Happy New Year to All!! I hope you've all survived the holiday season, and the good cheer didn't destroy too many of the auditory brain cells. Most of my colleagues will be off next week to the Consumer Electronics Show, so get ready for some great reports. I'll be off to the Florida Keys for a week's rest and recuperation from the holiday season.
Bits is Bits
Here's a more quasi technical explanation of why audio bits are bits differ from the bits are bits of symbolic data. Audio data is a form of streaming data which means that the timing of the expressing of the data is all important. Symbolic data such as a musical score is symbolic data wherein (there's my legal writing style creeping in again) the timing of the expression of that data has no effect on its meaning. I.e. the exact timing of the print out from a computer printer of the separate notes of a musical score doesn't change the meaning (symbolism) of the score in any way nor does the printer's speed of spewing out the pages of the score or the computer's speed of sending the data to the computer. Neither does the color of the notes nor their size on the page or even the particular type style. All those aspects of the final printed score won't change it's symbolic representation of the music even one iota.
And just how symbolic that printed musical score is becomes obvious when the music is performed by different musicians, different conductors, or the same orchestra an conductor at different times (performances). As further illustration of some differences between symbolic data and streaming data I offer the following: If you take a CD-ROM of your bank account and read it or print it out from any computer or printer it must print out an exact symbolic representation of your bank account, i.e. otherwise we wouldn't be able to rely upon computers because the amount of money in your bank account would depend on which computer or printer was used to print it out or make calculations regarding your bank account. If only I could sell RealityCheckCDs by delivering on a promise that a RealityCheckCD duplicator would make a RealityCheckCD ROM of your bank account that would increase its balance more than the cost of the RealityCheckCD equipment and accessories. I'd instantly become the worlds wealthiest man. In fact, I wouldn't even have to sell any equipment at all because I simply make multiple generation RealityCheckCD ROM copies of my bank account until I'd amassed the world's largest fortune. I wouldn't be surprised If that kind of a reminds you of perpetual motion machine.
For computer technology to be useful it's required that every succeeding generation of a CD-ROM contains exactly the same symbolic data after its gone through error correction. If the extra space that became available with the advent of DVD-audio had been used to allow for the data redundancy and error correction that's uses for symbolic data rather than for a higher sampling rate and larger word size (24 bits words) that would have gone way toward improving the reproduction of music. It still wouldn't have addressed all the timing issues but it would at least have eliminated all errors. With CDs the error correction scheme isn't nearly as robust because if too much data is missing or misread by the player then the player interpolates and fills in the missing data by means of an algorithm. That usually corrupts the musical data (possible because once in a while just by chance the interpolated musical data (bits) might be the exact missing bits). The players output then no longer reproduces the original music as it was before being encoded to the CD.
When the degree of data errors exceeds the interpolation ability of the player then its output briefly mutes the music. If that level of error correction was applied to a CD-ROM of your bank account and there were so many errors that to fill in the missing data it needed to interpolate, then say if it wasn't sure if you had $50 or $60 in your bank account then it might interpolate it to be $55 and if there were to many errors or missing data even for that it might mute your bank account. Would that mean you had zero dollars in your bank account? Thus musical bits and symbolic data bits are treated quite different by computers and as Clark Johnsen so astutely points out, different computer based hard drive servers sound different if only because their DAC's (sound cards) analog outputs sound different as is the case with the DAC's and analog sections in different CD players. To recapitulate, the accuracy of symbolic data is independent of which computer or printer reproduces it whereas the opposite is true for CDs being played back on different equipment, i.e. they music recovered from them may sound different depending upon the playback equipment. I hope this helps explain why bits are bits isn't sufficient to explain the differences in the reproduction of music from a digital file be stored on a hard drive, a memory card, SACD, DVD or a CD.
George S. Louis
This got me thinking about the bank statement and digital recordings and the reading of the bits vs. the interpretation by the subject and came up with the following analogy:
Just as the bits of information translated to the bank statement by the computer (D/A conversion) should always look the same, the bits recorded on the disc and translated to the analog wave form should always sound the same. But just as the bank statement can be typed on different paper in different fonts with different embellishments and still read the same, the bits on the CD can be interpreted differently by the D/A converter, the analog output stages, etc. Note above how I changed the lettering on George's statement. While all of the words are spelled the same and should be interpreted the same, the change in the typing has differentiated for you his words from mine, thus changing your perception of them.
Also, if the transmission of the data from the bank's computer to the paper is not perfect due to poor or different colored ink, or an illegible print or your poor eyesight, the numbers may be the same, but one may see imperfections in them, or have difficulty reading them, which make them more difficult to interpret. Thus a 7 may look like a 1, or a decimal point may have been missed by the printer ink. With the CD, this may also occur and make it more difficult for the D/A converter to function in real time, thus affecting the conversion.
Finally, depending on the day, and how one feels, how bright or dark the lighting is, etc., one may interpret the numbers as being healthy or disastrous to one's fiscal well-being, just as our interpretation of the sounds coming from the CD may vary depending on similar factors. Thus, though the bits may be perfect, their translation to the analog and their interpretation will never be so for both the bank statement and the recording.
Machina Dynamica Clever Little Clock
(Editor's note: i have two of these clocks, the regular version, in my bedroom. They make absolutely no difference on my equipment. It appears audiophiles may be stupid enough to buy into anything and color me a huge skeptic about this clock. What's next to claim changes, dead fish and chicken wishbones? All you need is a good story and a great salesman, perhaps add in a few sockpupper sales monkeys on some lame discussion board. But then again some of these discussion board scammers probably could sell ice cubes to Eskimos... and i know of just who is best at this. Mr. "I Have Been Said To Rebrand Kosurm Products" And 'Mark' Them Up 10x himself! Not a Rosy future for anyone.)
The unit is a very small battery powered alarm clock with an about 1/2-inch dot plastered on the front of it covering half of the LCD face. In their advertising they state that it has no influence on the audio signal, or electronic currents in the system. It "can be placed anywhere in the listening room, in which case the sound will be much improved, with a very high degree of musicality. There will be much more information and an expansive soundstage; low frequencies will be more articulate and dynamic, high frequencies smoother and more refined. In other words, more of everything." They even claim that the clock can have this effect if it is in the same structure several rooms away, or maybe even in the car in the garage. Interestingly, no mention is made as to how it actually works.
What is mentioned is that the clock is based on "concepts and products originally developed by PWB Electronics, England." I have taken that to mean that it is related to products sold years ago by a Peter Belt. For those too young to remember, in the early 1980's, Mr. Belt came out with several products which were supposed to affect RFI in the listening environment based on thin metal foil sheets. At the time, there was great and lengthy discussion, much as now with the GSIC chip as to whether he was a charlatan, shaman, or a true visionary. At the time I wasn't as much into tweaks, and never got involved.
Also significant is that they have decided to place whatever is going on into a clock. Why is this significant? Because, also back in the 1980's, there was a product on the market called the Tice Clock, also an alarm clock, but one which plugged into the wall and supposedly affected the audio signal. While I met George Tice twice, and once tried out one of his isolation transformers, which did work, I never did try his clock, which got about as much bad discussion then as the chip does now. Thus, this unit had two strikes against it from the objectivist point of view.
Saying this, I tried to keep an open mind while doing the review. Unhappily for the product, the Clever Little Clock had absolutely no effect on my system. It was left on the doorstep outside the house about 50 feet away from the listening room, several CDs were played and then it was brought in and absolutely no change occurred. It was moved to several places in the room including near the equipment, speakers, under my listening chair, etc. and no change could be heard. I even called my neighbor across the street who is on a different power transformer from me and brought it over to his place, as they claim that it can have an effect on the system from anywhere in the house. Again, no difference. It was once more introduced into my room and left for several days. Still no effect could be discerned. Finally, the unit was sent back to the factory and still no difference was heard. So at least in my system, the clock was a dud.
On the other hand, it has received some positive comments by "users" at the Audio Asylum and by claimed customers at his Web site, so the effect may be system or listener dependent. It does cost $149 plus shipping. (Editor's note: Did i mention the clock probably cost my wife about $10 and that Audio Asylum is a haven for postings by people you do not know, have never met, and said postings could be scam artists in disguise to help a manufacturer sell a product. This thing is basically a Timex Indiglo Night-Light clock folks that appears to now be discontinued... $10) You could ask for a money-back guarantee to try it. If it works in your system, it'll be worth it. If not, then there'll be nothing lost except the experimentation time (and perhaps shipping costs).
(Editor's note: i also may be able to obtain a bridge in Brooklyn to sell for $25. E-mail me for details. Also, i placed the two Timex Indiglo Night-Light clocks on my parrot, Billie Holiday Rochlin's, office cage. Billie was truly pissed off about having them there and proceeded to attack the clocks with fierce anger! Not the type of thing i wish on any animal so i quickly took the clocks off the cage. They say a picture tells 1,000 words, so here are 3,000 words worth. And so Billie says...)
The company is primarily in the business of whole house and commercial protection of the electrical environment, primarily by surge absorption and dissipation of the electrical noise riding along with the 60Hz. sine wave. While their equipment is designed for primarily industrial applications, one of their engineers decided to combine several of their products into one box for the home theater market; thus was born the EP-2450.
The unit consists of a black box with a white front with 4 small lights and an on-off switch, with the back containing eight outlets, 2 F type connectors for antenna or cable connection for surge absorption, and a standard black power cord. Unlike most high end AC products, the unit is very light and utilitarian, wasting no money on bulkiness and looks. The insides consist of the power cord going to the 20 amp circuit breaker also used as an on-of switch, with two potted small boxes connected to the wiring, and a ferrite ring around which the ground wire is wrapped several times. This then leads out to the 8 AC receptacles wired in parallel. All of the wiring is standard electrical cable. One of the boxes is probably the MOV for spike suppression and the other the noise filter. Between the two F connectors is a small circuit board with what looks like some caps and resistors for the surge and noise suppression of the antenna inputs. About 80 percent of the inside of the unit is bare space, so possibly a high end version with better wiring and two or more of the noise filters could be added to isolate the ac receptacles from each other.
It is claimed to do the following:
1. from EP-2000 unit: Remove, absorb and dissipate transient voltage surges and spikes, high frequency noise and ring waves with the first stage beginning noise attenuation at 2kHz., with a maximum attenuation of 30dB at 50kHz.
2. From EP-2700 unit: begin noise filtering at 200Hz. with maximum further attenuation of 42dB from 6kHz. to 200kHz, right in the middle of the audio band's harmonics.
3. Filters noise in the ground starting at 15kHz. with maximum attenuation of 20dB at 3MHz.
4. From EP-2250 unit: Absorbs and dissipates surges and high frequency above 1GHz. over the cable or antenna lines.
While they won't say how they do the above, they claim that the potted box contains no inductors, capacitors, etc. in the circuit. Maybe I can get Mr. Joseph to spill some of his trade secrets at the end as to how this box works, most of which I probably won't understand anyway. Case cosmetics are utilitarian at best, it could be picked up with two fingers, and the power cord looks like one supplied with cheap electronics, to me the important part is not how it does it, or how pretty the unit looks, but does it live up to it's "exalted" price of $750. The answer is a definite yes.
The unit replaced a $4,000 high end audio line suppresser normally in the system, with 4 Silent Source 50 amp cables feeding my Walker Audio Velocitors, with the 4 Velocitors feeding all video and audio equipment. The Velocitors, working on a completely different principle than noise suppression, were necessary for their electrical outlets, and also acted in synergy with the EP-2450. Unhappily, with all of the equipment in my system, there weren't enough outlets on the one unit to take the Walker's out of the system, and listen to the EP 2450 by itself. But I know what the Walker's do for the system compared to the other noise suppression unit so this was felt by me to be fair.
Over the past several years many AC line noise suppressors have been evaluated here, varying from cheap multi-outlet power cords to several thousand dollar power supplies and line noise suppression units, and this one has beat them all for controlling AC grunge. While the newest of several $4,000 list noise suppression units (name witheld) was recently sold, the next newest was the unit replaced by the EP-2450, and it did not work anywhere near as well at eradicating the junk coming in with the electricity.
I'm not going to go into any fancy phrases as to how it improves the listening experience, as you all should be familiar by now as to how line noise affects high end audio reproduction. Even with my 106dB/W/m sensitive horn speakers, at no time with the unit in the system could I hear the normal background noise that normally gets through to the speakers from the line. Except for tube hiss, my room was as silent as a midnight listening session. Even the very slight 60Hz. hum from my subwoofers was eradicated.
Maybe I'm getting old and less particular, but for the first time I'm content with my system's sound and could live with it forever (maybe!!) On the other hand a purchase order just went out for another of these units to see if separating the audio from the video equipment will make a difference, and whether the Walker's are needed any more. Maybe my tweaking days aren't done.
Last night I decided to try it on the video side, again replacing another $4,000 line conditioner with this unit feeding all of the video equipment. The difference was again very impressive. Colors were more vivid, and on off the air high definition Jay Leno, the image was the best I've seen from my system. Resolution and three dimensionality was significantly better than with the other unit, and this time there was no other conditioner between the wall and equipment. Thus, to my satisfaction, this unit does perform better than one listing for five times the price in my system.
All three of my $4,000 twelve outlet line conditioners have been sold off, unhappily for significantly less than I paid for them. That's the problem with high-end audio; today's jewel is next week's Audiogon auction. At least if this unit's surpassed, it won't make a significant dent in your wallet, and it could be used for your computer or other spike sensitive equipment.
Not being sure what to make of such an inexpensive unit curing my electrical problems, I brought it over to a friend /dealer's house whose system consists of Beauhorns, Kondo preamp, cartridge, wire and amp, and Chord CD Playback, the best system (except for mine of course) that I've heard. He was using a Sound Application Line Stage running into an Audience ac conditioner with a super expensive AC cord running between them, for a grand total of $9,000 or so. While his system was just as quiet with his units vs. the EP-2450, and the imaging was about the same, there was a significant drop-off in bass with the 2450 suggesting possibly some current limiting. On my system I had noted a tightening of the bass rather than a loss Also, voice was somewhat more natural and alive.
So as with all AC enhancers, the unit is system dependant. I will be doing some tweaking of its entrails over the next month to see if bringing it up to audiophile standards will do a significant improvement. Mr. Joseph in our last conversation mentioned that they are also modifying their industrial units for home application at the junction box to get rid of the nasties entering the home, and will be sending them in the near future for evaluation. So more down the road. Get your unit before they gussy up the packaging or add a high end AC cord and double the price. Or wait for my experimentation.
Now a few words from Doug Joseph of Environmental Potentials:
Actually, one box is the EP-2000 circuit which does contain an MOV, but it is only used as a switch. Remember, an MOV has one redeeming value - it lowers its impedance extremely fast. Unlike any other product in the market - and this is where MOV's fall short in the digital era - we do not hold the "clamped" energy in the capacitance of the MOV where the heat breaks down the metal oxide giving rise to increased clamping voltages until ultimately nothing is protected. Another big differentiator is the fact that we track the frequency of anomalies on the line rather than magnitude of energy. Since all surge events occur at speeds that an MOV cannot detect, we use a patented core that allows for minimal loss at frequencies exceeding 3kHz -- this is really the "magic" in what we do beyond the ability to dissipate the trapped anomaly and burn it off in resistance rather than shunt to ground.
Don't be misled by the market that "bigger is better". In fact, the more windings in the circuit, the more heating and "skin effect" takes place turning your power supply into a heating element - not good for the internal electronic components that have a shelf life when heat is introduced into the equation -- when electronics fail you can usually point to the components or the power supply -- two places where the heating effects of high frequency resonance are truly evident.
You are an excellent writer, but doubling the price?!?!?! I wish life was that good for small R&D organizations! We are committed to making our industrial technology available to the high end home theater consumer as a high end product, but not at the risk of asking more than it is worth - we pride ourselves on delivering the most significant advancements in power quality and we hope our growing customer base will continue to support our efforts and not break the bank to do so.)
Thank you so much, Dr. Gaw!