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Do I really need to get out the soldering-iron again? (naughtycomputer.uk)
425 points by xylon 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 417 comments



I have a pair of powered studio monitors (Mackie MR5), and I completely relate to this problem. Many PCs and phones will emit an audible hissing noise while plugged in. I've tested on a dozen different devices, with integrated and external DACs, five hundred dollar sound cards, massively shielded cables, practically every modern OS you can name, tweaking every audio setting exposed to me. The only devices that work perfectly are (1) my TV output, and (2) every single Apple product.

I'm wholly convinced that the computing world is, in general, regressing. Audio has been a huge loser in this fight. Today, many modern phones don't ship with 3.5mm jacks. If you want lossless audio, you literally can't find it, even though there's zero reason companies like Spotify couldn't stream it when available (even if it costs extra) (Spotify literally asks artists to upload the masters when they publish, they have that data and then throw it away). Many artists don't even publish physical CDs anymore, so its a game of luck if they have a website where I can buy the FLACs/ALACs. And if you want the actual files to, you know, live your life in a completely legal way, those are gone.

Its more than just audio. Watching movies sucks; you now pay full price to effectively indefinitely rent movies, and have them taken away at any time. eBooks are the same and always have been; the world's oldest technology has been coopted by companies like Amazon to increase revenue, and there's practically zero competition. Applications suck; we're puking web and electron everywhere, eating up every conceivable megabyte of memory available literally only because developers are lazy, and now you're consistently asked to pay a monthly fee to access this functionality literally only because companies are lazy. Modern operating systems suck; restricting filesystem access, exposing proprietary application APIs which fundamentally make applications unportable and thus contributing to the rise of Electron/RN.

Somehow we took systems and workflows that were amazing throughout the 90s-00s and, in the course of a decade, completely ruined them.


Except you’re leaving out all the positives and only focusing on the negatives.

Sure, Google can revoke my access to a movie at any time but I can watch on any of my devices and I dont have to worry about finding it in stock at the local store.

I can carry literally thousands of books with me in a device smaller than a paperback.

I can’t stream lossless music from Spotify but I can stream high enough quality that most people can’t tell the difference. Not to mention you get access to pretty much every song you want for 10$ a month.

Electron apps and the web are replacing desktop apps but they are also making it easier than ever to make a cross platform app, meaning we will get apps that we otherwise wouldn’t. This is especially good for Linux, which would be much further behind macOS and windows without popular electron/web apps available like slack, Spotify, etc.


Those aren't positives.

It does nobody any good to have 1000 books on a single device if the whole thing is subject to revocation, especially when you paid full retail price for the privilege of being allowed to read it. This is regression.

Previously you paid your $10 and received a paper book. You could read it, re-read it, lend it, sell it, or burn it for warmth. You owned it for as long as you kept it dehydrated. The $15 you now pay per book gets you one of these rights, temporarily.

Whether most people can tell the difference between 320k and lossless is irrelevant-- the retail price is the same for a technically inferior product. This is a regression. And again, for your money, you own nothing.

And for apps, the cross-platform compatibility comes at the expense of consumers, who have to continuously purchase and maintain newer computer equipment to do the same damn word processing, email and shopping tasks that used to be possible on a 486. And of course, since everything is a subscription, it's a double punishment for the consumer-- they have to maintain hardware to run software they don't own.

The entire premise of modern technology has become a new vector to extract the most money from the consumer while delivering the least amount of value, power or control.


To agree with you and wilsonnb3 at the same time- I highly value OWNING the things I buy and am also willing to pay extra for the privilege of convenience.

When I buy movies I generally buy the Blu-Ray with digital download. If it’s a kid’s movie I usually just buy the digital download. I almost never pull out the Blu-Rays, but I know I’ve got them. They usually come with the DVD as well, for even more compatability in a pinch.

When I buy books I generally buy the Kindle version first. I generally only take time to read on planes, trains, and travel/vacation. I’m good for maybe one a month. If I really like the book, I’ll buy a hardbound copy for my library.

Music is the part where I have internal consistency issues. I love music. I love all kinds of music. Motown, classic rock, hard rock, EDM/Electronic in general, classical, folk, rap. I have music on ALL the time. Probably 6-8 hours a day on average. I own no music. I pay for Apple Music because it’s convenient to share a subscription with my wife. I last bought physical album in probably 2008-ish. I buy an album or two on Apple Music a year. Where I really spend my music money is concerts. I’ll pay hundreds of dollars without thinking twice to see my favorite artists up close and in person.

So yeah, I agree that all the convenient ways of purchasing media are nothing but a long term lease and I would not consider anything I’ve bought through those channels as something I own. But if I flip it around and consider that I’m paying some third party to host a copy of the content in a convenient way, I feel okay about it.


>It does nobody any good to have 1000 books on a single device if the whole thing is subject to revocation

If what you really care about is reading and the knowledge you get from it, as opposed to the opportunity to take some totally unrelated stand, then yes, it really does do you some serious good to have thousands of books in your pocket!


> Whether most people can tell the difference between 320k and lossless is irrelevant-- the retail price is the same for a technically inferior product. This is a regression.

My camera can save images as either raw files or maximum-quality jpeg's. I know for a fact that I will never need to edit these photos later on. Which format is superior?

Useless data is of no value to anyone, and data we cannot perceive is useless.

If you're worried about license revocation, you should focus on obtaining DRM-Free digital media instead of killing trees. And make backups, of course. DRM-Free is standard for downloadable music nowadays. DRM-Free eBooks are less common, but they do exist, e.g. https://www.kobo.com/us/en/p/drm-free


Ha ha, those who would sacrifice ownership for convenience deserve neither.

That about sum it up?


It does me good to have those 1000 books. When I finish one on the train I get to pick a new one from the device when I don’t have network.


Why not reflect on the one you just finished? Stop. Think.


It does nobody any good to have 1000 books on a single device if the whole thing is subject to revocation, especially when you paid full retail price for the privilege of being allowed to read it. This is regression.

What? You can still buy the paperback book, tons of my kindle books are $10 or less, and it very clearly benefits me, which is why I buy tons of Kindle books.


You don't own the book itself though, you own a license to the book. The doctrine of first sale does not apply, and they can revoke your license at any time.

They have revoked licenses in the past and deleted books from people's devices. I know you have a physical file that contains the book, but that file is secured with DRM.


> You don't own the book itself though,

To be blunt: Who really cares?

I care that I can read it. After I have I don't see further use for the ownership.

Others can claim they can revoke my access before the read event occurs but the chance of that is so low that I imagine it rounds to 0%.


I mean if I'm only going to read a book once I'm not going to spend $10 on it. The only books I buy are books I'd like to own so I can read them again in the future. If I'm paying $10 to read a book once that basically makes Amazon into a really shitty library that also sells knockoff goods and forces their employees to work in sweatshop like conditions.


I’m aware, but I don’t really care. I judge the risk to be really small, and the convenience to more than make up for it. And since I can still get the physical book if I choose, it’s hard to argue that this extra option with its pros and cons is a regression.


It worries me that you believe there's a natural conflation between the genuinely valuable services products like Kindle offer, and the specific business model of purchasing ephemeral licenses to media content. Kindle, Google Play, iTunes, whatever; they're amazing services that provide a lot of value. But that value could still be conveyed if the products they offered didn't have additional restrictions beyond those restrictions already present on physical media.

I'm not going full RMS here and saying DRM is evil. I'm just saying that: I should be able to loan digital content to other people. I shouldn't be afraid that Apple will, one day, just say "I know you really enjoyed spending $200 on all that media, but its all gone. See ya." Maybe that means they need to offer downloads of the content, or maybe it means we need legislation which says we can sue the hell out of them when they try it. I have no preference. But consumers need more protection.

Also its worth clarifying: I don't hold subscription services to the same standards. That's a different business model.


Not “most people” - pros on high end equipment cannot pass an ABX on 256kbps MP3. Spotify’s “extreme” quality setting is 320kbps.

This isn’t some “normies”/“audiophiles” thing. 256kbps mp3 is acoustically transparent to human beings in ideal listening situations.

The bad rap mp3 got was from 128kbps that was more common pre-broadband.

Also, using lossy compressed sources (even 256-320kbps) in derivative works (eg dj mixes, samples, et c) that will be later lossy recompressed (podcast, satellite radio, spotify, et c) is a good way to make your production sound crappy, which is why lossless is important. Any audiophile who tells you they need lossless for final listening simply hasn’t tested it. It is religion, not engineering.


256kbps MP3 is transparent in most cases, but there are some sounds that MP3 is bad at encoding (notably the sound of maracas and similar rattle type sounds), and you can train yourself to get better at identifying MP3 artifacts. People have reported successful ABX of maracas sound at 256kbps, e.g.:

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/when-is-mp3-transparent-an-a...


Excellent post! The author notes that 320kbps mp3 was transparent in his testing. 320kbps Vorbis (Spotify “Extreme” setting) is even better.


Spotify also uses Vorbis, not MP3. Sound quality should be better for a given bitrate since vorbis is a more modern codec.

(They possibly use MP3 in their webplayer according to some sources)


Everyone gives this pitch, but I alwast spot the teltale digitl diatortion immediately. It affects the transients. We are training ourselves to hear worse.


I disagree. I can often tell the difference between CD audio and 320 or v0 mp3s. I can also notice compression on files with a lower bitrate than 320 or v0.

You can really notice the difference on the high end and the width of the soundstage.

However above 16 44.1 I can't hear a difference.


>Not to mention you get access to pretty much every song you want for 10$ a month.

If you listen to mainstream shit where the artist does not have enough control of their work to opt out of the scam that is the pay scale for streaming music.

I have had to resort to ripping vinyl and CDs from my collection to get digital versions of tracks that Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Music do not have. If I had to do it all over again, I'd keep the vinyl and CDs in the box and just grab the music from somewhere like REDacted instead.


I ripped all my CDs at one point, realized it was a pain in the ass, deleted all of them, and then redownloaded them from Oink.cd/What.cd.

I stopped buying albums for a while, because I have a Google play music subscription, but a couple albums I really liked were deleted from the service recently. I had "added them to my library", understanding that I didn't own them, but I never expected them to get pulled from the service.

I'm getting pretty sick of Google Play shenanigans altogether. I'm probably going back to ripping my own music because the streaming services suck, and oink/what are shut down.


Not sure if it will last, but Google Play Music does allow you to upload your music to the service. It does not matter if those songs get removed from Google’s licensing or if they never existed on Google in the first place: they are streamed independently.


I already give everything but a bloody DNA sample to Google. I'm not giving them neatly tagged music files of music that I like that is not on their service that they can then combine with the music I listen to from their service so they can advertise to me over a music bed that they think is to my liking.


The "positives" you've listed were basically the case for the standard 00's setup. You just had to undertake some deliberate action to adopt it as your setup, rather than going along with that period's sharecropper option.


How would you maintain access to your entire library across multiple devices in the 00’s?


I had an iPod with a big hard drive that synced when I plugged it in (Linux). I either ran a streaming server off my home machine or mounted my filesystem via sshfs.


Re. flac downloads, Bandcamp (almost?) always offers a flac download option. You'd be surprised how many bands have a Bandcamp page, even if they're signed to labels.

The option is not well advertised. After you purchase a digital download, there's a tiny arrow next to the 'download' link that allows you to switch the download to flac.

I always download flac and consequently spend a lot of money at Bandcamp!


OGG too.

I love Bandcamp.

They also have an app that offers streaming and a bunch of social features so you can make a page for yourself where you show off the music you like and make playlists and interact with others. It's probably a great feature, but the thing that really sets Bandcamp apart is that you can just ignore the fuck out of it and pay money for some files that you can download using a browser and put on your own drives and devices.


> OGG too.

Of course there's no need for a separate OGG download; no matter how transparent the MP3 encoding is, one thing at which MP3s suck and lossless codecs, by definition, excel is re-encodeability. If you've got FLAC, you're not far from OGG, AAC, and any other format you like.


Bandcamp is pretty much single-handedly keeping high quality audio alive. I exclusively buy music from them and then load it on to my own music streaming server.


While Bandcamp is indeed a great service you might want to add Boomkat, Qobuz and Bleep to that list.


Thank you for the extra sources.


Wow I can sympathize. Sounds like you're discerning a S/N ratio problem that would have disqualified the designs from 'high fidelity' in the late 70s and through the 80s. And you have to wonder if in your TV/Apple the hiss is there but is being noise gated. I too believe there has been regression. All it takes is one generation to 'interrupt' consumer expectations of ever increasing quality.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18569013


Not so long ago widely used audio codecs (the actual ADC/DAC part in the PC) had big problems with idle tones at low signal levels (which were simply gated off at silence, otherwise you would have gotten constant, looping artifacts). I managed to reproduce over 100 % THD+N with my old Thinkpad X200, i.e. more, very clearly audible, noise and artifacts than signal.

This is a separate issue though from the usually high output noise floor and poor isolation from other components, e.g. many complaints about many makes and models where CPU/GPU or even disk activity will induce audible pulse noises in the heaphone outputs or speakers.


The only way I found to minimize/eliminate HISS while using high quality monitors/pro speakers is to pair them with a proper external USB Audio Card.

Those External Audio Cards receive the signal in digital form, thus free of any noise they could pick up in the process. These are decoded inside the external DAC which then feeds audio to the speakers. since this part of the signal path is analog, any interference picked up by these cables is gonna appear on the speakers, which is why the good gear usually supports BALANCED SIGNALS so that the speaker can reference the signal and weed out noises added while in-transit.

My gear is a pair of YAMAHA HS8 speakers and a YAMAHA AG06 external audio card. Both support Balanced audio so that's what I'm using regarding cables between the audio card and the speakers.


Checked out the AG06 but it has internal DSP and other things I don't really need, plus it seemed like more of an audio interface than a sound card, do you have any recommendations for balanced audio usb external cards without all of the extra stuff?


Sadly, I don't.

A replier said something about a brand called "Schiit Audio", but I've researched them and they only offer stuff with RCA outputs which are sadly not balanced at all.

If you're on a budget you could get the AG03 which is the same interface, but with less input channels.

Also, the DSP is totally optional on those, If you don't use it you'll bypass it totally, not coloring or changing your signal in any way.

Btw you mentioned your speakers are Mackie, right? Before buying, research if your speakers actually support balanced input (they use XLR or P2/TRS "stereo" (2 black bands) for that, because each speaker is actually receiving 2 polarity-inverted copies of the signal). If all they have are RCA inputs (mono), you're out of luck.

Hope I could help!

EDIT: I have researched your monitors and they do have all three types of input: XLR and TRS (balanced) and RCA (unbalanced). yay \o/

Now go get yourself a nice audio interface with support for balanced output and go make yourself some nice XLR cables.

The Yamaha AG03 AG06 output balanced TRS signals, but for that extra "click" factor no the monitors I have built a custom cable that is TRS on the DAC and XLR to the monitors. That way it stays put :-)

Have a good one mate!


The Mackie guy was another poster, I don't have any balanced speakers so I would need to purchase them in tandem with a card.

> make yourself some nice XLR cables

Intriguing. How difficult is this?


Pretty easy and you can find schematics online!

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/BPBQXM10--pro-co-bpb...

this is the kind of cable you are looking for if your audio card can only output balanced audio via TRS plugs (like mine, Yamaha AG06).

Good luck!

EDIT: Found the schematics for you!

https://www.mediacollege.com/audio/connection/xlr-jack-stere...


“Pin 2 is high” God


I think that's what Schiit specializes in.


I've researched this brand and could only find devices sporting RCA outputs (like Fulla or Bifrost). You need a proper XLR balanced output (3 wires) for balanced.

In that regard, the AG06 is much cheaper than any of the offerings i'm finding from Schiit.


None of this is the computing world regressing; it's just businesses regressing, or the law regressing, or convention in your social bubble regressing (regressing from what you like, mind, not what other people want.) The time with maximum availability of lossless audio and high-quality movies is right now. You can go join a private tracker and have the largest catalog of them in existence available to you for free, and you have the most bandwidth, most storage, and best tools in existence to organize and consume them. With books, you have to exert even less effort, because there is a huge global search engine where you can instantly download them without any registration barrier. If you don't choose to do that stuff, it's not software stopping you.


Did you do a blind test on spotify's high quality vs lossless?

At least with 320mp3s I could only get it right with certain songs and not too consistently. I'd say my room treatment has a far bigger impact.

(but regarding hardware I'm totally with you and haven't found the source of my rather high noise floor either)


Test your system (and your room) with this audio quality quiz, comparing lossless audio with several compressed bit rate streams [1]. With my 50-year old ears, and an outboard DAC/amp and audiophile magnetic planar headphones, I could only score 50%.

That said, switching between Spotify and Tidal on the same track, I hear a pretty big difference. The lossless music has a depth that just isn't there on the compressed streams

[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2015/06/02/411473508/...


I think some of it is whether you're used to listening to the type of music. All those samples are types of music I don't normally listen to and thus scored 0%. They're also mostly low-information songs that are vocal-heavy. Vocal-heavy music is very easy to compress compared to say something like electronic or EDM type music which will easily create distortion with lower bitrates.


I got 4 / 6 with some old Apple EarPods plugged into my laptop. I think it was probably just luck, because I picked the 128kbps MP3 for both of the ones that I got wrong.

It's fun to think that I might be able to distinguish between uncompressed audio and 320kbps MP3. I didn't think it was possible. I had a hearing test recently, and they did say that I have better than average hearing. But yeah it was probably just random.


Whoa I just put on a nicer pair of headphones (Plantronics BackBeat Pro), and I think I might be able to tell the difference between uncompressed audio and 320kbps MP3.

I just did this test and got the first two right: https://www.theverge.com/2017/4/5/15168340/lossless-audio-mu...

The third one was really tricky so I had to guess. But the first two were a really clear difference. Uncompressed kind of sounds "fuller" and sharper, and MP3 is a bit flatter. It's a tiny difference but I think I can hear it.


too bad they don't randomize the sample order, makes the public % of people getting it right useless.

The first sample surprised me on how much of a difference it was, on the 2nd I was wrong, on the 3rd completely lost, but I guess that's by design.


I agree. counter-intuitively I heard the biggest difference in the base


I got 2/6 right, the 4 wrong were 320kbps. Using the cheap-but-decent shp9500s and no dac, but quite good hearing. I'd chalk it up to having been listening to almost exclusively streamed 320kbps, it was interesting to note that the 4 I got wrong were because I discarded the more 'neutral' toned one which was actually lossless.

The 128kbps was of course very easy to pick out.

I'm of the opinion that 320 vs lossless is meaningless enough to not really bother, but I know for some tracks it was trivial for me to tell the different. Mostly it was the very complex/atmospheric tracks, Mind In A Box being a good example, where 320 lost a notable amount of quality. Probably others like Ne Obliviscaris as well.

The biggest problem with Spotify is that not all of their library is available at 320kbps.


it's 320kbps ogg btw.

Spotify uses 3 quality ratings for streaming, all in the Ogg Vorbis format.

• ~96 kbps • Normal quality on mobile.

• ~160 kbps • Desktop and web player standard quality. • High quality on mobile.

• ~320 kbps (only available to Premium subscribers) • Desktop high quality. • Extreme quality on mobile.


I got 3/6 right using the iPhone XR built-in speakers (other three were 320k). I then tried it again with someone else clicking the buttons (in case they weren’t randomized order) using my DAC/amp and headphones and got 5/6.

The thing that gives it away for me is the extreme highs and lows, both are clipped when compressed usually. I should note, I wasn’t picking which “sounded better”, but rather which “sounded uncompressed”. Several of the tracks sounded better at 320k than they did uncompressed to me. Despite being rather close to 40, I am still able to easily hear sounds well over 20kHz.


I'd say it's nearly impossible to compare that way, because the volume hast to be precisely the same (louder always sounds better).


What I will say about lossy MP3 audio is that in a blind ABX style test, I imagine I would not be able to point out which is which if the bitrate is high enough. However, if you play the lossy audio and lossless audio back to back in a good critical listening environment, there will often be small detectable differences between the two.

The difference is usually very, very subtle (my description for it is "soundstage differences", like slight differences in audio imaging) and if you are in the situation you are 99% of the time where you are not in a critical listening environment, you probably won't be able to even hear this. But if you are absolutely gung-ho about preserving the full spectrum of the recording, MP3 won't work. It's not an archival format by design.


It all really depends on the gold plating of your cables


Gold plating? Ridiculous. All my cables are mineral water shielded.


Ha, loser! My cables were made in the same places that they make the best cuban cigars, naked beautiful people of the appropriate genders make the best cigars and the best cables. My ethernet cable is sex on wheels.



That's just sad


not sure if sarcasm or not...


“I don’t perceive it, therefore it doesn’t exist”.


FLAC is best for archiving songs. MP3 is outdated tech and if I wanted lossy audio I would use opus but transcoding MP3 to opus will destroy the quality of the track so you have to go FLAC -> opus


Wat.

> we're puking web and electron everywhere ... literally only because developers are lazy

No. This is done because developers are slow and expensive. Reusing most of your web app as a desktop app, same for every platform, saves a lot of money to companies.

> you're consistently asked to pay a monthly fee to access this functionality literally only because companies are lazy

No. This is because companies want recurring revenue, not one-time sale. It's vastly easier to get you into ("only $3.99/mo" vs "only $199.95 for lifetime of use"), and it keeps dripping every month.

There's not a bit of laziness here, only business shrewdness.


Businesses are inherently lazy. Business shrewdness and laziness are literally the same thing; businesses always take the easiest path to the greatest profit. "Lazy" just means "unwilling to expend energy".

Let's say Dow Chemical wants to start dumping chemical by-products into the Mississippi River. Thankfully, we have the EPA and strict laws which make this impossible. The only other force which would stop them from doing this is consumer outrage, which only works in some situations and even then tends to be very fleeting.

Now, let's say Slack wants to build their app in Electron. By doing so, they are collectively forcing their 8M users to burn more CPU cycles and purchase machines with larger memory footprints, all of which literally waste resources and cause pollution. Not to the same degree as the previous example, but the comparison is very valid.


> If you want lossless audio, you literally can't find it,

What audio could you get lossless before that you now can't that you're claiming there has been a regression?

> Watching movies sucks; you now pay full price to effectively indefinitely rent movies

You can buy most movies on physical disks. The old physical copy ownership option still exists. There has been no regression, just new options you personally don't like.

> Applications suck; we're puking web and electron everywhere

Clearly the market has decided that the heavier versions are just as fine. Also, in pretty much every case there's also lightweight non-electron alternative. There has been no regression, just new options you don't like.

> Modern operating systems suck; restricting filesystem access, exposing proprietary application APIs which fundamentally make applications unportable and thus contributing to the rise of Electron/RN.

That is absolutely your own fault if your OS restricts FS access. Applications are just as unportable as they have been. There has been no regression, just new options you don't like.

You're just looking at the past like it was some gold standard and a wonderland of software, development and user freedom (of choice or of software), it's ridiculous.


> What audio could you get lossless before that you now can't that you're claiming there has been a regression?

Compact discs. You should look them up. :-) Lots of music out these days that you can't find on a CD.


I know well enough what CDs are :) could you please give a few examples of songs you can't get?


I'll literally click on the playlist I'm listening to right now and start listing albums that don't appear available physically on Amazon.

(1) Til The End - MitiS (2) Dear Me, - Borgeous (3) Ultraviolet - 3LAU (4) Mau5ville Level 1 - Deadmau5 (5) Sleeping With Roses - Chelsea Cutler

I could go on, because I literally didn't skip a single song. I started at the top and went down. On this playlist of 300 songs, I would guess that fewer than 20 have physical albums widely available. In some cases, the artist will sell one on their website (ironically LPs are even more popular nowadays).

And why should they? CDs suck. But they do two things really well: they have clear ownership, and they're pretty close to a master recording. Digital does not have to remove these advantages; we can improve instead of regress. Products like Bandcamp do an excellent job of replicating this experience digitally, but few artists distribute on there, because consumers-at-large demand music on Spotify/iTunes/GPM/etc. Tidal also does a really good job of getting masters, but doesn't have the "you own it" advantage.

In other words, consumers have ruined music for both the artists and audiophiles by changing the rules of the game and forcing the markets to adapt in a way that isn't backward compatible with how things have worked. Artists make shit money on most streaming services, and people who actually care about the audio quality also get shafted.



Yeah, but what I was trying to say is that even before you couldn't get every song or album on CD, some were distributed only on tape, some only on vinyl, if you could even get a CD player or buy a CD (not too long ago USSR existed). I'm not saying your situation is ideal, but I am not saying it's a regress that some audiophiles can't get lossless but more people can consume audio (so easily).


Regarding your Mackies, which exact DACs and sound cards have you tested them with? According to the manual [1] they expect a +4dBu input, which will lead to unnecessary noise if you use them with "consumer" -10dBu gear. Most audio interfaces (i.e. designed for recording, not Schiit-type DACs) with balanced output will do +4dBu - I believe it's standard on all Focusrites.

[1] https://www.hhb.co.uk/files/product/file/user_manual_2013112...


> Watching movies sucks; you now pay full price to effectively indefinitely rent movies, and have them taken away at any time.

The quality of streaming services is also a far cry from BDs.



> If you want lossless audio, you literally can't find it.

While I agree with your general thoughts, I have to disagree with this particular point. In my opinion there's never been a better time for lossless audio. My collection is made of digital, lossless material only. I buy a lot of music - about 5-10 releases a week - and I have no problem at all finding everthing I want in a lossless format. I understand that this may differ depending on what you listen to and ironically obscure, niche music might be better served by lossles music stores, but I just wanted to provid a different perspective.

If I don't what I'm looking for at Bandcamp, Boomkat, Bleep, Qobuz or various label stores chances are that it's a physical-only release, in which case ripping it myself is always an option.


Thankfully some services like Bandcamp sells DRM-free albums in FLAC.


> If you want lossless audio, you literally can't find it

If you like electronic music, Bandcamp and Beatport (thankfully) sell stuff in lossless. Bandcamp is arguably the best: largest cut for the artist; large range of format wth no extra cost for lossless.


I agree with everything you've said except for

> literally only because developers are lazy

I think management has a lot to do with this, or priorities in general because at the end of the day working with electron and web everywhere is on a superficial level just as difficult as working with other languages-- it's a matter of training and hiring the right people for the right jobs.


Any advice on a quality Lightning to 3.5mm adapter? The official Apple one is so flimsy that one or both channels cut out anytime I move the phone. My workaround is to heatshrink the cable and both ends, so it’s rigid enough not to cut out. But it’s ugly and probably won’t last more than a few months.


Its going to sound crazy but stick a paperclip into the lightning port and scrape along the top. I bet a small amount of dirt will come out.

These ports pick up some lint and dust after a few months and it packs in pretty hard. Eventually it will give you connection issues.


A thin toothpick should achieve the same without scratching the inside of the port.


I would say use one of those brushes that are for flossing in between teeth, that’s what I use and it works great.


Use a cotton swab with some of the material plucked off to make it thinner and soak it in CAIG DeoxIT or MG Chemicals Electrosolve (you can typically buy these from Fry's / MicroCenter / online). These chemicals are made to actually clean and de-oxidize contacts.


Sounds like a defective connector. Mine doesn't cut out at all that I have noticed.


If you use it a lot, it gets flaky after a few months because of the poor quality of the wiring and wire boot.


You have dust/lint inside the bottom of the port that is preventing your connector from going in all the way. Get a fine tool and reach in and grab out the crud at the bottom. I had the same problem until I did this.


>exposing proprietary application APIs which fundamentally make applications unportable and thus contributing to the rise of Electron/RN.

I don't think there's anything modern about this.


Yeah, there is no standard for high level APIs provided by operating systems. Everybody has always just done their own stuff. And it's not like the Open Source world is any better, with Linux and the BSDs coming up with their own solutions for common issues.

There's POSIX which is pretty great because it at least allows to write somewhat portable networking & io code. But for pretty much anything else, you'll have to write separate code for every OS, and it's always been the case.


Even within Linux, consider Wayland vs Xorg, systemd, etc.


aliexpress, topping dx3 pro, solved.

Motherboard audio and soundcards are just terrible.


I typically recommend Fiio gear for people just getting into higher-end audio. They have some great stuff for <$100 that can be a huge upgrade over smartphone / laptop / desktop output. https://www.fiio.com/amp


I subscribe to this post's message. I was reluctant at first, but after buying a pair of Sennheiser HD650 headphones and a Fiio E10K headphone amp/dac and I can definitely tell the vast improvement in sound clarity.


Fiio's devices are almost there but not quite. I do generally suggest the dx3 because it's a single expense, there's no actual hearable upgrade from it. It measures well and provides enough power for everything short of special cases (such as STAX).


You sure it isn't a problem with the speakers? I've had a couple different sets of similar monitors and several decent sets of headphones and have never had a problem with any of my external DACs and hissing. I had hissing whenever I used internal cards of any kind, but once I switch to external DACs all hissing went away.


> and (2) every single Apple product.

Sure but that doesn't mean the default Apple audio jack is high quality.

I have a cheap USB DAC (bought from monoprice) to power a set of Beyerdynamic headphones. The DAC beat a macbook I was using for work hands down on quality of sound.

Specifically, I noted the DAC had better definition of sound meaning that I could pick out details better. It also had better spatial attributes as well, meaning that I could pick out instruments in 3d space.

To be fair, doing a D to A conversion in a laptop is hard, and while Apple does it relatively better than average, it's still probably better off done outside of the macbook itself.


My experience has been similar. The output on my MacBook was fine, until I hooked up an amp (coincidentally, my headphones are also Beyerdynamic; DT880s in this case). It sounded pretty bad to be honest, so then I hooked up the external DAC, and it was fascinating how big a difference it made. And I'm not an audiophile, so I usually don't really notice such differences.

* the DAC and AMP were Schiit Magni/Modi


So my post is downvoted to -3 and then bumped back up to 0. But there was no disagreement in the form of a response.

I'm not an audiophile either, but there is something about having listened to a track over and over again on an average pair of headphones and then listening to it again through a DAC and the DT770s I have. It's like hearing it for the first time again. Details just pop out and I really began to appreciate the engineering that went into some of the 80's songs I listened to on crappy car speakers when I was a kid.

BTW, the tracks I used to test the spatial qualities of my macbook was "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" on the O' Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, and "Blackbird" by the Kings Singers.

With the DT770's alone using the Mac jack, the Mac smeared the audio on both tracks. The first one especially because the mic used for recording introduces a distortion.

With the DAC, spatial on both were clear and came from point sources. Phenomenal.


> I have a pair of powered studio monitors (Mackie MR5), and I completely relate to this problem. Many PCs and phones will emit an audible hissing noise while plugged in. I've tested on a dozen different devices, with integrated and external DACs, five hundred dollar sound cards, massively shielded cables, practically every modern OS you can name, tweaking every audio setting exposed to me. The only devices that work perfectly are (1) my TV output, and (2) every single Apple product.

If almost every device has poor audio quality, maybe its not the device but the headphones that are your problem?


Have you tried using a DAC with a USB noise isolator? I don't get any hiss with my setup:

Neutron Player on Android > USB OTG cable > HiFimeDIY USB noise isolator > HiFimeDIY USB DAC > Beyerdynamic DT880

Although I don't use all that any longer, for convenience sake I just use a wireless Audiotechnica ATH-DSR9BT which supports aptX-HD and produces "good enough" quality with no hissing/noise.


Mackie MR5s are studio monitors, not headphones.

I can plug them into an analog output device and they work perfectly. I'm talking about digital, and the only digital devices that work are a Vizio TV (possibly others, didn't really test against TVs), iPhones, iPads, and Macs.


You should use an external DAC connected to your digital device via optical or spdif connection. Then connect your monitors to your DAC. I bet this solves all your problems.


They also list products that don't do it, so seems like it wouldn't be that.


You tried balanced cables?


Yup; the speakers support both unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR. Same issue on both.


> Its more than just audio. Watching movies sucks; you now pay full price to effectively indefinitely rent movies, and have them taken away at any time.

This has always been the case, even when you "owned" the physical media. Owning a CD, DVD or even vinyl copy of audio/video did not mean you owned the content. It was always just a delivery mechanism. It always came with legal wording to state you didn't own the content, and were only allowed to listen/view in a private setting. You were not allowed to take the music and play it in public, you were not allowed to show the video to large groups of people (including in your own home).

Your OS is the same way. You don't own the software. You only pay for a license granting use of it on one computer.


I disagree with you. When you “owned” a physical cd, you had to ability to sell it. When you own the digital version it is not possible to resell it.


You can disagree with me, but the legal aspect is still the same. You owned the physical delivery mechanism, and the single use license that delivery mechanism represented. Sure, you could sell that, but the point is still the same in that you never owned the content, legally speaking.


You never owned the copyright on the content, but you did own the thing. Not a "single-use license". Owning a CD is exactly like owning a book, in that way.


Grandparent was correct. Copyright law only allowed for private home exhibition of the music/movie. VHS tapes even came with a warning from the FBI. As in, the people who might show up at your house if you copied the movie or showed it to a large group of people.


Reselling of media is long established as legal in the US:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine


Not only is it legal to resell media, but that FBI warning is not from the FBI at all, at least up until 2003. The FBI had nothing to do with that message before. They did finally authorize the use of their seal in 2003. Before that, just typical Hollywood trickery to scare people.


Yes and no, you need a different type of license for a public exhibition independent of the underlying media license.

Think of it as an underlying Windows OEM license that allows you to run Windows. If you want to hook computers together with an AD, you need client access licenses.

(Bear with me, This is the first time I’ve used Microsoft as an example to clarify a license issue.)

Point is, there’s a distinction between a public and private performance. I believe that different stakeholders get paid for each.


> I'm wholly convinced that the computing world is, in general, regressing

The last few decades have shown a preference for accessibility over "quality":

- concord high speed luxury air travel >> cheap but slow mass air travel

- pentium >> netbooks >> raspberry pi

- professional international newsrooms >> amateur blogs

- CDs >> MP3s >> streaming

- steel cars >> plastic and aluminum

- handcrafted oak furniture >> ikea

- durable hand-me-downs >> dispensable chinese products

- etc.

The trade-off is generally positive in my opinion.


Interesting point buried in here: since Android is open source, you could go in and fix the bug, but then because you're not running an official Android version you'd lose access to the Play Store and other services. Something's not really free if there's a penalty for doing it. Since freedom to run a modified version of software yourself is one of the four freedoms of free software, this highlights the difference between free software and open source.

I'm not saying open source is bad and everyone should prefer free software. It's just a good example of the difference between the two in practice rather than in some debate about licenses and the abstract principles behind them.


You can run the play store just fine on lineageos, which has modifications and isn't official.

https://www.google.com/android/uncertified/ just need to register here as of earlier this year apparently


Apparently Play Store is unaffected, but some other apps - banking, streaming, even Pokemon Go - will break. And your warranty (including hardware) is voided. So I stand corrected, and thank you, but I don't think the correction affects the main point.


Those apps are making a conscious decision to exclude phones/roms not certified by Google. That's their choice.

Generally hardware warranty will remain if it's purely a hardware issue - you can always flash back anyway.

Android is free software in the sense that you can make and distribute modified versions. If app vendors choose to discriminate against those versions that doesn't make it unfree any more than software supporting windows and not Linux makes Linux unfree


> Android is free software in the sense that you can make and distribute modified versions.

I don't think that's enough to make it free software, and "free software in the sense..." is nonsensical. Free software would guarantee the continuance of that freedom. Since that guarantee doesn't exist, Google could place limitations on the Play Store at any time. The fact that they haven't makes the example less clear, but it doesn't make Android free software. Even Google doesn't claim that it is.


Play store isn't part of Android. Even if it was only available to specific phones, that wouldn't make Android unfree.

Play store isn't open source at all.

Amazon was able to take Android and put it on their extremely popular devices with 0 support from Google, no play store. That's what I call freedom


Play store isn't part of AOSP.


> Play store isn't part of Android.

It is extremely well integrated into it, by design.


> Those apps are making a conscious decision to exclude phones/roms not certified by Google. That's their choice.

Isn’t the entire point of Google’s certification process to encourage app vendors to make that choice?


No, only for apps that value certified behavior over accessibility. Typically this is payments (high liability for fraud, higher fraud rates from non-certified users), DRM, and multiplayer gaming (prevent cheating).


It’s not legal to void your warranty because you changed some software, unless the software change actually caused the problem you’re trying to get fixed under warranty.


> It’s not legal to void your warranty because you changed some software, unless the software change actually caused the problem you’re trying to get fixed under warranty.

Citation, please?


I’m assuming the poster is referring to the Magnuson-Moss Warrany Act: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnuson–Moss_Warranty_Act


They work. You just need to install additional software. Magisk + safetynet fix.


Some Android OEMs will allow you to unlock the bootloader and makes changes to the OS without any warranty problems.


The problem with this is that the bootloader is now becoming more and more locked down and the consumers have to jump ever more hoops to unlock it.

Some years ago I had Samsung S2 where unlocking the bootloader was an offline activity. I don't remember how but doing that was quick and easy. Now I own a MotoG4 where unlocking means going to some website, entering my email address and then receiving unlock code in my email. If Motorola knows my email address, or can link the (supposedly unique) unlock code to my phone, what's stopping them from voiding my warranty?

I have a hunch that newer versions of some mainstream phones do not allow unlocking the bootloader, and this is going to become more and more common.


Newest Samsungs cannot be unlocked


Magisk takes care of that.


Yes, but for how long?


Does it matter? There are alternative stores (F-Droid, Amazon, Yalp) and microG for Google login/push notifications.


So if I make a proprietary application that only runs on, say, Ubuntu, does that mean GNU/Linux is no longer really free, since you can't replace your distro with Arch without losing access to my application?


If your application is an intrinsic part of pretty much every GNU/Linux system, then yeah, pretty much.

It's not GNU/Linux that's not free, but it makes it hard to use a GNU/Linux system that is free.


Play store is not a requirement. You can use f-droid or something similar and it has most everything you might need.


I know, and I do. In fact I don't have play services installed at all.

Unfortunately most people consider the play store to be a necessity, so its non-free nature is a problem.


> does that mean GNU/Linux is no longer really free

I'd say it's a bit of a different situation, since the two are not being designed to work together and aren't even being developed by the same people. If the Ubuntu developers made your proprietary app key to the useful running of the system, which is the more exact analogy, then I'd say yeah, they would have made it non-free.


What app is key to the useful running of Android and that refuses to run on a modified system?


there is open source and open source thru google's gates.

on the later you submit patches, they will be included in the next 2 to 3 versions of public release (if they dont't add any feature that impacts google's ad bottom line, for example, adding any sort of referrer control to chrome), then you have to hope that in those 2-3 version cycle your device is still supported, now you just have to wait for the convenient over the ait update provided by your telco or phone manufacturer (in most cases you actually need both entities to take part)


That's not Google's gates, that's the OEM's and the ISP's. Google can only control that for their own devices, and the Nexuses have always been some of the most modded ones.


Google own the merge rigths, and what goes into each version. and their process timings ensure that by the time you patch is out, your device is not getting updates anymore (update timeframe that they set both in contract with oem or via "example" via their nexus series)


What merge rights? You can build Android yourself and install it directly on your phone, and let others do the same - unless if the OEM's and ISP's gates prevent you.


unless "your device" is the emulator, there is no way to get hold of drivers or firmware for anything other than lifting them of an blessed rom ... and only if you can get the parity you need with the kernel you are using.

there's a very good reason the "supported device list" of all forks is always very, very small (even with the outlandish claims on most of them such as "supported. touch screen and modem still not working" )

just becuase the build steps for your fork project automates some of that driver/kernel lifting, doesn't make it any better.


And all of that is also gatekeeping by the OEMs.


Mobile technology moves so fast Android can't keep up with the support of all hardware out there, so you can't simply buy any smartphone and expect everything to work with the latest Android release.


It's not Android that can't keep up, it's SoC manufacturers that are lazy.


This is a poor example because Play is its own set up apps licensed by Google (paid for by manufacturers) and not core to the os itself.


> I'm not saying open source is bad and everyone should prefer free software.

Why not?


Because that debate tends to get very contentious. It's an important debate to have, but I've already been in it many times and watched it even more so I'm not particularly in the mood to go through it this morning.


> Right now I'm absolutely astonished at how difficult it appears to be to just listen to music with a good pair of headphones. Is it not 2018? The media is full of talk about preposterously ambitious ideas such as AI and self-driving cars and yet I can't even listen to a fuck-damn music track? O_o

I enjoyed reading this. The whole time I thought however: that’s not an issue on my Apple devices. Then I read:

> If anyone reads this post I'm sure loads of people will tell me that my problems are all my own making and if only I invested in an iPhone all my problems would go away. Well you know what? APPLE IS A SYMBOL OF PRETENTIOUSNESS AND IGNORANCE - YOU DO NOT EVEN KNOW HOW YOUR PHONE WORKS - I DO NOT HAVE TO PAY A TAX TO APPLE TO LISTEN TO MY MUSIC.

Well, at least it usually simply works.


Yeah, but what really gets under my skin is that every other company out there is okay with producing garbage.

Meanwhile, Apple produces things that work comparatively well, doing what you expect and then, claims that reasonable functionality is premium. And then catches shit for being pretentious.

So, let's step through that once more:

  - garbage is normal
  - functional and interoperable is premium
  - premium is pretentious
  - also, add $1,000 for the name brand
The author simultaneously complains that nothing works, but refutes using the only thing that works because it represents training wheels that are too fashionable and ostentatious.

We can have nice things because that's for babies, and also too overtly glamorous and bougie.

I just want shit that works out of the box sometimes. I also don't need X-Files alien logos and red backlit Hunt For Red October themes everywhere. And oh yeah, let's not get started on OEM spyware masquerading as harmless adware. (Cough! Lenovo! [0] Cough! Intel Management Engine! [1] Cough!)

[0] https://forums.lenovo.com/t5/Security-Malware/Malware-preloa...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Management_Engine#Securi...

Will someone other than Apple please step up to the fucking plate and not just dump trash onto the shelves at Best Buy?


Not everything at the <£100 price point is rubbish...

I recently got a £20 Havit Bluetooth receiver and connected it to a pair of £70 Sony MDR-7506 headphones. The receiver drives the headphones louder and with less distortion than my iPhone can, and the battery lasts for a few days of intermittent listening. Whatever loss is introduced by the aptX coding is invisible to my ears.

I'm blown away by how good this setup is given the price and there shouldn't be any dependency on an expensive source device to run it.


I've been under the impression iPhones don't do aptX, did you find a workaround?


That would cut into the Beets business.


They don't support aptX, but Beats and others (the Sony 1000Xs, for instance) usually support AAC over Bluetooth which is similar in quality.


FYI for anyone wanting higher-quality over Bluetooth, make sure that your devices all support a compatible codec: https://www.audioholics.com/audio-technologies/bluetooth-aud... e.g. iDevices support AAC but not aptX, while Android devices are typically the opposite. See also: https://www.macrumors.com/how-to/enable-aptx-aac-bluetooth-a...


The DA on older iPhones is mediocre, the DA in those lightning converters is even worse. Try a separate DA if you really want quality audio output.


> the DA in those lightning converters is even worse

Absolutely not true.

https://www.kenrockwell.com/apple/lightning-adapter-audio-qu...


Not to bag on Rockwell, I appreciate his reviews and viewpoints, but do you trust that he has the requisite expertise to correctly analyse the quality of such an adaptor?

I... don't. His write-up doesn't inspire confidence either - I have no idea how he has performed the measurements.

I know enough to know that audio measurement is a very tricky endeavour, and most other measurements put the lightning adaptor's output at a few dBA worse in SNR and dynamic range than the iPhone 6S' jack output (but otherwise similar). Both are easily worse than a good external DAC. Certainly not "better quality" than the inbuilt option as Rockwell claims.

It's good enough for almost everyone, and is likely to be capable of higher fidelity than most source material, but most agree that it is objectively a worse DA.


Would honestly love to read any sources you have on the SNR.


And the DACs in older iPhones are equally good. Mr. Rockwell has reviews of those as well.


I have to agree with the other commenter here. I have not noticed any difference moving from iPhone 6s to 7 (with dongle) listening through my Shure 530 headphones.


The Apple premium has gone so damn high though.

I got my first Mac when the Mac mini came up. It was a little more expensive than same-generation PCs but besides being OSX it was a PowerPC that never made any fan noise, and was small. I've subsequently had three Macbooks and two iPhones - but I can't afford this somewhat-better-somewhat-more-expensive racket anymore. Prices have risen too much; to boot, the quality gulf between Macs and garden-variety Dells and Acers has pretty much crashed. Macbooks have had multiple problematic years now; iPhones did away with headphone jacks; and OSX peaked at 10.6.8, where it indeed was five years into the future - but Windows 10 is decent now and even has the whole Unix toolkit with WSL.


Disclaimer: not trying to convince you, just sharing an anecdote like you did.

- I agree Apple pricing has gone out of control. I should not have to shell out 1500 EUR for a 256GB phone with a bigger display no matter what (XS Max). I mean okay, it's probably the best phone out there but come on. It's a mobile computing device, not a life's insurance bill.

- I fully agree MacBooks and desktop Macs haven't had good years in a while. IMO the MacBook Pro 2015 15" was Apple's laptop peak. They haven't produced anything worthwhile in the laptop departments ever since.

- Desktop Macs are a horrid mess where greed trumps everything else so much that even I who spent 6 figures on tech during my life cannot justify paying 5000 EUR for an iMac 27" 5K with maxed out specs (i7 CPU, 64GB RAM and 1 or 2TB SSD). Right now your only viable choice for a future-proof machine however is either the iMac 27" or the iMac Pro, and both are expensive as hell.

- macOS version, not sure, I started actively using it only a year or so ago so it feels quite good to me and is tons more predictable than Windows 10. You have to fight with Windows 10 to make it your own and not be barraged with popups. macOS in comparison stays out of the way.

---

To summarize, Apple has peaked, including in the smartphone and tablet departments. Upgrades are very smallish and iterative while the price tags remain huge.

The way I see it, Apple has been coasting for a while. They need to get back on track because inevitably somebody will try and displace them.

(As a random example, Xiaomi phones are probably the best physical designs and software experience I ever had. But I still don't trust Google's binary blobs and the general baseband processor stuff so I stay away from Android.)


FYI you can get better deals on Apple stuff by buying refurbished.


>I should not have to shell out 1500 EUR for a 256GB phone

Yes, we're lucky that a lot of people in the world are not in a position to fight for higher quality of life for the resources coming out of the land near them or their labor, nor do we have to pay for environmental damage from manufacture and disposal of our devices, otherwise it would be much more than 1,500 EUR.


>But I still don't trust Google's binary blobs and the general baseband processor stuff so I stay away from Android.

Why do you trust the Apple ones then? At least on android you can get rid of most Google code with Lineage + microg


> At least on android you can get rid of most Google code with Lineage + microg

...as far as we know. What about the baseband processor that has access to everything at any time?

> Why do you trust the Apple ones then?

Becase they took a stand and refused to introduce a security backdoor in the FBI San Bernardino case. And because iPhone hacks cost more on the net compared to Android ones. This to me indicates that iPhones are harder to crack -- so the demand is higher, suppy is lower and thus the prices are higher.

All circumstantial evidence of course, but it's what we have to go on.


Also, compare OS updates: Android has significantly more critical security fixes than iOS, every single time.

Maybe it means they are finding more bugs and fixing them, or maybe it means Android is basically security Swiss cheese. my money is on the latter.


Android has a hell of a lot more people developing it/for it. I wouldn't be so sure of that assumption.


That doesn't mean much when flashing their ROM means voiding your warranty though. Also, their efforts don't really count in the very important areas like the OS security itself; Google reigns supreme there, mostly.

I am a former flashing-ROMs fanboy but the truth is, you are either stuck on ancient kernels or sometimes part with functionality you prefer to still have (like rooting).

I gave up, eventually.


It all depends on one's perspective. There was a time when a typical PC was $5000+ in today's dollars. We just got used to Moore's law bringing cheap disposables.


You're taking it pretty far off track. This article is about listening to music.

The "premium" only applies to new products. The author here tried using a CD player, so the storage (and novelty) requirements are pretty low. A $5 used iPod would work just fine.


"Yeah, but what really gets under my skin is that every other company out there is okay with producing garbage. Meanwhile, Apple produces things that work comparatively well, doing what you expect and then, claims that reasonable functionality is premium."

If the standard is garbage, then functionality is premium.


Can I blame free market dynamics ? It's been a quite obvious trend since the 2000s. Audio components became commodities to reach bottom prices, no more middle class, good functionality is high end (which is now pushed to higher prices with branding like beats or devialet)


Is Beats even good functionality? I heard they used mediocre components and spent most of their money on marketing...


The audio quality on my £110 wireless Beats X neckbuds is abysmal compared to a set of £30 wired Sony earbuds.


My kid has some wireless Beats headphones and she loves them because she likes how they look and they are very comfortable for her.

She might be able to find headphones that sound better, but she has never found any that also are comfortable and have good industrial design. At least not in the price range that Beats typically sell for.


Tear downs support this. Medium quality at best.


That depends on your definition of functionality. Don't assume the purpose of Beats is to produce accurate audio. If the purpose is to make people feel good because they own the same headphones they saw some celebrity wear, they are apparently quite functional.


They added weights to their headphones to add a "quality" feel to them, because they were made of plastic and usually high-end headphones use metal in some places like the mounts and the headbands.


Did you really just call apples products interoperable? maybe among their other crap, but sure as hell not among other devices. Which are all interoperable among themselves btw.


And yet every time I go to a presentation or a lecture people ask to borrow my MacBook for it because their Windows or Linux laptops can never even connect to their projectors or Bluetooth speakers on the first try. Often they cannot at all connect.

Yet the MacBook connects to everything on the first go with zero fuss.

So yeah, I am calling part of Apple's functions and devices interoperable. Why aren't you? These are observable facts in the wild and it happens every day somewhere around you as well.


Hah. This is the opposite of every single experience I've seen at my work, where both PCs and Macs are supported. Usually the Mac person plugs into a projector and it doesn't work, or they don't have their adapter. The HP works every time.


Well if they don't have their adapter that's not really a problem with the Mac's compatibility now, is it? They simply forgot a very important piece that will help them achieve the goal. I don't blame my TV for not getting a signal from my PC if I lose my HDMI cable.

I know my experience is anecdotal. So is yours. Just shared what I've observed 30+ times now.


Fewer and fewer people can even recognize quality anymore. People mistake popularity for quality. They blindly trust brands. They accept things not working or falling apart. Companies have picked up on this, and don't have to invest in quality anymore. Prices get lower, then everyone has to not invest in quality. People would rather buy and throw away a $50 pair of shoes every year than buy a $200 pair and have it last 10 years.


> And oh yeah, let's not get started on OEM spyware masquerading as harmless adware.

You act like Apple devices do not contain IME?


I chuckled when I read:

> Although Android is Free Software, meaning I can modify the code, it would probably take me months to learn enough about music decoding and the Android-media-player-service to write a fix.

Followed by:

> APPLE IS A SYMBOL OF PRETENTIOUSNESS AND IGNORANCE - YOU DO NOT EVEN KNOW HOW YOUR PHONE WORKS

So iPhone users don’t know how their phone works, but Android is awesome because it’s open source and the freedom you get with that but it’s too complicated to learn how it works.

Okay.


Yes okay, its about having the choice and the option. Its rooted in the fundamental instinct to cling to freedom and seek it out.

Even if you don't make a choice, having the option to is still empowering, because the absence of a choice tells you someone else made it for you.

For many, that could be the same choice they would have made. That doesn't give any condolence to those who would have made a different one, but weren't given the option.


I understand the need for people to feel like they have a choice by using free software (the choice to modify it if they want to), but at this point it is just an illusion unless you are prepared to dedicate a huge amount of time. If you practically couldn’t do it even if you wanted to, does it still mean you have a choice?

It’s a different time today than it was 40 years ago when RMS modified printer drivers, and software is much more complicsted than it used to be.


Theres a degree of philanthropy to free software contribution. Yes, there are often hacks and workarounds for problems in code that don't require dedicating the substantial time to learn a codebase and fix the problem forever, but if you do fix it you aren't fixing it only for yourself, but for everyone else who encounters that problem.

I've made dozens of contributions to esoteric projects - from music players to game emulators to HTML template libraries. It does take a ridiculous amount of upfront reading of code to become comfortable enough with the environment to make the change, but I at least only try to fix problems I see as impacting more people than just myself.

Sometimes I wish it were easier to just sit down, take the highest rated bug on a project, and spend all the time it would take to fix it. Its a shame I wasn't lucky enough to be born into wealth so I could just do that all the time. So instead I hope to get there sooner rather than later, where I can amass enough wealth to stop wasting my time on CRUD apps for some business interest and actually do something meaningful.


> Sometimes I wish it were easier to just sit down, take the highest rated bug on a project, and spend all the time it would take to fix it. Its a shame I wasn't lucky enough to be born into wealth so I could just do that all the time. So instead I hope to get there sooner rather than later, where I can amass enough wealth to stop wasting my time on CRUD apps for some business interest and actually do something meaningful.

This really hits the nail on the head.

Since I became a father of three, my time priorities have shifted quite a lot, and I’d rather spend it with my kids than nose in code that should work but isn’t.

A perfect example is trying to get Nextcloud or Lychee working. After literaly days trying to get it working right, I just gave up. All I want is to share pictures of my kids with my family, but due to bugs or config, I have to wade through someone else’s code?

Philantropy is for someone else’s benefit. If it was just at my expense, that would be one thing, but it’s at the expense of my kids too. And that’s something I can’t justify.


Totally depends on what you're thinking of modifying and how you want to modify it. Some experience gained through one modification also carries over to others, even when done on different programs. I've done modifications that only take a few minutes, and I have my systems setup so it's really, really easy to pick a package by name to modify it and distribute the mods to all my machines, complete with version control. I very much appreciate the ability to modify the free software I use.


Makes me wonder if the guy wants (subconsciously or not) to have more problems with technology he’s using just to have an opportunity to tinker with it to make it better. Certainly seems like the type.

Not necessarily a bad thing, though, but in such case he might as well drop the complaining tone.


Probably, I have spent 100s of hours to make my iPhones better when in reality they would have worked just as well without the modifications. I frequently see people complaining and finding issues just so they can try to fix it, rinse and repeat.

This also leads into his statement. I own an iPhone and I kinda know what's going on beneath the surface. I can open up disassembled binaries and anyone can look at the headers from google within seconds.

That in turn would lead into that 99.9% of Android users have no knowledge of how Android works, so his whole statement is kind of odd.


The real shame is that "tinker friendly" is a premium feature now.


I see this a lot with Linux and non-stock-Android users.


> APPLE IS A SYMBOL OF PRETENTIOUSNESS AND IGNORANCE - YOU DO NOT EVEN KNOW HOW YOUR PHONE WORKS

Is this guy for real? I don’t know the nitty gritty of how most of the things I use work, I’m only concerned that they work. Sounds like sour grapes.


I’m only concerned that they work.

Which, as you allude to, is not guaranteed no matter what it says on the tin. Samsung is my go-to for that point. Not that features were half-assed, or kinda worked. No, having an icon on a screen does not count when what backs that icon doesn’t even pretend to do what it says. (To be specific, their fitness stuff was literally laughable in how broken or, lets be honest, how unimplemented it was.)

I think what gets missed is that the “Apple tax” (the “M$” for the 2000s, indicating the writer is to be ignored) is actually the “not a broken POS, and does what you thought it would do” convenience fee. Oh, sure, there’s Pixel and the like if you don’t like Apple. Last I looked, you’ll still pay the “Apple tax” even if it goes to Google.

And I swear, the next neckbeard ranting about how people don’t how their tech works either better take public transit to work, be ready to rattle off the Otto cycle used by their ICE car, or STFU.


I'm also excited to hear about their farming techniques.


The guy is soldering a bunch of stuff to listen to music, so he's obviously not Apple's target market. Maybe he likes over engineered solutions?

At least, it sounds like he just likes being contrarian.

Android or Linux is not helping him much in this case, that's for sure.


After re-reading the blog, I feel a bit bad about the negativity I and others expressed here. If you do read this xylon, don’t take it to heart! Also thanks for sharing your circuit, it certainly provoked an interesting discussion.


I find this especially humorous given this:

> Although Android is Free Software, meaning I can modify the code, it would probably take me months to learn enough about music decoding and the Android-media-player-service to write a fix.


Android may be "open source", but it means little if you're not a company wanting to write their own clone, or a security researcher.

Would I be able to fix just the media player service, and make my smartphone use the fixed version? Without flashing it with a brand new OS, losing data, warranty, OEM drivers, and ability to receive security updates? Didn't think so. Android "open source" delivers only half of the expected value.


Is it actually open source in that you can actually submit a fix though?

Judging by the awful 'random' I would suspect not. (I havent used it I some time so it might have been fixed, but you used to get clustering of tracks from a given album)



I think it is just a matter of what one is most comfortable with.

The HW-solution is a nice challenge, but I am sure, there are simpler ways to solve it.

On a sidenote: I would be surprised if the issue he has is systemic too Android devices in general. I am sure others would have noticed it if was that widespread that it occurred on all devices.


> I enjoyed reading this. The whole time I thought however: that’s not an issue on my Apple devices.

Except newer iPhones requiring a dongle to use headphones.


A dongle is ~10$ and you can pick one up anywhere. This horrible contraption he had to build just to enjoy music costs way more in time & money.


It (the dongle) is still wholly unnecessary.


This guy is both smart and stupid at the same time.


or smart and annoyed


Smart and biased.

Drinking the Apple hate juice in particular.

I envy the people who have the free time to tinker but what they keep forgetting, time and time again, is that they are the minority. Many people have happy family lives and prefer to spend most of their leisure time with people -- or non-tech hobbies. I do enough programming already, thank you.

(EDIT to add: and not everybody is in perfect health shape as well, so they use their free time to recharge -- not to work some more. Stress and overworking come with an army of health issues. Climbing a hill with a 50kg backpack, to give an analogy, is not as easy as it looks like from the side.)

I respect smart hardware technicians but he lost me as an audience with his Apple hate.


+1 on "hate doesn't work". Just adding a perspective that you might be missing. The stuff that OP described doesn't really feel like "work" to him. To him its the exact thing you described - it helps him recharge - so that he can go back to "work" the next day :)

[P.S. "I do enough programming already, thank you." doesn't help as well. To get an idea of how sad it is to read, imagine if someone tells an artist "I do enough painting already, thank you.". People love to do different things, and that is okay.]


Yep, I know it helps them recharge. But I find it sad how oblivious they sometimes are that others might be so beat up that they need an almost passive recharge. :(

As for my programming, I actually do some small work outside of work hours on my own enthusiastic basis. But I have to tell you, even this minor 4-5h a week thing took me years of recharging and healing before I felt the passion for the first time in years and years.

(As an aside, we the techies need non-tech hobbies but that's just an opinion.)


(As an aside, we the techies need non-tech hobbies but that's just an opinion.) +1 to that as well. I've picked cooking and it has been awesome :D


That made my day!


Same thoughts except with my Android phone and Bose QC. Wireless, noise cancellation and never any problems with explosive noise. Also it is indeed 2018 so what's he doing with ripped CD's, there are a lot of streaming services out there right now.


Many people perfer to own instead of lease, even in 2018.


This is fine if you're "stuck in your ways" (I want to use a less loaded term but can't come up with one) and have a collection of music you enjoy and have stopped keeping up.

It's not even keeping up with current music; as I go from my early to my late 30s, the pop landscape has gone from parseable to alien. But there's still good music coming out and older good music you didn't know about. Hell, I only discovered the gigantic German composer Paul Hindemith six months ago.


Either stuck in your ways, or want to save money. Streaming services are not free. Sure, it's a small amount but I simply don't want to add to my monthly costs. Still, streaming is much more convenient and in the short term, saves on disk space.


I still use streaming to discover but buy to own for disconnected times, which are usually intentional. For example, I don't want touch interface or internet connected anything while driving.


From what I can tell, the streaming catalog is still a small subset of the CD catalog, so if you're into discovering new music, you're restricting yourself by only using the former.


Good news - you can do both! I use Spotify for regular everyday listening and finding new artists/new albums by artists I like, and I collect vinyl for fun and to support artists more directly.


You are restricting yourself to a subset by streaming, but that subset probably contains more music than you could listen to in a lifetime anyways.


To put it simply, the music I want to listen to is on CDs, not streaming services.


All my apple stuff makes an annoying pop sound any time the music stops for more than some amount of time I don't know. Bluetooth and analog do it.


Its not an issue on Android devices as well, I've no idea whats broken on OP's setup.


It's a well documented issue. Maybe your headphones and/or ears just aren't sensitive enough to notice the issue. Plenty of people don't see the difference between flac and 240p youtube uploads, after all.


Hmm, did you make the 240p vs FLAC strawman deliberately? Or is the bug (as you're able to reproduce it) really that bad? I know OP was using high-end headphones but I expected at least a slight hissle.

(My attempts to reproduce were with a PX80, S2PGFY-003, JBL Pulse and Bose Companion 50. I included the speakers because I couldn't get the headphones to do the trick)


I'm not sure why Apple is receiving any sort of praise here. I was constantly assaulted by an "explosion of noise" glitch when working with Logic Pro in OS X. I could have the system volume level set to the lowest possible setting (25% of 1 notch), and yet I'd still occasionally get deafening explosions of noise as if I had the system volume set to the full 16 notches. The explosion is just short enough that there's zero chance of you having any hope of ripping your headphones off as quickly as possible to spare your hearing. No, by the time you hear the explosion, it's already too late. I did in fact start losing my hearing from this and completely gave up on making music.


That sounds like a hardware problem or drivers issue. If it was a software problem, why give up on music when there are other options both free and paid like Reaper, Ableton, etc. which run perfectly fine?

I have not had any of the issues you are complaining about in Logic Pro X, FWIW, on multiple laptops and hardware audio interfaces over ~6 years of use.


> _It turns out that all music players on Android actually play music using the Android-media-player-service._

This is inaccurate. Neutron music player bypasses Android's Media Player APIs and talks directly to your DAC and plays music without resampling (if the DAC supports it). Never had any audio popping or explosions using Neutron, and I've tried it on 6 different devices so far without any issues (LG G3, Nexus 6P, Nextbit Robin, OnePlus 3, Note 8, OnePlus 6). My headphones are a Beyerdynamic DT880.


I've never had any problems with "explosions" using standard media players, even when plugged into my HD650s - anyone else have that happen?

HN is mostly engineering types, the poster clearly has that mindset, we should be filing or looking for a proper bug report for this instead of crafting hacks or talking about alternative products altogether right off the bat.


> we should be filing or looking for a proper bug report for this instead of crafting hacks or talking about alternative products altogether right off the bat

As if Google even considers reading any bug reports ... :(


Googlers read HN though ;-)

(source: I work for Google)


That explains why the best way to reach the bigger tech companies is to make a complain go viral here. It's kinda fucked up.


how do you explain the pixels having problems go unresolved for months at a time?


I've actually had this a couple of times on my Android 7 phone listening with earbuds or headphones. It seems to happen randomly.


HD650s aren't particularly sensitive.


The downside of that is, of course, greater battery consumption. MediaPlayer API will offload music playing to a separate DSP (if available) and that allows the main application processor to go to sleep. There is some nuance here, but that usually significantly reduces battery consumption while playing music with the screen off.


It seems like bypassing the APIs which might screw up the audio with downsampling, and something like this is what the OP needed:

https://www.audioquest.com/dacs/dragonfly/dragonfly-black

Edit: would work out of the box with the Eee PC he has as well.


A 32 bit DAC is just a full on scam.


Why?


I think Poweramp does this as well


IMHO your circuit topology looks wacky. Perhaps there's a goal to making your amplifier ground ride in the middle of the waveform, but it could just as well be unintentional. So my immediate thoughts -

You've already got a real split supply with 2x 9v batteries. If you use that instead of deriving a virtual ground, you will save 9mA of quiescent current.

How purposeful is that whole low side duplicated circuit and why? [0] It seems like since you're using batteries, hooking signal ground directly to your ground and driving the output single ended would work fine. Or if you want to work towards being able to AC-power, then a differential input op-amp topology and still drive the output single ended.

Isn't there a vibrant cottage industry of external USB DACs and headphone amplifiers and whatnot? I'm more of a receiver+speakers type of a person, but I often see newly designed stuff for headphones.

[0] Driving both sides does get you the ability to swing the output a full 36 volts. But given that your goal is to cut the signal by 11 and also that by mixing both channels you can't actually do that lest you get crosstalk in the form of clipping, I don't think this is your goal!


I think the trick here is that the resistors are much more precise than two batteries of unknown origin will be at providing a symmetric supply voltage without further stabilization. So they serve as a 50/50 voltage divider whatever the input voltage is, 7+9 or 6+8 on half full (or half empty, depending on your mental make-up) batteries, it would still work just fine.

Binding the central line between the two 9V batteries to GND would give you the situation you describe, indeed you could then drop the resistors but now you have a fairly high risk of ending up with an asymmetric supply voltage, which means one side will clip earlier than the other.


Is this really a common thing? I don't really have experience with battery powered audio processing circuits. In my experience you usually create a virtual ground when you've got no other choice, like say signal conditioning with a single ended supply.


Yes, in battery powered stuff it is pretty common. When working from a single supply it is a quick and easy way to use operational amplifiers.

That the author used two batteries in series did not change much in that respect (and internally those 9V batteries are a stack of 6 cells anyway). The alternative would be to use the common rail between the two batteries as a ground and then two regulators (or simply a Zener and a follower transistor, same effect for less cost) to get say plus and minus 7 or 8 volts depending on how far you want to run the batteries down and what kind of specs that op-amp has.

Most op-amp circuitry would be +- 15V, but they usually work on much less than that. The circuit as presented here probably has a DC bias that is in the 100's of mV, there is no adjustment for it either so it is a bit of a kludge the way it is set up. There are better ways to do this, it all comes down to part variation and that should not be a factor in a good schematic.

There are single supply op-amps too, but in this case I suspect the voltage required to drive those headphones properly was the major deciding factor in using two stacked 9V cells.


> But in this case I suspect the voltage required to drive those headphones properly was the major deciding factor in using two stacked 9V cells

Maybe it was the deciding factor for whomever designed the original circuit. But in this incarnation with the 11x attenuation, the input signal would have to be above 80V for this to matter! It's obviously modified from some folk audio design, I'm just trying to figure out how much of its oddity actually has some purpose.


Yes, it definitely looks like a 'stacked hack', not something that was designed with purpose by someone who really knew what they were doing. No mention of distortion, no bias adjust, DC coupled (could be good, could be really bad depending on the bias...).

There are some pretty good headphone amplifier circuits out there, most of them a little bit more complex than this but with what I would expect to be far superior specs.


You do not need an absolutely precise dead-centre reference voltage for this application! It just has to be far enough from the either rail to avoid clipping.

If the batteries have gone that far south, they need replacing.


What I'm wondering is why the 1k resistors in the power supply. Wouldn't 100k, 1M or 10M resistors drastically cut the idle current consumption? Or would that compromise the performance of the opamps by choking them off from the current they need?


What's more, the silly GND-GND circuit could be preserved, but using just one op-amp for it

The liberated op-amp could be used to provide a stiff voltage reference from a 100K:100K voltage divider!

Of course, all that is unnecessary.


> If you use that instead of deriving a virtual ground, you will save 9mA of quiescent current.

The virtual ground has a further flaw: It's a DC ground only. This designer forgot to AC-bypass those 1K resistors, or at least one of them.


This way you don't increase the BOM complexity, just a second of the same chip and the same resistors.

Technically, also your THD+N adds in parallel instead of being chained, although I'm not sure there will be a discernable difference unless you uave some kind of phase delay issue (in which case you should fix that first...)


You must be thinking of some other common headphone amp design? The changes I'm talking about would just get rid of like half the components.

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