Attention Span and Music

We live in a world where distraction and interruptions are normal, politicians talk in 30 second sound bytes, and music is present nearly continuously.  People complain about shorter and shorter attention spans, and more and more interruptions.  We feel that the enjoyment of music is also a victim of this.

Before we discuss how this could be the case, some background on the type of attention spans that have been documented:

Transient attention span is about 8 seconds long, and is typically something that attracts/distracts - think ads & pop ups when browsing.  With broadcasts the rule of thumb for dead air on FM, half the remaining listeners would flip to another station every 7 seconds in a long decay  (AM, was about 30 seconds for the same thing).  People will listen to under 7 seconds of a song to see if they will like it before finding another one.  I wouldn't be surprised if a typical Social Media post gets about this level of scrutiny before moving on (or if a link won&#…

Silence and Music

Ever wonder how we existed before?  In the last century we have gained the ability to listen to music nearly 24 hours a day if we so chose.  First with radio, now with internet streaming.  And the catalog and services allow us to find whatever subgenre, however narrow, to base it upon (or indeed widely general, too).  Some folks initially referred it to "music discovery" style, but in reality it's a carefully curated musical stream and for most people it stops there (meaning they won't buy the music but continue to stream it either paid or unpaid).  It's been a revelation when we stream and can fill the day.  A lot of ink has been spilled on how cool this is, in essence.  And some people deride it as "sonic wallpaper."  I think it's an apt description of it, though I mean no offense by it.  We can now have musical entertainment when we do any kind of mundane activity.  No performances to attend, no records to flip, you don't even have to be pay…

RANT: Giant Killers & The Myth of Something for Nothing

When you look at various forums, and talk to audiophiles, there is a common mythical beast, the so-called Giant Killer.

The Giant Killer means many things to many people, but in essence, it is a variation of the "something for nothing" but its story is one of hope that there exists a combinations of improbable engineering successes, and marketing blunders that offers incredible performance for a pittance.

Audio reviewers talk about Giant Killers in hushed tones, audio enthusiasts look for these deals (usually fruitlessly) in new and used gear to try to find that magic component that would be like a sprinkle of pixie dust to suddenly propel their system into a new category of performance.

As you can guess, we're skeptical about these so-called Giant Killers (heneforth referred to as GK in this entry), and think the sweat, time and effort would be best spent making synergistic upgrades, careful experiments with cables and room treatments and speaker placements.  We've…

The Thorens MM002 and MM008 meet the Crosley C10 (Part 2 of 2)

It used to be that every single receiver or preamp had a built in phonostage.  The way it used to work is that you would by a turntable, plug it in, and start spinning records.  For the audio enthusiast, there was always low output moving coil cartridges, and the resultant step-up-transformer you could use to present a signal to the phono input, but the built in was always used.  When the CD came to dominate, that the good 'ol built-in phono input went away.  A minor proliferation of external phono stages began as analog declined, but it left the mass market's consciousness as the silver disc rose in domination.  Given the people sticking to their vinyl through the near death of the medium were mostly performance oriented enthusiasts.  The state of the art playback for analog rose considerably (both in performance and price) during this dark time.  Now that vinyl is beginning to flirt with becoming mainstream again, brands are introducing their own tables and phono stages aim…

Vinyl and Digital and the AES

There is a current puzzle in audio since the introduction of CD.

While the measurements of digital are in many cases an order of magnitude better than vinyl (and audio Skeptics are fond of gleefully pointing this out), yet in the end, vinyl tends to sound more natural and more real most of the time (which subjectivist use to rub the Skeptics nose in it).

While we don't need to rehash the millions of words lost in the ongoing argument, I think it is easily summarized by three statements below:
The audio Skeptics have made a basic assumption that digital audio reproduction is essentially perfect, and have stubbornly maintained this ideaThe audio Subjectivists have not adequately defined high resolution well enough to inform study.Neither Skeptics nor Subjectivists have been able to acknowledge that our understanding of sound perception is incomplete and its study and revisions are ongoing.  This is either through ignorance or stubbornness.In a perusal of AES papers (yeah, we're mem…

Ortofon Rondo Bronze ... the Long Goodbye

One of the largest sources of distortion and excellence in any LP setup is the cartridge.  We're big fans of Ortofon, and we took a big leap first jumping from a Grado Sonata1 to a Denon DL-103R then to the underappreciated, excellent Ortofon Rondo Bronze.

We listen to a lot of vinyl, around 8-10 hours a week.  But keep meticulous care of our records and clean the needle with every side of a disk.  This means that at best we'd have 1500 hours of enjoyment.  At our rate that is right around 3 years.  We're into year 2, and while everything still sounds fantastic, it is time to start the long arduous process of finding a replacement, since in the mean-time, Ortofon has discontinued the Rondo line.  They have consolidated most of their LOMC offerings into two series:  "Quintet" and "Cadenza"

I can have the Rondo Bronze retipped (3rd party), or I can replace it with a Quintet or Cadenza.  Or look elsewhere, but there is no going back.  Nothing on offer is …

Quick Hit: Denon DL-103R and the AS Arche Headshell

We dug out the trusty Denon DL-103R and mounted it on the Acoustic Research "Arche" Headshell ... and got an incredible musical presentation once about 15 hours had passed with some fussing and adjusting.

The Denon's sound will continue improving as your tone-arm and turntable get upgraded, but does justice to what you already have.  It responds very well to careful alignment, but it's forgiving of less careful alignment.  It can go toe to toe with carts costing multiples of its US$379 MSRP (Street price slightly less).  If the basic sound is to your liking, there is also a small cottage industry that takes the DL103 and 103R and hotrods them, too.  The Denon DL-103R is not a perfect cartridge by any means, but it is one of those rare true "giant killers" where you have to spend a lot more to do better, and makes you ask "why bother" when considering such an upgrade.

We were happy to recommend it earlier, we're happy to double down on the rec…