Are User Manuals Passé?

I ask because of a number of recent incidences where I relied on a User Manual only to find it out of date. Most recently in an ongoing email exchange with reader Tom D. who has some questions about the best way to get what he wants from his Marantz AV7005 Preamplifier/Processor. And one of the things he wants is iTunes to control his music library. A seemingly simple request.

First off, Tom has his music loaded on a Mac. While he plans to get a NAS device soon, he'd like to play his iTunes-resident music on his hi-fi today. The first problem to overcome is the Marantz and Mac are in different rooms, both connected to his Ethernet network, yet the Marantz did not recognize his Mac as a music-serving device. So I checked out the AV7005 manual and seeing as it's DLNA certified suggested trying Twonky Server which ended up working, but Tom was not happy with the user interface preferring iTunes instead. And I don't blame him.

Another issue that added complexity to this seemingly simple request is the fact that the AV7005's network connection does not support Apple file formats. It will play FLAC (up to 96kHz) or WAV (up to 48kHz) files but no AIFF or ALAC support. So the music Tom ripped to AIFF will not play over the AV7005's network connection. What to do....

Then in one of Tom's responses he mentioned he was able to get Airplay to work. Airplay? I re-searched the user manual and found no mention of Apple's Airplay (there was only one mention of "air" and that was in reference to air conditioners). So I went to the Marantz website and sure enough the AV7005 supports Airplay (which really doesn't solve all of Tom's problems but that's another story) and has since December 01, 2011. Yet no mention of Airplay in the user manual but there it is as plain as day on the website.

So my question is—are user manuals passé? Are manufacturers still responsible for keeping their user manuals current? I think they are but maybe I'm just old fashioned. I realize with firmware-driven components this becomes an ongoing deal but I figure PDF has replaced paper as the living document (which is a good green thing). Another option is to do away with the PDF and print version altogether and make the website the single repository for all product information. I suppose I don't really care one way or another as long as what's offered up as current, is.

COMMENTS
deckeda's picture

AirPlay came standard on mine, which yes, would have been the perfect solution for me as well if only said protocol weren't automatically clipped at the 16/44 knees. I hope Audioengine make a mint with the D2 while they can, before Apple wakes up and realizes it's not a Redbook world any more.

From a DAC near the Mac I'm using long interconnects to the Marantz, but since long interconnects make Baby Jesus cry I'm about to try the Marantz's DAC, fed from Toslink out of the Mac.

There are reasons that's not ideal, either, but absent a dedicated computer my options are as limited as the Marantz' are frustrating (as is pretty much everything else in the one-size-fits-all StreamUnlimited client base.)

kavon yarrum's picture

deckeda:

I believe you live in a fantasy world if you believe that 44.1/16 is still not the standard for 99.9% of the music released every Tuesday.

I hope you have not bought in the stereo magazines hype about "high resolution" music revolution that is supposedly coming. Keep dreaming. Most major and not so major rock and pop projects are still recorded at 44.1 or 48 Khz/ 24 bit. 

Are there a bunch of higher than Redbook downloads available from major artists on HDTracks? Sure.  The sales numbers are laughable.  Let's not forget that SACD and DVD-A died a helluva death. 

Calling a Pro Tools 96/24 recording "high rez" is really a joke. Truthfully, if you know anything about the recording busienss, it is convenience first, quality second for most. 

If you listen exlusively to esoteric chamber music, new  boutique lable classical recordings, or some weird jazz, the world is yours. 

deckeda's picture

1) I already have much of my iTunes library as 24-bit files. That revoluton has already come for me. Some are contemporary downloads and some are vinyl rips. Most isn't esoteric or boutique nor any other qualified excuse you might name. 

2) I have it in there, Apple advertises a convenient way to get it out of there (AirPlay) but totally ignores the fact that there's a hard limitation for someone with high resolution files.

3) I hope that's a clear dichotomy you can appreciate, and that the frustration is understandable without a further pat on the head from you about how the "real world" is.

kavon yarrum's picture

First, if you are ripping your vinyl in 24 bit, and want to enjoy them through a nework. why not choose FLAC, a universally supported format?  

That leads to a bigger question bigger than all of them, why does'nt Apple cut the crap and support FLAC in iTunes? that would be nice.

Secondly, what to you mean by "contemporary" downloads? Is that code for Audiophile music?

Lastly, sorry, but majority rules. CDs are still the dominant form of consumption,. I make no claim that is the optimum format. The consortium of equipment makers out there are not concerned with audiophile whining about format limitations and bit depth/sample rates. Sad but true my friend.

deckeda's picture

I can speculate (at best) why Apple doesn't play nice with FLAC, or I can not worry about that which doesn't matter. iTunes is an exceedingly large elephant in the room to ignore when it comes to presuming it's supported formats are irrlevant. 

A "contemporary" download would be something available in hi res format, made from hi res sources, from popular bands and groups you know. This is mystery, how? 

In your last paragraph you attacked a straw man.

kavon yarrum's picture

Itunes is an elephant in who's room? Not mine. Speak for your self.

The fact that iTunes does not support FLAC is irrelevant? 

Really? So why one of the major selling points of Pure Music, Audirvana, and Amarra is that they "trick" iTunes into playing FLAC?

90% of all available downloads for purchase are FLAC.

100% of the live trading community uses FLAC.

deckeda's picture

Your position here is to always suggest alternative formats and hardware when a better iteration of the existing choices is what's desired. Such a stance does not help --- you're offering suggestions not asked for. Don't wanna listen to the whining? Super!

It's not about right or wrong per se, it's about relevancy to the discussion. Your commentary has been less then helpful because you display no understanding (yet again) what the focus of the topic is.

kavon yarrum's picture

You continue to live in your audiophile fantasy bubble.

I AM an audiophile, but I take two steps back when I ever I contemplate compatibility issues and related and I put my self in the shoes of manufacturers who are serving 99% of the market, not us.

A typical trait of audiophiles is to believe the world revolves around them.

For instance, there is no valid reason for mp3 to exsist anymore, since storage is way cheaper and higher capacity then when it came to the forefront. But 99% of downloads are sold in that format. 

We are the "1%" haha. 

kavon yarrum's picture

I have to say that it is getting a bit tiring hearing about products that don't support ALAC  or AIFF.  The world does not revolve around Apple. 

But I would ask the question..why would you want your music in a proprietary format? 

FLAC is free, open, and owned by nobody.

The reason many streamers don't support AIFF in particular, and don't recommend WAV is that it taxes the network way more than a lossless compressed format. 

As far as Tom's "problem", why not just use MAX or XLD to batch convert his files to FLAC in seperate folder or drive for streaming?

Just my two cents, but a Squeezebox Touch would solve all his "problems" since decodes everything. 

Lastly, I thought Twonky was now ALAC compatible? I could be wrong about that.

deckeda's picture

I have to say that it is getting a bit tiring hearing about products that don't support ALAC  or AIFF.  The world does not revolve around Apple. 

There are a few ways to look at this, depending on how much you wish to ignore certain realities. It's often referred to as the iTunes "ecosystem" for a reason: iTunes feeds iPods, iPhones and iPads, all demonstrably, insanely popular. That influences what people want to use at home because many people don't want two libraries. Another way to look at it is to simply ignore when someone posts about it, given a complete lack of understanding. The latter would be thrilling in this case.

But I would ask the question..why would you want your music in a proprietary format?

None of my music's in a proprietary format. Both AIFF and ALAC have good support outside of iTunes, just not always outside of a computer. Please read this part again. Now, once more.

The reason many streamers don't support AIFF in particular, and don't recommend WAV is that it taxes the network way more than a lossless compressed format. 

This was true 10 years ago, when Apple began streaming Apple Lossless around the house through AirPort Expresses because no one had better than a 802.11b router. Today we can stream HD video wirelessly. Guess which consumes less network bandwidth, HD video or lossless 2-ch. audio?

As far as Tom's "problem", why not just use MAX or XLD to batch convert his files to FLAC in seperate folder or drive for streaming?

Also re: Squeezebox and Twonky

You missed the part where Tom wants to use what he wants to use, and the possible reasons why.

kavon yarrum's picture

"It's often referred to as the iTunes "ecosystem" for a reason." 

 

You have to be kidding. You ARE reading too many hifi magazines, or you drink the Cupertino Koolaid.

 

Itunes is utterly meaningless to me. I open it 3 times a year to refresh my iPod Nano with music. Otherwise I have zero use for it.  

 

ALAC and AIFF are supported outside of iTunes, but many "high end" streaming devices seems to ignore them. Why? I honestly don't know.

 

If you claim band width is not an issue why do devices still recommend a lossless compressed format for streaming? I differentiate this between direct playback from computer to DAC, btw, where thee is no advantage to lossless compression.

 

If Tom wants to use what he wants to use, then he just has to accept the limitations of iTunes/Apple formats and not blame other manufacturers or developers. 

 

My SBT provides me with total and utter freedeom. I have one set of hard drives that feeds three separate systems, any format, any sample rate up to 192. And if I realy wanted to, my Touch could use iTunes instead of LMS.

 

Have fun.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

So, people should not talk about high definition music because CDs are so popular and they should not talk about Apple/iTunes/AIFF/ALAC even though they are popular.

I suppose you can try having it both ways when presenting an argument, but then you wouldn’t be making much sense. And for the record, ALAC is open source.

Just my two cents, but a Squeezebox Touch would solve all his "problems" since decodes everything.

As I said, I did not give the full picture of Tom's situation so you’ve understandably come up a few cents short. The SBT does not address Tom's interests or requirements. Neither does converting his music to FLAC.

Lastly, I thought Twonky was now ALAC compatible? I could be wrong about that.

The issue is with the Marantz, not Twonky.

kavon yarrum's picture

We absolutely should talk about alternate formats to CD. No doubt. But it is hugely disengenous to talk about the distrubution of "studio masters" as if they are selling anything beyond a blip. Am I happy about that? No. I would love for all recordings to be available as downloads in their original mix down resolution. Oh Happy Day!

Thank you for clarification, it doe seem I don't fully know what Tom's specifics are, so we will leave it at that.

As far as Marantz, I find it puzzling some of the issues they have with their digital devices. The NA7004 for instance, does not allow for gapless FLAC playback. Huh?

 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

But it is hugely disengenous to talk about the distrubution of "studio masters" as if they are selling anything beyond a blip.

Are you peering into that crystal ball again?

Some people enjoy playing back the HD recordings they have enough to feel justified in doing so. I fail to see the problem with that.

kavon yarrum's picture

You wanna talk crystal balls? 

I can cut and paste for you a dozen proclamations that "discs are dead" dating back to 2007 by Stereophile and TAS writers. 

I just got a nice package from Amazon with my Rufus Wainwright, Norah Jones, and Jason Mraz CDs. They seem very much alive to me.

I never said one should not enjoy their HD downloads, no matter of big or small the collection I have around 50 or so from HDtracks and few other sources my self.. I simply said that it is a joke to consider these downloads anything but a fringe market. I wish it were not so. 

Lets look at Rufus Wainwright as an example.

The CD +DVD is 12 dollars at Amazon.

The CD only is 10 dollars at Amazon.

The mp3 download is 10 dollars at Amazon and iTunes

The 88.2/24 FLAC download at HDtracks is 18 dollars.

Which is going to sell more? I would guess the mp3 download, followed by the CD. But i honestly do not know. 

 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

;-)

The Hi-Fi hobby is a fringe market.

kavon yarrum's picture

Tactial Air(Play) Support. :)

kavon yarrum's picture

Not to get too far off topic, but I believe there is some relevance here.

Ineresting article and..see comments by Mr. Telling and Mr. Fremer at conclusion.

http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/4433/full

kavon yarrum's picture

No issues here with ALAC. But you do realize it only became open source when

Steve Jobs died? Seems to me that I would not rely on a format whose being closed or open depends who is running Apple. 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

And again you seem to be willing to go to any lengths to make a (pointless) point, especially when it comes to Apple.

Besides the fact that converting from one lossless format to another is simple and free if the need ever arises. But you made this exact point re: FLAC in a comment above. So there you go again arguing both sides.

It's like you're arguing against yourself ;-)

kavon yarrum's picture

My only point about Apple, which I will willingly continue to hammer home, is that the world does not revolve around them. :)

I own a Mac Mini and a Nano.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Beyond the fact that you are the only one claiming that anything revolves around Apple, people need to know what file formats a given product does and does not support. To avoid mentioning AIFF and ALAC because you keep hitting your thumb with that hammer is hardly our problem.

kavon yarrum's picture

Really? The message boards and forums, and "expert" Computer Audio sites are not Apple centric? Hmmm.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

But again Apple is, and I'll give you a minute to put that hammer down so you don't hurt yourself, an important player in Computer Audio.

MADDOG95's picture

I'm glad I have user manuals for my possessions. And I agree, a printed manual provided with the item you have purchased may become outdated, rendering it useless to a degree. So, it's nice to be able to view and print manuals from an onlne source.

I believe manuals have value. I was taught the value of "RTFM" (Read The F***ing Manual) at an early age. A few minutes with the book can save you hours at the implementation end.

As a recent convert to 24/192 digital files, having the manual on several pieces of equipment came in very handy when I implemented my server scheme. I will admit it took a LOT of reading to get there (and considerable help from Michael here) but when it came time to plug it all in and see if it worked, I didn't need to cross my fingers and hope.

So, unfortunately, manuals and instructions are just one more thing we need to keep up with in our busy lives.

"I need serenity
In a place where I can hide
I need serenity
Nothing changes, days go by

Where do we go when we just don't know
And how do we relight the flame when it's cold?
Why do we dream when our thoughts mean nothing
And when will we learn to control?"

- Godsmack - Serenity
 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

User manuals are important. But they are only as useful as they are complete, accurate, and up-to-date. It seems like this last bit is proving to be a challenge with gear that evolves without changing model name/number. 

Vade Forrester's picture

I've lately encountered several manufacturers who put their user manuals online. That way, they can be updated and available (to some, at least) to show the latest developments in playback software and drivers. But since some folks don't have Internet access, or at least fast Internet access, I think it's still a good idea to include a printed manual in the box. Some will read it, some won't; that hasn't ever changed. But given the fact that local dealerships seem to be vanishing, a manual might be just the help an audiophile needs.

 

I've also noticed that many manuals now start with pages of lawyer-inspired safety warnings that could easily turn readers off from reading the important stuff.

 

Vade Forrester

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Having PDF manual available for download from your website is pretty much a requirement these days, imo. The problem is, in the example I used we are talking about an online PDF manual that was approximately 5 months out of date. 

I'm asking/hoping that manufacturers who offer firmware updates that change important functionality and specifications for a component reflect these changes in their online PDF manuals in a timely fashion.

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