Letters to the editor – Weeks #31 – 33, 2022

  • Tom writes…

    re: streaming volatility

    Just listened to your latest podcast, #40. I have a Micromega M100 integrated, which is mostly digital and includes a network connecter, but no WiFi. The control app is ok for things like input select and volume, but there is a disparity between the Android and the Apple app. The Apple app includes built-in Tidal and I believe Internet radio access, which the Android app does not include. The App has not been updated in ages and I doubt it will be in the future.

    To access any real streaming, we are told to use uPNP software like Bubble UPN and Mconnect and of course there is no way to play Spotify since it was never included in the original software. It works well enough, but it relies on my phone to playback music. This may be a case of poor original implementation and probably a little obsolescence. It really feels like the M100 integrated has been left in the bin.

    Me: Am I to understand correctly that Micromega didn’t put AirPlay, Spotify Connect or Chromecast inside their box? If so, that’s poor foresight on the part of Micromega — almost all streaming hardware manufacturers option at least two out of those three nowadays.

    John writes…

    re: Roon

    Thank you for “often” mentioning Roon. I listen to a lot of streaming on Tidal via the Tidal app, BluOS and Sonos. I’ve never been dissatisfied with the apps, but there always seemed to be missing info and the suggestions for me to play next never quite hit the spot. After hearing you talk about Roon, I finally decided to do the research and give it a try. Holy Information Overload, Batman!! WOW! I am thoroughly enjoying this experience. The lightening fast link to anything about anything that even remotely applies to the selection I am listening to, or one that I might like to listen to is simply amazing. I never knew who wrote the arrangement to Blood Sweat and Tears version of God Bless the Child. With Roon running it was only 3 quick intuitive clicks away.

    Just a quick update for you. When I decided to “run with the Roon”, I ordered an Intel NUC to put it on using ROCK. The directions on Roon and in some YouTube videos made it sound simple. Yeah, not quite. Intel is constantly updating their BIOS for the NUC’s and when you get a new one, very little matches the directions or videos of installation. It took me several sessions and probably 5 or 6 hours of trying things before I finally found a posting on the ROON community blog that had current info for BIOS version 357 (or something like that). The latest version of BIOS was updated last week. Anyway, after following the posting moves and a few trials of my own, I finally got Rock installed properly and running on the NUC10i5. Now I am reaping the benefits.

    Thanks again. You are a great source of information about one of my passions.

    Andrew writes…

    re: Am I the a**hole?

    I regularly watch your videos and enjoy your content and your take on Hi-Fi in general which is why I thought I would reach out to you about an ongoing problem I have had with the purchase of a piece of Future-Fi (?). In March I bought an Advance Paris MyConnect 150 (£2190 GBP). I don’t think you have ever reviewed one of these but I think it would be the kind of thing you’d like. To give you a very brief overview, it is an all-in-one integrated amplifier with valve pre-amp (and VU meters!!) CD player, Network streaming (Spotify Connect, Qobuz, Tidal etc.) USB A for memory sticks, USB B for PC connection, DAB radio, Phono connection (MM & MC), 7 x Aux inputs, 2 x coaxial inputs, 3 x Toslink inputs, 2 x headphone outputs, 3 x speaker outputs… get the idea, it’s fully loaded. It’s the most complete all-in-one system I have ever found and it ticked a lot of boxes for me. However, there is an issue. When I first took delivery I noticed that, when playing CD’s, the player would nip the first half a second off the first track. It then usually continues to play the rest of the disc okay. If you skip a track it will nip the first half a second off the beginning of the track you skip to and sometimes when playing from one track into the next it will do the same thing. It does vary from CD to CD. I made the dealer aware of the issue and initially they thought the CD transport mechanism may have been damaged in transit. They took the unit in, confirmed the fault and, on the advice of the manufacturer, replaced the mechanism. This actually made things worse because the replacement mechanism hadn’t been fitted properly and the CD was rubbing as it span and was making a horrendous noise. The problem with the missing half a second was still there though. The dealer agreed to replace the whole unit (after the original had spent a month with them whilst they ‘fixed’ it). When the replacement arrived it also had the same issue so it became apparent that all the units must have the same fault. The manufacturer has looked into the problem and has said that, during the design and manufacturing process, they noticed an audible pop as the disc started to play. In order to remedy this, they programmed the player to mute the first half a second of the track as it spooled up so you don’t hear the pop. Allegedly, I am the first person to notice this (which I don’t believe). It’s really obvious and can ruin your listening experience when playing a CD, especially if you have tracks that run together and it mutes the first half second each time.

    I have asked the dealer for comment and they in turn have liaised with the manufacturer but it seems there is no fix for this. It’s either put up with the pop or put up with the player muting the beginning for tracks.

    I have never come across or owned a CD player of any type (including DVD players, Blu-ray players, portables, in-car players CD ROM drives etc.) that does this. It seems to be exclusive to this model.

    I don’t really want ot return the unit as I really like it. It sounds awesome and has all the connectivity I could wish for. I just can’t live with the CD player muting tracks.

    I have approached the dealer about sending it back and the response has been ‘We’ve replaced it once – it is working as designed – it’s not our fault it’s not to your taste’.

    So the question is, am I the a**hole here for expecting a CD player to play discs properly, or do they have a point and I should just put up and shut up? What do you think?

    Me: I don’t think you’re being at all unreasonable in demanding that a CD player plays discs gaplessly. And thank you for bringing this to our attention. Hopefully, your aggro with the MyConnect 150 will serve as a warning to others to ALWAYS check for gapless playback before plonking any money on the counter. I sincerely hope you get this resolved with your dealer.

    Matthew writes…

    re. Musings of a long-time reader/listener/watcher but never a contributor

    Hi John,

    I just wanted to reach out and add some thoughts to some of your recent content. I’ve been following you for a long time and greatly enjoy your work. I’m sure you get plenty of people complimenting you on how interesting, thoughtful and insightful it is.

    This note is more to add something from a perspective you might not hear a lot from. Listening to your pod with Michael made me wonder if you ever hear from people like me. I’m someone with a great interest in audio, but very rarely buy anything. I.e. the antithesis of people with anxiety over future fi due to upgrading and replacing components. It’s still something I follow closely and really enjoy learning about, but don’t see the point in constantly upgrading my system.

    For example, aside from some Kef LSXs for my kitchen, my main system is from about 2009 (Peachtree iNova with an iPhone dock built in – as long as it’s an iPhone 4!).

    [Side note, I really felt that my floor stands were lacking bass and it was annoying the hell out of me. I thought maybe I need to plug my bass ports to create some opposition to the predicted effect. So went back to have a look and realised I had already plugged them in some COVID lockdown fog – unplugging them has made everything come alive again!].

    Point to this ramble is that my family is building a fairly large extensions to our house, so I get to dive into choosing a new main system (will keep the old one in the old part of the house). For me, buying new hardware is over a decade apart, and in some ways, means that it’s more momentous for me and I really value your content to help work through all of those complicated decisions.

    Interestingly, after all that (and my dedication to future fi), the Dynaudio Focus range seems to tick all the boxes! Ultimately, I want something that sounds good, works well and is simple to use. Just wondering if there are a lot of people like me, but are more of a silent majority, rather than the intense, focused and vocal debaters over really arcane things?

    Cheers from Western Australia!

    Pavel writes…

    re. Video content vs. written articles

    I just wanted to share with you my pain. I’m not patient enough to watch video reviews. So, I’d really appreciate if for example “10 more thoughts on…” has also a written sibling, even if quite short, only with bullet points. I see you like video a lot and it becomes your preferred channel, which leads me out of your audience. I like your work and I’d miss your content as well as I miss Steve Guttenberg’s. I tried to watch his videos few times, but cant stand it for more than few seconds, sorry.

    Me: I understand your frustration but bullet-pointing the ‘more thoughts’ videos would rob them of their complexity, subtlety and nuance; hence my preference for a video that also includes facial expressions and tone of voice and – let us not forget – reaches far, far more people that a written post.

    Derek writes…

    re. have a look at AVRs again

    What a great channel and podcast you produce with your guests, but above all what great taste in music you have. It is so refreshing, in this seemingly stuffy old (man) world of Hi-Fi gear, to hear you talk about finding Techno records like that System 7 12” with a 20-minute Plastikman remix, which made me think “I’ve got somewhere!”, I’m actually a massive Aphex Twin record and CD collector.

    I’ve only been looking into the nuances of improving sound for a couple of years, even though I’ve been a passionate music consumer for 37 years. It was while researching replacements for my 20-YO bought-from-new Kenwood CD player and AVR, that I stumbled into your living room after following a couple of those old fuddy-duddy podcasts beforehand. The reason for writing was not just to say “thank you”, but to seriously plea to you!!!

    Now, that you’ve realised subwoofers are a valuable addition to a system, please have another look into AVRs solely for the music. I have used 3-models over the decades to thoroughly enjoy my IDM/Ambient music even if it was never reproduced specially for 5.1, but then again is any music specifically recorded in 2.1?

    Listening to the 2xCD of “Lifeforms” by The Future Sound of London in a correctly configured 5.1 is a fantastic treat. I’ve demoed the last 2-tracks of the first disc “Eggshells/Amongst Myselves” to several new friends without telling them there’s a pair of DALI Lektor 2s behind the sofa as well as in front of them, and they’ve all heard the album before, but not like that. I think mirroring the front and rear speakers beneficial to a balanced sound, with a smaller centre speaker.

    My current model is a Denon AVR-X2700H which far more multi-speaker features than my previous models. Denon’s own “Matrix” pre-set is curated to turn stereo into a spacious surround effect.

    Alexander writes…

    re. Questions surrounding surround sound

    Hi John

    Greatly appreciate and enjoy your YouTube channel. I’ve recently acquired my first hi-fi audio equipment and it’s been a greatly motivated, inspired and understood purchase by following your channel!

    I have a question though: how come you’ve never addressed and made a video about surround sound? What I mean by that is: speakers connected in a larger than 2:1 speaker configuration (i.e stereo / left and right system).

    Is this because audiophiles don’t appreciate and usually run such speaker configurations? Is it because there are technical limitations that impact the sound quality? Given the fact that many audiophiles usually mix and match components (I.e “this amp goes well with this speaker”) I imagined multiple speakers to maybe give another dimension to that argument – combining warm sounding and cold sounding speakers in different positions?

    I am rather new to this entire business but have thought about what it would be to purchase more speakers in the future and combine and enlarge my system – hence why I am asking.

    Me: I don’t cover anything more than 2.1 for several reasons: 1) I see considerably greater complexity with signal routing and troubleshooting; 2) I care about my TV’s sound but not as much as I care about music’s sound; which leads to 3) there is bugger all content available in surround sound relative to stereo content. And 4) there is more than enough stereo hardware to keep me busy.

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts 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

    EISA Hi-Fi Awards 2022-2023

    This week’s 4 best hi-fi news announcements (August ’22)