Thursday, December 13, 2018

Review of my new HP Spectre x360 13t Computer

This is the review I posted on HP's site for my new PC. It's a nice less-than-3lb laptop with a 4 core i7, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD and a 4k screen. Not too shabby.

"I expected solid performance from a 4 core i7, 16 GB RAM, a TB SSD, etc. Windows Pro was installed as it should be, and without too much junk (I uninstalled the Norton anti-virus virus and the Microsoft Office things and installed a stand alone Office). It runs real well, but it does not exceed my expectations in any category, so far. That may change in the long haul.

I liked the keyboard when I tried this out and I still do. The touch pad and screen are OK. The screen seems a little warm - yellow. Scaling usually works, but sometimes an icon or text or graphic won't get scaled to a size you can see. The recommended 300% scaling is about right - anything smaller and the few items that don't scale right are too small to control.

The computer can get warm in your lap, but not hot - it is acceptable. The weight is OK.
I hoped the built in audio would be better, but it is quite weak. I'm not talking about the speakers, but the Realtek chip set, which doesn't seem to support any high sampling rates or even 24 bit analog to digital. This is not in any way a high definition audio device.

I've had it not wake up correctly several times already, where I had to hard reboot it. This still seems to be a problem with Windows machines - wake up! Battery life seems pretty weak (I have a 4k screen). I don't think I could get a day's work out of a charge. Also, as expected.

I'm going to have to use this for a long time. I hope it does not disappoint. So far, just OK."

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Gun Control - Figured Out

Here's how you need to think about gun control (from someone who admittedly isn't interested in ever firing a gun let alone owning one):

Guns should be like cars. You need to register the car to put it on the road, same with the gun. It needs to be defined and registered, and tracked. Nobody can ever sell or purchase a gun that is not registered.

You have a right to have a gun, but you need to prove who you are to earn that right. You need a gun driver's license. In other words, both the owner and the gun need to be well registered and known. Both also must carry insurance or post a bond, just like with a car.

Existing guns do not need to be registered but cannot be transferred by any means or sold without registration (with criminal penalties for violations). Existing gun users DO have to register and provide proof of insurance. No exceptions. Severe penalties.

Here's the part the politicians will love: You tax the shit out of the process. That's right, if you want to own guns, you can, but you need to register them and yourself, AND you must pay substantial and regular taxes. These moneys can be used for enforcement and victim hospitalization.

The insurance industry should be happy to have so many new policies to write.

None of this infringes the right to bear arms (of the second amendment). But if you want to just repeal the second amendment, I'm fine with that. It really doesn't make sense as it is written.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Audiophile Series: Mass Storage of Data

Five words:

Seagate Backup Plus Hub 8TB

Stick those in your shopping search and get yourself all the storage you need. I got one a year ago for around $170. Next year there should be newer, larger drives.

This drive I am recommending is actually a bit on the slow side, but it is fast enough for audio or video playback. You would never use a drive like this for editing (do that on your 7200 RPM or faster hard drive or an SSD). You know you will need all that storage sooner or later and with 8TB you will never pass on a file because you don't have storage.

A storage drive does not impart anything to the sound itself, but this particularly large Seagate is very handy indeed. It includes a couple extra USB 3 ports, of which you can never get enough. It seems to sleep automatically as it should and there don't seem to be any nasty fans or anything noisy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Audiophile Series: Computer Audio Interfaces

There are a lot of great sound sources that are convenient to use from a computer. Unfortunately, the audio section of your computer may need some attention to really be audiophile quality.

Although I've used laptop, phone and tablet audio outputs with good hi-fi systems and earphones, I have also heard the differences - sometimes they just have a bit of audio distortion or imbalances that let you know you can do better.

My main setup has long included a computer, loads of great tube amps, and a collection of great audiophile loudspeakers (along with other sources). The audio interface for such a setup needs to be a real hi-fi device. I have used just a few. I had a Roland Edirol FA-101 firewire interface for a long time. I really did not need everything it did but it sounded really good.

When the FA-101finally died (I left it powered on for years) I picked up a Behringer UMC404HD. I still wanted multi-channel capabilities and studio inputs and wanted to try using a USB interface. It is a well built device and works great. I also picked up another Edirol FA-66 for real cheap on ebay, just because I could. I use it if I need more inputs or outputs.

For my laptop based system I got another Behringer, the UMC202HD. This interface sounds great. The 202 is my recommended interface for stereo. You can buy one second hand on ebay (use caution) for $40 or I think I saw Behringer selling them directly for $60 brand new. I have not messed with high end audio over a laptop HDMI output, but it may hold promise.

Upgrading to a Berhinger UMC 202 HD is a no-brainer. You will thank me.

Audiophile Series: BD Player for playing SACD ISO's

SACD ISO's can be made using certain rare PlayStation machines that have been isolated from updates. Many disc images are available. They can be played over PC's, directly on some gear, and burned to DVD media.

There are internet guides available on how to play SACD-ISOs from a PC - I may backfill and write my own some time. In the mean time you are on your own. Using a PC involves several components and some minor audio compromises but a PC sounds very good if you use decent gear (a nice audio interface).

You can also play the images directly from some devices that play DSD, but I haven't played with those. [Edit 2018. I have played with these and they sound good too. Not better in any way.]  I expect they are touchy and may want the files split.

SACD ISO's created by ripping via a PlayStation can be burned to writeable DVD media and played like regular SACD's on certain players. I recommend the Sony BD players. They can easily be found on ebay. Both my S580 my S470 were in the $35 range.

The digital to analog converters and analog outputs of the Sony BD players are quite good, but they get you stereo only. To use in surround mode, you need to go over HDMI.

The list is very specific. Although similar or later models might work, it is doubtful. These do work:

•Cambridge Audio Azur 650BD
•Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD
•Denon DBP-1611UD
•Denon DBP-2012UD
•Denon DVD-2910
•Denon DVD-3910
•Denon DVD-5910
•Denon DVD-A11
•Denon DVD-A1XVA
•Marantz DV7600
•Marantz UD5005
•NAD M55
•NAD T585
•Pioneer BDP-140
•Sony BDP-S180
•Sony BDP-S370
•Sony BDP-S370/BX37
•Sony BDP-S380
•Sony BDP-S470
•Sony BDP-S480
•Sony BDP-S570
•Sony BDP-S580
•Sony BDP-S780
•Sony BDP-S870
•Sony BDP-S970
•Sony BDV-E870
•Yamaha BD-S1067

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Rock Hall's Power of Rock Experience - A Review

The Rock Hall replaced the "hall of fame video" with a new projection and audio system and a new film. The old film was a recap of each years' inductees. If you sat through the whole thing is was pretty long (an hour+, I think), but the video was pretty cool and the audio outstanding.

The new system includes new screens that move, fake lights to shine on the audience' faces, fake speakers that light up, rumble seats (seats that vibrate), and a very short video (not even 15 minutes, I don't think). It's rubbish.

The new setup has little I would salvage if I were fixing it. The seating is just OK, but it could stay. The screens are stupid - their movement does nothing to enhance the experience - they need to go. The video is crap - show anything else. The sound is OK - I wonder if they maybe just used the same old stuff - they were fine - and added some new rumble to the mess. Keep the sound but get rid of the horrible fake speakers with light.

I am embarrassed by the whole thing. Fortunately the rest of the museum has not completely lost its way, but this exhibit is crap.

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Cleveland, City of Light, ...

... City of Magic"
- Randy Newman

This nifty resource lists bigger buildings in the city:

Good reference for your perusal.

You were expecting Paul McCartney?

Yes, I guess I was. I should know better than to set my sights so high.

Brian Wilson and his band of very accomplished players came to the Hard Rock Rocksino stage in Northfield (Cleveland) Ohio on April 22, 2017. I had seen the Beach Boys several times over the years, but never with Brian Wilson. Having seen some of the recent videos and heard the great Smile album that was re-recorded (by this band?), I was expecting a high-brow musical experience with this, the Pet Sounds tour. What I got was closer to a Mike Love Beach Boys show without the charismatic front man.

The sound was the worst I have heard in this venue. The kick drum pretty much drowned out anything else. Everything else was just OK, but with the kick booming, who could hear it. There were some good vocal and instrumental performances that got ruined.

The song selection was very much just popular Beach Boys plus Pet Sounds. I was hoping for a greater experience from my first (and only) Brian Wilson show, but what I got was just OK.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Nicky Hopkins’ Greatest Hits

  1. Blues De Luxe (Jeff Beck - Truth)
  2. Gettin In Tune (really, all over Who’s Next)
  3. Edward the Mad Shirt Grinder
  4. Loving Cup - the Glimmer Twins
  5. Drowned - The Who
  6. Edward’s Thrump Up
  7. Highland Fling
  8. Volunteers of America
  9. Baby’s House - Steve Miller