Sunday, March 27, 2016

$500 USB Cable for audio

Woohoo, check out the Platinum Starlight 7 USB 2.0 cable

Hey its only north of 500 bucks, better jump right on that for such a low price to upgrade the sound of your digital audio! Or maybe, use your head and buy a five dollar one instead. Up to you.

What does the manufacturer claim about the cable? " breathtaking vividness, focus and dynamic expression"

Well, hey...What units do you measure vividness and focus in? I don't see any spectral data on the website that should back up such a claim but oh well, what about dynamic expression? Are they claiming that a normal USB cable compromises the dynamic range? Are they claiming instead that this cable somehow expands the dynamic range above and beyond what is actually recorded? Should you just take their word that there's a difference worth 495 bucks? Or any difference at all?

They DO claim that this is the "first USB cable to exceed 10.2Gbps transmission speed". Awesome! except that the USB spec is for 480Mbps, or 21 times slower than the cable. I could see maybe making the cable twice as fast as needed, "just in case", but there shouldn't be anything to gain by going even that far.

How fast do you need anyway? For standard CD audio, we have 44.1khz sample rate, times 16 bits, times 2 for stereo, which comes out to 1.411Mbps. For 24bit/96kHz  (no I'm not even going to get into whether or not 96khz makes any sense for regular playback in this post!) we need 4.608Mbps. Still nowhere near that 10.2Gbps.

As far as I can tell, the speed claim, "expanded geometry" and "Composilex 2 insulation" are what gives this cable all that magical, claimed, extra vividness, focus and dynamic expansion. I'm not buying it, should you?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dangerous Territory

After a long pause, and due to the nature of the work i have been doing over the last few years, I want to delve into the debate about whether or not tone woods and guitar construction in general affect an electric guitar's AMPLIFIED tone. I know this subject is fraught with peril, so I want to be really careful.

Without question though, one place where people get jacked repeatedly comes from the attempt at chasing the dragon of that elusive magic guitar tone! We could all probably name several examples of outright fraud being sold to the aspiring guitar player without breaking a sweat. I am far more interested in what the science and logic in general have to say. I realize that a great many, perhaps the majority of people selling these claims actually believe them, so they aren't necessarily being malicious, even if they turn out to be untrue. I know this subject can ruffle some feathers, and I'm not really known for staying away from controversy, so this could get ugly really fast. Please try to keep in mind that offense is taken, not given.

I want to make it clear, hopefully as I did in the allcaps above that i am talking about the *amplified* tone of an electric guitar.

I'll say it again: I am only interested in this discussion in the signal that appears on the guitar's output jack.

So what are the claims I'm looking at?

1. The type of wood used on a guitar affects the electrical signal the guitar generates.
    a) The effect the wood has on tone directly
    b) The effect the wood has on mechanical qualities like sustain, which of course could also lead to a tone change

2. Bridge and nut materials (or locking vs standard nuts) affecting the tone. Here we can get into some insanely expensive stuff like the titanium replacement blocks for Floyd Roses (sheesh! Only 460 dollars for this guy! )

3. Construction methods (bolt on, set neck, neck-thru, etc) and their effect on tone

I really want to know first if there's even a mechanism for audibility, and one I keep stumbling over is the phenomenon of microphonic pickups. There may be a "there" there. Whether it passes the threshold of audibility in common use is another matter.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Floyd Rose Part II

So to continue our floating tremolo talk, I was thrilled to death that another issue came up which is so near and dear to the critical thinking Don't Get jacked was meant to promote.

As many of you know, there exists a market for stabilization devices for tremolos. I could never hope to do justice to that subject the way this excellent website does. Go have a look, it is well worth your time.

Almost without exception, and yesterday was par for the course, any discussion of tremolo stabilizers is undoubtedly met with "well those things change your tone"

What a perfect call to arms for the friend of every critical thinker and the sworn enemy of every marketing company in the universe, the dreaded ABX test!

Now, you can conduct this experiment yourself without too much hassle. There is a problem that it wont be fully blinded, as you will know while supplying the raw data (actually playing the guitar) if the stabilizer was on or off, but the listening test should be decently blinded. Maybe have a friend do the playing instead.

I have done this a few times through the last 20 years, but certainly not enough to be statistically significant.

When doing this test I ask two questions

1: Identify which one has the stabilizing device
2: Which do you like better

The results have been VERY close to random for me.

Slightly more than random, people get #1 wrong

Slightly more than random, the guitar with the stabilizer wins #2

Why should that be? Again, I say, my sample data pool is too small and probably need many more test subjects, but I have a suggestion.

If I look at the waveforms generated by the stabilized and non stabilized guitars on a frequency analyzer, I can't tell the difference. Sometimes I think i can pick which is which, but then I realize I am just fooling myself. However! Looking at the waveform itself, the stabilized guitars almost always sustain longer, sometimes far, far longer on the plain strings than their nonstabilized counterparts.

Does more sustain sound better? That's the only real tonal difference I can quantify

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"There's a trick to making floyd rose's stay in tune"

..."thru proper tension"

A million variations on this one. A discussion I've had about four billion times with Billy Siegle, Michael Kaye, and Skully the great

Usually not such a big deal as far as unsinkable rubber duck myths go, but sometimes its a right pisser. Today, unfortunately for me, it was said in front of a band I was working with. By a real deal guitar tech. Youch

So lets examine this one. Let's ignore what is truly the skill of a good guitar tech, which is to get rid of all the binding and loose tolerances that can impede the mechanics of the tremolo system. Let's look at the actual physics involved:

From the biggest noob to the greatest guitar tech in the universe, a full floating tremolo will come to rest when string tension = spring tension


No real space for magic in there.

Rest your palm on the tremolo to palm mute. Surprise! You just raised your string tension and lowered your spring tension

Do a bend. Surprise! You just raised the tension on the bent string and lowered the tension on the unbent strings.

Well you knew all that right? But what about this:

When you pick a chord, you change your string tension. And your spring tension! Yeah, that's that nasty crap sound that bugs the hell out of you on even a perfectly intonated floating bridge guitar when chords are played.

This is how it is on a fully floating bridge guitar. Don't like it? Too bad. As said so many times on this blog, the laws of physics do not even BEGIN to give a crap how you feel about them.

Monday, January 10, 2011

DASH the babies' heads against the rocks


Now I'm all for the fun of trying to emulate analog tape as much as the next guy. In fact, Nomad Factory has some pretty cool plugins, I like to look in on them from time to time.

But this line really caught my eye

"Mitsubishi's ProDigi and Sony's Digital Audio Stationary Head (DASH) were the primary digital reel-to-reel formats in use in recording studios from the early 1980s through the mid 1990's. With the MAGNETIC, Nomad Factory has captured the essence of DASH technology and made the sound of high-fidelity digital tape recording available in plug-in format."

Now, a lot of you know how much of a ProDigi and DASH nut I was, you think I'd be joyful over this thing. But lets look at that statement

"With the MAGNETIC, Nomad Factory has captured the essence of DASH technology and made the sound of high-fidelity digital tape recording available in plug-in format"

You know what the sound of digital tape is?


No sound, no nada. Digital tape is a storage medium. Whatever you put on it is what you get back...period

If you want a plugin to 100% faithfully, accurately and reliably emulate DASH or ProDigi, heres how you do it:

Let X=input
Let Y=output
Let X=Y

Done...or for the same result, don't put a plugin there.

Do they mean that they're emulating the sound of 250 pounds of early analog to digital converters?