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Archive for the ‘Hi-Fi’ Category

Pono? PONO! pono.

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

I’m a little late to the party. I hadn’t heard of Pono until reading Paul McGowan’s Righteous commentary. Paul is the CEO of PS Audio and produces daily musings, mostly dealing with music and audio.  Righteous introduced me to Pono.  It showed up yesterday.

I forwarded Paul’s comments to Bob Lefsetz. Bob is a music industry pro, commentator, and gadfly.  He sends out and posts the Lefsetz Letter, mostly dealing with music, artists, the recording industry, and technology.  Along with Paul’s Righteous observations, I included my own as follows:

 

Pono?  Paul McGowan says “You’ve no doubt heard of Pono.”  I hadn’t.

Apparently Neil Young’s going to try to roll his own digital music distribution service.  Apparently he figures he can do it better than Apple, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, and all that.

The way I read it, Pono is going to sell files…okay license files…that sound better than current digital distribution (files or streaming).  That’s a damn low bar of course.

But selling rights to store files on one’s own hard drive, card, what have you is starting to sound like “been there done that.”  And I’m not going to buy another damn copy of “Kind of Blue.”  I picked up the original LP while in high school, bought two CDs since then.  That’s enough.

My phone’s loaded up with MP3 stuff that I listen to in the car via the Bluetooth link.  I wouldn’t do that except that the sound quality on SiriusXM is absolutely intolerable on so many feeds…the ones I care to listen to anyway.

In the house, I flip on Pandora more than anything.  The sound quality is decent, although not consistently so.  And over time I’ve fine-tuned my list of “stations” to produce what for me is a wonderful mix that’s mostly familiar and guaranteed enjoyable but often surprising, challenging, and enlightening.

And who needs a pay service because Neil Young thinks he’s getting screwed by the usual suspects?

A new Lefsetz Letter arrived as soon as I finished typing what’s immediately above and forwarding Paul’s post. Clearly Bob Lefsetz had already been typing his Pono views and sent them out to all his readers as I was forwarding my quick thoughts to him.

Of course I had to share  Lefsetz’s Pono comments with Paul McGowan.  I included the following:
I forwarded your “Righteous” email to Bob Lefsetz and found this in my inbox seconds later.  I’d guess he was preparing his take on Pono well before I sent your piece along.

 

Paul’s reply:

Then he’ll absolutely love tomorrow’s.  🙂
He certainly knows how to be a grump.

 

Finally (for now) here’s today’s Kicking Butt from Paul McGowan.  It’s the “tomorrow’s”  that Paul referred to.

Comments welcome.

B&W P7 announcement: What’s in a preposition?

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

BowersWilkins-P7-on-White-reflectionThere’s a terminology question here that I’ll get to after I do the right thing by B&W and their new model P7 headphones.

The press release announcing the P7 arrived the other day. By the numbers (model designation and price), this new set enters at the top of B&W’s headphone product line. And in case one might miss those clues, the announcement specifies the P7’s position with clarity matching the sound that the set is designed to provide.

BowersWilkins-P7-Folded“Bowers & Wilkins’ P7 headphones deliver an enveloping, pristine listening experience. A combination of new drive-unit technology, luxurious materials, and a clever folding design, make the P7s Bowers & Wilkins best mobile hi-fi headphones yet.”

B&W, of course, is most appreciated as a producer of very high quality loudspeakers and their design people decided to use a construction approach similar to that of hi-fi room speakers as they worked out details of the P7.

BowersWilkins-P7-Driver-Close-upThis headphone set contains a drive unit that, like loudspeakers, involves the use of a basket structure so that the diaphragm that produces the sound is not also called upon to provide its own suspension. The means that the driver structure needs a bit more space and that presumably led the engineers to conceive the P7 as an over-ear headphone set. (There’s the preposition that bemuses me somewhat.)

To further liberate the sound-producing diaphragms, B&W opted for a light weight copper-aluminum alloy for the P7’s voice coils. And to put that liberty under necessary control, the drive units have a perforated resistive fill for a more piston-like action.

So what of that preposition? Here it is in B&W’s context: “Our first over-ear headphones, the P7s provide…”

I first understood “over” to be equivalent to “on,”  supra-aural as opposed to circumaural. But I was pretty sure I’d seen supra-aural (on-ear) phones from B&W and in fact the P3 and P5 models are such.

This is probably one of those “a rose by any other name” situations. but it could also be a “windscreen” vs “windshield” matter.  Perhaps in B&W’s home base of the UK, “over-ear” is preferred to “around-ear.”

In any case, the P7s appear to be a welcome topper to the B&W headphone line. According to B&W, they’re available right now with MSRP of $399.99.

 

“Mostly, they die.”

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

fishThat (approximately) was the answer offered by the Georgette Franklin character in a Mary Tyler Moore Show episode to explain why the pet shop she worked in sold so many goldfish.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to deal with a dead goldfish, but dead earbuds are fresh in my mind.  I’d guess that over the past few years, I’ve brought a half dozen sets into the house and thrown away most of them after they failed.

Okay, in some cases it’s “after I killed them.”  I’m rough on earbuds.  I use them as sleep aids.  It’s habit forming, but there’s minimal health risk.

In many cases, being trapped between my head and the pillow does in a pair of earbuds after a few months to a year.  Higher priced models are as delicate in this respect as cheapies.   The last couple sets that I threw out had list prices in the $50 to $80 range.  I didn’t pay that much, of course.

ath_ck313msv_1Now I believe that I’ve found a pair that will endure:  Audio-Technica’s ATH-CK313MSV.  The slight angle designed into the earpieces makes me optimistic.  They lie more snugly on the outer ear and that eliminates the straight-on pressure which is potentially damaging to earbud structure as well as uncomfortable.   That angle also makes it easy to distinguish left from right by touch rather than by trying to read the minuscule L or R on the housings.

I’ve also come to appreciate the right-angled plug which I criticized in previous report on an earbud model (since deceased).  The plug does still  get in the way on occasion but has the tremendous benefit of not disconnecting from the player at any slight tug on the cable.  The cable itself is fairly heavy duty and should hold up better than many that I’ve dealt with.

Finally and importantly, they sound good.

And maybe I won’t be shopping for a replacement set before they year’s out.