Sonic Water

Sonic Water

Sonic Water

What does sound look like? Visualizing the dispersion of sound waves has always fascinated me. Compression and rarefaction of air molecules create the sensation of hearing all around us, yet it is invisible to the human eye. Cymatics, or a way of visualizing sound through matter (i.e. sand or water) allows another glimpse into the complex dispersion characteristics of sound pressure and frequency.

A recent installation at the Olympus Photography Playground in Berlin uses a speaker with a bottle cap of water resting on top. By using special lighting, a clear visualization of the water patterns (created by Synthesizers which in turn create sound transmission/vibrations on the speaker cone) can be witnessed. Watch this video below for an example of this interactive exhibit.

For more information on Sonic Water visit the Laboratory for Water Sound Images.

Morning Phase by Beck and Quality Control

Beck's New Album Morning Phase

Beck’s New Album Morning Phase

Beck Hansen’s new album is said to be a sequel to Sea Change (2002). Released at the end of February 2014, Morning Phase brings the confessional and  slowly building song style that first appeared on the Sea Change album.

It certainly follows in the same instrumentation and song writing style of Sea Change, but I also noticed a bit more Country or Americana influences on Beck’s latest offering. Pulling you in slowly but steadily, this gentle album is masterfully constructed and begs to be listened to from start to end.

I would like to tip my hat to Michael Lavorgna over at Audiostream for investigating the HD Tracks 24/96 version of Morning Phase. You can read more about it here.

This brings up a couple of points. Firstly, releasing an album in 24 bits with heavy limiting and compression just doesn’t make much sense. This is mainly because the available dynamic range is not being used. Also noted was that many of the tracks were upsampled from 48Khz to 96Khz SR.

I understand that Beck and other artists presumably choose to release their albums with the sonic signature that they feel represents the style and sound they want. It just makes me wonder if the artists, producers, and engineers enjoy the distorted artifacts that heavy limiting produces.

There is a device called a Distressor (Emperical Labs) that is used to produce a compressed and harmonically related sound while mixing drums and other instruments. This type of sonic coloring is a choice and can be used in a very musical way. On the other hand, artifacts introduced by digital limiting are harsh and in my opinion sonically unrelated to the fundamental note.

While I have yet to hear the vinyl, consensus is that it is the superior format. Records must be mastered differently and for physical limitations of the medium (Vinyl) cannot be compressed or limited like a digital format. Anyone heard the vinyl of this yet?

Always Listening,

-HiFiQC

Benchmark’s ADC-1 Still Going Strong

Benchmark ADC 1 analog to digital converter

Benchmark ADC 1 analog to digital converter

I’ve been encountering Benchmark Media systems for years. From the earlier days of the modular System 1000 (distributed audio, mic preamps and AD/DA converters) to more recent products like the ADC 1 and DAC1/DAC 2. The DAC 1 made huge impact on the Pro Audio and computer audiophile scene, and now the DAC 2 is providing DSD conversion over USB for even greater file compatibility.

Not quite as popular, but equally impressive is the ADC 1 analog-to-digital converter. And Guess what? The editor over at Stereophile recently revisited the Benchmark unit and sang its praise. He compared it to an Ayre QA-9, and you can read the details here. I’m unsure why he did not compare the two units with the same sample rate, but overall you get the impression that he has appreciated the ADC-1′s  clarity and accuracy.

In my experience, the ADC 1 provided a solid and clear image of my stereo ORTF mics and Omni Flank mics. When paired with a clean mic preamp (Grace, Crane Song Flamingo) you can rest assured that what you hear is what you get.  From Orchestral Recording to Sound Effects, the Benchmark Media ADC 1 provides a sure fire way to get a jitter-free recording, not to mention a great dynamic range.

-HIFIQC

Sound Devices introduces the 633

Sound Devices 633

Sound Devices 633

“The 633 is a compact, six-input mixer with integrated 10-track recorder featuring PowerSafe technology. It offers six analog inputs and records to SD and CompactFlash memory cards. The 633 is designed for audio professionals requiring go-anywhere portability, without compromising recording or mixing capability.” It has been noted that the 788t has the widest dynamic range and lowest noise of the Sound Devices product range. While the 633 has quality low noise mic pre amps, it has been said (by other users) that the 744t mic pres are still better.

-3 mic/line inputs

-3 line level inputs

-1 AES 3 or AES 42 input

-4 channels of AES output

-Ambient Timecode generator

-Quad Power – switches over to new power supply as needed

-Sample rates up to 192 Khz

-Dedicated pan for inputs 1-3

-Records to Compact Flash and  SD, SDXC, SDHC Card

-MSRP $3,100.00

Sony Portable PHA-2 Headphone Amp/DAC with DSD

Coming March 2014, Sony releases the PHA-2 – a portable rechargeable headphone DAC and Amp. Sporting features like PCM files up to 24 bit 192 Khz and even decodes DSD audio files.  Portable DSD from the company that brought it to you!

Sony PHA-2 coming March 2014

Sony PHA-2 coming March 2014

  • Hi-Res audio: PCM 192kHz/24 bit, DSD 2.8/5.6MHz
  • Direct Digital Connection for PC and Apple® devices
  • Enhances non hi-res music sources (via analog input)
  • Asynchronous, precision USB clock for superior sound
  • Premium DAC with separate operational and headphone amps
  • Durable aluminum enclosure with protective alloy bumper
  • Selectable gain supports impedances from 8 to 600 Ohm
  • Lithium-ion battery for up to 17 hours battery life
  • Line-out to connect external amp or active speaker
  • Mounting straps, protection sheet and cables included

Also released (October 24, 2013) is this new app for playing those Hi-Res files:

Onkyo HF Player App Offers Precision Equalizer, 192/24 Playback on iOS Devices

Introducing Moon Professional 3500MP

You may be familiar with Canada’s Sim Audio, they’ve been producing top quality audiophile equipment since the 80′s.  And if my phono preamp is any indication, this new offering in the form of a microphone preamplifier should be interesting. The headroom is very high, 32dBu! No overload indicator or level meters are provided. Take a closer look at the Moon Professional 3500MP:

Moon Professional 3500MP

Moon Professional 3500MP

  • A “purist design” for optimal sonic performance and lowest possible noise floor.
  • AC-coupled transformerless design for increased bandwidth and more accurate sonic reproduction.
  • Wide gain range of 8.0 to 66dB with -3.5dB of variable output trim.
  • Metal film resistors and polypropylene film capacitors.
  • 2 fully independent audio channels, each on separate printed circuit boards.
  • No electrolytic capacitors in the signal path (non-phantom mode).
  • Built-in Power supply using 2 ultra-low noise toroidal transformers (1 for the audio signal circuits; 1 for 48V phantom and control circuitry).
  • Housed in an isolated enclosure constructed from satin coated 14-gauge steel, designed to eliminate all traces of AC artifacts.
  • Swiss-made 24-position gain potentiometers featuring gold-plated contacts and thinsurface-mounted film resistors with 1% tolerances.
  • High-reliability sealed relays and toggle switches.
  • High current output stage to accommodate very long cable runs and capable of driving 600ohm loads.
  • Rigid external chassis with solid aluminum front and side panels and heavy gauge steel on the top, bottom and rear panels for shielding from RF, EMI and external vibrations.
  • Circuit board with pure copper tracings and gold plating that yields low impedance characteristics.
  • Designed to be powered up at all times for optimal performance.
  • Low operating temperature to ensure long life.

Subway Train in Stereo

slow shutter photo of  D.C. metro subway train

slow shutter photo of D.C. metro subway train by Vahan Baladouni

Location sound can present a variety of challenging obstacles to capturing hi-fidelity sound. The infrasound that a fast moving train creates can become a problem for directional mics positioned nearby. Using the techniques described in my previous microphone isolation post allowed me to maximize the available headroom in my recording. Below, listen to a stereo recording I made of the Washington D.C. Metro train. You will hear the subway train arriving from a far left tunnel, after it stops the doors open in the center, then the train rumbles as it fades away into the far right tunnel. The distinct panning or movement of sound in this stereo recording was captured using the ORTF stereo mic technique. Try a pair of headphones or stereo speakers for a fully immersed experience.

Higher quality versions of this recording are available, as well as custom sound designs/effects. Stay tuned to HiFiQC for previews of quality sound design/SFX.