Category Archives: World News

Listening Report: 1975 Bill Evans Trio Concert, On A Friday Evening, 180-Gram Vinyl, Qobuz / Tidal Streams

There is often a great divide between “audiophiles” and “fans” when it comes to archival releases. The former want their music to sound as good as possible with the performance often being only of secondary importance while the latter appreciate the full performances delivered in any format possible, warts ’n all…

I really first came to understand this notion back in my days as active Dead Head and collector of their live concerts. It was always a joy to get new shows but when you got a tape of a great performance that also sounded amazing, well that was the heavenly crossroads everyone dreamed about.  

In recent years there have been some wonderful archival releases issued as producers and archival sleuths like Zev Feldman dig deep into the recesses  of private collections and other previously unknown or long-rumored archival treasures which have presented themselves to the universe. 

I’ve reviewed a number of them by no less than Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Bill Evans. To read some of those reviews, click on the artists names to jump to the reviews I’ve done over the years.

Regarding the last name on that list, there happily seems to be a well spring of great recordings surfacing of late. Last year I wrote about the fabulous and rare 1968 set from Ronnie Scott’s club in London (click here for that) and there have been numerous others over the years.  In May, my associate Ken Micallef wrote about the new Bill Evans CD boxed set — Everybody Still Digs Bill Evans: A Career Retrospective (1956-1980) — which includes a 1975 live set of very high quality.  You can click here to read Ken’s review of the set but in short I concur with his perspective on the recording and performance. 

The good folks at Craft Recordings kindly sent me the new two-LP 180-gram vinyl version of that concert — recorded at Oil Can Harry’s in Vancouver, B.C. — which has been released separately, titled On A Friday Evening.  It is a wonderful recording which sounds to my ear like it was professionally engineered through a mixing board and onto analog tape (this was years before digital tape, folks). I can tell its not an audience recording because there is stereo panning on Evans’ piano apparent at times.  

However, part of the reason On A Friday Evening sounds as good as it does is because of a restoration step the producers wisely used from Plangent Processes.  This is a terrific technology and service that has been used by no less than Bruce Springsteen, The Grateful Dead and many others to correct issues — often significant issues — with the original tape due to motor speed fluctuations in the original recording, electrical variances (which can, again, affect motor speed) and other anomalies inherent to the tape and specific machines on which it was recorded. 

The result is a very tight sounding and in-tune recording that effectively brings the listener that much closer to what the original performance sounded like.  I have written about Plangent Processes before but if you want a fairly technical dive into it click here to read an article our former Editor Steven Stone wrote several years ago.

Kudos to Jamie Howarth at Plangent Processes for his work and to mastering engineer Paul Blakemore who clearly did an exemplary job on this nearly 50 year old recording. 

The whole set here is excellent but I particularly like “Saren Jurer,” “T.T.T. (Twelve Tone Tune)” and Miles Davis’ “Nardis” (Eddie Gomez’ bowed bass solo is wonderful!)

The 180-gram vinyl pressing made at RTI is dark, well centered and quiet, so no problems on that front either.

If you don’t have a turntable but are into the high resolution streaming experience and have both a DAC plus certain subscriptions, you can find On A Friday Evening streaming on Tidal in MQA format and on Qobuz Hi Res (both stream at 192 kHz, 24-bits). The music sounds exemplary there and very warm as digital streams go (click here to jump to it on Tidal and here for Qobuz).  

Both the streams and vinyl versions have their pluses and minuses so I’m not going to rank one over the other. But for a couple quick examples, on the streams the stereo separation seemed more distinct to where it becomes very apparent that Evans’ piano was likely mic’d in Stereo, allowing you to hear the pan of his playing across the keyboard (left to right across your speakers). However, I preferred how the drums sounded on the vinyl version, particularly how the cymbals decayed.  So, not surprisingly there is a give and take on different platforms and services. Use your ears and go with what ultimately feels best to you. 

All that said, On A Friday Evening  should be high on your must get list if you are fan of Evans’ music or if you are simply an audiophile seeking high quality live recordings to show off your system.  This one is a keeper. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Product Launch: Topping D10B Balanced DAC!

Topping have gathered a huge following lately for their objective-backed designs. The D10S was one of their most popular DACs, a well-performing model that was also one of the most affordable on the market. Its shortfall was its lack of balanced connectivity, but that changes now with the new D10B.

Topping’s latest entry-level DAC uses ESS’ ES9038Q2M chip and XMOS XU208 USB processor for huge decoding power up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD256. Chiefly, the D10B trades the single-ended RCA outputs of the D10s for two balanced TRS outputs cross-compatible with XLR systems using adaptors (included).

The Topping D10B is now available for $139 USD. You can read more about it and treat yourself to a unit on HiFiGO!

The post Product Launch: Topping D10B Balanced DAC! first appeared on The Headphone List.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Meet The Wanderlust (or Why I Fell For A Comeback Album From A Band I’d Missed Back In The Day)

One of the frustrating parts about being a musician, music fanatic/record collector and reviewer is becoming painfully aware of the absolute wealth of incredible music that is out there which doesn’t get mainstream attention it deserves. I actually have set up a subsection of my collection for not only “one hit wonders” but “no hit wonders.”  These are the groups who have put out recordings that never really realized their potential yet which I’ve grown attached to and have kept them in my collection. Some of these groups are still around in some form or another. Some have disappeared entirely. But the music lives on…

What are some of these bands,” you ask? Off the top of my head, let me count the ways that are not Big Star: Interview (from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s), The Glitterhouse (from 1968), Superdrag, The Grays, Idle Wilds and The Sugarplastic and Creeper Lagoon are some that come to mind from the 1990s or thereabouts. The list goes on.  So many great albums by fine bands. Should-have-been-hits that were here and gone in a flash. Some got on the radio. Some you heard about by word-of-mouth.  

Some of these artists persevered and put out other albums independently. Others imploded and went on to do other things with their lives. And every now and then, one of these groups magically reappear. Creeper Lagoon did just that several years back playing a fantastic reunion show here in San Francisco. 

One such group from the East Coast which I’d never heard of up until recently is Wanderlust.  They have reunited and have new album out that really implanted an earworm in me.   

From Philadelphia, in the ‘90s they’d apparently opened for The Who and released one critically acclaimed album on RCA called Prize. Yet, they were dropped from the label before they could finish their second album. Each of the key members seem to have gone on to great successes releasing solo albums, co-writing Grammy winning hits for other artists, opening for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, touring as a member of Brian Wilson’s band and more. 

Called All A View, when I put on their new CD I wasn’t prepared for such a fully formed rich recording, especially from an indie release. Chockfull of great rock songwriting festooned with glistening power-pop-fringe, the album is infused with hooks and melodies for days. At times it feels like Badfinger channeling Squeeze with the muscle of Television. But then it feels like Big Star with the free-falling abandon of The Dukes of Stratosphear. At another turn suddenly the lights go out and you turn off your mind, relax and float downstream on a green tambourine with R.E.M., Matthew Sweet, The Grays, The Posies, Neil Young and Ireland’s Pugwash along for the ride. 

From the opening one-two-punch of the trippy title track followed by the ripping “Black Current Jam”  Wanderlust starts out strong. But then the album keeps giving. “Something Happens” feels like some lost Paul McCartney track from around the time of Flaming Pie (note: the band apparently got its name from the Macca tune of the same name from the Tug Of War album). By the time you get to the lovely and haunting “Two Million Pieces” you realize this album is a complete song-cycle meant to be listened to end to end.  “Trick Of The Light” feels like an wondrous outtake from Emitt Rhodes‘ tremendous comeback album several years ago by way of Seals & Crofts’ (“Summer Breeze”) as if played by The Grays (side note: I do wonder if the painterly album cover for Wanderlust is somehow an homage to The Grays’ album Ro Sham Bo?).

The great thing about a recording like All A View is that you can listen to it on the surface as just a fine fine song collection. Or, if you are like me and appreciate bands which have internalized their influences on such a sweet micro-level that it gets fun to play a game of “spot the influence.” 

But perhaps the best thing about an album like this is that in addition to it making me want to play the album over and over, it also makes me want to track down the band’s earlier albums (which I plan to do!).  

I was so impressed with this album I wrote back to their publicist about the possibility of hearing the vinyl version. Amazingly, not only did they send me a copy but it arrived super quickly (the postal service can still work!). I’m happy to report that the pressing is solid. The sturdy black vinyl is quiet and well centered. And the music which I suspect was made in some hybrid of digital and analog sources sounds very good overall. The low end and mid ranges in particular benefit from the playback on my system. Listening to All A View on LP, the soundstage is a more focused and three dimensional feeling than on the CD (and the compact disc sounds quite good as they go).

Songs like “Something Happens” benefit really well from the vinyl edition with the acoustic guitars popping beautifully and the little percussion touches and electric guitar flourishes standing out in the mix. “Two Million Pieces” sounds somehow even more haunting and intimate on LP than the CD if that is possible. Definitely worth getting the vinyl if you can.

It’s nice to be able to recommend both the LP and CD of a new independent released album. Wanderlust’s All A View is a winner.

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Soft Ears RSV Review – Mastering Versatility

Pros –

Flawless gloss finish, Comfortable and well-isolating design, Quality stock cable, Highly refined and versatile tuning, Excellent dynamics for a BA design, Jack of all trades master of many, Easy to drive

Cons –

Treble extension and sub-bass definition could be improved, Soundstage depth just above average in-class

Verdict –

The RSV is one of the most well-rounded and instantly likeable earphones I’ve tested, representing an excellent value proposition even at its elevated price tag.


Introduction –

Soft Ears are the luxury division of the now widely renowned Moondrop, seeking to offer a more refined experience at more premium price tiers. Their product portfolio is more focused and mostly high-end focused. This starts at their all-out co-flagships, the 10x BA driver RS10 reference monitor and their Tribrid Cerberus. Alternatively, the Turii offers a high-end single-DD configuration that has become more popularised in recent years. The RSV is their cheapest model if not a cheap earphone in isolation. The team spent 1 year honing it to perfection, aiming to offer a scaled back version of the RS10 experience with the same technologies and engineering on a simplified and easier to drive 5-BA platform. Compared to the flat out reference RS10, the RSV has been slightly reworked to provide a heavier emphasis on dynamics. Its engaging yet immaculately clean sound, ease of driving and more accessible price point makes it a great choice for audio enthusiasts.

The RSV comes in at $729.99 USD. You can read all about it and treat yourself to a unit here.

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank the team at Soft Ears very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the RSV, RS10 and Cerberus for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. I paid a slightly reduced cost for the earphones in return for honest evaluation and will attempt to be as objective as possible.

Contents –

Specifications –

  • Drivers: 5x BA
  • Crossover: 6-Component, 3-way
  • Sensitivity: 125dB @ 1kHz
  • Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 40kHz
  • Socket: 0.78mm, 2-pin

Behind the Design –

Tuned Acoustics & Crossovers

The combination of electronic crossover and passive filters has enabled Soft Ears to achieve their desired note presentation in addition to their ideal frequency response. Using a 3rd order LRC filter for bass, impedance + low-pass for the midrange and film capacitors for the high-end, the company was able to achieve both whilst maintaining almost linear phase. This is aided by the 3D-printed shell and internal acoustics, leading to maximised extension, resolution and sharper imaging.

VDSF Tuning

Moondrop pioneered the VDSF tuning curve which is a combination of the diffuse field neutral and Harman Curves which have become industry standards as of late. Every model lies on a spectrum between both. The Moondrop sound has become hugely popular with users and critics alike due to its combination of timbral accuracy, balance and improved listenability over time compared to the vanilla Harman and DF Neutral curves. The RSV represents one of the most refined takes on it yet.

Unboxing –

The RSV has the most exclusive unboxing of the Soft Ears line-up with a large magnetic box that folds open to reveal the leather carrying case and accessories within a separate box. The case contains the earphones and cable. Each earpiece comes protected within a fabric pouch that prevent scratches during shipping. The accessories include 3 pairs of silicone tips in addition to 3 pairs of memory foam tips that offer a warmer, softer sound. In addition, a cleaning tool is provided alongside a metal Soft Ears card. Of note, the tips have an especially large bore size which can limit aftermarket pairings. The stock tips also have a seat promoting a more homogenous fit depth, likely in order to provide a more consistent sound between listeners. As there was such a heavy emphasis on tonality on this earphone, I decided to stick with the stock ear tips, of course, experiment for your preference if this is not to your liking.

Design –

As a huge car fanatic, the RSV invoked some primal instinct in me. From the sleek, smooth yet symmetrical styling to the gold foil inlay atop carbon fibre faceplates, the RSV advertises its sporty, high-performance nature. I am a huge fan of the combination of texture and simple yet flawlessly finished 3D printed piano black that oozes quality even in the absence of metal and its associated density in the hand. With its solid 3D-printed design, the RSV feels far more substantial than your average acrylic monitor. If I had one complaint, perhaps the nozzle could have a small ridge to help tips stay attached as those with wet wax may find themselves having to clean them frequently.   

Up top are 2-pin 0.78mm recessed connectors compatible with a wide range of aftermarket options. The stock cable leaves little to be desired, with a smooth matte jacket and very sturdy yet minimally cumbersome construction. The wires are a little springy though it is supple enough to coil without issue and microphonic noise isn’t exacerbated either. The pre-moulded ear guides are comfortable and the connectors complete the aesthetic with their clean matte black finish. Altogether a well-considered package, perhaps a modular or balanced termination could have been employed. Arguably, their use of the widely adopted 3.5mm standard is in line with the company’s intentions that this monitor should be enjoyed from almost any source.

Fit & Isolation –

This is a medium-sized earphone and its fit will be reminiscent to anyone familiar with faux-custom style monitors. It sits comfortably in the outer ear and its rounded design is devoid of features that may cause hotspot formation over time. It protrudes slightly, meaning they won’t be suitable for sleeping on, but the RSV isn’t especially bulky either. For my ears, they were comfortable for hours on end and I achieved a strong, consistent seal. Due to its fully sealed design and well-shaped body, the RSV is very stable and forms a great seal with its slightly deeper fit. Those sensitive to wearing pressure will have a similar experience here to other sealed in-ears that said. In addition, wind noise isn’t an issue and isolation is strong, great for commute and even travel, especially with foam tips installed. This also means the earphones don’t require huge bass emphasis to sound great in louder listening environments.

Next Page: Sound Breakdown & Source Pairings

The post Soft Ears RSV Review – Mastering Versatility first appeared on The Headphone List.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Product Launch: Sivga SV021 Premium Solid-Wood Headphones

We recently reviewing Sivga’s Phoenix open-back dynamic driver headphones where we were impressed by its gorgeous build and warm, natural tuning. The company is back with a brand new model sporting a similar solid-wood design alongside a more traditional padded headband and solid metal frame.

Perhaps most exciting is what’s inside. It features a 50mm dynamic driver on each side, with 3mm high-performance Nd-Fe-B magnets, specially developed copper-clad aluminium voice coil and a polycarbonate diaphragm. Sivga reason this setup provides a natural and smooth sound whilst remaining efficient and easy to drive.

The SC021 is now available for $179 USD. You can read more about it and treat yourself to a unit on HiFiGO!

The post Product Launch: Sivga SV021 Premium Solid-Wood Headphones first appeared on The Headphone List.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

The Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin Companion On Record Store Day Edition Silver Vinyl

One of my most wanted albums for this last Record Store Day was The Soft Bulletin Companion by The Flaming Lips. This is a first-time vinyl pressing of a recording that was only issued on home-made CD-Rs by the band to industry insiders back around the time of the release of their landmark album The Soft Bulletin.  I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get a copy but it did turn out to be quite readily available. This is good news for you, Dear Readers, in case you decide to get this sweet compilation. 

A few things on The Soft Bulletin Companion have been released before on the DVD Audio Disc format, as bonus outtakes on the 5.1 surround sound version of The Soft Bulletin (“1000 Ft. Hands,” “The Captain” and “Satellite Of You.”).

As much as I love that DVD Audio Disc, it is so great to finally have “The Captain” on vinyl. I fell in love with this song again a couple of years ago when the band issued a new video for it. It is one of those epic Flaming Lips songs that gets under your skin and into the deep recesses of your brain after a few listens. It is an earworm in the best sense of the word, especially the last half of the song. 

There is some amazing material on The Soft Bulletin Companion such as the Stereo mix of “Okay, I Admit That I Really Don’t Understand” from Zaireeka, an album that was issued on four separate channels (one on each of four discs) designed to be played on four different stereos simultaneously. So for some who have not heard the Stereo mixes at all (there are versions circulating around the web if you poke around a bit), this has a haunting presence about it. The drum and bass hook is killer tied together by some wonderfully eerie vocal treatments this side of Radiohead around the time of OK Computer

My copy of The Soft Bulletin Companion sounds generally excellent even though it is pressed on spiffy looking silver vinyl. The only time I heard any noise was in the run out groove at the end of the record on one side. I do have a friend who had a surface noise problem with one side of his copy of the album so I’m hoping his was just a one-off anomaly. 

Good news for CD fans: this week The Soft Bulletin Companion is also being issued on regular compact disc, bringing the release almost full circle to its roots.  The album hasn’t appeared in full on streaming services but there is one preview track (“Satellite of You”) on each of them in high resolution form. I suspect those will go live once the CD is released so as soon as it does I’ll be sure to update this review with those links.

The Soft Bulletin Companion is a fun album and very much a heady side show for appreciating The Soft Bulletin album. And keep in mind that there was a second volume of The Soft Bulletin Companion on CD-R (I have a copy of that one!) so maybe next year we’ll get that issued on vinyl. Fingers crossed.

“Race For The Prize” (from the original album The Soft Bulletin)

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

IKKO OH10 and OH1 review: Still have it

INTRODUCTION:

IKKO is one of those brands which exploded into the audiophile scene. They did not come up with a lot under their belt but has two very good IEMs with consumer oriented tunings. Both the OH10 and OH1 have done exceptionally well all across the world and is one of the hottest selling earphone in their price segments but of the two it’s the more premium OH10 which reigns supreme. IKKO seems calm about their strategies. They are not launching products left and right but are trying to time their launches. IKKO’s portfolio is not a very busy one, after the huge success of their IEMs they introduced a couple of DAC/Amps (and a refresh to the OH1, OH1S very recently) too.

Both the IEMs I have here have the exactly same driver configuration. Both have a single 10mm polymer composite titanium film dynamic drive paired with single Knowles 33518.

These IEMs were launched at $199 and $140 for OH10 and OH1 respectively but to make these IEMs more competent IKKO has reduced their prices. OH10 is $40 cheaper taking the price down to $159 while the OH1 can be bought for $100 from Drop. Both these IEMs do not have many color options. The OH10 comes in metal grey color with chrome finish on it while the OH1 gas a matte blue paint on it.

I have had a few good IEMs under $200, BQEYZ Spring 2, Summer and TRN BA8 and will bring the Campfire Audio Honeydew occasionally for comparisons.

Get one for yourself from these links:

https://audio46.com/blogs/headphones/ikko-oh10-obsidian-hybrid-iem-review

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:-

IKKO has implemented exactly same packaging for both the OH10 and OH1. They come in a colorful outer paper package with a cardboard box in it. These IEMs have an elegant yet simple unboxing experience. Upon opening the flap an envelope greets is. It has some product details and warranty details on it. Below that the ear pieces and a cufflink are stuffed inside a foam pad while the all leather carry pouch is placed aside it. Under the carry pouch 3 pair dark grey and 3 pair of smoke white tips with black flanges can be found.

HOW ARE THE CABLES:-

I am not a fan of this kind of cables being packed with IEMs over $100 but since this cable has its own aesthetical appeal due to use of metal parts in the 3.5mm jack, Y splitter and 2pins. Both the IEMs ship with the same 4 core OFC silver plated copper cable but have different color to them. The OH10 ships with black and the OH1 ships with a grey cable.

Both the cables have exactly same profile and feel to them. These cable are supple and do not have much memory to them. The braiding is slightly on the stiffer side but it doesn’t make the cable stiff. The 90 degree 3.5mm jack is convenient when gaming and the cable guides are very comfortable on the ear. I found the lack of cable slider to be a bit bothering since the cable up from Y splitter is thin and can tangle easily.

BUILD AND ERGONOMICS:-

Both the IEMs have exactly same design, the triangular back plate have similar dented pattern but different finishing and housing material. The OH10 has heavier body with titanium coating on the outside of a copper shell. There is platinum coating on the inside.

The cheaper OH1 has aerospace alloy hosing and is much lighter than the OH10 at just 6g.

Both the IEMs do not have a semi custom type shell. These nozzles are 5.7mm wide but are deep enough for a secure and stable fit. Protection on the 2.5mm socket give these earpieces an unique character. Both the IEMs have two pressure releasing vents, one can be found aside the 2pin socket while the other is near the nozzle’s base.

PAIRING WITH SOURCES:-

Both the IEMs have exactly same specifications too.

Impedance: 18 ohms.

Sensitivity: 106dB.

Frequency Response Range: 20Hz-40kHz.

Thanks to the highly sensitivity of 106db and source friendly impedance of 18ohm both these Ikko IEMs are very easy to drive from most of the mobile phones. But obviously providing these IEMs a bit of power yields better stage and details. No need to worry, it is very good with decent mid range mobile phones too.

The post IKKO OH10 and OH1 review: Still have it first appeared on The Headphone List.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Steve Earle & the Dukes: J.T.

Three months after Justin Townes Earle’s tragic death in August 2020, his father announced plans to record an album of his son’s songs. J.T. was a fixture on the Nashville ragtime, folk, bluegrass, and rock scenes, a gifted songwriter who released nine albums between 2002 and 2019. He inherited his father’s gift for songwriting, penning reveries along with tender ballads that addressed his search for forgiveness and his struggles with depression and addiction (“Turn Out the Lights”). Drawing heavily from Justin’s early to mid-career material, J.T. opens with an upbeat bluegrass take of 2008’s “I Don’t Care” and moves as far ahead chronologically as the jarring title track from Justin’s 2019 swan song The Saint of Lost Causes. Much of J.T sounds upbeat while masking deeply troubled lyrics: “They Killed John Henry” bemoans the tragic fate of an American folk hero who died despite his best intentions, and the darkly wry “Harlem River Blues” speaks of committing suicide when things are looking brightest. The closer, “Last Words,” is the cover album’s sole original—it’s a painful, personal lament in which Steve Earle bares his soul about his son’s death. Otherwise, J.T.’s music speaks for itself.

The post Steve Earle & the Dukes: J.T. appeared first on The Absolute Sound.

Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

Pro-Ject Announces New Debut Pro Turntable

The following is a press release issued by Sumiko and Pro-Ject.

MAPLE GROVE, MN (July 15, 2021) – Sumiko and Pro-Ject USA are proud to announce the new Debut PRO Turntable from Pro-Ject Audio Systems. The original Pro-Ject 1 and its successor, the Debut series, revolutionized the music listening experience while reinvigorating a passion for analog playback – a turning point for the industry. Pro-Ject continues to satisfy music lovers and vinyl enthusiasts with continued innovation in performance and value that bring the joy of stereo hi-fi to life in your own home.

The Debut PRO extends the tradition of the Debut collection with a new striking design, featuring a satin black and brushed-nickel color scheme that emphasizes the strengths of the technologies within the turntable. Tracking performance is enhanced by an all new 8.6” tonearm that features a one-piece carbon fiber wrapped aluminum arm tube for excellent rigidity and reduction of harmful resonances. A heavy-duty, nickel-plated machined aluminum bearing block ensures the tight tolerance tonearm bearings move freely, allowing the tonearm to track precisely across the entire surface of the record. The Debut PRO also features a die-cast aluminum platter with integrated TPE damping, resulting in the perfect combination of mass and low internal resonance.

New to the Debut series, the tonearm height and azimuth are both adjustable, allowing for the use of a wide range of cartridges. The critically acclaimed Sumiko Rainier phono cartridge is included with the Debut PRO and has been mounted by our experts and precision-aligned at the factory. Height adjustable leveling feet with integrated resonance damping, electronic speed selection, a detachable acrylic dust cover and a premium semi-symmetrical phono cable (Connect It E) round out the Debut PRO’s robust feature set.

Like all Pro-Ject Audio Systems turntables, the special-edition Debut PRO is hand crafted in Europe and will be available in the US in limited quantities at select Pro-Ject dealers beginning in August 2021, with a suggested retail price of $899 USD.

The post Pro-Ject Announces New Debut Pro Turntable appeared first on The Absolute Sound.

Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

Trying To Decide on a Streaming Service

I suppose, technically, streaming might be traced back as far as 1999 when the service Napster first arrived as a peer-to-peer service. History recalls Napster almost immediately being consumed in legal troubles over copyright infringement. Shortly after their inception, they were forced to suspend their services and were ultimately acquired by Rhapsody – although the service is now called Napster. Streaming hardly stopped there, however. 

It might be at least partially true that young kids with earbuds helped make streaming what it is today. With services like Pandora and Spotify, services who grew exponentially at the hands of mostly younger-ish, non-audiophile listeners, streaming became firmly entrenched as a means to listen to a song. 

Audiophiles, however, in the early days remained circumspect. We still used physical media. Then came Tidal

Now, suddenly, we had a way to stream a CD quality song from the Internet. We marveled at the availability of, what, an entire world of music right at our fingertips. Perhaps best of all, we could enjoy all this music each month for the cost of a standard CD purchased at a music store. As Tidal gained popularity, audiophiles signed on in droves. Suffice it to say today, streaming is the predominate method audiophiles employ for digital music. 

Tidal, for a while anyway, was about the only choice. While CD quality, presumably at a bitrate of 1411 kbps and the familiar 44.1 / 16, was initially offered, Tidal soon enough teamed up with the highly controversial format called MQA

Not long after Tidal and MQA partnered, the audiophile world suddenly heard about a new game, one from France called Qobuz. For US based audiophiles, we heard how marvelous this new European service was and our big question was simple – when would it find its way to the US?

From day one, the very instant Qobuz hit US shores, it made an impact in the choices audiophiles made for streaming services. And here is where it gets really fun, Qobuz has actual high-resolution music, all the way up to 192 / 24 or 9216 kbps. And Tidal? Remember MQA? Audiophiles suddenly had two platforms about which they could disagree. 

For my purposes, I signed on to Tidal at some point before the availability of Qobuz in the US. Here’s the rub, however – I am not especially a fan of streaming. I prefer a physical CD copied to my server. Why? Simple. On my system it sounds better than streaming. Noticeably better. Dramatically better. And to a point, I like owning my music. For whatever that’s worth these days. 

I was very content to continue to buy CDs, copy and enjoy them. I used Tidal for really one purpose, discovering new music I could then purchase. Peripherally, I could also play a song I did not have in my library if a visitor was in the audio room and made a specific request. 

I started thinking about streaming recently because of something I usually don’t even notice – the cost of Tidal. I have seen the monthly $19.99 charge to my account for who knows how long. It is just something to which I typically pay very little attention. When the July charge showed up in my financial information, I became curious about what the other services offered and their associated fees. I decided to start looking at alternatives. 

While I realize Amazon and now even Spotify offer higher than 320 kbps bitrates (Amazon even offers HD), I never really considered using either of them, or the other similar services. There’s also compatibility with my equipment issues. For my purposes, the decision was singular – Tidal or Qobuz?

For most listeners who plan to use streaming as their predominate way to play a song, having a variety of packages makes sense. Want to download music? Qobuz fully supports downloads. Tidal does as well but my sense is they are a little less convenient in the effort. 

Considering cost, Qobuz has multiple packages where Tidal has two main offerings – less than CD quality and CD Quality. As previously mentioned, Qobuz offers hi-rez up to 192 / 24 and Tidal has MQA. 

I’m not one to place a huge emphasis on two music plans that have, at their lowest common denominator, a difference of about $5.00 but that’s pretty much the bottom line. A monthly basic cost for Qobuz is $14.99 per month. That can be brought down to $12.49 if you pay yearly. Tidal is steadfastly $19.99 per month for CD quality. Qobuz offers other packages at higher yearly costs with increased features. Tidal has two plans however, they do have videos for those interested in a video aspect. Personally, I’m only concerned about music. 

So far, I see both services as pretty much even. Here is where we reach the fork in the road – deciding on a format. 

There are those who will champion MQA. They feel it is a superior format in every way, at least as compared to standard CD quality. I’m sorry but I’m not one of those believers. I have heard music played in MQA that sounded amazing. I’ve heard MQA sound okay, nothing to get really excited about. I’ve heard MQA sound positively dreadful. 

I can also say the exact same thing about CD quality and high-resolution quality. Face it, some recordings sound better than others regardless of the format. I said the exact same thing in the 1970’s when I first started buying albums. My guess is recording quality will always be variable. 

Because, however, I have always been leery of MQA, I decided full-fledged, if there is such a thing, high resolution recordings are a better mousetrap. So, the scales tip towards Qobuz. However, my DAC is not MQA capable so I’m not getting “Master Quality Authenticated” anyway. Theoretically, at best I’ll get 192 / 24 from Tidal but my guess is most often it will be at 96 / 24. Either way, still better than Red Book CD. 

As it stands, I am still riding the fence. I have subscribed to Qobuz and like Tidal, more or less struggle with making the app work seamlessly. Chalk that up to inexperience. It is also fair to say that manifestly, this has only succeeded in me spending an extra $15.00 per month with a not as yet declarative outcome. Here again, that is not a concern to me. 

What is a concern is sonic quality. While I find Tidal and Qobuz to be mostly equal in that regard (my opinion varies), here again, neither of them measures up to a CD copied to my server. Basically, I am right back where I started, just fifteen bucks a month poorer. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review