Can you hear a sixty millisecond delay?

Why, yes you can. The following sound file has two ticks, sixty milliseconds apart. Play it.

Posted in Audio | 4 Comments

VLC, not quite audiophile

I’m reviewing the top model phones from three companies for audio performance. For assorted reasons, I decided to try out the VLC player on them. The main reason was that, as is well known, the Apple iPhone doesn’t support high resolution audio. But VLC was alleged to be a free player that would play such files, although there’d be downsampling by the time of the headphone socket. After measuring the iPhone I was startled, so I repeated multiple times, to the same effect. Then I repeated using my Samsung Galaxy S6 phone with VLC installed. Note: I made sure EQ was disabled on the iPhone. The test signal was 24 bit, 96kHz:

Frequency response using VLC

So, the Android phone can produce (using the default music player) pretty impressive high resolution output (blue trace). But when played via VLC, the output is chopped off a little above 20kHz. And with an iPhone 6S, VLC sends the frequency response all over the place. Weird.

Posted in Audio, Digital Audio, Testing | 1 Comment

H.264 appears on Australian Digital TV

I’m still accumulating statistics on the rearranged digital TV stations, but stumbled across something rather unexpected. On Prime the ishoptv shopping channel, and the RACING.COM horse racing channel, don’t use MPEG2 video encoding. They’re now H.264, aka MPEG4-AVC (Part 10). Their audio is AAC. Anyone with an old set top box or early digital TV probably can’t receive them.

Looks like I’m going to have to double check the others.

(How do I tell? The Beyonwiz set top boxes don’t report this information. Well, I record five minutes of each channel and then slurp them up onto my computer and play them back, one by one, using VLC. Ctrl-J displays the codecs.)

Posted in DTV, Testing | Leave a comment

At last … 1920 in Canberra

I’m sure that we’ve all worked out by now that all the TV channels that used to be run by Southern Cross Ten are now being run by WIN TV, and vice versa. A bit confusing, but my TVs and set top boxes seemed to sort themselves out reasonably well.

It turns out that there has been at least one positive side effect: the Channels 9HD Canberra and WIN Canberra HD are now broadcasting in full 1920 by 1080i, after years of their predecessor channels running at 1440 by 1080i.

It’s probably about time that I started gathering data for a new table of bitrates.

Posted in DTV, HDTV | 4 Comments

Two new articles

I’ve put up my DSD vs PCM piece which was published earlier in the year in Australian HI-FI. It’s called ‘Direct Stream Digital and the Power of Imagination’.

I’ve also put up my Australian HI-FI piece on how different bit depths sound, and the usefulness of dither. It’s called ‘What Happens When You Reduce Bits?

Posted in Audio, Digital Audio | 1 Comment

The End of a Mini-era

Well, it looks like some stats will no longer be available for my Blu-ray reviews. It all depended on a program called BDInfo.exe. And that only worked with AnyDVD decryption running. Now the makers of AnyDVD have pulled the pin. The long arm of the movie industry has reached (the maker of AnyDVD) in Antigua, and they’ve shut up shop permanently.

I discovered this when I stuck Disc 3/4 of Season 5 of The Game of Thrones in the Blu-ray drive and AnyDVD reported it couldn’t contact the AnyDVD server. So no more bitrate graphs or average video or audio bitrates. Fixed audio bitrates I can get using other techniques.

Here’s all that remains of Slysoft’s website:

Due to recent regulatory requirements we have had to cease all activities relating to SlySoft Inc. We wish to thank our loyal customers/clients for their patronage over the years.

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Over-rotating CDs

Ages ago I mentioned here the Mythbusters episode where they destroyed a CD by spinning it way too fast (23,000 RPM). Since 2005 video equipment has gotten a great deal better. The Slow Mo Guys have a video out with them shattering CDs by spinning them too fast, and filming at up to 170,000 frames per second!


Posted in CD, How Things Work, Testing | 1 Comment

Music-making took — takes — craft

Toto coverScrolling through the far-too-many albums on my NAS, the original self-titled Toto album (1978) caught my eye. It had been a few years since I last played it, so I set the hard disk spinning, the computer decoding the FLAC and the DAC sending the resulting analogue signal to the sound system (KEF LS50 speakers with Krix Seismix 1 subwoofer, for those interested).

The members of Toto were all virtuosos at their instruments, and supremely experienced largely as session musicians. There can be few debut albums which are as tightly delivered as this. The songs — ‘Georgy Porgy’, ‘Hold the Line’, for example — are of their time, but lifted by their solid construction and the excellence of the performances. But the first stirrings of punk were becoming evident by 1978. The music media were taken by its raw ‘authenticity’, now matter how manufactured it was in reality. The listeners nonetheless made Toto a hit, even though the critics were dismissive (Rolling Stone: ‘Toto is the kind of dull debut you’d expect from a bunch of career session players’).

But time lends perspective. A fine review on AllMusic explains contemporary critics’ problems:

It’s as easy to see why radio listeners loved Toto as it is to see why critics hated them. Toto’s rock-studio chops allowed them to play any current pop style at the drop of a hi-hat: one minute prog rock, the next hard rock, the next funky R&B. It all sounded great, but it also implied that music-making took craft rather than inspiration and that the musical barriers critics like to erect were arbitrary. Then, too, Toto’s timing couldn’t have been much worse. They rode in during the middle of punk/new wave with its D.I.Y. aesthetic, and their sheer competence was an affront. [my emphasis]

I would dispute the suggestion that the craft may have come at the expense of inspiration. But otherwise, yes!

Posted in Music | 1 Comment

Was it really that Harrison Ford?

Feast of FriendsRecently I reviewed Shock Entertainment’s Blu-ray release of The Doors’ ‘documentary’ movie, Feast of Friends for Australian HI-FI. The notes from the film-maker were intriguing:

I hired an old friend, Harrison Ford, to help with the carrying of cases and loading of magazines. He accompanied us to the San Jose concert and then on to Bakersfield for another show. Harrison managed to set up a camera and shoot some footage in San Jose with little, if any, training.

Harrison Ford? How many of them can there be?

Well, according the IMDB, on Feast of Friends ‘Harrison Ford’ is listed as Cameraman for this movie, and has no other credits. So I didn’t bother to mention this possible coincidence in my review.

But here’s the thing: Wikipedia says of him, in the latish 1960s:

Not happy with the roles being offered to him, Ford became a self-taught professional carpenter to support his then-wife and two small sons. While working as a carpenter, he became a stagehand for the popular rock band The Doors.

So it looks like it was him after all.

Posted in Blu-ray, Cinema | Leave a comment

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Posted in Audio, Computer, Digital Audio | 5 Comments