Sunday, September 27, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Jim Thiel co-founded THIEL Audio Products of Lexington, KY in 1976, and the company has grown to become one of the most respected manufacturers of loudspeakers in the world. Jim’s passion for music and his interest in electronics can both be traced back to childhood, when he began a lifelong love affair with the piano and also began to build and repair radios and other electronic gear. His academic background in physics and mathematics along with his naturally creative and inquisitive nature led him to pioneer the principle of time and phase accuracy in loudspeaker design. Over the last three decades, Jim Thiel’s speakers have received countless awards from the most prestigious audio publications worldwide, highlighted by Stereophile Magazine having adorned the THIEL CS3.6 as one of the Hot 100 – a group of the most important and influential audiophile components of all time.
"Not only was Jim Thiel a supremely talented and inventive speaker engineer, he was one of high-end audio's true gentlemen, a gentle man. Had we not been divided by the gulf between reviewer and manufacturer, I would have been proud to have counted Jim Thiel as a friend." - John Atkinson, Editor, Stereophile Magazine
When THIEL would host their dealers for training events in Lexington, many remarked that their favorite moments were spent with Jim in his lab, where he would detail his complex work in friendly and digestible language. Jim was known to listen thoughtfully and challenge gracefully, and he garnered a deep level of respect and affection from those who worked at his company. His employees remarked that he was so genuine—he was always fair, kind and reasonable. Jim was a man of science, possessing a profound respect for individuality and personal freedoms.
“Anyone who dealt with Jim Thiel had to admire his integrity, his firm dedication to real-world engineering, and his equal concern that the end result sound as much like live music as possible. He was truly dedicated to advancing the state of the art in loudspeakers, and he made steady breakthroughs during his career without ever losing a sense of quiet modesty and being unwilling to listen to comments and criticism. Virtually every new design he created marked a further step forward in his personal approach to the absolute sound, and it is a real tribute to him that his last major design—the Thiel C3.7—was not only his best speaker yet, but is one of the most outstanding speakers ever made. Jim will be deeply missed for his qualities as a person, his integrity, and his constant search to perfect his designs. He exemplified all the best in the high end.” —Anthony Cordesman, The Absolute Sound
Jim is survived by everyone who ever loved him and a legion of devoted THIEL fans around the world…
THIEL welcomes everyone to share their thoughts or memories of Jim at www.thielaudio.com
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Those who are starting out on hires music downloads should take advantage of free high-quality music currently offered by numerous companies.
These downloads come in MP3, 16-bit ALAC, AIFF or FLAC, and 24-bit FLAC or WAV formats.
I have been surfing around and found several websites to explore listed in Kent Poon's blog and Weiss Engineering's home page www.weiss-highend.ch.
Several of these offer hires downloads for free. I have in my hard disk tracks from Bowers & Wilkins, reference recordings (24/176.4 HRx!), blue coast records, linn and others.
It is a great way to start a downloaded hires music library so that budding computer audiophiles can compare the quality of the downloads with their CDs and enjoy great music before going all the way and start paying for downloads of individual tracks or the entire album.
Music downloads have shot up even as sales of CDs has gone down. The trend is very obvious...
For the benefit of audiophiles, I have listed the websites below. You will have to surf around to check out the offers.
Websites for uncompressed music downloads and/or hires media:
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
What does "Delete WAV after compression" mean?
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I have just downloaded a hires album for the first time. I had surfed to the Linn Records website http://www.linnrecords.com/ and browsed around and found Handel's Messiah by Dunedin Consort which "recreates the freshness, excitement and spontaneity of the work's first public performance in 1742 and unlike the 30 singers used in some later performances, this version features only 12 of whom 7 are soloists, all performing in the choruses."
I have always liked Messiah and suddenly I had the itch to attempt a download for the first time. Linn Records offers several formats - MP3, CD-quality WMA and FLAC (16bit 44.1 kHz) and Studio Master-quality FLAC and WMA files (24bit 88.2 kHz). You can also buy the CD or the LP in 180-gm vinyl and you can play samples of the songs in all the formats before making the decison to buy.
I thought I might as well go all the way and downloaded the 24bit 88.2kHz FLAC Studio Master copy which cost US$24.
I clicked the download button at 2.45pm and the downloading started and continued and continued....(bear in mind I am using Streamyx at 1 Mbps)
Along the way my wife sent some e-mails and spoke to her cousin in Zurich via Skype which must have made the downloading somewhat slower.
At 2.45am when I went off to sleep, it was still downloading.
At 4.45am, my youngest son entered my room and happily climbed onto the bed and slept in the space between my wife and I (most Asian parents would know all about this...) and woke me up.
I decided to check the computer and it stated: "Download complete."
Thus it took between 12 and 14 hours for the entire 2,503.6 Mb music file plus album art to be downloaded.
Was it worth it? Even with the Altec Lansing computer speakers, the songs sound really great. Now my problem is trying to figure out a way to play it on the big rig...
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I have with me the Oyaide Tunami GPX and the Furutech Reference 111-N1 power cords. Both are top-of-the-range models; both have won many awards; and both have been highly praised. Fans of the Tunami even claim that it is the best power cord in the world.
The system I used comprised: CEC3300 CD player used as transport, MIT Terminator 3 coax, Musical Fidelity A3-24 DAC, Alphacore Micropurl Silver interconnects to the Sugden C28 preamp (which has a fixed power cord), DH Labs Air Matrix interconnects to the Bryston 3B SST power amplifier and Mapleshade Clearview Double Helix speaker cables to the ATC SCM40 floorstanders.
I used the DH Labs Power Plus for the CEC CD player and the Isotek Elite power cord for the DAC.
Using Eva Cassidy's Live At Blues Alley's first three tracks - Cheek to Cheek, Stormy Monday and Bridge Over Troubled Water - and the second and third track of Songs of Janis Joplin All Blues'd Up (a HDCD CD) - Move Over by Tad Robinson and Ball And Chain by Etta James - I tried hard to pick out the differences.
The Oyaide Tunami had a darker tonal balance with more emphasis on the mid-bass and low bass. This had the effect of smearing some micro details, but the sound was richer.
Vocals were rendered with a richness that seemed valve-like and the mids seemed thickly textured which led to micro details getting somewhat hidden in the smooth presentation. Leading edges of electric guitar, horns, piano and cymbals were rounder and less "explosive".
The highs were there, but seemed slightly darker than the Furutech and had the effect of merging with the music instead of standing out. Cymbals and electric guitar sounded a bit dim.
Both power cords were dynamic and open, but the Tunami's bassy lushness made it sound less transparent than the Furutech.
With the Furutech Reference 111-N1, the sound quality was immediately noticeably very transparent and open. Low bass and mid-bass were rendered well, with double bass and bass guitar notes rendered with sufficient weight and punch, but it did not have a bassy emphasis like the Tunami.
Tonally, the Furutech was neutral - the mids and vocals were natural with no lushness and the leading edges of electric guitars, horns, piano and cymbals were sharper and more "explosive" - everything sounded more like live music.
Since the highs were clean and clear and extended, the timbres of instruments were more accurate, especially the high notes on the piano.
Both cords had very low noise floors and neither power cord projected the vocals forward like some other makes do. The soundstage was just right with the singer in the middle perhaps just a bit in front of the speakers. At this moment, I am listening to The Heart of the Matter: Frank Sinatra sings about love, a compilation that I bought from Starbucks and ol' Blue Eyes is just a few feet in front of me serenading about the old black magic called love...
Then I decided to plug the DH Labs Power Plus to the Bryston and test the Oyaide and Furutech on the CEC CD player. Some people opine that differences between power cords are more apparent with CD players.
However, in this instance switching power cords on the CD player showed fewer differences with the Tunami sounding more like the Furutech. In fact with the Tunami, the mids became clearer and less mushy, the leading edges of music became sharper and the highs were cleaner and clearer when it powered the CD player than when it was plugged to the power amp.
With the Furutech, all the qualities that it revealed when it was used with the power amp were still there when it was plugged to the CD player.
In the end, I used the Tunami for the CD player, the Furutech for the power amp and the DH Labs for the DAC and spent the rest of the afternoon just listening to great music.
So, which one should you buy? In terms of price the Tunami costs a grand plus while the Furutech costs four times more.
As for sound quality, would the outstanding neutrality, timbral accuracy and transparency of the Furutech be worth the extra cost?
Test both before deciding...