Tag Archives: bluetooth

EarStudio follow up

Radsone recently announced the EarStudio is now available on Amazon (only in the USA for now):

Amazon

Some early reviews are starting to come in so I thought I’d share them here. I’ll add to this post as time goes on. I’ll also throw in some forum links for those interested.

Steven Stone (Audiophile Review) 

Nargalzius (blogger)

Forum threads:

Head-Fi

Computer Audiophile

 

EarStudio by Radsone

In early July 2017 I stumbled across an interesting product on Kickstarter and decided to back it. The Radsone EarStudio Bluetooth Receiver is quite the little gadget and proved very timely for me. Anticipating my next mobile phone would likely come sans headphone jack I began looking for alternatives to Bluetooth headphones and the dreaded “dongle”. Frankly, I have enough headphones already and didn’t want to invest in another pair. The 2 headphones I most often use are the Audio Technica ATH-R70x and the Bowers & Wilkins P5.

The EarStudio packs quite a bit of techno-wizardry into a tiny and very light-weight box to which you connect your corded headphones. Rather than re-hash said wizardry the Radsone’s Kickstarter page, along with these 2 reviews, sum up the device quite nicely:

Major HiFi – October 2017

TechHive – July 2017

Jack sh*t

Soon after backing the project I settled on the Google Pixel 2 which, of course, has no headphone jack but sports aptX HD capability and, as it turns out, aptX HD is right in the EarStudio’s wheelhouse (so to speak). After a longer wait than anticipated Radsone shipped the device to us backers and I must say, it was worth the wait .. the sound quality is the best I’ve heard from Bluetooth.

The EarStudio doesn’t appear to be available on the open market quite yet but no doubt you’ll be hearing more about this great little device in the near future.

 

Bluetooth Revisited

After much research prior to my 1st Android phone purchase, I settled on Google’s Pixel 2. Despite being extremely happy with the phone I was, admittedly, a bit disappointed with the Bluetooth specs Google had published for their latest greatest .. Bluetooth 5.0 + LE. That’s it. No aptX (never mind aptX HD). I wondered if I’d ever have a chance to hear aptX and it’s reported step-up in quality.

What the … ?

Reports of Android Oreo breaking Bluetooth abound online so a few days after the new phone arrived I decided to test the phone’s Bluetooth functionality. Not only was Bluetooth working flawlessly, it only took a couple of minutes to recognize a distinct sound quality up-tick. Curious, I tunneled further into the Bluetooth settings on my phone and discovered an aptX toggle button! Here’s a screenshot:

aptX

Searching online I found this thread on Android Central. The claim is Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE, and aptX HD are all supported, as it is in Oreo. I still can’t find an official confirmation from Google but, my Pixel 2 tells me it’s using an aptX connection to the Node 2.

Toggling the switch on/off I can hear a distinct difference and the increase in sound quality is certainly enough for me to use this connection when I’m streaming music.

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.

Storage wars

Like many an audiophile I’ve had way too many components pass through my doors over the years. Here’s a list of gear I simply don’t want to part with. While packed away for now, each will see the light of day again at some point. Why hold onto such excess? What holds my interest? The speaker collection, for example, consists of a quasi-ribbon panel, a two-way mini monitor with an AMT tweeter, and a pseudo-omni floorstander. Each design philsophy is radically different from one another and offers a different presentation with unique strengths and weaknesses. Of course, they all sound good too. I just can’t part with them. Besides, it’s never a bad idea to have backups.

DACs

  • Chord Electronics Qute EX
  • dB Audio Labs Tranquility (gold level mods)
  • Schiit Bifrost Multibit

USB to SPDIF converters

  • Bel Canto mLink
  • SOtM dX-USB HD

DDCs

  • iFi SPDIF iPurifier
  • UpTone Audio USB REGEN
  • Wyred 4 Sound bLINK

Preamplifier

  • PS Audio Trio P-200

Amplifier

  • PS Audio Trio A-100

Integrated amplifiers

  • Fleawatt Audio TPA3116D2
  • Odyssey Audio Cyclops (SE+ w/ps upgrade)
  • Response Audio RAM 301

Loudspeakers

  • Magnepan MMG
  • Mark & Daniel Maximus-Ruby
  • Ohm MicroWalsh Tall

Power Supplies

  • iFi Audio iPower
  • iFi Audio iUSBPower
  • KingRex PSU MK2
  • SOtM mBPS-d2s
  • Teddy Pardo Teddy 12/2

CD Player

  • Ah! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 CDP

Miscellaneous

  • Chromecast Audio
  • Decware ZSB