Dynamic range compression and lossy file compression are completely different things. What's the difference?
Dynamic range compression squashes soft-to-loud volume shifts. This form of compression has been used by recording, mixing and mastering engineers for decades.
Other than bona-fide audiophile recordings, most of the music you hear has been dynamically compressed--which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as dynamic range compression adds punch, presence, and impact to music.
It's just that over the past decade or so the trend is to overcompress dynamics, so not only has music lost most of its natural soft-to-loud dynamics, but nuance and subtle detail are missing as well. The loud-all-the-time aesthetic is boring.
Recordings with less compression have lower (quieter) overall volume, so if you go from listening to maximally compressed contemporary recordings to something with less compression you need to turn up the volume to compensate for the difference.
As a consumer of music, you don't have the option of buying uncompressed music. If the engineers squashed the soft-to-loud dynamics out of the new Lady Gaga record there's no way of getting them back. Once sound is compressed, you can't decompress it. If you want to hear music with less compression, buy original pressings of 1960s or 1970s LPs. Yes, some of those will be compressed, but less than contemporary recordings. … Read more
My cure for post-CES information overload is playing music. For me, that means a return to the basics: pop on a LP, sit down, close my eyes, and just listen. Man, that feels good.
Call me a Luddite, but I like well-designed products you don't have to replace every year or so. Unless you have money to burn, why be an early adopter? Why buy a first generation anything? You'll pay a big price for being first, and pay again when trading up for the next "improved" model. I've never heard of anyone who regretted … Read more
I didn't go to CES, but a lot of my friends did. I call them all the time, and they don't seem to be all that jazzed about what they're seeing. "Nothing new" is what I keep hearing, but there were a few juicy tidbits to be found.
The new 3D TVs and Blu-ray players may or may not render the AV receiver you bought way back in 2009 obsolete. I can't get a consistent answer to the question: do you need a receiver with HDMI 1.4 to pass 3D program material to your 3D TV? You may not care about 3D, but if you do please direct your anger at the consumer electronics industry that regularly leaves its client base high and dry. We'll have to see how 1.4 works out.
Ultimate AV magazine was impressed with the Manley Stingray iTube stereo integrated amplifier. Sure, we've seen vacuum tube iPod dock/amps before, but this is the first one with real audiophile appeal. The blue LED displays surrounding the input and volume knobs can be dimmed down or turned off entirely. Manley makes truly stellar tube electronics for audiophiles and the pro market. … Read more
Long-range acoustic devices (LRADs) were developed by American Technology Corporation, and are capable of emitting a maximum volume of 151 decibels (that's super loud), within 30 degrees of where the device is pointing. That sort of volume is loud enough to be painful and may cause permanent hearing damage. The LRAD's highly directional sound reduces the risk of exposing bystanders to harmful audio levels.
At lower volume, LRADs can be used as high-powered speakers, "to communicate effectively to large public gatherings, in search and rescue operations, and to defuse deadly SWAT situations." ATC claims LRADS are … Read more
Exoticism and the high-end audio aesthetic ought to be a natural combination, but that's rarely the case. There are exceptions, and when I find them I'll cover them in this blog.
Walking down Crosby Street in SoHo in Lower Manhattan with a few friends, we spotted a trendy shop, BDDW. The window display featured brilliantly designed furniture.
Once inside, it wasn't just the furniture that dazzled, there were quite a few vintage motorcycles on display! Looking further I came upon one of the strangest looking turntables I've ever seen. BDDW was definitely not your average boutique … Read more
If you think all high-end products are stupid expensive or mammoth monstrosities, the MiniWatt vacuum tube integrated amplifier should change your mind. What differentiates high-end gear from mass market technology is performance; mainstream manufacturers know sound quality isn't much of a priority for most buyers, so they build their products to sound just good enough.
By high-end standards at least, the MiniWatt is dirt cheap, just $229 (shipping is $40). And measuring just 5 by 4 inches, the little guy can fit anywhere. Powerful it's not, just 2.5 watts for each channel, but that should be plenty … Read more
"It Might Get Loud" is definitely one of the best rock documentaries I've seen in a while. Thankfully, it doesn't have a narrator spouting somber lines about the importance of it all. You don't have to suffer through inserted clips of celebrities and other musicians babbling about how great Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White are.
The filmmakers cover the three guitar greats individually doing their things, but the film is at its best when the musicians get together on a film sound stage to talk shop and jam.
There's a great little … Read more
Every year product life cycles in the consumer marketplace grow ever shorter and we see ever faster turnover in cameras, phones computers, and so on. On the audio side, the latest and greatest receivers become yesterday's news faster than you can say "HDMI 1.4." It seems like no receiver can stay current for more than a year or so.
Speaker companies show a little more restraint and "refresh" their lines every few years, but even then new models rarely demonstrate actual performance improvements over the previous generations' models. Speaker manufacturer Magnepan doesn't play by those rules; it invests years of development in each of its models before introducing a new speaker. It has to sound better--a lot better--than the outgoing model before it's released to the world.
And not just in the opinion of the designers. New-model Magnepans undergo extensive "blind" listening tests with a wide range of audiophile and non-audiophile listeners (the listeners don't know whether they're hearing the old or new model). The new speaker must consistently score better than the old model before it goes into production.
When I first heard the Magneplanar 1.6 back in 2008 I said it was the best under-$2,000 speaker on the market. Incredibly enough it was 10 years old at the time! The Magneplanar 1.6 has stayed in production for 12 years, but now it's about to be replaced with the new Magneplanar 1.7.
Magnepan, based in White Bear Lake, Minn., builds nothing but panel (boxless) speakers. Not only that, Magnepan designs forgo conventional dome tweeters and cone-type woofers. As I pointed out in my August 14, 2008, blog that's why the company's Magneplanar 1.6 speaker mostly avoids sounding like a speaker. The speaker earned the top position in my Top 10 greatest audiophile speakers blog earlier this year.
The new Magneplanar 1.7 is also a flat-panel design, 64.5 inches tall and a mere 2 inches thick! The new speaker looks a little more contemporary, thanks to its aluminum, wrap-around edge molding. The old model was a two-way design, with a 48-inch-tall aluminum ribbon tweeter and a 442-square-inch mid/bass panel. The Magneplanar 1.7 is a three-way design, with a woofer, tweeter, and super-tweeter. The super-tweeter comes in around 10,000 hertz and is said to produce wider dispersion and better-resolved treble than the Magneplanar 1.6 did.
The other big difference is the Magneplanar 1.7 is a "full-range" ribbon design.… Read more
For those of you with older receivers lacking HDMI connectivity, or perhaps for audiophiles with stereo home theater systems, the Oppo BD-83 Special Edition player is for you.
You see, the new Oppo player handles the digital-to-analog conversion at a higher standard than the original--and still available--BD-83 player. So rather than use its HDMI connectivity you hookup the Special Edition's eight analog (7.1) outputs to the multichannel inputs on older receivers or sound processors. Don't worry if your receiver is limited to 5.1, the Special Edition will work perfectly well with those systems. The Special Edition … Read more