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About John H. Darko

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So far John H. Darko has created 614 blog entries.

On pragmatism and positivity

By | November 15th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , |

Ten thousand dollars. In the nineties, it would have bought us 500 new release CDs. Twenty years down the line, that same $10K would buy us 1000 CDs or 500 new release LPs. That’s generously assuming a $20 unit price for new release vinyl and $10 for silver discs. Used vinyl LPs are cheaper – yes – but only if your thirst for new music came to a halt during the decade that brought us Peter Gabriel’s So (1985), Joan Armatrading’s The Key (1983) or Billy Joel’s Storm Front (1989).… Read the full article

A short film about the ALLO DigiOne Signature for Raspberry Pi

By | November 13th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , |

If bits were just bits, high-end streamer manufacturers would be snake oil peddlers and their (many thousands) of customers deaf dopes. Experience tells us otherwise: that not only do digital sources sound different but there exists a substantial audible delta between the very best-sounding digital audio sources – like the Innuos’ Zenith SE – and the worst – hello Raspberry Pi. Furnishing us with the ‘why’ are experienced digital audio engineers like Gordon Rankin.

Closing the Pi’s sound quality gap on the big boys are third-party manufacturers like France’s ALLO Digital whose terrific DigiOne HAT add-on directly connects to the Pi’s 40-Pin socket to pull digital audio upwards to output via S/PDIF with reduced amounts of jitter and/or electrical noise. … Read the full article

PS Audio announce Snowmass update for DirectStream

By | November 12th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , |

PS Audio’s DirectStream DAC is like no other DAC. We might best think of it as an audio computer where between its suite of digital inputs – that includes an optional Roon/Spotify enabled streaming board – and its discrete DSD-decoding output stage sits not an off-the-shelf D/A chip but an FPGA that runs code written by one Ted Smith.

And that same code is also field updatable. Just as upgrades to the likes of Audirvana Plus and JPlay can bring improved sound quality to Macs and Windows PCs deployed as digital transports, software updates to the DirectStream DAC can also elevate its sound quality.… Read the full article

10 minutes on T+A, Roon Ready certification

By | November 12th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , |

T+A. Calm down – this isn’t Carry On Up Your Crossover but an abbreviated ‘Theory + Application’ belonging to 40-year-old German hi-fi company T+A whose MP 1000E, R 1000 E and MP 2000 R MKII each put CD transport, digital tuner (FM, FM-HD and DAB+), Bluetooth input and UPnP network streamer into a single box.

For users not in love with the T+A Control App that executes each multi-source device’s local UPnP and cloud streaming (Deeter, Qobuz, Tidal) via a somewhat pedestrian UI, a firmware update will soon add Roon Ready support so that each unit will instantly appear as a streamable endpoint to any installation of Roon’s server software, Core.… Read the full article

ULTIMA: Chord Electronics’ blue moon shot

By | November 10th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , |

At Munich High-End in May, John Franks introduced the Étude, Chord Electronics’ first new amplifier topology since the company’s 1989 inception. Franks had gone back to the 1980s to the “feed-forward correction” work of one Bob Cordell who has since been retained by the UK hi-fi company as a consultant. Catch up here:

Six months later, as Chord Electronics edge ever closer to their 30th Anniversary, a further progression of the Franks/Cordell amplifier topology lands in the form of two 86kg ULTIMA monoblocks that additionally incorporate the ultra high-frequency power supplies upon which Chord have built a formidable amplifier reputation.… Read the full article

The look of love: Rega, iFi & Cabasse

By | November 8th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , |

In locating a new laptop we might look for the fastest CPU, the largest amount of RAM and the biggest hard drive. Hang everything else – performance is paramount.

Not every buyer works this way. Apple has built its Macbook success on selling last year’s hardware by offsetting any (perceived) performance hit with a sleeker shell, an increasingly lower-profile keyboard and a more elegant operating system. As many Alienware owners will attest, beauty remains in the eye of the beholder.

No matter what fibs we might tell ourselves, buying decisions aren’t based on performance alone.… Read the full article

Mytek teases Brooklyn Bridge streaming DAC

By | November 5th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , |

On my office desk sits a most well-connected DAC — a book-sized slab of electronics with options for MQA, DSD, analogue or digital volume attenuation, Apple remote control hijack, single-ended or balanced outputs; on the rear panel for connection to an amplifier (like the Mytek Brooklyn Amp) and on the front for driving low- or high-impedance headphones. Heck, it even has an MM phono stage. That DAC is the Mytek Brooklyn Plus. US$2195. Review here.

If I want to stream digital audio to the Brooklyn Plus, I must call on a third party device for hook-up to one of the Plus DAC’s numerous digital inputs: USB (hello Sonore microRendu), coaxial (hello ALLO DigiOne), TOSLINK (hello JustBoom DigiHAT) or AES/EBU (hello AURALiC Aries G1).… Read the full article

Letters to the editor: KEF LSX, Mac Mini & music

By | November 3rd, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , |

“John — watching your LSX video, I had a eureka moment!  Some background, very briefly…  For years, I’ve been frustrated about the lack of Roon connectivity for the Naim Mu-so, which I use as a second sound system outside of my main lounge area.  Watching this video, I realized that I can use the same Chromecast hack with the Mu-so, which has both the optical in and the charging port!  

There has been lots of forum chatter about the lack of Roon on the Mu-so line, so maybe other readers will benefit from this insight. Read the full article

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JPLAY Femto + femtoServer promises better-sounding UPnP

By | November 2nd, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , |

Twelve months ago we reviewed JPLAY Streamer: a playback engine for any music playback app running on a Windows PC. Catch up here. TL;DR? The lower a music playback app’s hit to the host PC’s system resources (e.g. CPU), the less electrical noise generated by the PC and the better any USB-lassoed DAC will sound.

This week the Polish software company has announced JPLAY FEMTO: “a complete network music software player for the most demanding audiophile”. According to developer Marcin Ostapowicz, JPLAY FEMTO will not only improve the sound quality of locally stored music but also Tidal and Qobuz.… Read the full article

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A short film about the KEF LSX

By | October 31st, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

“Honey, I shrunk the LS50 Wireless” might be the snappiest way to describe KEF’s latest active loudspeaker: into a compact, Danish-fabric-wrapped cabinet, designed by one Michael Young and landing in five colour options, goes a new version of the British loudspeaker company’s Uni-Q driver array, internally juiced by Class D amplification – 70w for the mid/bass, 30w for the tweeter – and crossed over in a DSP engine that takes its binary feed from the (also internal) digital streaming board. An attractive hi-fi system in a box for apartment dwellers and bedroom producers.… Read the full article

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