Tag Archives: Qobuz

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.

Our son played trumpet for much of his pre-teen and early teenager years and we had two dogs that used to howl when he played. However, when they would hear recorded versions of the same material, played back on my wife’s cellphone, they would also howl. So, our experience is different than Ed’s.

The dog gets it

When HiFi Family member Ed Spilka sent me the following note I just had to smile. How many times have I heard a similar story? Too many times to count.

And here’s the thing. It’s not just about vinyl. I have heard the same stories about DSD, vacuum tubes, and even good vs. bad cables.

I am sure the measurement folks will have a field day with this one.

“I wanted to share an interesting audio experience that happened the other day.  We were visiting a friend of my wife’s in San Antonio. She was showing us around their new house when we walked into “his” room which held Wilson Alexandria speakers, D’agostino amps, Berkeley DAC’s etc. You get the idea.

When he came home he invited us into his inner sanctum and we began to play. At one point we were A/B’ing between his vinyl collection and streaming on tidal/Qobuz with Sonny Rollin’s Way Out West. On one cut it is just the drummer and Sonny. When Sonny started blowing on the vinyl version, their dog began singing along—howling like crazy. As soon as we switched to the streaming version, the dog was silent, uninterested.

My wife pointed it out to us since we were too engrossed in “listening” to notice the obvious! It happened every time we switched back and forth between vinyl and streaming. Have you experienced that before?”

As I said, this has happened to me with animal reactions more times than I can count.

We might argue like crazy, but the dogs get it.

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.

Streaming vs. discs

The controversy over music streaming vs. physical disc seems endless.

On the one hand, we know that all things being equal, there’s no difference to the DAC how it gets its digital audio data. It can come from as close as three feet away via cable or can stream from thousands of miles away via the internet. As long as the bits received are identical it won’t matter.

Yet that seems not to be the case.

Discs currently outperform streaming on any platform I’ve experimented with by a lot. I believe that has nothing to do with the bits and everything to do with how they are received and processed (though this does not explain in any way why Tidal and Qobuz sound vastly different with Qobuz the clear winner—a subject for another day)

Let me share a bit of my thinking. If I upload to Dropbox an Octave master DSD file, then download it and capture it to a USB memory stick, and play that stick in our PerfectWave SACD transport, it sounds absolutely identical to the same file as played on a DVD data disc. Thus, the round trip travel to the Cloud and back again have zero impact on the data. Transferring that same data from a hard drive on a Qobuz or Tidal server should then be identical to that of a Dropbox server. In fact, several of these choices employ the same Amazon Web Services for their server. For all we know, the two could be housed in the same building.

Yet, they sound remarkably different.

Tomorrow I will discuss why I believe that to be true.

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.

I’m so impressed with the T+A Audio gear I’ve now got on display and using full time, that I’m going to listen to their T+A Criterion S2200 CTL speakers here to possibly take the place of my beloved Daedalus Ulysses V2 speakers. I’ve loved the Daedalus speakers for  along time, so I think its going to be hard to top them. However, I have an open mind and even if I replace the Daedalus loudspeakers, most likely I’ll keep the BOW subwoofers, as I have a large, mostly concrete listening room and they will work great with the T+A speakers, as well.

The illusion of fixed

Standing atop Flagstaff mountain, one of the highest points in Boulder Colorado, I feel anchored. Immovable.

And yet I am intellectually aware that is but an illusion. That I am actually held by gravity to a single point on a huge sphere spinning at 24,000 miles an hour while rotating around a 584,000,000 mile arc at 67,000 miles an hour. From my vantage point that could all be nothing more than a myth. To me, I am just standing still.

No, I haven’t yet joined the Flat Earth Society.

The point of this post is to remind us that even though it may appear we’re locked in place, fixed, unmoving, we’re actually flowing down a continual stream of changing circumstances. Like riding in a car at 60 mph. The road outside’s constantly changing and yet inside the car life appears static.

I listen more and more to streaming sources like Qobuz, though my stack of trusty SACDs stands at the ready. One year ago it would have been the opposite.

What will tomorrow bring?

I’ve lived for years with the Infinity IRSV as my lifetime reference standard, but I am open to considering something else.

Fixed circumstances are but an illusion, though the comfort gained from a steady hand on a known course cannot be dismissed.

Steady as she goes but only for the moment.

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.

PS Audio has a new product that will [probably prove to be an excellent value, although they don’t work through dealers any longer, so I have no way of knowing for sure.

Unexpected magic

In order to keep up with our engineering load of 8 major ongoing projects our Director, Barry Solway—an accomplished software engineer, project manager, and gifted author—has hired a few interns for the summer. Among them, his son Carl who just graduated engineering school.

Carl’s job is that of a software tester and, as such, his task is to dispassionately go through every feature and function a product might have to make sure it operates as expected. His first project was our new amplifier, Strata.

When it came time to test Strata’s high-resolution streaming functionality with services like Tidal and Qobuz young Carl got stuck. He removed his headphones, signaled for his father to come to his side, and, in an apparent state of disbelief, said, “Whatever this Stellar device is, it’s crazy! I am hearing things in my favorite music that I have never heard before. How is that possible?”

Carl’s job was not to listen or evaluate the quality of music through Strata. Yet despite his mandate to remain detached from the device under test, he couldn’t.

This once again goes back to my long-held theory that when we’re presented with something dramatically better than what we consider normal, we often wonder if perhaps magic might have just happened.

What better joys are there than uncovering unexpected magic?

 

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.

More than bit depth, to me, the type of digital file and how its delivered to our DAC’s make the biggest difference. I compared a FLAC file via Qobuz vs a ripped WAV file of a Lee Ritenour 16/44.1 CD last night and there was no contest. Qobuz is great, but just not nearly as good sounding as music ripped from a standard CD and off of my hard drive.  No contest.

Finer bits

There sure is a lot of controversy over bits and depth. One group feels that dividing 96dB of dynamic range into 65, 535 slices (16 bits) is enough, while others are more comfortable dividing 120dB into 16,777,215 slices (24 bit).

Bit depth: the difference between the softest and loudest captured sound. How important is it?

We know that CDs have a dynamic range that blows the doors off analog recordings of any kind. And we know that we’re not limited to just Red Book standards, that it’s trivially easy to get better.

Does it matter?

Of course, the arguments fly as fast as manure at a political rally. The truth lies somewhere in the middle (doesn’t it always?).

It’s all in the hands of the recording and mastering engineer, not the technology. If the engineer decides to use 24 bits but then shoves all the audio in the upper 16 bit space, ignoring the lower 8 bits, then nothing’s been gained other than a marketing advantage when they print “24” on the label. So, it’s rarely the technology at play and more in the hands of the engineer.

Which is a shame because most engineers aren’t interested in the highest fidelity.

We have the means, just not the will to use it.

 

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.

Design recipes

Our audio design process is like a recipe: 1 part inspiration, 1 part prior art, 1/2 a textbook circuit, a dash of proprietary technology, shake well, measure, then listen. If it doesn’t hit the mark, it’s back to the tweak bench or the drawing board.

The end result of a food recipe is the dinner table. For PS Audio’s equipment designs, it’s the listening room.

People often ask us what the ingredients in the listening room are. My answer changes from week to week as we gather new music, retire some of the tired hits, or renew classics to see how much progress we’ve made.

If you have Qobuz you can load PS Audio’s Reference Playlist into your system and see (or rather hear) for yourself.

https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/2198171

You can even load this into a simple web browser to enjoy a partial taste of the tracks we use as reference quality music.

Whether it’s food or design recipes, what matters is how they make you feel.

 

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.

More demo songs from Paul.

PS Audio’s demo music part 2

In yesterday’s post I offered up a partial list of PS Audio’s demo music we use to demo our products, go to shows with, design our products from, and evaluate software changes. Today I will provide the balance of that list for those of you interested in assembling your own definitive list of great tracks, both musically and technically.

Of course, there’s always many more tracks that can be added as well a few of these some may or may not like. What you can be certain of is that each of these curated pieces should sound great and play without problems on your own equipment. If you try one of this a grimace at the way it sounds or how it performs on your system, that might just be a good indicator you need some changes.

All of these tracks are available as streaming in excellent fidelity from the service Qobuz and I find them indistinguishable from the same tracks stored on the HD of my Mac Mini, something I cannot say for any other streaming service. Period.

Enjoy.

So what?
Miles Davis

Variations on one string on a theme by Rossini
Janos Starker

Welcome to the machine
Pink Floyd

Within
Daft Punk

Woodstock
Jack DeJohnette

Youth
Daughter

Sonata in D Mozart
Dena Piano Duet

Stairway to heaven
Rodrigo y Gabriela

Cose fan Tutte Act 1 scene 6: No 10
Fiordiligi, Dorabella, Don Alfonso

Hey Now
London Grammar

God bless the child
Gregory Porter

Keep the wolves away
Uncle Lucius

1br/1ba
Vienna Teng

Arms of a woman
Amos Lee

Trouble’s what you’re in
Fink

Alison
Holly Cole

Where will I be
Emmy Lou Harris

Tosca E Lucevan le Stelle
Salvatore Licitra

Requiem: Pie Jesu
Rutter Requiem Reference Recording

Fanfare for the common man
Aaron Copeland Reference Recording

Harlem Nocturne
Illinois Jacquet

Cowgirl in the sand (live at Massey Hall)
Neil Young

Lost and looking
Sam Cooke

Yesterday (album version)
Boyz II Men

Mahler Symphony 3
Mahler Symphony 2
San Francisco Symphony Michael Tillson Thomas

 

 

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.

Giving yourself permission

We’re a funny lot. If we’ve set some sort of goal or restriction we work hard to stick to it regardless of the outcome. Like promising yourself not to eat French fries, or never play music from Tony Orlando.

But then something changes and you’re faced with a new set of temptations. You don’t want to break your promise to yourself but heck, circumstances have changed. Right? So we give ourselves permission to violate the agreement just this once. Those fries were hand-cut and not the frozen kind, and Tony’s new single did get rave reviews.

Life’s full of guilty pleasures and giving yourself permission to enjoy a few is alright.

You’re convinced digital is king and that analog is antiquated. Or Tidal sounds better than Qobuz, XLR tromps RCA, you should purchase only from a dealer, horn speakers are old fashioned.

When change is in the air, give yourself permission to open up just a smidgen.

That small opening of acceptability can often lead to discovery of the new and exciting.

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 bit conundrum

We worry about the timeliness of hot food delivery, but not so much digital audio data. Identical bitstreams will sound and perform the same regardless of how they are delivered. The 1,225 pages of Tolstoy’s War and Peace read the same when delivered over the internet or on a USB thumb drive.

Yet according to our discussions on the differences in streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz of the last few days, you’d have to conclude the obvious: the bits each sends cannot be the same.

One way to test this theory would be to download those bits of supposedly identical music and store them on a hard drive for later playback. This would have the advantage of reducing the possibility that differences heard were the result of the receiving and unfolding equipment wasn’t adding to the problem. I can make just such an experiment with Qobuz but I cannot with Tidal. Qobuz permits the downloading of their files onto a hard drive for later offline play. Tidal does not.

I have made some initial observations this weekend of at least the differences between real time streaming tracks and playing back the stored versions on Qobuz media. The differences are subtle but noticeable. The streaming version seems to have a flatness to its sound that the downloaded version does not. I attribute this to my setup, which is not much more than a simple Mac Mini that’s no doubt working hard with gulps of streaming data. The comparisons are not easy to make, either. Qobuz caches all media streamed so the second time you play the streamed media it is from the hard drive. Thus, I have to reboot the computer between experiments which may well skew the small differences I think I hear.

What I can report with reasonable confidence is that CD quality tracks played in real time between the two streaming services are different. This I attribute to actual differences in the files the services store.

It’s a fascinating topic and one you might be more interested in reading and learning from the comments section of the last two days of posts.

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.

With over 2100 CD’s ripped to my music library in WAV format, I have no use for high resolution music streaming, although I do stream for background music for my house music system.

However, there are differences between the two major players in the hi-rez streaming business and it looks like one company from Europe will take over that business.

Streaming wars

Sometimes wars are won without much of a battle. Such is the case with the Streaming Wars.

As I have reported more than a few times I am not a big fan of Tidal. It’s a nice service with a decent library but sound quality always was an issue. Compared to my reference of CDs played on DMP there was not even a contest. In fact, the difference is so stark that I do my best to keep Tidal unavailable in Music Room One because it does not properly represent the system’s capabilities. Instead, we limit the options to my Mac Mini server or the best option, discs played back on DMP: still the gold standard for digital audio playback.

But now there’s Qobuz, the French company with their 40 million track library and quality streaming soon to be available in the States. Team members at PS Audio have been given accounts so that we might learn about this service and I must tell you, I am impressed. Blown away, in fact. While not quite as good as DMP it’s within spittin’ distance.

Qobuz allows you to not only stream but to download onto your local hard drive (they are encrypted so don’t get too excited about copying them onto discs) and sound better played back from the drive than streamed over the internet.

DirectStream and DS Junior owners can stream Qobuz through the Bridge in resolutions up to 192kHz 24 bits when available. Or, simply stream or download to your computer and connect via USB.

Finally, a streaming service that works like you’d want it to. No more fussing with MQA in the hopes it’ll be “better” than the original. Now you can enjoy a library that’s multiple lifetimes big and much of it at 192kHz 24 bits. You can bet Qobuz will be central to our upcoming Octave system.

The battle lasted about 10 seconds, but that’s good.

The war’s over.