built I proceeded to download a copy of Paessler's "PRTG Network Monitor" software which I have used in the past while doing my day job and am very familiar with. The software is Free for 30 Days and includes full functionality during that time. I then performed the install on the fresh Win 8.1 NMS virtual machine.
I used an enterprise class 8-Port Cisco 2960G switch between the NAS being tested and the NMS computer. The switch itself is a bit more advanced then your average Linksys but still only a basic Layer2 device (ie..no routing). Despite being a lower end Cisco product it still includes the ability to configure an SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) community which is the protocol I ultimately used gathered the data for this blog post. Another benefit of using this switch is that it includes a fairly sizable and mature library of MIB's (Management Information Base) for use with SNMP for monitoring purposes.
After setting up an SNMP community on my Cisco switch I then used the PRTG software to scan the IP Address of the switch to look for sensors to monitor. One of the sensors it discovered was the Ethernet Interface where my Synology NAS is plugged into. This interface and the network traffic passed thru it is the source for all data gathered for this blog post.
Once I had the above configured I proceeded to adjust the default data gathering interval used by PRTG (60sec) to something a bit more aggressive. In this case I used the lowest supported interval of 10sec per sample. Basically this means that every 10 sec the PRTG monitoring software will "Sniff" the port where the NAS device is plugged into and show me what it see's on a graph and table within the PRTG software. In my case, I will use the Table data from PRTG to then Import it into an MS Excel Spreadsheet for chart creation as seen later in this post.
The Streamed Music Files Being Tested:
So in order to maintain some form of consistency for this test I dug thru my music library for a group of files that all used the same file type. In the case of this test I used all .FLAC files (except DSD) at the following Bit/Freq rates:
16bit x 44Khz - Paul Van Dyk - The Other Side - Politics of Dancing Album
24bit x 48Khz - Peter Gabrial - Heroes - Scratch My Back Album
24bit x 88Khz - Three O'Clock Blues - Eric Clapton & BB King -Riding w/ the King Album
24bit x 96Khz - Stevie Ray Vaghn & Albert King - Blues At Sunrise - In Session Album
24bit x 192Khz - Madonna - Lucky Star - Madonna Album
DSD64 (.dsf) - Boston - More Than A Feeling - Boston Album
The Test Process
The test approach was pretty simple. I would play each file one by one, record its start and end time, copy the data in the PRTG table for that file then move on to the next one. Rinse and Repeat. Doing it this way would also help to keep the information in the table within the PRTG software nice and separate to avoid any mistakes.
The PRTG Software was able to gather both the Volume of data coming from the NAS to the Cisco switch as well as the Speed/Rate at which that data was passing thru the Interface. The Interface used by my NAS is marked ETH0/3. I choose to use this Interface as my data gathering source because there are no network hopes involved between it and the NMS virtual machine which is Local to the same switch. Maybe at some point I will try another test on a different switch further downstream which is Local to the music server itself and see if the output on the chart looks any different then it does here.
As you will see below the different files do exhibit a very different behavior as they pass thru the switch. The Red Book file appears to require very small, short bursts of network bandwidth while playing. You can see that roughly every 30 secs or so the music server asks for a 4MB burst and in between that request there are other smaller requests for 1KB of data every 10sec. I suspect this has something to do with pre-determined buffer sizes configured on the music server for the various files being tested.
I found it very interesting that the 24x192 file was the most demanding in all cases. This went against my initial assumption that the DSD file would be the most demanding since I thought it contained more data. After some further thought on this I suspect it has something to do with how the file is packaged. Maybe more efficient with less white space but thats just a hunch.
Nevertheless, in the grand scheme of things there doesn't look to be any real issue present in terms of the streaming bandwidth requirements for any of the files as long as someone can ensure a solid 30MB of bandwidth is available for streaming from a wired or wireless connection at home. One thing that folks should take notice to though is that during the beginning of each song there is a fairly large spike/request made to begin playback for each of the files and as the file quality goes up so does the need to maintain that solid 30MB of readily available bandwidth. For those in the Wireless camp with antennas at further distances away it wouldn't be hard to imagine that some parts of the house may not have 30MB of headroom to play with so check to make sure your covered (no pun intended) to avoid any issues.
Well thats all I have for now. Please feel free to offer any thoughts or observations of your own
Traffic Analysis - Incoming Transfer Rate Comparison of the various files under test
Traffic Analysis - Incoming Data Volume Comparison of the various files under test
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
Large Music Libraries vs Streaming Services
A lot of us “Computer Audiophiles” have amassed huge libraries of music, either from our legacy CD library or from online vendors, such as HDTracks or some mixture of the two. So much music that it’s sobering to think we may not ever get a chance to listen to it all.
This reminds me of one of my favourite writers, Colin Wilson who wrote a book about his own favourite books, called ‘The Books in My Life’’. He’d amassed a large collection of 20,000 books and he realised he would probably never get to read them all. The point was though that they were there, and so the choice of what to read and when to read it was always available to him.
I believe it’s a similar situation with our large music libraries. With lossless streaming services such as Qobuz and WiMP/Tidal it’s like having one of the worlds larger public libraries available at our fingertips.
If you lived next door to the world’s largest public library, would you bother to amass your own collection of books? Is there any point in duplicating a sub-set of the music available on Qobuz or WiMP/Tidal on several hard drives (including back-ups) of course.
Well despite the easy and convenient access the lossless streaming services provide, you might still want to keep your own library at home. Here are the reasons I can think of as to why:
1/ The lossless streaming service may go out of business. We know Qobuz is currently in financial trouble and I really hope they survive. I’ve been a ‘HiFi” (lossless) subscriber since close to the beginning and have taken some time and trouble in building a lot of large playlists within Qobuz.
2/ There is a higher resolution version of the music you want, available to buy from Qobuz or elsewhere (Qobuz is also an online store, like HDTracks) and you’d rather have the higher rez version.
3/ Not all of the music listed on Qobuz or WiMP/Tidal, when you subscribe to their lossless streaming services, is actually available to stream losslessly. This is no fault of Qobuz or WiMP/Tidal; but is a restriction imposed on them by some of the labels. I would say at a guess that about 85% of their libraries are available for steaming losslessly. When you come across one or two tracks in an album that are restricted to an MP3 extract though, it’s very annoying. Another restriction that sometimes crops up on Qobuz is that a particular track is only available for streaming, if you’ve already purchased that track. “What’s the point?” you might say. Again another annoying restriction which is no fault of Qobuz.
4/ You can still get far more quality out of a 44.1khz 16bit file stored on your hard drive, using one of the better player apps, than can be obtained by streaming the same file from Qobuz or WiMP/Tidal. Or perhaps this is no longer the case. Read on:
Improving sound quality of Lossless streams
There are things we can do about this last point and I’m going to spend the rest of this article discussing those, without going into too much detail.
The premium “HiFi” Lossless streaming services are available to subscribers for around €20/$20 dollars per month. It seems like a pretty good deal to get unlimited lossless streaming at CD quality for what used to be the cost of just one CD per month.
The “HiFi” services are of course aimed at the audiophile though, which means people who really care about sound. The rest will be content with lossy services from Spotify; etc.
Since we care about sound, I feel we should be at liberty to use whatever playback method we wish to get the best out of these “HiFi” services for our 20 per month. I’ve been struggling with this issue for several years. Here’s a summary of my attempts to do something about it so far:
Before getting into the sound quality aspects, I just want to mention the desire to be able to remote control our interactions with these streaming services. We can use Apple’s remote app on IOS for iTunes or the JRemote app for controlling J River Media Center, so why shouldn’t we have the same capability with the streaming services when using a Mac or PC?
Both Qobuz and WiMP/Tidal have apps for IOS, Android; etc. but they are used for streaming to these mobile devices. They don’t have an app that can control either the Qobuz or WiMP/Tidal apps running on a desktop machine.
The sole solution I’ve found for this when interacting with Qobuz is to run XBMC on the desktop PC, install the Qobuz add-on for XBMC and then use XBMC’s free remote app on IOS or Android for controlling XBMC.
It just so happens that XBMC also offers several possibilities that can help us to improve sound quality as well.
My first attempt to improve the Sound from Qobuz was on a Mac using Pure Music from Channel D. Pure music comes with a feature called Channel D PAD, which allows you to route any audio playing on your Mac through Pure Music. It’s a little tricky to set up at first; but it is one way that you should be able to improve the sound of Qobuz lossless streaming. As long as you can get reliable playback using Pure Music’s DSP features. These include up-sampling to the maximum sample rate supported by your DAC, as well as the possibility of using Audio Unit plug-ins you may have available on your system. You might have an Audio Unit plug-in loaded within Pure Music to perform equalisation for digital room correction for example.
This might work out well for you. In my experience when it was working it was working fine; but there were times when I suffered break up of sound despite being on a reasonable internet connection of around 18 mbits/sec. I couldn’t solve this problem completely despite tweaking some parameters in Audio Midi Set-up. You might find yourself having to turn off all the DSP functions to get reliable playback; but this seems to defeat the purpose of running the audio through Pure Music.
All audio can benefit from this approach, including internet radio stations.
On the Windows side; but not yet on the Mac version, J River Media Center has a similar capability which it calls “Live Playback” (formally Loopthru). This involves sending the output of the original application (e.g. Qobuz desktop app) to the default windows sound card, J River then picks it up from there and sends it to whatever DAC you have instructed J River to use as output.
Since J River can perform up sampling to the Maximum capabilities of your DAC, as well as convert 44.1khz/16 bit audio to DSD (up to DSD256 if you have a DSD capable DAC) this is an excellent feature. As with Pure Music, J River also supports plug-ins (VST) and others for other DSP effects, such as digital room correction.
You’ll need a reasonably up to date and powerful machine to take advantage of these DSP features; but they do enable significant improvements over a lossless stream coming from Qobuz.
There is no need to use XBMC to loop the audio through J River. You can use the Qobuz desktop app and choose your default sound card as the output device from its preferences, and have j River handle the audio, then send it on to your DAC.
I have tried this with both the Qobuz and WiMP/Tidal desktop apps. From my tests it seems that both of these apps add a fair amount of overhead. They may work well enough as intended. In other words as used as the player directly to your external DAC. When you try to loop their output through J River though, you might experience sound break-up.
Whether you get reliable playback using the loopthru/live playback method, depends on a number of factors.
1/ The quality of your internet connection.
2/ How far you are trying to up-sample/convert the 44.1khz 16bit stream
3/ The specs and configuration of your computer
On a poor internet connection I could only go as far as up-sampling PCM to 192khz 24bit from WiMP/Tidal. Qobuz faired a bit better as I could go all the way to conversion to DSD256 using foo_asio, although I noticed some slight skipping from time to time. Perhaps that could be ameliorated by adjusting buffer sizes.
This shouldn’t be taken as a definitive test as there are always so many variables at play.
If instead I use the Qobuz XBMC add-on from within XBMC, and route XBMC’s output to the default internal sound card, I can loop this through J River, convert to DSD256 via foo_asio and get reliable playback. That is with this poor internet connection of 5-6mbits/sec.
There are other advantages to using XBMC
1/ It is the only way to remote control Qobuz and other XBMC hosted services with an IOS or Android device via XBMC’s free remote app.
2/ You can have many other audio sources apart from Qobuz, such as High Quality lossless radio stations (320kbps) all improved by this process.
Because of these advantages, I still use this feature of J River on Windows a lot. Although J River refers to this as WASAPI loop through, the only way I could get it working in XBMC is to set Audio Output to be Direct Sound to the Default Sound Card, I then tell J River to send the DSP’d audio out via ASIO or Kernel Streaming. So I don’t really know where WASAPI is coming into the picture.
When I first started using this method, I found that converting and up-sampling a Qobuz stream within J River was very demanding of my computer’s resources. A better way of achieving this came about thanks to a post I read on Computer Audiophile which caused me to realise I could make use of foo_asio from within J River. This is the means by which 44.1khz/16bit (and other PCM audio) can be converted to DSD within Foobar.
First you need to have Foobar installed and follow the rest of the instructions here: Configuring Foobar2000 for ASIO DSD / DXD Playback with exaSound DACs. > exaSound Audio Design
If you do this make sure you install the latest version of foo_input_sacd and the other software, as some of the links on that page are out of date.
So all this is about getting SACD to work in Foobar. What’s it got to do with improving the sound of audio looped through J River? Well thanks to J River’s flexibility foo_asio can now be set as the output device from within J River. Now instead of j River’s own DSP studio being used to convert the incoming stream to DSD, you can use foo_asio instead. This allows you to go all the way up to DSD256 if you have a DSD capable DAC, which is provided with its own ASIO driver.
(This does mean that J River’s DSP studio is now out of the picture, so you won’t be able to take advantage of other DSP effects at the same time.)
There’s even more good news with this method. 1/ It seems to use much less overhead and 2/ It sounds better than J River’s own audio engine.
This may all seem a bit tricky to configure at first; but once it’s working it will allow you to greatly improve the quality of all audio streams that you can pass through it.
Hat’s off both to Maxim who authored the foo_input_sacd plug-in and to J River for creating what must easily be the most full featured and flexible Media Center software out there. Flexible even to the point where their own audio engine and DSP effects can be replaced by another audio engine if so desired.
Despite what I’m going to be discussing below, I will always keep J River around to improve, at least, lossy audio streams this way. For home theatre folks it also seems to be the best software out there for getting the best image quality from DVD and Blu-Ray sources.
For many here on CA it is certainly good enough to be their go to player of choice for all audio as well. I just happen to feel that currently their audio engine is bettered by some other choices.
When it comes to the subject of improving the sound of lossless flac streams from Qobuz, can we go even further?
The next step I took was to designate another player to be the external player for XBMC. This other player could be any player that supports flac audio streams.
To cut a long story short, this proved unusable because it was only possible to play one track at a time. You had to tell xbmc each time you were ready to play the next track from an album or playlist.
It was enough though, to tell me that there was more room to improve the sound quality of Qobuz streams over what I had achieved with the loop through method.
Loop through methods still sound very good and I decided are certainly more than good enough for lossy streams, such as BBC Radio 3. It is, in any case, the only way of improving those streams.
Other listeners have reported great success in using JPlay to improve the sound of Qobuz steams. Srajan Ebaen, owner of 6Moons is happy with this method.
Now that I knew using an external player to play files fetched by Qobuz XBMC could sound so good, how to get this to work properly?
During all this time I had really learned to appreciate HQPlayer for playing back files on my hard drives. The improvements it makes to plain 44.1khz 16 bit redbook CD are nothing short of astonishing. At least if you have a system that’s resolving enough to appreciates those improvements.
I knew I had to find some way to take advantage of HQPlayer with Qobuz streams; but how?
Once I understood that HQPlayer could accept a playlist consisting of URLs where each url would open the flac stream of a track, I realised the answer would be in creating a playlist for each album or Qobuz playlist I wanted to play through HQPlayer.
This brings me to one other big advantage of XBMC and that is that anyone with the necessary Python programming skills can create an add-on for it. Those add-ons are open source and their code is available for modification.
The Qobuz XBMC add-on includes one Python script for handling albums called album.py and another for playlists named playlist.py.
I’ve created modified versions of those two files which fetch the urls for all the tracks within an album or playlist, and write them to a file on my hard drive called qobuzNow.m3u8
When all the urls of the album or playlist are fetched my modified scripts tell the operating system (Linux, OSX or Windows) to open the qobuzNow.m3u8, with the program designated to open that file type.
The advantage of this approach is that the script doesn’t need to know which program the user has chosen to open these files with. Obviously it has to be a program which can support flac streams.
Examples are: J River Media Center, Foobar, HQPlayer and VLC
All of these with the exception of Foobar are cross platform.
Note: There is also an XBMC add-on for WiMP/Tidal, that could probably be modified to do the same thing. This add-on does not currently support the “HiFi” lossless streaming mode, so it is not currently very interesting to me. I am currently beta testing the web HTML5 lossless WiMP/Tidal player, which works well and I think once this is officially rolled out, the author of the WiMP/Tidal add-on should be able to add the necessary support for lossless flac streaming.
The Future of Lossless streaming
I believe authors of software players need to take note that lossless streaming is going to be huge. Eventually, perhaps we will be doing all our listening this way.
In the meantime the Authors of the apps listed above have a great head start.
Providers of internet streaming services also need to take note that lossless streaming services appeal to audiophiles. Audiophiles will want to squeeze the best possible sound quality out of these streams, using any means at their disposal. You should be making it as easy as possible for users to be able to route your lossless streams through the user’s software player of choice.
This may seem a slight disadvantage to the lossless streaming provider, in that the user is not obliged to use their apps to play the music, so may miss the publicity you want them to see, about new releases; etc. This is presumably a disadvantage today when the steaming service is embedded within external music servers such as Sonos and Naim.
For computer audiophiles though, I would say you still need to go into the desktop apps regularly to build your playlists and, yes, to check-out new releases. The desktop apps and web-sites of these providers remain the best places to perform these actions. They have far more features and flexibility as well as more information than the XBMC add-ons can provide.
Since Qobuz is also a shop like HDTracks which sells high-resolution versions of many of it’s albums for download, you will also want to go to the app and/or the web-site to find out about these, and buy them.
So far I have hit upon two obstacles to completely reaching my audio nirvana with the Qobuz streaming service.
One is that the URL for each track is time-stamped. This is why the apps and add-ons are programmed to fetch just one track at a time.
When I build a playlist using my modified scripts above, I can sometimes use it to play through an entire album; but at other times it will stop short of reaching the end of the album, because by the time the software player reaches this point in the playlist the subsequent url’s have become out of date.
I am not sure; but I suspect the life expectancy of each url is an hour or just under. Keith Jarrett’s recording of Handel suites will play up to and including track 24 of 29 tracks. Then the only option is to fetch the album again and begin playback from track 25.
This is really annoying and I hope Qobuz, if you’re listening, you could either find a way of removing this time restriction altogether, or at least extend it to 2 hours so that any CD length album could play through from a playlist without any interruption.
I tried to figure out why Qobuz may be imposing this restriction. Perhaps it’s to prevent a subscriber sharing these urls with a non-subscriber. There is already a restriction as to the number of terminals a subscriber can be logged in from at any one time though, so I imagine this would solve that.
The only other explanation is that it has something to do with constraints on Qobuz’s resources. Interestingly I noticed that the urls get recycled, when what appeared to be a dead playlist suddenly came to life again and started playing in the middle of the night, much to my wife’s amusement ;-)
WiMP/Tidal, if you’re listening please don’t apply these time restrictions to your lossless urls. Or if you must, please make them as generous as possible in terms of length of time before expiry
The second obstacle is that my beloved player for sound quality; HQPlayer, does not currently automatically start to play a playlist when the operating system is told to use HQPlayer as the default app for opening playlists.
I’ve been playing my part to champion HQPlayer here, along with other enthusiasts, because in my opinion its sound quality is unequalled. The impression I’m getting is that people who’ve been using other players on either Mac or PC are at least tempted to switch to HQPlayer, for the sound quality advantages it seems to offer over all others. Especially using the poly-sinc family of filters, when either up-sampling PCM or converting to DSD.
HQPlayer is authored by just one guy though, so there isn’t the benefit of a team with different members concentrating on different areas of the app. In particular in terms of usability issues it is lacking in many ways.
One method to access local and streamed music sources
If you’ve followed me so far, here is what I’m trying to achieve:
With Qobuz XBMC add-on installed within XBMC, I use the XBMC remote app on my iPad to find the album I want to play. As soon as I tap on this album within the remote app, my script causes a playlist of all the urls of the album tracks to be written to my Music folder, and the chosen app (HQPlayer in this case) is launched with those urls in its track list.
If we do the same thing with any other player (Foobar, J River, VLC); etc. playback would begin at this point, without me having to do anything more. Just touch the name of the album (or playlist) in the remote app on my iPad, and after a few seconds playback begins.
Unfortunately HQPlayer doesn’t start playback automatically, which means I still have to intervene and get access to the machine its running on, to click on the first track in the transport area to start playback.
Jussi Laako (known as Miska here) the author of HQPlayer has assured us this will be fixed in the next version, 3.5.xxx
So much for lossless streaming services. What about files stored on our local hard drives though?
One of the problems I believe us computer audiophiles often face is the need to run multiple apps to achieve different purposes. I believe that what many of us are looking for is a single point from which we can playback music regardless of whether the music is sourced locally or via a streaming service.
Once again, I think XBMC is the best means available to us to achieve this today. This allows us to also give other members of the family one simple IOS/Android app from which to access all the music they may wish to play, rather than have to learn multiple apps. It’s not so bad if we, the Computer Audiophile of the family, need to fire up different apps to rip CD’s or buy and download music from the internet; but when it comes to simply playing back music, it really shouldn’t require multiple apps, depending on the source of the music.
About 4 years or so ago, at around the same time I discovered Qobuz lossless streaming, I also discovered Subsonic. This is a cross platform music server app written in Java, that allows you to serve your music from one machine to anywhere else including, over the net.
The real beauty of Subsonic is that, unlike other music servers which allow access over the net, it doesn’t force you to down-sample or down-convert the music. This means that if you’re in another location anywhere in the world with a decent enough internet connection, you can access you music library located at your home, in the same way as when you’re at home. If the internet connection isn’t good enough you can have the streams transcoded to something the connection can cope with, such as MP3.
So your music files can be served either locally, at home or remotely using Subsonic, in exactly the same way. …and once again there is an add-on for Subsonic. I’ve created a modified version of this add-on in exactly the same way I did for Qobuz to create a playlist, this time called “subsonicNow.m3u8” in my music folder. I have this automatically loaded into the designated player for playback, just as with Qobuz.
Obviously, unlike with Qobuz, the URLs are not time stamped, so you can play albums and long playlists without interruption from Subsonic.
This means that playing locally stored music, music from Qobuz, or accessing your music at home remotely, is all achieved in exactly the same way.
Subsonic has been designed to manage huge libraries of music, so you could create your own version of a Qobuz/WiMP/Tidal type service if you wish.
Of course this is open to abuse, if people shared their Subsonic server credentials they could all gain access to music from a pooled number of private servers, without having to pay for it via a subscription. Still the private subsonic users are not likely to have the same resources (number of powerful servers) so there is a limit to the demands that could be placed on these private servers.
As with all technologies it’s a double edged sword and needs to be used responsibly. In other words sharing within one family seems reasonable, including when members of that family are travelling.
So there it is. This really feels like an Odyssey and we’re not quite there yet. I do feel though that to be able to subscribe to a huge library of music, as with Qobuz and play it at the level of sound quality achieved by the best software players, is an amazing thing to be able to do.
These lossless streaming services are relatively new, and I believe now is the right time to make our voices heard as to how we’d like to use them and see them working in the future.
My own method of cobbling together a mixture of XBMC with modified add-on scripts, plus my software player of choice, may not work for everyone and I admit it is not yet ideal. It currently works quite well for me. My main motivation in writing about it here, is to use it as an example of how I feel computer music playback should work.
I intend to refine my scripts to include user interface choices as to whether local playlists are created, and if playback should be made via an external player. Once I’ve done that, I will ask permission for my changes to be rolled into the official versions of these XBMC add-ons.
I’ll be very interested in hearing other opinions on the topic. Of course, I’d also like to hear from Qobuz, WiMP/Tidal and any other players planning on entering this market.
Note: XBMC (Xbox Media Center) is in the process of being renamed to “Kodi”.
I have been a problem hearing some song cutting when only I play songs with sample rate above 96k (96k is ok).
I'm using A+ 2.0.4 with M2tech Young DAC 384k , MacBook Pro 13inch Early 2011, 8GB, SSD drive, external Thunderbolt drive, and USB Hi-Speed Bus exclusive to feed DAC, and settings is:
Hog Mode, Interger mode, no upsampling , 32bit
I realize when a limit A+ to 24bit for playing above 96k the problem dissapier but I supposed the Interger Mode too, because INT flag turn off.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
Yes, this is an odd query. I just bought the RS, which has not arrived yet. Very excited about it. Then sought a new amplifier for my Rockport Aviors. I was thinking Boulder, Ayre, D'Agostino.... then stumbled on Devialet. Wow! To those of you with high-end traditional systems who have heard the innovative French-made Devialet (which includes a seemingly basic/inexpensive dac), is it REALLY worth selling my RS before opening the box? Thanks all!