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March 2017
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Let's Talk About MQA And TIDAL Shall We?
Plus CanJam NYC show report and reviews within this issue.
Article By Tom Lyle

 

 

  Most have heard the quote that has been attributed to an 1899 edition of the humor journal Punch Magazine, in which has an edition dedicated to "the coming century". In it, someone jokes, "Isn't there a clerk who can examine patents?" A young man answers, "Quite unnecessary, Sir. Everything that can be invented has been invented". Any audiophile that's hasn't been living in a cave (man-caves excluded, of course) during the last 50 or so years has seen what must be logarithmic advances in music playback. Even the lowly turntable, which was first seen in the homes of music lovers since the late 1800s, has as recently as last week seen technological improvements in playback efficiency -- the differences between a decent mid-priced turntable in the 1980s and those sold today are as different as night and day. Although there is a burgeoning vintage turntable market, the fact is that modern turntables can perform as well or better than the turntables of old, at a much lower price. On the digital front, the pace of innovation is insane. There are many who use the term that measures advances in "digital years" as one does "dog years", in other words, the advances in consumer digital can be measured in months (days?) rather than years. Audiophiles who follow the advances in digital playback (in other words, have made a significant investment in digital playback gear) can certainly attest to this, as the player or converter bought only a short time ago demands constant firmware updates.

 

    

 

There is no question that the latest development in digital playback is the encoding of music with MQA (Master Quality Authenticated). Those who thought that this might just be a trend, or one that would be used by only a handful of audiophile labels are eating their hats, for lack of any other term, now that it has been announced that the Universal Music Group (UMG) will be using this new technology. Yet an announcement at CES 2017 that TIDAL will launch a new MQA streaming music feature is equally significant, because it means that that not only audiophiles, but the "general public" will be able to take advantage of high-resolution audio. This includes Warner Music Group's massive catalog. MQA streaming will be made available to all TIDAL's Hi-Fi tier subscribers (which includes yours truly, and from day one). Press releases are making claims such as "bringing members closer to their favorite musicians", and that people will be able to "hear music just as it was recorded in the studio" may sound pipe-dreamy, especially if TIDAL subscribers are listening through a 2" Bluetooth speaker or crappy ear buds. But audiophiles are listening, too (again, yours truly) and I can vouch for the quality of TIDAL's "HiFi" steaming service (in 16-bit/44.1kHz "CD quality"). When TIDAL introduces MQA into their stream there will no doubt be a substantial step-up in quality.

In addition, the recent announcement by Sprint in acquired a 33% stake of TIDAL for $200M is an eye-opener. Sprint has a reported 45 million retail customers and plans are to closely work with TIDAL to provide exclusive content and streaming media. Part of this new effort will include the establishment by Sprint of a dedicated marketing fund specifically for artists. The fund will allow artists the flexibility to create and share their work with, and for, their fans.

Audiophile life is good.

 

Trickle Down Technology
Speaking of audiophiles living in caves (again, this does not include those living in man-caves!), they are probably the only ones who don't notice the technological trickle-down effect that has been occurring in the audio world. There will always be audiophiles who are early adopters, or are willing to purchase cost-no-object audio, and the rest of us should be thankful for them, as it, for lack of any other term, funds the trickle-down effect. On the other end of the cost spectrum, who would have thought that in 2017 one could purchase an outboard digital to analog converter (DAC) that proclaims "ultra-low" jitter that can convert a 24-bit digital signal with a sample rate of up to 192kHz for $13 (and free shipping for Amazon Prime members). That is not a typo. Do you doubt me? Go ahead, perform a search on Amazon.com and see the results that you get. Talk about trick-down!

Of course, this mini-DAC's performance cannot and does not reach the heights of "high-end" performance. But still, what does this say about where the technology stands in the research and development fields, not to mention the cost-no-object category? It boggles the mind. And trickles down so the rest of the audiophile community can purchase the best audio their money can buy.

 

Reviews Within This Issue Of Our Review Magazine
There are plenty of readers of Enjoy the Music.com that are willing to spend quite a bit of money on components and accessories for their system. But there is also a superabundance of gear in the "mid-priced" category, and for many audiophiles much of this gear takes advantage of the technological trickle-down I speak of. In this issue Dave Hanson reviews the MrSpeakers ĆON planar-magnetic headphones. Not everyone can afford a set of $2000 headphones. And as the headphone market is getting very competitive these days, these under a thousand dollar MrSpeaker cans are a perfect example of a company producing exemplary headphones at a more affordable price.

 

 

Which brings me to Phil Gold's review of Lindemann Audio Musicbook:25 DSD network music player. This German high-end audio company has been making a range of products since the early 1990s, and for the last five years has been manufacturing network players. Their Musicbook is a network player that is DSD capable (hence its name). As non-audiophile love to tease us that calling an audio component that costs around $5000 is "mid-priced", yet the performance that comes from an investment in a player with not only the feature set of the Lindemann player, but the German engineering behind it, makes perfect sense to me, and I bet many others.

 

 

And speaking of audiophiles that are willing to spend whatever it takes to improve the sound of the music that is coming forth from their system, I had the pleasure of living with and using the van den Hul Crimson Stradivarius phono cartridge, and I review it in this month's issue. To some, it might not be reasonable to call a $5000 phono cartridge a "bargain", but when "the best" phono cartridges are selling at upwards of $10,000, and this cartridge can be spoken of with the same audiophile adjectives, I think this is a cartridge worth investigating. That is, if an audiophile is willing to spend whatever it takes to improve their system's sound. When it comes to analog playback, there is no shortage of audiophiles in that category.

 

 

Audio shows are a great way for audiophiles to check out all the gear that the manufacturers have been touting, all under one roof. Of course, this is a challenge for the manufacturer. There have been so many shows sprouting up all over the world, that many of them must decide which shows they will display and which shows they'll have to skip. It cost money to not only travel to these shows, but to have their equipment travel to these shows and set them up in an active display. Although there is one show that must be mandatory for any manufacturer of headphones or headphones accessories, and that the CanJam show. Audiophiles that could attend the CanJam show in NYC early in February were treated to tons of headphone gear in all price categories.  If you couldn't attend, and even if you did, make sure to check out the show reports in this issue. The CanJam NYC 2017 is run by CanJam Global, and is produced by Head-Fi.org. OK, the show report in Enjoy the Music.com might not be as cool as attending the expo for two days in NY's Time's Square, but let's face it, not everyone is willing to drop everything and spend a weekend in NY drooling over the best in headphones and their accessories! But the Enjoy the Music.com show report is definitely the best thing next to being there, as there are plenty of high-resolution photos and descriptions of manufacturers that were displaying their wares. I counted more than 60 exhibitors on the CanJam website, and it's amazing how many of them are covered in our show report!

Enjoy the Music!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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