Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences

Audio Federation High-Fidelity Audio Blog

Audio Federation at the LA Audio Show 2017

We will be at the LA Audio Show 2017 this year previously called T.H.E. Show Newport which was in Irvine. ūüėČ

Setup is June 1 and the show opens June 2 and ends on June 4th at 4:00pm.

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Acapella Audio Arts’ La Musika integrated amplifier

This is a new hotel for this show. Which I guess makes sense since this is kind of a new show, though it takes place in the same Greater L.A. area on the same dates as the old one. We all loved the old hotel – great service, decently solid walls and high-ceilings [which made the technique of bouncing the camera’s flash off the ceiling not work quite as well as it does in most hotel rooms]. And the energy of this hotel, being near the LA Airport vs. the previous being near Newport and the beach… well, the LA Audio Society has a lot of energy – they will just have to step in and lively up the place :-)

We will be in room 534.

Speakers: Acapella Audio Arts Cellini High.

Amplifier: Acapella Audio Arts La Musika integrated

Digital: Audio Note CDT-5 transport and DAC 5 Signature

Rack: HRS SXR 3-shelf

Cables: A mix of Acapella, Audio Note and TBD

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The Audio Note CDT-Five transport on a wonderful Spring day in Palo Alto

It has been a year since our last show, missing RMAF [ho-hum. Sorry, but after 10 years of showing¬†every year that show is just… ], and CES too.

Shows I miss? The old CES / THE Show Alexis Park Las Vegas. More fun. Higher quality. More exuberance. More weird. More exhibits. But fewer newbies (I think) so the newer shows have at least made it possible for more startups to exhibit].

Hoping this new old stock show is spectacular! See ya there, or, if you can’t make it, we hope to try a livestream photos approach to the show report this year – more about this in a few weeks.

The MQA Controversy

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The MQA controversy is bound to create some winners and losers in both manufacturing and for us audiophiles.

For example, LINN has a very strongly argued case against it:

MQA is Bad For Music

The Computer Audiophile has details about how MQA advances the state-of-the-art in some respects:

MQA (for civilians)

And over at HiFi+ they report that MQA might not even be lossless:

And small manufacturers agonize over what THEY should do, and must pick sides:

ZWEIMANN AUDIO on FACEBOOK

MQA has funding and is making a bold move, but… I have a feeling things are moving so fast, that just about the time that MQA might start making an impact on the regular listening public, something new will already be replacing it.

What wins these days seem to be those things that go viral, not needing a heavy hand like the old format wars of days-gone-by.

But, who knows… not me. This one I am sitting out and taking a wait-and-see wake-me-when-its-all-over approach :-)

Audio Federation at CAS 2017

[Yes, we are going to Newport 2017 this Spring as well, and I’ll post where we will be when the powers that be (Neli) tell me the details :-)]

Here we are in the wonderful world where there is a show that is only 20 minutes away. :-)

Although CAS skipped a year, it is back in force and we are signed up for one of the larger rooms on the first floor of the building where the vast majority of exhibit rooms will be.

It is now in Oakland, at the Hilton, with plenty of parking and rooms that do not have air conditioners or heaters where equipment is supposed to go [unlike most of the other shows, shows where you eventually just learn to sit on the thing while plugging cables into the back of the gear].

 

 

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This is the hotel layout and where the rooms are located.

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This is the room we are in. The front wall backs to the outside. So we will not disturb anybody if we play it a little LOUD [unless, however, our neighbors on the other side of the rear wall are too loud for our listeners to bear . in which case we will flip the room the other way. ]

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Hmmm, maybe we should just put the system on the long wall, on the left, also an outer wall. You know, there is hardly ever any choice when we setup rooms about where the system should go. This is a such wealth of choices here [we, (well me anyway, haven’t talked to Neli about this recently), have been looking more favorably at long wall setups than we used to. Letting the sound breathe on the sides helps clarity and macrodynamics, and clarity OF¬†macrodynamics :-)]

We’ve been wanting to go to this show for years and years. Every year we would talk and talk about it. One or the other of us¬†would always not be able to make it.¬†This is awesome.

Listening room photos March 2017

[Still have a hard time writing 2017. Or ‘2’ for that matter :-)]

 

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This is the main listening room with the Acapella Cellini speakers and La Musika integrated amplifier. Audio Note digital CDT-5 and DAC 5 Signature.

Finally sounding…. OK…. here, though we still have some issues with the very thin 1/4 mahogany plywood walls [the (awesome) windows are much more substantial, sonically, than the walls in these Eichler homes!]

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The small Audio Note room, AN/E SEC Signature speakers, Kegon amplifiers and M2 Line Balanced preamplifier sounds quite nice, though we are divided on whether to push the speakers just a little bit more into the corners or not. This room also has extremely thin walls, and zero insulation – but it is working better than we feared at first. Still lots of experimenting going on here. Tonality and frequency response are pretty good; still working on the soundstage.

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The dining room system, trade-in Avalon Eidolon speakers, is not setup and Neli is still a little upset about it. Took us forever to commit to really using the dining room this way, since it also has Neli’s office in it and, you know, the kitchen. ¬†:-) But she should really just go with it – I mean it *is* kind of a nice work¬†environment… ūüėČ

Getting everything into a ~1500 sq. ft. home, with us both needing an office, another room dedicated to audio gear and tools [and perhaps someday¬†serving as the guest¬†bedroom] plus¬†3 listening rooms is challenging… but it is finally starting to work out. (!)

 

How sound at sea-level is different than sound at elevation

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How is sound at sea-level different than sound a mile or more above sea-level?

I’ve spent 50 years at least a mile (5280 feet) high [so many jokes, so little time]. We’ve both spent the last 25 at 7200 feet or so.

Funny, but going to shows at sea level during those years did not highlight these differences, so they are obviously more subtle than the impact of individual room acoustics and setup on the sound.

But, both when hearing things while outside and when listening to stereo systems, there are differences that helps me understand how people at sea level are hearing things differently than the people at higher elevations [few of us there are at altitude].

The short and sweet is that sound works better here at 13 feet above sea level. It travels farther, it is more solid and substantive, more dense. Sound at elevation is thinner sounding, like ‘thin sounding’ cables.

Have to say that even though I may still prefer the lighter, more airy sound¬†that I ‘grew up’ with [Perhaps because¬†is just feels ‘cleaner’], I am enjoying the easy gains system setup down here provides us in ‘the soup’ compared to the more laborious¬†setup in ‘the clouds’

An unfortunate side-effect, however, is¬†the background city noise here, which at sea level also seems to travel farther, be stronger, and permeate ev-e-ry-thing. ūüėČ

 

A Year Without CES

In the last 15 years, this is the second year we have not gone to CES.

Miss it? A little. Still got my post CES cold, anyway. *sucks*

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From a business standpoint the case was clear: prices going way up, attendance going way down – and because this has been the trend for awhile, the number of exhibitors going way down.

Assume the CEA isn’t just trying to call off the uniquely troublesome high-end audio part of the show [a bunch of scoundrels (that would be all of us) masquerading as business people bringing big expensive heavy gear into 100s of pristine¬†luxury hotel rooms and playing very loud music for 4 days].

Then the prices are going up because the rest of CES is still growing. CES overall is successful and there is little competition. Fewer vacant hotel rooms in Las Vegas means higher prices. And THE SHOW Las Vegas abandoning Vegas for Newport Beach a few years ago is no longer there to keep CES competitive.

A growing CES also means attendees of the main conference have more and more to do, and it gets harder for them to find and even remember that there is a high-end audio part of this show [Apparently. Higher attendance MIGHT also mean MORE people making it over to the High-Performance Audio part of the show Рbut in practice this is not happening].

Last year, attendance was very, very roughly 50% industry and press (friends), 40% people coming up from the very, very busy SANDS conference center downstairs (being at CES for other business), and 10% die-hard audiophiles (more friends).

My hope at this show was always that we would inspire the 40% who just happened to be at CES and stopped by our room to love what they hear, eventually become audiophiles and, someday, someday… to buy something. And by and large this worked. These people, less angry and irritable than their audiophile counterparts I might add (why is this?), almost universally smiled, loved what they heard and told us so, and asked what things cost. And¬†when we told them they put us on their “someday when I’m rich” list. Most of these people are in growing industries, most quite young, so a good percentage will someday be “rich enough”.

But it is a lot to ask of smaller companies, like ours, to invest significant funds right now so that in 10 or 20 years these people will decide buy some decent high-end audio gear, especially when*what* gear they buy will largely depend on what appears on their radar at that time. But larger companies? What else do they have to do in early January? [unless they want to invest that $$$ to get more immediate ROI].

To this analysis we could add the rise and preeminence of the Munich show, the recent success more local Newport show, and…

But, you know, there used to be a lot of international attendees who would come around from the main show, wheeled carry-on dragging behind them, in expensive dark suits checking things out with expert eyes and presumably expert ears [i..e they appeared to be audiophiles]. Why are they not here anymore? Do they just not go to CES anymore? Are they too busy now to make it over from the main conference? Are there just not enough high-performance audio exhibits to attract them? Are they going to Munich anyway, so why bother with a shrinking, unexciting CES audio show?

None of those answers impress me.

Really no clue why they are no longer coming – but I would love to know the answer, as we are always trying to more accurately model the high-end audio economic picture, here now and the future.

And, let’s face it, the best gear just isn’t being shown at CES by most manufacturers. This is why we really, REALLY liked this show. It used to be, but not anymore. And much of the very best, what *is* being shown there, is unobtainable…

As for shows ourselves – looks like we are at least signed up and headed to Newport (L.A.) in late Spring….

 

10 questions reveal whether you are an audiophile

10 questions reveal whether you are an audiophile

MakeUseOf has a fun click-bait article.

 

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The article is fun and not too far off the mark.

My purpose posting this is not to promote more vacuous reading material to waste your life by, but to help combat the rise of Stupidity and Willful Ignorance [and here in Audiophile Land, who woulda thunk it? :-)].

To do this we are going to look at the comments to this article. [he says as they (understandably) run screaming for the exits].

  1. “1. I think being a music lover is the 2nd most important thing in being an audiophile. The 1st is your wallet”

Rude, I know, and this is actually backwards, we know lots of poor audiophiles – but certainly more money does help you ENJOY being an audiophile more.

The fact that the article says you can be an audiophile for only a $200 pair of headphones was nice and inclusive IMO.

2.¬†peculiar species of audio snobs called “Golden Ears”, who claim to hear things that science can’t measure.¬† I think it is an acquired condition caused by the astronomical cost of of their audio hardware, and the consequential inflation of their egos…

Where do these people come from? We’ve all seen their posts. They are just another angry insecure hater on the internet with an inferiority complex, but somehow they picked up this meme which is repeated over and over [must be part of people like this’s make up that they can’t think for themselves and resort to mimicking hateful things they see].

I suppose some Golden Ears can be snobbish, just like any other person who has spent a lot of time training themselves to accomplish something.

To say that “science can’t measure” a phenomena that people experience… people need to respect education more in this world. For one, that is how all science gets developed: find something that is currently unexplained and then try to explain it then find a way to verify your explanation [perhaps using technology to ‘measure’ it].

Second, in this case it is more like “things that science does not know how to measure yet” or even more likely “things that nobody wants to fund the measurement of”. [actually, I know Nordost has done some work in this area and I am sure many others, as have we at Audio Federation many years ago, using a simple Radio Shack meter and swapping out powercords to verify changes in frequency response].

And this last thing about egos… another meme perpetuated by these people. If it were true all us distributors and dealers would be rich. The sad fact is this is not a popular hobby, and most people hide their gear in a back room and lie to people, telling them it costs much less than it really does. So, no, we do this in spite of the blow to our reputation and ego it entails.¬†These are not highly visible and sought after cars or homes.

3. …vinyl with all the hisses, clicks and thumps….Anyone who says vinyl is better than digital (as I described it above) has no idea what audiophile means.

OK. So some people ARE¬†more sensitive to surface noise than others. Of course, good LPs on good turntables have extremely¬†little surface noise and this ‘pops and clicks’ meme is just a way for people to pass judgement on vinyl without considering the issues [this meme has been around for a LONG time, since the dawn of CDs and before].

Besides the repetition of this meme once again, the generous interpretation of what this person is saying is that being an audiophile primarily means the pursuit of a low noise floor. [So they probably won’t like tube gear either :-)]. Most people who read this blog think there is a little more to it than that [accurate frequency, harmonic accuracy, sound staging, separation, etc. etc. etc.]

4. …I’m an electronics engineer. But slew rate in amplifiers is not a meaningful parameter.

There is almost always one of these guys. Oh, they are a PhD in this or that. Oh, they are an EE in this or that. Oh, but they do like to B.S. on the internet. All measurable parameters are ‘meaningful’ to the sound, and none are a conclusive determiner of sound quality, even when aggregated into a total datasheet. I’ve seen amps with awesome slew rate and awesome sound – in the way that the great slew rate measurement would indeed reflect – and I’ve seen amps with very poor slew rate sound awesome, but in different ways.

5… In fact, the fact that provenance isn’t even mentioned makes the whole discussion here moot.

OK. I am presuming this is written ‘tongue in cheek’ and is hilariously true :-)

6. “you’re an audiophile if you like African music!!!!1!11!”

Ah. The exclamation point guy. Taking something literal that was meant to be an abstract example only. Do these people run the internet now, because I see them all over the place – like they outnumber us 10 to 1 :-/

7… Do my speakers have pride of place in my living room? No I have a room dedicated to listening!

This $14K Linn system guy is just like guy #6. Can’t read a fun article without taking not only the article literally as the “Definite Test of whether YOU are or Are NOT An Audiophile” as well as things having to be written in “Semantically precise English” [an oxymoron if there ever was one], ¬†and, of course, ¬†“Completely Exhaustive” [there is nothing about being an audiophile, no terminology omitted, that can not be found in this cute Cosmo-like quiz].

Like 6, these people like to express their anger in public.

8. …tie audio snobbery–ohhh, sorry, audiophilia–to musical tastes. For instance, I love Frank Zappa,…

A much nicer comment¬†than 6 and 7 – but again complaining about the lack of inclusiveness of all possible types of audiophile’s favorite musical genres in an article [that list itself would… well, look on Wikipedia sometime for all the [100s] styles of techno music, for example]. We like Zappa too, though it is not often played here [he is just one artist of many], but BOY is he hard to reproduce well [a great test for a system, this is :-)]

That said, it is not audio ‘snobbery’ that prefers 4-piece jazz with female vocals [easy to reproduce well, even on lesser systems] and classical [the complexity, depth and mathematical beauty of classical music is unmatched by most other genres of music – and many of us discover¬†it for the first time as audiophiles because for the first time we can actually HEAR what is going on behind the primary ‘melody’]

The only valid reason to go for vinyl is listening to a record that was actually recorded on tape (analog) and there is no CD transfer of that original recording. If you avoid remastered editions you are much better off listening to a CD from a quality standpoint, by far.

Please, don’t spread pseudoscience…

This person has some valid points [primarily that vinyl is now often ‘polluted’ by digital some place in the process of mastering]. But they confuse ‘physical media’, how¬†the music is delivered to us, with ‘the process of mastering’. For example, some CDs are compressed while the Vinyl is not even though the come from the same source.

They also confuse ‘quality’ as¬†‘a couple of measurements CD proponents¬†have made’ instead of “musical accuracy and enjoyment” [otherwise, for example, “you are much better off looking at photographs than paintings from a quality standpoint, by far”]

But this is at core another case of trying to interpret statements in the article as literal and absolutes: ALL vinyl is better because NO vinyl has been touched by digital and analog is ALWAYS better than digital and digital contaminates EVERYTHING it touches.

Also, not sure I know many people who want to argue that vinyl is “measurably” better than digital, just that it sounds more like music and is more enjoyable in the same way that humans enjoy music [whereas digital is often enjoyable in that way that we, say, enjoy a clean kitchen… just a joke people, a joke! :-)]

“Please, don’t spread pseudoscience” … A great idea. Seems like we need to more often explicitly delineate opinion from fact, especially since there is a tidal wave of people who default to interpreting things as FACT [when, in my opinion, they need to be interpreting EVERYTHING as opinion [or humor :-)] until they do their own research].

OK. Happy New Year, everyone!

Audio Note M10 Line Signature preamplifier

Neli had the opportunity recently to help unpack and setup Audio Note’s new Level Six linestage preamplifier, the M10 Line Signature, at Fred’s place in Houston. Fred will be reviewing it over the coming months. He’s started a thread over on Myles Astor’s site, AudioNirvana.org, with M10 Line Signature discussion and comments.

She took some pictures and told some stories :-) some of which I can tell you here…

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Acapella Triolon loudspeakers, Audio Note Kegon Balanced amplifiers, EMM Labs’ DA2 DAC and TX2 transport, Finite Elemente racks, and, of course, the 3 box (control plus a power supply for each channel) Audio Note M10 Line Signature. Fred’s analog rig is an updated Rockport Sirius 2 with Ortofon A90, and an Ypsilon stepup transformer and phonostage.

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I’m from the “How hard can it be” tribe, but , hey, there is a manual, just in case ūüėČ

 

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The front of the Audio Note M10 Line Signature preamplifier

OK. Just like every other time we have had the pleasure… But brand new, cold, just hooked up for the first time – Audio Note rocks. Yeah, it sounds better warmed up of course, but really, it is always such a shocker to hear it sound truly excellent right out of the box, unlike just about everything else we have ever heard.

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The rear of the Audio Note M10 Line Signature preamplifier. Support for bi-amping is apparent. The green military-grade connectors on the left there are for the connections to the two power supplies.

 

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The front of one of the Audio Note M10 Line Signature preamplifier’s ‘Galahad Signature’ power supplies.

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The rear of one of the Audio Note M10 Line Signature preamplifier’s ‘Galahad Signature’ power supplies. The separate right and left channel power supplies connect to the main linestage control unit with Audio Note’s provided silver umbilical cables.

 

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Convenient double high rack for the power supplies.

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The front of the Audio Note M10 Line Signature preamplifier powered up. This is the main control unit, with separate right and left volume controls, and the selector switch.

 

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The front of the Audio Note M10 Line Signature preamplifier powered up. This piece provides two transformer-coupled balanced inputs and four single ended inputs.

 

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The original system with the EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers [with gold faceplate] which Neli reports went very well with the Audio Note M10 Line Signature as well.