Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is That All You Got?

As a hi-fi enthusiast I am a magnet for good gear - it somehow finds me. My latest acquisition is an interesting little amplifier, a Carver M-1.5t, picked up for so little money it was a crime. This amp was an existing Carver design, tweaked to emulate a Mark Levinson ML-2. Knowing that Carver was very concerned about making practical amps that could be used where you would use tube amps like the ML-2, I figured I had a great test bed for it. This turned out to be very true.

My best speakers (and I don't even know how many great sets of speakers I have, but these are my best) are Acoustat Model 3 electrostatic panels. I've had these for a number of years. When I first got them, I tried every amp I had, starting with the biggest. All failed miserably, with solid state amps going into clipping without producing much volume (most popping like mad). I finally settled on a set of two Peavey Classic 120/120 rack mount amps (making 240/240!). These babies have 8 6L6 tubes in each amp. The 8 big tubes could not make an Acoustat get really loud, but they were loud enough to sound sweet and I have lots of other stuff to reinforce the sound.

Carver says the M-1.5t produces 600 watts in each channel when the max headroom light comes on (up to 750  watts into one channel). This max indicator was lit within the first 30 seconds of my test. My tests are incomplete, and all were done completely by ear, but this is what I heard:

  • More volume than the two Peavey 120/120's - not a lot, but more
  • Slightly less distortion than the Peavey's (that's not good - the Peaveys distort a lot when driven hard - the Carver seems to distort quite audibly as well)
  • The Carver definitely sounded like a transistor amp compared to the Peavey (duh - 20 output transistors vs. 16 output tubes) 

This last point will take some better testing to see if it is really true. It seemed like a very simple bright versus warm, classic tube argument, but I need to level the field and use more similar sources. I definitely like the idea of getting more volume out of my flagship speakers and I am so proud of how they took 1200 watts from the Carver and seemed to say, "Is that all you got?" This testing is tough work but somebody's got to do it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Dodged the iPhone 4 Bullet ...

... and now I think I am cured of iPhone desire for good. To think I nearly bought one on blind faith, but I was saved when I decided to wait for a white one.

After actually handling one, I decided there isn't anything compelling about it. Besides the much publicized issues of non-functional antenna design, weak blue tooth support and a flaky proximity sensor, I have these issues:

  • Boxy, uncomfortable shape - despite being smaller, it doesn't feel smaller (inversely, though, despite being heavier than my 3G, it feels lighter)
  • The display is good, but not so good I have to have it. Over-hyped.
  • Bogus multitasking - this is no way to operate a computer. How stupid. 
  • Still not the strongest camera.
There are lots of things that are still issues like the lack of removable media, lousy bluetooth functionality, and being tied to the Apple ecosystem. Were it not for jailbreaking, the whole iPhone experience would be more like an iPod toy than a hand held pocket computer (which is what I really wanted in the first place). The jailbreaking community is the best thing about iPhones, and from what I've seen, there isn't much of a parallel in the Android world. When the Windows 7 phone OS comes out, I think it should quickly eclipse the Android user community (wishful thinking). 

All this has led me to be happy with what I have for the next few months and see if something better comes along. The iPhone 4 now looks like it would have been a mistake. In the mean time, I bought a little 2.2 pound net book to play with. I know a lot of techies have tried and abandoned the net book genre, but I'll give it a try anyway. My consolation toy. Thanks to jailbreaking I will be able to tether it to my iPhone with MyWi (not that I ever really need to).