Tag Archives: cd

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio

The long tail

Times have changed in how we view the world. In the past, changes to a small group of influencers resulted in a big swing of the long tail: tubes to transistors, records to CD, radio to television, dial phones to cell phones.

As technology advances, we see increasing evidence that the opposite is happening: relatively smaller changes to a larger group of connected influencers is now swinging the tail: gas to electric cars, physical stores to online ones, handwritten letters to electronic ones, cameras built into phones.

Back down to Earth, with respect to 2-channel audio, the same trends appear. Where once minor shifts in a small handful of influencing technologies made big changes in how we listen to music, now we see that small changes to a much larger group of connecting pieces have an equally impactful result. For example, connecting cables never made much difference on early low-resolution mono systems but have a major impact on what we listen to today. Or, phono cartridge choices of yore took massive changes to affect sound quality where today a slight variation in setup can make or break a system. My father used to tape a dime to the top of the cartridge to make its way through some difficult passages on the record.

Changes in our industry are constant and fluid. What we think are bedrocks of knowledge are really only mile markers on a long journey.

I am constantly readjusting my bellwether to keep from getting smacked by the long tail of progress.


Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

The 16th bit

We should feel sorry for the 16th bit. You know, the last little guy in the digital word of a CD, the ending of the ubiquitous 44.1/16.

The technical term for the 16th bit in the digital word is “least significant”. Imagine if you were the last child in the family and your parents referred to you as the least significant child. (Of course, if you had the devil in you as I did you’d likely have gotten away with plenty more as no one would notice you).

If it weren’t bad enough to be the least significant in the family, my friends Robert Becker, Dave Fletcher, “Prof.” Keith O. Johnson and Michael “Pflash” Pflaumer, were guilty of doing away with number 16 altogether when they launched HDCD. Number 16 was ruthlessly stripped of even its insignificant role as tiny musical data supplier and relegated to that of a mere toggle for greater bit depth in downstream gear. Instead of adding its tiny contribution to actual information, HDCD now condemned it to a mere switch: sitting idly by or just dithering around.

And if you’ve not yet mustered any pity for the 16th bit, just think of how badly it must feel when it lost its last-place least significant status to higher bit rate formats of 20 and 24 bits. At least last place had some distinctive merit.

No, it’s really quite the shame.

The 16th bit just can’t win for losing.