My book of Niagara Falls images from 2011 is now published and available from Blurb

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

More thoughts on Mojo

Why does the Chord Mojo sound so damn good? Its developer, Rob Watts says it is about interpolation filters and transients … May be.  I do wonder however, if there is other processing going on that he is not admitting to.  I mean, a faithfully produced sound wave is a sound wave, is it not? Yet different DACs do sound different!

I have spent a little time analysing the sound from the Mojo and comparing it with the inbuilt  DAC in my Cambridge CXA60 amplifier using a CD source. Perhaps not a fair comparison, you may suggest in view of the price differential, but instructive none the less.

First there is the sound level out-put to consider. This is certainly higher than through the inbuilt DAC .  Perhaps this is to be expected since the Mojo is a headphone  amplifier as well as a DAC. So the first thing you have to do is volume match when doing an A/B comparison. A bit tricky when switching back and forth.

Once I have approximated the level, I still notice that the sound has more dynamism or punch, has broader sound stage, the positioning of voice and instruments more defined and the tonal qualities detailed and natural with a clean clear finish.  There is a sense that the voice or soloist jumps out at the listener, grabbing your attention. It is as if the music is saying “hey listen to me, don’t I sound good!?” And so you keep listening, even to what is previously familiar.

So what makes this happen? I can’t help but think there is more going on than simply more faithful reproduction of waveforms.  I wonder if other processing such as dynamic range enhancement and phase and frequency adjustments are being applied to the output. These were long ago applied by those seeking a more realistic experience from the old analogue audio equipment. We had “dbx” dynamic range enhancers, audio equalizers to compensate for deficiencies in speakers and room acoustics, and phase shifters to create a more 3D sound experience.  It only takes a small adjustment in decibels to change our perception of sound so minimal tweaking of the amp output signal could do wonders…

At the end of the day though, it probably does not matter as I love it and the accolades for the musical sound that Mojo produces roll in…. It truly is a wonder, but there is still part of me that wonders too.....

Some links to Chord interviews if you are interested...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10k_yMHCncY

http://www.the-ear.net/how-to/rob-watts-chord-mojo-tech

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Got my (Chord) Mojo goin' and I'm gone baby, gone real bad.....

Well it's been a while with my CXA60 amp and the audiophile in me has been getting restless. I quickly decided the Schiit Bifrost 4490, which I had upgraded from the Uber was a better DAC than the Wolfson WM8740 that is built into the CXA60, but it is convenient to use the Wolfson with the TV and the Bifrost for music. Just for the convenience of switching with the remote. The Bifrost seems to have a bigger sound stage and a softer upper range.

But then I read John Darko's review of the Schiit Gungnir Multibit (http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2016/01/zesty-and-sweet-the-stunning-schiit-gungnir-multibit-dac/) and I began to think about spending over A$2000 on an upgrade.... How much do I value my marriage? But wait, the Chord Mojo (http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2016/02/chord-electronics-mojo-lost-found/) is a whole lot cheaper and he rates it up there with Gungnir.... (http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/the-darko-dac-index/) And so do many others! (http://chordelectronics.co.uk/mojo/#nav-reviews , http://www.stereophile.com/content/chord-electronics-mojo-da-headphone-amplifier#XrV15eiY4du1u5rG.97  and just google it!) And you can use it as a portable with up to 10 hours of playing time or you can use it as a desktop with your computer or with your lounge room system. One wonders about the long term reliability of the battery, but I had to audition a Mojo, which I did through headphones (NAD Viso HP50) at VAF in Adelaide and then I had to bring it home.

I have in the past sat around analysing DACs for their subtle and not so subtle differences. No such problem with the Mojo! The differences are are simply there.. right in you face in a dramatic and even astounding way. The dynamism, the imaging, the clarity and the detail bring the music to life. It's just brilliant sound. At first I wondered if it was all too much, but the clincher for me was that I would soon give up on comparisons and simply listen. Even to very familiar music, to the end. Spotting the difference between sources, CD, Sonos Connect or whatever is much more of a challenge than the difference between the Mojo and my other DACs. This is, in my opinion an improvement worth paying for. Now if I want to listen at home or at work with headphones, I can have a wonderful sound quality with me....  Maybe one day I will have the spare cash for a Gungnir, or a 2Qute but for now I don't feel deprived.... I've got my Mojo going!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What makes a good HI-Fi sound from me....

For me, a good Hi-Fi system sounds like a good curry tastes. A good curry has a well-balanced spiciness with rich complex flavours and enough chilli to bring it all to life. Not enough fresh spiciness (read nuance, detail etc) and you have a bland unengaging presentation and with too much chilli (read punchiness or bass), the subtleties are drowned out by the heat. Each to their own, but that’s how I like it.

The new Cambridge CXA60 amplifier played through my "Adelaide Speakers", reviewed previously, comes close to this ideal.... for now....

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Upgrading Windows 10 from 32bit to 64bit - Cherchez le pilote graphique (The graphics driver!)

Having been an Adobe Lightroom user for many years and becoming frustrated with the lethargy of Win 7, 32bit and also not being able to upgrade to the latest version of Lightroom which only runs on 64bit OS, I bit the bullet and took advantage of the free upgrade path to Win 10, 32bit and then did a clean install of Win10 64bit.

I followed the readily available guidelines carefully and decided to install the new 64bit image on a clean SSD drive so I could keep my old SSD should there be any serious dramas. All seemed to go to plan until I had to restart the PC when re-installing Lightroom, after which I encountered the black screen of death!

I will cut the long story short by saying that after many re-starts and attempts to repair  the installation I noticed,  following one of these re-starts that the mouse pointer was present on the black screen. A quick Google on my tablet alerted me to the possibility of a graphics driver issue. Indeed the mouse pointer seemed to be able to go well beyond the edges of the monitor.

The solution involved pushing the set-up button on the monitor following which I discovered that the "real" windows desktop existed as a pip in a corner of a large black area. By enlarging the pip I could work with is as normal and was able to update the graphics driver and then set the monitor to its normal mode of operation.

Since then Win 10 64bit has been fine and with 16gig of RAM on board I am very happy! But what a lot of messing around and tearing hair out! Be warned!

Best of luck
Paul

ps, I had never used a pip on this PC previously.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Digital Music and Related Discussion Links

In this post I am going to list some links to pages which discuss digital music issues and which mostly seem to speak with authority and sense.... To begin with is an interesting article debunking the value of  24-bit/192kHz music downloads. It is entitled "24/192 Music Downloads ...and why they make no sense".    http://xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html .   The bottom line seems to be, many so called HD music files sound better because they originate from different mixes/masters of the original. Not because the format is inherently better than a CD. A good CD recording will sound as good as any, played back on good equipment.

A simple but clear article on the topic appears on the What HiFi web site...
http://www.whathifi.com/blog/high-res-audio-the-science-behind-the-numbers

Here is a case in point... the new Beck album on HDTracks ... Oh dear, where is the honesty and transparency?
http://archimago.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/follow-up-anomalies-in-becks-morning.html


This article also provides many links to other pages including a topic I have raised before... "The Loudness Wars" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war . A layman's description of the process of remastering recordings which often seems to produce louder but not necessarily better CDs, MP3s etc may be read at http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/remaster-cds-dvds.htm 

Here is another comparison of cheap vs expensive HDMI cables... guess what?
http://www.tested.com/tech/3329-the-difference-between-cheap-and-expensive-hdmi-cables/

The question as to whether mains cables can block out RFI from domestic Audio equipment is discussed in the following article http://www.audiomisc.co.uk/cables/mains/StringTheory.html


To be continued....

Monday, July 15, 2013

Using Windows 7 with System Image Restore to migrate to a SSD - A little clarification... Then Do It!


Replacing my SATA C: drive on my Windows PC with a Solid State Drive (SSD) has probably been the single most cost effective improvement I have made to this system. The machine is vastly more responsive in almost every respect. Even Web pages seem to load and display faster. What was sluggish and at times irritating is now nimble and a pleasure to use. As an objective indicator, the Windows satisfaction / performance index previously rated the machine at 5.9 which was also the Hard Drive index. It is now rated at 7.2 and the Hard Drive index is 7.9!

However, upgrading to an SSD drive by migrating my C: drive from the original 500GB SATA disk to the new 256GB SSD has also been one of the more frustrating processes I have encountered.  Even though the C: partition occupied only 200GB of the 500GB disk and there was only about 160GB of data in that C: partition. (The remainder of space was allocated to the D: drive.)

A clean install of Windows on the new drive is the recommended approach, but of course that means hours of re-installing your programs… if you can. Fortunately, there are some excellent guides on how to “clone” your Windows / boot drive to SSD but it took me a week of evenings at the computer to finally succeed. There are some reference links at the end of this blog.

I first tried Nero Back-it-Up to create a boot DVD and drive image but the restore was to no avail. I still don’t know what the problem was. I then read that it is usually fine to use the built in Windows 7 repair Disk and imaging facilities. You can buy other software, but why not use what is free? Well it worked, but with a caveat. Even though Windows prompts you to specify which partitions to include in the image to be copied, it still assumed I was copying a 500GB drive rather than a 200GB partition to  the new 256GB drive. Thus when, I tried to copy the image to the SSD drive, I received the message “no suitable disk available”. No other information, which I think is a bit poor. The work around was to back up the data on the  D: partition and to delete the D: partition, making it unallocated space. Then create the image of the C: partition and Master Boot Record. This was acceptable to the Windows imaging program. Ah, the relief!

There are a number of other issues to address if you are planning to proceed with this upgrade and they are well addressed in the excellent articles below, and elsewhere. I hope my small contribution helps clarify for you what was somewhat unclear for me.

References

Recovering Windows 7 with System Image Restore Disks: http://archive.benchmarkreviews.com/?id=439&Itemid=72&option=com_content&task=view

Migrating to SSD:



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What the ?????



Wow, where did those figures come from? Normally my Flickr views average around 40 to 50 but over the weekend things went crazy. There is no clear reason for this but most of the photos that rated highly were from our travels in Spain and Setenil in particular. The referrals seemed to be mainly form Flickr so I am assuming one of their APIs was responsible. If this were to continue I will hit 100k views in no time... Puzzling but kind of nice. Hmmm.