Sunday, June 18, 2006

Power To The People

The audibility of power cords is starling! I've been playing around recently with stupid expensive cords and I must say the differences can be shocking (no pun intended). The main argument against power cords being able to create audible difference is that the power cord is NOT in the signal path, this is false. An amplifier, for example simply modulates the power coming out of the wall to produce a larger version of the signal that it receives as an input. Hence the power supply is in the signal path. Hence, in my opinion the power cord IS in the signal path in a very real sense.

Interestingly this theory of mine was helped to form by McIntosh labs who believes that their power supplies are in the signal path and are major contributors to that "MAC sound." What's ironic is that McIntosh doesn't believe in highend speaker cables or interconnects, let alone power cords. Mac has been very public about this belief. Only recently at trade shows did they start using better interconnects and speaker cable, just to "shut people up." The IEC socket of a removable power cord does compromise the connection slightly but allows for much better power cables to be used, a slight step backwards for the possibility of a couple of major steps forwards. But the same cord soldered directly to the power supply versus being removable and connected to an IEC socket would be the best solution.

Other arguments brought against power cords have to do with the fact that the last 6 feet can’t make up for 50 miles of low quality wire between the utility company and our homes. Again, this simply doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. First off, it isn’t the last six feet, it’s the first six feet. The power company doesn’t push power to us, we pull power from the electrical company. If this weren’t the case we would not be able to turn off electrical devices. Second, the power that they are running long distances is different from what we find in our homes. In that form it is much less susceptible to EMI and RFI interference. It is converted at a nearby pole by a transformer before entering our homes. In the walls of our homes the electricity is shielded from stray EMI interference by the conduit through which it is running. So the point that it is most vulnerable to these problems is from the outlet to our components.

Aftermarket power cords differ in a number of ways from stock units

-They are a thicker gauge wire than stock units. All things being equal, the thicker the gauge the faster large amounts of current can be delivered to the component. This higher current capability leads to more controlled, more extended bass. Not to mention better dynamics.

-They have better shielding which helps reject EMI interference. This creates blacker background from which the music emerges. Improving the perception of low level detail. This is not new musical information but information that had previously been obscured. The amplifier is also freed from having to amplify the high frequency hash which gives the system a greater sense of ease.

-The plugs make better physical contact. When dealing with electricity poor physical contact between outlets and the blades of the plug causes the electricity to jump the gap between the two surfaces. This causes heat and when dealing with electricity heat equals resistance. This resistance again slows down current delivery.

Under evaluation are three power cords from Transparent audio. All were used to replace the stock power cord on a Panamax Max 5510 power conditioner, which was set to balanced power. Patricia Barber’s “Love, Put On Your Faces” from her album “Modern Cool” and “Man Over” by Robinella and The CC String Band off of their self titled album were the main tracks used for this series of tests.

Transparent High Performance Power Link:
The sibilance on s and t sounds was much cleaner than with the Panamax stock power cord, which tended to make these sounds more aggressive than is proper. Distinguishing between the original event and the reverberation that followed was also much easier with the HPPL cord. The stock cord tended to smear the transition between these two distinct components of a sound. Bass intergraded with the rest of the music much more seamlessly, and lost the mechanical quality that the stock unit added. The Piano on the Barber track had much more body, it was impossible to mistake it for anything other than a grand piano.

Transparent Power Link Plus:
With this power cable the piano has a greater sense of ease and there is an increase in micro and macro dynamics. The piano sounds less forced and more effortless than it did with the HPPL power cord. Gone is the angular sound that plagued the attack of bass notes, it is replaced with a more naturally rounded tone. Bass notes also have more consistent authority, midbass notes are now closer in weight to deeper bass notes. The cleanliness of sibilance has also taken another step forward.

Transparent Power Link Reference:
Piano notes have greater sustain and thus take longer to decay into a more black background. The weight of midbass notes is greatly improved matching the power of lower bass notes much better than the PLP. The choir sounds like it is made up of more voices, but at the came time it is easier to pick out individual voices in that choir.

Kick start

All of the posts below are things that I have written for another venue. Some have been re-edited for this endeavor. Each of those posts begins with the date(s) of it's original composition. That way we hit the ground running. I will attempt to write one major update per week, but this may not always be possible.

The new bundle of joy

Originally Written: Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Baby's home! Today at work the UPS man delivered a 17 LBS. bouncing pro-ject turntable, I named it the 1.2. I was expecting today to go slowly because I wanted to play with my new toy so badly (keep your minds out of the gutter please). But there was lots to do (including cleaning records on the store's VPI record cleaning machine to listen to at home) so it went by fairly quickly.

So I get home and unpack the 'table and it is only then that I remember that my brother said that he was going to keep the Grado Gold cartridge. No biggie I figured I've got a Grado Gold on my other 'table, that table really sucks. Ain't I spoiled rotten? This presented a few problems. To start with I had only brought home the tools to set up a 'table, not mount a cartridge. Mounting a cartridge is a little like performing minor surgery. But I'm always game for an adventure, so I figured what the fuck go for it. So I unmounted the Grado off of the other 'table without noting which wires went where assuming that it would be marked on the cartridge itself. Bad assumption, STRIKE ONE, well no big deal I'll just find the original instructions. Couldn't find them, STRIKE TWO. Well, I'll just log onto Grado's web page and download them, Strike Three. Wait a minute, the catcher dropped the ball and I'm running to first. After much searching I found a close up picture on the internet that showed the proper wiring scheme. SAFE! Back in business baby!

Thus far I've listened to three records and I'm on the fourth:
  1. Pink Floyd-"The Piper At The Gates of Dawn" Mono, as it should be.
  2. Steve Miller-"Fly Like An Eagle" This guy fucking rocks! My new co-worker gave me this record because he had an extra copy. He also was generous enough to give me a copy of Beach Boys-"Endless Summer."
  3. Led Zeppelin-"IV" 'nough said. This record and "In Through Out Door" were given to me by my good friend Clint who found them at a garage sale. The copy of "In Through Out Door" is in better shape, it even has the original brown paper bag. That's probably because it wasn't played as much because it's their worst album. But with a band like LZ their worst album is better than most bands best album.
  4. Ray Charles-"Greatest Hits" my parents gave me this one and for once their lack of musical taste pays off, it looks like it was rarely if ever played! It's in great shape.
Right now I'm using a pro-ject phono box to pump up the volume and an Audioquest Sorbothane record mat instead of the stock felt mat to reduce vibration. I'll reserve judgment on sound quality until all the votes are in and counted but, it's promising. There's still tweaking to be done, but when isn't there?

Fuck off Roger Waters!

In 2002 Roger Waters released a sort of greatest hits collection that spanned his solo career to that point. It contains a couple of songs that are not available on any of his other albums plus some tunes that were previously unavailable in any form. So why am I upset with Mr. Waters? Well, the CD is copy protected so that it cannot be copied or ripped from a computer CD-ROM drive. This makes it hard to get these songs into iTunes. But I did think of a work around. All one has to do is to copy the songs in question on a consumer CD recorder, then burn that copy into iTunes. The trick is to NOT let the consumer recorder copy the entire CD, because then it would also copy the CD TOC (Table of Contents) where the copy protection information resides. Then finalize the copy, thus creating a new TOC which would NOT have the copy protection information.

The reason I am upset is because it's a big inconvenience to a majority of people that have honest intentions. The other MAJOR reason that I'm upset is because many, many high end CD players these days are based on CD-ROM drives. These new copy-protected CD's can wreak havoc on these CD players. The players are based on CD-ROMs because these transports are better built and perform their duties more accurate than a transports meant to be used in a CD player. So a manufacturer has a choice, do they use a CD-ROM and make a better sounding player that won't play certain CDs or do they make a player that will play anything but won't sound as good as it could. To a manufactures that wants to make great sounding products this is a heart breaking choice.

A major find!

Written: Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tonight I found myself inextricably drawn to a used CD store that I rarely visit, because they NEVER have anything worth buying. Well today was a major exception they had not one but TWO copies of "Music From The Body." It's the soundtrack to a medical documentary that has been out of print for some time. I can hear most of you now. "Why in the hell would you want a soundtrack to a medical documentary anyway?" Well, it was a collaboration between Ron Geesin and this chap named Roger Waters (the bassist from Pink Floyd). There are a couple of Roger Water songs that can be found nowhere else. The really compelling track is the last song which has guest appearances by David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright. This makes it a Pink Floyd song, and thus I'm compelled to own it.

I now own almost all Pink Floyd albums and most of the solo albums. Many of the solo projects are hard to find or are out of print entirely. The one that I really want that has thus far proved difficult to find is an album by the keyboard player Richard Wright called "Wet Dream." If any of you see it in a CD store, new or used buy it immediately and I will reimburse you. You will also be promoted to my best friend, for whatever that's worth.

Other obscure albums that I'm looking for:

1. Zabriskie Point-Soundtrack to a film that has four Pink Floyd tracks, the two CD version. Used only I could buy it new easily but I'm cheap.
2. Zee-Identity. A short lived band that keyboard player Richard Wright formed. New or used. EXTREMELY RARE.
3. Nick Mason-Profiles. A solo album by a drummer? If it's cheap why the hell not.
4. Nick Mason-Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports. EXTREMELY RARE.
5. When the Wind Blows. A soundtrack containing solo Roger Waters compositions. Looking for a cheap used copy
6. Snowy White-Gold Top. Pink Floyd's backing guitarist was allowed to release a rare version of "Pig on The Wing" recorded by Pink Floyd on his best of album. Out of Print, looking for New or Used copy.
7. The Legend of 1900 Soundtrack-Containing a single original Roger Waters song with none other than Eddie Van Halen as guest guitarist. Looking for a cheap used copy.
8. Richard Wright-Wet Dream great album I WANT IT, I WANT IT, I WANT IT!!! This one I'd go as high as $30 for the CD.
9. Pink Floyd-A Collection of Great Dance Songs. Remastered. The version of Money is a 1981 re-recording. Cheap used as I could buy it new but I'm just being a skin flint.
10. Pink Floyd-Works. Remastered. Again a cheap used copy because it is easy to buy new but not worth it for three tracks. It contains alternate mixes of Brain Damage and Eclipse from "Dark Side of the Moon" as well as a song called Embryo not available on any other release.

Let the scavenger hunt begin. . . NOW!

I beg to differ

Originally Written: Thursday, April 20, 2006 and Wednesday, June 14, 2006

In the article "Okay, we're Rollin'" from the May 2006 issue of Stereophile magazine it is stated Led Zeppelin recorded "Stairway to Heaven" at Sunset Studios. From all available evidence this is incorrect. A number of sources state that the backing tracks for "Stairway" were recorded at Headley Grange (an English country house) with the Rolling Stones mobile studio, overdubs being done at Island Studios. The possibility also exists that the entirety of the recording was done at Island Studios, but even this seems to contradict the available evidence. Jimmy Page did mix the album at Sunset, at the behest of Andy Johns (the engineer) but after listening to that mix elsewhere rejected nearly all of that work, with the exception of "When The Levee Breaks." The results of the album mix done at Sunset were considered to be murky and lacking in detail. Everything other than "When the Levee Breaks" was remixed.

Add nationally published author to my list of accomplishments. In July's issue of Stereophile magazine (one of highend audio's most respected magazines) they published my letter to the
editor. It concerns an issue on which I consider myself an authority. The issue hasn't hit news stands yet, but subscribers have started to receive them in the mail. I also had a nice personal correspondence with the editor as well. I wonder if any of the regular customers at the store will notice.

One of my as yet unrealized aspirations is to be a professional audio reviewer and writing for Stereophile would be a dream come true. Another periodical for which I would love to write is The Absolute Sound. Also there are a couple of on line publications that would be fun too. Do these publications consider working for a highend dealer and reviewing products a conflict of interest? I'm not sure. I don't think that I have quite enough experience to start reviewing yet any way. Perhaps by the time I'd feel ready it would be a non-issue anyway. I'm still toying around with the idea of starting a blog entirely about audio. My major question is where I'd get the content. I'd like to write one article a week. I think that at that pace I'd run out of topics and things to review fairly quickly.

Radio Free Europe

Originally Written: Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Look what I picked up for free. This is a Tandberg 3011A FM tuner, widely considered to be one of the best sounding analog FM tuners ever made. The preset section doesn't work, but the manual tuning section does! So someone wanted to throw it away! I stepped in and rescued it from the scrap heap, saving it from being cannabilized for parts. I'm sure the old owner will end up buying a mediocre digital tuner and won't even notice the drop in sound quality, that's the sad thing.

Analog tuners are far superior to digital tuners. Why are analog tuner better? Here is a quote from Robert Harley's "Complete Guide to High-end Audio." "Analog tuners have lower noise, and also allow fine-tuning to find the center of a station. Synthesized tuners jump in discrete steps of at least 25kHz, precluding the precise degree of fine-tuning possible with an infinitely variable analog tuner."

In Chicago there is a classical radio station called WFMT and occasionally they will do live broadcasts of performances from their studios. When I have been fortunate enough to catch these performances they have been ear-opening experiences, offering better sound quality than ANY CD or record. Most commercial stations sound mediocre at best. Classical stations are another story. For classical listeners I would recommend going to a pawn shop and finding an older analog tuner. Check out for some guidance about what is worthy of consideration. Then pick up a Fanfare FM-G antenna. For less than $200 one should be able to experience a lot of free music at extremely good sound quality.

So how did the digital tuners get their foot hold in the market place? The mass-market manufactures pushed digital tuners because they were cheaper to manufacture and required less warranty service. People adopted them because of the conveniences that they offered over analog tuners but for shear sound quality nothing beats analog. It's just another example of the dumbing down of our society to the lowest common denominator.

The really sad thing is that with HD radio and it's "near CD quality" the standards of radio are about to sink even lower. Near CD quality? There are those of us who are striving to surpass the quality of CD and even others that believe the term "CD quality" is in itself an oxymoron. One of my favorite stations just started broadcasting in HD radio. I sincerely hope that they continue to keep high standards when it comes to their analog broadcast.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A quick review

Originally Written: Tuesday, October 11, 2005

So my friend Clint wants to know what I think of Paul McCartney's "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. Here goes. "How Kind Of You" or a distressed guinea pig Paul Mccartney has shut in a small cardboard box? You decide, I'm not playing it again. You've probably guessed that I don't like Paul Mccartney very much. It's due to being assaulted by things like the last gasp of a boiling lobster, or "Jenny Wren" as it is known on the back of CD. To be honest, it's been a long time since I've heard an album quite this bad. I do this for a living, and you won't believe the shit you get sent as the 'Next Big Thing'. Take track four, "At The Mercy" for example - if I'd wanted a recording of a troupe of clowns honking away in their clown car going around and around the circus ring with no hope of ever stopping I'd have asked for it. Take it away and put it out of its misery. Please.

It is difficult to stop yourself from throwing a brick at your CD player when tosh like a track like "Friends To Go" comes out of it on a regular basis. We should ban things like "Too Much Rain" from ever being played on public radio. Oh? We have? Well, I'm starting a campaign to ban it from being played in private too. Oh my god. I've clearly missed the whole point of this album - until you listen to "Riding To Vanity Fair" you've no idea that the sound of nails being slowly drawn down a blackboard by the Marquis De Sade is what Paul Mccartney was trying to create all along.

In fact, I wish Paul Mccartney had never been born.

Just kidding, put the gun away Clint. That was randomly generated by this site. What did I really think of McCartney's "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard?" Well in short I liked it quite a bit. The problem with most McCartney albums is that he is such a talented song writer completely surrounded by yes men that he rarely stretches his creative muscle much anymore. No one has the guts to tell him that something utterly sucks, after all he is Sir Paul McCartney for God sakes. He can come up with a brilliant melody and some clever chord changes over lunch and by the time the checks arrived he's written some passable lyrics on a ketchup stained napkin. When he gets back to the studio the yes men fall all over each other to be the first to tell him how great it is. I guess that being a former Beatle has that effect on people. The new album is different. The producer insisted on the banishment of McCartney's gang of yes men from the studio, and it shows. McCartney plays many of the instruments himself giving the whole album a personal, almost intimate feel. The album has a melancholy to it that really is very refreshing. It also sounds more organic and less slick than his recent works which makes you pay more attention to the songs, not the production.

Taking the plunge

Originally Written: Saturday, October 01, 2005

Well, I took the plunge and bought an iPod. Let the "I told you so's" begin in the comment section! Of course being the top of the line kind of guy that I am I went with the 60 gig and the Monster Cable tape adapter for the car. All music will be encoded with Apple lossless compression. I'll be using it as my own radio station for my commute to work, put it on random and forget about it. What made me finally decide to do it? Well this weekend I'm going on a business trip to Maine and I wanted to have some tunes. Also, recently at work I have been selling lots of highend headphones to iPod users. A number of customers have asked me if the iPod is capable of running these 'phones and I tell them that many other customers have had great results. With an iPod I can let them hear for themselves, it only makes sense. I wanted the model below but they were out of stock.
My good friend Clint is the one who introduced me to the iPod. In the same way that a crack dealer entices new customers he handed it to me and said, "just hold it" then when we were leaving to go out for the night Clint grabbed the iPod and said, "let's take my entire music collection with us." I was sold. The Stereophile reviewed sealed the deal. Some quick thoughts on my experience:
  1. The apple iPod may be single-handedly supporting the American economy. It wouldn't surprise me if it has saved Apple. I wonder if we'll see more people buying Macs because of their positive experiences with the iPod.
  2. The Apple store in the mall was easily the busiest store in the mall. There must have been 50 customers in the store at all times. You had to fight to talk to a salesperson. When I asked the gentleman who helped me if it was busier than usual he said that it was kind of slow at the moment.
  3. You could easily spend more on accessories for the iPod than the iPod itself.
  4. You can hack an iPod to do anything. There are even maps for transit systems in major cities that you can download onto your iPod. Now if only they could figure out a way to get pornographic videos on this thing they would really have something.
  5. I'm amazed that you can store 60 Gig on something this small. I remember when my then roommate Duane first got a Jazz Drive and was flabbergasted* to have 1 Gig of storage space! That was less than 10 years ago.
  6. They give you the coolest bag that I have ever seen to carry your purchase. No need to clutter up your hands, just throw it over your shoulder. My friend Duane must love shopping there, I know how he hates to carry things in his hands.
  7. Unfortunately they were out of the charger that I wanted. There is a picture of it below.

*I spelled flabbergasted right without spell check.

Twenty-Five Years Gone

Originally Written: Sunday, September 25, 2005

Today marks 25 years since the death of John Bonham and the end of Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin is perhaps unique, with the exception of The Beatles in the fact that they decided to end it and go out on top. A wise move as no one would have been able to fill Mr. Bonham's drum stool. Think of them as the anti-Rolling Stones if you will. John was a family man who hated touring and the rock star lifestyle. He preferred to go to the local pub and talk to the other farmers about how everybody's crops were doing. He didn't just own a farm, when he wasn't recording or touring he worked his farm. It brought him a lot of pride and fulfillment. He raised prize winning cows that brought him as much joy as his gold records. There are many stories of his outbursts of anger but for the most part he was depressed about being away from his family. Everyone who knew him described him as a warm and giving person.

Led Zeppelin had one of the most varied list of influences imaginable. Bonham and Jones were into Soul, R&B, and Jazz. Plant loved Blues, West coast psychedelia, pop, and Indian Music. Page was fascinated by Blues, Early Rock N' Roll, Folk music, and world music. When people call them the first Heavy Metal band that's an insult. No heavy metal band has their knowledge of music history or their ability to play just about any type of music they decided to attempt. How many band could have played blues, folk, hard rock, punk, reggae, country, and pop? Add to all of those the songs that simply defy categorization.

In interviews both in 1980 and since every band member has admitted that they felt that the band was stagnating and they were hungry to explore new directions and conquer new territory. Were they on the verge of another great period or were they about to head down a creative dead end? We'll never know, but my money's on it having been a huge success. They were always risk takers. Even ending the band was a brave move. They had to know that none of them would ever achieve that level of success as individuals. They never won a Grammy during the band's time, they have since been honored with a Lifetime Achievement award.

Life imitates art imitating life

Originally Written: Sunday, August 21, 2005

In an ironic twist of fate Jerry Lee Lewis's new album will feature a cover of a Led Zeppelin song which was inspired by Jerry Lee Lewis's unique style of playing the piano. He is paying tribute to someone for paying tribute to him by covering their tribute to him. Got all that? To make matters more confusing Jimmy Page will be the featured guitarist on the track. It's a Led Zeppelin song called Rock N' Roll.


Originally Written: Monday, August 15, 2005 and

Today I found a McIntosh MC7100 amplifier in a pawn shop. I might be able to buy it and resell it to make some extra cash but I'm not sure. I'll be checking the blue book tomorrow at work. The one I found is the later version with balanced inputs, the better speaker binding posts, and the power switch on the front. It originally retailed for $1400 between 1992-1997, 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms, 150 watts into 4 ohms. They also have a Carver TFM35cb for $350, no interest in that. This is the same pawn shop that I found my Threshold Stasis S550e amplifier in about a year ago.
Tonight I picked up the Mac MC 7100 amp that I posted about earlier. Right now I am running it in to make sure everything is in proper working order. I'll play with it for a couple of days till I get a handle on its sound before posting it to sell. Because of the limited number of outlets for high current devices on my power conditioner I had to kill the sub. It is amazing how good the system sounds without it. Removing it also lets me know how well it was integrated, pretty seamless if I say so myself. It isn't drop dead gorgeous like most Macs. If Tim Allen from "Home Improvement" owned a highend audio system I'd bet it would be McIntosh, it makes most men who see it make this sound. I'm going to try to sell it for about $800. That would be a nice profit, which ironically I plan on using to buy an iPod from the other McIntosh.

33 1/3

Originally Written: Monday, August 01, 2005

Lately I've been thinking about why albums of the 1960's and 1970's are, on the whole better than albums of today. There are probably a number of factors that are part of this situation but I believe that one is head and shoulders above the others, namely length. New albums are simply too long. Older albums were limited by the length of the LP record,about 40 minutes or so. Also because of their two sided nature artists had to seriously consider running order. Today artists don't even need to think about running order. Sequencing an album is a lost art. New albums can be as long as 80 minutes giving artists too much space. They don't need to ask if they are repeating themselves because they have the space and time to do so. The same thing goes for song length, they never ask if a given song is too long.

In the past if an artist really liked a song but it didn't fit on the album because of time they could hold it over for a later album or use it as a B-side. Led Zeppelin held many songs over because of too much material as did The Who. In fact many of the truly great double albums are roughly the length of today's single albums. Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is less than 79 minutes. Don't agree with me? Just imagine Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" 15 minutes longer. How about The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" with three extra tracks. In both cases the impact of the album would be greatly lessened and their genius would be diluted. Another circumstance that I believe supports this premise is that when I listen to classic albums that have been reissues with bonus tracks I usually stop the CD after the album proper is over.

Raving and Drooling

Originally Written: Saturday, July 30, 2005

Today while driving to work I heard on the radio that Pink Floyd would NOT be touring despite being offered 100 million dollars for a US tour. For the mathematically challenged that's $25 million each. This is artistic integrity bordering on insanity, and everyone thought Syd was nuts! They will never get an offer this high again, what are they thinking! I know that Roger and David hate each other, but come on! They wouldn't even have to write or record an album, just tour. They could do that and never speak to one another the entire time. I would pretty much put up with any situation or person for an entire year for $100 million. Most of us would consider ourselves lucky to see 10% of that in our lifetimes. I'm not sure that I can respect anyone who leaves that much money on the table. In related news they also turned down my offer of a cool $1000 dollars and all of the Guinness they could drink to play my next birthday party. When we are talking about $100 million it is no longer considered selling out, it's called cashing in. There is a difference.

George Lucas is gonna sue someone!

Originally Written: Tuesday, July 19, 2005

My friend Clint found this gem of a photo over at ebay. Is it sick that I want one? In my best Jedi voice I proclaim "This is not the Subwoffer you are looking for, do not bid against me!" Feel free to click on the button below to hear me say it.

this is an audio post - click to play

The Hammer of the Gods!

Originally Written: Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A survey of 3500 Planet Rock radio listeners who could pick anyone as their favorite guitarist, singer, bassist, and drummer for a hypothetical supergroup picked Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham as their favorites. Well for those not in the know these four men were in a little short lived group called LED ZEPPELIN. This is yet more proof that the rolling stones are NOT the worlds greatest rock n' roll band.

Pigs flew for a short time

Originally Written: Saturday, July 02, 2005

I barely got home in time to see the Pink Floyd portion of Live8. They played brilliantly. They chose songs that Pink Floyd/Roger Waters had both performed on their recent tours. The nice thing is that they didn't make the same mistake that both camps have mad recently, namely over arranging the songs by adding a bunch of backing musicians that aren't necessary. For the most part it was the band and another guitar player. A saxophone player for one song and a backing singer for one song. I watched most of it on MTV. The fuckers talked over the beginning of Breathe and cut to commercial halfway through Comfortably Numb. Fortunately I caught the end of Comfortably Numb on So what did they play? Glad you asked.
  1. "Breathe"
  2. "Money"
  3. "Wish You Were Here"
  4. "Comfortably Numb"

All in all a very strong performance. It's amazing how much different they sound with Roger Waters back on bass, "Money" was so much better for his presense. They touchingly dedicated "Wish You Were Here" to founding member Syd Barrett. It was extremely emotional to hear David and Roger singing "Comfortably Numb" together for the first time in roughly 25 years.

Too bad Syd Barrett wasn't well enough to be on stage with the band that he helped put on the map. Syd has been suffering with schizophrenia for many, many years. The hallucinogenic drugs that were so much a part of the swinging London of the late 1960's snuffed out the flame of his genius probably for good. There is always the hope that he will wake up from his bad dream like Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys. This is the only picture that I have ever seen with all five members of Pink Floyd together. Syd and David were only in the band together for a couple shows. Syd is the haunting figure in the upper right.

Complicated? Maybe a little

I wonder if this guy's wife can work his system? Never mind that's a stupid question. This guy can't possibly have a wife. I bet he still lives in his parent's basement. And I bet that all of you thought that my college era system was complicated.

Fuck you Mick!

Top Artists
Totals are derived from cumulative album sales totals (U.S. only)
Artist (Units in Millions)
Originally Written: Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Top Artists
Totals are derived from cumulative album sales totals (U.S. only)
Artist (Units in Millions)

1. THE BEATLES 168.5 (DUH!)
2. ELVIS PRESLEY 116.5(No surprise here!)
3. LED ZEPPELIN 107.5(As it should be)
4. GARTH BROOKS 105.0(I wonder if this includes the 8 copies as Chris Gains)
5. EAGLES 89.0("I hate the fucking Eagles man!")
6. BILLY JOEL 78.5(Great song writer, probably the ugliest guy in rock)
7. PINK FLOYD 73.5 (Just think of that it terms of dime bags smoked?)
8. BARBRA STREISAND 70.5(Does this include the Jewish singer's Christmas album?)
9. ELTON JOHN 69.0(Sixty-nine, now that's funny)
10. AC/DC 66.0(How many outside of trailer parks is my question?)
11. AEROSMITH 65.5(That's a lot of clam chowder)
12. THE ROLLING STONES 64.5(And they have the balls to call themselves the greatest rock n' roll band in the world. Try number 6 Mick. I'd love to sue them for false advertising.

Sex? Drugs? ROCK N' ROLL!!!!

Originally Written: Saturday, June 18, 2005

Now no disrespect intended to my friends of faith but what ever made a bunch of youth group attending, rose colored glasses wearing, mamma's boys think that they could really ROCK. I mean really, are there Jewish, Islamic, or Buddhist rock bands? Nobody is screaming dradle, dradle with a bunch of detuned power chords while wearing a kippa. Do Christian Rock bands break up over religious differences instead of creative differences? Is there Classic Christian Rock? Southern Christian Rock? I'm going to invent my own musical genre, Agnostic Rock. The first half of the album will be completely hedonistic, self aggrandizing , self centered music. The second half of the album will be all God and tulips and love. The band's name, "(K)no(w) God!" When written it looks like the name of a Christian Rock band, when spoken it sounds like a band of Atheists. What does everyone think?

The Way I see it

Originally Written: Thursday, June 02, 2005

There is little scientific evidence for the differences that audiophiles hear. Two amplifiers that measures similar, nearly identical in fact, can and often times do sound drastically different. Why does one amp have a extremely deep soundstage and another doesn't? Why is this CD player better at extracting the acoustic clues that allow us insight into the original recording environment? These are some of the mysteries that the audiophile industry has been struggling with since it's birth, whenever you consider that to be. For the last twenty years Stereophile, the leading audiophile publication has been doing extensive measurements on all of the equipment they review in hopes of finding correlations between those measurements and various elusive performance parameters. They haven't really succeeded, which they readily admit. There are always theories but scientific proof is hard to find on any of these subjects.

What I can tell you is that if two knowledgeable people listen to the same system and are asked to describe it their descriptions will have much in common. Their preferences may differ but, that is not really all that important. Chris and myself regularly listen to new gear separately and compare notes later and our findings are extremely similar, but the conclusions that we draw from these findings does occasionally differ. In much the same way that two astute wine drinkers could both taste the same wine, describe it in similar language, and then differ on if it is a good wine or a mediocre vintage.

I believe that most of this comes down to a lack of funding for research into this area of human perception. Most of these high-end companies are small and barely stay in business from year to year, they can't afford to fund major scientific studies. Universities aren't going to study anything that doesn't involve grant money. Governments don't see an outcry from the general public for answers. One of the rare exceptions is the Canadian government which has been conducting an on going study into how we hear and then making that data available to Canadian speaker companies for free through the National Research Council. Is it a coincidence that affordable Canadian speakers such as Paradigm, Energy, Mirage, and PSB sound so good? Probably not.

The Stereophile website recently published a story on a debate between John Adkinson, the editor of Stereophile and one of the magazine's biggest internet critics. A large portion of the debate can be downloaded as an MP3.

I will readily admit that there are many products in the high-end audio industry that make me cry snake oil at first blush. What I will also mention is that I came to this hobby as an open minded skeptic and I'm still skeptical when a new concept is introduced to me. At the end of the day all of this comes down to trusting YOUR ears. I have learned to trust MY ears. If the music is more enjoyable then go for it.

Would I like scientific answers? Sure. Do I demand them? Not on your life.


Perfect Sound?

Originally Written: Sunday, May 29, 2005 and Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Perfect Sound Forever? This was Sony's marketing slogan for CD way back in 1982.


The Pink Floyd Division Bell that I recently purchaced sounds absolutely FANTASTIC. Much better than the copy that I checked out from the library recently. Neither of them are remasters so there is little reason for this to be the case. But as I have hinted at recently digital isn't perfect as most would have you believe. Here comes a bold statement: Different pressings of the same CD from the SAME digital master sound DIFFERENT.

I believe that it has to do with digital jitter inherent in the CD manufacturing process. As mentioned in an earlier post Robert Harley in his book "The Complete Guide to High-End Audio" defines digital jitter as follows: "Timing variations in the clock that synchronizes events in a digital audio system. The clock could be in an analog-to-digital converter that controls when each audio sample is taken. Of more interest to audiophile is clock jitter in digital audio reproduction; the clock controls the timing of the reconstruction of digital audio samples into an analog signal. Jitter degrades musical fidelity."

In short all the ones and zeros are right but the clock that tells the digital to analog converter in a CD player WHEN to decode them is wrong. An interesting side effect is that if you choose good CD-R media and burn at the right speed your copy will have lower jitter because the CD burner in computers doesn't copy the original flawed word clock. The pits on the CD will also be more uniform in size than a mass manufactured CD, further reducing digital jitter. All of this can be measured, so I'm not NUTS. Well maybe I am but not because any of this, although all of this maybe driving me in that direction. One could make the argument that none of this is audible, but I can hear it easily on my system. Stand alone burners for music have none of these benefits because they copy this flawed clock information. In short the burned copy will sound BETTER than the original. FUCK time to burn my entire collection of CDs. I'm going to be very busy. Talk to all of you in a decade or so.

I should probably just watch "Austin Powers: Goldmember" and try to forget about all of this for a while. WAIT! From which pressing plant did this copy come? What is the plot of E1, E2, and E3 errors. What does the jitter spectrum analysis look like?

Below are four graphs that address my favorite topic of digital jitter and the possibility of a digital copy being either better or worse than the original. Four record speeds were checked 4x, 10x, and 16x. 24x was not tested as this speed introduces audible distortion. For the sake of the sanity of everyone involved I only posted the jitter and error rate graphs for the original and 10x. 10x had significantly lower jitter and a lower error rate as well. Why are errors on the original NOT present on the copy? Simple a CD-Rom in a computer will read data many more times than a CD player. On one of those passes it will most likely recover the data, a CD player will simply give up and resort to it's error correction algorithm. Tomorrow Chris will bring me all four copies and I will listen to see what audible effect all of this has. I know that in a true scientific test I would have done the listening before Chris did his analysis but time simply didn't allow this to occur. You can click on each graph to see it in more detail. Please do not take these results as universal. The results are dependent on the CD-ROM drive and the way that it interacts with the media chosen.

10X Error Graph

Here is the 10x speed graph. The C1 average errors per second average to 0.4 per second with a maximum of 10 per second. Total errors of 1656

Original Error Graph

Here is the error rate of the original. The average error rate per second is 1.4 with a maximum error rate of 25.0 per second for a total of 5736.

Jitter of 10X

This is a copy done at 10x speed. Notice how much closer the line tracks the 0.0 line and how much less jagged it is.

Jitter of Original

This is the jitter of the original CD. The Closer to the 0.0 the red line is the better. The flatter the red line is the better. This CD red line is closer to the 0.01 line than the 0.00 line and is pretty jagged.

Mono, it's not just for kissing any more

Today Chris lent me the Limited Edition MONO version of Pink Floyd's "Piper at the Gates of Dawn." I can hear the head scratching from here. "Why would you want to listen to the expensive near impossible to find mono version when there is a cheap stereo version easily available?", you ask. Well it's simple the band and the producer were involved in the mixing of the mono version, but NOT in the stereo mix. The stereo mix was done in a rush by an apprentice engineer at Abbey Road/EMI studios. The Floyd never approved the stereo mix! To this day when asked about the album they are quick to point out that the mono mix is the only one approved by the band.

Interestingly the majority of the The Beatles albums are similar. George Martin and The Beatles spent days, sometimes weeks mixing the mono version of most of their albums. The stereo mixes were done usually by an assistant engineer. Sometimes it was even worse, the stereo mix was done by an apprentice engineer. Paul McCartney briefly mentions this in the extra material on The Beatles Anthology DVDs. Saying roughly, "the stereo mixes were done one day while we (George Martin, the producer and The Beatles) were at lunch." With the possible exception of "Abbey Road", the last album they would record the mono mix was the baby. The stereo mix was the bastard redheaded stepchild at best.

At first blush this sounds like a massive oversight. But as Mr. McCartney goes on to point out ". . . ninety-Eight percent of people were listening in mono." Stereo was new, many thought it was a fad and wouldn't last. Many Hi-Fi enthusiasts resisted it at the beginning. It meant a serious amount of money needed to be spent. They were forced to buy another amplifier, another speaker, a new preamplifier, and a new turntable.

This market seems to be getting some attention lately. The Beatles have issued two boxed sets of Early American albums in both mono and stereo. The problem is these are the American versions which I believe are missing between 1 and 3 songs per album, compared to the British versions. The Beatles American record label REMOVED songs from Beatles albums and would then combined them later to make separate EP releases, to squeeze out a couple of extra bucks. These are also remastered from the American masters (read at least second generation, possibly worse.) Of all major artists it still continues to amaze me that The Beatles back catalog has not been remastered. Does Paul McCartney have too much money? I'm sure that Ringo Starr could use a couple of extra bucks, and Yoko is always up for profiting from the memory of her dead husband.

Daleks and iPods, Oh My!

Originally Written: Sunday, May 22, 2005

Even the Doctor's biggest enemies, the Daleks are getting iPods. Is it part of their next insidious plot against the Doctor?

I came across this image while doing research for the purchase of an iPod sometime in the near future. The thing that clinched it was my co-worker who is as much a fanatic about sound as I am. He is also a recording engineer. He tested Apple's lossless compression and came to an interesting conclusion. Not only does it work bit perfect, the uncompressed signal is MORE accurate that the original. How is this possible? Well the process of compressing and uncompressing the signal greatly reduces a phenomena called digital jitter. A certain amount of jitter is introduced into every CD during the manufacturing process.

Robert Harley in his book "The Complete Guide to High-End Audio" defines digital jitter as follows: "Timing variations in the clock that synchronizes events in a digital audio system. The clock could be in an analog-to-digital converter that controls when each audio sample is taken. Of more interest to audiophile is clock jitter in digital audio reproduction; the clock controls the timing of the reconstruction of digital audio samples into an analog signal. Jitter degrades musical fidelity."

This has led me to think about ways of digitizing my entire music collection onto an iPod and then running that into a high-end DAC (Digital to Analog converter.) Apple's wireless iPod accessory might do the trick but more research is needed. Who need a remote control? I could literally hold my entire CD collection in my hand with instant access to any piece of music in my collection without ever leaving my chair. Of course it would also sound better than the original CD because of the reduction in jitter. Very interesting. This is definitely worth more thought.

All of this from just wanting to be able to listen to some tunes on the way to work.

Many of you may think that this is a change in my stance against MP3s. What I am against is highly compressed music of dubious legal origin. I object to not only the bad sound quality but also the theft of the artists intellectual property. With Apple's Lossless compression and CD's from my own collection neither of these is an issue. The idea of less than CD quality is pretty objectionable when you consider that CD performance is, in and of itself pretty compromised.

Yoda's wisdom on subwoofers

Originally Written: Sunday, April 03, 2005

Friday the national trainer for REL stopped by the store and showed us how to set up their subs. It is completely contrary to the way that everyone else does it. As Yoda said, "You must unlearn what you have learned." I'm going to try their set up method in my system even though I don't own a REL, most of it should translate. It was truly a mind altering experience. For the first time the sub in a system completely disappeared. The only way to tell what the sub was doing was to take it out of the system. The interesting thing was that even instruments that have no bass benefited from the sub being in the system. I have heard many systems where the front wall melts away and you get to look into the recording venue, including my own. This was the very first time that the entire listening room melted away and you were in the recording venue. Strange stuff. If your interested check out the link and download the document entitled "Set-Up Guide" Read, try, and enjoy.

Ten Favorite albums

Originally written: Wednesday, March 16, 2005

In no particular order here goes:

1. Dire Straits-Brothers in Arms Very atmospheric and melancholy. Meticulously arranged and recorded. It's ironic that this album has only one upbeat song and that is probably the most famous cut, "Walk of Life." It is also the least representative of the rest of the album.

2. The Who-Who's Next For my money the ultimate hard rock album, containing the ultimate hard rock song "Won't Get Fooled Again." Great songs and great performances. It's hard to believe that this album was really the cobbled together bits and pieces of a failed masterpiece.

3. The Beatles-Abby Road On this album they were hitting on all cylinders and couldn't make a mistake if they had tried. Great songs, cool vocal harmonies, and they take risks with song structure that no one else had nor has anyone else since. This may be the only time that a band did their best album as their last. Let it Be was released later but it was recorded first.

4. Robert Johnson-The Complete Recordings I discovered Robert Johnson because he was mentioned so many times by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. He only recorded about three sessions over the course of two years in the late 1930's but the impact that this music has had can't be under estimated. Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton of Cream all admire this guy and have covered his songs.

5. Led Zeppelin-Physical graffiti Possibly their most diverse album. I love Led Zeppelin so much it was really hard to choose just one but this album will give you an idea of what they were all about. Also unlike most double albums there is no filler songs and no repeated musical ideas.

6. Pink Floyd-The Wall What can I say about this masterpiece that hasn't already been said? Many will tell you that Dark Side of the Moon is a better album and musically and sonically it probably is. Where this album really comes into it's own is the sheer scale of the story it tries to tell. It is a concept album with a plot and numerous subplots. Briefly it is about: the death of a parent, the oppression of the modern education system, an over protective mother, the fear of nuclear war, the isolation that fame causes, the excesses of stardom, and ultimately madness.

7. The Beach Boys-Pet Sounds An album about the kind of romantic first love that only comes once in a life time and it's inevitable end. No one every comes close to touching these guys when it come to their ability to harmonize with each other. This is almost more of a Brian Wilson solo album with the rest of the band along for the ride. Brian also throws every instrument he could get his hands on into the mix and it all works.

8.Sheryl Crow-Tuesday Night Music Club Probably the strongest first album by any artist ever. All of the songs are smartly written and the arrangements are near flawless. The other musicians that worked with her on this album really contributed whole heartedly. I love everything that Sheryl has ever released but she has yet to top her first album.

9. Theloneous Monk-Straight, No Chaser Believe it or not I had a pet rabbit named Hope that used to love this album. Whenever I would play it she would fly into the room and run around kicking her feet up in the air for about the first five minutes and then settle in at my feet to listen to the rest. She also loved Pink Floyd's Meddle and had the same reaction. Most other music she ignored as noise.

10. Chuck Berry-The Great 28 Elvis may have been the King of Rock and Roll but Chucks was it's father. The amazing thing about this music is that unlike most 1950's Rock it sounds as fresh today as it did when it was first released. It is feel good music that forces you to tap you toe.