Dr. AIX's POSTS — 20 February 2015

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I noticed it on the WSJ site but plenty of other audio sites picked up on the news that Sony has announced a microSD card that is engineered for sound quality. This new microSD “for Premium Sound” can store 64 GB of data (presumably music data since I’m not sure it would improve the accuracy of your spreadsheet or enhance the contrast of your photos) and will sell for $160 in Japan, which is roughly five times the price of a standard microSD card. The new cards will be available in March.

A spokesperson for Sony is quoted in the WSJ article as saying, “We aren’t that sure about the product’s potential demand, but we thought some among people who are committed to great sound quality would want it.”

Wait a second, I’m committed to great sound quality but I wouldn’t purchase a pricey microSD card from Sony or anyone else. Sony claims, “The SR-64HXA produces less electrical noise when reading data, the company says.” And does anyone expect that less electrical noise when reading the data will translate into better sound? It’s another case of confusing the characteristics associated with analog recording and electronics with the very different world of digital.

There is absolutely no chance that having less electrical noise when reading data will improve the translation of digital data into sound through a DAC in their new flagship digital Walkman or any other DAC. The premium price associated with the new card will attract the same people that think striping the outside of your CDs with a green magic marker will keep the “sound from escaping” from the edge of the disc.

Frankly, I’m surprised that Sony has moved into the world of tweaky audiophile accessories and there’s not doubt that some of the reviewers at the major magazines will write a very positive review about the “easily perceptible lower noise floor” of recordings coming off of these revolutionary “premium sound cards”.

This would get them in the same business as Synergistic Research, one of my favorite companies peddling nonsense tweaks for audiophiles. I got an email this morning from the head of the LA & OC Audio Society that mentions that members will be able to experience the amazing “phono transducers” as well as other tweaks by the company. According to their website (another very slick one), this remarkable development is, “Available in two distinct strains, Type ‘I’ PHT’s add holographic realism to your recordings while Type ‘S’ are all about focus, clarity, and musicality.”

And just what is a PHT. Take a look at the picture below:

150220_sr_pht_image

Figure 1 – The small “Blue Velvet” cylinder on the top of the phono cartridge is the “device” that will cost you $200 and bring “holographic” realism to your vinyl LPs. The website describes the “Blue Velvet” PHT.

“Type ‘I’ PHT is called Blue Velvet. Its sound is ethereal, lush and holographic. You’ll definitely ‘trip out’ the first time you experience your system on Blue Velvet!”

Is it only audiophiles that fall for this stuff?

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About Author

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(26) Readers Comments

  1. ヘビ油*

    * snake oil

  2. Amazing. Well, there’s little that surprises me when talking about the gullibility of audiophiles after 40 years of interest in music and audio gear. The Machina Dynamica site always gives me a chuckle. I recall someone on a forum quite seriously asking about their cryo treated wall plates and wondering if they could really make a difference. Yes, these are the plastic covers for your power receptacles.

    • The guy at Machina Dynamica admits in his bio that he “sells snake oil”…the stuff is just so ridiculous. But he makes a lot of money from his fake products. Anyone that buys stuff from SR is helping sustain the guy’s mountain home where he tests his amazing products. But in spite of the hocus pocus, people still by the stuff and swear by it. I’ve received emails from AQ supports that assured me that the differences are amazing.

  3. I too am surprised Sony would take this route. Doesn’t seem to be much benefit to them, at first glance anyway. Thanks for the ongoing dose of reality in the audio world. Too few of you out there. Sony’s audiophile microSD card reminds me a little of the SotM SATA filter. Except I thought there may be something to the SATA filter. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Designers of high-end audio equipment include lots of filtering into their power supplies. Unless you’re in an area where the power is really bad (which is very unusual), power conditioners and filters are useless.

  4. I’m an electrical engineer and I can tell you that digital anything only truly exists in software. What people think is a digital signal in hardware is really an analog signal that is transitioning between transistors in the cut-off and saturation states. Bit errors occur when the cut-off and saturation states are not clearly reached, to keep things in simple terms, due to noise, lack of bandwidth, and other things. This can also happen in the analog-to-digital conversion, digital-to-analog conversion, and transporting the signal from source (CD, USB flash drive, hard disc drive, etc.). I saw something years ago that most people will notice a bit error ratio of 1 out of a million and all will notice 1 out of 1000. Sony is dumbing down their reasons for the product. Keeping bit errors to a minimum is their goal and they are hoping customers will pay a lot more to do that, just as people pay a lot of money just for cables and other things, which, by the way, can also reduce bit errors for the cables transporting digital signals. (Cables transporting analog audio signals are a different story.)

    • Thanks Dick…this is good explanation of digital signals passing from device or storage container to another. There are always errors…and there are specific coding methodologies to identify and reconstruct data words to repair any errors. I’d have to see some evidence that 1 bit error out of a million bits is audible or detectable…I highly doubt it.

      The assumption is that digital systems that meet specifications will deliver the same set of bits to DACs and other digital hardware…if they accomplish that, then the music will sound the same.

      • Hi all. My two dimes (haven’t read all comments, so maybe someone already commented the same). After saying clearly that I don’t (really don’t!) believe a new SD can chase change the quality of sound in a way any living being (I’m purposefully extending the range beyond humans…) can notice, MAYBE Sony is referring to the noise the SD can create to the analog elements of the player, MAYBE especially to the signal amplifier where electrical levels are still low?
        Again: Not justifying, just trying to understand.

  5. Sony joining the snake oil crew surprises me too. Guess they figure they might as well get a piece of the BS $ pie while they can too.
    Off topic I know, sorry, but I got the March copy of Stereophile in the mail yesterday. In it was announced that Sam Tellig (Tom Gillett) has resigned but no reason was given. That’s a shame as he’s one of the only writers on staff that occasionally wrote a few lines of truthfulness over the years. Also on the resignation list this month was Wes Phillips, poor health was the given reason in his case. If so I do wish him the best and hope for a return to better health soon.
    Somewhere at the bottom of all this I’m starting to detect some cracks in the foundation at Stereophile, the last surviving audiophile magazine still in hard print. I’ve got to believe you can only promote such outrageously dishonest business practices until the ax begins to fall on you.

  6. Companies like this work on the philosophy that a fool and his money are easily parted; interestingly these companies do well for themselves.

    • Did I really write “month” I meant “on the”.

      • I figured it out and made the edit. You’re welcome Dave.

  7. You should see their Atmosphere which pumps RFI into your room to create similar improvements in sound. I posit that the RFI effects your brain. I would think that a glass of brandy would do a better job with less risk to your health.

    • As I wrote, I experienced the Atmosphere at CES and have watched Peter Breuninger at his A/V Showrooms site. I heard nothing…no change. Peter was thoroughly impressed.

      • At CES 2015, SR also demonstrated their upcoming ‘superproduct’ that affects sound in the room – in a scientific triumph they said they are naming it the ‘black box’. Awesome, they simultaneously trashed the word transparent from both an audio and an advertising perspective 🙂

  8. Things that make you go “hmmmmmm…..”

  9. The author of this article writes, “and there’s not doubt that some of the reviewers at the major magazines will write a very positive review about the “easily perceptible lower noise floor” of recordings coming off of these revolutionary “premium sound cards”

    The only trouble is, if anyone does write something positive about this Sony card, it will be after having first listened to it in the context of a high resolution audio system. And as for the afore mentioned product from Synergistic Research, I’m sure there was no attention paid what-so-ever to whether or not that product works, or not. Just more baseless opinion from a bloviating blowhard. Expectation bias much? LOL

    • If the facts run counter to your own faith in audiophile accessories, then keep buying them and enjoy the “improvement” in your sound. As for the Atomosphere from SR, I spent more than 30 minutes listening to the various configurations…there was no audible change to the sound being delivered to the listener.

      Not being informed about the basics of the technologies behind digital audio, bit storage, solid state electronics is no reason to blindly buy into the world of useless audiophile tweaks.

      • Mark, I have to disagree, at CES there WAS a distinct change made when the ‘atmosphere’ device was turned on. The presenters voice became noticeably more excited, almost giddy.

        Luckily there was an improvement in the sound when he stopped talking.

        • LOL Bruce…I guess I was listening too carefully.

  10. History testifies to an eternal bull market for snake oil, swampland, and individuals wishing to diversify their portfolios with the purchase of bridges. You can hardly expect thanks from either their investment advisors or the folks who viewed themselves as clever enough to purchase these items. Despite the rumors, the Emperor did publicly thank the boy who pointed out his nudity.

  11. With a product like this, is it any surprise that Sony is bleeding billions of dollars and either closing or spinning off once-profitable and innovative divisions?

    • I guess they should have made the iPod and destroyed audio quality for everyone.

  12. ‘Only audiophiles’?? Hardly. Do you know how big the market for dietary supplements and homeopathic products is? Poor reasoning skills and the inability to think critically are common to a scary proportion of the species.

    • You’re right…but can you spend $10K on a bottle of diet supplements?

  13. Isn’t time we stop using the term “audiophile” and start using the term “audiofool” to describe people who believe these type of nonsense Sony and others are trying to peddle..

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