Archive for December, 2008


Audio – The art of spending money

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The search is over. After many a night and day obsessing over audio equipment, my final choice has been made – for better or worse. I already mentioned that I had purchased the Zhaolu D2.5 DAC as my source for conversion from digital to analogue from my PC sound card via a digital co-axial output (the DAC and my sound card also have optical but after trying optical I reverted back to co-axial, which is  something I’m more familiar with and probably makes no difference in the end, however it looks sturdier than optical cable, to my eye anyway) and a Pop Pulse T70i T-Amp to power the speakers that I was frantically trying to research and acquire. When desire enters my head and the obsession is well and truly invoked then the outcome is always the same –  I want it yesterday and will not stop until the object of my desire is satisfied. Well the Pop Pulse arrived on Saturday (once again thanks to COEM Audio Australia for their prompt delivery) and I had no speakers to test this little amp out on, I was itching to get this new toy up and running, my patience virtually extinguished and I just had to have what I wanted that very moment and nothing was stopping me from getting it.  I have next to no insight in High Fidelity audio and my desperation to acquire the speakers that very same day was peaking. I had some idea on the budget but not much time to appease the itch that was burning a hole in my pocket or rather credit card. With little time on my hand and a dentist appointment in the morning, time was not on my side.

Zhaolu D2.5, Pop Pulse T70i & Krix Equinox

Zhaolu D2.5, Pop Pulse T70i & Krix Equinox

Apprehension was limiting me, where do I go to get speakers from? Hi-FI shops seemed daunting, I’d never seen myself as someone who’d ever be walking into a shop with a boutique flavour attached to it and while searching online for local Hi-FI outlets the impression I got was that these places were for high society types to indulge themselves in and that clique was something I saw myself far removed from. What I wanted was to just order some online but unfortunately that was liable to end in disappointment and more than likely a few hundred wasted dollars; as if this obsession wasn’t already leaving a heavy burden on my hip pocket. My anxiety levels were peaking to match the lack of patience I was exhibiting and the only solution was to swallow fear and take the plunge and frequent the place of my anxieties. I know I sound pathetic and perhaps that is what I am but anxiety and fearful imaginings are something I’m adept in. Anyway I settled on The HI-FI Trader in Newtown as a place to check out, so after the dentist that is the direction I took.

I hadn’t been to Newtown during the day for quite some time and the traffic is hectic, let alone trying to find a park but eventually I parked the little Elantra by the side of a back street and made my way to the HI-FI shop. The sun beating upon me and fear pulsating with the suns rays but this was a mission that I couldn’t back out of – well my drive to get speakers outweighed the fear, only just. Well I almost backed out and caved into fear, the irrational beast that likes to whisper all sorts of despicable and horrible tales into the ears of the beholder, but a moment to  gather my wits and courage and open the door to audio bliss.

Well walking into the shop was something all together different than what I imagined it to look like and was put at ease somewhat by the minimalist appearance and also by the fact that there were a few people shopping and the sales people were tied up, so I had some time to ground my self before having to dive straight down to business. The web site sort of gave the impression that the place was bigger and perhaps a little more flamboyant  than what it was but one shouldn’t judge a book by its URL as they sort of say.

It wasn’t long before I was approached by a friendly down to earth staff member and was immediately led into the listening room to be shown what I was after. After asking me what I wanted and inquiring what amp, its wattage and the budget, I was given a couple of recommendations. The Monitor Audio Bronze BR2 and Krix Equinox V2 and after listening to both, I was quickly sold to the more expensive of the two, which as you can see in the above photo (which doesn’t do it it justice as it looks rather more magnificent than what the photo depicts) was the Krix. Doing an A/B test of the two, the Krix was easily a superior speaker in sound quality, well to my ears using Pantheists’ – Loss of Innocence as a musical reference. The Br2 sounded dull and lifeless compared to the Krix, the vocals were significantly more in your face and clear compared to the Br2. I was sold, not that I’m a hard consumer, I know what I want and if it’s suitable I’m unlikely to travel far and wide to search for something better or more cost effective. The asking price – 700 dollars and right on the maximum limit I’d initially set, although I would’ve been persuaded to go up to a grand if the 500 to 700 price range sounded crap. My only criticism is only of myself – I should of asked for a better price but I’ve never been much of haggler. Next time I’ll try to leverage a better deal but I’m happy that I got as far as I did. Having an anxiety disorder can be such a pain.

Okay once I hauled the package home the real test of sound came into play. Not really having much insight into what the gear I’d purchased sounded like, other than the speakers which I had a rough idea of capability with the in store demo, using expensive amplifiers, sources and a proper set up, but the baby amp I got that same day was untested. Well once I hooked it all up it didn’t have quite the same impact as my brief in store audition but it had potential and after numerous tests and some burning in the sound is finally coming out. My set up isn’t ideal and I’m coming to understand positioning of speakers can make a hell of difference. Having them on the desktop is not giving them justice and you’ll notice that I’ve had to place sound dampening material under the seakers and I’ve got quite a few layers of foam and rubber matting to try and isolate the reveberation through my desk, which without seems destroys the quality of the sound with way too much hollow bass coming off and through the desk. The dampening has improved the sound considerably but I’m gonna need to experiment more with either some kind of stands, to raise them up, or standalone stands off the floor. I may also move the desk a little further away from the walls and see what differences come out. But the sound now is a little less smudged with reveberation from the desk, the mids are now more defined and highs crystal clear, although they are a little too bright at the moment for my liking but with some tweaking I’m sure the right balance can be achieved. All in all I’m becoming more satisfied and happy with this set up and with extra tweaking I think it’ll sound exactly the way I want.

Category : Sight and Sound | Blog

What if?

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I keep thinking how bad the economic downturn will be next year and it is easy to envisage a dire scenario where unemployment will be a reality. Already the company I work for are laying off contract staff and by the end of this year they’ll all be gone. Next year’s outlook doesn’t look very promising and I’m left wondering how long before it’s my turn to start queuing up at the dole office? I also wonder if I ought to be putting in extra effort to brown nose to give myself some edge or in some way a level of confidence and assurance that I won’t be the first person given the flick but is it a strategy that will really work? I somehow don’t think it will bear a great deal of significance one way or another, although I should be giving more effort than I have been regardless because I can tend to become a little unfocused and slack. When push comes to shove I can put in extra to achieve an outcome but it seems that it is becoming increasingly more apparent to me that I am slacking off a little too much. Can I pull myself out of this rut I keep finding myself in?

I don’t know but what I do know is that my heart and soul has long evaporated from the job that I do and I fail to see any compelling reason to sell my soul to a corporation that really has it’s own self interest at stake and no matter how much one is willing to give, when the threat of survival is present, it will serve its own benefit before those that rely on it for survival. That is simply the nature of the beast and is no different from the individual perspective. There are no assurances when the shit hits the fan and if things become that catastrophic then perhaps there will be people who pull the shortest straw and those that don’t but depending on how bad things go the straws will invariably become shorter and shorter.

In the end what good will worrying do? None! Unless I gain access to a reliable crystal ball then all the speculation regarding future events are merely mind games that only detract from what is real and that is today, right here and right now. With the games I play in my mind, imagining a possible future where catastrophic events are inevitable I only do myself a disservice by adding anxiety that is unnecessary and undesirable. When my mind goes into the future it is never a pleasant place so why do I do it? To prepare myself for the pain I will feel I guess but it is a pointless waste of energy that could be better placed with more constructive expenditure. Although employment security has been playing on my mind it is not the most pressing concern or activity that has taken my mind hostage, that is reserved to researching audio equipment that has preoccupied my thoughts with something other than doom and gloom.

What if? The question that is possibly the most futile question to ever be asked. What if? What if I lose my job? What if I can’t find another? What if I haven’t got an income? What if I lose everything? What if I become homeless? There it is the progression of what if. What if I become homeless? Well a question that is rather unpleasant to contemplate but even more difficult to imagine in any real sense considering I’ve never been homeless. I can imagine that I would be feeling pretty low, depressed and scared. I’d probably feel like the worlds biggest loser and possibly inhuman in some way. I might feel totally destitute and hopeless. I might even feel angry, lonely and hungry. OK so what if I feel all those things? What would it mean in the grand scheme of things? Could I survive? Others have and have regained their status for what it’s worth. Would I somehow be less capable than those that have survived such devastation? What if none of that is likely to happen? The worst case scenario is that I lose everything but do material things define who I am? Or do they merely give me a false sense worthiness by superficially declaring to the world of my status and success? That’s what the fear of losing everything amounts to, the loss of social status and of being looked down upon as being unworthy, along with the pain of the existential experience but I’d say more so because of the former. Some people even choose to end their lives because of it and it is sad that so much of our lives and identities are tied to the status of being enslaved to consumerist materialism, of being seen to be enmeshed in the grid of capitalism and how far up the ladder we are in the pyramid scheme. It is understandable that some people would rather die than face the possibility of being turned away from the social group they are accustomed to being in. It may seem absurd but surely that is why suicide rates increase with economic loss and it certainly makes one wonder at the the fragility of life when a set of seemingly superficial and extraneous circumstance can compel someone to rather die than experience loss of status. We all have our self destruct button even if we like to believe that we are immune to such folly. Press the right buttons and even the best of us is liable to crumble, nature will take care of it once it realises that our usefulness has expired.

It is a fearful proposition and it is not something enjoyable to presuppose but it may become reality in a particular set of circumstances. The head games that leave me contemplating the absolute worse possible outcome in any situation often robs me of the moment but it isn’t without some intrigue as well – to imagine in what way I could survive. Although I wouldn’t want to experience it first hand it is the domain of many in this world and one that could, given a set of unprecedented circumstances, eventuate; although unlikely given that I do have a place to go in the event of catastrophe and that is with family. In a way it curbs the worry of uncertainty because what can I do if things became so bad as the worst happened? Not much and besides there is an awful long progression and journey for it to end in this way and trying to imagine all possible happenings requires far too much energy and creativity to think about so I’m left with no option but to think about something else.

So the moral of this story is; when the question of what if begins to rear its head, cut to the chase and think of the worst possible outcome. Now try and construct the whole journey to that end and see how long before you lose interest and say Bah! What nonsense!

Category : Journal | Blog

Audio Slave

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Well the year is winding down and it really can’t come soon enough. I think I’ve tried to articulate my distaste for being enslaved to corporate machinery and the symbiotic relationship it has with consumerist ideology in previous posts and even though I have no way of escaping the nine to five treadmill any time soon lest the recession/depression takes care of that for me or if I even have the inclination to do so , I can nevertheless appreciate the brief reprieve of annual leave that is days away now, 10 days and counting, which will give the illusion of freedom. However brief it is, I will try my utmost to embrace each day as a celebration of emancipation that annual leave is akin to.

The television is off now and it has been to more or lesser extents recently, the only programs that I’ve been watching have ended for the year, so I see no reason to turn it on, to only have crap infiltrating the background with unappealing noise. As a result of poor Australian FTA viewing I have been enjoying my new found past time which has been an old favourite that has reinvigorated itself with technology and the advent of legal MP3 downloads. My interest in music has readily replaced the television as the primary mode of entertainment and there really isn’t much to miss having the television off, not that I’ve been watching a great deal of it since I moved back in March because the only channels that I pay any attention to are SBS and ABC and reception is poor or non existent here so the decision was essentially made for me, SBS is removed from sight and I have to contend with crappy analogue for ABC so switching off the TV is easily accomplished. However music it is proving to be an expensive venture, my new obsession with Hi-Fi is finding ways for me to spend and although I can’t claim to be an Audiophile I do like technology and have some dollars burning a hole in my pocket so why not do my bit for staving off the recession and spend big – well big for my bogan ways.

I received a Zhaolu D2.5 DAC last weekend and have it plugged into my PC emitting tunes form my hard drive into my Logitech speakers which I hope to replace very soon with proper bookshelf’s when my T-amp arrives hopefully this weekend .

Pop Pulse T70i

Pop Pulse T70i

Zhaolu D2.5

Zhaolu D2.5

I bought these from Coem Audio Australia and the DAC arrived painlessly so went for an AMP to power the speakers that I have yet to choose, which has been keeping me awake at night trying to madly research which ones are worthy beasts to grind and ache to the abysmal sounds of Doom Metal powered by this combo of audio pleasure.

Well back to the search. 🙂

Category : Sight and Sound | Blog

Global Gathering – Mission complete!

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We can all feel safe and secure now that the coppers have arrested some 50 odd people at the Global Gathering festival on Sunday for possession and the more serious offense of dealing illicit drugs. I don’t know all the facts but it seems preposterous that they should claim a small  victory in the war against drugs for nabbing a few handfuls of drug users and a few people who probably had more than one ecky on hand, who are now deemed as hardcore drug dealers for over indulging in some ‘e’. The irony of the whole fiasco is that the Police were praising the 10000+ party goers for behaving themselves particularly well and condemning the few bad apples who floundered the law by indulging in some party drugs. Now it isn’t too far a stretch of the imagination that people were generally well behaved because instead of choosing to consume alcohol they perhaps were partaking in a little communal drugging themselves? If there were 10000 people getting off on juice the vibe would’ve been a little more rowdy to say the least. To say that only few baddies were found with drugs in such a large crowd is ridiculous. The more believable scenario is that the more opened mined folk chewed their pills before heading through the doors.

Even if they caught “all” the party folk who were drugging what does that really achieve? We now have to tie up court time, waste even more police resources preparing paper work and what not, all so a few generally law abiding citizens can get a slap on the wrist and have a black mark placed against their name. For What? Will it deter anyone? Will we see less drug possession at next years Global Gathering? Or will it merely appease a few naive mum’s and dad’s or concerned citizens with a media presence of the great job the police are doing to clean up the scum? If anything people will over indulge before hand and perhaps place themselves at even more harm by over doing things so they don’t get caught. Is it worth the possibility of overdose even to catch that one person dealing who is probably only  trying to fuel an addiction anyway? Is it worth the resources that could be put to better use?  Somehow I’m unconvinced by the praise the NSW Police are giving themselves for a job well done. Will this silly war on drugs ever come to an end so we can focus on effective discussions and measures to tackle the so called drug problem?

Category : Rants | Blog