Music File Formats

PCM (Pulse Code Modulation)

formatsWith the advent of CD’s came a digital music standard called “Redbook.” Redbook is a PCM (pulse code modulation) standard that features a word length of 16 bits and a sampling rate of 44,100 samples per second. It was calculated that this combination could adequately reproduce frequencies up to 22,050 cycles per second with a dynamic range (the difference between the softest and loudest passages) of about 90db (which was better than either audio tape or vinyl at the time). Since humans can only hear to about 20,000 cycles per second and less as they age, this was felt to be plenty sufficient for the task at hand. For many years, Redbook remained the go-to standard for digital recordings.

Starting in the late 90’s, however, recording studios began recording at higher resolutions, primarily 24/96.  These recordings would then be “down-sampled” to Redbook in order to master CDs. It was felt the the better the original recording, the better the final product, even though the resolution had to be decreased in the process.  In fact, many commercial recording studios continue to produce 24/94 recordings today, since many recording engineers believe that anything above that is not all that audible.  That said, the march to higher and higher resolutions continues unabated.  Today, it is not at all uncommon to see PCM (pulse code modulation) file resolutions from 24/192 up to 48/384.  Can you hear the difference? Probably up to a point, but where that point is, is the subject of some debate.

PCM files can be stored in a variety of formats, such as uncompressed .wav files, or compressed file formats with names like .flac, .aiff, .mp3, etc.  Other than file resolution (which impacts sound quality), is makes relatively little difference which you use.  Player software can generally deal with all of these file types and produce a PCM bit stream to send to the DAC.

Up until the last few years, most all consumer DACs were strictly PCM-based.  But to complicate the situation, the consumer audio industry has lately been heavily promoting a completely different format – DSD.

DSD (Direct Stream Digital)

In 1999, Philips and Sony jointly introduced an entirely new digital concept for recording and reproducing sound. They called it SACD (Super Audio CD).  While the format never really caught on with consumers, the file format, DSD (Direct Stream Digital), did take hold with some in the recording industry and is now being promoted by the consumer audio industry. Rather than using a multi-bit sample like PCM, DSD is a single bit format utilizing extremely high sampling rates.  The dynamic range (the difference between the softest and loudest signals the format is capable of resolving) is much higher than that of a CD (PCM). DSD, in use, has a dynamic range of about 105db or greater from 20 – 20kHz compared to about 90db for CDs.  Human hearing is capable of resolving about 120 db of dynamic range.

Can You Hear It?

When music is stored and played back on streaming devices, you are no longer limited to 16/44 file resolutions.  As stated above, PCM files can have resolutions as high as 48/384.  But can your hear the differences?

A report on double blind listening tests conducted in 2004 found that test subjects could not discern any difference in audio quality between DSD and 24-bit, 176.4 kHz PCM music files.  Even so, today the audio industry is aggressively promoting DSD.

I had a conversation with a DAC manufacturer a while back.  He told me he had no interest in producing a DSD DAC because studies have shown that listeners cannot hear the differences DSD brings to the table.  My point to him is that while he may indeed be correct, his position was missing the point.  If the industry is promoting it, consumers will come to the conclusion that DSD is audibly superior to PCM and will eliminate non-DSD DACs from consideration.  It matters little if your DAC is a superior product in every other respect.  Due to the industry’s promotional efforts, if it does not include DSD, a significant number of consumers will pass it by.

If there is any negative influence on the adoption of DSD by consumers, it is that there is currently a limited supply of original program material recorded in that format.  Many that are available tend to fall into the classical and folk genre since these can easily be recorded with a single stereo microphone. When you purchase these recordings, you are essentially purchasing a bit-for-bit copy of the studio master tape. No intermediate processing is required.

But what about the vast library of existing music that was not originally recorded in DSD?  A case can be made that DSD files created from original analog master tapes can at least deliver the full audio quality of those recordings.  And since mastering techniques have improved over the years, it can be argued these files can actually sound superior to the originals because they are not subject to the limitations involved in the transfer to vinyl or audio tape (primarily compression related to the dynamic range capabilities of those media).

But most commercial recordings released after the late 1980’s were recorded originally in a digital format and limited to 16/44 or, at best, 24/96. Even so, you often see high resolution up-sampled re-releases of this material on sites offering high resolution downloads.  While mastering techniques have improved over the years and a re-mastering may indeed increase audio quality, one could legitimately argue that the higher resolutions offer little in the way of increased audio quality. After all, you can’t capture additional information from a music file that does not contain it.  All you can do is use computer algorithms to “synthesize” additional information based on the content of the original file. That being the case, it would certainly be legitimate to ask yourself if these new high-resolution versions of older digital music are really worth the extra cost, or are they just a marketing gimmick used to sell older material at an inflated price?  You be the judge.

Conclusion

Music that is well recorded and expertly mastered at Redbook (CD) resolutions can be thoroughly wonderful in every regard. If you have a large selection of CD’s and simply want a more convenient and versatile way of playing them, then your streaming system does not need to be able to handle file resolutions that are any higher.  Just streaming them to a more capable and polished DAC will improve the sound quality of your library.

If you are interested in higher resolutions, there may be no reason to have to deal with formats higher than 24/96 or 24/176, since studies have seemed to indicate that nothing above these resolutions is significantly audible.

But if you like to be on the cutting edge and want to future-proof your system, DSD is probably something you should include in your system capabilities since it appears that the audio industry will continue to aggressively promote the format.

The nice thing is, no matter which path you decide to take, you will most likely experience an increase in audio quality on your journey.

NEXT: Compression

 

 

Ripping Basics

Ripping Apps

rippingThere are quite a few computer applications that can successfully “rip” audio tracks from CDs, DVDs, etc. to your music storage device.  Not only can they copy the files, but they can also compress them prior to storage.  Most all of them can copy a CD or DVD with a reasonable degree of accuracy.  But while all of them adopt strategies to insure the highest possible transfer quality, none can “guarantee” a bit-perfect copy of the original file.

Ripping Accuracy

When transferring a computer program from a CD or DVD to your computer, a simple one bit error in the transfer can render the program unusable.  So one would assume that since a computer can read a program CD or DVD with total accuracy, copying music from a CD or DVD would be equally accurate.  Unfortunately, such is not the case.

The reason is that computer files employ very sophisticated built-in error-correction. In the process of transferring files, these protocols allow the system to identify and correct read errors on the fly, resulting in a bit-perfect copy of the original program file.  Music CD’s also have built-in error correction, but this error correction was designed before CD’s became a medium to distribute computer programs and is much more rudimentary.  Without the sophisticated error correction used to transfer computer files, there is simply no way to determine whether a music file read from a CD is accurate or not.

One bit errors in music files are probably not all that audible.  After all, there are 44,100 samples per second in a standard Redbook CD file and it is doubtful you would ever hear a one bit error in one of those samples.  None-the-less, when ripping music from a CD, the goal should be to do it with zero errors.

Most audio ripping software available today will do a good job in this regard.  But, again, there is no way to know for certain if the rip was perfect resulting in a bit-for-bit copy of the original.

A Novel Approach

A program called dbPoweramp (considered by many to be the gold standard of ripping software) tackles this problem with a rather novel approach.  Let’s say that 100 people on 100 different computers rip the same music track.  And let’s say 96 of them end up with exactly the same result.  It would be safe to assume, then, that those 96 copies were bit-for-bit accurate and the others experienced errors somewhere in the transfer.  If you use dbPoweramp, each time you rip a music track, the results of your rip are compared to a database of all previous dbPoweramp users who ripped that same track. If your rip was identical to the files the majority of users obtained before you, chances are your rip was accurate.  If it varies from the majority in the database, the assumption is that you need to re-rip that particular track.  It is a simple concept, but it is the most sure-fire strategy devised yet to insure that the copy you ripped is accurate.

Like most other ripping programs, dbPoweramp can be configured to compress the resulting file using the algorithm you select.  Of those, .flac is probably the most widely used although you will have additional choices ranging from mp3 to no compression at all. It, along with many other ripping applications can also be set up to store your files directly to your storage device and in the directory (folder) structure you specify.  So what should you specify?

Organizing your Music Database

You can store all your music in a single directory (folder). Most music player applications will use the tag information from the file to differentiate the various cuts. But it will be difficult for you to browse and maintain your music library. Here is what we recommend.

folders

As you can see in the above example, all of these files are stored in a single music directory (folder). Under the main folder, a folder is created for each artist.  Inside the artist folder, additional folders are created with the name of each CD or compilation.  And in those folders, all the music and album art files for that particular CD are stored.  This will keep your music library organized and easy to browse and maintain.

You can also add additional folders.  For example, under the main music folder, you might create one for PCM files and one for DSD files with the appropriate artist files under each.

There is no limit to the depth of the folders you can use as long as they are contained in your mail music folder.  Your streaming device should have no trouble finding and playing all the music contained therein.

NEXT: Selecting a DAC

Compression

Why Compression?

compressionBack in the early days of the iPod (not all that long ago), music files were often transferred over the Internet. Internet speeds were slower then and storage capacities on mp3 players and iPods were not that great. So there was a real need to compress music files to speed up downloads and minimize storage requirements. The most popular compression format developed in that era was .mp3, which remains in wide use today.

Lossy Compression

Formats like mp3 are called “lossy” formats. This is because when music files are compressed using a “lossy” format, compression is accomplished by throwing information away. This makes for a very compact file, but some of the information contained in the original file is lost and can never again be recovered. It could easily be said that since the earliest days of audio, the mp3 format represented the first “innovation” that actually served to decrease the quality of sound reproduction. Even though it offers low levels of sound quality, mp3 remains the most popular format in use today.

Uncompressed

If you are building a music streaming system today, it would seem that maintaining the highest quality level should be among your top priorities. In this regard, you could conceivably store all of your music files uncompressed. While the lack of compression would mean your files would be maintained at the highest possible quality level, the failure to compress would dramatically increase the disk space required for your library. Fortunately, there are solutions that maintain quality and decrease storage requirements at the same time.

Loss-less Compression

As stated above, the .mp3 compression algorithm achieves its results by throwing information away and, once it is gone, it can no longer be recovered. As such, it is called “lossy” compression. But there also exists a number of “loss-less” compression algorithms that allow you to decrease the size of the music file and completely recover a perfect bit-for-bit copy of the original file when decompressed. Examples of this include the very popular .flac format and Apple’s .aiff format. Both of these substantially decrease the size of music files, and yet provide uncompressed files on playback that are identical to the original in every way.

CD ripping programs normally offer at least one of these loss-less compression options, allowing you to substantially decrease your music library’s storage requirements. It is a win-win situation. Audio player applications generally don’t care which format you use.  They can handle them all.  They note the form of compression used based on the file extension of the music file and decompress it accordingly.  The result is a bit-for-bit copy of the original. So you can feel secure in knowing that your can compress your music files without exacting a performance penalty.

NEXT: Ripping Basics

StreamPlayer Story

The Story

SP-thumbA number of years ago, we were displaying speakers at the California Audio Show.  We were using a Denon CD player as the source and feeding the S/PDIF output to very good sounding DAC.  Since it was the DAC that was responsible for the sound quality, we didn’t see any reason to use another player.  But people would peer into the room, see the Denon, assume the sound quality was not worth a listen and move on.  So we obviously needed an alternative approach.

In addition, working with CD’s at a show was not the most convenient.  So we made it our mission to return the following year with the best source streaming player we could find.  Thus began our search for the ideal player.

We looked at quite a few possibilities, but were not able to find a device that precisely fit our desired goals.  So, as we have always done with speakers, we decided to develop our own streaming player.  There were quite a few conditions we set out for this product.

First, it would be simple to operate, yet extremely stable.  We had seen others using Windows computers and JRiver to play music.  But in the middle of the presentation, the computer would freeze and they would have to re-boot.  At those times, the room would empty.  So a Windows solution was out.

Others had used MAC Mini computers to accomplish the same end.  But being married to a monitor and keyboard didn’t seem all that practical.  And the MAC Mini was far more complicated at the hardware and software level than need be for the task at hand.  We wanted a simple system that could be controlled remotely via an iPad, iPhone or some Android device.

That led us to Linux, a solid, stable operating system using MPD as the player software. No graphical user interface was required which meant we could use a very stripped down version of Linux as well. (Linux, by the way, is the operating system used in most all DVR’s which perform a similar task for video.)

Extraneous Features

When we looked at available players, we noticed a few features that were not really required.

Some had either character or graphic LCD displays. But if all the information on a given track is available via the app you are using to remote control the player, an LCD screen seems a bit redundant.  Sure, it looks impressive, but you often can’t read it from the listening position anyway. So we weren’t interested in a graphic display.

The same is true of control buttons.  Who wants to get up to advance the track?  Again, if you are using a remote device to control the player, what value do these controls offer?

The other common feature of many of these players were on-board optical drives.  This would seem to be a convenient feature, but there are reasons it, too, makes little sense.  First, the gold standard for ripping audio tracks is dbPoweramp, which runs on Windows and MAC operating systems.

Secondly, most computers have built in optical drives.  So you would end up duplicating hardware you already own.  And since the StreamPlayer would be a network device, ripping to it would be exactly the same as ripping to a local drive on any other computer on your network.  The streaming player would simply show up as a drive on all computers on your network and saving to it would be no more involved than saving ripped music to a local drive on that computer.  In fact, dbPoweramp can be set up to save to a specific drive with a specific folder layout.  So ripping music from any computer running dbPoweramp is as simple as inserting the CD and hitting “Rip.” Everything else is done for you.

The bottom line is that by eliminating all of these unnecessary “features” lowers cost and increases reliability with no reduction in convenience.  They simply aren’t needed and only serve to make the unit more complex with additional failure points.

The StreamPlayer is Born

Once we determined what we were looking for, we realized that our “dream” unit did not exist.  So we set out to design our own and the first generation StreamPlayer was born.

The resulting unit worked very well for its intended purpose.  When used at audio shows, we were able to very conveniently select the tracks we wanted to play.  The StreamPlayer never failed and allowed us to do things like search for artist, genre, year, CD, song title, etc.  What’s more, we could save playlists that could be called up anytime we wanted to re-visit a particular arrangement of tracks.

When we used our StreamPlayer at shows, we generally had quite a few people asking if we would be willing to build units for them.  That presented an issue.  Obviously we had no trouble configuring our players using a Linux terminal (remember, there is no graphical user interface to simplify this task).  But for most of our customers, using a Linux terminal is beyond their capabilities.  So we spent about 8 months developing a web-based user interface that allows users to configure for their unit to suit their needs.  Behind the scenes, the web interface writes the appropriate configuration files for the user…no Linux knowledge required.

DSD

In recent years, the audio industry has started promoting DSD.  While the original StreamPlayer was capable of playing these files, the embedded processor we used in the first generation StreamPlayer was being pushed harder and harder.  Plus, all kinds of DSD-capable DACs started appearing on the scene and it was hard to insure that the majority of them would work with the original version of the StreamPlayer.  So this past year, we introduced the Generation II StreamPlayer with a higher powered processor and more capable USB circuitry.

We now have a streaming server that works very well for us.  Since it is not a speaker product, we decided not to include it in our main web site.  Instead, we created a separate site just for this product.  If you’d like to explore the StreamPlayer further, here is a link to the site:  StreamPlayer Site

 

Streaming Basics

Streaming

streamingThere are many advantages to storing all of your music on a streaming device. The main one is obviously convenience. Systems can be designed so that you never have to leave your chair to change music tracks and your entire collection is at your fingertips. But there are other advantages as well.

You can search your music by artist, album, song title, genre or simply browse your collection (via an iPad or similar device). Better yet, you can create multiple playlists, each reflecting a certain musical style or mood. And the ease with which you can change tracks will change the way you listen to music forever. Once you stream, there is no going back!

But streaming is a conceptual departure from playing vinyl or CD’s and fear of the unknown can prevent a person from taking the plunge. Hopefully, the next couple of articles will shed some light and illuminate the dark unknown.

Streaming Components

There are four basic components of a music streaming system:

  1. A music storage device;
  2. A playback device;
  3. A digital to analog converter (DAC) to convert the digital bit stream to analog sound; and,
  4. A system that allows you to select tracks to send to the DAC.

If you think about it, these four components are included in your existing CD player.  With a CD player, you basically have a storage device (the CD itself), a playback device (the player itself), a DAC (which is normally built into the CD player) and a remote to control the player. In a streaming system, you are simply substituting for these four components. So let’s take a look at each of the four to see what a new streaming system might look like.

Storage

A standard CD contains a collection of music tracks in the form of digital files. If you copied (a process called ripping that we will get to later) these files onto a hard drive on a computer, you would be able to play them back on your computer.

So in terms of a storage device, there are a number of possibilities.  You can use your computer (as long as you have sufficient drive space available) or an old, unused computer you have lying around. A network storage device (NAS) connected to your network is another possibility.  Or, for maximum flexibility, a dedicated streaming device with built-in storage. You are essentially storing the digital music files on a hard drive rather than on a physical optical CD.

Playback

Regardless of where you store your music, you will need a device that can play the files by sending the bit stream to your DAC.  If you are storing music on your computer (or an old computer you have lying around unused), you can use a program on that same machine to send the bit stream to your DAC.  If you have your music stored on a NAS (network storage device), you can use another computer to access the music files and serve them to your DAC.  Finally, you can have a dedicated music streaming device both store and play your music files.

DAC

As mentioned earlier, a CD player normally has a DAC built in. But unless you have a high-end player, these DACs are usually not all that sophisticated and the sound quality can be all over the board. A computer also has built-in DAC circuitry. It is often capable of playing music files of higher resolution than a CD player, but the sound quality is typically not all that high either.

An outboard DAC opens up greater possibilities since there are few limitations in terms of ultimate sound quality.  The only practical limitation is your budget.  These DACs can be had for as little as $100 or less up to $20,000 or more.  But you don’t always necessarily get what you pay for.  It takes a bit of investigation to determine what kind of price/performance a given DAC offers.

Control

Obviously, you will need some system to select and play your music.  If you are using a computer, player applications will typically be used to select and play tracks.  The upside of this approach is that you seldom have to invest in much of anything since you already own the computer.  The down-side is that you will generally be tied to a monitor/keyboard/mouse combination which may be hard to set up for remote control access.

Generally, a dedicated player will come with remote control apps that can run wirelessly on an iPhone, an iPad, an Android phone, an Android tablet or some other device.  All the rest of the system can be safely tucked away since you won’t need direct access to it.

NEXT: Let’s take a look at Music File Formats

DACs

DACs, DACs and More DACs

dacThere are probably at least a hundred models of outboard digital to analog converters (DACs) on the market today – some very good and some merely average. But even a mediocre-performing outboard DAC will often out-perform the DACs in most consumer CD players.  That being the case, how do you go about selecting the right DAC for your system?

There are several criteria you can use to narrow down the potential field.  They include:

  • the file resolutions you would like to support;
  • compatibility with your music storage/streaming device;
  • required inputs and outputs; and,
  • your budget.

Let’s take these one by one.

File Resolution

If your intent is to play mostly .mp3’s and regular Redbook (CD-quality 16/44 files) audio tracks, all DACs sold today are capable of handling those file resolutions. In fact, many of them can do so at very high quality levels. If you desire the ability to play higher resolutions files, many of these DACs can also handle file resolutions up to 24/96.  Beyond that, it gets a bit more complicated, not only because the DAC needs to be capable of higher resolutions, but also because its usability may be impacted by the capabilities of the streaming device that is feeding it a bit stream (more on that in a moment).

So what file resolutions should you support?

There are many people who feel that human hearing is not capable of resolving added detail in file resolutions above 24/96. While that may or may not be the case, the audio industry over the past few years has aggressively pushed higher and higher file resolutions. The ability to handle files up to 24/192 and even 48/384 is common in standard PCM (pulse code modulation) DACs.  But to complicate matters, DSD, a completely different format, is also being aggressively promoted with DSD64, DSD128 and even DSD256 formats being pushed. You are even starting to hear talk of consumer DSD512 formats on the horizon.

The main issue with DSD today is a relative lack of material (compared to PCM recordings).  If you like classical or folk music, there is a fair amount of product to select from.  The reason is that DSD is often recorded live with a single stereo microphone making generation of these recordings easy.  Recordings originally introduced in the SACD (Super Audio CD) format that never really caught on with consumers are also available since they are essentially DSD recordings in the first place. But the total number of these recordings is still somewhat limited.

When you visit sites offering high-resolution audio, you will often see music not originally recorded in DSD that is being “re-released” in DSD. But are those offerings really DSD quality?

If the original master recording was analog (normally recorded on audio tape), when converting to DSD you could at least obtain as much information as the limits of the original analog audio tapes would allow. (They would obviously not take advantage of the expanded dynamic range and signal to noise ratio of DSD since audio tape can’t match them. )

If the originals were digital, that is another story.  Unfortunately, it is unlikely that they were originally recorded at DSD resolutions. So where does the additional information in the resulting DSD files come from?  After all, you can’t create detail that is not there.  The only thing you can do is extrapolate the additional information from the existing data.  In other words, you are using computer algorithms to synthesize information that isn’t there, based on the information that is there. Do you end up with anything that is better than the original recording?  That is a legitimate area for debate.  Some (those selling DACs and music files) would argue that there are benefits.  And there may be since these DSD files may have been mastered better than the original CDs.  But others, including many engineers, would argue that it is simply an example of the industry repackaging old material to re-market it to a public that doesn’t understand exactly what they are purchasing.  But I digress (this is probably a topic for another conversation)…

The point is, you need to take a realistic look at what resolutions you would like to support.  Based on industry trends and regardless of the merits, DSD will continue to be promoted aggressively by an industry intent on selling gear.  Right now, the availability of DSD files is fairly limited, they are expensive when compared to lower resolution files of the same material (that some would say sound just as good), and the file sizes are large, increasing storage requirements. But if you want to future proof your set-up, DSD is probably not a bad idea since that is where the industry appears to be headed.

Source Device Compatibility

When designing a music streaming system, one consideration that must be dealt with is the interface between the streaming device and the DAC.  Various DACs offer various methods of interfacing the two.

A music storage/streaming device, whether it looks like one or not, is basically a computing device of some kind running on an operating system such as Windows, MAC or Linux.  And there are several ways to interface these computing devices to a DAC.  They include:

  • AES/EBU (a professional interface typically used in recording studios)
  • S/PDIF (a consumer format utilizing coaxial RCA or TOSLINK fiber optic inputs),
  • Firewire, or
  • USB

Since a streaming device is essentially a computer, USB will be the most common interface used in a streaming system. That being the case, there are a few things you need to be aware of.

First, how capable is the USB implementation on the source streaming device?  If it is based on iOS (MAC) or Linux, there are generally no significant limitations.  But if it is based on Windows, that is not the case.  Windows USB implementation is behind the times.  It can handle Redbook CD (16/44) and 24/96 resolutions, but does not natively support resolutions above that.  This means that if you intend to use a Windows-based streaming device and would like to support higher resolutions, your DAC will require proprietary drivers (generally supplied by the DAC manufacturer).  Almost all higher resolution DACs shipped today have drivers available to address this Windows limitation.  But the question you need to ask yourself is, when future versions of Windows emerge, will the DAC manufacturers update their drivers to accommodate changes in the OS?  If not, you may find yourself with an expensive paperweight.  iOS and Linux-based systems have an advantage in this regard as they work with most DACs without proprietary drivers.

The second thing to consider is the nature of the USB input on the DAC itself.  USB Class 2.0 Audio is an audio USB standard that insures that a DAC should work just fine without proprietary drivers  (with the exception of Windows systems as mentioned above).  So this is a safe way to go.  Some DACs have USB implementations that do not conform to that standard.  These may even require proprietary drivers for MAC (iOS) and Linux systems as well.  Again, a bit of caution would be advised.

Inputs and Outputs

As for inputs, if you will be using USB, that is all the DAC really has to have.  If you intend to use AES/EBU, S/PDIF or Firewire, then obviously the DAC you choose will have to have the appropriate inputs as well.

For outputs, about the only consideration is whether your system requires balanced (XLR) or unbalanced (RCA) audio connections.  Most DACs include unbalanced inputs and outputs, but some higher end DACs offer balanced inputs and outputs as well.

Your Budget

You can purchase a moderately capable DAC for around $100.  But you can also spend upwards of $20,000 or more for a top-tier DAC. That said, you can generally get a very capable DAC for around $500 to $3500 or so. Obviously, the higher resolutions the DAC is capable of supporting and the greater the variety of inputs and outputs it offers, the higher its price will tend to be.  But almost all of them will out-perform the DAC typically included an a CD player and should be considered a step up from the DAC in a typical CD player.

Summary

While the wide variety of DACs on the market may initially seem a bit overwhelming, the decision as to which is correct for you is a manageable one. Start by narrowing the field by addressing the issues above.  Then, when you have narrowed down your choices, spend a bit of time on the net reading reviews and owner’s comments.  There is a wealth of owner opinions out there and you can use them to your advantage.  And keep in mind that no matter which choice you eventually make, it will likely be an improvement over the CD player you may presently be using.

NEXT: The StreamPlayer Story

More Audio Myths Busted!

The audio world is rife with theories that are the source of endless discussion and debate. Some are based on sound priciples. Others, not so much. Here are a few oft-repeated statements we can easily subject to a little critical thinking.

You’ve probably heard or seen these before:

  • Home theater speakers are no good for music.
  • Music speakers don’t work well for home theater.

There is a grain of thruth here but, again, it ain’t necessarily so. read more

Audio Myths Busted!

The audio world is rife with theories. They are the source of endless discussion and debate. Some are based on sound priciples. Others, not so much. Here are a few oft-repeated statements we can easily subject to a little critical thinking.

You’ve probably heard or seen these before:

  • Monitors create a wider, deeper soundstage and image better than floor standing speakers.
  • Floor standing speakers play deeper than monitors.

There is an element of truth to each of these statements. And therein lies problem. read more

Understanding Cabinet Diffraction

One of the most misunderstood topics in audio is the subject of diffraction. Diffraction, acoustic phase, and how listening rooms impact our reproduction of sound, based on what I see posted in many discussions on the internet, are subjects of much confusion. In this article I will attempt to clear some of the fog on the topic of cabinet diffraction, and hopefully, present it in such a way as to make it much easier to understand. read more