Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Goodbye to an Old ...

... well I was going to say "friend," but it's really just a refrigerator, so friend is going too far.

In September 1974 I was a freshman at Ohio University. My first week there I decided a fridge was imperative, so I headed to a place where they rented them. I can't remember if rent was $40/year or $40/quarter, but I do remember that you could buy one of the well used ones for $45 - as-is, no warranty (or maybe a very short warranty). That was a no brainer for me. I bought it. For two years it served me well, and for the following two years I lent it out to friends.

Since then, it languished in the basements of the three houses I have owned since 1980. Most of that time it has been plugged in and running. The last 15 years or so it has been set on a very low setting to keep beer barely cold, the way I like it.

When I went to check on my stash of killer beers today, it was very warm in there. The compressor seems to have been running continuously for a while and it was very hot. I will try (not too hard) to fix it, but I think my old friend may have finally given up the ghost.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another Use for AVCHD - Hi-Fi

If you are coming into this cold, you might first read my other two posts about AVCHD.

Some audiophiles recently started burning AVCHD discs instead of using DVD-Audio or the LPCM capabilities of DVD-Video.

DVD-Audio and PCM on DVD Video both allow some pretty high quality audio. With DVD-Audio, you get two channels of 24 bit 192khz or 6 channels (5.1) of 24 bit 92khz and lossless compression. PCM on DVD video also goes to 24 bit 96khz, but they take a lot more space and I am not sure if anyone did much with multi-channel PCM on DVD-Video for this reason.

Lots of people have been using those formats for original recordings, vinyl rips and such, but now we have some AVCHD's starting to show up. This is somewhat lost on me because of equipment limitations. My Blu-ray player is in my living room home theater which has Pioneer/Bose audio which is very much inferior to what I use for hi-fi listening in my studio. So far I haven't gotten my studio PC to play these either (although I thought it might be able to with the right software). This will probably lead me to getting a Blu-ray for the studio.

I am exploring tools for authoring this content: This may be a good way to go for the future. It's nice to have so many options, but I just recently authored my first DVD-Audio (of a nifty vinyl rip I made myself of The Three Sounds "Soul Symphony"). Now on to the next format!

Lastly, I will share some somewhat related links that are cool. The first is some analysis of various formats including vinyl, and the second is a look at DVD-A vs. SACD.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

9-9-9 Beatles Remastered - Criticism - They Got it Wrong

Today the long awaited remastered Beatles CD's were released. The new versions are not an improvement on the versions released in the 80's, unless you were looking for compressed dynamics and some tweaks in the bass equalization. Like many CD's being released today these days, the new Beatles releases were made to sound louder - they are less dynamic so they don't sound quieter than other recordings.

This of course is not a good thing. The one thing CD's can do well is dynamic range, but lately many CD's are all about being loud. Ultimately this will help kill the CD market and further deaden peoples senses, so they can be happy with horrible compressed audio (MP3, etc.). As far as the bass, I think I could have tweaked in a little bottom if I thought it was missing. I do not understand the whole mono thing (the new releases are available in both stereo and mono). These recordings for the most part were originally stereo, so what's with mono? I want more channels, not less.

My listening tests compared the new CD's with the old ones as well as with vinyl and some oddball Beatles releases like a 20 bit HDCD of Let it Be (Naked) and the Love DVD-Audio (remixed by Sir George Martin and son). As you may know, I am quite the audio snob, with some serious listening gear (electrostatic speakers, tube amps, etc.). I am also a long time Beatles fan - I have purchased pretty much the whole cycle at least two or three times.

So I would be lying if I said I didn't want these new CD's to sound great and jump out of my speakers like the Stones and Kinks and many other old rock groups' high resolution remixes. The regular 16 bit CD's can sound very good too. I wanted these to be good. But they don't offer any improvement for me. In fact, although I may change my mind after more listening, for now I prefer the old CD releases over these new ones.

I did not do any empirical analysis of the new versions of any of the tracks (maybe I could suck them into Sound Forge and measure the dynamic range - for now I used my ears). I also have a strong prejudice in favor of vinyl. Nine times out of ten the listening experience from vinyl (even somewhat worn) beats CD's, HDCD's, SACD's and DVD-Audio. It doesn't matter which digital media is used, vinyl is almost always significantly better. Remember, the resolution of analog signals is continuous, so it has infinitely higher resolution than anything digital. The best digital sound comes from DSD (SACD), but it's still not analog.

I imagine a lot of people will disagree with me, but time will tell as other audiophiles weigh in on the subject. I am sorry if I sounded harsh, I am just trying to steer you readers towards the best sound.

If you have the vinyl, play that, and enjoy the best there is. If you have the old CD's, you don't need the new ones. If you have neither, you can get the new (and hardly improved) ones or seek out old versions. Have they inadvertently created a new market for the vintage Beatles CD releases? Wouldn't that be something.