Sight and Sound


The Rack

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I managed to complete my PC-FI rack project last weekend and I think it turned out better than I thought it would. AT first I thought it was crap but I’ve warmed a little to it. Now I need a new desk to match the teak stain but that is for another time. I’ve got too much shit as it is, I need to get rid of all the superfluous pieces of furniture that were handed to me when I was trying to get my shit together and although I was grateful to have them at the time, my tastes have matured since. Before I collect any more stuff to clutter the place up with I have to try and off load the stuff I don’t want and that is proving to be easier said than done.

Anyway, I probably need to tweak the rack slightly so the aluminium slats are sitting a little more flat. I used neoprene washers between the two metal pieces and after a rather long day drilling, filing and sanding I was anxious to just finish the damn thing and I didn’t pay enough attention to detail to get the slats flat, but I think the neoprene washers can moved closer to the centre of the slats so they don’t twist when I tighten the screws.

My Ikea mish-mash PC-FI rack in all its glory.

My next project will be to install speaker spikes into my speaker stands but after I messed up one stand already by not paying attention to where I was drilling, I have some touch up work to do with wood putty and painting. Again! I wish paint would dry quicker. I messed up the first time because I didn’t wait long enough for the shit to dry. I thought a couple of days would be sufficient but to my dismay when I used some rubber furniture feet inverted for my speakers to sit on and then deciding to use some sound barrier damping instead,  I discovered the rubber feet had dug into the paint, which as I found hadn’t hardened enough to support the weight of the speakers pushing on the edge of the feet. Into the paint they went..grrr! We live and we learn I guess but I must say I was pissed after spending days priming and painting the things only to find that my impatience ruined all my hard work.

Next will be some sound treatment for my walls. I want to mak some frames and stuff it with something to absord sound waves so they don’t reflect. That will definitely try my patience because I don’t see myself as any sort of handy man and it will be totally foreign territory trying to arrange some cloth in an artistic fashion. We’ll have to see if it eventuates. Having nowhere to work is limiting. I might have to visit my mates places to construct it. There are many downfalls to living in a flat. Maybe one day I’ll have enough money to buy a house but then I won’t have any money to buy the tools and stuff that makes DIY projects that much easier. Ah well. If I stopped spending money on my obsessions then I might have more coin to put toward the Australian dream. What can I say. I want it all and if I can’t have it all then just a little taste will do. Ridht now I’m merely tasting the fruits of the good life…which is rooted in accumulating the finer things in life. I’m not entirely sure if it really is the good life but it passes the time and gives one something to aspire to even if it is just a sensory stimilus based on material abstractions.

Category : Sight and Sound | Blog

Sound of eMusic

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So much for the economic downturn. I can’t help myself from spending money. I feel I ought to be saving for the looming catastrophe which is sure to come sometime this year, however the ease by which one can spend in the twenty first century is undoubtedly one of the technological wonders that has taken consumerism one step closer to perfection. One can either despise or embrace it. I for one am tempted continually to break out the plastic to purchase things that seem irresistible and all so alluring at the time, before any rational thought can dissuade the urge to gratify the departure of  hard earned coin, let alone examine the motivation behind the escapism of online shopping.

My latest expenditure to leave as rapidly as it came was music, to fill my hard drive space with the bits of data it so craves and I have way too many bytes to even contemplate why I even need so many memory platters – perhaps just for the sake of security or an ill conceived sense of security . I have filled a good part of it with electronica that can be found on the web if one looks hard enough. But my carbon emissions from this excess is a little extreme and I feel torn by the needlessness of it while enjoying the process of accumulating it. Perhaps the old adage of less is more is a truth I have trouble accepting. What it all boils down to is laziness. Hard drives are somewhat easier to manage than DVD, storage wise, but at the same time it is far from a green alternative especially when it is unnecessary. But One has to have a hobby and mine happens to be technology and geekiness. I could just sit around knitting, play sport or some other less sedentary activity but I have taken to the quest of invigorating my mind with the intricacies of technology while tinkering with it.

Well this hobby ain’t a cheap one, the last thing that saw my wallet shrink was the web store at and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t stumbled upon it previously. Well I think I had but I recall that it didn’t have the content I was looking for, but searching again last night and I had another look. I was pleasantly surprised to find where all the Metal was!

Forget Bigpond and 7digital. This site kicks ass and it stirs the morbid curiosity of this metal head with thousands of albums to fill the empty platters of hard drive space with. I signed up for a 12 dollar subscription, it only has a subscription service but it appears to be fantastic value compared to the other mentioned sites. I get 30 downloads a month for a US$95 annual subscription fee, so it’ll work roughly as 3 albums a month  for 8 bucks per month. I was paying 8 pounds an album from 7digital so it definitely seems more attractive.

I also get 25 free downloads as an introductory offer, got ten left but I’ve added a couple more albums to my play list. And the best part is; they are DRM free! Can’t go wrong there 🙂

Category : Sight and Sound | Blog

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

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

Death Magnetic – Distorting Masterpiece?

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I’m not sure what to think. I purchased the new Metallica album Death Magnetic on the weekend, along with 500 thousand others but was somewhat appalled by the sound quality, it just sounded wrong. I initially thought that there was something wrong with the MP3’s I had bought from 7digital but a quick internet search confirmed that the so called “Loudness Wars” was the culprit for the heavily distorted sound I was experiencing. The drums became even more irritating when I was listening to the album on my Creative Zen Vision M – the rattly squashy sound of the drums made me squirm and I honestly wanted to smash whoever was near with my fist to their head and I’m generally a fairly passive nondescript character.


Death Magnetic Cover Art

It’s hard to imagine that the sound wasn’t intentional and in some weird way it grows on you the more you listen to it. Perhaps the only reconciliation one can gather from the listening experience is to regard it as a distinct sound that will most certainly not be forgotten. Maybe it is a process – to become accustomed to this new “improved” style in loud sound. Musically the album is fast and furious and it has taken me a few listens to become acclimatised to the speed and intricate tempo shifts – I’m still in the process of finding this album and as with most new albums I listen to, there is sometimes a slow shift in adoring that something new.

The added distortion is the biggest hurdle in truly accepting this as Metallica’s come back to thrash. It isn’t to say that I have anything really against distortion as Skepticism’s Stormcrowfleet is testament to and I particularly like that album even though it took some time in appreciating the crushing lowly, distorted melancholy but there is something about having a distortion that is designed instrumentally as opposed to an added effect by manipulating the loudness dial in a mix.

It’ll be interesting to follow the Death Magnetic loudness war over the coming weeks. I did sign a petition for Metallica to release a remastered or remixed version of DM to the public. The petition can be found here ! I’ll keep the MP3’s running and see how accustomed my ears become to this new distorted hyperbole.

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Niggy Tardust’s 1/5th rise to liberation!

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While Trent Reznor frets over the 18 odd percentile range that have chosen to pay the token sum of $5 for Saul Williams’ album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust, I am more concerned by Rezzo’s so called disheartenment. From Reznor writes:

If that assumption is correct – that most of the people that chose to download Saul’s record came from his or my own fan-base – is it good news that less than one in five feel it was worth $5? I’m not sure what I was expecting but that percentage – primarily from fans – seems disheartening.

As Rezzo anguishes over his future, free from the shackles of Evil Entertainment Moguls and how best to make a buck from his art, the numbers on Saul’s effort seem to add up, to put it into perspective his last CD to date has sold 33000 copies and paid downloads from his new album equate to similar figures. 28322 paid for the download: 28322*5 = $141610 . It sounds like an ok effort to me.

150 thousand have downloaded the album and to be fair the return rate isn’t that crash hot but the figures could be a little skewed. Presumably the largest fan base would have come from Trent’s own and may have distorted the downloads by NIN fans just downloading the free version out of interest (like I did) and once sampling the sound have not been in favour of paying. Although the music isn’t entirely to my taste it was worth the asking price, if only to support the cause, essentially why I decided to contribute my 5 bucks. Surely Rezzo can see the bias in the numbers and for initial experimentation it has to be seen as a semi success. What if the numbers grew? What if 1 million downloads occurred? 0.18*1000000*5 = $900000

If the quest is to impede or put an end to piracy then it WILL fail. What if 18 percent is the be all and end all of mass produced music? Will 18 percent be cast in stone as a unmovable mass? Can it be shifted allowing it to roll and gain momentum? So far it has potential energy and if singular entities and individuals cannot budge the moral compass then perhaps groups of artists can. What if they aligned themselves and teamed up as a force. Without an industry to back their marketing needs, new models and alliances will perhaps need to emerge. There is positively endless possibilities when untied and free to create. What people spend their dollars on is what they see offers them value, tapping into that value is where the battle will be won and fought.

Category : Rants | Sight and Sound | Blog

My Dying Bride – Paradiso Main Hall

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