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Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 30, 2013
We've given our Greatest Bits list a complete makeover in an effort to make it more organized and ideally more useful. As you'll see, we've added "Classes" to each category of component that we borrowed from Stereophile's approach which works very well, imo (see Stereophile's 2012 Recommended Components ). Our Greatest Bits list is based on listening impressions which by their very nature are subjective and also reliant to a certain extent on system context. So the usefulness of this list is to act as a guide to what we consider to be gear worthy of an audition, to help you narrow down your choices from an increasingly crowded field.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 18, 2013
A day after posting, "Now we need more content providers to step up to the plate giving us access to a wider selection of DSD downloads. I'd say it's only a matter of time.", this message greeted me in my Inbox:
We would like to welcome Fidelio Recordings to DSDFile.

First release is the classical master piece From The New World.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 11, 2013
The video from my RMAF 2012 Ask the Experts Q&A session is finally available. The panelists include Steve Silberman of Audioquest, Mark Waldrep of AIX Records and iTrax.com, Rob Robinson of Channel D, Andreas Kock of Playback Designs, Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio, and David Chesky of Chesky Records and HDtracks.com. You can check it out here (after the click) or head on over to the RMAF website.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 09, 2013
This Friday, April 12 marks the beginning of the New York Audio Show. This year the show has moved to the grande looking and grandly named New York Palace Hotel located at 51st and Madison Ave in NY, NY. Running for three days, there will be 250 brands on display in 40 rooms, tons of seminars, a "headphone zone", LPs to be purchased from my favorite used record shop the Princeton Record Exchange, and real live music. I'll be covering the show along with my friends and colleagues from Stereophile.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 04, 2013
Thanks to friend and colleague Stephen Mejias of Stereophile for forwarding this interesting news, of the good news/bad news variety:
In January of this year Amazon introduced AutoRip, which gives customers free digital versions of CDs they purchase. Today we're excited to announce that we're extending AutoRip to vinyl records. Now when you buy any AutoRip vinyl record, the MP3 version of that album will instantly be delivered to your Amazon Cloud Player library for FREE. You can then download or listen to the music on your Android phone, iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, PC, Mac, Kindle Fire, and more even before your vinyl record arrives.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 03, 2013
Thanks to Stereophile's Ariel Bitran for the heads up on this one. Noisey is hosting their first ever "Listening Party" featuring the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' upcoming Mosquito in its entirety.
Remember the unifying universal experience of listening to an album for the first time the day it hits stores? Judging by our age demographic breakdown, you probably don't. Music's migration to the digital stage over the past 20 years has brought with it an abundance of positive developments—the ways we discover, distribute, and interact with music has evolved immeasurably—but we've lost something vital along the way. The experience of being a listener went from record releases dates, music mags, and "we," to album leaks, 140 characters, and "I."
Hear hear! And...
Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 02, 2013
Judge Richard Sullivan has ruled in summary judgement in the Capitol Records v. ReDigi case, "The novel question presented in this action is whether a digital music file, lawfully made and purchased, may be resold by its owner through ReDigi under the first sale doctrine. The Court determines that it cannot." While a digital music file is, in legal terms, a phonorecord (as defined by the United States Copyright Act of 1976) just like a CD or LP, this ruling makes a digital file unlike a CD or LP in that you cannot resell one.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 28, 2013
Kal Rubinson has reported over on Stereophile that Oppo has made their BDP-103 and BDP-105 players DSD-compatible with a recent firmware upgrade (still in beta). "Now, here's the really good news. The Oppo will play multichannel as well as stereo DSD and that makes the Oppo the least expensive multichannel DSD-file player by a wide, wide margin. I have been enjoying glorious multichannel downloads from Channel Classics' website as well as a couple of their spectacular "live" session files (Mahler Symphony 1 and #) made at the recording and without edits. Wow is all I can say."

Read Kal's full report here.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 27, 2013
InnerFidelity's head honcho, Tyll Hertsens, has reported on a very interesting development related to the Meridian Explorer DAC/Headphone Amp. It's that last bit, the headphone amp, that has come under scrutiny and Meridian has recently modified the headphone output of their popular Explorer DAC.

I'll let Tyll explain since he does it so well and I very much encourage anyone who already owns an Explorer, is interested in one, or if you'd like to read about the importance of things like output impedance, frequency response, and damping factor, to head on over to InnerFidelity.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Feb 27, 2013
In a paper titled "Human Time-Frequency Acuity Beats the Fourier Uncertainty Principle" published in Physical Review Letters in January 2013, Jacob N. Oppenheim and Marcelo O. Magnasco present a case for why MP3s suck (that's my capsule summary but it's really much more interesting). From the abstract of their paper:
The time-frequency uncertainty principle states that the product of the temporal and frequency extents of a signal cannot be smaller than 1/(4π). We study human ability to simultaneously judge the frequency and the timing of a sound. Our subjects often exceeded the uncertainty limit, sometimes by more than tenfold, mostly through remarkable timing acuity. Our results establish a lower bound for the nonlinearity and complexity of the algorithms employed by our brains in parsing transient sounds, rule out simple “linear filter” models of early auditory processing, and highlight timing acuity as a central feature in auditory object processing.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 26, 2013
Flamenco guitarist Jason McGuire

If ever an audio event were in living color, it was the Bay Area Audiophile Society’s (BAAS) February 23 live / DSD event at Blue Coast Studios in Belmont, CA. Jointly hosted by Blue Coast Records founder Cookie Marenco, a long-time proponent of DSD who has engineered or produced five Grammy nominated records, and the dedicated president of BAAS, Bob Walters, the two-session event prefaced comparisons of four DSD-capable DACs at three different price points with intimate, live-to-DSD recording sessions with Flamenco guitarist Jason McGuire.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Feb 21, 2013
Tune in to www.youtube.com/nickcavelive at 8:45pm PST to hear Nick and the boys (no longer next door) perform their new album Push the Sky Away. If I could stay up until 11:45pm EST I would.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Dec 20, 2012
There are three main approaches to room treatment—treat the room, treat the music, treat yourself (i.e. do nothing). The main problem with room treatments is they usually look like room treatments and most people prefer that their home look more like a home than a recording studio. I have found that everyday items like books and LPs can help and unlike traditional room treatment slabs and cylinders, the more books and LPs you have the better off you, your home and your decor are. But what about treating the signal to fit your room?
Dirac Live® is a state-of-the-art digital room correction technology which optimizes the sound system both in terms of the impulse response as well as the magnitude frequency response. The result is a substantially improved musical staging, clarity, voice intelligibility, and a deeper and tighter bass, not just in a small sweet spot but in the entire listening volume.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Dec 19, 2012
While we're waiting for 2013 and Neil Young to reveal all of the facts about his Pono player/service that appears to be based on a proprietary file format, Korea's Iriver has come to market with a portable player that supports good old-fashioned 24/192 files. The Astell&Kern AK100 MQS Portable System ($699) features a Wolfsen WM8740 24-bit DAC and 32GB of internal memory and can accommodate two 32GB MicroSDHC cards for total storage capacity of 96GB. The MQS Player supports WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG and APE formats (no AAC or Apple Lossless support) and sports a 2.4″ LCD IPS color screen and Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP/HFP and is about the size of a deck of cards (3.11 by 2.33 by 0.57 inches and weighs 4.30 ounces). There are optical audio outputs to connect to your DAC of choice, a micro USB port for charging and syncing media, a 5-band equalizer, and of course a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Dec 12, 2012
Schiit Modi $99 USB DAC pictured with the Schiit Magni $99 1.2W Discrete Amp

Hot off the press release:

Modi is the most advanced USB DAC in its price class, featuring an asynchronous USB interface with plug-and-play, driverless operation on both PCs and Macs, a 32-bit AKM4396 D/A converter, and an active filter stage built around the AD8616 operational amplifier to drive long cables. It supports all bit depths and sampling rates from 16/44 to 24/96. Like Magni, it’s made in the USA and features a warranty 2X longer than most of the products in its price class.
And the amazing part is its $99. As in less than 100. And its available now from Schiit.

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