November 2019
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Reports of the CD’s death are greatly exaggerated

By | October 1st, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , |

Streaming is a bulldozer. Vinyl sales remain strong. Downloads continue their cliff dive. CDs? Ask yer Dad. That’s the story from the RIAA for the first half of 2019 in the US of A:

Digital download revenue is down 18% on Q1-Q2 2018. Americans now spend as much on digital downloads (9%) as they do on physical media. And of the 9% revenue brought in by physical media, 4% comes from vinyl sales. That leaves the CD at 5%. Cassettes remain a rounding error.… Read the full article

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Tangled up in Bluetooth (revisited)

By | September 30th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Bluetooth in, analogue (or digital out). That’s the premise of iFi’s new ZEN Blue streaming DAC (£129) whose system-on-a-chip – a Qualcomm QCC5100 – routes the incoming data stream to your choice of 1) an ESS Sabre DAC followed by a discrete, fully-balanced analogue output stage (RCA or Pentaconn 4.4mm) or 2) a coaxial or TOSLINK output for connection to an outboard DAC.

With design input from John Curl, iFi Technical Director Thorsten Loesch says that the ZEN Blue’s analogue stage “incorporates a range of high-quality circuit components, carefully selected for their performance in an audio context, including professional-grade balanced line drivers, C0G capacitors from TDK and a precision low-noise power supply IC from Texas Instruments.”

In between the ZEN Blue’s input and output, we note support for the following advanced codecs that keep us away from the audibly weak SBC: AAC (hello iPhone), Sony’s LDAC (hello Android 8.0 and above), Huawei’s HWA and Qualcomm’s aptX HD (hello selected Androids).… Read the full article

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By | August 31st, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , |

It’s been quite the summer for Darko.Audio’s reach: we netted our 10,000th Instagram follower, cruised past 40,000 subscribers on YouTube and joined EISA, whose annual awards dinner in Berlin next weekend will regrettably prevent me from attending RMAF 2019.

The biggest ‘celebration’ of all is reserved for tomorrow, 1st September: this website’s ninth birthday. Thanks go out to the Darko.Audio video team – Olaf behind the camera and Jana in the editing suite – as well as those penning written contributions, past and present.… Read the full article

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KIH #68 – Vicissitude

By | July 29th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , |

Innovation. You’d think that well-funded firms with a big cadre of engineers and access to or even ownership of the latest measuring soft/hardware would be the ones to advance the state of the hifi arts. Perhaps that’s true. But it’s certainly not exclusive. Today we highlight a few more recent discoveries—the Raal Requisite true ribbon SR1a headphone having been covered in its own earlier feature—which come from very small outfits.

#1. From this site’s city of Berlin rose the first speaker which Oleh Lizohoub, previously lead engineer for Voxativ, launched under his new-again Camerton brand (he previously operated under that name in the Ukraine).… Read the full article

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Getting high on dynamic range with Jerry Harrison

By | July 16th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , |

Jerry Harrison’s solo album Casual Gods landed in British record store racks in February 1998 – just a few weeks ahead of Talking Heads’ Naked, with whom Harrison had played keyboards and guitar since he left Jonathan Richman’s Modern Lovers twelve years earlier. In 2019, Talking Heads’ swansong and Harrison’s sophomore solo album are both 31 years old.

Casual Gods’ striking cover art photography comes from Sebastião Salgado, about which the sleevenotes read: “This is not a scene from a movie.Read the full article

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The Know-It-All Audiophile threatens community expansion

By | July 4th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , |

KIA. Not the Korean car manufacturer but the Know-It-All that permeates all manner of special interest groups: photography, cycling, coffee and, of course, hi-fi. Our world is different in that it clocks up far fewer members. A smaller total that can’t hope to dissolve the minority of Know-It-All Audiophiles who often denigrate the opinions of those (supposedly) less knowledgable than he.

The Know-It-All Audiophile is the guy who wants to remind you of the poverty of your choices: that the music you listen to isn’t up to audiophile standards, that your MP3 streaming is garbage and that your playback hardware is little more than mid-fi.… Read the full article

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Cooking up a summer storm with the KEF LSX

By | July 1st, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Bluetooth. AirPlay 2. Spotify Connect. Roon. Room tuning. DSP. Firmware updates. Every one an audio tech abstraction until it meets the real world where many of us un/consciously look beyond our sub-optimal listening environments.

With the Berlin summer in full swing over the weekend, it was time to bust out the BBQ. My rooftop apartment offers a balcony long enough for a large group of people and wide enough for a large Weber-on-wheels — but not a four-seater table. We’d cook, chat and sink cold adult beverages outside but we’d eat in the kitchen.… Read the full article

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True to source

By | June 9th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , |

Got the itch for a new piece of audio gear? Chances are you’ll visit your local hi-fi dealer for a demo. Will you take your measurement kit with you? Most dealers would tell you to take a hike. Like me, you probably neither own the hardware to take measurements nor the technical nouse to interpret the results. (And if you did, you’d probably find more satisfaction with another hi-fi publication).

On an in-store blind test to compare A and B, the dealer might be more accommodating…but is such a scenario realistic?… Read the full article

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Freshly squeezed streaming!

By | June 5th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

The dead don’t die. Logitech put a bullet in the Squeezebox Touch (pictured above) back in 2012 but the software ecosystem lives on: Logitech Media Server (LMS) continues to enjoy community development and distribution as a free download under a GNU GPL; software client SqueezeLite can be installed to turn the host device into a virtual Squeezebox, complete with hi-res audio support up to 384kHz and – even more crucial – gapless playback.

Squeezelite on a Raspberry Pi gives us a virtual Squeezebox for a fraction of the originals’ pricing.… Read the full article

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When accuracy is overrated

By | May 28th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , |

What do large chunks of modern pop music (and techno, house and indie rock) and Munich High-End have in common? Both are LOUD. Modern music suffers from high levels of dynamic range compression. The Munich show delivers high levels of background noise. Pointing a camera and its microphone at an audio show and its conversational roar, in Munich multiplied and distorted by the echo of the M.O.C.’s exhibition halls, might be faithful to the real event but wait: is it enjoyable to watch/hear?… Read the full article

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