Sunday, 27 December 2015

MUSINGS: The Wisdom of Simplicity [RE: Hi-Res Audio]? And a Happy New Year!

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
--- Confucius
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
--- Albert Einstein (apocryphal?)
Only the simplest can accommodate the most complex.
--- Juni Kimura, 47 Labs / Sakura Systems

Let us ponder a few moments on the first "As We See It" column for 2016 in Stereophile. Humorously titled "To the Simple, Everything Appears Simple".

After reading it, I was thinking, what was this article about anyway? An admonition (based on some other Facebook comment) about the perils of blind testing? Another caution to listeners that A/B testing involves the activation of analytical brain networks rather than those we use to appreciate art? Yet another attempt to impress/convince readers that music in a high-resolution container is significant for the home listener (like comments and articles about the virtues of Pono and high-res on-the-go)? A fair warning about jumping to conclusions without considering nuances or alternatively an attempt at instilling fear, uncertainty, and doubt in what should be rather obvious observations?

As we sit here at the end of 2015, I remind readers that "high-resolution" audio has been with us now for a rather long time! Many of us interested in technology and the "cutting edge" have likely been listening, perhaps testing, and evaluating >44kHz and >16-bit audio for the last 15 years. We have seen technologies like SACD and DVD-A essentially come and either gone or linger in some state of stagnation. We have witnessed the promise of a better-than-CD but CD-compatible "format" like HDCD come and go. I suspect many of us bought "music DVD's" encoded in 24/96 or 24/48, stereo, and multichannel years ago to get access to that promise of high resolution and listen for ourselves to satisfy our own curiosity - way before the Hi-Res Audio branding hype or inflated expectations from "evangelists" like Neil Young or the corporate push (eg. Sony).

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Merry Christmas! 2015 (NYC)

Season's Greetings everyone! As part of my travels, this past week, I spent some time at the "Big Apple"...

As expected, the crowds were enormous this time of year in Manhattan but what wonderful atmosphere to take in! The museums, the shows, the people, the food... Remarkably mild weather too.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

MUSINGS / BUILD: HTPC Rebuild... Skylake / 4K (Part II)

Okay, after laying out the foundation in Part I, let's rip open the boxes and get building the new HTPC!

Right... So I'm reusing the old Antec ATX tower case from 2003(!) for this build. It used to house an old Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU/board you see on the floor there. I put that computer together back in 2007 and it had been in constant use until 2 weeks ago so I really got my money's worth after 8 years! What I'm really impressed by is that there was still one of the early-model 1TB Maxtor HDs in there in good shape. Time to retire this board in any case... Maybe I can still put it to service at some point for my kids.

And here is the new Intel i5-6500/Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 assembled with the CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Evo heatsink (and Corsair DDR4 RAM) living in the old Antec case. Blue SATA connector attached to the ADATA SP600 256GB SSD:

Sunday, 6 December 2015

MUSINGS: HTPC Rebuild - time for Intel Skylake and ready for 4K... (Part I)

For many of us, I suspect the image above would be familiar... The 'old' Windows Media Center (WMC) software. Alas, as of this year, with the release of Windows 10, the Media Center functionality has died (although arguably after a long period of being on life support since 2009). Not that I ever used the software much but I do recall the hey-day of when Microsoft was promoting the PC as the center of the home theater hub. In fact one of my early Home Theater PC's (HTPC) was built around a reasonably fast AMD processor and running WMC as a PVR with a TV card installed back in the early 2000's.

Now in the 2010's, functions promised of by the HTPC can be handled by Smart TV's and all those standalone boxes like the AppleTV, Amazon's FireTV, or the myriad of inexpensive devices like this. Perhaps wisely from a revenue perspective, Microsoft has shifted the focus on development of media access through their Xbox One game system (and Sony in their PlayStation 4).

Personally, I still love the idea of a full-functioning HTPC in the media room. A machine that can handle whatever audio and video format I can throw at it (I posted some thoughts back in early 2014). And when not watching a movie or listening to music, something I can turn on and use for software like REW or Acourate, surfing, the occasional game, or computer-based karaoke when friends come over :-). Software for HTPC functions have grown nicely over the years - check out some options here. And for those who insist, there's even a hack to get WMC on a Win 10 install.