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  • "I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: High-end audio is the tail of the dog that is the consumer audio business. We have little leverage in determining where the technology is going, even though we undoubtedly know more about it than the average buyer.

    "On the other hand, after the mainstream has determined where it’s going (or thinks it’s going), the high-end business must accept that, and try to optimize it for those of us who care deeply about getting the best sound."

    — Kalman Rubinson, for Stereophile magazine. To most people, superior, if arcane, file formats won’t win the day without support by a catalogue of music that appeals to most people. “Sony is a major supporter of the effort… to coordinate the hi-def download business.”

    (Photo Credit: Stereophile; “Sony HAP-Z1ES high-resolution file player.”


    Hall of Fame rocker Neil Youngout promoting a new way of experiencing music with pono, his Kickstarter-funded venture, wants us to know what he really thinks about music streaming services. On Engadget:

    "We’re not competing with streaming services. I view streaming services as radio," Young continues. "The quality is so poor that I’m not impressed, and I’m not moved by it. They just fill the air and I’d rather hear the birds singing than some very low-grade digital reconstitution."

    (Young) went on to compare those options to going to an art gallery and looking at xeroxes or copies of xeroxes. As Young sees it, these content libraries are best when used as tools for discovery, but not for really hearing and feeling a song

    PonoPlayer, his portable music player, ships in October. PonoMusic, its companion high-resolution music store, comes soon.

    We haven’t gotten our hands and ears on either, although your bet is as good as ours that it won’t support Spotify, Rdio, Nokia MixRadio, iTunes Radio, Xbox Music Pass, Google Play Music, Sony Music Unlimited….

    Michell Gyrodec mk1Acoustat Monitor ThreeDenon TU-950Threshold STASIS-1Threshold FET-One

    A look at Steve Jobs’ audio system in 1982

    Photographer Diana Walker’s candid of Steve Jobs and his audio system in 1982 “embodied everything he held dear in high-end industrial design: clean lines, quality materials and workmanship, outstanding performance–price be damned,” according to Wired’s Rene Chun, who pieced together his long-lost audio system.

    Surprised he’s the first to do it? So are we. It’s the stuff bulletin boards are made of, although no one’s advanced the discussion past the point of speculation, until now.

    Only two of the manufacturers in his system are still in business and ironically, one of them is Michell Engineering, maker of his turntable. The Michell of today’s GyroDec SE begins at $2495 and it’s BYOT, for bring your own tonearm.

    There are two things to know about the GyroDec: 1) Stanley Kubrick selected an early iteration of it for A Clockwork Orange because he thought it looked like the future in 1971. (It still does.) 2) John Michell, the guy who designed this elegant piece of machinery, was a sci-fi visionary. He built the scale model Discovery spaceship for 2001: A Space Odyssey and C-3PO’s robotic eyes.

    “For the curious, if you were to put together this same stereo rig today by picking up the components on the used market, it would cost about $8,200,” said Chun. Don’t expect to find them in prime condition, though. At their age, they’d also need to be refurbished by a technician.

    Photo Credit: Diana Walker/SJ/Contour by Getty Images. “Steve Jobs sits at his home in Woodside, CA on December 15, 1982.”

    "There's no such thing as digital." -

    Audiostream: It's common for people to envision and represent a digital signal as a series of 1s and 0s. As such, there's really no room for error, at least according to this binary theory. Is a digital signal simply a series of 1s and 0s?
    Charlie Hansen, Ayre Acoustics: Unfortunately not. The "1"s and "0"s are just abstractions that are easy to think about. But in the real world, something real needs to represent those two abstract states. In modern digital electronics, we have almost universally chosen a voltage above a specific level (that varies from one "family" of electronic parts to another) to represent a "1" and a voltage below a different specific level (that again can vary) to represent a "0".
    In the real world, those two voltages are not the same, so there is a "grey" zone between the "black" of the "0" and the "white" of the "1". Also, it takes time for the signal to change levels, and the time required to do so can depend on dozens (or even thousands) of other external factors.
    All of this can be boiled down to a simple phrase. "All of the problems with digital are analog problems."

    Honoring Record Store Day this Saturday, April 19, Ledbury, shirt makers from Richmond, Virginia, curated a playlist on Spotify of their favorites from this year’s vinyl-only releases. It still feels strange to us that some new releases are easier to pick up on vinyl than on CD, but that’s the oh, what a wonderful world we live in.

    We fondly named this playlist 'The Righteous One,' a new single from The Orwells that launches on vinyl on Record Store Day…

    • David Bowie – 1984 – 1999 Digital Remaster
    • Built To Spill – Hazy
    • Dinosaur Jr. – Just Like Heaven
    • Bright Eyes – Easy/Lucky/Free
    • Dawes – Million Dollar Bill
    • Fleetwood Mac – Purple Dancer
    • Gram Parsons – Return Of The Grievous Angel (Remastered Album Version)
    • Grateful Dead – Fire On The Mountain [Live at Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA, March 27, 1988]
    • Joy Division – Warsaw
    • Shintaro Sakamoto – In a Phantom Mood
    • Hamilton Leithauser – Alexandra

    Record Store Day was invented to celebrate the culture of the independent record store. To find out what your local record store is doing to celebrate, visit the official Record Store Day website.

    While you’re doing that, listen to ‘The Righteous One’ on Spotify.

    (Photo Credit: Ledbury)

    McIntosh AP1 Audio Player

    A McIntosh for the go? The AP1 makes it so with the same VU meters, blue backlight, and green indicators, made into a free audio player for your iPhone or iPad. But does it sound better?

    A McIntosh audio player ought to, and it does. The short story shorter is it lowers the noise floor, and we know the sound of that so let’s save the English. The effect is like bypassing an Apple computer’s built-in mixer to dedicate more resources to playing music - using a plug-in or a third-party audio player, for instance. Most of the time, the output is sharper, has more punch, and that can be as different as the programmers would like it to be. In the AP1, it’s as present as it’s subtle.

    We should point out using AP1 drains the battery more quickly. You could blame the VU meters, but it also happens when the iPhone’s display has been shut off. Choice is compromise and this is what it is with the AP1.

    The most obvious quirk of the app is a fade-out from one track to the next. It’s also a touch slower than the stock app, and that’s probably as deliberate as the fade.

    Save for iTunes radio, AP1 does everything the stock music player does, including AirPlay, and preserves your playlists so there’s no issue traveling from one app to the other. We’re glad not to see features creep into AP1, as more money won’t always buy an audiophile more features.

    All said, an admirable effort to close the generation gap between past and future customers. It’s also as close as most young listeners will get to owning a McIntosh, and delivers a better listening experience - the point of this all.

    Manufacturer: McIntosh Laboratory (

    Price: Free

    Download: iTunes (App Store

    Notes: McIntosh also sells a matching stand, the ST-1, for $50. The stand works with both the iPhone and iPad.

    Version 1.6 of McIntosh AP1 was considered on iOS devices running iOS 7.1. When this review was published, it was the most recent software and hardware available.

    We’re recording live, so you can’t say “hell” or “shit” or anything like that - Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, Walk the Line

    Cash after Johnny Cash. The country star’s estate released ‘Out Among the Stars’ last week, “a beautiful reminder of what a vigorous and compelling performer Cash really was,” says The Telegraph’s Neil McCormick.

    This collection of lost tracks, mostly covers, was recorded in the 80s with countrypolitan producer Billy Sherrill — who also made albums with Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Ray Charles, and Elvis Costello.

    Preview the album on SpotifyDownload it from iTunes.

    Andrew Kim’s Minimally Minimal has a must see, must read on Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi, written from an industrial designer’s point of view.

    The only thing people seem to love to talk about more than Apple’s success are their failures. The iPod Hi-Fi is considered one of the classic Apple failures. Apple discontinued it just a year after its launch and it received universally lukewarm reviews. I’ve always had a crush on it though. Steve Jobs famously came on stage and announced that he replaced his personal Hi-Fi system with the it. Everyone called BS. The designer in me didn’t care.

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