I'm the kind of record buyer that always reads album credits, and starting in the early 1990s, with the Pixies' "Surfer Rosa," Nirvana's "In Utero," and PJ Harvey's "Rid of Me" I noticed that all of these great sounding recordings were engineered by Steve Albini. The man is extraordinarily prolific, and to date has worked on 2,000 albums! I reached out to him a few weeks ago to talk about his work.
Many questions surround the possibility of a manned mission to Mars, but perhaps the most fundamental comes down to something everyone faces daily: what to eat? Well, how about Cajun jambalaya, Moroccan beef tangine, no-crust quiche muffins, Crater Crunch bars, and fried noodles? Those were just a few of the dishes researchers noshed during a four-month Mars-mission simulation study.
The NASA-funded study into potential food options for a mission to Mars is wrapping up Tuesday. During four months in a barren lava field on the northern slope of Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano, six researchers dined on a variety of dehydrated and freeze-dried produce and meats, including jambalaya made with Spam.
The goal of the study, led by Cornell University and the University of Hawaii, was to expand current outer-space dining options so astronauts on a Mars mission could avoid malnourishment and food boredom. … Read more
Cassettes, like LPs are enjoying something of a "comeback," but I can't say I was ever a big fan of the format. Sure, with a great Nakamichi or high-end Pioneer cassette deck the sound of recordings made from LPs could be pretty decent, but the prerecorded cassettes put out by record companies were always iffy. The main advantages cassette had over LPs and CDs was they were a little cheaper, and considerably more portable. They were the MP3s of the 1970s, '80s, and early '90s, and were as fragile as LPs. I mostly used the format to … Read more
There's no sense denying vinyl's imperfections. First there are the noise issues -- pops, clicks, and rumble -- and they all get a little worse every time you play an LP. Then there are problems with speed stability, off-center pressings, warped records, less than accurate vinyl and phono cartridge frequency response curves, poor stereo separation, and limited dynamic range. That was all true back in 1983, and digital has only improved since then. So why are vinyl sales up year after year since the early 2000s?
Most formats wither and die soon after the replacement format takes over … Read more
I covered the best-sounding new digital recordings last Sunday; this time it's the choicest new vinyl.
'The White Stripes' Most tracks are stripped down to the basics, just Jack White on vocals and guitar, and Meg White's minimalist drum kit. An amazing debut record, not exactly an audiophile classic, but it wins points for emotional honesty. It feels right, and White's analog loving roots are on full display.
VPI has been making turntables in New Jersey since the early 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president, and everyone thought the CD would kill the LP in a few years. Well, VPI is still there and is currently experiencing a sales boom.
Harry Weisfeld has been at the helm since Day One, but he's about to step down and let his son Matt run the company. Harry will continue to design turntables and tonearms. He makes prototypes, listens to his handiwork, and then goes back and tweaks the design. I spotted lots of failed designs all over the factory, … Read more
Paying for recorded music is a voluntary act -- you can get almost any tune you want on demand from streaming music services or YouTube. Of course, musicians wind up making little or no money from this arrangement, but thanks to crowd-funding, bands can get paid in advance of making a record. At least initially there are no freeloaders, so the band really has an incentive to record! The same Internet that made it harder than ever to make a living from recorded music has made it possible for bands to directly connect to their fans.
Regular readers of this blog know we're living in the golden age of desktop audio. The speakers just keep getting better and better, and digital converters from the likes of Schiit Audio, AudioQuest, Hifiman, FiiO, and HRT have all made computers sound better than ever.
Now along comes the Meridian Explorer, a sleek, extruded aluminum converter with line- and headphone-level 3.5mm output jacks and a USB input. The line-level output internally bypasses the headphone amp and volume control. Meridian is best known for its ultra-high-end digital converters that sell for thousands of dollars -- the Explorer is their … Read more
High Resolution Technologies makes some of the very best and most affordable digital-to-analog converters on the market. The company's newest model, the MicroStreamer, is a tiny thing, just 2.5 inches by 1.2 inches by 0.4 inch, and since it's USB-powered it doesn't have a power supply or require batteries. It works as an external sound card for computers, tablets, and some smartphones. It's also a high-quality headphone amplifier. It was designed in the U.S., and the little guy's circuitboard's components are mounted in Southern California. The aluminum case is made … Read more
Years ago, long before the dawn of the DVD or Blu-ray formats, consumer video was strictly all-analog, from the very first broadcasts right up to the introduction of the LaserDisc. The 12-inch, double-sided LaserDisc looked like a giant CD, but the video was analog encoded on two single-sided aluminum discs layered in plastic. The discs that debuted in 1978 had analog audio soundtracks, but later discs featured stereo digital sound. Millions of players were sold in the U.S., but LaserDisc was, even during the height of its popularity, a niche format that appealed mostly to videophiles. It had much … Read more