15 December 2006, 23:57 by mark hoekstra

gimme back my audio!

good old 16-bit PCM-coded 44kHz aka the compact disc
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A little while ago I found myself reinstalling my fileserver and while I was doing that, I had no access to my MP3-files, which are all stored on there. So, for the first time in, what must’ve been years, I took a CD out of my collection and put it in my media center. For a long while already my media center is my only source for playing audio/video-files. Now, I did improv(is)e on getting the best possible quality out of my MP3s, but still, I fell out of my chair when I played some of my old CDs, I was stunned by the quality(difference) even though I played them from a DVD-writer in my media center…

So… on a day where Bill Gates let the world know DRM is lame (d0h) and his advice is “People should just buy a cd and rip it. You are legal then.”

...and a week where iTunes sales where collapsing, even though later on, they were not.

...I thought it would be a good idea to check one of the audio-stores here in town for a second-hand (this technology is around for 20 years with little to no improvement in the last few years from what I can tell, so why buy new?) CD-player with digital out and preferably a NAD... This is what I came home with:

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click to enlarge

It’s a NAD 502 (pdf-link) and from what I can see in reviews it’s considered to be quite a respectable CD-player… The one I found is in total mint condition, really, all over it looks like new (including the remote).

Even though this is equipment I didn’t really really really need, I think I’m gonna be quite happy with it. Now I actually have a reference for my SoundStorm-setup and even though I can trust my own ears, sometimes music just sounds different, probably depending in what kind of condition I am when listening to it…

So, before I find myself yet another time doubting if everything’s still okay with my soundsystem, strung-out on coffee with way too little sleep and such… I can now make sure what it was intended to sound like, more or less, without having to check up on a gazillion audio-options in my media center… *^_^*

I hooked this player up to my Sony DSP, digitally. The DACs in the player itself seem to be all right also, but I would need a pre-amplifier to hook this player up in analog fashion since my DSP/pre-amplifier only accepts digital inputs…

With this player around, it doesn’t mean I won’t listen to MP3s anymore. Oh no, not in a long way, but whenever I feel like really listening to music, instead of having some background noise while working, this player allows me to do so. On a first test, this sounds immaculate.

click to enlarge

Any way, on a more long term scale, I can see myself going out and buying CDs again. Something I haven’t done in a long time. DRM-downloads are out of my question and illegal/semi-legal downloads from questionable sources most of the time have a questionable quality as well, next to that, I totally had it with the latter.

So, I think I’m gonna shop mainly for second-hand CDs, sold by people who thought it would be oh-so-hip to give up their CD-collection (and had to share that with everybody at social gatherings since… “CDs, honey, I mean c’mon, I’ve got an iPod!”)... I will feel sorry for them when I buy their CDs… *^_^*

...it will probably only be a short while before I find myself buying a turntable again… ^_^

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  1. Chris @ 16 December 2006, 02:54 :

    While I do like buying DRM-Free CDs. I actually buy from the good ol’ iTunes Music store, because of multiple reasons.

    1. Price is quite low for music.
    2. I can skip on tracks I dislike.

    I hate DRM as much as the next person, but unfortunately, over here in the U.S, we pay about $16.99 for a new CD…and we get Sony making DRM CDs that won’t work with anything BUT windoze media player.

    So right now, for a 17-year old kind of strapped for cash, iTunes Music store works nicely.

    And another thought…hell, if we do get DRM-infested CDs, it’s still ethical and legal to bittorrent the CD here in the US, as long as we actually own the physical copy or a reciept. _

  2. markie @ 16 December 2006, 03:22 :

    >2. I can skip on tracks I dislike.

    Alright, well, I’m used to listening to albums instead of just tracks and some albums are intended that way too, I guess. It depends on the artist and maybe I’m just getting too old or such. I started listening to music on records and tapes, either way, quite a hassle to skip to the next track ;-)

    I must say there’s quite some tracks I started liking after having listened to them just because they were in the tracklisting and songs I liked better were still coming up…

    >we get Sony making DRM CDs

    Yes, well, officially those CDs aren’t allowed to bear the Compact Disc-logo as far as I know cause in reality they aren’t. They’re some hybrid frankendiscs which bears no attraction for me, neither new nor second-hand :-)

    >we pay about $16.99 for a new CD…

    Yes, well, that’s about the same here. I don’t expect I’ll buy a lot of new CDs :-) My guess is I can find quite some pearls when scourching second-hand shops, something I like to do anyway.

  3. Chris @ 17 December 2006, 12:06 :

    I recall dropping that $17 US on one album…Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations. Simply because I love that band to death.

    Other than that, I usually buy CD’s second-hand or from friends. Hell, at the only half-decent used record store here, about $14 for a used CD.

    Someone nailed it on the head when they said we are basically paying for someone else when we buy CDs nowadays…

  4. Air @ 18 December 2006, 10:59 :

    you little prick I gonna gut you

  5. Air @ 18 December 2006, 11:04 :

    You fucking bugger, I’m sick of your page and the others too. We don’t want your page on the net faggot, do you understand that? only thing what you can expect is a DDOS on this week if you don’t remove your crap. Don’t you feel yourself ashamed every morning how a fucking loser, a faggot you are?! YaY your mom don’t know how can give life to such a scum abomination like you. This is the last warning, after the ddos if you put your page back again, me and my skinhead friends will find you and fucking skin you alive but before that we break all your lovely hardware and you need to watch it.
    If you bitching with us, then you need to leave the country too!


  6. markie @ 18 December 2006, 11:27 :

    Oh, hi Air, you still around? I thought you were gonna DDOS me last week, what happened? Your F5-key didn’t work anymore and it took you a week to get a new keyboard?

    >If you bitching with us

    Bitching with who? If you spam anonymously it’s quite hard to tell who you are or what you want, Einstein.

    >you need to leave the country too!

    You must be the brightest person around. Which country is that? Big chance I already left the country you think I live in.

    By the way, you must be quite happy with the text you chose, you keep sending it me. What’s up with that, your mother wrote that for you?

    Oh, something else, how many last warnings do you give? I’ve heard you say this already more than once…

    Now go ahead and annoy someone else, aight?

  7. markie @ 18 December 2006, 11:36 :

    Oh, and one more thing…

    >We don’t want your page on the net

    This is just too funny. I’m sure you and your imaginary friends have dozens if not tons of pages you don’t like. Now you can do two things about that.

    1. ‘hack’ every single one of them, but next to the skills, it requires a lot of work and I’m sure you’re not used to that.

    2. pull the plug on your internetconnection, forget all about it and be a good kid and help your mommy.

    I consider you do the latter.

    Oh, and if you consider putting all sorts of crap overhere, don’t even bother, I’ll have it removed in seconds.

  8. Goran @ 18 December 2006, 19:33 :

    I started listening to music on cassette. I think it taught me to appreciate whole albums rather than just singles. I also distinctly remember making mix tapes for people I care about.

    I haven’t bought more than one or two CDs per year in years. But I download albums weekly. I don’t know why somebody would use iTunes or buy DRM’ed media. The major record companies seem to want to blame every technology and individual without acknowledging that the state of popular music has been shit for a long time and is only getting worse

    That said the obvious difference in sound quality between CDs and the prevailing encoding formats is significant. And used CD stores can be great. You can really find obscure or older music than most of the stuff you’d be inundated with in a large franchise store. For when you pick up CDs here’s a good resource for encoding/decoding information and fanatical audiophiles (which I am not).


  9. Qazzy @ 19 December 2006, 01:18 :

    You could indeed invest in a turntable.
    One of the turntable’s I personally like very much are the old Philips Ga-212’s and 313’s. You should be able to pick those up for only a few euro’s on fleemarkets.
    Those turntables are quite robust players dating from the early ’70’s. Since they’re old, they probably need a bit of fixing up, but that shouldn’t be a problem for you.
    Replacement belts are still available, costing about 15 euro’s. For about 40 euro’s you can have a new needle. So for about 65 euro’s you can have a really good turntable, if the cartridge is still in good condition.
    Then go shopping for second hand lp’s;). When they don’t look scratched/dirty and don’t have got fingerprints on them, they most probably will still sound very good! At least, that’s my experience. Ofcourse, you sometimes get some screwed Lp’s, but hey…who cares?
    If you would go after one of those Philips turntables, try to get the 312 model, because that one has led’s instead of lightbulbs like the 212. Those lightbulbs are used to lite the feathertouch controls and are also used for the auto-stop function which works with a lightbulb and an optical sensor. When those lightbulbs burn out, they mess up the feathertouch controls completely and the auto-stop function will not work anymore. There is no telling what happends, since every particular model behaves differently. Some GA-212’s I’ve seen worked flawlessly with two or more lightbulbs out, while some models refused to work with just one lighbulb out. So get the 313.
    Replacing the lighbulbs can be difficult, since original ones are very hard to get, and the lightbulbs used to replace must have the exact same rating. Some automobile lights work though.
    I’m no audiophile or anything, but I really like the sound of an good LP, played back on a good quality turntable. Especially the lower frequenty’s sound very warm on an LP.
    Yep….You should really go get a good turntable and score some boxes full of 70’s and 80’s LP’s for a few euro’s..You won’t regret it, and probably be addicted to it quite soon ;)

  10. Qazzy @ 19 December 2006, 01:20 :

    Hmm, seem to be messing up here…Everytime I type “313” you have to read “312” ;)

  11. Chris @ 19 December 2006, 05:19 :

    Uh oh, mark, the RIAA has come to threaten you for not using DRM! _

    (Referring to Air’s overly stupid post)

  12. involutaryhaxor @ 20 December 2006, 04:38 :

    you tell him markie!

    and as for you Air, what do you mean when you call markie a faggot. if i had a chance to talk to you face to face, i would lay into you so hard you wouldn’t even know what hit you!

    wonderful work markie, wish i had some money to make a decent home theater system.

  13. Chris @ 20 December 2006, 05:21 :

    Yeah, Mark…Don’t let idiots like these make you stop blogging. Your blog is one of the only ones that has managed to hold my attention for so long since I seen it linked to from lowendmac.com in early 2006.

    Keep up the good work.

  14. Rowan @ 21 December 2006, 11:54 :

    Nice work Markie – you’ve led me to a whole lot of DIY audio projects & mods which fits in nicely because it’s time for an upgrade. P.S. Love your site, you seem to be on the same wavelength in terms of hackability & going for older, quality tech rather than bleeding edge (overpriced) trash. Yours is just about the only blog I look for updates every day. I guess we’re coming out of the wood work today because of ‘air’.

  15. markie @ 21 December 2006, 12:39 :

    Well, thanks guys.

    About this air guy. I’m not sure what his problem is, and even if I did, I probably couldn’t care less.

    And even if somebody (most obvious not him) would decide to DDOS me, so what? That’ll last a few hours and then? Then I’m still here… :-)

    No way guys like this make me stop blogging or such. Not in a million years.

    Anyway, thank you guys for the comments. I appreciate that.

    Now where’s my soldergun? *^_^*

  16. Chris @ 22 December 2006, 23:49 :

    I actually found some of my CDs, and fired up my old Pioneer CD player…I didn’t know what I was missing. CD’s sound so great, unlike MP3/AAC files.

    I would rip my CDs at lossless, but I doubt my little blue iPod nano could handle it _

  17. PeterU @ 23 December 2006, 13:04 :

    I think most music sounds ok as mp3, but I haven’t thrown out my CDs, I only rip some of my fav albums to my PBs iTunes to have with me when I’m away. And I still have my old LPs w/record player (Techincs SL-DL 5, short arm, tangetial auto set-down & return) sitting attached to my stereo. Forked out for a new Tivoli Audio PAL radio the other day, since my old Tandberg radio died. Great sound in a small box. Don’t know about the “warm sound, especially in the bass bit” on LPs. Tend to rather be a bit of bad rumble there. When i rip LPs to AIFF (for CDs) I have to employ a low-level noise filter…
    Cool blog/site. That Air guy, what is he thinking? Airhead, thats what his real name is!

  18. Chris @ 26 December 2006, 10:11 :

    Hmm, I’m convinced that OLD sony hardware is quite good…but their newer stuff just blows hard.

    Anyway, Mark, I kind of took a page from your book, and I’m going to start an inventory page on my site, as well, now that I got a good digital camera.

    And you were right about never looking behind a man’s stereo. Man, it is a mess back there.

    Anyway, keep up the good content _

  19. Robert @ 4 January 2007, 08:55 :

    Nothing new has beaten out CD quality for me. I like MP3s, if only for being able to load my iBook up with them. Buuuuut, I didn’t throw away my CD collection, not one of them (even the ones I hate, I have trouble getting rid of). I always toss one in my drive and listen to that if I’m around the house. Unfortunately, I don’t have a real sound system. Maybe I’ll do like you did and pick one up for cheap…

As mentioned in the Message from Mark's family this site has been made static. This means that it will be no longer possible to comment on his ideas and projects, but that we all can continue to cherish his creativity.

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