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Letters to the editor – Weeks #47-48, 2021

  • Casey writes…

    Hi John,

    I just heard the latest podcast where you discussed Internet People expressing outrage at people buying expensive things. Writing here to give you another data point: there are many of us who are well-adjusted and reasonable people who live busy lives (work and pleasure) and don’t spend our days complaining online. We follow your content with passion and interest and appreciate your presence!

    Lee writes…

    I just went through the same evaluation as you, and I ended up returning the 6000A Play buying the non-play 6000A (and adding a Primaire NP5 as my streamer). I agree with all of your DTS Play-FI criticisms (well, I think I hated the app even more than you did), but I had a couple of discoveries with this product that you didn’t mention. Not a given that you would or should mention them, but out of respect for how generally thorough and thoughtful your content is, I figured I might as well make sure you knew the following, whether or not you want to post more content based on any of it:

    1) DTS-FI on the 6000A Play indirectly makes it a UPnP endpoint. I did this by using the UPnP/DLNA bridge extension for Logitech Media Server – this made it possible to stream to the 6000A Play from LMS and by using BubbleUPnP on Android, with various UPnP sources. This is an exception to your conclusion that the only Play-FI streaming options are Spotify Connect or something through a device running the Play-FI mobile app. I can understand not mentioning that, FWIW, but for some users (who don’t care about the 5-second gaps, of course), this may be compelling.

    2) Maybe even more pertinent to your review, DTS has announced that Play-FI *can* now incorporate Chromecast support. This is available moving forward, at the discretion of OEMs that are building in Play-Fi support. Apparently, this is not something that can be implemented as a software upgrade for products that already exist, which I interpret to mean that there is a hardware component to the Play-Fi implementation. It won’t change anything about the 6000A Play, but it might mean a significantly brighter future for Play-Fi and the OEMs that have already cast their lot with it, at least with regards to not requiring streams to pass through the Play-Fi app on a mobile device. You’ll likely have better luck than I did in my attempts to get information from Audiolab about their future plans regarding this Play-Fi enhancement. But given how exciting the 6000A platform is, Audiolab should already be working on an even better iteration. And it’s quite possible that passing streaming to the Chromecast stack would address the 5-second gap issue (though not address the gapless one).

    Me: Thank you for a most excellent email. Yes, every time I think about mentioning the Bubble UPNP workaround for the Audiolab, I cringe. It only works on Android and requires a third-party server. Granted, a Squeezebox server can run on pretty much any hardware, even a Pi, but what a pain in the rear. Moreover, products at this level shouldn’t require workarounds that require extra servers. I didn’t know about Play-Fi’s Chromecast possibilities. Still not gapless though. And still not in the Audiolab!

    Jean writes…

    Love your devotion to music & equipment. Just retired and love music. I’ve listened to and explored other websites to become more aware of current audio equipment. The last speaker purchased was Energy passive speakers with cheap amp back in 1976 then bought an amp Pioneer AV in 1979. Their collecting dust. I have computer-connected speakers Kanto YU3 as a means to an end in 2011.

    Now a chance to renew and maybe the last.

    KEF Wireless sounds appealing. Living room (18′ x 13′) placement with a new OLED TV, all planned in the next 2 to 3 months but ready to buy now. Family users all have smartphones. I use TIDAL but lately trying Apple Music with higher quality music up to 192. My own files are FLAC, APE in the range of 24/48 (60%), 24/92 (30%), 24/192 (10%) best music files. Types of music smooth jazz, country, country/rock, and new music. My only downfall is I played in a band several instruments in my teens and believe I know something about real sound!

    I would be glad to hear your expert opinion. Now to the question, KEF? LSX, LS50 wireless if found or META and use my AV amp for now and purchase AMP in the range of $1K later. Budget $3 to 4K CAD with wife oversight, scratch that last comment!!

    Me: Thanks for your kind words, Jean but I’m not a private audio consultant. There simply isn’t the time for it. And that, I think, is made clear in the FAQ above the email contact form (which you confirmed you had read before clicking send on your email).

    Gary writes…

    Just a quick note to thank you for reviews that are clear and simple. I have only been listening for the last 8 months or so. I have listened to other reviews but yours just clicked with me. Live long and prosper, I return now to look for the article or podcast that explains how you ended up in Germany.

    Yannick writes…

    I am a big fan and I really want to thank you for your great work. I enjoy every video and every article a lot!

    I have a question: Where can I get the beautiful furniture that allows you to present cover art on the doors? After seeing your review of the Lyngdorf TDAI 1120, I thought that this might be the perfect solution for my living room.

    Me: The sideboard is this: The vinyl holders are these:

     

    Christian writes…

    Srajan was asking about the insecurity of people buying hifi equipment in KIH #85. I’ll try to make some points about that.

    First, I don’t think that’s audio only. I know from the forums about smartphone technology and cars I’ve visited myself for years that similar stuff is going on there. It’s about the BEST you talked about yourself in KIH #86. (BTW, I’m currently reading your articles backwards, because I really like them. That’s the kind of musing about hifi I really want right now.) Everybody wants to be sure that they’ll buy THE BEST™ they can get within their price range, because it’s a lot of money to be spent, and we want to be as sure as possible that we won’t be sorry afterwards. Every field has its own strangenesses, e.g.: In German car forums, there is a genuine distrust of professional experts, along the lines of: Car reviewers from magazines always have strong tendencies towards certain manufacturers, write about completely irrelevant details while overlooking extremely important topics, and anyway, they really don’t know much about cars at all. And, undeniably, there are incredible experts in those forums who know about details I wouldn’t know they even existed; if you have the time to find the gems among the rubble, you’ll get more valuable information there for sure than in magazines.

    Anyway, it’s about being right, and that tendency exists everywhere.

    In the hifi world, taste is added to the equation, and that makes things even harder. Now, it’s not only about more or less objective facts, it’s also about what the “correct” taste is. I mean, there’s taste in cars, too, of course, it’s often the design that brings people to a certain manufacturer. But that’s not what they talk about in forums. It’s specifications.

    Well, they do talk about specifications in hifi forums, too, of course. Or measurements. 🙂 But in the end, hifi is about pleasure, and a lot of discussions revolve around the question how the correct pleasure has to look like. How much bass can still be called audiophile? Is it allowed to like music that comes in MQA format? Oh, wait, streaming is evil, of course, good sound can only come from local digital files. Erm, no. How could anybody even think that digital music could come anywhere near analog recordings?

    So many opinions out there, how should I ever find out what the real, actual BEST is? I want to be right, please, anybody tell me what is right in hifi!

    That, I think, is what makes people even more insecure about hifi equipment than about other technical stuff. It’s not only specifications (difficult enough), it’s an opinion, too. My guess is that “objectivists” are those that are so overwhelmed by that insecurity that they decide to only trust measurements. It becomes a cozy safe harbour of numbers.

    But, of course, there’s also the plain old insecurity of missing information. I entered the audiophile hobby only a short while ago, and all those articles and reviews and videos out there help a lot to find out about what is actually out there.

    For me, it all started with a Bose Bluetooth headphone I bought on a whim in an electronics store, more than two times the price I had intended to pay for a headphone. I was completely overwhelmed by the perfect sound, it was so much better than anything I had heard before. I wasn’t even much into listening to music then, more into making music, in a choir, and playing the piano and the guitar at home. I bought Bose Bluetooth speakers, WLAN speakers, was so fond of that manufacturer that I was completely astonished when one day I found out that in audiophile circles, many people positively hated Bose.

    That’s when the journey began in earnest. And where to begin? There’s so much stuff out there that for the first steps, without guidance, you’d be completely lost. All those expert opinions help to learn about the tech, the details, the facts − and, yes, also what to look at, what to listen for.

    In a way, I guess, one has to learn, adopt and understand others’ opinions first in order to able to form an own, informed opinion later. I would have described my Bose BT headphone as producing the best sound on earth, had I not found doubt through audiophile forums and tried other stuff. Of course, I could have tried hifi gear myself, but I probably wouldn’t even have entered a real hifi shop, not knowing that there was gear quite close to price range of my headphones, only much better.

    In fact, all the hifi equipment I’ve bought up to now, I bought because I read reviews, sometimes with a little comparison I did myself in shop, but I’m not up the ladder very high, yet, so I’ve never been to a real hifi shop in my life. But I feel the time is coming.

    I had (in that order) a Bose Quietcomfort 35 II I still own and like for its noise-canceling features, although the resolution and background hiss is not what I’d call perfect sound today, Spotify, the Bluetooth and Wifi speakers I talked about, a B&O Level I sent back although I liked it, a Dynaudio Music 5 I still use for loudspeaker listening, Qobuz, Roon, a Sennheiser HD650, an EarMen Sparrow mobile DAC/AMP, KZ ZSN Pro IEMs, Tin Hifi T4 IEMs, and a Hifiman Ananda.

    So far, every purchase (except the ChiFi IEMs) was a very considerable step towards better sound. But confusion mounted, too.

    Why did my gear sound so perfect sometimes, and so mediocre on other days? Especially the Dynaudio can sound extremely different, depending on my mood. The KZs I had put away as not good enough soon, and when I took them out months later, I really loved the fat and precise bass. I visited my boss at his home to listen to his very nice audiophile system, and presented the headphone/IEMs/DAC I had at that time to him, and after seeing that he really didn’t like the T4s, I could never find really good sound in them to this day, although I had rather liked them before.

    The psychological share in “good sound” is so huge that it’s really hard for me to pinpoint the “objective” parts. E.g., there’s so much cognitive break-in that I wonder if, apart from a few hours maybe, how much physical break-in there is at all.

    That system of my boss’, worth probably some 15K Euros? Yes, I heard that it was better than my Dynaudio Music 5, but there wasn’t so much on top of my HD650+Sparrow. I wonder what I would have heard on another day.

    And all that creates more insecurity. My own judgment varies from day-to-day! And: How much sense does it make to go to a hifi shop and listen to 25 different headphone/DAC/AMP combinations if already know now that I can only be more or less sure about what I think about a device after 30+ days?

    That’s where you experts fill in. All those reviews help a lot with the decision on what to buy. Right now, I’m in a comfortable position where there’s still a lot of headroom to explore. It’s completely clear that when I buy a headphone in the €1000-2000 price range and a matching DAC/AMP, it will be Elysium, no matter which model I choose (at least given the sound signature fits my taste). But still, that’s so much money, it has to be “justified”, and there’s the need for reassurance. Of course, in that price range, more or less any headphone gets good reviews. It’s a matter of looking for masters of those qualities I enjoy most (like resolution), but also: Finding justification and reassurance. Then I can go and test-listen, and if I like it, it will be most probably be ok after 30 days, too. The reviews help to choose which models to try at all, and to feel good when the choice is made.

    Ok, I guess that’s enough now.

    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.

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