in

Letters to the editor – Week #7, 2021

  • Ben writes…

    Hi John,

    I watched your video earlier today. Clear and well done. I saw recently that Campfire Audio has released a Limited Edition Solaris based on the OG, not the 2020. Included in the package is an “ALOaudio Pilot Portable Hi-Res USB-C DAC & Headphone Amplifier”.

    This includes a small Lightning adapter, which gets around the extra dongle connection with the iPhone. Costs £129 in UK. Oddly, this Solaris LE is only visible on the ALO website, not the Campfire Audio.

    The video also pushed me into ordering the Ara! Looked gorgeous in the vid. I had managed to hear this and the Solaris 2020 before our last lockdown started. Enjoyed them both. I’m not clearly a cat or a dog person when it comes to DD vs BA!

    Cheers,
    Ben

    Brett writes…

    Hey John,

    I am relatively new to your channel but love your content! I have recently purchased a Schiit Modi 3+ DAC because of your reviews that works well with my Chromecast Audio. For me, that is a perfect option for streaming that I already own.

    I just purchased a Chromecast with Google TV, to run on my TV and downloaded the Tidal App for it. It makes a beautiful looking streamer. I then added a USB C dongle to it, and then ran USB audio to the Schiit DAC and into my receiver. I am able to get master quality and it sounds and looks fantastic. I feel like it could be a great, inexpensive way to make a great streaming option for others.

    I thought I would share that with you, in case it might be another piece of content that you would like to share with others.

    Cheers

    Brett

    Me: This sounds interesting. Which exact Chromecast device did you buy and how does the USB-C cable fit into all of this? Can you gimme a little more detail? Or a photo?

    B: Below is a photo of the new Chromecast with Google TV and it is only $69 here in Canada. It is an android box, built into the Chromecast. It has USB-C for charging, but there are videos all over youtube about people connecting cameras, ethernet, audio devices, etc. into a USB hub that connects to it. It is picky on which hub you use and it must have a power pass through. As you can see in the photo, I have the power into the hub, ethernet and a USB to the DAC all plugged into the hub and then the hub plugged into the Chromecast.

    With this setup, I am able to run Tidal with visuals and video on the TV. From what I can tell the audio is just as good, if not better than running it from my Chromecast Audio using Toslink. The neat little remote is easy to use, but I assume that one could get a touchscreen and plug it in as well.

    I also have my own library of lossless audio that I can play through the network using a choice of Android apps from the play store. It looks as though one can sideload Roon onto Android TV devices but I have no experience doing that.

    Anyways I hope this helps. Something new to explore.

    Me: Awesome, thanks for the info and thanks for advancing the conversation! This is super interesting. 

    Brady writes…

    Hey John

    Another good one, and perfect timing as I sat down with a brew! Just had a thought where you popped the micro SD out of the Android phone to add music to it.

    My Samsungs have always allowed for connection directly to a laptop/PC with direct access to the SD card for adding tracks etc. No need to remove the card from the phone, as the phone is seen as just another flash drive, and you can go to the SD card as a directory.
    Easy huh!

    The iPhone has no such connectivity, and no 3.5mm! Awful damn things, best avoided. Interesting content in this one, but I tend to just take the 3.5mm jack as it is. Sorry 😉

    Good luck dude..keep them coming in this format. Great dialogue and narrative

    Olaf gets a thumbs up too.

    Forrest writes…

    Thanks for all the fish… no, no, I have that wrong. Uhhhh…

    THANK YOU!

    That’s the one. Thank you. I’ve just stumbled across Darko Audio, yesterday while researching Raspberry Pi DAC’s. Your site is very, very good; in particular, your approachable on-screen demeanour is refreshing and, well, trust-inducing. Scary, right? Anyway, good job.

    And have you heard of the Mamboberry HD DAC+ v2 and will you be reviewing it in any form? Ha! I couldn’t resist. Sorry.

    Good job!

    Denis writes…

    Good morning,

    Thank you for your very fun and interesting videos.

    I just bought a Bartok over 6 months in Thaïland although I don’t regret it. Compare to my previous Moon 280D it’s breathtaking. I must admit that I do own a car. I don’t know why now.

    Listening to the Bartok, without changing anything else in my system, I do have an idea for a video: Would that be relevant to do a comparison between two systems, at the same price: One where most of the money is in the Streamer / DAC, then amplifier, at the end the speakers. The other would be the opposite: Most of the money is in the speakers and so on…

    Best,

    Denis

    Tony writes…

    Hi John,

    Just a quick note to thank you for your great informative and REAL videos, as a beginner Audiophile I have found them so valuable! I have played with a full PC and Audirvana to stream via USB to my Michi Preamp DAC with mixed results and have now graduated to a Raspberry Pi as a Roon endpoint connected through an AudioQuest JitterBug to the Michi DAC streaming Tidal and local FLAC files from my Synology NAS which has Roon Core running.

    I would never have looked at Roon without your constant references to how good it is and wow were you right!!

    ROON ROCKS…… On my way to your Patreon Page next.

    Cheers,

    Tony

    Steve writes…

    Hi John,

    This information might be of some use to you:

    I auditioned and then purchased a Kii Three system almost 2 years ago. I have experimented and concluded that the USB input on the Kii Control will accept sample rates above 192kHz, yet none of the inputs on the Kii Control are as good sounding as the AES/EBU digital input at the back of the Kii speaker, even though it is limited to 192kHz. All my sources now have a digital output. They go into this digital switch box. from which I take the output via AES/EBU cable to the back of the Kii master speaker. I have the switch box and the Kii Control all near the Kii master speaker, and I use an Apple remote for volume and mute.

    I have found, but not used, this digital switch box if all of your sources have AES/EBU outputs.

    Stay well,

    Steve

    John writes…

    Salutations Mr Darko,

    Can’t believe I’m taking the time to do this, but…

    I have been an almost exclusively vinyl/analogue audio consumer for nearly 50 years. I own very few CDs (maybe 100+) and have only just begun subscribing to a lossless streaming service (Tidal). Not because I believe analogue sounds “better” than digital; it’s just a different sound.

    After watching your review of the RME I took a punt. Set it up via coax to a CD player, the balanced outs to active monitors, and I already owned a pair of HD650s.

    In brief, a complete auditory re-evaluation of digital, and the best £900 I ever spent. Many, many thanks.

    Kind Regards

    John

    Eric writes…

    Hello John,

    Few comments/questions about remote controls. First, I noticed that mine is not like yours: I have a ”skip that electronic music song” button! Very different from your ”skip this RHCP song” button… But this convoluted intro in mainly a way of saying my appreciation of your youtube short films on electronic music. Even though I hate this type of music, what your doing is a much-needed kick in the classic/jazz hifi butt. I know a guy who won’t listen to his favorite band, U2, on his 100K$ system because it’s not ”hifi music”. What a waste. Please keep setting hifi free!

    Going back to remotes, I purchased a pair of KEF LS50w some months ago. I was looking to go back to hifi after a getting-kids-induced break. I was very much attracted to the simplicity of an active, future-fi system, in no small part due to you very good videos on the topic. And it is everything I was hoping for, except for one thing: I miss a rotary volume control more than I could have imagined. I’ve looked across the internet for a Kii-type remote for the ls50w, without success. Do you know if such a thing exists?

    Thanks again for your good work,

    Eric

    Michael writes…

    Hi John,

    I’ve enjoyed your work for a while now, the overall approach definitely but also in part due to your selections in music. I love Stereophile’s measurements (and the fact that John Atkinson really knows what they mean in terms of music) but narcolepsy hits when their reviewers talk about the tracks they listen to (I actually listened to a Diana Krall album they reviewed the other day because maybe you have to, if only once, but it was truly awful and yes give me Lana Del Rey any day).

    Both you and your friend Srajan have positively influenced my audio setup. One of your posts put me on to Sonarworks. I had a pair of Audio Physic speakers (the 2.5-way Sitara floor stander, very pretty in gloss white, now discontinued) that I picked up after blowing up my nth pair of bookshelf speakers I (finally faced the fact that I like a bit of bass, and the music I like often requires it). I demo-ed in the hifi shop as you do, they were nice out of the box and I enjoyed them for some time before trying Sonarworks on my Mac (using it as the source playing from Apple Music and Tidal) after being intrigued by your quick video (talking to them at a show as I recall).

    The Sitaras already gave good imaging and soundstage width/depth but they were a bit lumpy in the bass (too much mid, not enough low) which was consistent with some of the reviews. Sonarworks was user-friendly (and clever running you through mic position via “sonar”). The result did indeed sort the bass (moderated the mid-bass warmth, extended the low bass, helped fill a lateral room mode dip at 70-80 Hz which is 2x the 38 Hz lateral room mode, etc) but also snapped the imaging into place (it was good before, how can it be better? it is though). Impressive. If you can find the time, I’d say worth a try.

    What about Srajan? Well Sonarworks dinna repeal the laws of physics, and you need headroom for the correction curves, I had nicer bass but limited macro dynamics, so I went looking for subwoofers to help. Turns out someone had just traded in their Codex (I’d read Srajan’s reviews). Subwoofers built-in (and a bargain at half price). After a bit of pandemic logistical malarkey, I have them here finally. They need less help from Sonarworks and I positioned them laterally to avoid the previous dip* but mid-bass was lean/dry in my room (the opposite of Sitara) plus a big jump at 50 Hz (which is 2x the 25 Hz longitudinal room mode) and avoiding that likely meant putting them way into the room (which I’ll try in a larger space one day). So, better baseline, but again improved by room correction DSP, which is simply part of my setup now.

    *That was a case of 1) put them where the old speakers were and measure (Røde’s FuzzMeasure app and Sonarworks-supplied microphone) oh god there’s that 12 dB hole at 80 Hz again, 2) move them 20 cm toward the outside wall, measure—better, 3) move again and measure—better still, 4) move again and measure—not better and treble is crashing/hashing so too close to the sidewall, back to step 3.

    That was long-winded, hope I didn’t bore you, anyway thanks muchly to you both.

    Cheers, Michael

    PS not sure if anything happened when I pressed “send” so apologies if this arrives twice.

    Quick extra: I’m not a math-head at all but I like pictures so I checked out the room modes using Amroc’s room mode calculator which you can find on the web (they are German I think) if you haven’t seen it already. It took a while before my brain put the obvious together: ahhh that’s one, the modes between the sidewalls, what if I move the speaker sideways? And so on.

    Also, love the quality and tone of your videos, kudos to all the crew.

    Jeff writes…

    John,

    Thank you so much for bringing Plexamp to my attention. I was looking for a solution that enabled me to listen to my private music collection directly on my iPhone at home (w/wireless headphones) and away from home as well. I have found Plex remote access (via tunneling) to be very reliable when connecting my phone on the go.

    I didn’t want to buy a DAP and maintain multiple libraries. My main home system for music streaming uses an Auralic Aires Mini streamer that I bought in 2016 based on your site’s review. In fact, that search led me to your website in the first place four years ago. From reading up on various server solutions for Plex, I determined a small headless Windows machine would save me the most time and effort over Linux and other piecemeal software installs using a NUC, etc… I got a great price on a “Lenovo ThinkCentre M90n Nano” fire sale (i5-based, 512SSD, 8mb). It has the form factor of a VHS tape (check it out).

    For me, it’s the perfect little small inexpensive black box to use as a media streamer. Using Windows-based systems across the board (Thinkpad laptop and my new ThinkCentre Nano) ensures I spend minimal time dealing with administration tasks (and it all works flawlessly). If I want to add Roon in the future, it certainly has the hardware capability. The nice knockoff effects are an attached big screen TV via HDMI out and a new Schitt Modi 3+ connected via USB out to my Rotel integrated amplifier, providing an additional streamer source beyond my Auralic streamer. I’m not usually into gimmicks with audio, but I do like Plexamp sweet fades (DJ mode) in shuffle mode, so I use the new Schitt DAC connection for that function.

    Like you, I only wanted to manage one copy of my private collection, so Auralic and Plex are configured to use the same music files (800 CD’s: FLAC ripped via dbPowerAmp). I then use a simple backup program (FreeFileSync) to maintain backup copies of my music files. I’m an old software guy… I think Plexamp and Lightning DS are very good pieces of software. After just looking at the new Roon 1.8, they may have finally convinced me to step up to that as well. For me, it would be a way to get “easy multi-room support” with any of the fairly inexpensive Roon-ready powered speakers. Your basic education videos provided me with the concepts to determine how to setup a computer-based music server machine at a reasonable cost that can be used for Plex (and maybe Roon in the future).

    A classic case of leaving it as an exercise for the viewer. It is so nice to have my own personal music service (no monthly fees) in my pocket and maintained as a single copy with my main listening system. Thanks so much!

    Written by John Darko

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

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

    A short film about iPhone vs. Android