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Author Topic: HOW Are You Listening?  (Read 2311 times)

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Offline CF

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HOW Are You Listening?
« on: December 31, 2010, 08:49:19 AM »
I've been meaning to start this thread for a while because it's becoming increasingly important HOW I listen to my 'pre-war' blues. Besides the obvious importance of the mastering of the music, what technology are you using to listen?
I got a computer earlier this year & so it (& my external hardrive) are housing many gigabytes of Blues music, so then my computer has become my stereo & I dare say many of you are listening the same way. But recently I decided that I wanted a richer listening experience . . . computer speakers are perhaps not ideal for acoustic music. So, I contacted some friends & within a week I was given some old speakers & an old tube stereo amp. I bought a connector that I run through the computer's headphone jack straight into the auxillary of the stereo & presto, big warm acoustic sound even from lower bit rate mp3s. I think we can tend to forget that we are often sacrificing quality for convenience nowadays & it's really worth it to step & back & make an effort to make our listening experiences richer.

I still listen to cassettes periodically, LPs, & my ipod is always there (headphones & a good-sounding port) but I really recommend thinking of running your computer through an amp & speakers, there's almost no comparison to the quality of standard computer speakers.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Rivers

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2010, 05:38:27 PM »
You may be sorry you asked. I have a 5.1 setup in the lounge but most scratchy music gets played in my office aka spare bedroom.

1. Everything is ripped to iTunes at a reasonable compression rate, not the defaults.
2. PC has two soundcards, a pro RayDat 24 channel and a Creative X-Fi consumer card. iTunes plays back through the X-Fi
3. The X-Fi is connected to a stereo channel of an Alesis 8 channel mini mixer (which also has an HD radio connected to another stereo channel)
4. The main outs of the Alesis are connected to the monitor inputs of a Mackie Onyx 24-4 board.
5. The monitor outs of the Mackie are connected to M-Audio BX8a powered monitors.

The reason I set this up was to allow me to have multiple consumer stereo feeds into the single stereo monitor channel on the Mackie (i.e. not consuming any channel strips), I have an Alesis HD-24XR recorder using 8 channels in and 8 out.

Picture attached, I took it while still posting this. I tidied up for you guys (not). Alesis is on the right. Note the Hula gal (my best Christmas present), Dixon & Godrich, Kindle, smokes, Guild F30R, Swiss Army knife, glass of chardonnay, pretty typical Friday night scene. 

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2010, 05:59:56 PM »
Quad ESL 63's, Through Quad electronics, High end SONY CD player, Harmon Kardon Cassette Deck, Kenwood KD500 turntable with SME 309 arm and Grado cartridge. All courtesy of my deceased friend Dr. I. Bernard Weinstein (not the tape deck or turntable set up) somewhat famous for being part of the team that made the link between asbestos & lung cancer. Actually it was his wife Joan who wouldn't let Bernie keep this big stuff when they moved from NJ to NYC. Bless 'em.

There's speakers and then there are the ESL 63's. Really, really, really worth tracking down a used pair.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline don o

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2010, 09:13:00 PM »
I have never been an audiophile type.  I still have several stereos (one with nice Avid speakers from the early 70s) but it is almost always about convenience for me.  The first thing I do on any new purchase is rip it to MP3s.  Those with sensitive ears may cringe, but they sound fine to me.  The instant accessibility is wonderful and I am continually digitizing LPs, cassettes, etc.  Another 30 years and I just may finish digitizing what I already have.  Maybe.  I'm getting pretty good with Audacity. 

I truly love my MP3 player in my truck.  The ability to drag and drop big chunks of music onto a flash drive, plug it in, and listen to it in order or randomly, with no risk of loss or destruction of the original, is simply amazing.  Then when I'm ready for something new, just plug in a new flash drive or wipe and rebuild the old one.  I have a couple of 8 gig and lots of 1 gig drives with thousands of tunes on them, just bouncing around in my glove box and ready when needed.  The ability to hold multiple box sets of music on a little stick that fits in your watch pocket is just way cool, to me.

Don't forget your back-ups!!  The more digital music and photos you have, the more important that is.

My very favorite way to listen to music is still live and in person.  No, I can't do that with Bessie Smith or Blind Willie McTell, but I can with contemporary country blues artists, and I do, whenever I can!

Offline dj

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2011, 06:10:32 AM »
The source for 90 percent of my listening is either my iPod or iTunes on my laptop.  The music comes over all sorts of "speakers":  Standard Apple earbuds, somewhat higher-end Sony earbuds, crappy foam headphones that originally came with a walkman many, many years ago, higher-end headphones, the speakers in my car and my wife's car, the speakers built into my laptop, and from my laptop through my NAD amplifier to either my B&W upstairs speakers or my PSB downstairs speakers.  They're all different and they're all ok.

I have to admit that the first time I put my iPod through both the cars' sound systems and my home stereo, I thought "God, this sounds like crap."  But I got used to it really fast.  I still appreciate the better sound I get from CDs both at home and in the car, but you just can't beat the convenience of an iPod with thousands of songs arranged into hundreds of both smart and defined playlists.     

Online eric

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2011, 08:26:07 AM »
Home - On the computer, I copy tunes at the highest quality I can (CD) and play them through a high end sound card and Klipsch powered speakers and a subwoofer; it sounds great.  My computer was built by TracerTek for the purpose of digitizing my collection of 78s, which at my current rate I expect to complete in the 22nd century.  I also have a standard hi-fi set up with CD player and Technics turntable.  Love those Yazoo LPs!
Mobile - I don't listen much in the truck, its just too noisy.  I'll use the iPod when walking the dog, frightening passers-by by singing along with Rev. Davis.  Hallelujah! ;D
--
Eric

Offline CF

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2011, 08:32:06 AM »
Wow, what a set-up River! I imagine you'd have everything you need right there.
Muck, are you listening to digital music at all?  
The rich 'acoustic' sound I mentioned was real noticeable to me especially when i listened to revivalist-era stuff, in fact a Sam Chatmon album I have as an mp3.
I too am converting most of my collection to Mp3 (but would rather know how to convert CDs to FLAC, a superior digital format to Mp3).
BUT, for you guys & or gals with these great systems, what do you do to get the richest sound possible from, say, Blind Lemon Jefferson's recordings? I would think that perhaps running some of that stuff through high-end audio equipment could be either great or just a magnification of lo-fi source sound.

I love this scene from the Joe Bussard doc 'Desperate Man.' Some say THIS is still the best way to hear 78 music . . . from 78s. Any Weenies have a 78 set up?

Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline uncle bud

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2011, 09:12:02 AM »
Like a number of people here, most of my listening has been done via my computer or an iPod for the past few years. However, I just moved my stereo system in the room with my laptop, so am now once again listening to CDs part of the time. The sound, unsurprisingly, is far superior, even from a pretty basic stereo system, nothing fancy at all. I had been working on some Furry Lewis songs at the time and when I popped the CD in I thought, wow. I have some half-decent Altec Lansings for my laptop but it doesn't compare. I now want to get a turntable working again, or buy one of those USB turntables.

While I love the access to thousands of songs and multiple playlists my computer affords me, I must say being forced to deal with one CD at a time has many benefits as well. I tend to skip over songs far less and listen much more. Plus with my sieve-like memory, the liner notes become a brand new experience again.

I will be very curious to hear FrontPage report in on this thread eventually. I know he's been converting stuff to FLAC or some other lossless format for backup.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2011, 09:13:03 AM by uncle bud »

Offline phhawk

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2011, 09:27:26 AM »
Personally, for listening to my 78's, I believe you start with the speakers and work backwards. About 25 years ago, I scored a custom made pair with (I'm not sure if I have the numbers right, so don't quote me on them, but) 15" JBL D135's (I think) and drivers from the JBL LE series (not sure of the number, maybe LE 175?). Everything is closed up in the speaker boxes so I can't see the numbers. Anyway, I absolutely love my speakers. Personally, didn't like Klipsch or Voice Of The Theater, etc. for 78's. The great thing about JBL's is: what goes in, is what comes out. They don't muck around with the sound.  

For an amp, I  use a McIntosh 240 and a McIntosh MX110 tuner/preamp. I also have a Mac1700 turner/amp that I use as a backup which I think actually works as well as the 240 et. al. I think the Mac 1700 is highly underrated and is about a sixth the price of having a 240 with a preamp.

For a turntable I use an Esoteric which I got through Nauck's Antique Records. Maybe not the best turntable but works for me and will play about any record ever made, verticals and laterals.

I've heard a few other systems of other well known 78 collectors and I like mine the best. I play everything with no filters and the controls straight up and down. Rarely do I feel that I need to switch needle sizes. The system seems to play most things perfectly, hassle free. All in all, the sound is the next best thing to having the musicians in the room.  

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2011, 09:30:30 AM »
First Happy New Year to all.
I've never loved digital music Mike. I noticed early on that if I put on a CD I tended to get up and move around & get distracted and when I listened to LPs I tended to sit in one place and listen intensely.
That being said I'm a big believer in trying to tweak the most sound out of whatever you're listening to. There is a whole school of tweakology and I've extracted some significant improvements in sound over the years by trying cheap tweaks. Here's a good one. Buy a box of gum erasers (shoe box shaped tan, crumbly things used by artists mostly not the hard red rubber kind, and place them under the feet of all your components and under your speakers 1 in each corner. This has worked well for me and is a good substitute to the high end isolation gizmos that a lot of audiophiles swear by. The rubber seems to absorb enough of the components mechanical vibrations to focus the sound more effectively.
I also use and i-pod and have started looking into truly loss-less encoding like FLAC but have also availed myself of i-tunes.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline lindy

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2011, 11:49:23 AM »

Love this thread, it reminds me of freshman dorm and being in my early twenties in the 70s, wearing really loud shirts and talking about amplifiers.

Here's a good article about how lousy digital sound is compared to analog, written by a NYC recording studio curmudgeon:

http://journalism.nyu.edu/publishing/archives/portfolio/bestof/2006/001868.html

But I agree with dj, you can easily get used to the tradeoff of sound versus convenience, it's not like mp3s sound like AM radio or anything like that. And for your serious sit-down-and-pay-attention listening, I'm with O'Muck that vinyl is the way to go, with CDs a distant second.

I'm out the door to find eight crumbly rubber erasers for my speakers!

Happy New Year, y'all.

Lindy

Offline Richard

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2011, 02:37:22 PM »


Deck Goldring Lenco which plays 78s with special stylus, the amp is a big Rotel Most coupled to big Tannoy Gold speakers all bought new late 60s! Plumbed into that is whatever has lasted the course - currently a decent Sherwood cassette deck and Phillips cd read\writer. I used to keep the old Ferrograph tape wired in but it takes up too much room! Daily background type music is on a varienty of el cheapo cd players depending on location. I recently bought a second hand graphic equalizer now that is wel worth doing it.  El cheapo imitaion iPod for travel.

In the garage (!) there is another set up with an unknown make of amp which drives an enormous pair of Wharfdales which can be run flat out without distortion to shake the foundations for the odd time I get the urge to play drums along with a big band  ;)  That is also connected to a great 78 deck which is an old Garrard SP25, lurking somewhere is also a genuinel heavy pickup 40s type 78 deck which takes needles... oh and plus the odd wind up gramaphone or three!

Finally, as for playing 78s, there is no question you must play them as is.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Online eric

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2011, 03:11:44 PM »
My 78 setup is a modified (by Esoteric) Sony Technics 1200 with a Stanton 78 cartridge.  I have a couple of custom stylii to match groove width and depth.  My amp is a good quality Yamaha, then some old but excellent Electro-voice speakers.

The sound experience is so subjective; audiophiles have argued about various components for decades.  A well recorded CD works fine for me, although I still enjoy my LPs.  One of the weird things about listening to 78s after a while is that the surface noise falls away and you just hear the music.  Its a brain thing, not an ear thing.  I play them for friends who say how can you stand to listen to that?  I don't hear it; its like living next to the train tracks, after a while you don't notice it.

I will say this however: There are some 78s when played on that turntable setup with quality headphones that just knock your socks off.  I have an E Blake Paramount(!) that is just hair-raising it sounds so good.  The music practically jumps out of the grooves. 
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Eric

Offline Johnm

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2011, 03:56:59 PM »
You make a good point, Eric, about the brain editing out the surface noise in all but the most extreme instances.  I'm the opposite of an audiophile, but when I can hear something reproduced really nicely, I certainly appreciate it. 
All best,
Johnm

Offline Richard

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Re: HOW Are You Listening?
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2011, 09:32:48 AM »
Quote
One of the weird things about listening to 78s after a while is that the surface noise falls away and you just hear the music.  Its a brain thing, not an ear thing.  I play them for friends who say how can you stand to listen to that?  I don't hear it; its like living next to the train tracks, after a while you don't notice it.

I will say this however: There are some 78s when played on that turntable setup with quality headphones that just knock your socks off.  I have an E Blake Paramount(!) that is just hair-raising it sounds so good.  The music practically jumps out of the grooves.

EH I couldn't agree more and a good copy 78 seems to have far more presence than the eqivalent cd\lp any day of the week, year even.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

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