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Letters to the editor – Week #6, 2021

  • Gabriël writes…

    Hello John,

    I really like your reviews. My question: do you know if KEF is working on a LSX II version? With a better app like LS50 II wireless.

    Greetings from the Netherlands,

    Gabriël

    Me: I often field this kind of question. So much so that it’s addressed in the FAQ that sits above the contact form.

    There are two possible scenarios here: either a) I don’t know or b) I do know. Obviously, in the first scenario, if I don’t know, I don’t know. I have nothing to report. But in the second scenario, what do you think a company would say (to me) if I unilaterally decided to announce a forthcoming product on their behalf, potentially spoiling months of hard work keeping it under wraps? So — again, I have nothing to report. 

    Mick writes…

    Hi

    I’m new to this audio world and have found a lot on your site of great help. So big thank you.

    I’ve been trying to get the best out of what I have and can afford and though Amazon can be a bit of a monopolistic devil I have three teenagers who also need fed tunes. So For me to get HD music Amazon does the best family package out there. But with Amazon tie in it can be difficult getting a blended audio setup.

    My setup is a pair of old Mission M71, Nad 304 and a new Topping e30. I’ve plugged in a Fire Tablet via USB and this acts as a great castable streaming endpoint. The problem though is that it limits the streams to 24/48 through whatever android shenanigans are at play. What I’ve just added however is a Firestick as they now support 24/192. So I split the HDMI audio into the TOSLINK and great. I get Amazon Music HD on a tv screen with voice control and 24/192 stream. The stick also runs Tidal and from what I can tell it looks like it is not messing with the file format.

    The stick lets me do some great messing. I plugged it into the Optimax projector where I have an AUX to a Bluetooth 5 APTX HD transmitter back to a topping Bluetooth 5 APTX HD receiver into the e30 and bang – big 10 feet screen, cover art and scrolling lyrics. I know that that is not HD but it is good enough for a sing-song when out of lockdown.

    Anyway, I saw you enjoy messing with Alexa so thought it worth a mention.

    Thanks

    Pierre writes…

    Hello John,

    I am a professional cellist, currently the solo cello of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Norway.
    I absolutely love your youtube channel and have learnt a huge amount from you so thank you so much for your easy to understand and really entertaining teachings!

    I am awaiting delivery of the Klipsch RP600M and Marantz PM7000N integrated amp/streamer, which I will use for Tidal. I’m also looking into buying a DAC to listen to my large cd collection.

    My question: Can one bypass the integrated amp/streamer’s dac and use a separate DAC for the streaming part of that amplifier/streamer? As in, can I connect a separate DAC out of the amp/streamer (digital) and back into the same amp (analogue)?

    Many thanks again for your inspiring content and looking forward to watching your next video 🙂

    Best wishes,

    Pierre

    Me: Hi Pierre — yes, you can *absolutely* connect an external DAC to the amp’s analogue input…assuming the amp has a digital output. Does it?

    P: Shit.. no it doesn’t. Of course yes that would be necessary. Too bad but thank you!

    Me: It’s one more box but you could always use a Raspberry Pi streamer to feed the external DAC.

    Paul writes…

    Hi John,

    I’m writing to describe my experience with room correction using Dirac for the first time. I listen near field on my tabletop setup, which also happens to be in the kitchen and so not a good place for putting up bass traps and the like.

    My main problem is LF room modes, and I recently discovered that it’s possible to plug a Dirac filter into my Audirvana playback on my Mac. I took advantage of the 14 day trial from Dirac, spent half a day tinkering, and applied a few different filters in the 20-250Hz range.

    I have to say I’ve been very impressed, and the removal of a 150Hz mode has allowed me to enjoy music at slightly higher volumes without it driving me nuts.

    To anyone not sure, I’d say give it a go.

    Regards

    Paul

    Jasper writes…

    Mr. Darko

    I have far too little free time, but thanks to you and your team I enjoy the listening time I do have much more than I ever have before. My “system” is quite modest (Allo, Schiit, Roon), but the satisfaction I get from it isn’t – and that’s largely because of your site and YT efforts. Thank you!

    James writes…

    Hi John, Thanks for all the entertainment during my Covid house arrest. Most welcome and informative. I actually know a couple of things about streaming now. All I need to do is figure out which Youtube reviewer I need to send the bill to for the $10k I’ve spent on audio gear this year.

    I recently bought an XDuoo XD-05 portable headphone amp and blur tooth module ($350 all in). I really like it. 1/4″ phone jack in such a small unit and lots of power. 1000Mw. So far so good. I judged the Bluetooth to be quite good. Listening on some Hifi man Sunandras and Meze Classic 99 phones.

    I was leery of such a small amp because I anticipated the upper mid, lower treble hash but no such thing. A full satisfying listening experience. You might want to check it out.

    Also interesting is that Burson makes a high-quality op-amp for this unit for a reasonable $40 that I have on order. Just a minor adventure. I even bought a proper tool on Amazon for doing the replacement.

    Cheers, and keep up the good work.

    Jim writes…

    John

    Who benefits from MQA?

    Artists? No. Fractions of a cent for each play.

    Labels? Hard to say. Fractions of a cent for each play may or may not cover encoding costs.

    Consumers? Maybe, if they perceive higher sound quality AND if their desired albums are encoded to MQA.

    Tidal? Maybe. Reliable financial information for Tidal is hard to come by.

    DAC manufacturers? Probably, as they can recoup development costs and licensing fees by charging the consumer.

    MQA Ltd.? Definitely – the only true winner.

    Just one man’s opinion.

    Cheers,

    Jim

    Me: Have you sent this email to MQA Ltd.? And Tidal? If you want to bring about change, surely complaining to the source of your frustrations is best the way to go? Anything else is to conflate being right with being effective.

    Axel writes…

    Hello John

    I came across your youtube channel watching audiophile topics for relaxation. But some while ago I started listening to your podcast on Spotify and found the topics very interesting because they go far beyond reviewing equipment. I would consider myself a ‘mild’ audiophile if this exists 🙂 I always looked for good audio reproduction with reasonably good equipment since I was really young was always open for new formats upgrading my system. Currently, I primarily run a Linn system (streamer and Speakers) streaming my CDs from NAS as well as Tidal Hifi. But also enjoy my good old Nakamichi Tape Deck or recently bought a used Dual turntable and repaired it – the beauty of Vinyl.

    I came across your podcast #9 – Music Formats and enjoyed it a lot because there was a lot of truth in it. I think I can totally enjoy an old mixtape of mine created 20 years ago but it will never reach the quality of a master studio recording stream. Both have different qualities and for me, they will always co-exist. Same as CD and Vinyl.

    As an automotive engineer, I worked some years back with researchers on object-based audio on 3D multi-channel systems (we are talking 30 channels and more). This was absolutely mind-blowing because – if we face it – even with a band recorded on a stage in front of me, there is always signal from every direction because there are reflections, the audience, the room model of the original venue etc. Or you can sit between musicians being able to exactly point to where the violin is coming from. Sitting in a car or a room listening to a well-made object-based recording is just something else.

    Having said that I was keen for your opinion: Why is it that the audiophile world pretty much seems to insist on stereo playback with all it’s pro’s and con’s and keeps pushing the audio quality ‘only’? I remember the early approaches for quadraphonic audio were not so well received. 5.1 and 7.1 channel based mixes never had a real breakthrough. But today we have the power of DSPs. We can recreate extremely precise wavefronts from virtual objects from object-based formats. We have the sources (streaming) and the content and the required formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTSX or Auro3D. But the vast majority of audiophile discussions ignore all that. Seems like this all mostly happens in the cinema and home cinema world. Why?

    So I recently upgraded my private system to a 14.1 Dolby Atmos setup and stream object-based content from Tidal. There is not loads of content yet but it is on its way, a great example is the 3D catalogue from Kraftwerk – this is extremely well done. I think the audiophile world should really start listening in, because this may be a game-changer from traditional stereo audio. (By the way – as always I keep my stereo setup and old sources… Best of all worlds).

    Any thoughts?

    Cheers, Axel

    Me: I hate to piss on your bonfire, Axel, but we’ve been here several times before: a new audio format launches, it sounds incredible but there’s a catch: next to no content. We are then told that more content will arrive as adoption increases. Catch 22. We were promised DSD titles out the wazoo throughout the 2010s and they didn’t materialise, despite many audiophiles buying into that promise. Ditto Blu-Ray Audio in the late 2010s: a big nosie launch, a handful of titles to get us going and the promise of ‘more on the way’ — but where is THAT format now? In the 2000s, SACD came and went. DVD-A too.

    The audiophile world often overplays its own importance in audio format take-up when it’s the mainstream that calls the shots. Vinyl has made a comeback, not because of audiophiles obsessing over sound quality but because somewhere, somehow it became cool with the under 30s; and stereo masters exist for almost every record ever made. Some (but not all!) get a dedicated vinyl master but crucially no remixing is required. On the digital front, hi-res audio is now a mainstay of a few niche streaming platforms largely because hi-res audio is the recording studio world’s archive format (even for vinyl masters!). Hi-res stereo content is already the end result of every recording studio’s workflow. Again, no remixing required.

    Can we really expect studios to mix Dolby Atmos versions of albums when 99.9% of the world listens to music on ‘mono’ Bluetooth speakers, TVs, soundbars, laptop speakers or – most common of all – headphones? Even good old two-channel stereo is wasted on all but headphones. And can we really expect people to rewire their lounge rooms with a multitude of loudspeakers to realise the potential of Dolby Atmos content? We’d need millions of people to do so before the major labels take notice and start making Dolby Atmos content for ’em.

    As you can probably surmise, I hold in my enthusiasm for new audio formats until the content begins to flow in a meaningful way. I’m talking ten of thousands of releases, not dozens.

    Zeb writes…

    Dear John Darko,

    Love your content. Just wanted to make you aware of the Bowers and Wilkins P9, a rare and verging on high-end effort by Bowers and Wilkins. Would be an interesting video for you to do maybe!

    Zeb

    Tobi writes…

    Hi John,

    To get it out of the way: I love your channel. Relaxed, honest, on point, and without Jones and Kralls (been there, done that, haha). Your new haircut rocks, too.

    By the way: Just watched the “Roon Rocks!” Video and I think it’s great…but I got some suggestions, that might make the life of your viewers a little easier trying to set up their own ROCK (or Roon server).

    (+) In general, you need an intel NUC to set up ROCK, but you can not set up ROCK on any NUC. So, if one of your nontechie viewers buy a nuc, they should know. (yes it’s in the small print of the installation guide, but it’s overlooked very easily)

    (+) If the point is to save a little bit of money, compared to the nucleus, then, maybe it’s a good idea to get the most out of the nuc for some viewers. So, maybe you could hint at other possibilities that give you a full working Roon server AND more flexibility (more bang for the buck). Thinking of a slick and easy Dietpi install, which is as easy if not easier than a ROCK install.

    I’m not suggesting a whole walkthrough and details… just a quick hint at the alternative.

    Best regards,

    Tobi

    Me: Making videos means striving for a balance between detail and concision. It’s a fine line to walk and the first draft of the Roon ROCK video came in at over 30 mins. I am trying to get keep under 25 mins Thus, my bit about ‘not all NUCs work’ ended up on the cutting room floor. Instead, Roon’s guide to compatible hardware is highlighted in the video’s description box:

    ” **READ THIS BEFORE BUYING A NUC for ROON ROCK**:
    https://help.roonlabs.com/portal/en/kb/articles/roon-optimized-core-kit#What_hardware_does_ROCK_run_on

    As for my suggesting alternative solutions, those are soon to come down the pike. I initially wanted to include them in the ROCK video but the need for concision means they have been held over.

    Make sense?

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

    [UPDATED] Undentia, Cirrus7’s fanless Roon ROCK server

    A short film about Roon ROCK