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About HiWire

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    Member of the Trade: Oppo Digital Marketing
  • Birthday 07/30/1976

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  1. Sony UHP-H1

    Dexter Gordon's Go! is a fun instrumental session... Gordon's fluid, expressive saxophone pairs deftly against Billy Higgins' propulsive drums. There is a real sense of being in the same room as the performers, and the ebb and flow of free-form jazz with a few humorous pop phrases thrown in keeps your mind relaxed and stimulated at the same time. The performances are flawless and it is a delight to hear such joyful, varied playing from such brilliant musicians. Olivia Ong's self-titled 2010 (mostly) covers album is an oddball in my collection. The songs are varied, going from the 1960s to the early 1990s, but sung in a delicate, heartfelt way by the bossanova girl. Ong's approach is a little restrained, but you can't fault the variety, the cleverness of the pop arrangements, or Ong's commitment to the songs. Suzanne Vega's Luka is probably the high point of the album, allowing Ong to dig deeper in her emotional range. The recording makes Ong's voice float over the instrumentals, which is fairly appropriate, considering her lightweight singing style. The instruments are well played, but the recording seems almost over-produced, which is common in the asiapop market.
  2. Goodbye Tyll. Happy Travels

    Happy retirement and thanks for all your hard work!
  3. The analog thread.

    How ironic that the first comments that show up below the article discuss Depeche Mode's Violator SACD... makes you wonder what people are going to play and record on these things.
  4. Sony UHP-H1

    Not a big deal for me... there might be a cracked firmware out there anyway. I haven't tried its DAC function yet either. I've got enough SACDs to keep me busy for a while and the Arcam does an excellent job with CDs, which comprise the bulk of my music collection. I think the limiting factors are my ears and my floors... the bass is probably going right through there. I haven't had any complaints so far and I want to keep it that way. My ears get tired if I do too much critical listening (it's tricky to get the right volume level for some albums), so I won't do more than two hours in an evening and I'll take a day off in between sessions. I used to prefer long albums but now those 30-minute discs are more welcome than ever. The "problem" with new audio toys is that you spend a lot of time listening analytically after you buy the equipment. I haven't listened this much on my speaker system for months. I had previously retired it from music in favor of listening to my then-neglected headphones. The speakers were mainly used for movie and TV watching. First world problems: too many toys. I listened to Rebecca Pidgeon's The Raven tonight, which I haven't heard for years. This is a Chesky recording, and Pidgeon's voice is sweet and as clear as a bell. The instruments are all acoustic and there is a minimum of production interference. There is a purity and simplicity to the folk-tinged songs on The Raven that works in Pidgeon's favor... you don't get the exaggerated cynicism in Joni Mitchell's type of songwriting here, for example. There is a lot of atmospheric presence in the presentation of every instrument, and you get the full range of expression and control in Pidgeon's performance. Since there weren't a lot of pounding drums in this recording, I cranked the volume up. Everything stayed smooth and delicate, with a lively, neutral presentation. The lesson here is that source matters. I strongly recommend this album if you haven't heard it.
  5. Head Case Haircut

    I bet porpentines are big fans of in-ear monitors. No muss, no fuss. Too much product can turn anyone into a porpentine...
  6. Sony UHP-H1

    I forgot about the remix since the previous SACDs I played stayed very close to the original masters. I did some searching on Amazon yesterday and I found that I have a lot of the major SACD pop and rock releases (so few), barring Norah Jones and Diana Krall. I'm glad that the classical labels appear to be committed to the format... I've still got a bit of catching up there. A copy of Depeche Mode's Violator SACD showed up on eBay a few days ago, but I let it go as the price went up. I'm not sure I love the album enough to spend big dollars on it, as the music on the standard CD is ok. It's becoming a pain to get a hold of the discs, though. Many SACDs are going out of print and I'm forced to consider joke bands like Yes, the Police and the Scorpions (just kidding).
  7. Sony UHP-H1

    I decided to stop messing around and put my favorite album in (after using Duran Duran's Greatest CD as a warmup... inconclusive results there due to low volume): The thing you have to know is that the SACD layer of Roxy Music's Avalon is a different mix. It took me about a third of the album to realize that... at first I was just, like, whoa, blown away. Bryan Ferry's voice sounds clearer, the familiar instruments are better separated, drums are more impactful, and there is even a sense of vertical space added. I've listened to this album over a hundred times, but only on the Red Book layer. If you're only familiar with the CD or the vinyl versions, it's going to be an odd experience. It's exactly the same album, but everything is a little different. Wikipedia claims the stereo mix is identical, but I am telling you that it is not. I wasn't expecting much from my cheap Sony player, but this session told me that I've been missing a lot on my hybrid SACD discs. I thought that it was a downmix of the surround version, but if Wikipedia says the stereo mix is identical to the original, then the difference must come solely from the SACD encoding. I don't actually believe that, though, because many of the stereo elements sound like they are placed differently (and each voice or instrument fades in or out more distinctly, like Andy Mckay's distinctive oboe)... perhaps the UHP-H1 is ignoring the stereo mix and downmixing the surround mix anyway. The principal impressions I got from the SACD layer are clarity and separation. Voices and instruments that are mixed together in the original version seem to be pulled apart and they are more clearly defined... the effect is not that subtle. Once again, it's more theatrical, like a concert performance. I'm not entirely sure if I like it, since I'm so familiar with the original mix. I'll have to listen to it a few more times, especially on my headphones. If you have this SACD, I strongly recommend flipping between the layers if your player allows you. It's a bit like getting two albums for the price of one. This album is probably even more fun with a 5.1 surround system. I'm not usually one for gimmickry, but this was fun. I'm hoping the next few SACDs are as entertaining as this one.
  8. Head Case Haircut

    I think it's the long hair (I try to clean my ears at least once a day in the shower). My hair is relatively fine and straight, so I don't think it's poofing out the headphones that much, either. Having longer or more hair could have an effect on regular hearing (it certainly makes your head warmer), but I keep getting surprised at the "haircut effect" each time it happens. I was listening on my Grado HP-2 yesterday after the haircut and didn't notice any changes, but that was because I haven't listened to them for over a week. P.S. the Breeders' Last Splash doesn't sound so great on hi-fi equipment (too revealing of the recording's limitations). I'll try it again on the Alessandros tomorrow. They're more forgiving on pop-oriented material.
  9. Head Case Haircut

    Anyone else notice their headphone hearing changes after a haircut? It's gotten so I anticipate it each time I'm due... it was pretty bad this time, being about two months overdue. However, the benefit is that my Alessandro MS-1 sound a lot better today (at the same volume level)... highs and overall clarity and imaging improve. Having longer hair must have some kind of HRTF effect (I made sure my hair was never covering my ears when it was long).
  10. Sony UHP-H1

    I changed things up with a disc of Rick and Morty on Blu-ray. Absolutely no problems with the picture... Rick and Morty is a bright show, so I wouldn't expect any problems. Colors and lines were clear, with no motion artifacts at all. I have noticed that the audio output level is a bit low from the UHP-H1, and the PS3 is the same. Must be a Sony thing. I turned up the volume. Then I loaded Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon and sat back. This is some kind of legal drug. Everything was pretty mellow until Money. The guitar solo gets kind of crazy and I started getting nervous. Things went back to normal until the end, where there is another big crescendo... at this point, I was a bit worried about waking the neighbors. The sound of the clocks in Time is very realistic and they sounded like they were in the room with me. Vocals and guitars are generally a bit more distant, but they close in on the big solos as well as Nick Mason's viscerally-pounding drums. Treble, deep bass, and midrange are well-balanced and the silent passages are pitch black. This album has been well scrubbed for its remastering. Background voices come in and out of the songs, but they seem a bit tacked-on at this point. That's not an artistic criticism, it's just that a lot of derivative bands have used the same effect since this album. I've only got a stereo setup so I can't say how the 5.1 multichannel mix sounds, but two channels is good enough for me when it sounds this good. The Dark Side of the Moon is a good counterpoint against Brothers In Arms. Dire Straits' album has a laser-like focus, and an almost theatrical feel to its production. Pink Floyd's masterpiece seems to be set back quite a bit. The vocals are intentionally recessed with reverb and many of the sound effects are atmospheric rather than direct, with a bit of stereo panning and obvious fades in and out with several songs. Recording technology was different in 1972 and 1984, and production techniques changed. The artistic intent of the albums also differs: Brothers In Arms is intimate and upfront while Moon is diffuse and has that classic rock honesty of placing the guitars and drums more or less where they are on the stage. I want to try some newer material on the player, and I'll get around to testing Red Book CDs as well. I tried to lay my hands on as many SACDs as I could for the last few years, so at least I have a slightly varied selection, but the discs I'll be playing will be familiar to almost anyone with an SACD library (no Norah Jones, though). Now I'll be acquiring the few remaining SACDs out there since I finally have a player for them.
  11. Sony UHP-H1

    Tried another Blu-ray disc, this time Magic City. The image was incredibly dark as before, so it wasn't just The Musketeers. Sony must have been testing this player with their bright 4K LCD TVs... its natural output is really dark on a plasma screen, even with the Bright Room setting turned on. I turned the Clear Black setting all the way up and it improved like it did with the Dark Skies DVD (Contrast Remaster made no difference). I might try playing around with the Deep Color setting to see if it does anything. If all else fails, I'll start messing with the player's brightness and contrast settings, but I've been through almost all of the video settings now. It's interesting to compare how well the PS3 works with my TV while the new Blu-ray player needs so much adjustment. On the plus side, the UHP-H1 is almost completely inaudible, unlike the noisy PS3. Then I put Dire Strait's Brothers In Arms SACD in the player. It was earlier in the evening this time, so I could justify turning up the volume a bit. Wow. I've listened to the Red Book layer on my Arcam FMJ CD36 and it sounded good, but the SACD output from the UHP-H1 may be better. It has the space and air and detail I mentioned before, but I also thought it was playing faster at the beginning of my listening session. There's a bit more energy in the percussion, which might be from a more upfront sound. Bass is well controlled. I'll have to play more music to be sure. I forgot how great this album sounds, and it's definitely better on speakers. There's a purity to the sound of the guitars, drums, and synthesizers. I'm not sure what other web reviewers were playing on their systems, but this thing is a keeper for sure. I'm looking forward to playing more SACDs from my small collection... it's too bad there is so little available on the format. SA-CD.net shows that the Beach Boys are being reissued by Analogue Productions... surely we can do better.
  12. What are you reading now?

    It's World Book Day! Currently reading: The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin Market Forces by Richard Morgan
  13. What are you reading now?

    I bought a copy for my dad a few years ago (and I read it last year) – it's one of his favorite books. It's well written and full of those anecdotal science/history stories that stick in your mind. My takeaway from the book is that science can change humanity, but it doesn't do much for scientists, sometimes. Many of the inventors/discovers were considered failures in their lifetimes and they suffered through enormous hardship.
  14. Sony UHP-H1

    The Sony UHP-H1 arrived today. I hooked it up to my TV and preamp, updated the firmware, and put a disc from my Dark Skies DVD set in as a video torture test. It was a lower-budget alien invasion series (often considered a ripoff of The X-Files) from the mid-90s that was probably shot on video. It looked pretty rough at first... the picture was really dark (the episode started off with a night scene) and skin tones looked unnatural with some jaggies thrown in (interlacing?). I played around with the settings but mostly turned any enhancement stuff off. I suspect the jaggies are part of a poor DVD transfer rather than an interlaced signal. If you turn all the noise reduction stuff on, the picture starts to look like a cartoon. Then I put in a Blu-ray of The Musketeers (BBC, third season)... much better. I've gotten so used to the excellent Blu-ray playback from my PS3 that I took it for granted. The picture looked a little dark, but I was tired of messing around with settings so I just watched the episode with stock settings. I did notice the sound had nicer separation than the PS3's audio. Having done a basic test of video, I put The Cars SACD from Mobile Fidelity into the player... this was the big test. I've listened to this album many times. It's not hi-fi, but it's easy to compare. There's definitely more detail there. The next disc was from Alison Krauss + Union Station's Live... great stuff. Similar results: more detail, more space, more texture. There may be something to this SACD technology. I'll have to do more audio testing with my headphones, as my stereo experiments probably disturbed my neighbors. Worth it. I'm using an AmazonBasics HDMI cable and 47 Laboratory Stratos cable with Eichmann Bullet Plug RCA terminations.
  15. What are you listening to Part the Third

    Prodigy Present: The Dirtchamber Sessions, Volume One: