Going “retro”….

For the past few months I have noticed something: Most of my everyday listening is with a portable rig, either at my desk at work or during the daily commute. When I am at home, while I have my entire 800+ CD-collection ripped to lossless files and a whole dedicated setup for listening to it (dedicated Mac Mini with Audiolab M-DAC etc.) I was actually not using it a lot. It’s not that I don’t like the sound, but it is a bit of a faff having to turn everything on, wait for the computer to start up and then having to either turn on the TV to navigate or get out an iPad/iPod/iPhone to use the remote app etc.

After this (slow) realisation, I started thinking back to when I started playing music on my own. My first “real” system was a simple Harman/Kardon CD-player and integrated amp and I lived happily with that for nearly ten years. There was nothing to wait for, just two on-switches and a play-button and then there was music, and there was a bit more “tactility” to the process overall (if not much). I don’t think I’ll ever really go back to the CDs, but I have actually – slowly but surely – started playing a lot more vinyl at home.

Some would say that I have just succumbed to the first “wave” of accumulated nostalgia when you reach your mid-thirties, but it’s not as if I have a long history of actually using vinyl records. Of course I am old enough to know how they work ( 😉 ) and I can remember playing records when I was younger on my parents’ stereo. But when I started buying my own music in the early nineties, CD was already the format of choice (and cassettes were still common as well, mainly for exchanging music with friends). The only friends that bought vinyl were a couple with older siblings that had turntables and even they switched to CDs very quickly. As a result, I’ve never really had that much affection for the vinyl format so I do challenge the notion that this is just misty-eyed nostalgia at work 🙂

To add to that, the turntable obviously has its share of downsides – I had for instance mostly forgotten just how short the side of a record seems when you are working on something and just playing music in the background. I had also forgotten just how much dust a record is capable of attracting and how annoying scratches can be. My turntable is nothing special (a simple Project Debut Carbon albeit with an upgraded cartridge and an aftermarket plexiglass platter), but even so – it sounds very good and it is definitely more of an “experience” or “occasion” to put on a record, lower the stylus and wait for music to come out of the speakers.

So, there we go – I said it: For me this hobby isn’t really about sound quality (at least not only) but also about the experience. Blasphemy to some audiophiles, but a revelation to others maybe? If nothing else, I guess it provides an explanation (or excuse…) for why I continue to design, build and buy a lot of gear that I may never really get to use 😀

vinylaction

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Happy 2015!!

Another year gone, another time to make a quick status 🙂

As I have written about a couple of times during the year, I am still a bit overwhelmed with the number of people clicking their way here. The number of page views passed 64k a few days ago which is quite a big step up from the 15k at the end of last year. The download count for the project files is now well over 1300 as well and I really hope to continue this trend in 2015 – workload and bank manager permitting of course 😀

Now, things are probably going to be a bit quiet here for the next couple of weeks as I head to China on Friday. Mostly just a sightseeing holiday, but hopefully with a chance to do some audio-related shopping as well. Fortunately my X-mas break did give me a chance to (nearly) finish some builds that I will be showing over the next weeks/months. A big milestone was reached when I finally managed to case one of my RIAAs, which means I go into 2015 with a working vinyl rig – very nice!

In other news I received my first custom-machined Modushop front panels from Schaeffer/FPX last week. They turned out very well, so it seems my favourite hobby has found yet another way of ruining me which I will show soon. Also, as you have probably noticed from the last few month’s updates I still have plenty of half-finished projects to carry on into 2015, so in case you were worried there’s no real shortage of content for the blog 🙂

For now, thanks a lot for reading and all the best for 2015 to everyone of you 🙂

50k and counting…

Regular readers here may remember that I posted when the blog reached 15k page views just before New Year’s and 30k views in mid-May. Now the next milestone is up – 50000 page views since I started writing!

I am still a little baffled (and humbled) by this, not to mention the fact that the blog has been visited by readers from more than 100 countries all over the world – 103 to be exact (!). Also, the project files I have posted have been downloaded a total of more than 1000 times, which hopefully means that at least a few people out there have built some great stuff based on my designs 😀

However, as good as all of this might be, the best part about running this blog is actually that I get a chance to come in contact with so many people from around the world that share my hobby. A big thank you to everyone and I hope you’ll keep checking in – I’ll do my best to keep posting new stuff 🙂

Thirty thousand and counting…

Another milestone of sorts: Yesterday this blog reached 30k pageviews, which means twice as many views as in the beginning of the year 🙂 The views come from all over the world, more precisely 90(!) different countries according to the WP stats.

I am very grateful that so many people from all over the world look at my projects and I will do my very best to keep posting updates. My job still keeps me very busy (I am in fact writing this from a hotel room in a different country and not from home 🙂 ), but even if the frequency of posts is a bit reduced compared to when I started there is still plenty of stuff in the works 🙂

Until those things are ready to show – all the best to all of you out there! 😀

Another upgrade…

When I bought the Beyerdynamic T1 headphones around Christmas (see this post) I posted that my next unnecessary headphone upgrade would have to be a set of electrostatic “earspeakers” from Stax. That was mostly a joke since I didn’t really expect that I would buy another set of headphones and certainly not a pair of electrostatics. However, things change and so a birthday, a bonus and a trip to Japan later and – lo and behold – here they are 😀

Currently I am powering them from a second-hand Woo Audio WEE that I picked up from head-fi, but of course the hunt for a more permanent (DIY) amplifier solution has now started 🙂

stax-1

Headphones ahoy!

I first started listening to headphones around 20 years ago. I was living with my parents and I did not have room for big speakers, I couldn’t afford to buy really good ones and I couldn’t play music on speakers when I wanted to anyway. Headphones wasn’t really a choice but a necessity at that point if I wanted to listen to music. I got a good pair of Sennheiser headphones for my birthday when I turned 15 and quickly noticed that they sounded much better than the speakers I could afford at the time (I actually still use them for my computer).

This realisation meant that when I first started building DIY audio stuff, headphone amp designs were an obvious choice because of their simplicity and ease of building and the first DIY audio forums that I started frequenting on the internet were also headphone-related, mainly headwize.com (which is now defunct as a discussion forum) and head-fi.org (which is still very active and has thousands of members worldwide).

Fast forward to the present and although I don’t really need headphones anymore at home, they are still an indispensable part of my audio and DIY hobby. In fact I have already got a sizable collection of headphones for virtually all imaginable occasions and uses, so I need another pair about as much as a goldfish needs a new bicycle 🙂 However, just because I don’t need more headphones doesn’t mean that I can’t trick myself into buying another pair occasionally and that’s exactly what I did now 😀

As with most of my audio-related spending the cost per purchase seems to be going steadily up and this time is no exception – it’s a pair of Beyerdynamic T1s. This is Beyer’s range topping model and although I found a good offer from Amazon to ease the pain a little they are still priced at an absolutely eyewatering sum considering it is a pair of headphones… 🙂 The T1 is a semi-open, high impedance (600 ohm) design. The high impedance means that an amplifier is mandatory, but that’s obviously just an excuse to build a couple of more of those so that’s fine 😉

Sound quality out of the box is very good, comfort is quite good although these are (as noted in several reviews) pretty heavy. Build quality is excellent but more in a “solid engineering” way than the “pure luxury” way of some of the competition though: The cable is a standard Sommer cable and the plug is a standard Neutrik – very good, but not especially luxurious. More impressions coming in due course, but right now I imagine I’ll be listening to these quite happily for a long time (while browsing the Stax range of electrostatic headphones obviously 😉 )

t1-1

Changing of the guard…

Normally I wouldn’t really post updates about my non-DIY gear, but today is an exception. Because today I have gone from this:

Elac Air Motion Transformer tweeter

Elac in-house built “Air Motion Transformer” tweeter

 

to this!

Sonus Faber "ring radiator" tweeter by Vifa/Scan Speak

Sonus Faber “Ring Radiator” tweeter by Vifa/Scan Speak

 

It is a pre-owned pair of Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor Ms in graphite finish. The speakers are app. 4 years old (based on the serial number, I don’t know it exactly) but in immaculate condition and bought from a German dealer for what I think is a very reasonable price. I have been lusting over these for a long time now (since before the “M” version was introduced) because not only are these superb speakers, they are also in my opinion little works of art 🙂 The craftsmanship clearly shows when you look at the finish.

I’ll still keep the Elacs (and enjoy them) for surround sound, but in my stereo setup (which accounts for by far the majority of my listening hours at the moment), the Sonus Fabers will be moving in instead. This probably also means that some of my ongoing DIY speaker projects and part of my “collection” of unused drivers will be moving out over the next couple of months, but let’s see. For now I am really looking forward to listening more over the weekend and the coming weeks.

And as for the obvious question: Do they sound as glorious as they look? – Well, so far the answer is a resounding “yes”! 😀

My hifi-gear (non-DIY)

If I only had DIY gear, I would probably never listen to any music because it is either in the process of being assembled or being disassembled again to be improved 😉 Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of the main non-DIY gear I use in my various systems.

 

Sources: 

  • MacMini with Apple Lossless files and iTunes/Amarra Hi-Fi software (only used as Audio/Video source).
  • Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable with Ortofon OM30 cartridge and Mitchell low-mass record clamp (seldom used)
  • iPod classics (several) with Apple Lossless files and Cambridge ID100/Pure i20 docks
  • iMac 21.5″ (desktop)

Surround:

  • Audiolab 8000AP processor (connected to MacMini via optical connection)

Stereo:

Speakers:

Headphones:

  • Grado SR325 (the original version)
  • AKG K501
  • AKG K701
  • AKG K550
  • Sennheiser HD330 (computer)
  • B&W P5 (travel)
  • Beyerdynamic T50p (travel)

Misc:

“Behringer stack” made up of the SRC2496 ADC/DAC, the DEQ2496 digital equalizer and the DCX2496 crossover modified with a built-in volume control. This setup  is used (sparingly) for various speaker-related experiments where the powerful DSP equalizer and the electronic crossover makes it easy to experiment with different configurations. Unfortunately I don’t often have the time (or the available space) to build speakers.
The SRC2496 DAC is also very handy to have around since will work as a sample-rate converter, a DAC and an ADC depending on how you configure it. It also accepts more or less all input formats and will output analog audio as well as digital audio in both TOSLINK and AES/EBU formats.

Hello, World!

Allright, everyone else is doing it and now so am I! Creating a blog to publish chronicles of my exploits in the world or DIY projects in audio, electronics, software and photography.

I thought I’d use the title of the blog as a way to manage expectations on the progress of my projects and the frequency of updates, but stay tuned because I have a lot of projects. There is also a lot of stuff in the archives that should be dragged out, dusted off and put up here – let’s see when we get to that!

Happy reading,

/U.