Primephonic: Classical Music Streaming Done Right

October 28, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“Navigating Primephonic’s site, whether on my HP laptop or via the app on my iPhone Xs, has been relatively seamless — and, apparently, it’s a major step up from a previous, more unwieldy interface. While I do have many of my own preferences, I’m often drawn to the topline Editors’ Choice selections that rotate through the scroll at the top. A recent suggestion for German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter’s Hommage à Penderecki — a loving tribute to the noted Polish conductor/composer Krzysztof Penderecki, performed solo, pianoforte, and with the London Symphony Orchestra — was a most welcome experience for these ears, and I immediately added it to my Favorites.

Not only that, but the New Releases (curated by Maryna Boiko), Essential Playlists, Daily Recommendations, and Hidden Gems (major merci for leading me straight into the perils of “Death Valley Junction” by the Jasper String Quartet!) are more than enough to keep any classical listener, both neophyte and expert alike, satisfied for hours upon end. To me, the key to classical recommendations such as these is to both evoke an emotional response and invoke admiration for the level of musicianship, and Primephonic’s ace curators delivered on both fronts time and time again.”

Amazon Music HD With iOS, macOS, Windows 10

October 23, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“I tested iOS with my iPhone 11 Pro running version 13.1.3. I connected my phone to the same Alpha USB and Alpha DAC RS3 for testing. Setting a baseline, I played all sample rates via Qobuz bit perfectly through my iPhone 11 Pro. Just browse, click, and play. Switching to Amazon Music HD for iOS showed a major design flaw in this app. The Amazon app queries one’s audio device, in my case the Alpha USB, EMM Labs DV 2, and dCS Rossini, for its highest sample rate and sets the audio output to 192 kHz if the highest rate is at or above 192 kHz. Thus, whatever music was played via the Amazon app, it was sampled at 24/192 because that’s the max of the Alpha USB, and the other two DACs support higher rates. This same behavior can be witnessed using an AudioQuest DragonFly as well. The Amazon Music HD iOS app will set the DragonFly to 96 kHz no matter what’s playing.

In this configuration, playing Neil Young’s Greatest Hits worked perfectly. The album streamed bit perfect through my iPhone. Switching to any other album that wasn’t available at 24/192 meant that the audio was altered / resampled before getting to my audio system. There’s no way to manually set this sample rate int he app, like there is in macOS. I suppose one could get a D to D converter that supports a max rate of each sample rate and connect it to an iOS device based on the music selected. Oh wait, audiophiles are a strange bunch, but that is a bridge too far”

Amazon Music Goes High-Rez

September 25, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“Amazon Music has introduced a CD-quality (confusingly called “HD” by Amazon)-plus-hi-rez (which Amazon calls “Ultra HD” so as (not) to confuse the masses) music tier at $14.99/month ($12.99 for Prime members). That price undercuts Tidal and Qobuz the two subscription streaming services most popular among audiophiles: Tidal charges $19.99/month for the tier that includes MQA, and Qobuz costs $24.99 for its Studio tier, the cheapest plan offering high-definition streaming. Amazon HD offers some 50 million songs in 16/44.1 FLAC format, with millions claimed available in hi-rez, up to 24/192 FLAC. Tidal claims a somewhat larger number of total tracks—56 million—with an unknown number in MQA. France-based Qobuz says it has about 40 million tracks online, including about 170,000 high resolution albums or some 2 million tracks”

Tidal vs Spotify – which is better?

September 6, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“If you’re on a tight budget, go for Spotify. It offers a free subscription plan supported by some (fairly annoying) adverts. Audio quality is limited to a maximum of 160kbps and you can only skip a track six times per hour on mobile devices. Still, it’s free.

Step up to Spotify’s £10 a month Premium subscription plan and the audio quality shoots up to 320kbps. You also get ad-free music, unlimited search and skip, plus the option to listen offline.

There’s also a Premium Family subscription for the discounted price of £15 per month. It covers up to six users (everyone has to live at the same address) and includes parental controls.”

Cambridge Audio Edge NQ/W Review

July 13, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“Moving from seventies rock to eighties pop, and this combo proves itself to be a seriously enjoyable musical performer. David Bowie Let’s Dance shows how fast, lithe and agile it is on its feet, rhythmically speaking and I can easily hear the woodblock percussion playing along, and how this is a counterpoint to the tight, fast-attack, quick-release drum sound. At the same time, Bowie uses keyboard bass in parts of this track and electric bass guitar in others, and the Edge combo is agile enough to show which is which. Indeed, the reverb on the track’s great Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar solo is clear to hear along with the brilliant rhythmic gait of his playing. The NQ/W offers both impressive amounts of detail, as well as the vital ability to string it all together in a musically coherent way.

Via its internal DAC and streamed from my Western Digital NAS drive, the Edge pre/power serves up a sumptuously wide recorded acoustic from Kate Bush’s Snowflake in 24/96 WAV format. This is truly immersive stuff, as I bask in the intricacy and vibrancy of the close-miked piano. Kate’s voice hovers over this ethereally, located with great precision in the recorded acoustic.”

Apple iTunes is dead: Should Audiophiles Care?

June 19, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“With Monday’s formal announcement from Tim Cook at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote speech in San Jose that the company was knifing iTunes and slicing it into three separate applications, many users of the dated service breathed a sigh of relief.
Perhaps some of them were even binary-centric audiophiles; although I don’t know any who use the app for playback anymore – at least not in the past three or four years – as streaming services with names like Spotify, TIDAL and Qobuz became part of the hi-fi lexicon for digital-music playback.

Using a Mac Mini for high end audio

May 21, 2019 § Leave a comment

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