The shipping company showed up Monday to haul off a pallet of boxes containing my Music and Audio book, a suitcase full of AIX Records discs, and a couple promotional roll up banners. There was a time when I simply stuffed a small playback system into one Samsonite suitcase and 50 pounds worth of discs in a second one and flew Southwest to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest or the AXPONA show. However, the addition of the 880-page book and Blu-ray disc have forced some changes — 10 books to a box and multiple 36 pounds boxes need to get to the shows too.
The Capitol Audio Fest
When I arrive at the Gary Gill’s Capitol Audio Fest located in the Hilton Washington DC/ Rockville Hotel & Executive Meeting Center (1750 Rockville Pike Rockville, MD, 20852-1699 301-468-1100), the pallet should have been delivered to my table area in the hallway outside of Plaza III on the 3rd floor. I’m looking forward to exhibiting at the CAF. It’s been a few years since I’ve participated and I’ve always enjoyed Gary’s event. He’s been kind enough to allow me to present a seminar at 3 pm Friday afternoon titled, “High End Audio: Hi-Res Reality Check and the Move to HiFi Streaming”. If you’re in the area and planning on coming by the show, please add my presentation to your schedule and stop by the booth. I’ll be selling copies of the book at a steep discount.
Informed audiophiles recognize that high-quality streaming and “high-resolution” music downloads have replaced optical discs as the primary music delivery formats. It’s true that a vinyl LPs still occupy a large portion of the audiophile market (for reasons that I honestly have trouble comprehending) but if convenience, fidelity, and portability are important in your listening life, then digital music is the only choice.
A Simple But Audiophile Quality Music Server
I used to bring an OPPO Blu-ray player, 21″ video screen, Benchmark DAC2 HGC, and two pairs of OPPO PM-1 headphones with me whenever I wanted to demo the albums in the AIX Records catalog. Packing up the required equipment required an entire suitcase — there was no room for additional discs! But after seeing the way my friend Todd Garfinkle at MA Recordings demos his tracks and the nifty setup at the Benchmark booth at the recent RMAF, I’ve decided to leave my aging OPPO BDP-105 and the rest of the setup at home. This time I’ll be able to pull up any track from any of my albums on my new Apple iPad Mini and play them in native 96/24 high-resolution through the amazing Benchmark DAC3 B and HPA4 and ultimately to a set of PM-1 OPPO planar magnetic headphones. AIX Records will be demoing our 2-channel high-resolution tracks using a portable music server.
I’m thinking about doing a “box opening” and “how to” video to show everyone how easy — and affordable — it is to assemble a state-of-the-art high-resolution personal playback system. The convenience and sound quality of this little system is really stunning! This is what I’ll have at the CAF and the following weekend at the New York Audio Show.
Notice the two stacked blue lights on the Benchmark DAC3 B. This indicates that the music coming from the iPad is really high-resolution — 96 kHz/24-bits. The digital to analog conversion is handled at the DAC3 B and then passed to the HPA4 using two very short XLR cables (nothing expensive or exotic required). The features of the HPA4 are two numerous to list in this article, but I can attest to the fact that the folks at Benchmark have developed another winning piece of hardware. The sound is clear, warm, and transparent. Apparently, Benchmark can’t build these things fast enough to keep up demand. You could spend much more and not approach the fidelity of this little setup.
As for VOX, I’m not sure this is the software that I will ultimately settle on but it is doing the job in the short run. I’ve reached out to Audirvana (which I was impressed with previously) and to my friends at Amarra. I used iTunes to do the transfers. First, from my native hi-res WAV files to iTunes and then to the iPad. There were a few hiccups with album art (metadata on WAV files doesn’t work through iTunes) and other metadata, but overall I’m ready for the CAF with a new setup.
Hi-Res Streaming and Downloads
My own investigations in to high-resolution streaming and downloads will find its way into the proposed book, A User Guide to Streaming, Downloads, and Personal Audio. If you’re interested in signing up for the mailing list, please do. This book will be funded like the last one. I’m preparing a Kickstarter campaign which will launch in early 2020. The steepest discounts will be available to those who back the campaign early. There will be other perks as well.
A Couple of Very Nice Comments
Until a couple of weeks ago, there were 28 customers that have ordered and received every album I have produced at AIX Records. Really! It started when I received a call from the CFO of K-Tel records. One of his associates played Laurence Juber’s Guitar Noir album for him and he flipped out. He was so impressed that he decided to purchase a copy of every recording in my collection. I believe it was about 60 albums at the time. He advised me to put a “BUY ALL” button on the first page of my site. LOL.
And now there’s a 29th individual that owns every AIX Recording. We were introduced by Fred Thal (the ultimate guru for analog tape decks – read about his quest for better analog to digital tape transfers by clicking here). Ken lives back east and has assembled an amazing home audio/video system with speakers that he designed and built himself. He purchased a few initial discs, auditioned them in his amazing surround playback system, and then wrote the following email:
I just put on Ernest Ranglin——Total immersion in sound!! You just introduced me to a completely new phenomenon in music. I usually close my eyes when things sound this good but the video compels me to keep them open. I feel as if I’m in a small club listening to a great group. The only thing missing at the end of the evening will be a check and tip.
The next order was for every recording on the AIX Records label. He’s lucky number 29! Thanks Ken.
And finally, this email from an audiophile/electrical engineer from Denmark:
Let me take the opportunity to comment briefly: I love your book! Really seems like the “audio bible“. It’s a big book so of course I didn’t finish it yet – I am a hobbyist audiophile so I’m in no hurry. As an electric engineer it always surprised me to see people obsessed with old analog tech like tape and LPs when the CD is clearly so much better (not to mention high-res PCM).
However I thought to myself “are those cable people on to something?”. Sooo nice to see you bring common sense and science into the equation. Really also love your explanations and experience from the professional recording environment. I was mildly shocked to learn how little quality you are allowed to produce for the high volume labels.
Before buying your book I already read articles by John Siau and Jim Collinson (Linn) about MQA. Always amazes me to learn just how lying and dishonest people can be (in this case guys from Meridian & others): how can they even look at themselves in the mirror? Thanks for calling out this scam.
Luckily I still have many more pages to read – until now it’s been such a joy that I even have come around to listen to the files (well I also need and want to upgrade my equipment to be able to play those high-res files).
Again thanks here from Denmark 🇩🇰 (Europe) for your huge effort and work to write this book Best wishes, Palle
Special Halloween Discount Specials
In the spirit of the holiday and in appreciation for the encouraging comments discussed above, I’ve added a coupon to both the Music and Audio Guide and AIX Records web stores.
Use MAAG191016 during check out from the Music and Audio Guide page for a 50% discount on the physical paperback book. And you can use AIX191101 on the AIX Records website to receive 24% off all of our recordings. Thanks for your continued support.
The New York Audio Show
I’ll write about the New York Audio Show next time.