Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences

Audio Federation High-Fidelity Audio Blog

Stupid Audiophile Troll Tricks #2 – “You have no business being an audiophile if you do not have perfect ears”

Stupid Audiophile Troll Tricks #2 – “You have no business being an audiophile if you do not have perfect ears”

This troll takes several forms:

“Since people start losing their ability to hear high frequencies as they age, they have no business listening to fine audiophile gear they can’t appreciate (i.e. if they can’t hear to 20K Hz)”

With this logic males have no business having sex after the age of 18 and no one over 30 can appreciate a sports car [their reflexes not being what they used to be].

So, bad logic, obviously, but a more important point is how this does not take into account how being better educated / skilled / experienced adds to the level of appreciation of many things in life compared to experiences when one is ignorant of the subtleties and nuances.

What a true audiophile is able to hear, whatever the range of frequencies, whether it be limited by their ears or by the playback equipment, far surpasses what the unskilled listener can hear.

If you spend years and years and years studying and practicing something, whether it be listening carefully or yoga or mathematics or a popular sport, whatever, you get much, much better at it than someone who hasn’t.

Some people are experts at, say, sports statistics and trivia. Just because they are old and their memory has been declining for decades do we tell them that they have no business being an expert? No we do not 🙂

[I use this ‘sports trivia’ expert quite often in my hypothesis when I try to place people in context. Everyone is a genius at something, but often people do not realize this about themselves. One of the first examples of this I encountered in my life was someone who thought themselves stupid by was a whiz at sports trivia, statistics, sports psychology and other related skills. At this this person was pure genius]

An ongoing series of posts where we debunk common comments made by trolls. Because trolls are quite unimaginative, this will not be a very long series of posts. I use the world ‘stupid’ to be charitable – these trolls are bullies seeking attention through their aggressiveness and they just so happen to choose audiophiles to pick on.

Stupid Audiophile Troll Tricks #1 – “All cables sound the same”

Stupid Audiophile Troll Tricks #1 – “All cables sound the same” (or “Cables Have No Sound”)

An ongoing series of posts where we debunk common comments made by trolls. Because trolls are quite unimaginative, this will not be a very long series of posts. I use the world ‘stupid’ to be charitable – these trolls are bullies seeking attention through their aggressiveness and they just so happen to choose audiophiles to pick on.

This particular stupid comment is often used to insinuate that, because, if true, our industry would then be lying about cables having a sound [which they are not], so they must be lying about most everything else as well and much if not all of high-end audio is therefore ‘snake oil’.

This is easy to disprove.

We start  by assuming they are right, that cables really do have no sound [or all sound the same]. Then no matter what the electrical properties (capacitance, inductance or resistance) of the cable, there is no affect on the sound.

But the cable is just another [albeit important] part [extension] of the electrical circuit consisting of the source, preamplifier, amplifier and speaker – so if the cable has no sound, regardless of its electrical properties, then nothing else in the circuit has a sound either no matter its electrical properties. All those capacitors, resistors, transformers, they have no sound. That, because cables do not have a sound, no matter how low or high its resistance is, for example, that we can just put resistors in any circuit, no matter how low or high the number of ohms, and it will sound the same.

Hopefully this is obviously untrue to most of you, and so it is obvious cables do indeed have a sound. And if cables do have a sound, there will be those that sound better and those that sound worse. And the ones that sound better will cost more if their manufacturer has any kind of understanding about how capitalism works [which most do].

Of course, most of us just need to use our ears to hear the difference in how one cable sounds versus another

One can also get a cheap sound meter, or sound frequency analyser, and see a visual report on the differences in SPL or sound frequencies if one cannot trust one’s ears.

[you do need a hifi system that is resolving enough to reveal the differences in sound. If you have a very inexpensive system, then cables may not make a measurable of a difference to you and you should spend your money on getting a better system, not cables].

*sigh* Feels good to write this but don’t expect the trolls to go away anytime soon :-/




Registration for CES 2018 opens

Got our mailer in the mail yesterday. Guess it opened September 6 [it usually opened early / mid Summer]. It is still free if you are an ‘alumni’ [otherwise $100… before it goes up to $300]. We registered, but not sure if we are truly going to attend. It is so small compared to what it was, but it is only 8 hours to drive now from Palo Alto, CA instead of 13 hours from Boulder, CO 🙂 And it won’t be snowy and icy [it has sometimes literally been minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit going over Vail pass [which has a nice rest area that we almost always stopped at. :}].

They still do not have a map of what is going to be at the Venetian so we can see who is going:

Interactive map of the CES 2018 show floor coming soon.”

You can search by exhibitor name, but that gets old quick. To attend CES 2018 register here.


Mike Fremer welcomes us into his home on YouTube

Mike Fremer welcomes us into his home on YouTube. Went up day before yesterday. We liked it. 🙂

A few comments:

So many records!

Here is somebody who listens nearfield to large speakers, people. Everybody with small rooms [us too, now], take heart!

Comparing analog with digital on that system is somewhat disingenuous – his analog stack is significantly superior to his digital stack. The best digital comes MUCH closer to the best analog than his digital.

The uncomfortable cautionary tale about the stroke victim really is some sage advice to us all to tell our significant other to hire an ‘expert’ friend-of-the-family’, or at least a ‘trusted expert’ to sell the records [and gear!] after such a tragic incident [assuming we did not want to listen to music after a stroke, which you know, is so WRONG].

I presume the making of this video, and Mike’s mention of each component he has bought and paid for, was prompted by a rash of reviewers whose whole system is on semi-permanent loan [and saying good things about that gear, and only that gear]. This says something about his sincerity when he says he likes these things, and lends authenticity to his recommendations. These sort of distinctions seem to be beyond the ken of many people these days – as we grow more and more accustomed to consuming bite-sized opinions on FB, Twitter and YouTube as facts – but glad someone is shining a light in the darkness.

Stereophile is not paying Mike enough. And the weird thing, for me, is that people seem to think that being an ‘underpaid journalist’ is to be expected, even for someone who is at the top of his game as the preeminent journalist in all of high-end audio. Stereophile, the top publication in high-end audio, should pay their top journalists enough to afford a mortgage on a modest home / apartment [in Joisy, of all places] and to purchase tools-o-da-trade like this level of system, which, seriously, is not all that outrageous of a system [the analog signal path seems quite well designed, in fact]. Certainly over the course of his tenure at Stereophile, just his salary should be enough to cover this level of investment in gear and more, IMO.

So many records!



Greatest Audiophile Voices (close-mic’d female vocals)

Greatest Audiophile Voices (close-mic’d female vocals), from the album “Greatest Audiophile Voices” Vol: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4

On YouTube. Several of these are unfamiliar to me, so I enjoyed learning about, and hearing, them. [Everybody does know, of course, that most ‘Audiophile Music’ is just music that sounds good on any Hi-Fi, no matter how bad the Hi-Fi is, right?]


01 • 00:00:00 • Light My Fire • Lisa Lovbrand
02 • 00:04:58 • Somewhere Over The Rainbow • Julian Kuchocki
03 • 00:11:03 • When I Fall In Love • Karin Melchert
04 • 00:14:12 • I Wish You Love • Juliet Kelly
05 • 00:16:52 • Don’t Know Why • Adreinne Hindmarsh
06 • 00:20:54 • Lover Man • Jessica Lee
07 • 00:25:32 • Shiny Stockings • Sue Giles
08 • 00:29:25 • A Fool To Believe • Andrea Reichhart
09 • 00:32:53 • The Day You Left • Yvonne Walter
10 • 00:35:43 • Send In The Clowns • Julian Kuchocki
11 • 00:42:33 • Wait For Me • Juliet Kelly
12 • 00:47:25 • I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face • Katrine Madsen
13 • 00:53:03 • At Last • Maci Miller
14 • 00:57:28 • The Way You Look Tonight • Dani Thompson
15 • 01:01:56 • Cry Me A River • Gail Marten
16 • 01:07:46 • Besame Mucho • Sofia Laiti
17 • 01:14:34 • Fever • Maci Miller
18 • 01:18:43 • What A Difference A Day Make • Svante Thuresson/Katrine Madsen
19 • 01:23:03 • Dream A Little Dream Of Me • Tipitina
20 • 01:26:20 • Fly Me To The Moon • Nashi Young Cho
21 • 01:29:53 • Don’t Want To Fall In Love Again • Tammy Weis
22 • 01:33:27 • The Girl From Ipanema • Arienne Hindmarsh
23 • 01:36:04 • Moon River • Ida Landsberg
24 • 01:39:54 • If I Were A Bell • Irene Atman
25 • 01:43:29 • Night And Day • Lisa B
26 • 01:49:00 • Surely • Virna Sanzone
27 • 01:54:35 • Neither One of Us • Trisha O’Donnel
28 • 01:58:54 • Walk On Bay • Lee Engele
29 • 02:01:44 • When I Fall In Love • Lisa Lovbrand whit David Foster


San Francisco Opera in the Park

We attended the San Francisco Opera in the Park yesterday. Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park.

Sharon Meadow was filled up…

We were up-prepared for it to be so unnaturally sunny (for SF) and unnaturally warm (for SF), so all by itself, that was memorable.

The quality of the performance…  was shockingly good. I mean, we listen to a fair amount of opera and classical music here. In my opinion, the sum total of the performance, the musicians taken together as a whole, was better than just about anything I have heard before. Perhaps many albums focus too much on ‘stars’ as opposed to performances?

The quality of the sound… it was amplified. A lot. It was perfectly loud back where these were taken. So, not very high fidelity. There was good immediacy, but the midrange sometimes had a ‘falsetto’ washed out color to it, and the upper bass had minimal decay and sounded more percussive and dead than it should. Similarly the upper mids could not handle much complexity at volume, which is somewhat familiar as many classical CDs have this problem – maybe to do with the microphone being overloaded?

Copland’s arrangement of “At The River” sung by Jill Grove, San Francisco Opera in the Park [sorry about the abrupt start]. There were many others I should have recorded, which are more my cup-o-tea, but this is what we got.


The view from Hippie Hill. We *love* San Francisco! [and the air was better here than in Palo Alto. What’s up with that? There wasn’t much of a breeze at all from the Pacific either, but maybe it was just the proximity to the ocean that made the air a little more human-friendly].



Objective methods for describing the quality of music reproduction

I have been thinking a lot about objective methods for describing the quality of a HiFi system sound. Or even the quality of a single component.



Because I am very very curious about how a lot of things sound that I will not have the time or resources to hear myself. And reviews and show reports are just not doing it for me.

To me, just about 100% of these read like this: “blah blah blah sounds great blah blah blah high price blah blah you should buy it. Next.”

First, very few people are qualified to review top-tier gear. When the world is awash in $15K(!) and above DACs few of our stalwart reviewers can afford to play this game.

Second, few people can, or even try, to describe sound in a way that readers can understand what they are talking about. Its hard, and it is certainly NP complete, and in the best case the press inspires, not describes.

Third, we all know what is third, no reason to bring it up.


I am thinking comparative analysis might be a good place to start. How does something sound relative to its peers. Does A have more bass than X but less than Y and Z? Good to know, right?

Then I ran across this old post on Romy’s site Do not “compare” audio equipment. In particular (as Amir quoted, and disagreed with for his own reasons):

You have to very clearly recognize what distinct the performance of a given component form “how it should be” instead to recognize the performing delta of a component relative to it’s competitive.

I interpret this to mean that one has to be careful – just because A has more bass than X does not mean it has better bass. X may have the perfect amount of bass and A may then have too much.

[I know, this “how it should be” is more of a gestalt – but we are forced, IMO, to objectify this gestalt in order to understand and communicate the quality of something]

These days, this “more is better or is it” dichotomy is very common with respect to resolution. Many things have more resolution than what might be considered natural – not that we can’t still enjoy them and buy them, but from an objective point of view, it really is probably too much resolution.


We can look at other high-end domains as a guide, like cameras and autos, though they also suffer from the same primary problem we do: the quantification of the subjective in order to try and pave the way for objective comparisons is fraught. [fraught I tell you :-)]

Fraught or not, here we go:

We’ve done this a dozen times in the past but haven’t done it for several years, and I know Steve Rochlin at Enjoy the Music did it for a few reviews as well, but we are going to start comparing things to other things using tables.

Tables with a ton of attributes like Bass, bass slam, bass tightness, bass resolution, bass naturalness, bass harmonic richness, etc.

At the same time the numbers will not only be relative to other components but relative to ‘how it should be’.

A score of 100 is ‘how it should be’. A score of 110 is a little more than how it should be. A score of 90 is a little less.

WAIT. Before you think “Hey. My preferences are a little from yours Mike. Who gets to say what is 100 aka perfect?”

Well, if we are going to be able to communicate what something sounds like using numbers and words, we really need to try and to take ‘preferences’ out of the equation when it comes to reviews.

The assumption here is that there is indeed an absolute perfect sound. It doesn’t necessarily exist in the studio, on tape, on the original digital recording or in our living rooms, but there is a “how it should be”; a “what it is supposed to sound like”.

So… the flaw in the ointment … we have to encourage and verify that reviewers review things with respect to ‘how it should be’ and not ‘how they are OK with it’ [after they get a long lecture about how cold and sterile is not ‘how it should be’, sorry JV].

There can also be another table, that each of us fills out, that represents our personal preferences.

In the absence of being able to ever achieve that absolute sound in our lifetimes at a less than prohibitive cost, what are we willing to sacrifice and what to we absolutely insist on. These are our personal preferences.

My table would have soundstage depth, for example, at around 90. This attribute is slightly less important to me than it is to other people, in general, and a score of 90 is fine by me.

[There has to be another number associated with each attribute, a penalty fine for going over (for me, too much midrange energy is not good at all, too much soundstage depth is fine)- and for going below (too little resolution is also anathema for me, personally).]

In this way, I think we can move a good distance toward an objective comparison and communication of the performance of hifi systems and of individual components.


Filling Audio Note AN-E loudspeaker stands with sand

I stumbled across Neli filling Audio Note AN-E loudspeaker stands with sand and I decided to take some photos [and hold the funnel :-/].

This time we used fish aquarium sand instead of play sand [aka sandbox or beach sand, which clumps up due to moisture. Good for building sand castles, not so good for filling equipment racks and speaker stands]. Play sand works fine in an arid environment; here near the bay, not so much.

We used most of this 20 lb bag of ‘aquatic substrate’ [aquarium sand].

The all-important pail. About 2 lbs of sand was poured into the bucket from the bag of sand, then decanted into each leg as we went along.

You would think this radiator funnel’s mouth would be too big, but it worked fine. The sand is so fine and dry, it runs into the stand legs like water.

The directions on how to assemble the stands.

We don’t use the upward facing spikes and no one else uses them and suggest you do not either. We sometimes use soft HRS Nimbus Couplers between the speaker and the stand [increases resolution, lowers authority – and makes positioning during setup easier], or a washcloth [makes positioning easier], or blu tack [recommended by the factory – adds authority, makes adjusting positioning more difficult].

Each leg is filled with sand through the larger hole you see here.

All the legs are filled with sand. A few grains of sand got lost on their way into a leg. Neli was embarrassed that we spilled so many [uncountably few if you ask me] and the first stand *did* go better.

We used this solder sucker to blow sand out of the threads where the stand will be bolted on to its top [actually bottom] plate.

Time to screw in the bolts and add the spikes and away we go 🙂 The spoon wasn’t used for much after I convinced Neli to just pour the bucket of sand directly into the funnel which went a lot faster [hence the reason I was holding the funnel and not taking photos at those times].