Wednesday, 9 June 2010


Convergence : 20100609

A while ago I separated my cycling from my Life And The Universe blog. This proved a little ambitious and Life And The Universe suffered.
So having found out how to combine the blogs I've put everything together under one banner; Oh! That British Bloke ... Everything that was on either VeloStage or PhonoStage is now here. They've been consigned to posterity ...
One or two transparent graphics haven't made the transition so well, but generally it looks pretty good for a lash-up.
So ... onwards ...

Monday, 8 March 2010


Save BBC Radio 6 Music

This is a radio station with no demographic. That is, unless that demographic includes everyone who loves music.

For some reason the BBC believes that all tastes, other than classical music (Radio 3 is untouchable regardless of cost per listener), are covered by Radios 1 & 2. Hmm, teenie-boppers and carpet slippers.

No, BBC, keep Radio 6 Music!!!

Listen here.

And for another station under threat, the Asian Network, listen here.

Lots more about BBC Radio 6 Music here.

BTW: Simon Mayo ... what a waste ... get back to 5Live you silly man...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Plymouth Sound Webcam



This is a view from the BBC Spotlight Southwest cam overlooking Plymouth Sound from Staddon Heights. The image should refresh every 5 minutes.

© BBC : 2010

Monday, 1 March 2010


Shiny Discs


Part of the pleasure of 12" BVDs - Black Vinyl Discs - is the scale of the artwork. CDs never really could compete in this aspect of the pleasure of owning a minor work of art in a gatefold. I mean, have you ever tried to read some of the tiny print in a CD booklet?

I suspect that single attribute is a significant element in the resurgence of the LP as a music source.

However, now even the CD is becoming obsolete, hobbled by being tied to a bitrate which seemed adequate 30 years ago but is showing its age.

Part of the advantage of moving over to a network music server and the falling cost of HDD space is that music file sizes can now be huge, much larger and of much greater definition than a CD.

More and more, this type of music delivery is being made available online although too many virtual music stores will only deliver .mp3 instead of uncompressed .wav and .flac files.

But some stores are starting to make these truly hifi files available. It also means it's possible to find music which rarely, or never, finds its way over the pond in either direction

The only thing is, I just wish they'd include the album art with the download. And it would be nice to have some sort of saving over the hard copy/artifact version. Oh well ...

Sunday, 21 February 2010


HiFi : Source III : Home Music Server


The third source element in my music system is the digital music server.

In a nutshell, all my music files are held elsewhere on my home network. Music is accessed via a laptop computer and the digital stream is fed out through a DAC to the amplifier.

The set up consists of three elements:

Laptop : Currently, this is a Dell with one or two issues, like turning itself off or freezing after an hour or so ...
Software : I'm getting good results with Media Monkey
DAC : Cambridge DacMagic

The laptop connects to the home network via WiFi. This means the music files can be held elsewhere so HDD noise is kept to a minimum. Most files are in .flac format. This is a lossless compression format. .mp3s are lossy and it's possible to spot the degradation in a .mp3 file on playback through a reasonable system.

.flacs have different levels of compression, but this only makes a difference to the amount of processor power the computer needs to decode the file. Since this laptop does little else, it's not really an issue.

Media Monkey both catalogues the music files and processes the digital file for export as a digital stream from the laptop via a USB port. When the DacMagic was first plugged into the computer it was identified as a USB sound card. Media Monkey can use a variety of output modules. At the moment I'm using the standard wave output.

The DacMagic can switch between three different digital sources and has three switchable digital filter profiles. The device converts the digital input to a regular analogue output which plays back through my Marantz amplifier.

The music source files are either ripped from the original CDs or, more and more often, downloaded direct from websites run by the artist's label or retailers who are set up for digital delivery. It is possible to find music which is recorded at a far higher fidelity than can be delivered via CD ... more about digital music files another day.


HiFi : Source II : Digital Disc

This article sets the digital disc playback into the scheme of things.

So far I haven't explored the world of BluRay and other exotic disc systems, and at this stage I'm unlikely to given the success I'm starting to have with digital playback from computer music files ... more about this later.


However, like vinyl, I think CD will be around for a while yet.

The CD playback trail here consists of two parts:

CD transport/player : Marantz CD5001
DA converter : Cambridge DacMagic

The Marantz has been superseded by the CD5003, but I doubt if it sounds any better. Besides, I am using the player only as a disc transport by taking the digital output direct and playing it through the DacMagic which converts the digital signal to analogue for playing through the amplifier.

The DacMagic also has the ability to filter and profile the output although any changes are barely perceptible. It also handles the digital output from the computer when using it as a music server and switches between up to three digital sources.

So, basically, all digital sources are directed via the DacMagic and its DAC to the amplifier.


HiFi : Source I : Turntable

I've covered the setting up of my turntable previously. This article is to put the turntable in context in my set up.

The analogue trail consists of three elements:

Cartridge: Ortofon 2M Red
Turntable/arm combination: Pro-Ject Classic Cherry
Pre-amplifier: Pro-Ject USB II Box

As I said, I've already covered aspects of the turntable/cartridge set up and some tweaks remain to be done.

I noted before some problems playing certain passages on vinyl, but I've checked the sound against the same track on CD and the roughness is there too, so I'm wondering if the problem is elsewhere, possible in the amplification or speakers. Even so, it's the same through the head-amp and headphones, so maybe it's the recording itself. Since it seems confined to one recording in particular maybe that's it.

Until recently, I've been playing the turntable through the phono input on the Marantz PM5003 amp. But following developments in my experiments using a digital music server, I'm now using the phonostage in the Pro-Ject USB II Box. This also acts as an AD converter and outputs a digital stream from the turntable into a laptop ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I can't say if the Pro-Ject phonostage is superior to the Marantz. I can detect no difference on a slightly more than casual comparison. Certainly it sounds more than acceptable.

The analogue trail to the amplifier is carried using QED Silver Spiral leads. These are a heritage item and are no longer in production. I've had them for years and have yet to hear a reason to upgrade them. I'm a pragmatist when it comes to cables ... I belive in solid, good quality cables, but don't buy the rather exotic claims of the type of cable which probably cost more than your electronic components.

Next: the CD trail ...

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