Audio/video news/topics and links
Audio Analog Crescendo integrated amplifier
iPod as a top performing digital source
Yamaha's "Tenori-On" grid sequencer
Best HD TVs?
360 degree 3D display
Progressive Scan DVD - Film-to-DVD; what can go wrong
(Water sound picture ©Alexander Lauterwasser)
random noise could only be compressed [lossless – represented using less space, but keeping all the original information content] to 86% of its original file size, and techno, rock, and pop to about 60%, the apparently complex Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony [can be] compressed to 40% [of its original file size!].
Dr Nicholas Hudson says “Enduring musical masterpieces, despite apparent complexity, possess high compressibility” and that it is this compressibility that we respond to.
we are hardwired to find simple patterns pleasurable
Looks like the brain enjoys information compressibility! = it is rewarding to simplify complex data into simpler “understandable” patterns (= I’ve done a good job! ;-)
(figure 1 from BMC article)
Are all best compositions highly compressable? This is really an exciting (and controversial?) topic. We seem to enjoy medium-low information entropy (~disorder) in the data our brain processes.
Not the same, but this made me think: what about hifi transparent lossy compression: if the sound information is pre-simplified, even if the music sounds ~the same, is it still as enjoyable!? There will be less “brain work” needed, so maybe less reward? Anyway lossy encoding involves removal of unperceived frequencies, trying to fool the inner ear and maybe the primary auditory cortex but this does not involve higher level brain area where pattern processing is performed (the sound is simplified, not the melody)...
Psychoacoustics is a very interesting scientific field (btw too bad some audiophiles cling to irrational and indemonstrable beliefs)... When are we going to do double blind music listening tests coupled to functional neuroimaging scans and psychological tests? ;-)
n.b. it should be added to This Is Your Brain On Music book!
At last, right before Christmas I’ve received my new “almost-audiophile” integrated amplifier. My requirements for a new amp (the old one was a 1994! NAD 306): black, elegant – sober/zen (no useless buttons e.g. boorish bass / treble knobs!), with blue “lights” to match my DAC (Cambridge Audio DacMagic) and digital-out iPod dock (Onkyo ND-S1) LEDs ;-) and obviously also cheap and with good reviews!
The only match I’ve found: a 995$ black 2×50w (at 8 ohms) Audio Analog Crescendo integrated amplifier ~ “hand” made in Tuscany (at Monsummano Terme).
It looks very elegant / clean with its single knob! The volume knob, is also a source selector (press = source change, turn = volume change).
It has four user-selectable volume ladders (with different slope of attenuation) n.b. useless! The default one is a little steep (with some clipping on loud records occurring at already 60% of the ladder maximum! that in fact represent >90% of the maximum amplification), use the linear one (“D”) instead!
Its bandwidth is 150kHz (above – 3db). It has a Signal/Noise ratio (at full power) of >100dB and only 0.05% of total harmonic distortion plus noise.
It sounds detailed, smooth and neutral to warm, and I enjoy listening to my audiophilically incorrect – but ~ hifi-transparent! – mostly iTune DRM free 256kbps AAC “records” (I haven’t yet even bother to convert my old CDs into Apple lossless! ;-) ‘can’t stand spinning supports anymore! but I would love to be able to buy high resolution – e.g. 96kHz 24bit lossless – records via iTune, for the sake of owning high fidelity masters… but with 256 AAC the listening “pleasure” is already there).
With my Swiss made Portier Hifi (PHF) speakers it makes a nice and almost compact hifi stereo system.
n.b. about my DAC and digital-out iPod dock see below iPod as a top performing digital source
p.s. ~ unrelated: interesting discussion about 16 vs 24bit audio
Feb 22 2011 p.s. Apple looking to offer higher quality 24-bit music on iTunes
A must read article from www.maximumpc.com !
Response Times: How Fast Is Fast Enough?
don’t pay much attention to a [LCD] manufacturer’s response time specs because they are so different from the real response time and motion blur that we have demonstrated here.
LCD published “Rise and Fall” (from black to white to black again) response time are much better than more subtle, “real life” response time (e.g. “gray to gray”)...
The underlying reason why higher refresh rates don’t mitigate blurring is that the true pixel response times [40 to 65ms] of [LCD] displays are considerably longer than the 60Hz [= 16ms cycle] video frame rate, so it doesn’t matter whether the screen refresh rate is 60Hz or 120Hz [or 400Hz], or whether the LED backlights are strobed off during the frame updating. Similarly, adjusting the electronic processing enhancements that some models offer – controls that are supposed to reduce motion blur [in fact by reducing pixel transition steepness via interpolation to hide slow and weird lcd responses] – only served to introduce objectionable contours, edges, and other artifacts onto moving objects without reducing the overall motion blur.
Their “Motion Blur: Visual Proof” image is very impressive.
Frame interpolation (and subsequent frame alterations) is crap (turn it off: is non curative on LCD, useless on plasma as they just don’t have any smearing with their instantaneous response time!) it gives a “video look” (+ a waxy look) on every sources (including films).
The fancier (e.g. 400Hz), newer the LCD is, the crappier the image is! A screen must be “high fidelity” (to what was recorded), adding non recorded interpolated fake frames (generated by a cheap processor) is low-fidelity, ugly and just plain wrong!
Interpolation and other processings are just done to hide LCD bad response time. Disable interpolation – if you can – then suffer LCD smear! Or better: use a plasma display (and don’t brag about saving the planet etc… yes LCD uses less power! ... so just watch less tv! ;-) even for sports and games: better (real image) blacks, no smear, and as for interpolation on very fast movements: your brain is doing a better job than a lowly processor…
n.b. the 600Hz refresh rates of new Panasonic plasma is just nonsense, to combat high LCD framerate claims with even more inflation; that’s sad (lies/stupidity race)! The image is still displayed at 60Hz but in 10 sub-fields! (10×60 = 600!)... Plasmas do NOT need >60Hz refresh rates to compensate for motion artifacts because they do not produce these motion artifacts!
Contrast Ratio, Ad Absurdum
Everybody should know that the maximum displayable real/natural contrast (in a real image) is not equal to the screen dynamic range (intensity-ratio between an all black vs all white image) also called Full On/Off contrast! But now manufacturers (especially for LCD) use “dynamic contrast” or even just “contrast instead” of “dynamic range”, inflating numbers…
Contrast-ratio specs are tremendously inflated. For the best LCDs, scientifically measured contrast ratios are actually between 1,500 and 2,000. But manufacturers almost never publish real contrast ratios anymore.
In their quest to quote ever-larger numbers, some manufacturers invented a completely meaningless spec called “dynamic contrast ratio” ... (Sometimes they don’t even bother mentioning the “dynamic” part). Sadly, all manufacturers are now forced to play this game, as consumers wouldn’t be interested in monitors and TVs that tout the true values. Meaningless contrast-ratio specs help substandard manufacturers by making their displays appear to be just as good as those from the best manufacturers, or even better, because the biggest liar wins.
Color Gamut or Marketing Gambit?
Color gamut, which is the range of colors that a display can produce, is undoubtedly the most misunderstood and exploited spec
The color gamut that you want ... is the same color gamut that was used when the content you’re viewing was created. If a different gamut is employed, you’ll see different colors than you’re supposed to see.
Virtually all consumer content is created using industry standards that specify the exact color gamut to be used. For computers and digital cameras it’s sRGB. For digital HDTVs, it’s called ITU-R BT.709 (often referred to as Rec.709). Fortunately, both of these standards specify the same exact gamut.
Indeed, displays claiming more than 100 percent of the standard color gamut simply can’t show colors that aren’t in the original source image. Expanded gamuts are just gimmicks that make consumers think they’re getting something better.
First, remember that essentially all consumer content is 24-bit color. Thus, the source images have only 16.8 million colors, and the display can’t “invent” intensities and color combinations that don’t exist in the original.
n.b. Number of Colors Distinguishable by the Human Eye (at a fixed “aperture”): estimated between 100000 to 10 million! 24 bit encoding is way enough for us!
p.s. a little tear for SED ?
Bypassing the iPod cheap analog to digital audio circuitry is needed in order to get a good sound... Most iPod docks just use the iPod crappy analogic output signal (even expensive ones like the Krell that are just swindles!).
For what I’m avare of, now there are only 2 iPod docks that can directly extract iPod digital signal (without hack/modification of the iPod itself!):
n.b. Yes the ipod can output in digital! it’s just that the signal will only go through a device with an apple authorization chip?/system (~like HDCP with video)
Then hook the dock digital output (no need for fancy cables, as the digital information is resistant to some signal distortion…) to a dedicated good quality analog to digital converter (no need to go “uber-audiophile”, as the main internal components are always not that expensive chips by companies like Texas Instruments!):
Cambridge Audio DacMagic
Then hook the DAC analog output to your (pre)amplifier with good cinch cables (as the analog signal directly represents the sound, unlike when encoded digitally, the information is therefore sensitive to signal distortion/loss!).
With this setting as there are no bit loss (unlike with a CD where vibrations, physical disc damage can result in data loss) + with Apple Lossless files, iPod represents a bit-perfect digital source better than any CD player… Too bad iTune store doesn’t sell music in Apple Lossless format (but AAC at now 256kbps [sampled at 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz on 16 or 24bits] ~hi-fi transparent)...
n.b. without an ipod, another good, small, cool source: Logitech Squeezebox Touch
(has a digital output, no need for a pricey dock!) or cooler: a MacBook Air (connected via usb).
n.b. Sept 2010: iOS 4.1 update: completely messed up sound!
Nov. 2010, iOS 4.2: ok again!
seen on gizmodo
This damned expensive gadget makes the passion for vinyl a little easier and more modern, to boot. The ELP Laser Turntable is essentially that. Rather than dealing with the hassle of placing the needle on the record, just pop the baby in and let the lasers do all of the work for you.
too bad it’s a little bit too expensive (15000$)! especially if you never listen to LPs…
A grid of LED-lit rubber buttons that lets you create musical loops and melodies.
It is with great pleasure that we announce that sales of TENORI-ON will begin in the U.K. this September (2007), as a test-marketing venture.
Plama vs LCD vs DLP Rear Projection vs CRT.
In-depth comparison between these technologies to analyze their relative strengths and weaknesses. Old (12.2004) but still valid; a must read.
Obviously OLED will be great, SED ’s dead (kind of), what’s available now for large and flat screens: LCD (LED backlit or not) or Plasma.
LCDs (especially the fanciest newest ones) have this ugly “hand held video like” look / soap opera effect that makes a great movie (24p dvd or bluray) looks like a “love boat” episode! (it’s even funny: some people think it’s the HD effect/ feel / “too real”! no, it’s not: it’s just ugly. turning off frame interpolation with 120/240Hz is not enough, the gamma also looks bad, no brightness details etc…) which leave them good only for watching tv or playing games. Therefore to watch movies the only available decent screen display technology is plama with deep blacks and (real) high micro-contrast; any sane videophile will chose plasma over lcd.
Best Plasmas: ... used to be Pionneer Kuro Plasma
It’s not just the fact that the PRO-110FD creates a beautiful image. It’s that the image it creates is such a step above every other flat panel on the market that it is not even comparable.
The 2008 KURO family will posses black levels “five times deeper than the previous KURO
You can count on the June-bound models checking in at just 3.7-inches thick, sporting 1080p panels alone (no 720p), coming in 50- ($4,000) / 60-inch ($5,500) sizes
Note: Panasonic plasma seem to get good review too:
Basically, while Kuro is blacker (courtesy of its screen’s darker tint) and brighter, Panny’s color reproduction is much deeper, you get better dark detail, more accurate gamma, it uses 30 percent less power, AND it’s cheaper ($3500 to $4600).
Anyway panasonic will be producing future Kuro panels!...
Pioneer – Panasonic agreement
2009 update: Kuros are dead!
latest panasonic seems to be “almost” as good
new king of hdtv P54V10
Deep blacks, shadow details, color accuracy (with THX mode) etc…
Lighter (33kg!) than old plasmas and ~thin (3.3 inches, 2 on top), more power efficient than older plasmas (280w!).
(I bought a TX-P50V10E dec 2009)
Panasonic (upper models): 5000000:1 dynamic range = better black levels
+ 3D for VT models (nice if it were without glasses!)
The improved scan and phosphors along with the deep blacks and accurate color provided excellent image reproduction and fine shadow detail. These improvements add up to amazing overall images free of the “video look” associated with 120 and 240 Hz LED LCDs.
Researchers at USC have taken another step towards that holiest of sci-fi dreams: the 3D “holographic” display.
The team’s device – using a spinning mirror (dangerous?) – can project a three-dimensional image that can be viewed from 360 degrees, regardless of the viewer’s height and distance.
Future display technology: Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display
Initial specifications: 1080p (1920×1080) resolution, 1 msec response time (handles fast motion), and an extremely high 100,000:1 dynamic range ratio! + low power consumption! = ultimate display technology !?
News update (Oct. 3rd, 2006):
Canon & Toshiba have just annonced that SED displays will finally be hitting shelves in limited quantities by late 2007, and entering mass production in 2008. Leading the charge will be these 1080p 55-inch models with 450 nits of brightness, 50,000:1 contrast ratio, stunning 1ms response time…and no price tag yet!
With Samsung, Sharp and Sony releasing “Full HD” LCDs in the 50-inch range for around 5 large this fall, the market in 2008 could be tough to crac!
News update (Jan. 2007):
SED Won’t Become Commodity article
Toshiba plans to start shipping SED products in fall 2007, but considers focusing on professional users at first, positioning the SED as a “limited, pricey, high-end” product. Nishida said the company’s plan to build an SED volume-production facility in Himeji is “advancing on track.” However, saying the SED is not “competitive against the LCD TV” in the market for consumer TVs, Nishida indicated that Toshiba is not planning to bring SED to the current consumer TV market.
Postponed again (May 25 2007):
Canon press release
Canon Inc. today announced that it has decided to postpone for the time being the launch of next-generation flat-panel SED* televisions … Reasons for the postponement include prolonged litigation currently underway in the United States and efforts to establish mass-production technology aimed at realizing further cost reductions.
SED might be dead/too late!... too bad … meanwhile, plasma, LCD screens are getting better and better and cheaper!
Good news (August 2008):
Canon wins SED lawsuit, can produce SED displays again
In spite of their legal success, Canon announced at the same time that the financial crisis of 2008 was making introduction of the sets far from certain
... [but] ... a source within Canon told me at the show that the SED is still very much alive as a pro monitor technology
(wikipedia SED article)
May 2010: SED’s dead
Canon officially announced on 25 May 2010 the end of the development of SED TVs for the home consumer market, but indicated that they will continue development for commercial applications like medical equipment.
(wikipedia SED article)
- The Nature of Interlaced TV, Film-to-Video Conversion, and Other Interesting Gambits
- Why Are Progressive Players Better?
- How Progressive Players Work
- 3-2 Pulldown
- Why Deinterlacing is Necessary
- Film-Mode Deinterlacing
- Video-Mode Deinterlacing
- What Does “True” Progressive Mean?
- Common Chipsets