Friday, 10 March 2017

Howdy! ... I'm still around!

Sorry, nothing's happened here in a while - distracted by audio forums, audio conversations, house, life, the whole shebang! ... I really need to get back on track here, so aim to get my mind re-attuned to what I was intending with this blog, and start adding some more content ... bear with me.

Cheers!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

"Historic" recordings of now defunct Philips HT system

Just to mention that there are now 3 recordings of a Philips Home Theatre in a box, that I used as a test bed for a number of years, on my YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzkx85ez3DVxRAnpkbQEA2w. These recordings are over 2 years old, made on a very limited quality Fuji camera, noisy and highly prone to having the recording circuit overloading - but they give some idea of how that system performed.

There's a solo blues guitar effort, some choral work, and just today added a pipe organ piece, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZ9LQh3UbWU - the latter I was motivated to do because there was discussion in an audio forum about such instruments, which I believe should convey majesty and richness in the sound, irrespective of the bass response of the playback system.

Friday, 18 March 2016

What do YouTube videos show us? - Part 1

'Bout time I added some more stuff to this place, so here goes!!

I have surfed YouTube audio system videos over the years, largely to get a sense of how the sound would have come across if I were in that particular, recorded space in person. People might dispute that this is possible, because, "YouTube is compressed crap!!", but I find that it's relatively easy to separate the good'uns from the bad'uns. One of the spots I revisit is Peter Breuniger's AVshowreports channel, because he uses a standard recording technique, making comparisons between various sound environments very straightforward.

Just visited his latest clip, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHrXQ8L_IDI, and that inspired this post - unfortunately, in a very negative sense - sorry, Peter!!

This, is exactly what gives audio reproduction a bad name - a very brash, in your face, distorted, "hifi" sound - so many things wrong with it; impossible to live with. Yet, the video is about how to manipulate what's happening in the bass frequencies, so as to "fix" the sound - sorry, boys and girls, ain't gonna happen! Any variation of the bass behaviour will not do one iota of good in resolving the poor quality of what's occurring above those frequencies - a completely different strategy is required to extract competent sound from this setup.

So, this clip is an excellent example of what NOT to do to improve playback quality - unless, of course, one just wants to achieve variations of the typical hifi sound ... which is miles from conjuring an illusion of "real" music ...



Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Some history of where I've been so far ...

For a bit of fun, I've uploaded a clip of what I was getting some 3 years ago or so - this was from a well made Philips Home Theatre all-in-one system - internal quality about that of NAD units - which was discarded by a member of the family. Unfortunately, my recording setup was very primitive, a Fuji camera with poor signal to noise ratio, bad automatic gain control that overloaded far too easily - I tried to get a flavour on how the system sounded many times, but the recording was usually unsatisfactory.

Anyway, I just went through listening again to some of those attempts, which make sense to my ears - here is one that conveys the ability of that configuration to project a "full" soundstage, from well outside the playback room: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3b9bk2Gj6o ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yhR_fYQbbg (clip was tidied up a bit ...)

Update: for those not into classical, here's a grab of a bit of blues guitar playing through that system during the same period: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MSE90cOni4 - where the recorder was in the same room. I had major problems minimising any overloading of the mic and recording mechanism, always - getting a balance between that and noise was hard.

Friday, 19 February 2016

It appears a corner has been turned ...

For years I have been waiting for CD, digital replay mechanisms to be "robust" enough to deliver competent sound, continuously, in raw form. Waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting - 30 years worth of waiting!! There were many false excitements along the way, reports of "magical" new components that had it all ... but the really-hard-to-please crowd would knock them on the head in that somewhat contemptuous way, "very good for digital, but not in the analogue class of performance!".

Yesterday, I came across some personal experiences of diehard vinyl lovers who have heard some of the latest, best, most expensive digital source units - and who are converted. Finally, the top end of the development crowd have worked out enough tricks to get the engineering good enough for so that any limitations, weaknesses elsewhere in the replay system are not accentuated or triggered - and the normal consumer can buy these units, plug them in, and get satisfying sound.

Of course, these components are absurdly expensive, to the man on the street - this is Bentley territory. The old story of how man progresses - first the premium level toys are created for those well off, who are willing to pay silly money to get results - and then the trickle down process starts. It seems that it doesn't really work any other way in some fields ... a grotesquely over-engineered version has to be created, and sold in small quantities, as a proof of concept exercise; then, the engineering types begin to work out what the really crucial aspects of this battleship construction are, to get the results that actually matter - and steadily far more efficient, in terms of materials used, versions are devised ... value for money returns to the equation.

The other method of achieving high quality sound from CD recordings has always been available - that which I use, locating the various weaknesses in the overall system which are the most damaging to getting decent digital sound, and countering them, one by one. Luckily, this is highly effective - and far, far cheaper!! The end results are very similar - ultimately, convincing sound, the conjuring of a rock solid auditory illusion can be made to happen ...


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Audio Conjuring don't come easy! - A Case Study: the Kii Audio Three

This audio replay component is an interesting example of the dilemma the industry is in at the moment. It's an active speaker system, which includes the capability of digital input - meaning, that all is needed for reproduction to occur is to feed the right input with material from any capable source, a very cheap storage device that can output digital audio would be sufficient; it has been designed and developed by a highly capable audio circuitry design engineer, Bruno Putzeys, he has an excellent reputation for conceiving and bringing into existence fresh approaches to elements of the audio reproduction chain, high levels of praise have been bestowed upon products originating from him, both people coming from a technical viewpoint and those only interested in "what it sounds like" are impressed by his efforts ... but, this new product, under the banner Kii, has been getting very mixed reports - everything from "dreadful to listen to", to "can't imagine it being better!!"... so, what's going on ??

Particular of note is that very negative reports have been garnered from its presence at major audio shows in the USA, the two most recent being RMAF and CES. People who are familiar with decent audio sound are completely unimpressed, indeed found its sound quite offputting - at CES 2016 nearly every well known reviewer completely ignored it in their summaries. Why??

Luckily, a means of hearing what it sounded like at CES 2016, at least at one point of time, is available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZt6DokXi1s, a video report by AVshowreports on YouTube. This includes a long segment at the end of the clip of the speakers in operation - and, it is relatively easy, even on a YouTube video(!), to hear that the sound is deficient - it has a "shouty", uncomfortable quality to it, which seems to get worse as the clip progresses ... what is happening?

And ... just read a post on What's Best Forum: http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showthread.php?18437-Kii-Three-speaker-review-english-version&p=379168&viewfull=1#post379168. These are the impressions by a buyer of the units, who will use them to analyse recording mixes ... and his comments are extremely familiar: the quality is close, very, oh so very close to being "there" - yet, there is something not quite right ...

To me, these are the classic symptoms of digitally based replay which has the potential of producing superb sound ... when it is in the "zone" the result is music which is immensely satisfying to experience, but, the slightest weakness in the integrity of the complete chain can easily cause a quality which is very unpleasant to listen to, a complete contrast to the previous situation - Jekyll and Hyde, if you will ... hopefully, the degradation is not too great; but if it is not resolved then the playback will never totally satisfy ... which it is always capable of achieving, if the right efforts are made.

The big question is, will anyone go to this effort? If it doesn't happen then it's likely this product will also join the long, long list of also-rans, it will slowly fade as a prime target for enthusiasm by searching music lovers ...

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Recordings of system behaviour for evaluation - Part 1

Finally! I've threatened to put up something of "better" quality on YouTube for awhile, and finally got around to it! This is something that probably more people will tune into, a combination of violin and piano, from a Decca recording with Perlman and Ashkenazy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfhJII7PNRM. This was just done, the system is in better shape than the first posted efforts, and the recording procedure was more carefully carried out.

The microphone is now in a "correct" position - centred in front of the speakers - so the sound more directly matches the ambience of the actual recording, and, of course the level of the raw capture was significantly higher - only 3dB of gain was needed to bring the peak level to within 1dB of the maximum. The playback system overall was not in a fully optimised state, I just wanted to get this recording out of the way, but it does give a decent sense of what the current status of the, A More Ambitious Upgrade (NAD based), system is.

The details of the previous Takes can be found in the blog entry, A More Ambitious Upgrade - Part 10 ...