(Yet another) anniversary!

Yes, it’s that time of the year again – and this year it’s the fourth anniversary of the blog 😀

Not a lot to say that I haven’t already said the last couple of years, but I still expect to continue writing as much as time allows. I am also still very excited and greatly appreciative of your questions and comments, so keep it up 🙂

Picture below is of what is (currently) sitting near the top of my project pipeline, namely four 4U diyaudio special-edition pre-drilled heatsinks. These are specifically intended to accelerate (as much as possible) the completion of my Pass VFET project as well as one other Pass project using boards from the diyaudio store that I have wanted to do for some time now 🙂

Happy New Year!

Yes, another year has gone and so up comes another opportunity to reflect on the status of the blog 🙂

Well, sort of anyway. I would like to have said that I am writing this on New Years Day from my desk in the middle of a build, but I’ve actually decided to write this in advance, let WordPress handle the logistics of posting and then bugger off to Italy for New Year’s instead 😀

This (well, last) year I feel I have been a little bit more limited in terms of time to post, but I still have plenty of projects in the pipeline, plenty of ideas I want to realise, plenty of experiments to be done etc. Heck, even the bank balance looks in reasonably good shape 😀

The only things generally lacking are time (not much I can do about that unfortunately) and then space for the projects that I finish (I might be able to do something about during the coming year, who knows?). Overall though, I think there’ll be plenty of stuff to write about during 2017 as well.

I’m still excited to see that both visitor numbers and views are steadily increasing and I think that I manage to keep the signal/noise ratio quite high here – I hope you agree!

All the best to everyone reading and best wishes for 2017 🙂

Gold glitter Happy New Year 2017 background. Happy new year glittering texture. Gold sparkles with frame. Chic glittering invitation template for new year eve.

Paypal grumble…

Slightly off-topic post, sorry. Like most people that shop online (especially on Ebay and from private sellers on discussion forums) I use Paypal extensively. Normally it’s relatively easy, safe and convenient. However, earlier this week I started getting error messages that the two debit/credit cards I have linked to my account were no longer usable as payment. I managed to link a third card and complete the transaction, but I started wondering what was going on.

It turns out that Paypal at some point last week have made the default option for transactions the same currency that your credit card is issued in, even if there has for a long time been an option to set this per credit card you use. I’m sure that somewhere this is listed as a “customer service initiative” or “security initiative” (yeah!), but nevertheless it is one that just happen to give Paypal a further few percent commission on the exchange rate (I haven’t calculated it exactly but it looked like a 3-5% markup depending on the currency). This is of course unacceptable when I pay fees already (or the seller pays them, which means in the end I pay them).

Fortunately after some googling it turns out there still is a way to pay the actual transaction amount and let the card issue handle the conversion (which in my case they do with 1% commission on the official rate from the National bank). Before completing the purchase, click to change payment method and then click the exchange rate to change back to using the card issuers rate. I haven’t tried with a direct Paypal transaction (only via Ebay) but I will be keeping my eyes open in the future….

Oh and, needless to say I will from now on always avoid using Paypal if there is another payment option listed where I shop…

EDIT 29/11-16: Have now tried to send money via Paypal directly and here I can’t change the conversion option. Then I spotted this in the latest revision of the user agreement “Where your payment is funded by a Debit or Credit Card and involves a currency conversion, by entering into this agreement you consent to and authorise PayPal to convert the currency in place of your Credit or Debit card issuer.” Which basically means that they decide the exchange rate and if you don’t like it you can f*** off…

Anyone know of any good alternatives to those Paypal bas***ds?

New AKGs are in…

It’s been a while since I last added to my already sizeable (and frankly unnecessary) collection of headphones, but now was the time.

Although new models come on the market regularly, the one “top of the line” model that I really wanted to get was the AKG K812. Up until a few months ago they have been very expensive and were only sold at RRP, but as they have started appearing at discounted prices I’ve renewed my interest. Although I’ve been eyeing them for a while now, it wasn’t until last week the stars finally aligned (or at least the combination of bank balance and foreign exchange rates 🙂 ) and I could finally press the “buy” button.

When it came on the market some of the first reviews of the K812 mentioned harsh treble, but on the few occasions I’ve demoed them it didn’t sound particularly harsh to me. To be on the safe side I’ve bought one of the later-model “Made in Slovakia” ones, mainly on an assumption that any treble issues might have been teething problems in the first production runs of the original “Made in Austria” series.

I’m quite a big fan of the AKG house sound – and I have been since I first bought the K501 model when it was “flavour of the month” on head-fi a little over 15 years ago (yes, time flies…). I also own the K701, K550, K495NC and a few others and just as I expected my initial impressions of the K812 are that they are “more of the same” but better. As is the case with most other large AKG models (at least for me) the K812s are very, very comfortable once properly adjusted and I think I can wear them for a long time before they start being uncomfotable. For someone who wears glasses, this is definitely not a given when you buy a high-end headphone.

Obviously this purchase impacts the audio-related budget for my next big trip (in a couple of weeks) a little bit, but that’s ok – I’m sure it’ll be worth it once I get to spend a bit more time with these new AKGs 😀

k812

The plot thickens….

Bit of a pause here lately as I’ve been away on holiday. I just have a few days left at home before work starts again, so time to get some building in 🙂

Some progress on my “mystery” project – hence the post title – with most of the mechanics now ready. And no, I’m still not revealing what it is yet 😀

More ATtiny-powered stuff in the pipeline as well, but unfortunately the weather is too good to be sitting inside doing SW, so that will have to wait a bit longer (maybe 😉 ).

mysteryproject-1

Good news from TI…

I’ve written a couple of times about components being discontinued, but sometimes it seems we’re in luck and things go the other way 🙂

According to a recent post on diyaudio (and a TI PCN) it seems some of the TI parts I originally wrote about were being discontinued are now being reinstated. Among the 22 parts that are being restored to “active”-status are the LME49710 and the LME49720 in DIP-packages, as well as the LME49600 buffer. Note: I can’t really work out if this is temporary or permanent but even if its temporary the last delivery date is in 2017 so with luck there’ll be some more parts in the supply chain to stockpile 🙂

Now I have no real illusions that TI’s decision is based on the desperate cries of audio diy’ers, but whatever the reason it’s nice to have more quality parts available 😀

Thoughts on audiophile -isms

The debate between the subjectivist and objectivist camps of the audiophile community is probably about as old as the community itself. (Too) much has been written which there’s no need to repeat here, but if you are new to the game there’s an excellent post on this topic by Schiit audio co-founder Jason Stoddard here.

Incidentally, if you are the kind of diy’er that sometimes consider turning your hobby into a (sideline) business, then I urge you to read through all of Jason’s “blog-book” posts on head-fi as there is lots of useful information there. Anyway, that was a bit of a sidetrack… 🙂

(Also, feel free to skip the rest of this post if you’re the kind of audio diy’er that genuinely only really cares about the music (I’ve heard they exist although I don’t recall ever meeting one 😀 ))

My own position on subjectivism vs. objectivism should hopefully be possible to read in my posts, but very briefly: I have too much of an engineering mind to believe that measurements are pointless, but I have also had plenty of “audiophile” experiences to suggest that measurements don’t necessarily always tell the whole story. Whether this is then complete placebo and wishful thinking on my part I don’t know, but in any case it’s all part of the experience for me 🙂

My main point (and the only thing I want to add to the debate) is that you can be a little of both – but not at the same time. You have to make it clear whether there is objective reasoning behind you decisions and comments and when it is based on subjective opinions – however valid they may seem.

Case in point (and what actually prompted me thinking about this in the first place) – the number of questions I get on whether a specific amplifier needs an input buffer:

In a small number of borderline cases the answer is clear – the buffer is needed to prevent impedance mismatches that cause a significant (and objectively observable) change in the frequency response and loss of output drive capability. However, in most “normal” situations there is objectively no need (with emphasis) to include a buffer – but that does not mean that there isn’t a subjective change if you add it anyway and which might be preferable to you.

That to me is the essence of this debate (and about as far into it as I want to venture) – and hopefully I’ll be able to make it clear enough in my writings when I am being subjectivist and when I am being objectivist.

Anyway, in other (possibly more relevant) news: I’ve just placed my first new PCB order in months 😀 Nothing really ground-breaking I’m afraid, but still something to look forward to in a few weeks 🙂

Third anniversary…

Yes, it’s that time of the year again – the third anniversary of this blog. Just like last time, I never imagined I’d still be here etc. etc.

I still very much enjoy writing here when time permits. I also have plenty of unfinished projects to write about, so even if we’re nearing 150 posts I hope there’ll be many more to come.

A “virtual” toast to that – and of course to all of you reading out there! 🙂

 

One-button listening…

I know I’m not supposed to admit this, but over the last months I’ve become more and more aware that sound quality isn’t the only factor in deciding how much I listen to my system.

I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but my first “real” audio system was a Harman-Kardon CD and integrated amp. One of the things I still remember – more than 20 years on – is that I could get music just by turning on the two components and there was next to no waiting time. By contrast I am now using a MacMini as my primary music source, which means having to wait 30-40 secs. for the computer to start up and then controlling the sound either from an iPad app or by having to turn on the TV, selecting the right input etc. It’s a much more complicated process, not to mention that I still need a separate remote to control the integrated amplifier and so on.

Part of my response to this incredible hardship obvious first-world problem ( 😀 ) was to start listening more to vinyl, but something still wasn’t perfect. Vinyl is great for “serious” listening – I enjoy the involvement in the process – but for background music while I’m doing something else I find vinyl is less than ideal.

All this changed a bit when I recently sold the Musical Fidelity integrated amplifier that I was using in my main system. Instead I went back to using some of my DIY-stuff together with a newly-acquired Arcam IRdac (the “old” version as Arcam has just announced the IRdac II). The original IRdac has an input for an Apple-device to which I’ve connected a 160GB iPod Classic filled with lossless files (officially the Classic isn’t supported by the IRdac but I can report it works fine 🙂 ).

This is excellent for background music even if the MacMini with iTunes/Amarra does mean a step up in sound quality. The remote for the IRdac can control play/pause and forward/backwards skipping on both the iPod and in iTunes which means my whole system can be operated with a single remote. When using the iPod the whole thing is ready to play in the time it takes to switch on the three components as the iPod turns on immediately.

Soundwise the new setup is is a bit better than the Musical Fidelity integrated, but from a usability perspective it’s honestly miles ahead – I can use a “simple” source (the iPod) when I just listen to background music, and I can use a more “complicated” source (computer or vinyl) if I want to. The only thing I need now is that the IRdac remote can control volume as well. Sadly this isn’t possible with a stepped attenuator (for obvious reasons) but this could be the starting point for another project 😀

So, you might ask – what’s the point of this post? Well, I don’t know if there is one, only that this part of the “customer experience” with a product should not be forgotten and might play a bigger role (even subconsciously) in how a product is perceived than most people might think.

Happy 2016!

As 2015 closes behind us and 2016 is just beginning, I would of course like to say a big “hello!” and an even bigger “thank you” to all of the people following my blog and reading what I post.

Lately the posts have been a bit further apart, but despite this the reader numbers are quite high – in fact much higher than I expected and I am of course grateful for that. The blog has now been visited by people from more than 120 countries around the world which I think is extremely impressive – I am not entirely sure I could even name 120 countries 😀

In terms of what 2016 will bring there’s plenty of potential content in the pipeline I guess, but as usual work is intruding quite severely on my build time 😉

As a small appetiser of what’s coming, one of the long-term projects that I’ve managed to make som progress on lately is my first AMB Beta 22 headphone amplifier. I built the boards several years ago but then didn’t really make any progress for a long time. Finally a few months ago I summoned up the courage to test the boards and as they seemed to work fine I started on the mechanics. All that’s really left to do now is a bit of wiring and some final adjustments, so maybe sometime this summer is a realistic timeline? 😉

Best wishes for the new year to everyone out there reading 😀

b22preview