Monthly Archives: April 2017

Streaming

I’m a fan. In fact, I subscribe to Tidal’s $20/month Hi-Fi tier. I’ve also had paid subscriptions for other services including Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora. Suffice it to say I’ve more than dabbled in this world of rented music. I still enjoy my own personal library and on occasion purchase music but streaming is just so compelling. How could it not be with literally millions of songs at your fingertips?

Album oriented

I’m a bit old fashioned when it comes to music listening. During much of my day I listen to radio streams, but I much prefer listening to an entire album once I’ve settled in for the evening. Tidal and Spotify are perfect for my listening style and now Pandora is finally entering the on-demand fray with it’s Premium tier. They’re playing catch up to a degree, but their massive catalog coupled with their fantastic algorithms (Music Genome Project) may be enough to propel them back to the top of the heap. Curious to experience the latest from Pandora, I signed up for the Premium 60 day free trial.

Sound quality

Of import to me is sound quality and I can’t help but wonder if the quality of Pandora’s $10/month Premium tier will be good enough to upend Tidal in my world. (I would love to dump Tidal to be honest, but that’s another topic altogether.) Considering Tidal Hi-Fi streams at 1411kbps (CD quality) and Pandora Premium streams at 320kbps it’s doubtful, but time will tell. I’m hopeful. Ask me in 60 days.

Bluetooth

Geeks adore it. Audiophiles, not so much.

Allow me to set a scene for you .. (music plays in the background) .. while enjoying some good food, drinks, and conversation with friends, someone says “I heard a great song today and saved it on my phone, can we play it on your system?”. Always happy to oblige my non-audiophile friends, I have her engage bluetooth on her phone, pair it with my Wyred 4 Sound bLINK, and voilà!

The convenience and simplicity is hard to ignore.

Clean your clock

In the digital audio world jitter is a 4-letter word. What does jitter sound like? Harsh. Grating. Irritating. It sounds like listener fatigue. Ya’ll know about listener fatigue, right? After 20 minutes or so you just want to shut it off. Can we play some vinyl now, please? Bluetooth, along with other digital sources (Apple TV, Google Chromecast Audio, etc.), can do that to you. Re-clocking to the rescue.

The bLINK re-clocks a bluetooth stream to 24/96kHz with a femto-grade oscillator and outputs via Toslink or coaxial to your DAC. Femto-grade? Certainly buzzword-y enough, but does it sound better? Absolutely. And it’s easily discernible. In a nutshell, the sound quality is more relaxed and organic. Any lower-quality lossy stream (i.e., AAC, MP3, Ogg) I throw at it sounds significantly better. No more fatigue.

The bLINK can also be used in a hard-wired configuration for those interested in re-clocking their SPDIF coax stream. Depending on source, I’ve heard some nice improvements with lossless rates from 16/44.1 up to and including 24/96, but said improvements are more subtle with the higher rates. One caveat, files with bitrate/sampling frequencies of  24/176.6 or 24/192 will be decimated (down-sampled). Some will tell you decimation will always degrade the sound. My experience tells me otherwise .. as with all things audio, it depends.

I’ve enjoyed my bLINK for over a year now and even though my Bluesound Node 2 has built-in bluetooth capability, I still prefer the bLINK in comparison. BTW, all digital signals passing through my Node 2 are re-clocked with a bit-perfect iFi SPDIF iPurifier re-clocker before hitting the DAC. What does that tell you?

Kudos to Wyred 4 Sound for bringing a niche product like the bLINK to market.

To review or not to review

I love music and listen to it during much of my day whether at home, work, or in the car. Naturally, I have strong opinions about what I like and don’t like, but do we need another music reviewer? No doubt there are many fine ones already so no, I will not be writing reviews. Instead, I will share some discoveries, most of which will be jazz, but not all.