Proper Digital Audio Playback

The PonoPlayer got it right, whether they survive as a business or not.

There is a right way and a quick way to build a digital audio playback circuit.

The following information comes from Charlie Hansen, the designer of the Pono audio chain, and the excellent review by Tyll Hertsens. I’m putting it into it’s own post so other audio device builders get inspired.

  • EVERYTHING from DAC to jacks is DC coupled. No coupling caps anywhere.
  • Everything is TRULY balanced from the DAC chip all the way to the output jacks. There is no virtual ground needed, as we have true +/- rails from the switching power supply. The raw rails go to SUPER low noise regulators, of which there are a TON.
  • The audio circuitry has their own dedicated +/- regulators.
  • All of the digital circuitry runs off of positive voltage only
  • Three or four separate dedicated regulators there — one for the audio master clocks, another for the digital side of the DAC chip and a third for the rest of the digital circuitry.

“NOBODY builds portable players that are fully-discrete, fully-balanced, and zero-feedback. This all makes a huge difference.”

— Charlie Hanson of Ayre Audio

That’s what happens after the DAC, in the analog stage.



Regarding the file quality and DAC behavior before the analog stage, we have more details from Charlie:

 

  • Brickwall filtering creates massive time smear.
  • The human ear/brain is already known to be exquisitely sensitive to time smear.
  • DBT and AB/X are really only sensitive to differences in frequency response. Using these tools for anything to do with music is like pounding a nail with a screwdriver. Ain’t gonna work.

Specifically, one of the massive benefits of a higher sampling rate is not extended bandwidth.

Instead, it allows for gentler filters to be used.


In the case of the Ayre QA-9 A/D converter, the anti-aliasing filters have zero ringing or time smear for double and quad sample rates. (Only one cycle of ringing for single rates — something has to give somewhere…)

When Ayre designed the PonoPlayer’s audio circuitry, we held back nothing.

We gave it everything that could fit within the constraints of the budget, physical space, and battery life.

Every single secret we discovered went into the PonoPlayer. The digital filter is taken directly from our own products.

Movie Lovers Coalesce The Vapors Around Streaming

It’s not just music lovers realizing that streaming has a long way to go to match physical media.

Film lovers see the same issues:  degraded quality, no extras, no ownership, unknown/ temporary access.

We give up a lot for the convenience of streaming.  #SaveTheAudio ?  #SaveTheVideo


The Problem With Experts Indeed

studio


Interesting take over on RealHDAudio taking shots at a music producer.

I read and replied to his post but it’s not publishing over there, so here is:


vocalize


Timing, timbre, and room sound.
Timing, timbre, and room sound.
Timing, timbre, and room sound.

These are things that you can’t scope or measure or chart. These are the basic building blocks of music.

This is why record producers, mastering engineers, and artists with a good ear are the experts here.

They are the only ones who understand mixed music. Not test tones. Not frequencies alone and isolated. Every bit of music is a complex stew of multiple tones, some heard, some hinted, some masked, some over/under ringing.

If the people in the studio that did the session say the 16/44 version sounds the best, then it does. If they prefer the 24/88 or 24/192 versions, they are the best. Creators privilege. Only they heard it as it was being made, aka what it originally came from. (They can all be different mixes of the song too, they don’t have to tell us that.)

The rest of us just take it for granted and enjoy it. Unless you are making the mix, or making the original sound being mixed, you are a secondary expert.

Mixed music is a tremendously complex collection of tones, all affecting each other, all containing critical timing, timbre, and layers upon layers of complex sound.

That’s why it’s so powerful. The power of music is ignored in these scientific discussions. If the 16/44 version moves you emotionally, that’s good. If the 24bit version does it more so, it’s a better version. Whichever packs the most in it is the best.


Even for sparse music, acoustic music, whatever…. more data = more sound = more vibration = more enjoyment. It’s simple.

I do think there’s a limit though. I hear some advantage at 24/192 on very good rigs but it does not make 24/88 or 24/92 sound degraded.

The pointless 16/44 is the degradation that we need to remove.


 

Too many people these days try to hear with their eyes and understand with their computer screens.

 

Which is music?

This:

beatles_wave

Strawberry Fields Forever, by The Beatles

 

or the audio track in this?

 

Anti-Audio Tech Sites, Pt. II

ak380

I’m an A&K and I take sound quality very seriously.


To followup on my rant against american tech sites like Ars Technica and how they completely ignore hi-res audio, I found some proof.

Check out Crutchfield, an american stereo catalog retailer. Crutchfield is known for their help in installing and explaining tech. They have a whole section of their catalog for portable hi-res music players.  They have a nice selection of the current products available to US consumers: Sony, Pono, Pioneer, Onkyo, A&K.


pioneerxdp100r

Pioneer making it’s pitch with a good hi-res DAP that looks like nothing else.


Head over to arstechnica.com, a site that reviews the newest tech gadgets, and search the site. You will not find a single mention of any of these devices (except for takedowns of the Pono). No reviews, no press releases, no mention in other articles. It’s as if they don’t exist.

It’s not that they don’t cover audio or mp3 players: search for headphones and get 2000 results. search for mp3- 970 results. iTunes? 8410 results.

Pono? 5 results, including 3 for the same review slamming it as ‘snake oil’. All the other DAP’s combined? 0 results.

Why do self-professed gadget lovers ignore this class of gadget. Is it plain ignorance of good sound or is something more nefarious at work?


sonynwa26

Sony has multiple walkmans, including Hi-Res models starting around $300


It’s not just Crutchfield, either, an audio specialist. Check out Amazon.com and you’ll see hundreds of MP3-only players under $100, and at least 40 different models of hi-res players starting at around $100.


pono_both

The PonoPlayer is the only one noticed by Ars Technica, and they shit on it by saying it sounds the same as an iPhone with a radio shack switcher, and by the way no one needs lossless music either. Snake oil! Audiophiles!

The Power of Labels

Degrade -d  

  • treat or regard with contempt or disrespect
  • lower the character or quality of
  • reduce to a lower rank, especially as a punishment

Synonyms: demean, debase, cheapen, devalue, shame, humiliate, mortify, abase, dishonor, dehumanize, brutalize, lossy

 


Original   

  • present or existing from the beginning; first or earliest
  • created directly and personally by a particular artist; not a copy or imitation

Synonyms: authentic, genuine, actual, true, bona fide, kosher, archetype, prototype, source, master, lossless

 


Do you think mp3 would be nearly as popular if it was called the devalued version or dehumanized version? 

Do you think lossless would be ignored by the masses if it was called the original version or the true version?

Of course not – this is the power of labels. Marketers and politicians understand this and use it against us. We must see through the subtle brainwashing, this trick of words.


TLmatched

This is not an audio wave but it caught your eye didn’t it?


Lossy sounds like a cool nickname on purpose. It’s all marketing. They figured out how to sell us less for the same and have been doing it for nearly 16 years now.

The various limitations requiring degradation of our fucking music have expired – leaving only greed.

dictionary-page

 

 

Lossy Is Hurting Us

 

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Summer fun in full resolution: Cedar Point, Ohio looking out over Lake Erie.

 

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If you stream music or buy lossy files, here’s your version of summer fun. Close enough, right?

 

If you own a ponoplayer or another fancy modern 24bit digital audio player, you can experience this. Full resolution for all the music you love will return you to the quality you deserve.

 


Note 1 – I bet your browser showed the compressed image first. That’s why data compression exists – to get the file to you faster. Once they are both loaded, was the wait worth it?

Note 2 – Image is not audio. Audio has more detail, more nuance, and packs far more emotional cues than visuals.

#SaveTheAudio

 

 

The Art of Recorded Music

Studer_A80

A canvas. A monitor. A block of clay.

Human imagination is more fertile and expansive than all of them. Human imagination is where the soundstage of recorded music is rendered.

640px-Shilkret_directing_Bain_Collection_(edited)

 

Creating sound for a recording takes planning. Even a simple voice over requires quieting the room, writing a script, and a doing a mic level check. Recording a band or larger unit requires extensive planning, both technical in nature and strategic from an artistic sense.

 

Foley_Room_at_the_Sound_Design_Campus_(cropped)

 

How many sounds are we trying to create? How many instruments, voices, microphones, and additional dubs? How many tracks per song? How many songs per album? These are artistic decisions mixed with lots of technical hum-drum (a million cables).

 

Eddie_Kramer

 

As the musicians and producer start to craft the songs they are already working on many layers.

The arrangement is one layer, actually each part within the arrangement is a layer.

The type and style of sounds emanating from the instruments are another layer.

 

640px-P_Kolbe-13_Stern-Trio-1965_01

The feel or tempo of the songs is another layer.

The prominence of instruments in the mix is another layer.

The amount of soloing is another layer. I could go on [and some bands do indeed go on and on!]

640px-Mervin_Solomon

The point — there is complexity here that gets painted into the soundstage of the final product. These entire layers of creation are not only intentionally put there, but fretted over in emotionally draining recording sessions hour after hour.

There are screaming battles, insults, and hurt feelings as the artist sweats and bleeds for their art. Pure creativity buried in the mix. Artists layer sounds while recording engineers massage, place, and blend sounds through the recording system.

640px-Diana_Yukawa_at_Abbey_Road_in_Studio_1

 

The blend of the sounds is critical. Each sound works within, against, and through all other sounds.

Nothing – NOTHING, including color, mixes like sound. No medium has more depth than sound.

No other artistic medium works by fulling enveloping the participant. IMAX? IMAX is actually about 20% of your surroundings fixed in space with visible framing. A simple head turn or eye close makes IMAX no-max.

Sound has no equal. This is why I fight so strongly these days against the lossy crowd, against the phones are fine for music, buy new headphones crowd. Even my own friends. I have to remind them that reducing our music is reducing our soul and we should be very careful with such things.

 

Streaming’s Shortcomings

Unknown-1images UnknownIf everyone got their music from streaming?  That is a big problem.

Streaming…

  1. has no cross promotion with local events or the local economy.
  2. has no cross promotion with local unsigned bands.
  3. has no direct connection back to the artist.

  4. completely ignores the purchasing power of the listener.
  5. has a limited and unstable (ever changing) catalog.
  6. pays a lower royalty per listener than other performance licenses.

  7. is the worst sound quality of all distribution platforms.
  8. has no production credits or copyright information.
  9. has no writer, composer, or publishing credits.

  10. has no human interaction for discovery of new music.
  11. assumes genre and style over all else when mixing music.
  12. assumes what you liked yesterday morning is what you will like Friday night.

  13. avoids selecting album/deep cuts and non-hits nearly as bad as top 40.
  14. requires multiple subscriptions (network and provider) to be active and paid up.
  15. cannot be rewound and reviewed for additional enjoyment.

  16. cannot easily be recorded or mixed into playlists and sets.
  17. contains only a low-resolution cover image, not complete artwork.
  18. contains no lyrics or artist notes.

  19. just got The Beatles this year.
  20. requires almost no paid humans to get it to your ears.

 

I’ve been around streaming for literally 20 years now, and have programmed it and listened to it since the beginning. If it truly is taking over the music industry we have to be honest about it’s shortcomings. That’s the only way we can start to address them.

Another internet casualty

Another internet casualty

 

More Hi-Res Rumors For Apple

imagesI guess this is good – rumors are floating again that Apple Music is moving into Hi-Res Audio.  Being a rumor there are very few specifics but a few people more influential than me are saying that 24/96 streaming is coming, along with the lightning port replacing the headphone jack on Apple’s mobile products.

It’s not all good because although Apple is the market leader in the consumer tech space, doubters and ignoramuses far and wide are commenting on music formats in the comments section.  It gets pretty ugly with the nonsense spouted there.

No surprise, many who have never heard hi-res digital refuse to believe it exists. Most ignore it completely, or they’ve tried 1 hi-res file on their laptop or phone.  Of course those devices can’t render hi-res properly, so the user reaffirms their belief that this is all a scam devised to charge them more for the same thing. Stupid users!

If you can’t hear that 256k bitrate < 1000k that’s your problem, not mine. If you don’t believe that 5800k > 1000k this lack of mathematical logic is also not my problem.  Your lack of awareness and listening ability should not hurt my ability to enjoy good music. Perhaps your taste in music also needs an improvement?


Pono_Player_Photo_BlindTestingGear


 

Finally, if you won’t accept that each Netflix/Youtube/Hulu stream is 3000k+ you will never understand that most of us have plenty of bandwidth and storage for hi-res audio.  We just value video far more than music on the internet.

Basic Apple nerds are very anti-hi-fi audio because they have been hooked into the lie that is MP3/AAC, where convenience trumps quality every time. Even the late Steve Jobs couldn’t believe how fast MP3 took over, he thought the quality was too low to fully replace previous formats.


 

PerceptualCoding

Guide To Hi-Res Audio

The momentum continues, as more publications pick up on this new push towards quality in consumer audio.  MP3 won’t die without a fight, but it’s 15 year grip on the music industry appears to be loosening.


1015prov.hands

 


 

Check out the Consumer Technology Association’s Guide To Hi-Res Audio for a nice wide overview of the hi-res music market as it stands now.

 

Headphones or Speakers

One thing I think is lost during audio debate and discussion these days is whether we are discussing listening on speakers or headphones. I find them to be very different.

Music is very complex vibration. When it is made by an instrument or voice it agitates the air and sends sound waves in all directions. We receive this vibration through multiple inputs:

  • our ears
  • our hair including eyelashes, facial hair, and body hair
  • our chest cavity (pressure)
  • our joints (vibration)
  • our skin (secondary vibration/touch/air movement)

The ear uses a very complex liquid-based limiter/expander inside of the spiral-shaped cochlea, after being amplified by the mallet/anvil/stirrup, which is after the tympanic membrane on the input chain. Thousands of microscopic hairs in triangle shaped clusters determine qualities of the sound, and the binaural earbrain works with amazing precision and speed to stereoscopically place sounds in spaces.  I could spend my life studying the Organ of Corti: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_of_Corti


31-14_static

Welcome To The Cochlea. We hear you.


 

If the sound or the overall space you are in changes you know instantly, for this is the primary tool of survival.  You can hear a door open, a presence in the room, a misfiring speaker cable, etc..

This signal, when played through speakers, enters the actual room and becomes part of the room sound. The listeners head moves, turns, walks around, and otherwise is constantly changing axis’ and distances from the speakers and from the reflections of the wall/floor/ceiling.

Our ears use all of their evolutionary powers to decode the sound in the room and by moving about we are getting different versions of the sound with every movement. This is all stored subconciously.

The speakers themselves are moving air around the room, vibrations into the room, and all of the vibration inputs of your body are activated. The table, the floor, the plants, the computer keyboard – it’s all vibrating along with the music.

 


250px-Junior_Walker

Moving air for fun.


 

When listening with headphones the actual room is removed from the experience. All inputs outside of the ears are removed from the experience.  There is very little ability to move around the sound or the room the sound is in. The virtual center of the soundstage does not exist in front of you and have real dimension, it exists inside of you, somewhere between your left and right headphone, with dimensions that must be imagined.

If the drums sound huge you know they can’t actually fit inside of your head, even though that’s where the sound originates from. You must suspend disbelief to even enjoy headphones.

Note here that I do indeed enjoy headphones. This is not a takedown of headphones, just making the point about the differences.

 


Cervin_vega

Also moving air for fun.


 

 

With speakers the huge drum is almost living in your room. Close your eyes and it might appear.  You can even move around it if you want.

The total amount of data that is transmitted from speakers > headphones.

The total of amount of data received and processed from speakers > headphones.

Headphone listening is both necessary and enjoyable, but it is very different than speaker through air listening.

I hope we remember this when talking audio: vibration requires movement to work. Headphones are tiny snapshot of vibration injected directly to our middle ear, which is not a natural listening experience.

 

Promises Fulfilled

I don’t think I ever posted this – this is from a guy that spends his life testing high-end audio devices – things like $15k Amps and $5k headphones. This ain’t my market as you know.

He ordered a PonoPlayer and by the time it arrived he was so sick of the hype, the politics, and the nerd battles raging online about Neil Young’s latest business venture that he skeptically pressed play.

Read his review to get a real nice impression of the impression this device leaves on people. Even the professionals.

He also has the technical chops and the connections to get into the nitty gritty of what is going on when you press ‘play’ on this odd shaped thing.

Pono_Player_Photo_BlindTestingGear

Image from Inner Fidelity

Making Records In The Age of Pono

_DSC0819AA

Great blog post covering Pono and the trends in music from a well known music producer. There is a lot of work to still be done in ending the era of bad sound quality but I like how he acknowledges that Neil Young has been leading the fight with a Pono-shaped machete, hacking away at low quality playback habits wherever he sees them.


cover_tapeop53

The Danger of Perceptual Coding

Perceptual coding is responsible for data loss that is greatly misunderstood and perhaps even dangerous to society.

What is perceptual coding ? It’s a data compression concept used in audio, video, and streaming technologies.

 


 

send-to-zip

ZIP is a lossless compression like FLAC. To permanently reduce media size, MP3 and AAC use perceptual coding to determine importance of data and permanently reduce it.


 

Why does perceptual compression exist? Native media files tend to be large. In the 90’s it was difficult to move these files around because they were too large for the network speed and storage prices of the time. Extreme data compression was needed.

A CD might hold 10 songs at 40mb each for a total of 400mb. How to get that 40mb song file small enough to fit through a dial-up modem and play on the other side in real-time?

The answer was perceptual coding, the trick behind lossy compression. It has been used for decades in voice transmission compression. You have to go inside the audio data and start throwing sound away.

 


 

PerceptualCoding

PerceptualCoding.pdf


 

 

But what sounds can be thrown away? How do you go inside of a mixed piece of music and delete things? And how far can you go before people notice a quality drop?

Perceptual coding can’t do things like delete the 2nd guitar solo or reduce the backing vocals, that can only be done in the mix of the song.

Perceptual coding also can’t make the song acoustic or shorter in length, those can only be done in the mixing stage.

What perceptual coding does do is analyze the sounds in the song and prioritize them. The programmers determined which sounds are more important on the scale.

First it locates the lead sounds – the main instruments/voices in the material.

There might be 5 primary sound makers in your song, let’s say drums, bass, guitar, keys, and voice. Perceptual coding manages to quarantine those and only removes small amounts of their identifying data.

This allows a listener to quickly ID the melody, the lyric, the artist, and the song since these primary elements are only slightly degraded.

 


 

lossy


 

But you can’t achieve 90% overall data reduction by only slightly degrading the material. Perceptual coding achieves the brunt of it’s loss from outside of the primary sounds.

This includes everything not inside the primary sound including the echoes and delays of the primary sounds. In fact all reverbs, delays and room sounds are attacked and removed. Other things outside the primary sound are timbre characteristics, breaths, string and instrument noise, room shape and activity, and soundstage timing cues. All of this is shorthanded to “the tone” and “the soundstage”.

By masking and/or deleting all kinds of sounds that they believe are unable to be reliably perceived* by listeners they achieve massive size decreases.

*What the smart DSP programmers behind perceptual coding understood is that while people can easily hear this loss in the music, most can’t identify it reliably and consistently using the same terminology, and good luck having any of this come out in the whacked-world of ABX listening tests.

If most can’t identify what is gone, but can identify the song and sing along, the codec is considered a success. And MP3 was and still is a huge success by those metrics.

But listen to Ghost in the MP3 to hear an idea of what perceptual coding takes away from your music.

 


MGUI1k_oNjN-Jy6LJbYYVTl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBV9ip2J1EIeUzA9paTSgKmv


 

The destruction of all of the natural movement, transients, and timing cues has a long lasting effect on our music, which has a long lasting effect on our psyche.

The things that perceptual coding deems unnecessary and inaudible are in fact the critical emotional elements of the music.

This amounts to a perceptual loss in all modern music and is the reason behind two trends: 1- robotic voices with fake instruments, and 2- hyper-fast switching of sounds from disparate sources with heavily active pan and audio limiter settings.

When your end result is forced to be artificial and limited in size and range, hip producers know to co-opt the weaknesses and make them strengths. The more artificial and huge you can sound the better.

No point in producing realism when there is none at the distribution.


 

256px-Lichtenstein_jpeg_difference

An approximation of lost data from this image after lossy compression.

PonoPlayer Doing Well At Amazon

During my recent shopping experience I’ve found Amazon reviews to be pretty accurate once enough people use that product and report back.

The Pono Player has been for sale up there for a while and people of all types have been posting reviews. Check it out.

4.2 out of 5. Over 80% very satisfied. Not bad!

81oWnKdeoTL._SL1500_

Read it and understand in many other’s words what I’ve been telling you about.  This little thing is a game changer.

The Sad State of Consumer Audio

There is a lot of technology available today, some at very affordable prices. Choice appears abundant but it’s a false narrative.

Why is choice a false narrative? Because most of the choices are already compromised and the actual quality of the product is clouded with confusion.

Continue reading

Tidal Shows The Ghost In The MP3

This is a good start. Here’s Tidal trying to explain simply why MP3 sounds worse than CD quality. They want $20/month the stream CD-quality to you, so they will strongly market against lossy compression.

How great can music sound? from TIDAL on Vimeo.

 

But it is also a bit misleading because so much music is recorded in 24bit and then down sampled to CD quality. I do believe that 16/44 is officially the start of “high-resolution” these days, because MP3 lowered the bar so much.

16/44 is just the start of high-definition (it is high definition from 1980) and if people are willing to pay $20/month to stream it, I’m all for it. If they ever add a radio to the PonoPlayer I would stream 16/44.

The Tidal proposition – $120/year for random-generated CD-quality music. That’s what you’d pay for 7-10 HD album downloads, not a bad deal.

New Listening Test – A Proposal

It’s time for a better listening test. It’s time to use our understanding properly.

A proper listening test…

  1. needs to use all available sensory data from a modern smartwatch/ wearable CPU device
  2. needs to be portable and self-contained to allow for mobile use/multiple playback locations
  3. needs to account for the musical style preference of the test subject
  4. needs to stress half-song units as it’s shortest measurement, rejecting fast-switching between samples
  5. needs to be blind without altering the listeners normal and natural listening state
  6. needs to avoid comparisons between a memory and a real sample
  7. needs a moniker as easy to remember as ABX or Blind

 

Why is this needed?

Continue reading

Apple’s Upcoming Music Announcement

Will it have anything to do with sound quality?  I doubt it.

Apple likes to roll out new products with slick presentations touting all of the improvements in the product, or how the new product improves upon an existing solution.

This new rumored streaming audio service (a re-branded Beats Music service) looks like more of the same – random, computer generated playlists or hunt & peck streaming at a compressed rate, trying it’s damnedest to sell you that same compressed copy to own.

No one wants to buy those compressed little MP3’s when you can stream them. If they were smart enough to offer an HD version of the song I bet people would buy more when streaming. I know I would.

A new walkman sounded better than the old one. What happened?

A new walkman usually sounded better than the old one. What happened?

Since iPod shipped 14 years ago, I can recall one single upgrade to the sound quality in Apple’s iTunes ecosystem. This was around 2009 when they introduced the “mastered for iTunes” program, that allowed you to deliver files in 24bit lossless but they would not sell the HD version, they reduce it to 320k AAC (apple’s version of MP3) and sell it for $1.29 a track instead of $.99.

All of this is why I have a PonoPlayer and haven’t looked back. iTunes was always a toy musically, and since they’ve made absolutely no effort to really improve sound quality in 15 years, it’s even more of a toy.

The sad thing is how popular it is, with millions of people listening to tinny, distorted audio devices playing horribly compressed files. None of it is necessary anymore but it lives on as “The modern way”.  A huge decrease in quality in the name of perceived convenience.

Loudness Wars Research

I’ve really been exploring my music collection lately* and along with the playback quality of the PonoPlayer, I’ve learned some things about the hated concept of “loudness wars”:

 

  1. I can really hear it start up in the early 90’s with hard rock records from G’NR, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, those types. There is a noticeable louder average volume but there are still dynamics. Instruments still sound natural, just amplified and then compressed analog, and the final mastering mix is pumped up. I suspect they tracked with tons of headroom and let the mastering engineer pull most of it out and boost away since the CD format could handle it. You can still hear natural distortion and plenty of natural room interplay.
  2. By the late 90’s, dance music (especially from the islands) was pumped and exploring automated multichannel compression provided by digital recording systems. Most American rock was dying at the hands of rap-rock and drum replacement software.
  3. By 2003, software that could do extreme compression and trickery was prevalent, so it ends up as artist and producer choice, and most went all-in with digital and robotic, looped music makes headway. MP3’s and iDevices took over the listener market in these years.
  4. By 2010 releases appear about 50% louder than their early 90’s counterparts, and laptops are on stage as well as in the studio, and most people have accepted the sonic downgrade masked as the modern sound. These years appear louder and bigger at first, but immediately tire your ears and upon further listening the mp3 “scratchy paper bag” sound is heard. Trickery is the main game in town in all popular genre’s.
  5. In 2015 the general public seems to be open to an improvement, even though most new releases are very much guilty of being too loud. No one is impressed by music (mp3) anymore. It’s everywhere, plays from anything, and usually sounds horrible. My generation is burdened with the “oh yeah” whimsical look when someone mentions sound quality.

 

Luckily, I’m not the only one noticing this. Check out this amazing ditty about the last 30 years in music creation:

 

 

*After spending the last couple of years exploring online collections, I’ve discovered that I have a pretty amazing collection of over 3000 pieces of music built over the last 35 years and that it’s primary problem has been it’s total lack of organization. Only 5% made it into iTunes as lossy files. So I’ve begun to put all of my digital music into a single lossless collection and am also finally building a computerized index of my vinyl.  When complete, I’ll have a single database of all the music I own, and that’s very exciting to me!

 

 

Recording Quality Rule Of Thumb

Allow me to speak some truth about the recording arts — the overall quality of music production has been going down since before I started. I’ve done nothing to reverse the trend ;-).

This is due to multiple factors not least of which is the march of technology and the reduction of overall recording budgets bootlegging has brought us.

How much would you spend on producing an album that most of your actual fans won’t even purchase?

Continue reading

FUNK @ 24/192: Oh My!

But of course, why did I ever doubt it?

I worry. More than my cool attitude allows.

I worry about incompetence and greed getting in the way of a good time.

I worried that the high resolution thing would pass by my beloved funk music.

I just purchased Slave’s debut record at 24/192 (one of the few of their peers to go all the way)  and OH MY….

You want a better commercial for HD audio? I don’t think there is one. The space, the timing, the bite of the instruments, the interplay, the growl of the bass, the polyrhythms, the horns…..  Very impressive. My new favorite album on HD.

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24/192 funk – OH YEAH.   Please funk bands (and Rhino) if you are reading this – go back to the tape and put out 24/192 asap. I will buy all that I can.

Because this is the sickest funk around, in my pocket. Very powerful. Best my ears have heard in quite some time.

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The New Kid On The High Resolution Block – MQA

Well this is getting interesting. British company Meridian has come up with something that goes beyond just a format or delivery mechanism, and also involves lossy compression, yet it still looks like a potential future audio technology we need to pay attention to.

Continue reading

The Ghost in the MP3

Excellent work by Ryan letting you hear an approximation of what they are removing from MP3 files when doing “lossy” compression.

This is what the MP3 programmers deem unimportant in your music. You can play the video with it’s own lossy audio, or go here to hear the full version of what they pull from your music to make MP3 files.

Most of what is cut out is spatial — reverbs, room sound, delays, decays, fade outs, dynamics, lots of pre-delays, layering of sounds, attacks, breathes, etc..

This is the movement and the emotional content of the song. The interacting layers is the kind of data that computer programmers (and digital internet babies) can’t quite measure, so they disregard it. That’s scientific method at work – if you can’t measure or control it, disregard it.

This is important listening and will help you to understand that hearing music is more than frequencies.

I would love to see someone do this type of experiment with a 24bit mix and a 16bit mix of the same music.

 

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Don’t take away my reverb and delays! The power of Bonzo is a result of decay, delay, and room sound.

Pure Sound Quality

Quality:

  1. GoodMusic as MP3  =  sounds pretty good – get your jam on!
  2. GoodMusic as 16bit FLAC  or   CD  =  sounds better – damn listen to that bass! – time to dance – pure and clean and timeless
  3. GoodMusic as 24bit FLAC  or  Vinyl  =   oh wow am I in the studio? Is the artist in my room with me? Am I crying? This is outstanding and I don’t want to go back.

vs. Convenience:

  1. GoodMusic as MP3  =  easiest and everywhere
  2. GoodMusic as CD  =  barely surviving in cars and clubs
  3. GoodMusic as Vinyl  =  you are a manual no mix/playlist throwback and can’t take that mobile at all, totally dusty and crusty
  4. GoodMusic as FLAC   =  as easy as MP3 if you load onto your player, because it’s not going to stream reliably anytime soon

 

If you are willing to swim back up that river just a little bit – to owning and carrying your own music on a little player – you can enter a whole new world of sound quality and not lose much convenience at all.

 

gotta do what you gotta do

gotta do what you gotta do

Pono In Cars, Coming Soon

Pono and Harman announced they reached a deal to bring the Pono audio goodness into cars, and this could be the mainstream breakthrough Pono needs. The more people that hear it the better because it’s the best marketing possible. Hear it, like it, maybe love it and cry a few tears, then buy it. The “low-def years” come to an end.

No details about how they are going to work this out, but Neil has hinted that they are going to share their signal chain engineering with Harman to allow it to be built into their various products, with Pono certifying it for quality. Harman is the corporate owner of the audio brands Infinity, AKG, JBL, Harman Kardon, Becker, Lexicon, Crown, dbx, Soundcraft, Studer, Revel, DigiTech, Mark Levinson, and a few more. That’s a whole lot of market coverage.

It appears that most of the engineering talent in the Pono is the stuff designed by Ayre Acoustics, and the PonoPlayer identifies the Ayre brand, so I would think this is the technology that they will license to Harman.

As long as it sounds sweet and easily takes a MicroSD card so we can share libraries with our other players, I’m all for it. I’ll test drive and consider purchasing any car that has Pono built in.

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PonoPlayer Review Is Posted

I have a few revisions to make but I thought I’d get this thing posted so I can start sharing out the link next week. Enjoy my long-form run through what a PonoPlayer is, and why you might want one:

http://wfnk.com/blog/ponoplayer-review/


Just a symbol or a way to hear cymbals again?

Just a symbol of hype or the return of hearing cymbals?

 

Lecture: Quality Sound Matters

Stop listening to internet experts and listen to real experts. Here’s a panel of mastering engineers talking about quality sound and consumer trends. Interesting, informative and correct!

Bonus fun is that they invited a guy from streamer Rdio who has to defend 320k streaming in this room full of quality experts. I bet he’s the young one on the end looking exasperated 😉

Praise The Wire


In our rush to modernize and upgrade the conveniences in life we can forgo quality for convenience. Often times the better way gets out-marketed and replaced by the new way, and life goes on.

Wireless digital was the new thing in the 1990’s. In the oughts it was deployed everywhere -from offices to battlefields and mountain summits. By now we simply expect most things to be wireless, because wireless is how we do it now.

But when it comes to the world of pro audio, the wire has not been replaced, at least not yet. A wire is called interconnect and it’s going strong.

Continue reading

Studio To Stereo

Here’s something really cool – a bunch of people are putting together an interactive event in London that details the process of creating music in the studio and then releasing it to the public, using iconic artists, classic albums, and high definition audio displays.

Who’s the consumer tech company behind it? Sony, a small Japanese startup you might not have heard of.

Sony stages Studio to Stereo high-res audio exhibition

Black Sabbath, The Doors, Pink Floyd — in the studio, behind the scenes and in HD, damn someone want to fly me to London?

The Doors in the studio

The Doors in the studio

Pre-CD Grandeur

Great write up on a classic opera recording finally being released properly in HD/Hi-Res audio:

Rediscovering Maria Callas in High-Resolution Audio

Internet experts continue to argue and debate about hi-res, but music lovers that consider themselves real listeners (not just background music) have heard a nice improvement when going to 24 bit for a long time now.

The Diva

The Diva

Getting Audio From Video Where There Was None

Yes that’s right. Researchers have used some cool computer programming and video chip tricks to do what was previously impossible – to use video to record vibrations made by sound and then recreate the sound.

No sound recorded, just video of something like a paper bag or a pair of headphones. The camera chip manages to see tiny variations in the image which are calculated out as vibrations caused by a sound source. The computer can actually process the video frames in such a way as to reconstruct the original audio that caused the vibration!

Wow! That’s a whole new world right there. And it goes to show that sound is a physical vibration that affects all physical items in an intimate way.

There are some things stopping this from being totally magical at this early stage of research — the computer program takes hours to process the video, the video needs to be recorded at a high frame rate and the recreated sound is not nearly as high definition as the original. But it is sufficiently recognizable, enough so that they were able to Shazam the recreated audio with a match!

Just thinking of the good and bad uses for this and my mind boggles. Video investigations, surveillance, items that react to sound…

Killing With Sound

You may have known that they have developed weapons using sound, and these are already shipping to military and police customers. While this “non-lethal” approach to crowd control is appreciated I can’t help but think of the abuse this will lead to.

sonic cannonsonic cannon can shoot targeted sound blasts capable of causing pain and severe mental discomfort hundreds of feet away. While the first models of these cannons are mounted up on a large stalk and have a clear visual shape, I believe miniaturization and stealth tech will reduce these down to something more portable and concealable, and that’s why I really worry about these devices.

DJ’s have been manipulating people through sound for over 40 years, but their goal is to get listeners to let loose and shake their ass. These sonic cannons will let your bowls loose and you’ll poop your pants. They only play brown notes!

Now that the industrial-scientific use has been found for them, I expect us to hear (rimshot) more about these sonic assault rifles soon enough.

Apple Will Kill the Mini-Jack

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Also known as the mini-plug, mini-jack, mini-phones, the 3.5 (mm) or just the headphone jack. This thing has been around since the 1970’s [actually 1870’s!], and I’m pretty sure Apple is going to take it out back and end it within the next year. Better send the kids off!

10 Reasons why they will do it  —

  1. It’s the main reason mobile iOS devices aren’t even thinner or smaller. Look at the Nano – almost all plug. No way they make a watch with that port. Lightning replaced the old iOS plug mainly for size, this is the next step in reducing size.
  2. The features of the mini-jack have already been extended by Apple as far as it can go, to pass power and controls over the 3rd ring in addition to the stereo audio.
  3. Mini-jack has never been known for sound quality, reliability, or interference management.
  4. Apple likes killing things that have become universal “lowest common denominator” standards. No one sticks up for the mini-jack anymore.
  5. The new thing in audio is HD digital, either from the device (Pono, Fiio, Walkman), or from an external DAC running out of the lightning port. The mini-jack doesn’t help much here, in fact most see it as a hindrance if you have to push hi-fi audio over it.
  6. The other new thing in audio is streaming to wireless speakers, which also doesn’t require a mini-jack.
  7. The 3-ring mini-jack has been the culprit in most of my iOS hardware failures over the years. I haven’t had alot, but they almost always involve the mini-jack. In talking to Apple Store employees, the mini-jack seems to be the main repair item on iOS devices, so it’s ripe for replacement.
  8. Beats and a few others are working on headphones that have an external DAC in the headphone and connect to the iOS device with a lightning connector. Beats now is Apple, and I think this is the new model for their headphones.
  9. Apple’s not particularly thrilled that you can use a pair of headphones circa 1982 to listen to an iOS device. 7 years ago that compatibility was needed for acceptance, but now that the whole world has portable digital music – time to buy a new kind of headphones.
  10. The pushback and “outrage” over abandoning this standard (and everyone’s existing stereo crap) is something Apple can handle, and actually seems to relishes in. They will probably show how their lightning connector has much better specs and allows so many more features over the wire. They love this differentiation. They want people to see it, go ‘let me see’, and then ‘wow that’s cool’. Old timers listing the reasons this is stupid are left behind with their thumb keyboards and their floppy disks.

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Bye-bye mini-jack, it’s been a good run. I think you’ll stick around on non-Apple products for the next 10-15 years but the writing is on the wall, you are about to be replaced by the lightning connector or some other digital connector.

 

lightning connector

 

The Great Cable Scam

01-hdmi-cables-monoprice-6-ft-6105-630Don’t overspend on cables – HDMI especially. So many predatory companies out there lying to you, trying to take your money by confusing you with tech talk.

Why All HDMI Cables Are The Same

If you are spending big money for any cable in your living room you are wasting that money, especially if that cable carries digital signal. With digital it’s either all there or not, there’s no improving the quality of the transmission.

With analog cables (speaker, RCA, coaxial, etc.) there’s something to be said about quality of shielding and plugs, but you can still buy a well-made analog cable for just a few bucks more than the cheap ones. With analog cables it’s more about interference from other cables and electrical sources.

Hi There I’m Walkman 2014

Neil Young’s preaching has been working — Sony recently announced their latest WalkMan, the 35th Anniversary model, and it’s pretty bad-ass. Save the Audio!

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That little slab of gadget-lust has got hi-fi audio specs (DAC, amp, wiring, shielding), excellent build quality, and it plays high resolution digital!

This is the proof that there is a market for true music playback systems again. If Sony’s 35th anniversary walkman plays HD audio it immediately differentiates it from the “low-fi” phone and iPod world we’ve been in for the last 10 years.

Some general information, in case you are interested in purchasing one:

  • available in Japan and Europe late 2014, street price expected around $700 US
  • plays up to 24 bit, 192k FLAC and other formats
  • 64gb on-board memory, not expandable
  • runs the full android OS with app installation allowed, including outside music stores
  • wifi and bluetooth expected for non-audio features. not clear if it can send audio over bluetooth

 

Compared to the Pono player, I think we will have some choices in this emerging market:

  • available in the US late 2014, street price expected to be $400 US
  • plays up to 24 bit, 192k FLAC and other formats
  • 64gb on-board memory + card slot for swapping 64gb cards (128gb cards coming soon)
  • runs a proprietary OS with audio only features. no apps or internet connectivity
  • no wifi or bluetooth. Neil says you can’t take away the wires if you can’t replace what originally went through them 😉

 

There’s two other DAP’s I found on the market in the US, one from a company called Fiio and one from an upscale stereo maker whse name is slipping my mind. But the Fiio one was around the $400 price point and looked to be an impressive device. The other one is high-end all the way, with the player over $1k and even the cables were $100+, so no thanks on that.

 

 

 

Resolution, Not Frequency Range

Anyone arguing about audio and getting stuck on the overall hearing range of humans is actually missing the point.

What digital audio has really been doing is giving us lower resolutions on the sounds we can hear.

Have you ever had a car radio with a dial that won’t go to the exact volume you want? The ‘chunks’ are too big to get it exactly where you want it? That’s a lack of resolution in that volume knob. Put that lack of resolution throughout every part of the audio program and the overall effect is perhaps not easily heard, but it seems to be easily felt. – Excerpt From Save The Audio

HD audio is really about the resolution, not the frequency range. The color’s won’t be brighter, there will just be more of them available. Having more available means you leave the computer to guess about less.

The whole “no one can hear above blah blaah” is just a diversion from the fact that we can all hear and do indeed miss what the computers have been removing from our music.

ResolutionBandwidth_sta

Digital Audio Verses Timbre

If an electric guitar and a piano both play a C major chord at the same volume, can you tell the difference between them?  Would you be able to discern a difference between the guitar and the piano’s version of the same note? Digital audio programmers hope you can’t.

If a violin and a plastic keyboard both hit a D and hold it out, can you hear a difference between them? What are the differences between the violin and the electronic keyboard when the result is the same note? Digital audio programmers hope you don’t know or care.

If you recorded the two tests above and played them back, would you still be able to hear a difference between them? Of course you would, but the more you degrade the digital audio by compressing in a ‘lossy’ format, the differences between the two would diminish. Somewhere around 128k lossy you’d have trouble hearing any difference between the instruments, even if in different families all together.

So how exactly do you tell the differences between the instruments, and how well they are played? We don’t even have words to describe all of what is happening there. But you can hear the difference even if the computer just sees the frequency and the volume. Most of this familiarity as to “what is making that sound” is put under the term timbre, and then most of it is thrown out in the digital realm.

Timbre is where they go looking for things to LOSE when compressing digital audio. Why do you care if it’s a piano or strings, you hear the note, you get the point, right?  The timbre is what many like Neil Young talk about as being part of the ‘soul’ of music, unquantifiable and very emotional for each person.

Lossy media compressions were developed for dial-up modems (remember those?), and to shrink the file by 80% they actually threw out most of the timbre, most of the sub-lows,  most of the highs, and most of the steps for panning and depth. Part of what you hear as mp3 artifacts are all those holes in the timbre being filled with wrong data.

BTW — the cover image is a microscopic view of an actual groove in a record. Look at the amount of vibration data the stylus picks up as it drags through that groove. 16 bits is just not enough data space to recreate all of that.

groove-of-a-record-for-detail

Bad Science + Business Interests = Trouble

Computer geeks know lots of things. The sheer breadth of stuff that geeks have crammed in their head is impressive.

But their major mistake is often not acknowledging their own ignorance. Many have come up in a world so digitally driven that they forget they are analog animals.

They forget sound, light, smell, touch are all analog. These are things computers don’t do natively.

In fact it has taken 40+ years of digital advancement to even start competing with original (analog) methods of creation.


NEM U87AISETZNI

Hi there I’m analog


Most computer nerds know nothing about professional media production. They might know the basics or have clicked around a bit with an app, but they know nothing of producing high quality media for a living.

On the other hand, most producers these days have to know their computers, especially the parts critical to creating professional media. I believe some nerds don’t like the competition so they declare themselves experts on everything digital.

Experts are the people that do it for a living, not people tasked with spreading false information on the internet.

A computer programmer/nerd believes there is a digital solution to everything.

Then they build on this bad foundation the fatal flaw of believing a digital copy of something analog will somehow be superior. Many sub-measurements of that digital file might be superior to the analog, but remember to always step back and say “what is this trying to solve?”.

Music is created to get an emotional response from us and that requires as much audio data as possible.


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All consumer digital music, from the CD in 1978 on, has been a compromise. When you hear analog playback you are hearing a reflection of the recording, that is, an analog copy that is slightly degraded but overall intact and whole.

The original sounds hit the microphone in analog and it will hit your ears in analog.  It has not been broken up and re-assembled, and no computer decided what to keep and what to throw out.

Nature does degrade the signal to a certain extent (magnetism in a tape or physical dragging movement on vinyl), but no programmer had to determine mathematically what parts of your music to throw out.

Computer nerds trust in the computer to decide what’s important in our audio signal, more than they trust their own intuition or senses.

Computers don’t have skin, hair, ears, or emotions, so what do they know about music? Nothing. Nada.

Programmers with agendas are behind much of this nonsense, and it is all based on a total misunderstanding of how we hear, and what we actually get from music.

Familiarity is just step 1. “I can recognize that song I like!” is not the same as hearing the whole thing the way it was intended.

Check out this cool article about a guy that helped design the Pono Player.

 

 

Wow Righteous Indeed

Excellent talk from Neil Young at South By Southwest about his new product – the Pono Music Player. He breaks it all down in simple terms, better than any amount of text I can type:

Listen: Neil Young Explains Pono

I just bought one over at kickstarter. I have been waiting for “iPod II – Pro” for 10 years now. This thing is going to sound amazing. High-end audio in your bag, on your desk, wherever. They are busting out their kickstarter goal!

“Rescuing an art form is not something of interest to many in the investment community.” – Neil Young, on Pono’s early funding

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It will play your current mp3’s and most other formats much nicer than your phone, but it will also play the high rez files all the way up (most iDevices top out at 24/48, androids less than that) as high as you want to purchase through their HD store, or through existing stores like HDtracks.com, or your own files ripped that high.

More importantly than all of that, it is attempting to restore some sanity to the digital audio world. Audio, and audio alone, has been going down in resolution for the last few decades. Every other digital media tech we have – cameras, video, television, film, displays – has increased resolution every decade or so. But audio has been dropped, disrespected, misunderstood, confusing familiarity with quality.

“There was really something wrong. What it was was – we were selling shit. People were still buying it because they liked music, but they were buying wallpaper, background sounds, xerox’ of the Mona Lisa. They were buying musical history, supposedly preserved for everyone to hear, now preserved as a tiny little piece of crap with less than 5% of the data of the highest resolution in digital recording today” – Neil Young, on the recent music industry woes

BTW — Ignore the people online spouting ‘science’ about how no one can hear beyond 16/44. Every music producer and most musicians I know can hear a difference (even old ones ;-)). Audiophiles can hear a difference. Classical and jazz heads can hear it easily. Anyone who listens to any music created before 1988 would hear a difference. Beyond the usual internet ignoramuses, some have dead ears and/or business interests in the “good enough” digital music world. There’s some real science behind these lossy formats but it’s all kinds of flawed. Thankfully facts are catching up.

“5% became the standard of the world” – Neil Young, on the mp3 generation

Listen to the experts – the people who make, mix, and remix legendary music. Every one of them works at higher than 16/44 these days, and they can all hear why. It’s obvious.

“MP3’s are very convenient. So what we decided to do was to come out with a new system that was not a format, had no rules, respected the art, respected what the artist was trying to do, and did everything that it could to give you what the artist gave, so that you get to feel not just what the artist intended you to feel, but what the artist did. And that is what Pono is. Pono plays back whatever the artist wants you to hear. The artist makes the decision.” – Neil Young

Righteous Audio – Finally!

pono_main


I love knowing I’m not alone in my rants. I have been complaining about digital audio compromises since the 80’s, and now, finally, a product is coming for people like me. It’s called “Pono” (Hawaiian for ‘righteous’) and its basically the iPod redone with no audio compromises. Just like the classic iPods, it will cost under $500 and play all your various media types, but everything played through it should SOUND TRULY BETTER.


 

050415-PonoCables-600


The difference is the sound. The whole difference. How could people discount the sound quality as non-critical? MP3’s are “good enough” for much use, like streaming, but if you want to hear music the way it was intended when created, you have to go beyond the CD standard and go higher with high-def audio files. Pono does this, and then uses hi-end electronics and amplification to round out the package.

The Pono player looks like perhaps the last portable digital music player I’ll ever need to buy. It has 64gb built-in, with 64gb cards to swap in and out more music library. A 64gb card can hold hundreds of hi-def tracks depending on how hi you def. The Pono has hi-end audio circuitry designed for audio only. It has 2 outputs for either headphones or powering a real system with low-noise line level (as opposed to running out your headphone jack like many of us do with our portables now).

Anyone complaining or shooting down this concept (and they are out there) must have some sort of problem with either Quality, or Their Ears.


pmLStXf


Why would people push back against a higher-quality version of something, a version that the original artists approve of? Ignorance or previous investment, I would think. All these jokers own HD TV’s too, too stupid to miss the obvious in front of their eyes. Higher quality digital sound than was possible in 1977? Yeah right!

Listen, don’t buy the Pono if you don’t want one, but I personally purchased my last mp3 file last year. The quality is horrible (and no liner notes!) to have to own that thing forever. I’ve been slowly buying or re-buying the classics in HD digital or vinyl.

If Pono succeeds in making the general public aware of what they’ve been missing for 30+ years – what every pro musician anywhere knows – that there was a lot of good stuff removed from music in the 1980’s, and that we can now bring that back along with the digital conveniences – well that’s something I fully support. I’m buying one of these little tablerone’s of musical goodness.


ResolutionBandwidth_sta


Coupla random opinions on the matter:

24/48 tracks should not cost more to purchase than 16/44 – the so-called “lossless” CD standard. Sorry marketing titles, it’s already lost much. CD’s & 16/44 should be discounted because it’s 37 year old digital tech.

24/48 is as low as you can go for “HD” marketing label. 16/44 was a compromise in 1977 and of course it still is. 24/48 is what most producers work at these days, and is the audio-for-video standard.

24/96 is the comfortable place for a modern digital audio standard, at least in popular music. Studios rarely record, mix, or master the originals at higher than that, and at 24/96 there is enough data to really get close to the total experience. You’d have to have an great listening environment, amazing music, and really good ears to get into hearing the improvement at 24/192. Classical fans with money to spend, maybe. Or cymbal tests in isolation. Both will show an improvement going up to 192.

These numbers 24/48, 16/44 are used alot, but keep in mind that they include all your dynamic range (loud to quiet), all your panning and depth (soundstage), all of your overtones and timbre (still impossible to quantify), all of your reverberations (tons of math!) along with the raw frequency response. There’s a lot of data in audio, and the computer chips of 1977 could only do so much. Going to 24/96 gives all needed variables more storage room, and you can feel it in the music.


 

Totally Wired

Totally Wired

Critical Listening of Soundscapes

Besides music as created by humans, sounds of all kinds fascinate me. The vibration underlying sound is, in my opinion, the most underrated and sometimes disregarded human stimulus.

To that end, I discovered an amazing site called Aporee that celebrates the wonder of sound. It’s amazing how much ambient sounds can tell you about places and people.

Check out http://aporee.org/maps/ for an amazing tour of our planet using your ears. You can browse around a googled earth but instead of trivial data about the locations for you to read, you get glorious sound!

Pure sound, usually recorded in stereo, for free to take yourself right to those places. No HDTV or even film experience can get close to what pure sound can convey.

Close your eyes and it’s amazing how you can travel to that place and learn so much through just your ears.

canberra_overlaid

The Challenge of Uncompressed Audio Formats

Good overview of the situation I’m heavily interested in (see “Save the Audio” section) – the battle between quality audio and convenient audio. Since the late 90’s most of us have accepted worse-sounding audio in the name of convenience, whether it be small mp3 files downloaded or even smaller mp3 files streamed – both pull more and more important audio out of the worlds music.

Neil Young’s Pono Service Illustrates Hi-Def Audio’s Problems.

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The Rise of High Definition Audio – Save The Audio!

Hear My Pixels

If eyes were treated like ears.


Ah finally, I’m not alone on the internet! Someone agrees it’s time to retire the MP3 and bring on high def digital audio.

We keep upping the resolution of our digital lives but seem to have neglected sound for 30+ years now.

Sound is more fundamental to our mental and emotional state than a flickering image. Eyes close, turn away, and can lose focus after a few feet. Created images bring no physical vibrations to our body, and we do not create images for our guttural, natural communication.

There’s a layer of abstraction when creating images as opposed to creating sound. You just did it now (made sound) and you can’t stop doing it. Neither can our machines or mother nature. Don’t forget sound in the pursuit of vision.

Don’t forget quality, even when compromising for convenience.

Continue reading

I Support Pono

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Neil getting full balanced goodness into his ears

I love this idea.

Neil Young finally got his wish to attempt to restore audio fidelity to our lives. They are calling the thing Pono and most of the press reports on it present it as a battle with Apple’s iTunes world (which is currently living on the 256k mp4 format).

But most modern ears miss the real battle Young is waging – Continue reading

Avid, Akai, M-Audio Oh My!

Avid software started in video editing in the early 90’s, then bought Digidesign (makers of Pro-Tools professional audio) as well as M-Audio (consumer audio) and for the last few years has been one of the biggest A/V hardware and software companies.

Today they announced they are selling M-Audio and their consumer video product division to focus on the professional market. M-Audio is being sold to the parent company of Akai, which should work out well since Akai makes great professional and pro-sumer audio gear. Corel (they are still alive?) is picking up the consumer video software, which I’ve never used.

Just an FYI – if you own an M-Audio warranty or were just about to drop on some new M-Audio gear, you might want to hold off.