Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vol V No 2

I am told there is a phonograph record cutting lathe on the market that costs around $12,000.  This makes it feasible for independent record producers to cut phonograph masters directly to disc without a tape intermediary step.  You lose the ability to tweak the sound and add instruments, but records made direct-to-disc will have presence, sparkle, and immediacy that those made from tape will lack.  I was told the cutting lathe is marketed under the Gemini brand.

Vol V No 1

I urge reades to write or speak with your local FM radio station management if you would prefer broadcasts with no digital signal processing.  Pursuant to letters from me, Miami FM stations Majic 102.7 and Big 105.9 removed digital processors from the signal path.  Likewise Tom Kent and the Casey Casem Show
 re-broadcasts went all-analog recently.  You won't receive these shows in all-analog form if your FM station uses DSP.  Tom Kent and Casey Casem are nationally syndicated Monday thru Friday evenings and Sunday mornings, respectively.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Vol IV No 8

An experience I had moments ago may be illustrative in regard to this digital vs. analog argument.  I was listening to Casey Kasem's Top 40 on 102.7 in Miami, which I know is digital because it says so in the closing credits: "digitally re-mastered."  A Steely Dan song was playing when I tuned in and it sounded good - I couldn't tell it was digital.  I experienced a momentary panic: "Maybe my whole ideology is mistaken!"  Then I turn up the volume.  Aha!  In an all-analog version, the sound becomes richer and remains focused.  Here it became obvious the sound was all shot through with idle speaker cone movement.

Vol IV No 7

Here is my method for determining whether a song from the analog era is or is not digitalized in a given version I am hearing, as, for example, on the radio.  An all-analog version of the song will become more pleasant-sounding and compelling as you increase the volume to the threshold of distortion.  A digital version will become painful to the ears as you do the same thing.  So that, with a digital version your tendency is always to turn the volume down, while with all-analog playback your tendency is to turn it up.

Vol IV No 6

I now believe it may be possible to ascertain the digital/non-digital status of vinyl records with nothing more than a jeweller's loupe.  Obtain several vinyl records which you know are digitally processed and several you know are all-analog.  Use the loupe to examine the grooves closely at varying points on each record.  You should note that the digitalized record grooves will be very, very smooth, while the all-analog grooves will have all sorts of ripples, which correspond to (infinite) audio detail.  (The digital grooves are smooth because of filtering which conceals the sampling frequency.) 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Vol IV No 5

Clearaudio's "Statement" turntable, with linear-tracking tonearm, is advertised on page 132 of  the November 2012 issue of Stereophile magazine.  I would recommend this product.  The massive construction will simulate the mass of industrial record cutting machines.  This accords with my Principle of Audio Reproduction Accuracy, viz.: A playback system is accurate only to the degree that it is identical to the system by which the recording was produced.  Edison's cylinder machine had this virtue implicitly.  Use the "Statement" to record your vinyl to magnetic tape for final playback.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Vol IV No 4

An ad on the rear cover of Stereophile, November 2012, which promotes a digital audio product, states in dramatic italics that it is "for those who still believe in progress." Readers of this blog know about my sound-on-film product concept. But progress can also occur in other analog audio technologies. For example, consider how an antique wax cylinder phonograph could be improved by being produced in a high-precision modern version according to modern machining techniques. I recently wrote to Donald Trump suggesting that a top quality vintage gramophone playing "like new" vintage 78's might have truly remarkable sound quality.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Vol. IV No. 3

In recent issues of Stereophile magazine, Art Dudley states that most new vinyl releases are in fact digitally processed versions.  Therefore, caveat emptor.  Use microscope to verify any suspect vinyl's provenance.  He also quotes an industry insider who says "jaws drop" for many audiophiles who hear 15 ips magnetic tape versions for the first time.  He refers to the Tape Project, a group trying to implement a 15 ips, 1/4" magnetic tape standard for a broad consumer market.  I feel obligated to mention that my sound-on-film system will be much better still, particularly since it will use the same transducers for record and playback.

Vol. IV No. 2

Should I Stay or Should I Go? by The Clash illustrates a point I have recently realized, which is that playing back rock music at too low of a volume can ruin the quality of the sound. In reference to my remarks in III. 8 of this blog, I now feel that I may have been making the same mistake. SISOSIG sounds very inane and jejune at low volumes. But play the same song cranked on a high-powered system, to simulate how the band themselves would play it! At low volumes, a great deal of the content in a rock song is below the amplification threshold.

Vol. VI No. 1

I have been enjoying listening to Majic 102.7 FM Miami.  It's hard to express how much many of those songs mean to me.  I know no better way than to say that for all practical purposes, this is the only station I listen to for music.

102.7 recently began playing vinyl.  My only complaint at this point is that for frequent listeners, there is too much repetition of some songs and artists.  I urge other listeners to request of station management that they emphasize variety over 'rotation'.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Vol. III No. 12

Examine any mid-range speaker driver and you will see the copper voice coil, the magnet, and the accordian-like fabric "spider" element. All motion of the cone is reciprocated and opposed by the spider. This causes the droning tone of spoken male voices and the "muddiness" of the tone of the wound strings of the electric guitar. Less obviously, it detracts from the clarity of the other instruments and voices. I suggest a driver made from an elastic cone-shaped element tensioned by a wire leading from its apex. Electric guitar pickups, here functioning as output transducers, are arrayed parallel to the wire. Each has 6 magnet-and-coil units.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Vol. III No. 11

An amateur cassette recording of an unheralded, unknown female jazz singer in Chicago featured versions of "All of Me" and "Sunny Side of the Street" which, because of the joy imbued in her performance, were way, way better than versions by celebrity vocalists.  Salinger's Caulfield says "Those idiots who clap their heads off will ruin anyone if you give them the chance."  Performances removed in time and space is one reason I am into recording  technology.  I had a recording on cassette of Steely Dan's pre-professional recordings called Sun Mountain which I loved.  Another zinger from Holden Caulfield is "The movies.  Don't even talk to me about them.  They can ruin you.  I'm not kidding."

Vol. III No. 10

For persons wishing to appreciate vintage 78 rpm recordings, the goal is to match the phonograph to the period in which the record was made.  For the period before electric amplification and motor drive, select a vintage phonograph which likewise is non-electric.  For the 1930's and thereabouts, I have read that the Capehart brand was considered the finest quality (electrified) phonograph.  Do not assume that sound quality is inferior with these technologies.  On the contrary, the presence and tonal richness will be superior to modern analog systems.  A critical point is to find expert technicians who specialize in restoring the equipment to optimum acoustic performance.

Vol. III No. 9

Speaking in Tongues, the last album by Talking Heads before the digital era, is a musical tour de force.  There was some issue after the initial release which caused the record executives, apparently, to ask David Byrne to do a new vocal with some changes to the lyrics.  Reject any version with the altered lyrics:  the one I heard was digitally processed.  If you can afford Audition 16's and perhaps some other of my system recommendations in II. 13, you will hear what I guess I would call the sublime power of this LP.  You may also hear it with lesser playback gear, but this record is an example of one with such great energy that it is difficult to hear it played back well.

Vol. III No. 8

There was one time and place when I heard London Calling and it sounded awesome.  In other settings I was scratching my head.  What did they do to that record?  (My theory:  only the very first releases of the record were all-analog.  Lots of digital versions were sold, perhaps as early as 1980 or 1981.)  I also had one good experience with Sandinista! Consider the enthusiasm the Clash had to release a triple album in an economical package: "Fans! You've got to hear this!"  (Apart from digitalization, I do also wonder if vinyl doesn't suffer perhaps an enormous degradation from just a single play.)  The listener is advised to purchase cassettes recorded from vinyl; these were very common and very high quality.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Vol. III No. 7

Better-records.com claims to offer better pressings of favorite recordings. Will some reader please refer them to I. 24 of this blog? Boston's 1st LP was a sensation. (I surmise it inspired Aja by Steely Dan. This is the gateway album for appreciating Steely  Dan.) All Side Ones of that album at radio stations are toast from so much play. Side Two now sounds superior to Side One. Also from Boston, 2 years after Boston, was The Cars' 1st LP. In the meantime, the Sex Pistols had broken into the mainstream. So you have in Boston the apotheosis of classic rock, then in The Cars a standard-bearer of the New Sound. More power to you, Better-records.com. Can you also offer cassettes and 3 and 3/4 ips tapes?

Vol. III No. 6

Digital audio engineers appropriated observations made by Harry Nyquist in 1928 on the subject of telegraph transmission. Nyquist's observations pertained to characterizing symbols only, not to characterizing continuous audio content. Digital technology developers made a wholly unjustified leap when they said, as does Advanced Digital Audio, K. Pohlmann, ed., Sams Publications, 1991, p. 33: "Although Nyquist proposed his result in terms of telegraph transmission, the result is equally valid for any kind of digital data transmission, including, of course, digital audio." Nyquist described "completely characterizing" telegraph code. Continuous audio is not completely characterized by intermittent samples.

Vol. III No. 5

R.E.M. is another act, like Madonna and Violent Femmes, which brought out its first record just before the digital era.

Murmur won't shock you, like the Femmes, or excite you, like Madonna, but you will love the smooth, rolling, moody sound and the various stumbles and miscues that tell you this is a very young group, who used very little studio time, and who really didn't give a damn about perfecting the record.

I can't resist urging the reader to listen for the unprintable refrain on side 2, which is clearly audible but not prominent in the mix.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Vol. III No. 4

I wonder at the way in which Kodak has gone so quietly into the good night of bankruptcy.

I recently received some (digital) photos on 'H-P' paper, a product of Hewlett-Packard. I'm reminded of the old Reese's commercial: 'What is your chocolate doing in my peanut butter?" What is H-P doing with Kodak's photo print market?

The H-P photos produce a strange irritation and a feeling of instability behind my eyes. Analog, film photographs never did that.

What prevents Kodak from promoting film photography as superier to digital and therefore preferable for most kinds of imaging?

This preference is not sentimental or Luddite, it is a preference for reality over illusion, clarity over distortion, substance over vacuousness.

Your intermittent, interpolated, numerically step-generated digital images are both inaccurate and irritating. Can't Kodak go to Madison Avenue to promote a product which is not?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Vol. III No. 3

The bel and decibel are the basis for audio measurement that purports to be scientific. But how scientific is a system that was created by asking listeners to determine when a given sound is twice as loud as another sound?

It is clear when you have twice as many oranges or twice as many pairs of socks. It is by no means clear when some tone is 'twice as loud' or 'half as loud' as some other tone.

One implication of this is that evaluation of 'linearity' in audio has no proper basis.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vol. III No. 2

Readers, please take note of the 3 3/4 inches per second, 1/4 of an inch tape format on which some major label albums were released in the 60's and 70's.

Also, I heard Beyonce's "Freakum Dress" for the first time yesterday, and my comment to myself was that it sounds 'hideous' and extremely 'unmusical'. A song like this would never have gotten airplay in the 70's, when songs like "Midnight at the Oasis" were all over the charts. Note to Beyonce: Try recording in an all-analog studio. You will like what you hear.

Vol. III No. 1

An obvious problem for the audiophile is the large number of different manufacturers making system elements and components that may or may not be compatible with each other. Worse still is the matching of playback components with those used for recording and production. My variable intensity sound-on-film (VISOF) technology will consist of an entire system in which all components are optimally matched and standardized so a recording made with a given configuration will be played back on configurations that are as much as possible identical. In fact, I intend to create standardized studios with identical equipment installations where bands come in to record and where their music will be played back in virtually identical environments. These studios will be set up as refreshment bars with areas for lounging and dancing so the music can be fully and properly shared and enjoyed. Home and auto versions of the equipment, identical as much as possible while scaled to smaller size, will also be made available.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Vol. I No. 1

Talking Heads is a band whose career illustrates and reflects the significance of the transition to digital audio processing in the recording industry.

From their first album through Speaking in Tongues we hear a band with great passion, authenticity, and creative self-fulfillment. Suddenly with Little Creatures we hear a methodical quality. We hear a band that had gone from 'pushing the envelope' to a pedantic or condescending school-teacherishness. This band has gone from enthusiasm to a bored and boring pretentiousness.

I attribute this to the advent of digital audio processing in the studio. Consider how the advent of digital audio is reflected in the career of the Clash. This band's last album, Combat Rock, was made just before digital processing had overwhelmed the industry.

I loved the next thing I heard from Mick Jones, The Big Audio Dynamite LP, but to me it reflects digital processing in its lack of the passion and wildness of Combat Rock and the Clash's other, earlier records.

This may be a good time to point out that it should come as no surprise that a digitally-processed song will very frequently 'sound better' than an all-analog production due to the fact that the digitalized material is nothing more than a sketchy, non-infinite extract of the original sound and, for that reason, it is a much simpler matter to control and manage the tonal balance of the final playback output.

Remember that in the case of all-analog audio, you are dealing with an infinite non-discontinuous 'echo' of the original sound, which, because of its tonal richness, can be difficult to play back with a perfectly pleasing tonal balance. A multi-band graphic equalizer is highly recommended for those seeking to enjoy all-analog audio to the very fullest extent.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Vol. I No. 2

A great deal of confusion exists because of the difficulty in distinguishing between records and tapes that are true all-analog productions and those which have been digitally processed at some point in the production sequence.

In my own case there was a period of years when on numerous occasions I obtained vinyl and magnetic recordings and listened to them without realizing that, despite being in an analog format, these recordings were not truly analog because they had been subjected to digital processing.

If you, the reader, are a music lover it is possible or likely that you have had similar experiences. What I recall is a feeling of dissatisfaction with the music on those occasions, a thought to myself of 'where is the magic?' or 'somehow this record just isn't grabbing me.' I recall making continuous, repeated efforts to try to 'get into' the music with limited success. Whereas the case with a favorite recording in all-analog playback is that typically it will powerfully move you with an overwhelming feeling that can be described as contagious, infectious, enchanting.

What I often get with digitalized music is a kind of prickly sensation in my nerves and spine. I suspect that may happen also to other listeners and they may tend to attribute this to the presumed quality of the sound.

It may be hard to remember for older readers, while younger ones may never have had this experience, but when all-analog reproduction of a favorite song occurs, the listener will typically feel a whole gamut of emotions and may in some cases be 'swept away' by the feeling the music engenders.

Digitalized music, as the superficial simulation that it is, irritates the nervous system rather than inducing the powerful motions and emotions formerly always associated with music.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Vol. I No. 3

I was never a fan of Jimi Hendrix's music. As I remember it, it sounded like a sort of Wall of Noise, a cacophony, full of distortion, lacking the fluid rhythmic continuity that I enjoyed in other music.

Recently I heard about a minute of one of his most familiar songs as a lead-in to a segment of Coast to Coast AM. Digital sampling does a very conspicuously bad job of reproducing Hendrix. In all-analog playback, his vocal part is prominent and clearly recognizable. In the digitalized version, you can barely hear it at all.

To those who would argue that digital audio sounds good, sounds better, the case of Jimi Hendrix may very well support that claim. In all-analog form, his music is almost un-listenable. In digitalized form, you hear a sterilized, castrated, innocuous version which would go off much better as elevator music.

What I have noticed about digital audio is that it never reproduces harmony of two or more instruments nor even the fullness of tone of a single instrument or voice. Instead, it tends to produce a thin-toned simulation of whichever instrument or voice is most prominent in the music signal. When you hear apparent harmony in digital playback, you are actually hearing the rapid alternation of the sample from one of the instruments to another.

The nature of the movement of energy in music is that it flows and accumulates; it rises and falls like a loop on a roller coaster; it declines to an almost-nothingness and builds to extremes that constantly overwhelm the capabilities of a reproduction technology.

It is in fact only because the traditional analog reproduction technology is so limited that digital processing of audio is able to be convincingly equivalent.

This is why I am seeking to develop a sound-on-film technology (using the 'variable intensity' process) incorporating a design which, like Edison's invention, uses the same transducer for both record and playback.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Vol. I No. 4

Because only identical things vibrate identically, a given audio reproduction system is accurate only to the degree that its record configuration is identical to its playback configuration.

In Edison's original phonograph, a cone with a needle fixed at its apex served as a microphone during recording and as speaker during playback. I propose to market a technology that will similarly incorporate identical configurations for both modalities.

It is also possible in some respects to enhance the accuracy of traditional, pre-existing reproduction technologies such as vinyl and magnetic tape.

Recording in studios utilizes microphones which normally consist of a single element whereas most loudspeakers consist of two or more elements of different sizes with electronics to divide the signal between them called a 'crossover network.' By using speakers with a single size of element such as BOSE 901's and some Audience-brand models, you enhance the degree to which your playback configuration will resonate identically to the way the recording configuration resonated in the studio.

It could be effective likewise to route your playback signal through a studio mixing board, again, to enhance the similarity to the record configuration. If that is not convenient I recommend an all-analog graphic equalizer as a rough substitute.

Since studio recording in the analog era was done on magnetic tape and only later transferred to vinyl, accuracy may be enhanced by transferring your vinyl recordings to tape for final playback.

Because vinyl record 'cutting' systems, which engrave the master disc that is used to stamp the final copies, operate with a linear-tracking system instead of a pivoting tonearm, turntables of the linear-tracking type will also to some degree enhance the identity of your system with the system by which a given recording was produced.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Vol. I No. 5

"It is what it is" is a current expression that is in vogue, which implies that nothing can be other than what it is in fact composed of. I mention this to introduce my suggestion that the interested reader should examine the grooves of vinyl recordings known to be all-analog and others known to have been digitally processed by placing them under a microscope or stereoscope.

The digitally-processed record will be very greatly lacking in detail because "it is what it is" and cannot be more than that. The fact that digital audio "is what it is" allows hundreds or thousands of songs - if it is proper to call them that - to be stored in memories the size of postage stamps.

That is to say, it is the very limited, minimal nature of the digital representation that allows it to be stored in such minute dimensions. Again, its limited, minimal nature is why it can be transmitted and downloaded in only a few seconds for an entire composition. Under a stereoscope with good illumination and the proper magnification this limited, minimal nature of the digitalized representation will show up clearly alongside the infinite detail and unbroken continuity of the all-analog recording.

Would the reader like to know my thoughts on the ability to distinguish by ear alone between all-analog and digitalized reproduction? This in itself is a subject I may devote several numbers to.

In the first place I believe it is much easier to distinguish all-analog from digitalized audio in live performances than in recorded playback.

There are numerous live performance venues on Waikiki Beach, and at one of these I felt certain that a guitar duo performing there was using digital processing. I approached the foot of the stage during a break and saw a little digital tone-processing box, which the band confirmed was digital. I said to them that "that digital box is taking all the tone right out of your instruments." I remember thinking their sound had a very limited, minimal, sterile quality.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vol. I No. 6

I very clearly remember the first time I heard the self-titled first LP by Violent Femmes, a band from Milwaukee, in 1983.

This album has the most terrifying, horrific, Gothic and tragic quality that one can possibly imagine. Clearly inspired by punk rock, and yet much or most of the instrumentation is non-electrified. The three members of the band were all around 20 years old or less as far as I know.

I believe the advent of Violent Femmes and their first record was a manifestation of the collective consciousness concerning the imminent termination of sales of all-analog recordings precisely at that time.

I was in the Salisbury dormitory of Burton-Judson Hall at the University of Chicago when I heard this record being played very loudly in a neighboring room. I was astonished at the high drama of the performance: the anger, the great animosity, the rabid tone of condemnation and resentment. I thought "What sort of music is this?!"

Many years later I purchased a cassette of Violent Femmes' first record which I only years after that learned was in fact a digitally processed re-issue of the original. I listened to it several times, trying to experience the great power of the record as I had known it before but was unable to do so.

I do not understand what is the mechanism - the how and why - of collective consciousness that would cause this band to emerge precisely at the time of the demise of analog audio - the end of music as we knew it, or, if you will, the day the music died.

But the fact that it did so, and that it sounds like a scream of terror and rage, suggests to me the very great import of this digital versus analog audio technology issue.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Vol. I No. 7

What I have always noticed with digital photographs is that objects in the photo seem to stand out unnaturally from the background. An image of a person, for example, will seem unnaturally 'de-contextualized' as if that image might have been merely inserted into the composition.

The reader, as I do, may notice that digitalized video, as on TV, has a kind of a cartoon-ish quality, in which the sharp, definitive elements of the image are emphasized at the expense of subtle elements of color tone and shading.

With all the hype surrounding digital TV and 'High Definition,' there is a tendency to give credence to the claim that this new video technology produces a better image.

Do you feel the way in which the digital image is portrayed almost painfully with a sort of minimal quality in which all the sharp lines define the images? And of course there is a conscious or semi-conscious tendency to tailor the content - the programming itself - to the characteristics of the medium. If I am reading it correctly, the most recent TV dramas and action shows are seeking to be very stylized, with characterizations that, instead of being complex or subtle, involve what appears to be a lot of angular, grim posing and posturing. I see this as the complement of a digital/hi-def medium that, rather than being superior to traditional analog TV, is ironically very much worse and which is well-adapted to a cartoon-ish minimalistic storyline of obvious, simple gestures and sharply drawn, one-dimensional thespian 'statements.'

The case is similar in regard to digital audio. Every instrument seems to clamor, in its turn, for prominence. Each of these instruments sounds out-of-context, as if it could have been recorded anywhere and inserted into the mix. The compositions we hear in this medium have no regard for rhythmic continuity. Because the medium does not reproduce it, the musicians disregard it. Music in the digital age is about posing and stylized image-making, not about the cultivation of rich emotions and spontaneous expressions.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Vol. I No. 8

I would like in this entry to give the reader a sort of guide to distinguishing all-analog recordings from recordings that have been digitally processed at some point during production.

The critical year, as best I have been able to determine, seems to be 1984. Prior to that year, one could buy vinyl and cassette offerings from major labels with a pretty good probability that one was getting a record that had never been digitalized.

It would be nice to be able to know what the specific practices were at the manufacturing facilities of the various major labels. What year was it that each manufacturer for the first time began using a digital signal processor at some point in the process of the cutting of the master stamper? Likewise in regard to the production of the master tapes: at what time did each studio or re-mixing or post-production facility incorporate digital processing gear as a matter of course in the sequence of production processes?

The reader needs to understand that the vinyl or cassette you buy at the second-hand shop may have markings to indicate it was produced in 1972 or 1981, and yet that particular copy of the recording might very well be a re-released or re-issued version produced at a much later date and therefore subjected to processing by digital equipment. Likewise in your own present collection and among recordings in analog format that you may have heard while out and about, you may not have been dealing with truly analog audio.

Conveniently, in many cases a determination can be made by means of the packaging of the record. Re-issued versions will lack the elaborate artwork on the inner sleeve or J-card which characterizes the original releases.

In the case of vinyl and cassettes currently being produced, I urge readers to petition the labels to certify their products are all-analog.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vol. I No. 9

It is possible when one is quiet to hear the sound of your own ears. It is similar to a light brushing sound. Likewise with the eyes closed, in the dark, one can see many-colored light in the eyes. This is because hearing and vision are dynamized systems. That is to say, they have a degree of tension or energization even when they are not processing any apparent stimuli.

In the development of the history of audio technology, there has been a concern for the reduction of noise, which, in the design of audio systems, is a much more obvious problem to address than the problem of the accurate tonal reproduction of the given acoustical source.

Superior freedom from noise was one of the rationales - if not the chief rationale - for creating and promoting digital recording. It is easy to imagine how this consideration became prevalent in the minds of the engineers, while the elusive, subtle, very challenging problem of accurate tonal reproduction was largely ignored.

An audiophile can be defined as one who will go to whatever lengths are within his or her means to listen to audio reproduction whose tonal richness most nearly approaches that of a live audition of the music. If we discount noiselessness as a primary virtue of an audio system, then it is very hard to think of any way whatsoever that digital audio can be regarded as preferable to analog for the audiophile.

It is hard to conceive of how it makes any sense to obsess about the reduction of noise when the 'system noise' in one's own ears is so substantial. In fact it is that system noise, produced by the dynamization of the eardrum, which makes our hearing as sensitive as it is to those nuances of acoustical colour and timbre that are entirely absent in digital reproductions.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vol. I No. 10

In regard to the principle I describe in No. 4, that playback accuracy depends on the identicalness of the playback configuration with the record configuration, I had an interesting experience.

Having learned that microphones can function as speakers and vice-versa, I assembled a pair of headphones replacing the original miniature speakers with microphone elements taken from ordinary inexpensive microphones sold at Radio Shack.

I was listening to Fulfullingness' First Finale, an album I recommend and which I had listened to many times before. (It is by Stevie Wonder.)

Someplace in the middle of side 2 I heard a one syllable spoken voice expression which presumably got onto a track and into the mix during the recording process and was never detected. In all my previous listenings to this record I had never heard it.

The Shack microphones, if I remember correctly, are listed as having an impedance of 200 ohms, whereas a typical speaker will usually be in the range of 4-32 ohms. This corresponds to a voice coil - the coiled wire that juxtaposes the signal to the magnet in a speaker or microphone - which is substantially longer or thinner or both. It is likely that the microphones used to record FFF also had an impedance in a much higher range than typical loudspeakers.

It seems to me that a longer coil would place the musical signal in proximity to the magnet over a longer duration than a shorter coil. In a sense, it would allow each musical instant to manifest itself more separately from the next. A thinner coil might tend to be less able to bear signal energy within itself, thus in a sense repulsing or expelling it, thereby disposing it to be acted upon by the magnet to a greater degree.

In any case I challenge the interested reader - in a friendly sense, of course - to listen carefully to side 2 (or B) of FFF to determine whether or not they can hear this out-take or 'blooper'.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Vol. I No. 11

I believe that the 901 was the first product BOSE brought to the market. This speaker has not one but two design elements that make it superior to other speakers. [Subsequent to posting this entry, I learned the Audience company makes speakers which also have these advantages.]

First, it features drivers that are all the same size, which makes a crossover network unnecessary.

Second, each speaker incorporates a large number of drivers, which provides a greater degree of identity with recordings made using a large number of microphones and a large number of separate tracks.

What I have found is that much concern must be given to allowing for the egress - what could be thought of as the venting - of the sheer volume of sound during playback. I think of 'volume' here as a word that differs from 'loudness' in that volume refers to the quantity of air movement by the undistorted musical energy while loudness can exist because of all kinds of distortions produced by an inadequate driver or drivers.

For those readers who would say that they cannot tell the difference between all-analog and digitalized versions of a given composition, I urge you to make any such comparison using one of these BOSE speaker systems. (In place of the equalizer BOSE supplies, I recommend an all-analog graphic equalizer.)

You are likely to be overwhelmed by the richness of the sound from the all-analog production, while in the case of the digitalized recording you will note the thinness of tone - the absence of musical 'volume' as compared to the apparent total 'loudness' - sharply contrasting with the all-analog playback. You should also notice the rhythmic vacuousness, the lack of fluid, muscular, rhythmic counterpoint, in the digital version.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Vol. I No. 12

I happen to be of just such an age that I remember some of the really excellent TV show theme music. I loved the theme which opened every episode of the Rockford Files. There is a 'fatness' or muscularity, a depth or dimensionality, to the song and its movement and sound - the changes occur with a fatness or rich punctuality, something you'd never get with digital. The tones of the instruments themselves have this fatness, breadth, richness: how could you expect to reproduce this with an intermittent numerical sample? Another TV show theme which I remember as being very emotion-inducing was the theme for Taxi.

A subject I have not touched upon is the thought that music of poor quality is not redeemed by existing in all-analog format. There was a lot of unexciting, imperfect, over-rehearsed, pretentious, disingenuous, and music to which many other negative adjectives could also be applied.

Not to apply critical language, but merely referring to my own preferences, Joan Jett and Pat Benatar were female rock performers whose music I did not like. I'm referring to their hits - I didn't hear their other songs. Whereas Heart was a female rock act that had three or four songs I really loved. Maybe what I heard in Jett and Benatar was you could just tell that they were doing it for the purpose of being a success. If the music doesn't sound that great, what else motivates you to play it? Compare how Heart's big hits sound - the excitement and energy is such that this music contains its own justification.

This last phrase describes AC/DC's Back in Black. You have to play music loud to re-create the sound these bands produce in concert. I do not recommend headphones. Use Bose 901's or Audience brand speakers.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vol. I No. 13

Conduct the following experiment. Connect a tiny incandescent light bulb to the two leads from an ordinary cone-type speaker. If you tap the cone, you will see flashes of light from the bulb.

The record configuration for Variable Intensity Sound-On-Film recording (VISOF) is potentially as simple as that. Sound impinging on the transducer generates flashes of light that vary in accordance with the sound. These are recorded on a moving strip of film. During playback, a light source shining through the developed film strikes a photocell which sends impulses to the transducer via an amplifier.

Compared to magnetic tape recording, VISOF is more permanent and stable. The magnetic record can be erased or altered by any strong magnetic activity. But a film record is fixed by a chemical process and is not erasable. Because magnetic tape and vinyl recordings involve direct physical contact between the record/play element and the record itself, they are subject not only to noise, but also to loss of the recorded impressions due to physical wear and abrasion. The record/play elements do not touch the moving film with VISOF. The problem that is more or less significant to the audiophile of the wearing out of vinyl and tape recordings from frequency of use would be much less of an issue with VISOF. Likewise, VISOF is inherently free-er from noise than tape and vinyl.

For these reasons I am advocating the development of a VISOF technology which will provide accuracy (or 'fidelity') that is vastly superior to the existing analog technologies. I believe that with a convenient cartridge format, VISOF could be made suitable to ordinary customers.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Vol. I No. 14

There was an EP - a 45 rpm 12" record - called Uncertain Smile which I heard several times in 1986. The 'musicality' of this song contrasts greatly with the dance music of the present day. (Listener: You must get the EP version only. There is a version of the song on an LP which is no good. I would rely only on a 'vintage' copy of this record. Why should you trust that a re-issued version hasn't at any point been fed through a digital signal processor? The same goes for other recordings. But you'd do well if you learned to distinguish digitalized from all-analog vinyl by means of the microscope.)

The complaint I anticipate from recording artists who are successful with digital instruments and processing is "Crowds love our stuff. It's great for dancing. The rhythm is very compelling - even overwhelming!" In reply to successful dance music artists and producers who would make this argument, I urge you to open-mindedly audition the Uncertain Smile EP on an all-analog system. As you do so, consider the capabilities of this all-analog medium and format - capabilities involving the 'momentum' of a song and the flexion or flux of the sound.

A digital signal processor puts out its sequence of samples according to its own clock and timing. It represents a rupture of the continuity between the musician's impulses and the outputted sound. It simulates, according to its own synchronization, and very approximately and intermittently, the living continuum it receives.

A digital signal processor is like a Black Hole: all the rich detail, variety, and nuance of the exertion it receives is lost there - and replaced by a crude, quasi-mechanical sequence of approximations initiated by its own clock/timing frequency.

Vol. I No. 15

I once met a former radio disc jockey who had worked in the analog era. His voice has a very distinctive, powerful quality which I attributed to the likely hundreds or thousands of hours he had spent making his voice heard over a 20 or perhaps 50 mile radius. He actually sounded funny as compared to others in our conversational group: his voice had this sort of deep musicality that prompted my question or comment which elicited the information that he had been a radio broadcaster.

With all-analog broadcasting technology, the DJ's voice is brought to bear upon a highly energized circuit which modulates the carrier wave. To make his voice carry for 20 or 50 miles in an all-analog broadcast, the DJ essentially is leveraging a high-tension system which provides substantial resistance because of that tension. In some respects and for some parts of the throat and voice mechanism, it is a kind of an athletic workout to properly modulate that system. Hence the conspicuous tone of the voices of broadcasters from the pre-1984 era. Their voices have gotten a unique kind of development.

With a digital signal processor in the circuit anywhere between the mic and the carrier wave, there is no muscularity of the DJ's voice brought to bear upon the high tension carrier wave circuit. Instead, an analog-to-digital converter produces a sequence of numerical estimates of the strength of the signal from the mic and processes these numbers to alter the tone in some respect. Then a digital-to-analog converter, in an entirely separate and disconnected process, produces a signal referred to as analog but which is in fact no more than the sequence of estimates with idle system noise in between them.

The DJ's voice has no connection to the carrier wave.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Vol. I No. 16

I have mentioned that it is easier to distinguish analog from digitalized sound with live music. In the case of recorded music I am often able to do so if I am very familiar with the song from hearing it in the pre-digital era.

Yesterday I was listening to a digitalized version of a Moody Blues song which I heard many times on FM radio in the 70's. At one point in the song I uttered the thought of "Let's hear how this acoustic guitar comes in." It is a good moment in the song when the acoustic guitar crashes in with the loud, mechanical sound of the pick striking the strings.

And it was vastly disappointing!! Instead of the loud, complex, rich, textural crashing of the chord as it is struck, I hear a muted semblance of the same which seems to be in the background or mid-ground.

Afterward, in my thoughts as I uttered them, it was that word 'textural' that seemed to me to aptly describe what it is that digital audio lacks generally. Musical tones, musical moments seem to lack the quality of texture which they will possess, will embody, in all-analog - that is to say, never-digitalized - versions.

Another bit of apt phraseology, which may seem vague, but which I believe is accurate, is that in a digitalized version you will hear sound that compares to the analog version of the same production. But in the all-analog version you will feel the sound. The digital version plays thinly on the eardrum. The all-analog version moves the eardrum richly - in fact you feel it move the entire inner ear in a comprehensive way.

Other phraseology I approve is to say that it is not a soul that computerized music lacks; rather what it lacks is body.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Vol. I No. 17

I don't think I was very impressed with math-based chemistry and physics classes in high school. Chemistry formulas involving 'ideal gases'? Acceleration problems in physics neglecting wind resistance? My own sense is that there is no phenomenon in the real world that will ever occur in accordance with a math function.

I object to the way that the concepts of the infinite and the infinitesimal are neglected in astronomy, physics, and astrophysics. It seems too convenient that physicists conceive of a universe that periodically contracts into nothing and then explodes for billions of years before contracting to nothing again. The entire universe, from time to time smaller than the palm of my hand! This reminds me of the ease with which anyone trying to be objective about someone else will be inclined to think poorly of them rather than well of them. How convenient that by finding fault with someone else you are elevated by comparison.

I believe the universe has always existed and that it will exist forever. I also believe that its extent is infinite. Also, in the realm of the small, I believe there is no limit to the infinitesimal dimensions within any given microscopic space that can be specified. (One implication of this is that there is no such thing as a 'point' in the mathematical sense.)

I was intrigued to learn in my reading on Sound or Acoustics about the phenomenon of 'transmission by resonance.' If you have two identical tuning forks at a distance of several feet, the fork at a distance will vibrate when you strike the fork near at hand. Forks of different frequencies at the same distance will not vibrate noticeably.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Vol. I No. 18

All readers are familiar with the 'static cling' that clothing sometimes has when you remove it from the dryer. You hear sharp, snapping sounds when you pull the clothes apart. On one occasion I noticed that if you do this in the dark you see sparks of light, and this inspired some contemplation.

I surmised that when the clothing is clinging it is excluding air or atmosphere at those locations, and that when you force those clothes apart, you create a momentary vacuum in the atmospheric air which is manifested as a spark of light. That is to say, I theorized that vacuum of a certain intensity is equivalent to light. More simply, light is vacuum.

This notion is corroborated by the snapping sound that also occurs when atmospheric air rushes in to destroy the momentary vacuum: air from every direction collides violently with itself, producing the sharp sound.

I was at that time trying to learn how an electric generator works. What exactly is going on when the magnets of the rotor move past the copper coils to which the two leads are attached? Connected to a light bulb, a generator will produce light.

It struck me that the magnets and coils of a generator producing light are similar to the orbiting of the planets around the sun. If the sun is in fact an intense vacuum, this would explain why the planets are held in their orbits.

There is a problem with the standard physics concerning the functioning of a motor-generator. (A motor and a generator are identical, but simply configured to operate inversely.) If I spin the rotor, electric energy in a certain amount is produced. If electricity is applied to the coils, the rotor will spin. Why then is it considered impossible to cause the rotor to spin perpetually by integrating its own electric output?

The solar system is the eminent example of a perpetual motion machine. It only remains for the ingenuity of mankind to configure a working imitation. I personally suspect that a motor-generator would run perpetually if its leads were connected and it was brought to spin at its resonant frequency.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Vol. I No. 19

[Refer to number 10 of this series.]

As a teenager, I was reluctant to try to build my own speaker cabinets because of the convincing advertising and promotional material by speaker manufacturers.

But at this point I feel that I can very readily design speakers that will vastly outperform anything presently on the market.

While I have certain ideas for dynamized transducers (speaker/microphones) that I will build from scratch, there is much that can be done if the reader is able to obtain microphone transducers in sufficient quantity.

Factory speakers are made with wood not because it provides optimal sound, but because it is inexpensive, easy to work with, and fits the traditional sense of what furniture should look like.

Your favorite artists are recording their instruments and voices with standard mics as you see in stage performance or condensor mics that have their own power supply.

To hear most accurately the sound they create you need speakers that use transducers as similar as possible to the ones in their microphones. And as heavy as those mics are, your speakers should mount those mic transducers in something heavier than wood.

You may want to replicate the cylindrical shape of the mics in your speaker design. Lead pipe as used for plumbing would give a rough and affordable approximation of a microphone cylinder. Or you might compromise on the shape and mount the elements in a massive flat panel of, say, granite, or steel.

By selecting parallel or series wiring, you can readily ensure that your transducer array operates in the appropriate range of 4-16 Ohms.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Vol. I No. 20

The reader may question my assertion that in the era of digital audio, music is dead.

Popular music is always more or less a trend, a movement, a style, a feeling, an attitude. If the most impassioned and inspired artists suddenly lose that passion and inspiration, music is dead not only for them, but for their fans and their fellow artists who emulated them.

I refer first to Talking Heads in this context because in their case the contrast between their albums skirting the onset of the digital audio era is so great that you have the sense that they were aware of the significance of this change.

The group that called itself Digital Underground whose song Humpty Dance became a hit at that time seems also to have understood to some degree the significance of the new technology.

They presumably felt that the new technology did not lend itself to serious musical art, and instead saw how by creating very gimmicky music with clownish and obscene aspects they could at least profit from the new paradigm.

You don't have to agree with the left-wing politics of the Clash to see and hear the intensity of this band from their formation through 1982 or so. In 1983 the band collapsed like a tire blowing out on the interstate. Mick Jones was kicked out of the band. Joe Strummer's father died. There is a picture of the new-edition Clash circa 1985 playing unamplified instruments on the street.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Vol. I No. 21

In numbers 3 and 13 of this series I mention Variable Intensity Sound-on-Film recording. From my reading on the subject, VISOF appears to have been invented by three German researchers who called themselves the Tri-Ergon Company.

The Fox Motion Picture Studios in Hollywood developed their own version of VISOF and used it for a few years, but they abandoned VISOF in favor of another sound-on-film technology when they merged with a company that used the other system.

I first became attracted to VISOF because it seemed to illustrate an alternative way for music to be amplified, or to clarify how music can be amplified.

Consider the record of a music performance on film, consisting of a sequence of varying shades of transparency and opacity. (Film lingo calls these varying 'densities.') As a vinyl record has impressions of the varying travel of a needle, VISOF has impressions of the varying brightness of a bulb.

When this film record is played back, a bulb called the exciter lamp shines through the film and its light, modulated by the varying densities, impinges on a photoelectric transducer.

What initially struck me about this process years ago is that by varying the brightness of the exciter lamp, you can clearly visualize how the playback sound can be made louder or softer.

This was something of a revelation for me, inasmuch as I had initally started my research in audio electronics for the purpose of learning exactly how it was possible to take a given piece of music or musical signal and make it louder.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Vol. I No. 22

There are four David Bowie LP's that really resonated with me. I have just learned that these are available as audiophile re-issues on a label called RYKO ANALOGUE.

If the reader has never heard David Bowie's best records in all-analog version, you are in for a dramatic revelation. Because the music is so shocking, I suggest the following sequence to follow.

First, listen to Hunky Dory (RALP 0133) because it is for the most part very personal and personable - you might be inclined to say sentimental in the case of some songs.

Next, check out Ziggy Stardust (RALP 0134). Personable but more theatrical.

Third, Aladdin Sane (RALP 0135). I loved the piano on 'Aladdin Sane', the simple punk guitar style of 'Panic in Detroit'.

Lastly, The Man Who Sold the World (RALP 0132). This record is extremely heavy rock. You might need the gradual lead-in provided by the other three records. This record in particular could be thought of as 'music to go crazy to,' which in my case is exactly what I did. Don't do drugs while listening to it.

In the context of these four records, I have to reference Transformer, by Lou Reed, which David Bowie helped him with. It dates from the same period ('70-'73). Get RCA VICTOR LSP-4807 or AFL1-4807. I would be leery of AYL1-3806 (1980) as it is too close to the digital processing era.

While I mention Lou Reed, let me refer you to The Velvet Underground and Nico. This record had tremendous cult popularity when I was a young adult. Avoid any recent re-issues. There are many vintage versions, some selling for hundreds of dollars.

[It goes without saying that if the RYKO LP's are digitally processed versions, they are completely worthless musically. Get the vintage LP's instead. I recommend the Goldmine Record Album Price Guide for reference.]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vol. I No. 23

"Digital audio is worse than you think it is."

Reader, my subject matter for this entry prompted me to record the above expression.

I once came across in my reading a mention that there at one point existed in ancient China a machine that could record and playback sound. It was said to have been a box which was used by government and military to relay messages. It was presumably a cylinder which took an impression from a cone-and-needle, similar to Edison's invention in the 1800's.

Consider for a moment the way this ancient invention and its Edisonian update function. Sound from the voice vibrates the cone, and the needle imprints the wax surface of the moving cylinder. During playback, the impressions in the wax cause the needle to vibrate more or less exactly as it did when the voice was vibrating it.

Consider how the cone and needle, held by a carriage upon the wax surface, can vibrate in any number of ways that will imprint the wax and later be reproduced. The sound of the speaker's voice, which in its richness, depth, and character of tone will move the air in all sorts of directions, in three dimensions, will move the cone, and hence the needle, similarly. And these movements in every direction will substantially be reflected by corresponding impressions in the wax - and thus will be reproduced in playback.

We all know how scientists, engineers, and technicians love their math. Both conceptually - for example on a blackboard or a graph - and also as actual output from test equipment such as oscilloscopes and oscillographs, they regard and deal with sound as a merely linear phenomenon. They neglect or forget all movement of the needle in that third dimension - up and down - which cannot be represented on a graph.

This is why I say that digital audio is worse than you think. It is a poor, intermittent estimate of the sound considered as merely two-dimensional, which entirely and completely neglects to represent any sound vibration in the third dimension.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vol. I No. 24

The following is from a letter to Mr. Tim Neely, author of the Goldmine Record Album Price Guide.

If you will, allow me to point out an area of record differentiation which your guide does not address but which I believe is very essential to the sound of the record.

Let me refer to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours LP as an example of this issue. I believe it is the case that nearly every song on this record became a Top 40 or Top 10 hit in 1977 or 1978. I was very moved by many of these songs on the radio and also on an 8-track copy of the album which my visiting cousins had brought to my house.

Around 1988 or so I visited a friend and played his copy of the LP and the music on that occasion did nothing for me. I was really puzzled at this and disappointed.

What I now believe is that his copy of Rumours was, despite having the same number as the original and early pressings of the LP in the late 70's, a version which had been fed through a digital signal processor before or during the cutting process.

I have read that in the stamping of coins, a given set of molds only has a limited lifespan before it will not produce impressions that are deep and clear enough. Presumably the same is true of recording stampers. The stamping plant needs to produce new stampers from time to time.

Apparently, as the CD era dawned, it became routine to use digital signal processors in the signal path between the master tape and the stamper as it is being cut.

Due to straitened circumstances I have been and remain unable to perform examinations of record grooves by microscope myself. But I think I know what to look for. Because every sonic impulse on a digitalized record occurs at and only at those moments when samples are taken, by adjusting the magnification properly you should be able to identify perfectly regular 'steps' or levels - perfectly regular in the sense that they occur at identical intervals according to the sampling frequency.

Note that for recent LP's that may have been processed with megahertz-rate equipment, you will need to use greater magnification to identify these regularly spaced beats or pulses.

Your guide mentions that in the 2 years or so since the 4th edition you had seen "countless articles about the resurgence in vinyl." I believe I may have been somewhat responsible for this: in late 2004 I posted an item to the users' forum on kournikova.com titled Digital Audio Is Not Music! in which I pointed out that regardless of how fast the sampling rate, there are an equal number of instants between each sample when the digital system is non-functional.

In practice this means that when a sample is not being reproduced the digital system presumably 'rings' - or buzzes as the case may be - in idleness until the next sample occurs. Under even greater magnifications this too should be observable under the microscope.

My hope is that if you validate these observations, you will share your insight with others and the process of distinguishing vinyl by whether it has or has not been digitalized can begin to be developed and recognized. (Conclusion of letter excerpts.)

I urge interested readers who are able to make use of high quality microscopes to look for the features of digital processing I refer to here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Vol. II No. 1

I just finished listening to the song by Chicago called "Old Days." This was on an FM 'oldies' station. I happen to know that these major market oldies stations play digital hard drive versions of the classic songs. If an oldies or classic rock station in your area plays LP's or 45's and has an all-analog signal path to the transmitter, you are in the very small minority.

There is a tendency to believe that a blind comparison 'listening test' ought to reveal obvious or readily apparent distinctions in the sound of a given song played in a digital version versus an all-analog version. In fact the situation is otherwise: you have failed to evaluate the nature of these differing audio systems if you believe the difference in the sound is so subtle that they should be subjected to a head-to-head comparison. In other words, you are not listening to and evaluating those aspects of the sound that make the two systems so different. Making these comparisons well and intelligently is not something any person can do immediately. It is a process of study and contemplation to estimate and to recognize the differences.

The version of "Old Days" I just heard was vastly, enormously different from the one I remember. The original, all-analog version was very much modulated - tones and volume and richness varying smoothly and heavily throughout the song, so that the ending builds to a climax that occurs like a revelation. This digital version is so lacking in that quality that it can be quite adequately described in one word: boring. [I recommend Chicago IX, PC 3390 (LP). If your version doesn't sound great, it's probably digital.]

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vol. II No. 2

I have noticed that it is often easier to distinguish the lyrics (words) of a song in a digitalized version. I will be the first to admit that digital audio processing has its uses. It may indeed be that in the grand scheme of things - with everything considered - it is better for music to be heard for the most part only in computerized versions. The famous movie line is "You can't handle the truth!" Well, maybe this society can't handle analog music. But I'm only acknowledging this possibility, not granting it as a fact.

I read in an interview of David Byrne in the 80's the statement that "the words are a trick to get you to listen to the music." The content of the lyrics in a great piece of pop, rock, or R&B are vastly less important than the contribution the sound of enunciating and intoning them makes to the sound of the song. The meaning of what Mick Jagger sings in 'Brown Sugar' is less important than the sound of his voice as he sings it.

I am not a fan of many kinds of jazz and classical music. I was hanging out in front of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach several years ago when a dozen or so members of the orchestra came out for a break. I said loudly above their small group conversations, "No! Our work's not pretentious and unmusical!"

The Rolling Stones are apparently well aware of how poorly their work is reproduced in digital versions. They have arranged for all of their recordings to be available as current releases on vinyl. (I don't know if they insisted the production be done without digital processing.) Jack White of The White Stripes is also known for espousing all-analog production and playback. Elvis Costello released a recent album on vinyl before any digital version was released.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vol. II No. 3

The problem with digitalized versions of recordings in analog format is they can cause you to incorrectly estimate the quality of the music and the stature of the performers.

I remember the first three albums by The Police being uniformly excellent. My siblings and I had these on cassette around 1980 or so. I bought cassette copies from a used record store in around 2002 and they did not sound as I expected. I still at that time had not recognized the fact that many analog format recordings are in fact digitalized. So my estimation of The Police has been degraded by the latter experience.

Like Violent Femmes’ 1st LP, Madonna’s 1st record came out in 1983, but because hers was on a major label and became a monster smash hit, it is more problematic to find all-analog versions.

The Goldmine Record Guide indicates there are varying versions of Madonna and that the earlier pressings have a longer version of “Burning Up.” You would certainly want this one since Burning Up is a dance song – like all the songs – and who wants a shortened dance song?

The advent of this record and Madonna’s video in Venice caused many young women to emulate her style of dress and of life – I believe they were called “Madonna Wanna-be’s.” It sort of went over men’s heads, including mine.

But at one point I had a cassette of the album in my car on a few long drives and I came to feel that all the songs on the record are great.

It is doubtful that any other record she has made is available in a non-digitalized version.

As a final mention, Ghost in the Machine by The Police is a curious item. In the right version, some tracks will make your stereo sound incredible.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vol. II No. 4

There is an audiophile named Herbert Von Karajan who is known for promoting digital audio in the early days after its introduction.

I was listening to 93.1 FM in Miami moments ago and trying to figure out why people at that station would choose to have such a terrific playlist as they do but have no shame or compunction about playing uniformly boring, eviscerated travesties in the form of digital versions of the songs.

The answer I came up with is that they are not in a real sense listening to the songs as much as they are reminiscing about the way those songs moved them in the past.

My next thought was that it is an injustice and a disservice to young people who have never heard the original versions.

What leads Von Karajan and others like him into error is their concept of reproduction “purity” defined as playback gear that will not emphasize any pitch or tone in an unbalanced or non-linear way.

Never mind that the music is produced by a wizard who uses hundreds of controls to emphasize and de-emphasize all sorts of pitches and tones. These “purist” audiophiles want playback systems that will do as nearly as possible nothing to color the sound.

With 24 tracks of music mixed into just 2 channels there is a tremendous amount of music in an all-analog recording. If at any point you digitalize that signal, the sound from that point forward consists of a mere fraction of its original content. Therefore digital versions can make all sorts of defects in the final playback output disappear.

The producer has tweaked the sound to be optimal on his studio speakers. Your amp and speakers are different. That’s why I suggest having your own mixing board to optimize the sound in your configuration.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Vol. II No. 5

Upon re-reading Volume I, Number 3 of this blog, I would like to amend my remarks about Jimi Hendrix.

The terms I used to describe his music in the first paragraph were chosen on the fly and for the most part they are inaccurate.

One factor that should be mentioned is that all my listening to Hendrix was done on solid-state equipment, while performance amplifiers and playback gear in his era were largely tubular.

There is indeed to my mind something off-putting about Hendrix’s music but it is by no means a “Wall of Noise” or a “cacophony.”

I would welcome the opportunity to re-evaluate his music played back on a vacuum tube system.

It occurs to me very strongly as I write this that the fashion for so-called “psychedelic” music in the Sixties was doubtless attributable in large part to the improving quality of the tubular equipment and the extremely rich, hollow, ringing tone it produces. Solid state equipment naturally is much less reverberant. When we play stuff like Hendrix or the late-period Beatles on solid-state gear we are missing, I would say, an enormous part of what these artists were hearing then. This is a sad and unfortunate thing.

But the loss suffered when music from that era is digitalized is infinitely worse.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vol. II No. 6

From my experience of audio electronics, it appears that the audio signal path goes through many resistors, transistors, diodes, and capacitors, and is at every point correlated to “chassis ground.” The signal consists of one electrical pole while the chassis constitutes the other pole.

Let’s say you had a light bulb in the component. One terminal from the bulb would connect to the signal energy and the other terminal would be wired to the chassis. I’m saying this just for illustration.

What this seems to imply is that the music being processed by the component is not confined to the signal path. Instead, the entire component is vibrating.

So let’s consider a singer singing into a microphone connected to an amplifier and then to speakers. The mic transmits an electrical replica of the sound of her voice to the amplifier. Her voice emanates more loudly from the speakers because the amplifier provides leverage and energy to the circuit including the speakers.

What I don’t like is that the sound of her voice is distributed throughout the circuitry of the amplifier, and in that way it loses clarity. All that circuitry is like, if you’ll allow the term, a tone sink.

Somehow the tradition has always maintained that audio reproduction technology is not itself a musical instrument. Consider the dull thud of a speaker cone if you flick it with your finger and the distributive over-complexity of amp circuits that makes them more suited to generating white noise than the richness of tone of, say, a fine, well-tuned acoustic piano.

For better amplification, simplify the circuitry and mount it on a massive chassis, ideally bolted to a reinforced concrete wall or floor.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vol. II No. 7

There was a time in Smart Bar of Club Metro in Chicago when the speaker system consisted of rows of identical cone-type drivers mounted in narrow cabinets – like 8-foot-long flower boxes – on the ceiling. This system had both of the advantages I attribute to Bose 901’s and Audience-brand speakers.

I went into the club at some later time and this system had been replaced by enormous cabinets sitting on the floor of about 4’x3’x3’ dimensions. The sound was terrible. It was screechy and muddy and noisy – how to describe it? Well, I think those speakers were of the “folded horn” type – and that’s what they sounded like. Because a horn type speaker has tons of sound straining to come out of a few really small elements, which then echoes and bounces around within the massive inert horn itself, the sound is, like, ringing with its own incoherence. But unlike the ringing of a bell, the ringing of folded horns driven loudly is like a screeching quality.

I used to enjoy the many dance songs in the early- and mid-eighties which featured male vocals with British accents. At many clubs you would have thought there was a “British Empire” consisting of the popularity and appeal of dance music from the U.K.

What I have noticed – what seems to me to be the case – is that the same British-accented vocals that sound so dramatic and compelling in all-analog reproduction sound effete and ineffectual and homosexual in digitalized versions.

Somehow a vintage copy of the 2-album version of English Settlement by XTC got into my family’s collection. Those first three songs of Side 1 are terrific – like a force of nature.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vol. II No. 8

I began experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations shortly after I went to jail for the first time in 1987. Not knowing any better at that time, I believed the “visions and voices” proceeded from God, the Holy Spirit, angels, and demons. Naturally that sort of thing has a great influence on your worldview. I had already been pushed toward religion by my reading of Franny & Zooey. With the visions and voices I gradually became completely obsessed with – I guess you’d call it a messianic complex.

Many years later, in 1999 as a matter of fact, I was reflecting upon how the onset of the visions and voices corresponded with my behavior in jail of laying around on my bunk practically all day, every day for several weeks. (It’s such a shockingly barren environment – 4 walls of cement and steel, a mattress and a sink-and-toilet fixture – that in my case at least I felt near-total despair. Hence all the laying around.) And it occurred to me that the visions and voices are very similar to dream images, so that perhaps they could be explained as waking dream images resulting from a partial-sleep condition brought on by all that laying around.

It has made a great difference in my life to know that visions and voices do not emanate from some absolute authority outside of one’s self, but rather that they are a manifestation of the semi-dormant unconscious mind.

I believe it is misunderstanding in this regard that leads some people to do terrible things. You read about them in the news sometimes: “the voices made me do it.” It would be good if these sufferers were aware that the voices do not come from a chorus of angels and demons, but rather from their own subconscious.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Vol. II No. 9

At one time I had 8 or 10 7" reels of 1/4" tape recordings of myself on guitar and vocals. Because I could find no one in the music business to listen to them, I ultimately decided, while crossing a bridge in Milwaukee, to throw them into the river. So unless someone found them and restored them, they are gone forever.

It happens that entirely without my involvement or awareness, a friend of the family gathered up all the cassettes of my music he could find and held onto them.

I asked him to loan them to me and I listened to them with headphones about 6 or 8 years ago. There was one song that stood out called Failure Is The Best Success, and I have now asked Chad and my brother Pete to choose the best material on the tapes and create a master cassette of 45 minutes with that as the title song.

I have asked them to send copies of it to anyone who requests them and I suggested they charge $10.00 per copy.

I would say that I am neither proud nor humble about this music. It is all from the mid to late 80’s. Because I didn’t like to write songs, all the lyrics and melodies are improvised. It was all recorded on home audio components with a single microphone. No noise reduction was used.

To order copies, contact Pete Lepeska at 617-983-4058.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Vol. II No. 10

I had an experience that illustrates the challenges involved with reproducing all-analog audio.

I listened to a number of LP’s, maybe 10 or 12, and only one of them sounded really good when I turned up the volume. At that time I had no explanation for this. I was left only with the observation that while none of the other LP’s sounded good, there was that one exception.

Well, the exception was Big Audio Dynamite’s 1st LP, which came out in 1985 or so. It occurred to me that this LP had probably been digitally processed. And so, in spite of all my advocacy for analog, it was the digitalized LP that had good sound.

The speakers in that listening session were experiments of mine made with a single JBL midrange driver of 5" or so mounted in 2½ ft. x 4 ft. pieces of 3/4" plywood. Why did the analog LPs sound bad?

What I believe is that because there is so much music in the grooves of the all-analog LP’s – music which, unlike the digitalized recording, is non-discontinuous – it is simply unable to vent itself through a single pair of drivers.

Consider again with me the likely experience of Herbert Von Karajan. He probably had very expensive speakers, which nevertheless had only 3 drivers per channel. His analog recordings were mix-downs of 24 tracks or more, containing input from probably dozens of microphones. All that music gets jammed up with only 3 drivers per channel. He then puts digital recordings on his system. Presto! Voila! No more traffic jam at the voice coils. The digital content is just a fraction of the all-analog. The harsh overtones, and possibly screeching and squawking as well, (if you really turn it up) have disappeared.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Vol. II No. 11

Having learned about Variable-Intensity sound-on-film recording, I went on to study the science of photography. One fact that impressed me was the so-called “resolution” capability of certain films used for aerial reconnaissance photography.

These ultra-high resolution films can resolve hundreds of thousands of lines per millimeter. Resolution capability is determined by photographing an object that has black lines alternating with white background in varying numbers of these black lines per millimeter.

In every square millimeter, such films resolve more than 100,000,000,000 (100 billion) discrete demarcations. Consider also that these demarcations differ from digital “pixels” in that both the black marks and the white background actually correspond to and portray details of the subject. Pixels, on the other hand, are interspersed with blank system noise which is not derived from the subject being photographed.

I have had the experience with some digital photographs that it pains my eyes to look at them. This was particularly severe when I used ebay to shop for long periods. I currently find that my eyes get sore when I watch broadcast (digital) TV. This never happened with analog photos nor with analog TV.

Digitalized images obviously correspond approximately or roughly with the real-world subjects they depict. But they are in fact artificial and alien distortions that pain the eyes because they force the mind to conform to something having no real and natural counterpart.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vol. II No. 12

I was browsing through the Goldmine Record Album Price Guide when I pieced together the apparent story of Jim Croce. He has quite a few good songs more or less in the folk rock tradition.

According to the GRAPG discography, he put out an album under his own auspices – I guess this is akin to “vanity press” book publishing – in 1966. Then in 1970 a record appeared on Capital Records called Jim and Ingrid Croce. Here we may surmise he had gotten married.

In 1972 came You Don’t Mess Around With Jim which includes the hit song "Time In A Bottle". This song is really very poignant and perhaps it becomes all the more so when you learn that later editions of this LP released in 1973 are “posthumous” releases. Mr. Croce apparently died very shortly after this record came out.

I was led to wonder if upon contemplating "Time In A Bottle" he may have been led to feel that he had accomplished his masterwork, his eternal statement, indeed, his epitaph. And continuing to contemplate thus, he may have felt that he was ready to die – that he wanted to die.

I am convinced that this sort of pride in his work and powerful identification with the work could not exist in the case of digitalized recording. Croce may have occasionally listened to the record – most likely while consuming hallucinogens and alcohol – and felt transported by the power and beauty of its sound and statement. No digitalized version would move the listener so profoundly.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Vol. II No. 13

I’d like to review my sense of the situation for Herbert Von Karajan, since it is the approval of such prominent audiophiles that led to the acceptance of digital audio as high fidelity.

First, I remind the reader of my discovery that analog recordings need to be played back with speakers having a large number of drivers. Von Karajan’s speakers probably had few.

Second, consider my suggestion that analog audio playback generally needs equalization to produce the most pleasing sound quality. Von Karajan is likely among the school of audiophiles who eschew equalizers and tone controls. All-analog audio played back on a “purist” audio system with no tone controls and speakers with crossover networks and only a few drivers is likely to have unpleasant tonal defects which only become more apparent as the volume is increased.

I would like to urge Mr. Von Karajan and all other audiophiles with more or less unlimited financial resources to play all-analog recordings with the following:
  • top of the line Audition-brand loudspeakers; I suggest do without the subwoofer. Such massive speakers as the Audition 16 will have no lack of bass capability. Use the equalization controls to give the most pleasing bass quality.
  • a top-quality, all-analog graphic equalizer. Insert this in the pre-amp OUT, main amp IN loop.
  • transfer your selections to a professional “half-track” tape recorder. This is incidentally a great way to do music for a party. But you will still want to tweak the volume and EQ to bring out the best sound from each individual song.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vol. II No. 14

I am asking my Dad to form a non-profit organization called The Analog Audio Advocacy, Inc. of which he will be Treasurer and I will be the Director.

Persons wishing to support this project are urged to send funds payable to The Analog Audio Advocacy, Inc., 1191 Spyglass Court, Twin Lakes, WI 53181.

Mission Statement of The Analog Audio Advocacy, Inc.:
  1. Win adherence to the view that with digitalized audio dominating all popular music output channels, we are living in an age in which music as it was known for countless historical ages has died.
  2. Inasmuch as this degrades the quality of our lives in every aspect, campaign for the use, availability, and dissemination of all-analog recording and playback technologies. (All-analog reproduction is defined as reproduction having no digital signal processing step at any point in the sequence of processes from the source performance to the final output.)
  3. Begin the process of gaining support and assistance for the development of a vastly improved, highly simplified audio recording and playback technology based on the Variable Intensity Sound-on-film process.
One immediate project I have in mind is the production of a booklet to be called “Dude, Where’s My Music?” containing the complete entries of Volume I of this blog.
Interested persons may call my Dad at 262-877-2950 or fax him at 262-877-8031. (Note: He himself claims to be perfectly content with his CD changer. But he’s nevertheless willing to support my endeavors.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Vol. II No. 15

At the Celebrity Club in Milwaukee I liked the sound of the saxophone in the band playing there, and during a break I asked the sax player about it. I said words to the effect that “Your sax sounds mellow – not raspy and honking and sleazy.” He explained that typical saxophone mouthpieces are plastic, but he used one made of hard rubber.

This illustrates the way that with music, the quality of the sound is directly related to the suchness of the apparatus that produces it.

The reader can easily imagine where I am going with this. What does digital audio sound like? It sounds like a computer simulating music. Why? Because it is a computer simulating music.

I had at one point fallen in love with the Clash’s Combat Rock LP. I had had an all-analog copy on vinyl which I enjoyed on my component hi-fi system. Many years later I saw a copy of Combat Rock on CD at the library and, trying to be generous and open-minded toward digital audio, I brought it home.

I put it in the CD player and played it through the component system at home. My thoughts and reaction were approximately thus: “Absolutely no freaking way! There is simply nothing here! Nothing I loved about this record is reproduced here!”

A friend recently said that my preference for analog audio is “sentimental”. In trying to understand why some people stubbornly disagree with me on this issue, I theorize they have a quasi-religious reverence for the computer.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vol. II No. 16

WBGG FM 105.9 in South Florida is now broadcasting vinyl recordings with no digital processing.

Make certain that your sound system has no digital signal processing.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vol. II No. 17

Readers of this blog are invited to peruse my new blog, A Sporting Proposition, at www.sportingproposition.blogspot.com.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Vol. II No. 18

I have no objection to the use of digitized audio by artists when they seek effects only a digital source can provide. In the recent hit "Like A G6" it seems unlikely to me that the wet, effervescent quality of the vocal could be achieved with all-analog signal processing. This effect is the hallmark of that song, and it suits the lyrics perfectly. The vocal in "Kiss Me", another digital-era hit, similarly exploits an inherent quality of digitalized sound. As counterpoint I would refer the reader to Karen Carpenter's vocals, which are grossly vitiated in digital versions.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Vol. II No. 19

The following is from Introduction to Digital Engineering, George K. Kostopoulos Ph.D., 1975, p.174:

It is worth noting that in almost all cases of digital design, an increase in speed is accompanied by an increase in complexity and hardware.

I mention this to point out the fact that faster and ever faster digital audio processing systems will necessarily become more and more elaborate and complex. Therefore faster digital systems become more and more unlike the musical instruments - as, for example, a drum - they seek to reproduce.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Vol. II No. 20

There is a tendency to defer to professional experts to provide answer to questions in all sorts of subject areas. 

I submit that professional opinions are often not the best or most accurate ones because the professional achieves and maintains his (or her) status largely by confining his views to the consensus positions.
Charles Berlitz, the son of the language schools founder, is a prominent amateur in the area of anthropology and history.  I believe it is in his book Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds that he discusses a map purportedly formulated by some ancient civilization that depicts a continent geographically identical, apparently, to Antarctica.  However, the land mass is portrayed as having a nagivable river and as being habitable.

The implication is that the earth has no fixed axis, and also that human history may have a much longer, richer provenance than 'expert' science would have us believe.

There seems to be a dearth of information about the devastating meteorite impact in or near the British Isles in the 4th or 5th century. Recognition of the consequences of this event would invalidate the widely-held notion that the Roman Empire fell because of its decadence or what-have-you.

Because of the presumable randomness of the directionality and magnitude of meteorite impacts, the impression over the very long term of earth's motion is that it is - for want of a better word - tumbling: always recovering stability as impacts recede into its past; always being newly de-stabilized as new impacts occur.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vol. II No. 21

A recent Volkswagen commercial emphasizes the point I make in Vol. II No. 2 that lyrics are often easier to discern in digitalized versions. They cite a passage from Elton John's "Rocket Man." I would answer by citing "Bennie and the Jets." This song is (apparently) a studio creation designed to simulate a live performance with enthusiastic crowd reaction. The song - in all-analog version only - is a richly textural, polyphonically rhythmic tour de force of musical happenstance. It reflects and captures the very essence of music in the pre-digital era. Would you prefer a mere fraction of its content so as to discern the words?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Vol. II No. 22

In grammar school most of what is taught is unquestionable; even if or when it is wrong you do not have the authority to raise doubt or to contradict it. This remains true for the most part in high school.

College and grad school studies are a whole different ball of wax. Now we are in the realm where the material is advanced enough that the instructors themselves may not understand it correctly. So that an 'authoritative' textbook, written by human instructors who may or may not have an accurate, correct, clear, and insightful grasp of the material, may be full of obscurities and errors because the authors are committed to presenting what may be no more than the appearance or semblance of the truth.

High tech equipment and systems of all kinds are presumed to validate the academic theory associated with them. A quintessential example is the atomic bomb as validation of Einstein's theories.

I would argue that the operation of an atom bomb can be better understood by reference to the natural or physical principle of 'bounce'.  The bomb works by generating a severe, super-intense compaction of matter. If the compaction is sufficient, the bounce-back is extreme. Einstein's theory did little or nothing to suggest the compaction-and-bounce methodology.

One striking example of scientific error is supposed photographic imaging of the sun. Can you really get an accurate image of the sun by blocking or filtering all but the smallest fraction of its light? The image is primarily an artifact of the technology.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Vol. II No. 23

Digital audio relies on 'psychoacoustic modelling' and 'perceptual coding' in an effort to convince the listener that less audio detail does not involve less tonal content.  But in a live musical event, all vibrations modulate one another to produce the nuanced and very rich sound we may hear.  You cannot neglect and remove all sorts of vibrations from the recording and then expect it to sound true-to-life.  Audiophiles and ordinary music consumers who enjoy or strive to enjoy digital audio have essentially committed themselves to accepting an alien, artificial soundscape.