Tag Archives: Streaming

Gold Note DS-10 Plus Streaming DAC/Preamplifier

Sometimes a component has all but one of the features you require, such as a DAC/preamplifier that can take virtually any currently available digital input, but lacks a way to include an analog source. The Gold Note DS-10 is a perfect example, ideal for a digital-only audiophile, but not quite right for anyone who can’t surrender his analog playback devices. For these folks, Gold Note has another version of the DS-10, called the DS-10 Plus. The Plus has an analog input that keeps the source all-analog from input to output. The DS-10 Plus can be used as a single-box DAC/pre, or you can add the Gold Note’s PSU-10 EVO power supply for a potential upgrade. We will look at the DS-10 Plus both with and without the PSU-10 EVO power supply.

Although this is my first published review of a Gold Note product, this is not the first Gold Note digital device I’ve used. Quite a few years back, Gold Note introduced a DAC at CES that I looked at reviewing. It worked perfectly until one day Apple updated its OS and bricked all the USB receiver chips from a particular OEM manufacturer. The Gold Note DAC was using that chip. It took over six months (I returned the DAC after four) for the problem to be rectified, and I decided to wait for a later generation of Gold Note DACs to review. Although it took a number of years to get around to it, that time has finally arrived.

Tech Tour

The $3695 DS-10 Plus is almost identical to the DS-10 except for two things—the DS-10 Plus adds one analog stereo input while removing one of the two Bluetooth antennae from the back panel to make room for the new mini-stereo input. Digital inputs include an Ethernet port, USB-A, AES/EBU, RCA coaxial, USB-B, Bluetooth 5.0, and two TosLink inputs. For outputs, the DS-10 Plus offers one pair of balanced XLR and one pair of RCA single-ended on the back, and a single-ended ¼” headphone jack on the front panel. The DS10 Plus uses an AKM AK4493 DAC chip, which supports up to 768/32 PCM and DSD512. Specifications indicate it has a 125dB SNR and 120dB dynamic range, which places it among the best in basic specifications for a current-generation DAC. While these specs don’t guarantee good, great, or any particular flavor of sonics, they do indicate that the basic digital device is solidly engineered.

GoldNote DS-10 Plus Rear Panel

The Gold Note 10 Series components are almost eight inches wide, which makes it easy (and tempting) to situate two units side by side. But you don’t want to put the PSU-10 EVO power supply right next to the DS-10 Plus. Instead, I advise “best practices,” utilizing the nice long cable connecting the two units to locate the power supply (as well as any signal-carrying cables) as far away as possible. The Gold Note PSU-10 EVO evolved from the PSU-10 power supply created for the PH-10 phono- stage. While the power supply inside the DS-10 Plus utilizes a SMPS switching mode, the PSU-10 EVO is based on a linear power supply. It has a four-transformer layout that merges dual choke, inductive, and cascade designs.

Ergonomics and Setup

I employed the DS-10 Plus in three different setups. First, I connected it to a pair of April Music S1 monoblock amplifiers driving a pair of Elac F-61 Adante floorstanding loudspeakers and a pair of JL Audio d110 subwoofers. In this system I used the Ethernet connection as my primary source, while the analog input was connected to a Sony HAP-Z1ES digital player. After listening to the DS-10 Plus in this system for about a month, I moved it into my nearfield, computer-based office system, where I used its USB inputs as the principal source connected to a Benchmark ABH-2 power amplifier driving a pair of Audience 1+1 loudspeakers and a Velodyne DD-10+ subwoofer. After another month the DS-10 Plus was put into my main system, replacing the Mytek Manhattan and PS Audio DSD Jr. DAC/preamps, where it was connected to a Pass X-150.8 amplifier driving a pair of Spatial X-2 loudspeakers and a pair of JL Audio f112 subwoofers. All three systems used Audience AU24 speaker cables, Kimber KACG ½-meter single-ended analog cables, and Wireworld Series 8 balanced cables. All three systems also employ AC power conditioning.  

Because I installed the DS-10 Plus in three different systems, I had three opportunities to see if there were any operational or set-up quirks that impacted installation. In each case installation went without a hitch. Gold Note has an app available for both iOS and Android that is necessary for the initial setup. This app allows you to do the basic DS-10 Plus configuration, including the ability to input your Wi-Fi passwords and streaming-account information. The Gold Note control app also proved to be a solid music-playback app that supports both Tidal and Qobuz, as well as your home-music libraries on NAS; however, if you already use Roon, as I do, you will find, as I did, that Roon offers a far superior ergonomic experience. Since the DS-10 Plus is completely Roon-compliant and a recognized and certified Roon endpoint, that’s the way I operated the DS-10 Plus most of the time.

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Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

Is Brenda & The Tabulations The Band To Make You Subscribe To Hi Res Streaming Services Like Qobuz?

Some of you know that I have this love affair with this group that only put out two albums in the later part of the 1960s called Brenda and The Tabulations. They were a bit more than one hit wonders but outside of the Philadelphia area and people who are into vintage soul music, they’re not extremely well-known. 

Accordingly their albums are quite rare and talk still command significant dollars on the collectors market. I’ll put it this way: I have looked for their albums up and down the West Coast and even in some pretty heavy collector shops when I’ve asked about these records I get that “are you crazy?” look. Some have even laughed in my face!

I’m not kidding here folks.

Oddly, as rare as these records are they are not super in demand, so while the albums are expensive online, its not like certain titles which are so elusive they command prices of $500 or more.

Now, you can find her 45 RPM singles with relative ease on the used market. I picked up one over the weekend at a garage sale for 33 cents! But if you want the albums on vinyl, you’re probably going to have to spend a few bucks (in nearly 20 years of searching I have only found one utterly trashed copy in California, in a thrift shop in Palm Springs for 99 cents!).

Or, you can just subscribe to the streaming service called Qobuz, where I discovered last week they were streaming much of Brenda’s catalog. 

Most audiophiles have probably heard of Qobuz so I’m not going to delve into much detail about the pros and cons of what the service is about beyond the fact that it is one of the places where you can stream in very high resolution. Qobuz delivers CD quality at minimum and much higher if you have a DAC hooked up to your stereo (highly recommended).  I have written about Qobuz periodically as well as their main competitor, Tidal.

Oddly enough Tidal does not have the complete Brenda and The Tabulations catalog streaming (there is one singles collection from the time of their second album only and a later inferior comeback album… more on that one in a moment). Thus, for the sake of focus, I’ll just zero in on Qobuz this time. One last caveat: I did find Brenda on that other big brand-name service but I won’t be talking about them because I don’t like how it generally sounds and I don’t really like how they treat the artists (i.e. they don’t pay musicians very much for the use of the music)

Brenda and The Tabulations were pretty much a singles oriented band and most of those tracks are fantastic. On the first album Dry Your Eyes, the title hit is a slow soulful heart-tugger, drenched in rich echo & eerie organ. 

Be sure to listen to hip-shakers like “Hey Boy” which sounds like it could be outtake from Elvis Costello’s Get Happy album. Also be sure to check out her cover versions including an incredible version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s classic “Walk On By.” This is a stronger more aggressive arrangement than Dionne Warwick’s original, with Brenda and the band driving a certain sense of streetwise Philadelphia attitude through the song’s heart — that energy is palpable. They also do a fascinating cover of Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows,” one of the earliest interpretations of that song (originally on The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album) I’ve come across. 

Don’t miss the hysterical-but-infectious novelty track that never became a dance craze called: “The Wash” – – and I dare you to try to not dance around in the room to it.  When listening to that, imagine Debby Harry of Blondie singing the tune — you might be surprised at the similarity in their vocal styles, at least on that song. 

The second eponymously titled album by Brenda and The Tabulations from two years later is a little bit less satisfying on vinyl than the first one as a full album listen as it doesn’t have all the period singles on it. But this is where Qobuz service is useful because they do have an expanded version of the album with period singles streaming there. They also offer a handy compilation that previously was only available on compact disc (click here for that album) called The Top and Bottom Records Singles Collection 1969-1971. This collection delivers all those sides from their work on that label – beautifully produced by the legendary Van McCoy — including “Right On The Tip Of My Tongue,” “A Touch Of You” and “Don’t Make Me Over.”

As you go deeper into Brenda’s catalog you’ll find that there was a comeback album (of sorts) from the mid-1970s on the Casablanca label. That record is a big disappointment as it does not have the original band on it nor does it offer any of the original vibe of the group. Instead it’s rather bland generic mid-70s and mostly forgettable disco. 

But if you listen to those first two albums and the singles, you’ll have most of what you need from the group. Also check out some of the videos that are surface on YouTube which I’ve posted in below.

So, is having access to Brenda and the Tabulations a good enough excuse for you to subscribe to Qobuz?  If you don’t have a CD player and aren’t into collecting rare singles, it might just be…

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

NAD Announces New Masters M10 V2 BluOS Streaming Amplifier

The following is a press release issued by NAD Electronics.

PICKERING, ONTARIO, CANADA | AUGUST 2021 — NAD Electronics, the highly regarded manufacturer of high-performance audio/video components, announced the new and improved NAD Masters M10 V2 BluOS Streaming Amplifier, which continues its “just add speakers” revolution of Hi- Fi. The M10 V2 features 100 watts per channel of amplification and BluOS streaming capabilities, and adds the capability to expand with Dolby Digital Surround decoding, an enclosed IR remote control, and updated gain algorithms. It ships globally in August 2021 and will retail for US $2,749.

“The original M10 caught the industry off-guard and made audiophiles and non-audiophiles reimagine what hi-fi can and should be,” stated Cas Oostvogel, Product Manager for NAD Electronics. “The M10 V2 continues where the first left off and adds even more versatility as a two-channel or potentially a wireless home theatre system.”

JUST ADD (MORE) SPEAKERS

The M10 V2 includes audiophile–grade speaker terminals and two independent subwoofer jacks. Output settings for the subwoofer are easily controlled and adjusted through the BluOS Controller app. Home theatre fans can easily build a Dolby Digital Surround Sound wireless 4.0, 4.1 or 4.2 immersive home theatre system using a pair of BluOS surround-enabled wireless speakers or amplifiers. The M10 V2 is capable of transmitting to rear channels wirelessly, with very low latency, making connecting wires around the room unnecessary.

TOTAL CONTROL

The M10 V2 offers an abundance of control options the most captivating of which is a beautiful full- color touchscreen front panel. New to this iteration of the product is an included an IR remote control for easy access to basic audio controls and presets. Streaming music can be controlled through the BluOS app, which includes dozens of natively integrated music streaming services and thousands of Internet radio stations. The M10 V2 supports AirPlay 2, Bluetooth aptX HD, is Roon Ready, and can be used with popular voice control assistants. For smart homes, the M10 V2 can be integrated into Control4, Crestron, Lutron, and other home-automation systems, so you can control music playback, along with other home systems like lighting, shades, HVAC, and security.

SMALL AND MIGHTY

Bringing everything but the speakers to the hi-fi experience, the M10 V2 features audiophile-grade amplification and DAC, with built in sources and pre-amp capabilities. Featuring an upgraded 7” IPS color touchscreen, the M10V2 delivers purer colors and a wider viewing angle than its predecessor. Renowned nCore amplification technology conservatively rated at 100 watts per channel is included behind the full-color display that doubles as an intuitive touchscreen controller for volume, sources and other audio controls. The M10 V2’s updated gain algorithms allow for higher output levels with inefficient speakers. Higher gain is also included in the subwoofer outputs, which allows for a wider range of subwoofer-main speaker combinations. Its highly acclaimed ESS Sabre DAC effortlessly handles BluOS audio streams, which processes up to 24-bit/192kHz, and supports MQA and other lossless and high-resolution audio formats from streaming services such as Amazon Music Ultra HD, Deezer, Qobuz, and Tidal.

ROOM FRIENDLY

Created by the award-winning design firm DF-ID, the M10 V2 features a solid brushed aluminium chassis and Gorilla Glass top and front panels. The minimalist design allows for the M10 V2 to fit into any living space, With the addition of Dirac Live room correction, any listening room can achieve acoustic perfection. The enclosed calibrated microphone allows for measurement of the room’s acoustic anomalies, helping to correct peaks and dips caused by the room’s acoustics up to 500Hz (a full-bandwidth version is available through Dirac). Up to five listening profiles can be uploaded and saved to create a tailored experience if there are multiple listening positions, you have two or more channels active or want to compensate for whether or not the curtains are drawn, for example.

THOROUGHLY MODERN HI-FI

The NAD Masters M10 V2 epitomizes thoroughly modern hi-fi for today’s listener featuring a variety of different playback options. Through the user-friendly BluOS app, listeners are able to play music from their favorite streaming service, as well as locally stored music. The M10 V2 includes RCA analogue, optical and coaxial digital, HDMI eARC, and USB Type A inputs, to connect compact disc players, game consoles, external drives, media adapters, flat-panel displays, and other components. Two-way aptX HD Bluetooth is also featured showcasing the versatility of the M10 V2. Listeners are further able to choose their listening medium of choice such as stereo loudspeakers, wireless headphones, a surround sound setup or a multi-room set-up of up to 63 other BluOS wireless players. The NAD Masters M10 V2 BluOS Streaming amplifier is a modern system for the modern listener.

Features and Details

M10 V2 BluOS Streaming Amplifier

  • Wireless 4.0, 4.1 and 4.2-channel surround sound options
  • Hybrid Digital nCore Amplifier with updated gain algorithms
  • Continuous Power: 100W into 8/4 Ohms
  • Dynamic Power: 160W into 8 Ohms 300W into 4 Ohms
  • 32-bit/384kHz ESS Sabre DAC
  • Dirac Live Room Correction
  • IPS Color LCD display
  • Infrared remote control handset included
  • Amazon Alexa & Google Assistant voice control skills
  • AirPlay 2 integration, with support for Siri Voice Assistant
  • Roon Ready
  • Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect
  • Two-way Qualcomm aptX HD Bluetooth
  • NFC Bluetooth pairing for compatible smart devices
  • BluOS multi-room compatible
  • Gigabit Ethernet; Wi-Fi 802.11ac (WiFi 5)
  • HDMI eARC,USB Type A inputs
  • Stereo line analogue and coaxial/optical digital inputs
  • Preamp output, two independent subwoofer outputs with updated gain algorithms
  • IR Input, 12V Trigger Out
  • Apps for iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Crestron, Control4, RTI, URC, Elan, Lutron, iPort
  • Wide variety of premium music services supported in BluOS app, including Amazon, Spotify,
  • Tidal, TuneIn, Napster, Deezer, Qobuz and many others
  • Support for all major lossless and lossy formats, including WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, AAC, MP3,
  • Ogg Vorbis, and others
  • MQA decoding and rendering

The post NAD Announces New Masters M10 V2 BluOS Streaming Amplifier appeared first on The Absolute Sound.

Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

Music With A Spine: Are Vinyl Records A Better Advertising Medium?

One detail I grumped about back in the 1980s when the Compact Disc first emerged was the small footprint of the product. By “footprint,” I am referring to the physical size of the CD and particularly its ability to attract attention on store shelves in music stores. But I have also realized this issue can impact individual attention to our collections at home.

While the CD had advantages from a consumer perspective on certain fronts — small size, relatively sturdy, more portable, etc. — from an artists’ marketing perspective it was something of a nightmare (actually, the beginning of a nightmare).

Suddenly, the large scale vinyl record album graphics were slashed to roughly one fourth the visual presence in a retail store. When you had displays of CD albums, the images designed for the large format LP were reduced to a point where you almost needed a magnifying glass to appreciate them (think The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper).  Labels still used posters and LP sized “flats” to promote new recordings in stores, but that substantial vibe the consumer received when picking up a full sized vinyl album — that connection — was lost. 

It was one fourth the visual impact. And I argue one fourth the long term value proposition… hold on to that thought for a moment…

Yes, a new wave of a CD-centric album design aesthetics evolved resulting in small format albums covers that were designed to pop even in small displays (think R.E.M.’s Out Of Time and Monster). But, for the most part the finely detailed cover designs became few and far between.  Different times, for sure…

Even a group like Yes — which had dabbled with modern graphics in their hit albums in the 80s, forgoing the surrealist interplanetary vistas sculpted by Roger Dean — at one point hired Peter Max for a later period CD cover. This bold rainbow-colored graphic reinvention of their logo was a far cry from the story telling cover designs of their peak period albums from the 1970s.  

Sure, there were exceptions. For example, Radiohead did step up the game with some of the more creative album art of the CD era, some with intriguing detail  (OK Computer, Hail To The Thief) as well as more bold graphic approaches (Amnesiac, Kid A).


Still, I remember talking with a music industry friend in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s who was lamenting how his kids would immediately throw away the jewel box and covers when they got new CDs. That young generation had pretty much zero connection with the album art which the artist may have toiled over to complement the music. 

Sure enough, millions “ripped” and tossed their CDs entirely as iPods gained favor. This genuine tornado of consumer disgust manifested itself quite darkly as illegal file sharing became the norm and it was somehow accepted that it was OK to steal music from the artists on a mass level (it seemed to go way beyond even that of recordable audio cassettes and CD-Rs in terms of impact on the industry). I get it. People were over the lackluster value proposition. The industry kept asking for more money while delivering something smaller and less compelling.

In general, CDs got hella boring while the costs seemed to always go up. The industry did try to respond, crafting more compelling boxed sets and deluxe edition packaging which started to gain some favor with some consumers (like myself!). But… it may have been a bit of too little too late.

Fast forward to present times, in the wake of the CD’s downward spiral, I have begun to think about something else the industry nearly lost with the advent downloads and streaming: personal advertising space in consumer’s collection.  

What do I mean by that? I’m referring to the daily reminder one experiences from having a sizable music collection openly integrated into your home living environment. It is that subconscious reminder that you share some physical space with the music and the artists you enjoy. 

Now, before you start telling me about how your parents put all their records in a closet out of public view, let me flashback to an earlier era when that wasn’t really the case. Flashback with me to ye olden analog days when 12-inch LPs were the gold standard and pretty much everyone had some records in their homes on display. The music collection was a source of pride among many collectors who enjoyed showcasing one’s good taste for all to see. 

By the mid-1960s, most of those vinyl albums had a very legible “spine” designs which made it relatively easy to find your favorite artists. Artists and labels grew increasingly creative with the medium, wrapping artwork around the cover that the album spines might stand out from the wall of records. 

More on that in a moment…

I have heard from some friends and acquaintances these days that one problem some have with streaming and downloads is that they forget what is in their collections. This doesn’t surprise me. They have lost that personal connection to their music.  I have long had the same problem with most of my digital album files. When I would close my old iTunes app (when that was “a thing,” as they say) or unplug my backup hard-drives — I pretty much forget what is on those devices until I open them up again. For me, file management is one of the least pleasurable things to do on earth.  Go ahead and call me a boomer (I am!) but I do feel that reducing an artist’s musical statement — ie. the record album — to mere computer files offers diminishing returns for all involved.

Thus, I never got rid of my vinyl collection (nor my CDs, for that matter).  I have no trouble visualizing my vinyl record collection and even big chunks of my CD collection when it comes time to find a recording I want to play. I’d be hard pressed to remember which album files I have stored on my hard drives however. 

As I sat down at my desk to write this admittedly rambling thought piece, I turned around and looked at my wall of records. Some of you know that I have a quite sizable collection (its not the biggest in the universe but it is a robust assemblage of musics which I cherish). 

I know that other collectors get off on what I’m about to say: I take a certain amount of pride when I see the distinct spines of the legendary albums and labels punctuating my collection.  I’ve enjoyed that badge of honor (if you will) when friends have visited and exclaimed somewhat breathlessly as they eyeballed my jazz collection: “Oooh… look at all those Impulse Records you have!”  

Even when albums didn’t have colorful spines, some labels delivered a creative identity that helped to make the albums stand out. For example, for many years Columbia Records’ releases were easily identifiable by a row of horizontal pinstripes adorning each album spine — in the 1970s that became an array of diagonal stripes. It was a subtle but effective method of branding and advertising.  

Chess subsidiary Checker Records (home to everyone from Ramsey Lewis to Bo Diddley) had little checkerboard patterns in those sacred album spine spaces. Creed Taylor’s legendary CTI Records label crafted a distinct approach by wrapping museum quality modern photography around every gatefold cover — and back in the day you could mail order poster size reproductions of that from the label! — which would often pop boldly out of the collection.

Fast forward to present times, the good news is that there is a current wave of high quality releases which seem to be reclaiming this precious promotional space.  

Recent reissues from the likes of Universal’s Blue Note Tone Poet and Acoustic Sounds series and many of Craft Recordings’ releases are bringing back this vintage vibe back for a new generation to discover and appreciate. These great reproductions pretty much look and feel like albums were in the 1960s and early ‘70s before the labels started cutting corners. 

The physical covers are quite thick and produced at a very high quality level (many are actually better than the originals!).  Some deliver bold graphic design that jumps out at you and many are even laminated.  These great quality records stand out in your collection waiting for you to rediscover them each time you scan your racks. 

Resonance Records has been doing excellent work for their wave of fine archive releases, creating cover art which feels of the period — the spines to their recent Bill Evans releases stand out boldly in my collection.

Personal advertising space…

Craft Recording’s great Jazz Dispensary compilations have been stepping up the presentation with very creative album design that beautifully complements the high quality recordings on the vinyl inside.  

Artists are embracing the vinyl medium again for all its worth as an artistic statement as well as a promotional vehicle for the music. There are some fine super deluxe editions out from the likes of Vinyl Me Please which go a long way to recreate the vibe of the original releases and present them in context with their times. I’ve reviewed some of them here including sets by Herbie Hancock and The Grateful Dead.  

There is even a record club called Vinyl Moon which pairs new musical artists with new graphic artists, delivering unique packages that are as compelling to look at as they are to listen to (click here to read my review of that record club’s offerings)

Look at some of these pictures I’ve posted here from my collection and I think you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. 

What are some of your iconic album designs that jump out from your collections?

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

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

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

Moon Announces Upgraded and Updated 280D Streaming DAC

The following is a press release issued by Moon Audio.

MOON’s 280D streaming DAC has been upgraded and updated to increase its already formidable connectivity options. At the heart of the 280D is the industry leading MiND2 streaming module, now featuring Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2, plus Tidal Masters, Deezer Hi-Fi, HIGHRESAUDIO* and Qobuz Sublime+ music services.

The MOON 280D is designed to deliver an outstanding high-resolution streaming experience from these integrated music services and its extraordinary digital engine decodes native DSD up to DSD256, as well as PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz, including DXD. The fully balanced analogue stage features an exceptional third order filter for lifelike transparency. It is MQA certified, Roon Ready and has Bluetooth aptX connectivity.

The integrated MiND2 module (MOON intelligent Network Device) provides a superlative way of organising, streaming, and listening to music and allows playback of all the most important music file formats.

The 280D can be operated by remote control or MOON’s intuitive app, the MOON MiND Controller, which is available in iOS & Android versions. This beautifully designed app is simple to use and allows music files to be played from digital services, computers and NAS drives. It is regularly updated by MOON to provide extra features to the existing list.

A couple of the most popular recent additions to the app are: Tidal’s My Mix, which creates the perfect playlist for a listener by using an algorithm to comb the Tidal library based on their most recent listening patterns and saved music collection. And Spotify Connect, which is opening the door to the world of MOON sound quality for the 350 million Spotify users by linking to the Spotify app.

Extended system control is available via SimLink when connected to other MOON products. As well as seamless connectivity and intuitive operation, the 280D delivers the renowned natural and detailed MOON sound.

 

FEATURES:

 

  • Fully asynchronous
  • Supports native DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 (USB only).
  • Supports PCM up to 384kHz (32-bit on USB only).
  • Seven digital inputs: AES/EBU x 1, S/PDIF x 2, TosLink x 2, USB x 1 and Qualcomm aptX audio for Bluetooth x 1 – for usewith virtually any digital
  • An eighth digital input is through the MiND 2 streaming module (via WiFi or Ethernet).
  • Front panel LED indicators to show active input and input signal PCM sampling and DSD
  • Analogue stage: fully balanced differential circuit for increased dynamic range and headroom and higher resolution, aswell as improved signal-to-noise
  • AirPlay 2
  • Roon
  • Tidal Masters, Deezer Hi-Fi, HIGHRESAUDIO and Qobuz Sublime+ music
  • MQA
  • Spotify Connect
  • Multi-room synchronised

 

Available in a black or signature MOON two-tone finish, the 280D is designed and manufactured in Canada and comes with a 10-year warranty.

RRP: £2,950

*HIGHRESAUDIO although available in the UK, is not available in all countries.

The post Moon Announces Upgraded and Updated 280D Streaming DAC appeared first on The Absolute Sound.

Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

Review: Songbird Music Streamer From Andover Audio Adds CD-Quality Wireless Audio To Any System

Andover Audio has a solution for all those audio systems out there that lack wireless connectivity — or are equipped with outdated/underperforming wireless. The Songbird music streamer is a compact, affordable box that plugs into a 3.5mm AUX input or optical input on any system, bringing both …

Original Resource is Vinyl Records

McIntosh MB20 Bluetooth Transceiver

Bluetooth isn’t just for the kids anymore. Today McIntosh Labs introduces a simple streaming solution that will compliment any era of McIntosh gear. Gear like the new McIntosh MHA200 headphone amplifier. While it’s true that [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Product Launch: Naim Atom Music Streaming System

Hailing from Britain, Naim Audio are best known for their immensely high-end source devices ranging from 4-digit headphone amplifiers and streaming devices to whopping 6-digit power supplies and pre-amps. The company take a summit-fi approach to convenient smart audio with a range of streaming devices and speakers featuring technology trickled down from their flagship masterpieces.

Their new Uniti Atom Headphone Edition exemplifies this ethos. This is a headphone-optimised fully-formed music device that negates the need for a separate streaming device. It houses a discrete headphone amplifier utilising technology from their statement amp, that the company assures is easily capable of driving high-end headphones. It sports a new transformer design that maximises dynamics and cleanliness. In addition, the Atom-HE offers both 4-pin XLR and Pentaconn balanced outputs in addition to a standard 6.3mm single-ended output to maximise compatibility.

Source: Busisoft AV

The system offers Qobuz, TIDAL, Spotify and internet radio. It offers AirPlay 2 support, Chromecast and Roon-ready status to maximise streaming options. A host of both digital and analogue inputs enable connection to other source devices such as turn-tables or USB-playback from a flash drive. The Atom doubles as a streaming pre-amp and is able to drive active loudspeakers as well for a perfect all-in-one package.

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is available in Australia exclusively via Busisoft AV and select dealers for $4,299 AUD/$4,899 NZD. You can visit Busisoft here and Naim’s website here for all the details! Please also check Crutchfield, Amazon and Headphones for international purchase.

The post Product Launch: Naim Atom Music Streaming System first appeared on The Headphone List.

Original Resource is The Headphone List