Katz's Corner, Episode 6: Things Are Looking Up

The High Res Mafia
In a previous episode I alluded to some 2496 master versions of albums which I have mastered which are currently available "only" on CD. When these 2496 versions become available to the public, they will sound warmer, purer, and even a bit more dynamic than the 1644 versions. But, and this is an important but: if you are a member of the "true high res mafia" that's watching over the high sample rate recordings being issued by HD tracks, then you will not permit some of these masters I've made from seeing the light of day at HD tracks. This is because the high res mafia spend their days watching FFT displays to confirm that there is high frequency information above 22.05 kHz in the high sample rate recordings they can buy. Given that our ears can't even detect frequencies above 20 kHz, those who claim we "sense" these ultrasonic frequencies are probably skating on thin ice. However, I am certain that sound quality improves when we sample at higher rates.

So, what gives? What gives is that when you play back a PCM recording, a filter must be placed in the circuit to remove imaging artifacts that are above half the sample rate (the Nyquist frequency). In the case of 44.1 kHz, that filter cuts off sharply at 22.05 kHz. Some designers are experimenting with gentler filters which probably sound better, but have to choose between two tradeoffs. One is that some imaging artifacts can come through (which causes alias distortion) or the other is that frequencies below 22.05 kHz will be reduced. And when frequencies between 10 kHz and 20 kHz are reduced, it is audible. So 44.1 kHz sampling is a compromise in sound quality no matter how you look at it. The higher sample rates permit using gentler filters, which probably sound better, but without cutting off the frequency response in the audible region.

OK, back to the mafia. HD tracks has obeyed the mafia so they have to guarantee that any high sample rate recording they sell has a high sample rate provenance. That's pretty sad, because my ears tell me that when I have upsampled my recordings for processing at the beginning of the mastering chain, they sound better when played at the higher rate. Quite simply, it's because two unnecessary sharp filters have been removed from the signal chain. There are other advantages to mastering at higher rates: alias distortion is reduced when performing non-linear digital domain processing, converters seem to tolerate clipping with fewer artifacts, the sound is purer. So that's your loss, because you'll not be able to hear my incredible recordings as I meant them to be reproduced. You're going to have to listen to my masters at (usually) 1644, which not only has the sharp filtering in the DAC, but also has been reduced in wordlength to fit on a compact disc. Every time I reduce the rate at the end of my mastering chain, I notice losses in sound quality. I wish the mafia would go away, or at least that HD tracks would permit these upsampled recordings, and label their provenance to be fair to consumers. For they do sound better when reproduced at the higher rate. Maybe they don't sound as good as original high rate recordings, but still, they sound significantly better than recordings which were mastered at the lower rate.

Another Serious Look at the Stax Phones
I often use analog processing when mastering, especially with pop music. Analog processors can enrich and color the sound in a pleasant way. A little bit of controlled distortion can increase depth. Analog EQs have their own character. Tubes and transformers can all be part of the mastering process. That is, if a recording sent in for mastering needs that kind of processing. Purists would scorn the idea of going out to analog processing during mastering, but it's a fact that mastering engineers often use analog processing to sweeten the sound. All of Doug Sax's best records have been mastered with a superb analog custom-built tube chain. Many of Bob Ludwig's records he's mastered over the last 40 years have been processed via analog, lately using some SPL-brand processors with high-headroom 120 volt opamps. Perhaps 70% of the pop records I master go through some form of analog processing, 20% strictly through digital processing and 10% receive no processing at all. The latter are recordings which were recorded and mixed so well that any form of post-processing takes them downhill. The 20% are recordings which need a completely transparent mastering approach and the 70% of pop recordings are the recordings which benefit from some form of analog sweetening to sound their best. Many of my clients are mixing totally "in the box" (digitally) and they often tell me that they crave some of that analog sound that I can provide. I wouldn't pass the signal through an analog chain unless it truly enhances a recording as there are many fine recordings which go downhill when they are not handled as transparently as possible.

In order to process via analog, I have to send the signal out a DAC, into analog processors, and then return into an ADC. Ideally that part of the chain should add no coloration or change the sound. I leave the rest of the coloring to my choice of analog processors. There doesn't seem to be a totally transparent pair of converters but I am always looking for that holy grail. Recently I found a pair of converters which are audibly closer to the source than my previous converters. But converters have gotten so good that I actually thought my previous set was transparent. I didn't notice any losses when feeding a source through D-A-D and monitoring on my high resolution Revel speakers. But I was wrong. On loudspeakers I didn't notice a difference, but when I performed the shootout listening through my Stax Omega IIs fed by the KGSS amp. Oh my... that's when I discovered that my previous converter favorites were obviously closing in the sound a bit, losing a bit of ambience and space. And I learned that the new converter pair was more transparent, much closer to the sound of the source. I then tried every dynamic phone that I have, and discovered that I had lost that microscope, that ability to discern fine differences in ambience and space! The differences between converters was far less obvious on any of my dynamic headphones, just as it was with my speakers. On the speakers I had to search for a difference and could easily fool myself. The Stax are also great at judging distortion in recordings.

What makes the Stax such an audio microscope? I wager it's their higher transient response and superior impulse response (the speed and fidelity with which the drivers react to short changes in sound pressure) and also the high frequency extension. I'm loving my Stax, at least when I want to make an analytical judgment. I still love my Audeze — they have the cojones which even Stax with a bass boost cannot quite provide. However, the Stax are quite musical. I would surmise that a system we would label "analytical" would also not sound musical, but that is not the case with the Stax. What's your opinion?

The Fabulous O2 Headphone Amplifier
When possible, I'm an audio cheapskate. I make (terminate) my own cables and swear by the performance of an admittedly cheap but good audio cable: Mogami AES/EBU cable used for analog, of course! It's about 30 cents per foot. I buy what equipment sounds good regardless of price, and that could mean low or high (if I can afford it). Which makes Tyll's recent goody package especially attractive: a collection of mid-priced headphones for evaluation. In preparation for this assignment I decided to supplement my expensive Burson Soloist headphone amplifier with a low-priced model. Tyll and others have written about the O2 amp so I purchased a slightly-customized unit from JDS labs for $177. I could have saved about $50 and built the kit which they so nicely supply but I judged that my labor and time to build the kit would certainly outweigh the $50 savings. Let me add my praise for the O2 to Tyll's and Steve Guttenburg's: It's a fabulous amp. It's transparent yet very slightly on the sweet side (which I like) and has plenty of impact and headroom at least for my sensitive LCD-Xs. I measured at least 10 dB lower THD than the Burson soloist at the equivalent of 120 dB SPL (LCD-X) into a 20 ohm load, below 1 kHz, slowly rising to about the same as the Burson above 1 kHz. O2 THD (without noise) measures using Room EQ Wizard 0.002% up to 1 kHz while the Burson measures 0.006% (still a trifle). Here's a comparison of the THD curves of the two amplifiers:

KatzCorner_Ep6_Plot_O2THD

Fig 12: JDS Labs O2 amplifier THD (without noise) at 123 dB equivalent SPL into 20 ohms (0.1 W, 1.414 VAC at 1 kHz). 0.002% THD below 1 kHz rising to about 0.005% at 10 kHz.

KatzCorner_Ep6_Plot_BursonTHD

Fig 13: Burson Soloist THD (without noise) at 123 dB equivalent SPL into 20 ohms (0.1 W, 1.414 VAC at 1 kHz). 0.006% THD from 10 Hz to 10 kHz.
Here is a comparison [figure 14] of the two amps' 19/20 kHz IM distortion at 103 dB equivalent SPL into 20 ohms (1 mW). Burson in green, O2 in Red. As you can see, the average noise floor of the Burson is about 12 dB better than that of the O2 but it exhibits considerable hum and noise spikes. The Burson has an internal toroidal transformer while the O2 is externally powered, and I believe the evidence points to the much cheaper amp having a much cleaner power supply as far as hum spikes go. But the general noise floor of the Burson (Gaussian noise) is much lower. However, both amps' noise and distortion floors are well below the threshold of hearing. The equivalent SPL into a very sensitive headphone is less than -4 dB SPL: let me repeat, less than minus 4 dB SPL! Since this is so far below the threshold of hearing, we have to question whether any of these measurement graphs are indications of the sonic character of the amps, or just red herrings.

KatzCorner_Ep6_Plot_O2vsBursonIMDistortion

Fig. 14: 19/20 kHz IM distortion at 103 dB equivalent SPL into 20 ohms (0.001 W, 0.1414 VAC at 1 kHz) Burson Soloist, green, O2 Red.

Output impedance of the Burson is so low it’s virtually immeasurable, below 1 ohm, as was the O2, where I cal-culated about 0.8 ohm output impedance at 1 kHz. An interesting phenomenon is the input stage of the O2 goes into clipping almost before the output, at the high gain setting. Input clips above about 2.4 VAC at 1 kHz at the high gain setting, so I reduced the source voltage until it produced 0.001% THD+N at 1 kHz, which yielded 4.4 VAC into 20 ohms with the volume control near maximum, just below output clipping. This is almost 1 watt, which would produce almost 133 dB SPL with the LCD-X, more than enough to go deaf! So this amp has more than adequate output level. Is one watt/20 ohms the sweet spot for headphone amps?

I'm sitting on the fence about what these facts could mean; I do think the O2 sounds more transparent than the Burson, and that the Burson has a tubelike character, so depending on your ancillary equipment and headphone choice, one amp will sound better to you under some conditions. Ultimately I found that both amps are very nice and my preferences depended on what I wanted to listen to on a given day. But there's no question that the JDS O2 is one of the best bargains in the audiophile headphone world today. I may sound like a reverse audio snob, but I'd like to pit the O2 against amps costing many times the price, at matched gains.

Episode 7 Preview
Most pro music engineers are far more frugal than me. I'm privileged to own two exotic high priced cans and the Stax and Burson amps. Just a crazy indulgence enabled by living frugally in so many other ways and having an understanding wife. But still I'm always very interested in what can be bought for "under $700" in headphones and amps (I love a bargain, if it sounds good), and to that end, today a wonderful care package arrived courtesy of Tyll: A box of midprice headphones from assorted manufacturers. The principle is quite simple: We're looking for Nirvana—cheap! Somewhere in that box we hope to find a real good but cheap set of cans, maybe more than one. Will that be by accident, design, or just the law of averages? I recall that over the years every one of the Sony headphone models I bought had a completely different flavor. Never the same sound twice, even in the follow up to the same Sony model. It was very disturbing because the MDR V-6 did not sound remotely like the V5's that I first discovered, loved and used for remote film and TV shoots or knock-around in the studio. It seemed that every Sony headphone of that era was designed and tuned by a different engineer; you never knew what you were gonna get. Same thing with JBL loudspeakers; over the years, never the same way twice! But now JBL seems to be on a consistent course, we'll see how the LSR professional models mature as they tweak 'em. Right now I think the LSRs need some more transparency, they seem weighted and logy to me.

But I digress. I do hope that these midpriced headphone brands Tyll sent for my review will exhibit a continuous family resemblance as one model succeeds another, provided these models sound good to begin with. I'll use the O2 and the Burson as a comparison and reference to the Stax and the Audeze LCD-X as well as my incredible loudspeaker system. I'm also planning on building an M3 headphone amp from AMB with a souped-up 40 volt power supply, in hopes of proving my contention that headroom does make a difference, and to have a higher powered "neutral" amp in my stable. In upcoming Katz's Corner episodes, audio pros and frugal audiophiles can find out what you can buy for "under $700", versus a "cost-no-object" alternative. Interesting times are ahead.

(Ed Note: Very much looking forward to your impressions, Bob. For readers: As I recall there are eight headphones in the box: Sennheiser Momentum 2; NAD VISO HP50; Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 and ATH-M50x; Focal Spirit Pro; Shure SRH1540; B&W P7; and Oppo PM3.)

COMMENTS
Seth195208's picture

Wouldn't just getting an upsampling digital converter for home use achieve the same thing as you upsampling your recording data and selling it to HD tracks? Sorry, but I had to ask.

Bob Katz's picture

Dear Seth: Good question. There are two obstacles to your idea.

First of all, if you start with a 1644 and upsample it, you will probably not get the same resolution than if you start with a higher res source recording. My masters begin at 2496 and then the generations go down from there. So even if you start with a 2444 from me, you are handicapped by being a generation down from the 2496 original. So, your first obstacle is to consider the provenance.

Your second obstacle is that it turns out that the quality of the chip-based upsamplers in DACs is inferior to the quality of a no-compromise software upsampler like the Weiss Saracon. Studies conducted by TC Electronic concluded that chip-based DACs sound and perform better when some of those stages can be eliminated, or when they don't have to work as hard, and one of the ways is to feed them a higher sample rate source to begin with. When TC built their own state of the art upsampler in front of their DAC, it sounded better than if they let the DAC do the upsampling, because the internal resolution, filtering and quality of their own upsampler was much better. This was a "discrete" upsampler using a programmed DSP chip as opposed to using the chip upsampler.

There are DACs, such as the Bricasti and the DCS, which have high quality custom-programmed upsampling filters that give the Saracon a run for the money. But these are expensive DACs. So, in general it seems if you feed a chip-based DAC with a high quality upsampled signal to begin with, you are going to get better sound. My own listening tests seem to show this to be the case. To repeat, the sources you are likely to have which you are going to upsample with your DAC are by necessity going to be a generation or two down from the 2496 original, so you can still do better playing the earlier-generation source, even if you have a Bricasti or DCS-quality DAC.

Hope this helps!

Seth195208's picture

Sure did. You schooled me. Thanks! Your a consummate professional!

Seth195208's picture

will shock and amaze!

Bob Katz's picture

I can't wait to hear them. I plan on doing a review of each of these midpriced phones "from scratch". In most of these cases I haven't read Tyll's or other's reviews of these midpriced cans, so I plan on not reading any other reviewer's reactions, measuring their impedances myself and listening as unprejudiced as I can manage.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Howdy Bob,

Gotta say that I was shocked and surprised by the fact that you not only wrote about a lower cost amp like the O2 but are also planning on checking out some midpriced gear riding on the heels of your recent high-end comparison testing.

I love reading about folks like you, and Tylls current experimentation with top notch gear, but the reality is that i am more of a budget-conscious buyer and am looking for the most bang for the buck gear out there.

I think the mid-range is one which is currently experiencing some really cool development. The eight headphones that Tyll sent you are all of interest. Also is the new hifiman he-400s. I thought the Audeze EL-8s and Audioquest Nighthawks would be contenders but i think they're getting mixed feedback on sound profile.

As for Amps/DACs...probably goes without saying, but ive been VERY impressed with Schiit products for entry level amps as well as mid-level ($) tube amps.

Peace .n. Living in Stereo

3ToF

castleofargh's picture

all masters should be available in all formats, I couldn't care less if nothing was recorded @30khz this is silly.
with only a little trace of what happened along the production line, it would be enough to make informed decisions. those CDs that had the ADD, DDD etc markings, I like that, I would have liked more information of course(there is never too much for me ^_^), but that was a start. and of course, looking for albums made by a record engineer we appreciate, that should be a sorting option everywhere IMO. but it doesn't seem like the industry wants to put those names in too much light.

I don't have a DSD player, so I can't enjoy some great remasters that are exclusively provided as DSD, this is nuts when the thing was most likely mastered in PCM anyway. and because I'm a stubborn idiot, I'd rather die than buy a technology I don't approve(that's how the capitalist in me votes).
high res PCM is almost the same problem, but at least it's pretty easy to get sox to downconvert to whatever our DAC can do. so no biggy on that side of the war. only that we have to pay the highres price even when we plan to use it as mp3 on a dap.

the O2 was and is a good option for most headphones I still see no reason to get a more expensive one(but I don't have any hard to drive stuff). and yeah it can be worth it to think about the gain values we will need for our headphones before buying a O2. given the low noise(I'm a maniac for hiss of any kind so I really appreciate the O2 there), I wonder how nice it could be for IEMs if the O2 had some negative gain option to get clear of the potential channel imbalance of the knob? that would make for an even more versatile amp.

side note, I tried to get the demo for EQuilibrium as you did make me curious last time, but I tried 3 different mails of mine and never got a replay, so IDK if they just don't like me(paranoia), or if they have some kind of ban on french IP addresses? or if they just left for a 3month vacation the day I sent the first mail? but there is a good chance they miss out on a few sells from that frustrating "try it for free now, oh in fact not!" situation.

I really enjoy your half insider, half casual way of treating a subject.

Bob Katz's picture

If you'll write me on the "contact us" form at digido.com I'll send your email to the developer of the Equilibrium and hopefully get you two in touch.

Ultimately, with DSD the only thing that makes sense is to originate and stay in DSD. If a PCM stage intervenes, it's questionable if the DSD can be justified. The best way to make a judgment that I can see is to find some of the excellent 2L recordings which originated at 384 kHz "DXD", which is 8x PCM. Morten masters at the 8x speed and downsamples and converts from their using the Weiss Saracon. So you can compare 192 kHz PCM versus single and possibly double rate DSD which originated from the same "Uber" source and reach your own conclusions which sounds more accurate. If you can play the 8x then you can compare both the DSD and a high rate PCM to the 8x as the "source". Using Morten's 2L recordings my conclusion is that the high rate PCM is more accurate, has better depth and transient response. However, the DSD is a bit warmer and in some cases that's nicer to the same source, only not quite as accurate. Why don't we just settle and say that the two media are both very nice, sound a little different, are both higher resolution than 1644 Compact Disc, and all agree to get along? I like tomatoes and you like potatoes...

gibtg's picture

Anyone have any thoughts on how the O2 stacks up against the Headroom Micro?

tony's picture

Thank you for this reporting & education.

I feel for your frustration with the High Res Mafia, I've heard others in your field talking about the same experiences, ( Mark Waldrip at UCLA & AIX ).

I'm suspecting it's all about Marketing and such. Engineers cringe at Marketing, the Sales Departments usually win-out.

Maybe when Solid State Memory drops in price - 24/96 will become the "Standard". Maybe?, maybe not! We'll see in 10 Years. I suspect the iPhone will drive whatever happens next.

Anyway, thanks for reporting on this High Res stuff.

STAX:

I've looked for a justifiable reason to own a New STAX headphone system. I did own a pair 30 years ago.
Reviewer's comments about the 009s are mostly a string of superlatives followed by the summary about them being the total Best!!! + a few extra wows .

You're description seems to connect the dots for me: the Omega 11s + a great amp + superb A+ ( 5***** iTune Stars) recordings and a person can tell the difference betweens DACs !, dynamic headphones struggle and perhaps don't quite get the job done.

People that review DACs might benefit from a consultation ( from you ) on this.

I suppose a "Commitment" to STAX ownership requires substantial care in all things, this is not a casual adventure.

O2:

Wonderful stuff for the budding/budget music lover, not much in bagging rights or show-offyness, probably should be thought of as a generous gift from NwAvGuy to the UnWashed Masses. I say thank you to him, wherever he is & the lads in Kansas for making the darn things reliably-available for super-low dineros. JDS are probably the only ones giving Schiit sleepless nights, god bless em.
I own Schiit stuff, I'm not poking Stoddard with a sharp stick.

The Affordable Headphones :

I betcha I can have any of these headphones singing nicely ( if they have credible transducers ) by EQing em.

I've learned from Floyd Toole at Harmon that : EQing is good for direct Axes ( not for reflective or room ). Headphones are direct axis so Eq works quite well. I use EQ now, it's wonderful, can't quite live without it. Nice Stuff.

But, I'm just an Ametuer with only ME to please. I see what it takes to impress you, I'd be scared to try, although I've heard you are a nice guy.

I just discovered another A+ : Martha Argerich "Concerto for two Pianos and Orchestra in D minor .

Tony in 16/44 Michigan

ps. thanks for filling-in for poor Tyll, laboring-away at his Cabin in the far North Woods ( and probably chopping his firewood for next Winter's assaults, ice-storms & blizzards. hmm, August is about time to winterize his lawnmower, isn't it? ). Geez, he'll have to get that pantry filled with canned veggies & fruit, sposed to be a bad one this year.

They don't have bad winters in Florida, do they?

Bob Katz's picture

Tony, is this Martha Argerich available in high res? I am a snob about trying to avoid CD resolution. :-). I'm not moving from Florida back north ever again. In two weeks Mary and I are taking a driving vacation down to the Keys for a bit of R&R. How many states in the Union can offer so many different climates all at once yet even in midwinter all you need is a light jacket in some parts? I'm spoiled. (glug glug... global warming, sinking sinking sinking)

tony's picture

Enjoy it before you need a bottle of air on your back to see it.

Wish I was going, too. I'm itching to see Sloppy Joe's.

Oh, about being spoiled: I've heard that all the Audio Engineers smell that way. ha-ha ( or maybe just one "ha", if that ) -- Quoting oneself is a bad sign.

I discovered another superb Violinist : Maxim Vengerov.

Daniel Barenboim had a hand in bringing him to the States ( as he did for Lang Lang ).

I imagine you'd be a tough one to impress, I have no idea how to get the better quality recording levels, I feel spoiled with what exists as everyday red-book.

After all my years with 78s and 33s I'm delighted to have a useful DAC playing standard 16/44. ( can a youngster like you appreciate that? )

We are now having the likes of Hilary Hahn, Julia Fischer, Joshua Bell, Lang Lang nicely recorded with those new tight-mic.ed techniques.

You engineers doing this level work for us is having me considering a Stax outfit.

I'd never consider better gear for my Country Music or Nancy Wilson types.

Maybe, one day, all our recorded music will be of Bob Katz quality standards, fingers crossed.

As far as "other states", I'd submit Monterey Bay California! I live there from time to time, it's Paradise, I'd stay there except for….

Tony in Michigan

Bob Katz's picture

I had the privilege of recording Itzhak Perlman (for TV) many years ago. What a wonderful guy!

Anyway, I'm not familiar with Maxim Vengerov, but Bob Ludwig turned me onto this pair: Victoria Mullova and Kristian Bezuidenhout, Violin Sonata No. 3 in E-Flat Op. 12, Beethoven Violin Sonatas 3&9. Available as AAC on iTunes but it's worth seeking out the CD. Real beautiful, warm, rich, confident, musical playing. Look up Victoria.

tony's picture

Thanks for the tip.

I started a hunt for her recordings, not much out there at the moment.

I saw a few videos of Bob Ludwig talking about cutting records for A & R. He goes back to the Mono days, like me. I just threw out one of those little portable cases for holding 45s.

By the late 1970s and thru the 1980s I kept a VPI turntable/Sumiko MMT tonearm set up for phono cartridge evaluations. I had a dozen or so Koetsu Headshells and nearly 50 Monster Cable Headshells for the MMT Arm. I'd buy any given phono cart for evaluation against all other phono carts. ( something like Tyll does for headphones ). The differences in phono cartridge performances were easy to spot.

Today, I'm thinking DACs are just like Phono Carts. Both are Transducers. One does electronic Audio Conversion, the other did Mechanical Audio Conversions but I don't hear anyone tell a convincing difference in DAC performance. Does anyone have an evaluation system to accurately describe DAC differences?

So far, you seem the only person able to notice a performance differential between these devices.

I wonder if Tyll would allow you to attempt another series?: one that explains the echelon of DAC performance.

Back to Victoria: She left Russia and her Violin to start a new life ( 1980 ). She's now had 35 years to get her career up and running but seems to remain an unknown. I'm thinking her Virtuosity bought her a ticket to "freedom" and she's now able to live a life of her choosing. I'm happy for her.

Tony in Michigan

zobel's picture

Is it a bit dry and grainy as Tyll reports, or is it transparent and ever-so-slightly sweet sounding, as you and most others report. I find it to be transparent, period. I also find it totally portable. I think it belongs in the mix of amps that Tyll is auditioning, but doubt that he will include it as he has already prejudged it. If someone could sneak it into his test situation without his knowledge, I don't think he would call it dry and grainy at all.

Mayflower Electronics makes a preferred version, with the DC connection on the back, more easily visible in and out jacks, wisely selected switchable gain levels, with custom levels if desired available at no extra cost, and something else I consider important, made in the USA.

Bob Katz's picture

No, for me the O2 is transparent and ever so slightly sweet sounding. I love it!

Bob Katz's picture

For $177 the customized O2 I received from JDS also placed the input RCAs on the back and the power jack on the back at my request and gave me a 1/4" jack on the front. I asked for a customzed gain saet of 1X and 3X and it worked out perfectly for me. don't care where it was built, it sounds good to me. I don't know anything about Mayflower but for me JDS's performance and service was first rate.

zobel's picture

And if you do care where its built, they are the obvious choice. Not to care about our country competing for jobs is, IMHO, irresponsible. Listening Station, in Boise ID carries them for $150.00. I find the 2.5X and the 6.5X to be ideal for my uses, and appreciated having the batteries come installed, and the AC power adaptor provided as well.
We do agree that it is a great amp, but I would rather pay working adults a real wage to build them here, than to pay some executives to import them from China, where the workers wages are very poor. Glad to hear that JDS service suited you.

Bob Katz's picture

Dear Zobel: This is not a black and white issue. It has nuances and if you'd like to discuss Chinese-based manufacture versus U.S. jobs we should move this discussion to the forum. For example, do you shop at Costco? You have to take the good with the bad. Costco is one of the most highly respected employers in the US. They give their employees good benefits and good wages. Their employees are well-treated, they are doing very well and are very happy and stay for a long time with the company as a result. Yet, Costco sells a lot of Chinese-made merchandise. Does this mean that I should or should not patronize Costco? So there is a Nuance. And I can cite similar nuances regarding JDS, so it is not a black and white issue. If you'd like to continue the discussion and recognize the nuances we can continue on the forum.

As for Mayflower, I am (was) completely unaware of their existence so I picked JDS because I'd heard of them and heard good stuff about them and was quite impressed by their marketing and website. JDS do install the batteries and include the AC adapter as well. I'm happy with their service, marketing, support and performance so I see no reason to change unless after a nuanced discussion you could convince me that more American jobs are being lost through supporting JDS instead of Mayflower. Even though I have been a boutique manufacturer myself (Stereophile Class A), and outsourcing the PC board manufacturing to a U.S. board house and a U.S. chassis manufacturer,I'm not entirely convinced that choosing a Chinese PC board manufacturer and stuffing house is a bad thing after other considerations are taken into account. What works for Schiit may not work for a smaller company like JDS. You have to keep that in mind... the size of the company and its market size makes a difference when pennies determine the profits. Let me know if you want to continue this on the forum if you promise to be a bit more civil and not antagonistic without realizing the whole story.

zobel's picture

Dear Bob,
Whenever I have a choice to purchase the same product at the same price, I will always chose the one built in the USA, over the one built anywhere else, not just China. We have lost so much of our ability to produce products competitively here, that when we can, I will always support that. I'm sure you would agree with that. I didn't mean to be short with you, sorry.
You are right about the import vs domestic issue being clouded with issues, and I do buy products from anywhere in the world, but I favor fair traded, organic, and sustainable items, and will pay more for them. I do not support Costco, or Walmart. That is simply my choice there. We will not survive as a nation of retailers. As a nation, we are becoming poorer due to loss of manufacturing, but the rich are becoming richer in the exploitation of developing countries. Income inequality is constantly getting worse in our country and I see manufacturing as a necessity to overcome that problem, especially light manufacturing, and technologically advanced products that are designed here, such as the O2.
I congratulate you on being an entrepreneur, and leader in your field, and for the boutique business you started. I was a manufacturer here in Montana for over 40 years. I owned a log home building business employing dozens of workers who made good wages, had good benefits, and built the finest log homes available, bar none. Admittedly, we had no competition from China, but we did compete successfully with Canada.
I don't care what anyone says, our Flathead cherries, (grown here on Flathead Lake, the biggest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi) rock this world! I'm so off topic....
Speaking of audio mastering, as we should here, you rock this world Bob! Keep on rocking!
zobel

Bob Katz's picture

Thank you Zobel for your nuanced answer. I wish I could be as good as you, but when I need a vacuum cleaner and Costco sells an exclusive Chinese made canister 4 HP vac for $32.00 it's very very very hard to resist. I do fear I'm putting some US manufacturers out of work, but I think that in the future the US will be more competitive again in manufacturing and we are getting better again, even in cars, with Ford. It's a nuanced, difficult world, and as a consumer who can't afford all the big stuff I do often have to buy on price.

But then again, Coleman coolers... used to be built like tanks, but they have compromised. So even if they're made in the USA, they deserve to lose.

tony's picture

Nice reporting!

I just had a look at Mayflower Stuff, I kinda like the Bamboo.

Are there other outfits making the Objective stuff?

Betcha there ain't!

Hey, aren't you suppose to be getting ready for winter?, or are you already all stocked-up?

Tony in balmy Michigan

zobel's picture

We are looking at 100 degrees tomorrow here, so I haven't been thinking about winter much yet.

That Martha Argerich recording is great, I agree, both performance and recording wise! A+

I want to mention another A+ recording; David T Little's piece, "Haunt of the Last Nightfall" performed by Third Coast Percussion.
The dynamic range and sound will knock your socks off on this powerful work!

Mr. Zobel in baking MT

tony's picture

Hello,

I just looked at some YouTube video of Little's haunt of the last nightfall and a wide range of other Marimba stuff.

It is dynamic as you say.

Thanks

Tony in Michigan

Bob Katz's picture

Could somone please give me the title of this album. I love good recommendations. Hope its availalbe on HD tracks....

zobel's picture

This is a 4 CD set with one of the works being Concerto for 2 pianos in D minor / Francis Poulenc, performed by, Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiana. There are 14 pieces total, recorded live at the 2012 Lugano Festival, on Deutsche Grammophon. cat#001725602
I don't know if there is another version of this. ALSO:
Do check out The Third Coast percussion "Haunt of Last Nightfall" and "Unknown Symmetry" and the crystalline "Resounding Earth" Even at "just CD quality" they are exceptional recordings of some amazing music, mastered at your level of excellence.

JRAudio's picture

Beside you lovely writing and your fresh point of view, I just want to correct one point and this belongs to Upsampling / Oversampling. If you up or oversample a 44k1 recording, you need / have the same / similar sharp anti-alias filter in front of the up / over sampling process, as if you listen directly to the 44k1 sample rate. So this point doesn't improve. But there are still two advantages in doing this. First is, in case of digital processing, that the phase / timing errors of digital processing is less (in the audible hearing range) when doing this in 88k2 or higher and the second is, that for analog processing, the AD converter after that processing, can work with more gentle low pass filter, when working at 88k2 or higher.
All the best.
Juergen

Bob Katz's picture

Juergen, of course you are right. You can't get something for nothing. But I find that the penalty comes for me when subsequently downsampling. Upsampling my single rate sources to double or higher rate before performing any mastering processing is a winner for me in terms of the quality of and number of steps in my processing chain.... even if the first upsample continues to contain the original sharp filter, by the laws of mathematics.

markus's picture

If I had a studio, I would install a Mobile Fidelity SL GAIN 1 ADC and a Schiit Yggdrasil DAC by Mike Moffat. Don't know where to get the GAIN 1, lol.
But get an Yggdrasil and do your 48 vs 96 test (and let it warm up). I really doubt to detect a difference, but who knows.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I don't have any esoteric gear...a pair of Rode NT-1As (5db of self noise), a pair of AKG C-3000 and then some affordable pencil condensers with interchangeable capsules from uni to omni (16 mics total) I have made some very nice recordings with either a Yamaha or Mackie mixer with my Tascam DR-2d flash recorders at 2496 and there is such an improvement over redbook that even my old, 68 year ears can hear. I have used spaced omnis, the Decca Tree arrangement and close up, individual mics panned where I wanted them positioned.

I will say that for me 1st generation redbook always sounds better than manipulated to me, so I work on getting the tracking right so I don't have to do anything in mastering as when I do I feel I can hear some loss in sonic quality. Leaving things alone seems to work for me and I also do this at 2496. I try to bring back only what was at the concert or the rehearsal.

I sure what Bob and others use is way better than mine, but it is hard to go back to redbook when you hear pristine 2496.

I am looking to buy this year a new Tascam DR-680 MK2 that will allow 2 channels of 24/192 or 6 channels of 2496 (which I could mix down to 2 channels). The 24/192 would give me the ability to leave the venue with capturing more. Tascam has sure given guys like me a fun way to have a recording hobby that sounds very, very good. Now they have replaced the DR-2d with the DR-40 and the new DR-22wl and the DR-44wl that are still very affordable and a great way to do needle-drops if you are so inclined. Sony also has the PCM-M10 that is their 2496 version that I'll bet is very nice as well. I own their portable and home DAT recorders. I have 2 of the DR-2Ds and one of the older Dr-07MK1 for my redbook stuff. I always do 3 recorders so if something goes wrong I am still leaving with something. It is so much fun for almost no money.

I will close with the 24/192 downloads I have bought sound superb, but with my old ears I am not sure I can hear the improvement over 2496, but as a math teacher I know it is there. DSD is just too cumbersome for a hobbyist and costly for me to even consider even though the Tascam DA-3000 is affordable. The software to follow that is too costly for me.

Bob, thanks for these posts and I love your book on mastering, by the way.

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