The Kickstarter campaign for my second book on high-end audio streaming, downloads, and personal audio successfully reach its financial goal a few days ago. Thanks to everyone that backed the campaign! Almost 300 people decided to support this project and my efforts to advance audio knowledge. I’m very grateful.
There are only 8 days left to take advantage of the steep discounts and special rewards on A User Guide to Streaming, Downloads, and Personal Audio, bundles with the first book Music and Audio, and 5 albums from the award-winning AIX Records catalog. And I just added a “stretch goal” to further entice potential backers or to convince those who have already signed up to increase their pledges. I will provide a free AIX Records sampler (either disc or downloads) to all backers if we reach $15,000 — and we’re not that far away.
If you’ve been waiting for the right time to make a pledge, don’t wait any longer. Now that we’ve reached the goal, I’m committed to writing the book. Thanks for your support.
Systems Are Not Good Enough?
I’ve refrained from commenting on audio-related FB groups whenever the topic of cables is rears its ugly head — and not a week goes without an online cable debate. It’s just not worth the time to respond and try to explain why cables are not a major determining factor in the sound of your system. I’m not sure where or when Max discovered my thoughts on cables but today I received and unsolicited email — with attachments — restating the reason why rational, informed audiophiles fail to appreciate the value of $3000 RCA interconnects or $4000 power cords. Here’s his complete email:
“Hi Mark, One reason that you and many audiophiles can’t hear the difference between CD and Hi Res is because their systems are not good enough. The mistakes made are universal. One is the speaker cables. See attached. Regards, Max”
Why is it that when all else fails, those supporting the myth of “high-end” and high cost cables resort to this very tired retort. If we don’t hear the claimed dramatic differences in fidelity, the new levels of blackness, the high-frequency extension, the increased sound stage, or the new musical dimensionality, then our systems aren’t good enough, our ears are failing, or we’re biased against their “truth.” To be honest, I’m over it.
As you might expect, Max owns and operates a company that designs and sells crazy expensive interconnects, isolation products, and other high-end audio components. His product descriptions are a mix of techno jargon (“cryogenic treatment” and “fractal” processing) and ridiculous reviews (“…my music is clearer, faster and with a greater depth of soundstage, and extension of low and high frequencies.”) Does anyone really believe using cables to EQ is the right approach?
He was kind enough to attach some white papers that details an experimental method for testing speakers cables. Max states,“The results of this experiment may embarrass those cable sound deniers who have hindered the advance of Hi Fi for the past 50 years, and hence may allow the quality of high-fidelity sound reproduction to advance.”
I’m one of those cable deniers and I don’t believe that I’ve “hindered the advance of HiFi.” Quite the contrary. I’m confident that my own work has helped advance our hobby, inform audiophiles, saved people thousands of dollars, and presented a mostly balanced view of what maters and what you can skip. You can skip expensive cables.
Is Streaming from a NAS the same as TIDAL or Amazon Streaming?
A reader responded privately to my last post introducing high-end audio streaming. He asked if I would consider a NAS (networked attached server) and his network to be an example of streaming audio. Is the mere transference of digital data from one physical location or device to another streaming or not? In the case of one’s own LAN (local area network) where the origination and storage of the music files is on your own devices, it’s probably best not to consider that music streaming in the same sense that listening to TIDAL or Amazon Music HD streaming music services are.
First, the content on your NAS is yours. If you get cut off from the Internet backbone, you’re still going to be enjoying your tracks. And there’s a good chance that you ripped your aging collection of CDs yourself using bit perfect software like dBpoweramp. You also know exactly what the specifications of your audio files, be they 44.1 kHz/16-bit Red Book PCM, DSD 256, or some “high-resolution” specification. Do you know the specifications of the audio that Amazon Music HD or Apple Music stream? They are not streaming the native PCM or DSD streams, that’s for sure. Even if their marketing materials profess that we’re receiving “CD quality or HD Music,” we know that there are codecs (like MQA) standing between us and the original masters that WB, SONY, or Universal licensed to TIDAL or Qobuz. As because the music is streaming, we have to trust the specifications provided on the front of our hardware or software players. But can you really trust a company that elevated CD spec to HD status with the wave of their corporate hand?
I have captured the native streams from some of these services and have analyzed them. The fidelity coming through most is no better than Red Book spec. It’s probably a good thing that my HD-Audio Challenge II confirms that audiophiles cannot perceive differences between CD and high-res audio. What IS critically important is that the streaming services do no harm to the native files they receive from the labels. And some do. If we can reliably count on 44.1 kHz/16-bit PCM fidelity, we should be happy.
Next time, I’ll look upstream at the masters that the labels are providing to their licensees. Does fidelity in equal fidelity out?