Hearing SHARP in Hi-Res Wireless
On Thursday evening the Japanese electronics giant Sharp held a party with THX at the Video & Audio Center in Santa Monica, California. Tom Campbell hosted the event and there were representatives from Sharp as well as THX. I was there representing high-resolution audio and brought along a couple of sample discs and a USB stick with a variety of tracks from my catalog. And I played them in the new SD-WH1000U “Wireless High-Resolution Audio Player”, which was set up in the rear of the store. The name of the place is the Video & Audio Center but flat panel displays dominate the place. They don’t even had a closed off room to do any critical listening.
The system consisted of the Sharp unit and two “bridge” units hooked up to an NAD amplifier and a couple of high-end Revel speakers. I didn’t bother to get the model numbers of the audio system…sorry. But I can tell you that it sound quite good. I met David Fisher, the Senior Manager of Audio Products from Sharp, at the event. It turned out that we had met previously because he had all of my recent sampler discs as I approached him just prior to the start of the party. He also had a USB stick from HDtracks and some postcards promoting the HDtracks free sampler.
David assured me that he would send me a unit very soon so that I could review it for this website. The SD1000U’s claim to fame is that it is wireless AND high-resolution. By high-res, Sharp means that it can play full fidelity high-resolution PCM audio files up to 96 kHz 24-bits in FLAC or WAV format as well as DSD (it didn’t say at which multiple), Windows Media Files and even MP3 files. The piece is compatible with DVD-Video (not DVD-Audio?), SACD, Blu-ray (including 3D) and DivX Plus HD discs. It can decode and transmit via HDMI and HDMI 2.0m 4K UHD video, Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS HD Master Audio. Of course, there are both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs as well.
This is a high-end piece…$5K for the main component and $1500 for each of the wireless receivers (the “bridges”). This fact pushes this unit into the serious audiophile category. David told me that you wouldn’t find this at Best Buy or Fry’s Electronics. They want retailers that know their customers and high-end audio. The Video & Audio Center is the perfect place…although as I said, they really need a dedicated closed room to give the best demonstrations.
And there were demonstrations happening all evening as David navigated through a variety of commercial releases from HDtracks and some of my recordings using the mobile app on his iPhone. The first few selections that he played were well known favorites. We heard “Graceland” by Paul Simon, which was recorded and released in August of 1986. It’s a beautiful album and won the 1987 Grammy for Album of the Year. Engineer Roy Halee, one of my favorite audio engineers, recorded it on a 24-track analog tape machine. The track sounded gorgeous on the Sharp player.
David also played a tune by Louis Armstrong and a couple of others…it’s always nice to demo tracks that the audience will know. But when he played “Mujaka” by The Latin Jazz Trio or “Lowlands” by Hanna McEuen their player produced sounds that eclipsed the older tracks. People heard crystal clear highs and real world dynamic range. I was impressed that the full fidelity of the tracks was being wirelessly reproduced at the stereo speakers. I can’t wait to get my hands on the Sharp SD-WH1000U.
I’ll write a full review soon.
3 thoughts on “Hearing SHARP in Hi-Res Wireless”
In Saturday’s blog, you mentioned, ” People heard crystal clear highs and real world dynamic range”.
I’d like to comment on dynamic range- real world or otherwise.
As you know, well designed electronic record/reproduce systems: mics (further comment on this) and their preamps, mixing console preamp/output amp stages, A-to-D/D-to-A and power amps, etc. all surpass speaker systems-at least as far as may be possible in available off the shelf systems or that I’m aware of.
Its true that speakers exist that can generate a whisper all the way up-to more than 120 dB. If we measure speaker output as we do, the aforementioned electronics, there is more to going from soft to loud than level.
In amplification circuits, how we get there is equally important, such as impulse response and linearity. Good electronics can produce square wave signatures that show proper tracking of impulse with varying start and stop durations, their rise and fall accuracy and degrees of phase shift. Also, that excellent performance must encompass this ability at many different levels and frequencies across the desired range.
If we take out the room anomaly and measure the best drivers available under anechoic conditions: straight driver test, filtered passively/electronically or multi-driver systems- passive or active, etc., we see that the actual output response would show that even average amplification circuits are far more accurate and that’s not even considering distortion performance.
Assuming that even precision mics are akin to speaker driver behavior, in that a diaphragm/membrane transducer must be subject to same conditions more or less so, if we omit recordings with mics., we’re still left with the speaker system issue.
Thus, the speaker system is still far off from producing accurate transmission of audio electronic information.
Even though all of the above may be a given, what has your research revealed that show attempts to improve what we use to actually hear audio production besides JBL’s new highly acclaimed system? Even in that design, JBL is still subject to the physical laws of such systems.
Benchmark Media’s new power amp states that their new design removes the last bottle-neck in the audio chain for signal-to-noise and dynamic range performance (my translation). John Siau definitely understands audio circuitry and I hope that someday he may be able to bring to market the real last true bottle-neck in the audio chain or at least be part of a team with other researchers- as was done with THX and the new Benchmark amp. BTW, it seems natural that you would be auditioning their new amp!
As a final note, its interesting considering all of the above, that speakers systems do satisfy us enough in order to provide a workable audio industry so, I’m going to make an assumption based on many years of audio/music research, experience and as a violinist, that if it were possible to produce an air motion transducer (speaker system) that is as accurate in acoustic space as the best electronics, it might prove to be very disappointing. That may seem odd but, until proven otherwise, a perfect air motion transducer, as determined and measured to meet/exceed the same specs as audio circuits, would reveal the true nature of our accurate audio signals as surprising and not necessarily good or without further comment as to what might be necessary for more realistic performance. This is surely debatable.
Looking forward to your comments please and thanks for your daily blog.
Thanks for the considerable contribution. I think you’re right…the last great link in the chain of accurate audio recording and reproduction is the speaker. Getting the complete range of frequencies to match the signals captured by the microphones and all of the timing aspects (transients etc) bring the fidelity of a system ever closer to the real event. However, it’s also important to realize that recreating a live musical event is not a goal held by many musicians and producers. Last evening, I set up a session in my room and the R&B producers simply wanted loudness and lot of low bass. It was interesting that they chose to listen to their tracks using my JBL film system and Profunder sub.
Mark wrote: “..it’s also important to realize that recreating a live musical event is not a goal held by many musicians and producers”.
And yet many component reviewers use off-the-shelf music to determine how good the component under scrutiny is. Of course, unless the potential purchaser creates their own recordings, off-the-shelf music is all that component will ever see.
I think the problem with loudspeakers is (a) their directionality and (b) drive unit mass (and I suppose (c) distortion due to differing break-up modes, crossover etc); I noted a few weeks ago that one respondent wrote how he could always easily differentiate between recorded and live music when walking by a room emanating music. Given that he would be well off the speakers axis, this is hardly surprising. If and when we get a truly point source speaker (the Quad Electrostatic has a stab at being a point source, but is still highly directional) the is it live or is it recorded debate might get a lot more interesting (with suitable material, of course).