Thursday, April 30, 2009

Only Belle & Sebastian

Here is a good teaser video concerning Belle & Sebastian's next project. Which is an album and soon to be a film. What other band in the world would let a fan sing lead on a song?

Previews of three songs are available here.

With the way that crew operates one of the fans might end up as a permanent member. Eventually there's going to be like 20 of them. It's going to be less of a band and more of a gang. Then it will sub-divide into two bands of 10 people each one called Belle which will be all of the girls and some of the more twee boys and the other will of course be called Sebastian and will be made up of boys obsessed with classic rock. Mark my words!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Myrtle Wood Blocks

Many after market component support tweaks are manufactured from man-made materials and are made to extremely tight tolerances which results in a uniform "tuning" frequency. The uniformity usually adds some distinctly negative coloration in addition to the products sonic benefits. That doesn't occur with the wood blocks. Since the blocks are a natural material every sample is going to differ a bit. That might, in fact be part of why they work so well. Each block works on slightly different set frequencies because of variations in the grain structure and density of the wood.

During my time at an Ayre dealer I sold hundreds of sets of the wood blocks and told everyone the same thing, "If you don't hear a difference please bring them back." I can't speak for Cardas but Ayre is very picky about who their dealers are from a customer service stand point. If someone purchases a set and DOESN'T hear a difference I'm sure any Ayre dealer would let the customer return them for a full refund. I only had one set come back in over three years and that was because the guy owned Halcro gear and the standard feet were too tall to allow their use. I once sold a set to a hard core skeptic non-tweaker because his wife demanded that the system fit into an armoire and the CD player was blocking the top vents of his hot running preamp. When I told him that in addition to allowing the preamp to breath it would make the CD player sound better he gave me a complete "FUCK YOU" look. Three days later he called me back and bought three more sets for the other components because he had heard a difference even though he didn't want to.

The Ayre wood blocks in my system are used in sets of three because three points define a plane, with the logo right side up. Not to name drop but Charlie Hansen and Steve Sliberman of Ayre also feel it to be the best sounding orientation so I'm in good company. When I worked for an Ayre dealer Steve would only reveal his conclusions after I had done the experiments myself, they encourage people to "play" with the blocks. I do not believe that the benefit of the Ayre/Cardas myrtle blocks is in their resonant behavior ADDING a pleasurable element to the sound. I believe that the mechanism is the DRAINING of resonances AWAY from the component and into the equipment rack. I always place one block under the power supply of the component because that's usually the biggest source of vibration in components other than CD players and turntables.

Whenever possible the Myrtle wood blocks are placed against the side of a protruding screw, bolt, etc on the bottom cover because these fasteners are the best mechanically conductive pathways for vibrations. The amount of change in the sound just by making sure that they made contact with a fastener of some type was an ear opener. I found that chestnut of thinking while reading about Symposium products after Stephen Scharf's thread on DIY roller blocks had piqued my interest. The acoustic impedance of the wood blocks is much more similar to the metal (Myrtle wood being extremely hard) of the component bottom AND the wood of the rack shelves than the stock rubber feet offered on most products, thus it drain the vibrations away much more quickly and efficiently. I will admit that according to this theory the ideal situation would be to have metal shelves and metal footer, all made for more or less the same metal. Maybe Cardas should make some of these blocks, with the same dimensions in metal too. Why don't these blocks allow outside vibrations into a component as well as drain internal resonances away? I'm don't have a good answer to that question, but I assure you that I have thought about it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another Interesting Video from Paul

A while back PS Audio's Paul McGowan bought some gear to make their "Coal to Coltrane" DVD and has been making interesting smaller videos ever since. The new one discusses what high resolution digital audio is, why it's better, and how we can get it into our systems. It's a good way to spend the next 9 minutes. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Find of a Lifetime?

Being a semi-serious Beatles fan I was aware that Capitol had not released the earliest Beatles album or single in the US, that honor went to a small Chicago label named Vee Jay. While at Second Hand Tunes in Evanston, IL. I came across a copy of The Beatles - "Introducing. . . The Beatles Englands No.1 Vocal Group." on the Vee Jay label. Of course my Southsider skepticism was immediately raised but for $20 and with my best friend whom I still owe a wedding present being a HUGE fan I figured that I'd take the chance. After all if a record this rare would be found anywhere, why not Evanston it's pretty much Chicago after all.

As I often do I called my buddy from the record store in a hushed voice as to not tip the store's staff off to what treasure I might have found and asked for his input. Of course he also knew that the first album had been issued on Vee Jay but didn't know of any distinguishing marks to spot a possible fake. After arriving home I Googled the title hoping to find a website with a little guidance. The first site that I found had an encyclopedic amount of information. Apparently the The Beatles first US album is one of the most faked albums ever. The fact that Vee Jay issued many, many variations of the album in a short period of time can make identifying an original a bit difficult. The copy that I purchased had many of the signs that it was the genuine article but it failed one or two of the crucial tests. In the end it looks like it is one of the better forgeries that was produced, fooling many professionals in fact. I hope that he isn't too disappointed. Below are photos of the label and back cover of the version of the forgery that I ended up purchasing.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Round table

Below is video of Stereophile's round table discussion at the Salon Son et Image Audio show, broken into eleven parts. The participants included John Atkinson, Art Dudley, Stephen Mejias, and Robert Deutsch. It looks like it was an enjoyable time, and now the world knows how pronounce Stephen Mejias' last name.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Single-ended vs. Balanced

There never seems to be a shortage of questions about the difference between single ended and balanced connections when it comes to high-end audio. This will be a bit of a simplification but in a single ended connection (normally utilizing an RCA connector) there is a "signal" (the music) and a "ground" (electrical ground.) In a balanced connection (normally carried on and XLR but sometimes on other connectors for PRO applications) there is the "signal" (again music) the "ground" (electrical ground) then the third leg is "the signal 180 degrees out of phase." That is to say AN EXACT OPPOSITE of the original musical signal.

The practical benefit is that if the entire system is balanced, including inside the components at the end of the chain the "signal" and the "inverse of the signal" can be compared. Anything that they have in common must be noise picked up in the journey of the signal, and is therefore discarded. Making for "blacker" backgrounds and wider, deeper sound stages.*

It is important to note that just because a component has XLR connectors on the back DOES NOT mean that the circuit is truly balanced. Many time manufacturers will add XLR connects for comparability with other gear OR as marketing hype. A truly balance circuit close to doubles the price of a component because for every wire, cap, resistor, etc there must now be two. Only the chassis and the power supply don't need to be doubled. If it isn't balanced throughout the entire circuit, it's of negligible value. In fact, a pseudo-balanced design adds one EXTRA part in the signal path that wouldn't be in the signal path for the single-ended connections which is usually phase splitter used to "manufacturer" a balanced signal when only a single-ended one exists.

*Not everyone agrees that balanced connections run over shot distances have an audible effect, including some very good manufacturers. Like many things in high-end audio there are some very knowledgeable honest people on both sides of the fence. For the record my system is balanced, but I've heard many impressive systems that were purely single-ended.