Still Here Still Here Still Here.
Lots happening here lately as many of you know with an erupting volcano. Above the ground lava has been flowing. Below the ground lots of unrest and shaking going on (300+ over Richter 1.5 on the Island this past 24-hours, many of those above 3.0).
So… I missed the Memorial Day party — hope everyone was safe and well off in spirit and health. Here’s a post party favor of 50% discount of anything I have (23+ titles) on Bandcamp. All albums, singles, whatever you order until midnight UTC this Sunday June 3rd.
Go here: http://davidelias.bandcamp.com
On checkout use this Discount Code in the popup: Remember50
That should do it for the discount. Hoping for the best for all especially here on the Orchid Island these days.
Take care y’all,
Happy Earth Day 2018. It’s the 20-yr. anniversary of my “Blue Planet” release on disc. I am giving it to you free today 4-22-2018 as an MQA master you can play on any player or smartphone. You can download the 5-tracks free or just stream them here:
I play all the instruments on the record, except brother Calvin joined me on mandolin and singing on the title “Blue Planet” song.
To download for free, enter $0.00 as the price. If you download today, you can then stream forever from the web page. Install the free Bandcamp app if you don’t have one or stream from a browser.
Happy Earth Day with Aloha!
I resisted CD when it was new and media-ized as the best and cleanest sounding thing. It sounded like it was in a straight jacket to me. I didn’t think that was clean. I thought it was chopped up and edgy. I liked vinyl and cassette. A lot. I never replaced my LP collection which was in the thousands with CDs. I bought CDs here and there to listen to stuff in the car but all the good stuff stayed in crates in various places.
Fast-Slow Forward 30 years (I kid you not) and I get to hear MQA with 16/44.1 CD Masters. Holy Shit. Finally something that sounds good in good old 16/44.1 Redbook. There are no hi-res masters for these (and millions of others), there are only CD masters. They sounded ok and forgivable when they were made but MQA let out the angels that were being kept inside.
I could go on and on with technical garbledy gook about filters and time smearing and, no, not rearing children, but other stuff but I won’t. I’ll stop with the angels thing. It’s a new moon, all is well.
Listen to a free MQA CD Master song download I have. Get it in the original FLAC format (use the dropdown option where it might say MP3 and change to FLAC) or any other lossless format Bandcamp offers (ALAC, AIF, WAV).
Put in the price of $0.00 and you get it free.
This song was recorded as an acoustic trio, with me on guitar, Scott Beynon on electric bass and Ken Owen on drums. My New Orleans bouzouki hellacious singer friend Beth dubbed that kind of ensemble Heavy Wood. Yes it was and was my best shot at my Tonight’s The Night sound. Recorded to DSD originally but only mastered for CD on the “Rare To Go” disc and then encoded as MQA.
You can play it on any digital audio player you have including your phone or tablet or computer. If you have an MQA DAC, or BlueOS or other player in your setup it will decode and sound even better but I’m hoping you listen to it either way.
Aloha to all.
PS – the photo I took on the CD cover is of the 2 largest mountains on the planet, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. One is the largest mountain mass of any single mountain (more cubic meters, bigger than the entire Cascade or Sierra Nevada ranges), the other is the tallest rising from the ocean floor where it begins, far beyond Everest and the rest.
It’s Getting Green Up Over.
Spring is still working above the equator, gotta be thankful there. Along with new budding leaves and flowers the interest in MQA as a great way to deliver CD quallity and hi-res PCM to ears via downloads or streaming or CDs continues to grow as well.
Right now you can try a pristine acoustic recording originally mastered as native DSD, and since converted to DXD and encoded as MQA for downloads. It plays on any music player!
If you have an MQA decoder it can unfold the hi-res to 24/352.8kHz. The original master was encoded for MQA by MQA Ltd. as FLAC. The audio files are small and download fast.
Go here to get the 50% off Acoustic Trio….Album of the Week!
Use the code AcousticTrio50 on checkout to get the 50% off.
Have a Happy Spring and thanks for Listening!
Between now and the New Year (yes it will be 2018…) any full album you purchase from my pages for MQA masters *or* DSD masters will be acknowledged with a big MAHALO email from me containing a simple way for you to download any OTHER album of mine you want.
You can mix and match DSD and MQA all you have to do is reply to the thank you email I’ll send after your purchase and tell me which album you want to download for free.
You buy one or more with a download order, and I’ll send you a code/link to get one of your choice! Any format, any resolution, you decide.
Easy peasy. You *won’t* have to volunteer your maiden middle name, the 2nd, 4th, and 9th digits of your Social Security Number, your Bitcoin wallet password, or your plans for the holiday season. Just tell me which album!
Here are the links to purchase from to get a free album.
For MQA Masters (stereo only) in all resolutions (16/44 to 24/352.8) use this link:
For DSD64 Masters including multichannel use this link:
As the year winds down you may be wandering, careening, catapulting, waltzing, wistfully walking, twist and shouting, meditating, mirroring, toe stepping, or broad jumping towards the great unknown in 2018…
I hope some music helps ease the transition and helps make it enjoyable for you and those surrounding you.
Be well – thank you for all the continued huge welcome and aloha you have shown me and my music through the year. Send this email or post to anyone you think might want to hear some.
With Aloha! Have some happy holidays!
PS… Some are asking me where I got that photo of the Golden Gate. I got it from seat 37J (if I remember that right)
PS2 (remember those? if you do you are probably nearly as old as me)………..If you too also wondering how the hell you might play *both* DSD *and* MQA audio files through a single setup (ideally one that can be mobile with battery and all the right quality and support for things like headphone amplification and matched impedances, and any other details that make it easier to just listen to well recorded digital music *INCLUDING* streaming MQA such as from TIDAL)…. then you may have to look no further.
Witness the new release of the iFI-audio USB DAC and headphone amp, the Nano iDSD BL (for Black Label). I saw it onsale at Amazon yesterday for $199…..
The small Nano needs a PC/MAC computer or smartphone connected to it (ie, it’s not a player just a DAC).
What a gift that would make!
The new release of the ifi-audio.com USB DAC product Nano iDSD BL (Black Label) is so impressive I can’t do it justice here without writing a treatise.
Suffice to say this small gem of a product provides anyone (at a great price for everyone) with a solution to any and all types of high quality digital recordings, whether they be downloaded, ripped or streaming from popular sites like TIDAL, Spotify or Apple Music.
I’ve had and used an original Nano iDSD product from iFI for several years now. It’s been upgraded several times and the latest incarnation known as Black Label now supports MQA!
It’s retailing in the US on Amazon right now for $199 as well as other outlets.
What does this DAC do for you?
- Plays 1-bit DSD (up to DSD256) without PCM conversion (ie, native DSD!)
- Plays MQA up to 24/384k encoded masters
- Provides 10hrs or more of battery to operate OTG
- Connects to your iPhone or Android to play music including STREAMING without using the phone battery to operate
- Will stream MQA from places offering it like TIDAL today and many more tomorrow
- Includes the heralded iFI iPurifier as a built-in protection against interference and noise on the USB connection
- Supports S-balanced headphones with a separate output and lots of power
- Provides headphone amplification giving you plenty of volume headroom on smartphone use and supports low to high impedance headphone ranges
- Uses an analog volume control (dial) for the highest level of sound quality and convenience
- Provides easy LED color indicators identifying the exact type of music (PCM, DSD, MQA) being played and its bit rate.
There are no doubt many more reasons this could be a very good affordable solution both at home via computer, with laptop, or with a smartphone to gain a future proof approach to high quality recording playback.
Take a look at their website and documents to read more about the Nano iDSD BL!
My magic 3 ingredients on any good recording are, in order: #1 – the song, #2 – the take/performance, #3 – the recording. I rank them in this order because if the energy and musicianship are there in any good song (#1 and #2), it will be conveyed to the listener at many / all levels.
But being able to capture that in the right mechanical and physical terms (mics, preamps, recording levels) followed by careful mixing and mastering are surely what produce the finest collections of recorded music (#3). There’s no other way.
I am slowly realizing the emphasis behind MQA’s tag “Take Me There”. There are often very big differences between what an artist / producer intend a final recording to sound like, and what the actual artist and song takes do sound like in the studio or live show. In order to produce the intention of the art direction (which may not require elaborate effects and tricks in the studio, but still require craftsmanship to the highest levels), #1, #2, and #3 above have to be present. There’s no other way.
Capturing great sessions or multi track overdub creations that don’t have all of #3 can still be considered great, despite the lack of full delivery of intention due to limitations on the original source recording. My musical listening history is filled with these less than perfect recordings but simply incredible songs and performances. I probably treasure some of these as the finest in my personal/memory collection.
But until there were DSD conversions from master tape archives, there was, to my ears, no way to deliver a good sounding #3 in a digital format which was initially CD, then even worse MP3/AAC, then HDCD and even HDTracks / ProStudioMasters (which I’ve purchased but rarely play).
There are indeed limits of DSD conversions from tape which include slower time to process, limited catalog availability, more expensive and larger files without streaming to deliver to any large consumer base as well as the additional audio setup to convert DSD back to analog properly. So be it.
DSD is great for what it does and the “right” way in my opinion to convert analog tape masters to digital as intended (!) by Sony and Phillips originally to rescue their aging deteriorating master tape archive vault.
Now with MQA that intention is finally achievable and deliverable in all current modern formats to all listeners without extracting source masters from tape in every case.
It literally undoes the artifacts imposed during step #3 (by decompressing, not compressing, which is the same as removing edges and correcting time coherence) by re-encoding already existing hi-res PCM masters. It then proceeds to deliver the master CD quality and higher over low bandwidth (approx. CD 1.44mbps) and even on printed standard CDs, with a hi-res component (unfolding) for any compatible setup.
So the intention’s follow through in #3 after capturing a great song, then recording and producing it masterfully, is realized, at least compared to anything we’ve had in the PCM digital domain for audio reproduction to date.
Here are my TIDAL MQA Master albums online so far… more on the way.
“Angelo” (16/44.1), MQA release Jan 6, 2017
“Lost in the Green” (16/44.1), MQA release July 1, 2016
“Crossing (Remastered)” (16/352.8). MQA release Sept. 1, 2017
And here’s a Playlist for them:
Well I’d say in these modern days of tech not enough things work well together, at least not as expected given the decades of preparation those science/art folks have had to interoperate and optimize efficiencies for best results at lowest cost.
Do I expect too much? Maybe I don’t know. But I know I have been using two perfect examples of that kind of interrelated power with these two devices.
From Pioneer last year came the XDP-100R a High Resolution Audio (HRA) player with its own storage for audio files. The “gotcha have to try that” incentive for me was that this was one of the very first (and still one of the only) portable audio players that supported native DSD (1-bit to analog via DoP, or conversion to PCM up to 192 on the player itself and PCM to 384 via USB) as well as full res MQA decoding (up to 24/384kHz).
The OPPO HA-2 (now supplanted by the HA-2SE) is a “simple” headphone amplifier (analog circuitry) as well as a supreme native DSD DAC as well as PCM — both convert to analog and presented to either a headphone jack (with amplification) or a line out jack (for home stereo/studio use). In addition it is a lithium battery pack capable of charging other devices (like a Pioneer XDP-100R or iPhone/Android smartphone).
I’m working with DSD as a recording media for my music over 15 years now and MQA as a mastering with authentication PCM encoding for over 1 year. To me these don’t compete! I am not surrounded by people of that same persuasion but then again, I’m not sure that matters to me either.
There’s a lot more to this story of the Mighty Duo…
Given that these 2 devices work independently of each other and the XDP-100R is a standalone player with a headphone/line out jack and 161 position volume control, it is not that obvious why I might want to pair them together.
Granted the HA-2 needs a player attached as its role is to do digital to analog conversion (DAC) and amplify the resulting signal as needed.
However in addition to the fact that the XDP-100R decodes MQA as studio authenticated masters up to the maximum resolution of masters out there today (24/384kHz), it can also upsample the resulting PCM to DSD and pass it on to the HA-2 via DoP!
The result for me (MQA decoded then upsampled to DSD at 5.6mHz Real Precision and sent to HA-2 for 1-bit conversion to analog) is absolutely some of the best sound quality I have ever heard.
I typically listen to these devices using OPPO PM-1 (open planar magnetic) though also PM-3 (closed planar magnetic) as well as earbuds (typically travel with Zipbuds Pro at about $25 on Amazon – amazing!).
If I play DSD tracks on the XDP-100R they get sent as-is to the HA-2 for 1-bit conversion and off to the headphones/stereo. Again both components doing exactly what they were made to do and doing it expertly well. This is really what I consider the best sound possible: A native DSD master played from the linked XDP + HA-2, as DSD via DoP, with no conversion except to analog out the headphone jack on the HA-2.
Well made recordings as native DSD masters (not upsampled to DSD but recorded/mastered as DSD or transferred from analog tape masters) will translate perfectly well as needed to any other media format.
To me PCM with MQA encoding is a perfect media format for today’s media environment as it delivers hi-res up to 24/384k (19mbps) in right around 1.5 mbps streams or audio files in a lossless FLAC or ALAC format at 24/48k or 24/44.1k folded MQA. That’s smaller than 1/10th the size of the hi-res file or stream it becomes when it plays! The MQA DAC unfolds the hi-res on playback after the file or stream is downloaded or received.
Dare I say that when MQA decoding can be done from a Smartphone app, the cell network bandwidth required to stream MQA masters at 24/96 to your phone will not be a problem…even if you are not on an unlimited plan. If you are on an unlimited plan most of those get restricted around 22GB anyway.
So the differences between 1.5 mbps and say 5mbps for hi-res audio streaming have big effects on what someone might do with great quality music playing anywhere they go. Remember MQA in a FLAC format is not just smaller (about 1/5th the size of a 24/96 WAV/AIF file or DSD64 file for that matter) it is time corrected as well, so it sounds much better than the original PCM master did.
The same master images can also be delivered on standard CD discs which again on playback or when ripped can be MQA decoded to full high resolution. These are then 16-bit depth with the same excellent sound quality to my ears as others. They can play on any CD player and to be honest sound very very good with no MQA decoding or unfolding at all. Pretty nifty. These stream at well under 1mbps!
Back to the Mighty Duo…
What is unusual about this combo of devices is that the XDP-100R as a audio player, is able to play and decode the MQA audio file and then upsample and convert it to DSD and pass it on (DoP) to a DSD DAC to be played as an analog signal.
This dual function is not possible with the typical MQA/DSD DAC such as the very capable Mytek Brooklyn. It (the typical MQA/DSD DAC) is not an audio player, it only can decode MQA and convert to analog or it can convert DSD to analog to play. It can’t do both functions (decode MQA and then convert to DSD) in series as the XDP-100R does before handing it to a DAC to play as an audio signal.
Nor can any other strict DAC that I’m aware of (though I’m sure they could if minds were put to it).
So what I’ve found is 2 devices of very similar dimensions and weight that can inter-operate such that the resulting sound is as good or better than most pro setups out there.
By maxing out the storage support for media on the XDP-100R by buying and inserting 2 SD Micro chips at 200GB each, I arrived at a full 432GB storage that I can carry around on a device as big as a slightly fat smartphone. If I wanted to add 200GB, 400GB, … etc. I could just buy other SD Micros to swap as needed. Unlimited storage in other words with no USB drives to carry around, and certainly not a laptop.
The total package (XDP-100R and HA-2) with extra RAM, water resistant case for both devices ($10) and all cables and still easily fits with notepad in my day pack all cost me well under $1000 US, closer to $800 really. That also includes about $150 of the extra memory (400GB) which is of course optional. The XDP comes with 32GB and you could add any additional amount of storage via SD Micro chips as you wished.
Hard to believe but I found the XDP-100R for a very low price special. It was last year’s model, as the newer XDP-300R has 2 Sabre chips (left and right channel) as well as a separate balanced headphone jack. Not sure what retail prices and specials are today but suggested retail is probably somewhere in the $500-600 range which means you can find it for less.
I think the OPPO HA-2SE followup to my HA-2 is still retailing at $199. I didn’t check.
I shouldn’t go into some of the other enormous capabilities of the XDP-100R but suffice to say it is a full blown Android palm computer. It hosts and runs any Google Play app. I regularly use email (BlueMail), Dropbox, Skype, some internet browsing and a few other apps. The only thing it isn’t is a cell phone and a camera. It stores and plays (on a very nice display) pretty much any video format as well.
There is a TIDAL app for streaming MQA if you buy the account. The number of MQA (Warner and perhaps UMG now) masters released on TIDAL for streaming at this point is in the thousands including Zeppelin, Doors, Petty, Talking Heads, Costello, Black Sabbath, CSNY, Neil Young and many many other pop/rock legends.
Playing DSD and having it sound par excellence is easily achieved here.
Playing Studio Authenticated MQA on audio files or streaming is easily achieved here.
What I’ve found and written about elsewhere is that there are some huge gains to my ears in sound quality improvements when MQA Masters at the CD Red Book resolution (16/44.1) are upsampled to 2.8 or 5.6mHz DSD and played via a DSD DAC like the OPPO HA-2. Other DACs supporting DoP (DSD over PCM) should work with the XDP’s in the same way.
The reason I think the MQA gains in reducing edgy, compressed CD-like sounding masters are greatest at this low resolution are due to the steepness of the brickwall filters used to cutoff frequencies above 20kHz. The backlash of this industry common way of filtering PCM is that it introduces large pre- and post-ringing echos on the digital signal.
This ringing also referred to as time smearing or blurring effect lessens with the increased resolution of the master recording (88.2k or 96k, 176.4k or 192k, 352.8 or 384k). DSD also measures very low in this ringing effect right out of the box.
MQA practically removes these echoes in its careful PCM technology and so the image you hear as a result is much more natural sounding and easier to listen to for longer periods of time. Instruments and voices are much more naturally located in space (left to right, up and down) as well as less confusion in our brain as to what is going on with these echos we’re hearing before the note or pulse actually gets to us. The ear is much more sensitive to location than it is to pitch! Thank you Darwin.
What’s commonly referred to as ear fatigue then gets reduced greatly and you can continue to hear the music without having to give your ears breaks.
Upsampling to DSD is now also a common feature on audio players both software and hardware. Doing this with a decoded MQA digital signal is something I’ve found to be nothing short of magical in terms of what you end up hearing from the DSD DAC as an analog signal (ie, music).
So Mobile and Home HRA has made some mighty gains in what it can do for all listeners at prices that really most if not all listeners can afford if they are looking for audio gear to feed their music habits.