Some audio-related items that recently caught my eye:
How to Listen: A free beta version of a "listener training" software application - designed for training and selecting listeners used in audio product research, development, and testing - is available at the blog of Dr. Sean Olive, Director of Acoustic Research for Harman International. The software includes training exercises where listeners are asked to identify and rate simulated examples of the different kinds of timbral, spatial and dynamic distortions commonly found within the music recording and audio chains.
Computer music pioneer: This NY Times blog piece offers a detailed look back at the life of engineer and computer music innovator Max Mathews, who died this past April. Often considered the "father of computer music," Mathews, while working as an engineer at Bell Laboratories, wrote the first computer program to make it possible for a computer (an IBM 704 mainframe in this case) to reliably synthesize sound and play it back.
More audiophoolery: Why is it that so many audio columnists in popular media seem to fall into the "audiophools" category? While the author of this Slate article from last December seems quite impressed by the "new" digital audio technology of USB DACs, he can't even finish his introductory sentence without a gratuitous bash at previous digital audio advancements.
And of course, following that - barely a sentence into the article in fact - is the inevitable praise of vinyl. In this case the author extols its "warm, dynamic sound" while comparing it to the "cold, compressed" CD. (I assume this is meant to be a reference to the "Loudness War"-related dynamic range compression used in many popular CD recordings, which of course has nothing to do with the technical merits of the CD format itself.)
Then MP3s - which offer "crummy sound" and "[don't] even pretend to sound good" - are knocked. Give me a break. Compressed audio files come in a variety of formats and bitrates. MP3s encoded at decent bitrates (192 kbps or higher) using readily available decent encoders have been shown to be almost indistinguishable from CD quality in blind listening tests. Enough with the phony straw man assumptions of poorly encoded 128-kbps files.
The bashing doesn't end there. Internal computer audio circuits are next in line. According to this author, the analog audio chips and DACs used in these applications are all "terrible." Funny he doesn't offer any specs or measurements to back up this sweeping claim.
And there's yet more silliness in the article, but I'm sure you get the point. At least this author, although late to the party as far as I'm concerned, sees digital technology as offering audiophiles - and anyone else who enjoys quality audio reproduction/playback - the possibility of "having it all" (i.e., convenience and high-quality audio).
Comments, questions or suggestions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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