Monday, 28 December 2015

Post Christmas and upcoming New Year Edition.


This entry will be a bit different than those in the past in that normally by now I've gotten two entries out or at least half prepared and I haven't but anyway I think I'll start by hoping you've all had a great Christmas.
Christmas was a bit different here being at home unlike previous years so we did a lot home catering which providing you're up the preparation part is fine and actually work out at least as good as if not better than the meals we've had out for a good deal less of the money.
When it comes to salads which if you're like us, you've had your cooked meal middayish the one thing I tend to find is many of the so-called classic Pork Pies tend to be thick on the pastry side with a fair amount of jelly so when you take a bite into them, you get through quite a bit before you taste the pork.
Well, given we live in a market town in the North-west Midlands, we bought a lot of stuff from local shops and that included our Pork Pies which came from Chatwins of Cheshire as the large ones, the sort you divide up into portions had a nicer thin pastry so it was more like a pie made from pork so you  bit right into the pork which was delicious.
With not being well some of my presents are due to arrive soonish but I had some money, vouchers for HMV which I can use in Liverpool, Stoke or Wolverhampton for cd or vinyls and coming soon will be some micro sd cards for my Fiio music player.
Incidentally if you bought any Beatles albums from Amazon, do check your Amazon Music folder as they may well of given you some complementary Mp3 versions as last night I found I had a  few!
Usually around the New Year I talk a bit about the previous year and how I see things going into the next and this time it's no exception.
Last year was quite a different year for me in that some things that had held me back in the past  got some attention, I had a number of emotionally painful events take place that really tested my ability to cope, the help I've been given and also challenged head on some the assumptions around what really matters the most to me personally.
I also learned the time I spent with friends by it face to face or in small groups online had the most value, being supported and coming through the pain to carry one with deal what we have to - that continuing life - mattered the most so I'll be structuring my life more to take account of what I've learnt.
Endless hours into the morning on social media really is not good for me.
On this blog we've looked at music quite a bit not least cos I find it very therapeutic once one avoids the smart arses at some sites, the growing number of so-called high resolution downloads  and 'bare bones' inexpensive box sets the major companies are putting out.
I'd like to end this entry by thanking  the Angelic Crew and the Boneses for your company and laughs (do you know anyone that makes such awful puns?) and wishing you all a Happy New Year.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Christmas 2015 Edition

Yes on the 555th post on this blog, the last entry before Christmas Day, I thought I'd put up a seasonal card style illustration cos I think most of us are near enough ready not that we don't have the mad panic on Christmas eve if we've gotten X their present and just why is Z's card still on the table.
Over recent years I've just adopted more the attitude that what's been done is and anything that hasn't can be put aright afterward where in any event it may be more appreciated anyway rather than rushing around the shops and then round to folks.

*****HAPPY CHRISTMAS FOLKS*****

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Pre Christmas struggles and musing

Yip, that's very much how I feel at the minute here tired, unwell and tying to get things done when it seems time is running out..
After evening meal here I'll write out a few more cards for when folk come at the weekend although having been unwell enough to visit the local store and cash machine, presents may just have to wait until later even possible after Christmas day as there's just no way I'm well enough to get them sorted out and have a hope in heck of being well myself for Christmas.
The only minor consolations of sorts from this severe Winter Flu is I did get around to setting up SlimJet fully on the laptop, ditching chrome and using the secure master password protected autofill data manager for stuff like log ins to sites.
As well I did get a bit of music file management done, recopying a good number for better sound and full sets album art not least on my Rolling Stones discs outside of those I got the Mastered For iTunes editions of which has worked out very well. 
While I was at it I got the 1994 editions of the Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock And Roll albums which I allowed myself to replace by the first editions at the instigation of others but regretting it shortly afterward. 
It was during an era when I was very much in awe of one website and it's more prolific posters, thinking they were 'the ears' just ditching discs because they were saying what they had were better rather than if I felt there was any reason to. 
I've matured quite a bit since then making my own decisions in my time to suit what I feel is best to my ears and learned to appreciate the music more.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Friday musings

Between unplanned events I'm slowly getting ready for Christmas here although the tree isn't up just yet and I should be seeing a few relatives at the weekend as we don't see each other much at any other time which I guess is a good side to this time of year.
I have almost done filling up one of my music players cards with just a few hundred megabytes left so I'll be starting another one soon but anyway I've added my Depeche Mode albums to it and that really took me back in time.
The themes of many of their songs fitted well with my exploration of different lifestyles outside of the rather socially conservative upbringing I had while their use of synthesizers and samples was trailblazing.
I might add politicians went further down in my estimation this week with the totally amazing idea to have Yet Another Meeting to decide the future of the third runway for London's Heathrow Airport and kicked it into the long grass until after the London Mayorial elections as the Tory candidate and friends is at odds with other tory big wigs so after 50 years we put off a decision until the Summer of 2016. 
Never mind keep this up and it won't be in place until I'm dead and buried!!! 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Operation reset

In what has proven to be a wet week that's no good for my bones, I've been kept awake with overnight rain around twice which does nothing for my sleep and has kept me in a bit more than I'd like.
Apart from all that serious business around Isis, the Paris attacks and what the UK's response should be if we still have a military to speak of by the time the man up the road has sold everything to reduce the budget deficit (I have visions of him walking the streets of Knutsford shaking a collecting tin shouting "War Effort"), I've been fixing a few things like updating the codecs in dbPoweramp, my cd to audio file program of choice simply cos it just does everything well which makes the small fee for a on off license for three machines and ongoing support worth my while.
I've restored an old favourite when it comes to wallpaper cos I had a bit of an accident and wiped off the one I first had on this machine while looking at some image files, replacing purely by accident with something that wasn't so good for when I'm in company.
My co-ordination's a bit wonky at best and I just mistook 'open' for 'set as background' and that was it-gone!
It's very 2011 and lived on 'Treacle', the old shot at desktop at the time before migrating to original HP Compaq laptop that's no more so in that way I've been going back apart from removing junk off the desktop which somehow you just aquire over the months.
I remember in Windows XP that silly dog character popping offering to clean it but haven't seen Windows 7 try that yet!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Hold on tight

The Electric Light Orchestra and I go back in time buying the 45's back in the day and later on getting a good number of their albums on cd.
Like with a number of other artists, recently their has been an attempt to bypass some of restrictions of conventional cds, a technology that goes back the late 1970's by issuing in higher resolution 24 bit downloads and I obtained a number recently.
When it comes to compilations there's been a good number starting from 1979's Greatest Hits that in some ways is remains the perfect summary of the 1973-77 singles and double or even triple cd sets.
The one I remember getting in 1997 was Light Years a mid price British double which was jam packed full of material including edits, in no particular order and suffered from being too consistently loud and bright so I relented and got the original Greatest Hits album on a cheap cd.

That did leave missing a selection of the later hits as most miss off anything from the  Zanadu soundtrack that gave us three hit singles and to which the title song had been re-recoded in 1991 for the Flashback cd  box set that was criticized for it's sound quality and chopping off the very start and ends of a number of tracks.
The one pictured above most would consider the best of the bunch having most of the essential tracks including the very early tracks and was very well mastered by Vic Ansini in 1995 who did excellent work on a number of Columbia projects like the Simon & Garfunkel remasters.

It was only issued in North America and recently I've ordered a copy to fill those gaps and having the European Zanadu soundtrack, the missing tracks from it aren't so much of an issue with me.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Viewing the web

Cool dampish start to the day here.
This week I've finished putting my Japan albums on Micro SD card in lossless to listen to om my portable Fiio X1 player, a best buy in the sounds great for the money stakes.
Getting to the meat of this entry, my Dell Netbook is a bit slow browsing the web hindered by it's sluggish Intel Atom processor although I like it's small size for writing blog entries and the like on.
I run Pale Moon for Atom on it as that's a fairly light weight variant of Firefox which is usually what I use but was looking at alternatives not least to Chrome which is noticeably slower on it.
Actually I found a version of it that I'm I'm currently testing with a view to replacing Chrome by ultimately.
Called slimJet, it's a very light browser that is based on Chrome in its Open Source form (Chromium) but rather than using a lot of plugins that tend to be slow and buggy, many of these features are intergrated directly in the browser which works better.
It's also easier to customize, something Chrome just isn't designed to do preferring to give you it's own minimalist design and doesn't send information (your data) to Google's advertising world although you can use Chrome extensions and plug-ins if you wish from the Chrome web store without issue.
Slimjet
I think over the years I've used most of the main browsers such as Internet Explorer 6,7,8,10 and 11, Firefox from version 2.0.1 onward and Chrome just seeing them get bloated or stuck down one development alley that didn't sit well with me.
The issues with Flash plugin's and Firefox at times drove me made on social media where post may contain embedded video or animation just crashed.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Kim Wilde Part II

Following on from last weeks entry, one bugbear for many cd based fans is that her first three albums have only had sporadic available in cd form and the last set of individual remasters done by Cherry Pop severely reduced the contrast between the softest and loudest sounds and many of bonus tracks were sourced from less than clean records.
I had bought the first album as early as 1990 on cd issue but it took ages to track down a copy of 1982's Select and when I did it was the German edition with what looked like a photocopied front insert inaccurately cut out.
In late December of 2014 as part of Warner Bros acquisition of the Parlophone catalogue of EMI, they embarked on operations to monetize it and added a series of Three cd boxed editions from the catalogue and Kim's original Rak albums featured in it entitled The Triple Album Collection.
I was interested to hear how they would sound as they had been last mastered around 2009 for EMI but only issued as downloads, the cd rights going to Cherry Red who did there own.
Actually have just gotten them they are good and it is a real pity they have just two sided card covers.
Catch as Catch Can sounded much smoother and less harsh with better dynamics on this edition compared to the Cherry Red disc of 2009 and further testing of the other two should they while sounding slightly different  to my original cd issues, did sound very close indeed with the small high frequency drop on Ego on the Select album being corrected keeping much of the original dynamics.
While this set lacks any bonus tracks such as b sides and singles versions, I feel this is really good value for money being available for around GBP £10 from Amazon Marketplace sellers.
The quality is very good indeed.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Kim Wilde

I'm getting this post done like now cos I'm gonna very busy in the next few days with things that are of greater importance to me to do.
Of the many female vocalists that I grew up, none was better timed that that of the rise of Hertfordshire, Englands, Kim Wilde whose career I followed in magazines, tv shows and on record that in time gave way to newer formats.
By around the late 80's some of her recordings from the early 80's had come out on cd, firstly with that most useful set of 45 mixes The Very Best of issued on vinyl in 1984 and gaining it's cd debut in late 1987 that included Boys that wasn't on her first album.
By 1989 the first two had come out but most places didn't stock 1982's Select but carried her 1981 debut "Kim Wilde" that contained the hit 45 that started it off, Kids In America which I bought on sight being very impressed by how it sounded although the system I had wasn't as good as my current ones but it took more years and persistence to track down a German copy of Select on cd for View From a Bridge, Take Me Tonight  and Cambodia.
I bought the 2009 Cherry Red re-issue of Catch as catch Can which remains elusive and extremely expensive in it's 1990 EMI Fame issue.
The 1984 through 1992 era on MCA was easier as I bought these during the mid 80's in the UK although one went sticky on the top layer but plays fine, 1986's Another Step in it's 1987 second issue with bonus tracks and a different cover.
To me that's the album and I also saw the lp version with a bonus 12" packed in with it at the time and even bought the 80's tastic VHS stereo video album which is 'hot' at 15 certificate rated!
1988's Close was never off my cd player and copy on Maxell's XLII type II tape lived in my Aiwa auto reverse portable tape player while on the move.
That album contained Hey Mr Heartache, You Came and the smash hit Never Trust a Stranger.
That cd also became sticky but wouldn't play right so after several years my UK Nimbus pressed copy got replaced by a Japanese one which did play but sounded thin.
During the last week I've been transferring her albums to micro sd card to play on the Fiio so took a chance getting a used European MCA copy.
This sound pretty much like my Nimbus UK pressed copy with the tight deep bass and depth in the sound I so missed minus the sticky top coating so it's that version that's now on sd card.
For £1.59 including mailing, it's the cheapest upgrade I've experienced in eons!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

There goes the neighborhood

Here we go a week on from the enforced rest edition and I'm slowly recovering from this rotten head cold and associated cough that is stuck down my tubes.
Meanwhile continued on in the enforced rest mode, I copied a bunch of Diana Ross albums to a micro sd card from cd and re-downloaded a few that had gotten lost with the demise last year of my previous laptop of which one now had the option of very high bite rate AAC downloads rather than plain old Mp3 from the stores locker which tend to sound better.
Talking of that old laptop, a few of you how much I like stuff along the Eagles,Don Henley, Glen Frey and Joe Walsh direction and how I'd filled in some of the missing albums over the last year I didn't get around to backing up.
Dig the tank picture!
The origins of my Joe Walsh collection were from various sites that had the downloads on although I did get the various 'audiophile' editions of his cds at cost, but many of his albums are hard to find in cd form.
I tracked a few down on iTunes in their better sounding Mastered for iTunes versions but until recently this one escaped me as it wasn't available at any reputable store such as  7Digital or Amazon either.
Released in 1981, shortly after he'd left the Eagles, it was his fifth solo album and the home of the 45 'A Life of illusion' recorded as early as 1973 but only completed for this album which only got as far as a top twenty placing.
It features former Eagles  band mates Timothy B Schmidt  and Don Felder playing and concludes with 'You Never Know' an angry swipe at the Eagles band management company.
This was recently re-released digitally by Rhino/Warners and I as able to get the download from iTunes after a bit of consenting to the new customer agreement which does sound quite a bit better than the mushy Mp3 version I had before.

Now playing "Who's Better, Who's Best" by the Who.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

A little bit of enforced rest.

I'm not too good this week with a bad cold and that so I'm having to stay offline to rest me eyes as trying to stare at the laptop was they feel 'heavy' is bad for me so I'm listening  to music rather more.
Last night I listened to Paul McCartney's All The Best Compilation from 1987 and a couple of albums by Tom Petty who I like a lot on my Fiio portable music player as it's easier than trying to post a cd in a tray while sneezing.
Talking of Paul McCartney I do have the HD downloads of Tug Of War which is a remix and 1983's Pipes Of Peace.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Bowie-2015 remastered cds part II

I did pick up the issues of David Bowie, The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory and Pin Ups off which were actually remastered this year by Ray Staff.
As with all the post 1990 issues they keep the original lp sleeves rather than 1972's RCA era re-issue sleeves that used Ziggy era pictures to resell these to the 'glam rock' audience which to me always was a misleading as these albums are more hippy folk/rock albums.
Having listened to them all I can say they sound better than the West German RCA using better tapes and having good tone balance decisions when it comes to equalizing to make the most of the tapes with wide dynamic ranges.
If you have the RCA's you may be satisfied with them but there's no need for younger fans to go hunting for expensive very long out print cds for these four titles.

Diamond Dogs Redux
My main copy on cd of this dystopian musical creation based on George Orwell's 1984 is the West German RCA cd from around 1984/5 and is the home of such 45's as Rebel Rebel, 1984 and Diamond Dogs. It also was the first album without the Spiders from Mars.
The description of how this cd sounds on music forums is 'dark', I'd say it was the sound of significantly high frequency loss with some alignment errors leaving it sounding 'lumpy'.
There isn't a universally approved later edition although the Japanese for US cd is much brighter although the other big difference is the West German breaks the songs into the groupings of the original UK lp and the Japanese cd all all others makes every song and intro a separate 'track'.
The Hifi people like the Japanese RCA but then at over £30 per copy as and when you see one, it's quite expensive.
It's been several years-make that over a decade-since I heard the 1990 remaster in it's UK form, a good number of which are equalized different compared to the Ryko versions and picked up a mint copy to demo.
This copy has much better high frequencies and is clear is from a much better tape and while being a bid midrange centred does have reasonable bass that those with tone controls can add  by a slight boost if you find yourself wanting deeper bass.
It certainly is more musically involving to listen to and will be my main listening copy until the next phase of the Bowie remastered campaign is released.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Bowie-2015 remastered cds

The first in the series of six re-mastered David Bowie cds  arrived the other day being related to the Bowie Five Years box set for Parlophone/Warners.
As the new disc of Ziggy Stadust (and the .....) is a fold down of the 2003 surround sound mix I'm skipping over that one having the 2012 stereo remaster from the original masters as I've no real use for that.

Aladdin Sane, his 1973 collections of mostly originals is usually overlooked and is a personal favourite of mine having the original UK RCA lp and probably is a better advert for Davids 'Glam' period than Ziggy or Hunky Dory.
This new cd actually uses the 2013 re-master by Ray Staff who cut a number of his albums for lp.
The album was the last one with the Spiders being the home to Drive In Saturday and Jean Genie as well as a remake of The Prettiest Star although the track I like the most is Lady Grinning Soul.
Whatever some hyper critical sorts might say actually this is a very good remaster with a full smooth sound with the piano sounding correct something the much talked about RCA cd from the dawn of cd era doesn't quite manage although it was pretty good going by my West German copy.
The only negative is a small drop in the loudest to quietest  volumenoticed more on Aladdin Sane than most of the other tracks but I rather suspect had you not got the lp or that RCA original cd you wouldn't be any the wiser and certainly this issue sounds better in all other ways than either the early 90's EMI/Ryko remaster or Peter Mews 1999 editions.
If you have them, you benefit from this edition, if you have the RCA perhaps not although the 'tone' I feel is fuller and that's a bigger thing to me than absolute dynamic range so I can see myself playing this copy more.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Bowie -The Singles Collection

While enjoying the HD 192/24 downloads of his Five Years set of the first six albums I thought I'd blog about this.
At one time when it came to compilations it was fairly straightforward you had the Greatest Hits for just that or best ofs that mixed them with b sides and tracks only on album like the Beatles 1962-1966 and 1967-70 doubles.
David Bowie has had a quite a few over the years and being an artist who had hit 45's and 'radio hits' existing on album his from the get go were like that starting from 1976's ChangesOneBowie and the 1981 after the event ChangesTwoBowie sets which were not so satisfactory and had a brief appearance in the early days of the Compact Disc.
The one most are probably familiar with is 1991's ChangeBowie which was issued by Ryko in North America and EMI in the UK and rest of the world which had four extra tracks on the lp as typically the cd was of the long playing time single disc sort event though the lp was a double.
That isn't a bad compilation although like much of his catalogue hasn't been well mastered during the cd era but does suffer than the decision to put an well after the event version of Fame entitled Fame 90 that sticks out like a sore thumb.
This compilation,The Singles Collection, covers much the same period, from 1969's Space Oddity to his last solo album for EMI of this era, 1987's Never Let Me Down 
which is represented by Day In-Day Out but has the advantages well taken advantage of of adding key album tracks and his non studio album tracks  like This Is Not America.
Fame on this album is the original version which is always a gain and while his late 90's Best Of series covering 1969-1974, 1974-1979 and 1980-1987 have alternate mixes and b sides, they suffer from loud mastering that so reduces the variation in loudness and sounds a bit edgy.
In the absence of anything else intelligently compiled in chronological order, this one gets my nod of approval.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Copying Thursday

Busyish Thursday copying a load of cds off for my player which would be easy if hadn't of been for having whole works split between discs so I have to break each work back down again and re-stitch some back into one folder in the right track number order by hand.
That process 'Tagging' after metatags, what players use to know what album, artist and track order to play in is very important so it pays to get it right.
Box sets are fun as you need often to identify each disc so you can find it easy on a player but I forgot on one and have had to edit 47 entries by hand so each disc has a 1, 2 or 3  at the end of the box title so the play lists each disc as xxxx title 1, 2, 3 shows up when you scroll to find the album you want.
For Doubles I put a [Disc 1] or [Disc 2] at the end of the title before copying so it'll make separate folders so marked
The good thing about the program I use, db Poweramp is it fetches the art and album details very well almost automating the process and can put recordings in whatever formats you wish which is increasingly full cd quality Lossless Flac given the cheapness of big capacity cards.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

They keep on a -comin'

A few thoughts around the refugee crisis.
I have watched over the last few months the steady trickle of refugees grow into tidal wave coming from several directions intent on re-locating to Europe, often Western Europe and the UK.
That there is a huge problem in downtown Syria, Iraq and that region with war, persecution and poverty is real so beyond arguing that it is shouldn't even need to said and at least some of this is connected with Western attempts to re-format the region, accepting others have gotten involved and regimes themselves  are far from exemplary too.   
It's way too simplistic to say it's all the West's fault and so its sole responsibility any more than it is to say one all one needs to wait to sort out the regions problems to really solve it even if that has to be a part of the long-term solution.
It also exposes in horrible way, the dis-unitedness of the European Union that has invested so much in the appearance of it, the lack of real co-ordination, the contrasts between acceptance of high numbers of refuges and the at times brutal ways others are intent on using to keep themselves free from taking any refugees and acceptance of elements of the culture such as religion.
"Just where is the common humanity out there?" is something I feel like screaming aloud although as seasoned readers of this blog and those who know my 'Big' know I'm strongly for planned controlled immigration for those who want to work and otherwise contribute to our society for their own betterment.
Being a  refugee is so different, it's like being kicked out of your house or fleeing abuse in a good number of ways. You're leaving not because you want to but you  so want that situation to end but you know it won't until you leave it.
That's where this whole business has gotten in a mess. People have moved thousands of miles without anyone anywhere checking who is a refugee and arranging for applications and who is simply wanting a better job, which is good aim but one there is a proper procedure for and where understandably  countries will not accept "Because I want to live in say the UK" as good enough. There has to be a skill that can't be met from within for many to accept those from outside and sometimes a solid job offer too and here in the UK we do need some people for sure such as in health care.
While I find much that is unacceptable in Hungary's use of tear gas yesterday at groups wishing to enter it, I can and I think most of us need to understand you can't allow your counties borders to be literally torn down and the group who sure do include those seeking refugee status need to accept they need to engage with a registration process to sort out claims and verify identity which is huge concern given a mini industry in false Syrian papers and even Syrian's in the groups saying some clearly aren't by racial or linguist tracts that are clearly North African or even Pakistani in origin.
It's not like just hopping on transnational train where a check of your passport and your through.
It's time for a concerted UN intervention.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Project X Part IV, Rationing the sound

Just been enjoying some Nielsen here on what has been a dry sunny but cool  day.
The amplifier is working rather well but one issue is the output from things like a cd player or my digital audio players line out is a lot higher than its input stage can handle so I have to turn the volume way way back and it sounds a bit strained on very loud passages.

It's a common problem cause by the strange decision in the early 1980's to standardize the output from digital to analogue converters typical found in cd players to around 2 volts where in the past it was rare for any device to have an output over 0.75 volts r.m.s. and often around  .250 to 0.5 volt which devices were and still are designed to 'see' into.
In simple terms, it means it's likely the very first stages of an amplifier are likely receive so much signal from such a source that they distort before the volume control can ration it, sounding harsh.
I've ordered up a pair of high quality 10db inline attenuators by Rothwell to put between the signal lead and the switching box which should cure that and allow it to use more of the volume controls rotation. 
They use 'audiophile' grade metal oxide resistors in a padded network in a plug enclosure to achieve that without compromising the transparency of the sound while being neat. 
Postscript: They arrived the next day from Bacup, Lancashire, England and it cured it leaving to sound very impressive playing a 96/24bit HD version of Rush's a Farewell To Kings on Closer To The Heart and the Christian Ferras recording of Sibelius's Violin Concerto (with BPO/H v Karajan on DG) via a Fiio X1 digital audio player's line  output.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

A touch of the Finns

Yeah I know it's late and that but I've been busy doing stuff not least connected with Project X so sorry an' all.
As most know I've always like the Finnish composer Sibelius and indeed as early as 1993 bought a complete box set of his symphonies but while that box was pretty good it was a bit uneven so I'm prepared to try another complete cycle.

Originating in the 1980's and being mainly digitally recorded Ashkenazy's set for London (UK: Decca) was always highly regarded not just for sound but for the evenness of performances bettering in that regard Simon Rattle's set for EMI which I first bought, bringing more a feel of romance rather than icy cold Scandinavian winters to the score.
It also scores (gawd awful Caroline punnery,eh?) by having the four main Tone Poems and the Violin Concerto included with what is a set you get four around £14 included in this 5 cd set making a excellent introduction to this man I got from All Your Music.
That was less than half the price I paid for my original 4 cd set!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Project X part III-making a noise!

That took time! I was just combining the contents of two older micro sd cards to a newer Samsung 64gb one as the originals were smaller in capacity than those you can get today and as it was works by the same artists were split between them which made no real sense anymore.
Cards of  that capacity now can be had for around GBP £18  easily so I think in so far as anything in lossless full cd quality that'll be my minimum size.
Meanwhile on Project X, we've wired it up to the speakers it'll be used on in my rest room for when I'm feeling rough which is fairly smallish.
I've had these for a while being the bigger and more general purpose base model to my regular Wharfedale Diamond IV, which are a ported mini monitor come bookshelf speaker designed more for absolute accuracy than efficiency .
The Delta 30's go a bit lower at the bass end and are 2db more efficient which is as well as although the SMSL SA 36 Pro is quoted as delivering 20 watts per channel, when you look at the integrated circuit manufacturers website, that figure is quoted at 10% thd+n distortion where most regular amplifiers quote the output relative to 0.1% or less and so in reality it's more like 8 watts.
In practical terms, in a smallish room with these speakers you can fill the room with relatively loud music sounding clean with the volume control no further forward than '11 o' clock'  leaving some capacity for sudden peaks.
With the other speakers you'd need an output rated more like 20 or more watts at 0.1 thd+n distortion or less to achieve a similar volume in the same sized room.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Project X Pt II, the selected page

It it had arrived last Saturday and has spent the week being soak tested to make sure it had no faults on arrival and did not develop any in use as naturally it would be returned to the suppliers for replacement.
As mentioned, the matter of having just one input would be addressed as while that would be fine if say you were using to improve on the sound of your tv with a small pair of speakers, it's not convenient for changing sources, having to plug and unplug every time.
So I got this.

It's really a A/v switch unit by HQ of Denmark for home theatre systems but having looked into the cost of buying the parts and a aluminum project case there would be no real gain plus I'd have buy a few beers for whoever was gonna drill and wire it up for me.
To connect it I bought a 0.5 metre Fisual cable as you really don't want long wires to take the output from this box to the input on the amplifier. I have 3.5mm mini jack for my Fiio X1 digital music players line output to plug into the switch and several Radio Shack (RIP) "Tandy Gold" thick oxygen free copper 1 metre cables.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Project X

I've been interested in how things work for quite sometime which in the old days was fairly straight forward in that often you could see just by looking at all the key bits and that often was connected with audio equipment as getting good sound has always mattered to me.
Sometimes I'd buy either a full kit to assemble or boards with all the main components mounted on to just wire up and a few bits to make say a radio unit or an amplifier for not much money.
Sometimes it was worth it just for the learning experience alone.
As a good number of you know in recent years because of my acquired difficulties with my hands, that whole avenue has been denied me simply cos I can't solder and screw things together anymore. That really hacks me off big time.
I've bought something more or less ready done to experiment a bit with though and it is this.
It's a SA 36A Pro 'amplifier' ready assembled from board similar to what can be bought part done with a power unit.
The first and in many ways intriguing aspect to it is it uses a special low power integrated circuit to produce approximately 25 watts per channel made by TI Instruments, the TPA3118D2DAP, which is a Class D high efficiency one that a number of people are raving about for its sound..
I won't bore the pants off of you by explain all about Class D as there's a good entry on Wikipedia explaining all but it's why such a small cheap board can equal the output of a more conventional amplifier of a similar power using less electricity and getting less hot.



The front panel shows just how small it is and  also why  I put parenthesise around the word amplifier as while it has a volume control, it does lack an input selector which at a later stage of this project I intend to tackle.


This is the actual board as fitted with the integrated circuit the small black object in the centre and you'll also see how careful design has removed the need for trailing wiring from back to front.

This is the back panel of the SA 36, original version which only accepted 12 volts dc input, the 36A Pro accepts up to 24 volts for higher output via black switched mode (transformerless) power unit that is supplied.
There are binding posts to connect 4 to 8 ohm loud speakers to, left and right line input and that 2.5mm inner, 5.5 outer socket for the power unit.

The supplied power unit is 12 volts but only 2 amp maximum which I feel is a bit restricting so I've ordered a 60 watt max, 5 amp one to use with it as if the amplifier draw more than the supplied power unit can give it's protection circuits are more likely to need to kick in and some have found the quality of these units is compromised  by the rather basic supplied units, that are not the manufacturers own. 

That unit also has a fused UK mains lead where as the supplied unit is a unfused continental 2 pin one with a basic unfused adapter which I wasn't happy about on safety grounds as serious conditions could develop before your mains circuit tripped, knocking off the power.
I'm interested in two things, the first being just how good is this chip? and secondly as advocate of getting good sound into peoples lives, can budget hifi equipment by non mainstream manufactures provide a way in for people who end up with so-so all in one music systems to enjoy more of their music.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Triggers and managing shared space

Sometimes real life events gets in the way of posting it may be that you're going to be away, you have bigger priorities at that moment  or and this does happen to me from time to time, there are things that bring back painful memories  that can  completely override your emotional sense that you are locked in that emotion.
Such 'Triggering' is very much for real where some item, topic, or event has an effect like a Trigger that causes you exhibit that behaviour and you may not realize it until minutes later just how it's effected you.
It's not that you don't like to see something or a group of people to discuss a certain topic or other to the point you really wish to prevent or shut down a discussion you don't agree with, which sadly sometimes people like me can be accused of.
Most of us accept you can't and wouldn't wish to prevent others exercising their rights to 'free speech' but rather where it's the case you know certain subjects do have an effect and you're in a space be it say in cafe or in a online chat room connected to a site that's not about the topic, is there anything wrong with recognizing it and not talking say around things like guns, forced sex and so on?
Are these topics that might in any event be better discussed by those with an interest elsewhere?
Is the appropriate response to a polite request to change the topic "It's my goddam right to free speech and I'll talk about what the hell I like here" or is it not the case while free speech as an excellent ideal, worth upholding it too is subject to some qualifications and even a degree of recognizing what you may have a perfect right to do doesn't necessary make it right to deploy it in each and every situation?
How hard is for to create spaces wherere most of us can feel 'safe' in?
It's also why I'm so loath to use online chatrooms where too many times people feel so detached from another emotionally, they refuse to even consider anyone elses needs.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

R.i.p Cecil

I honestly wish I didn't feel the need to post this but I do.
The senseless killing by bow and arrow, leaving him suffering for hours, sickens me to the core. 
How could any intelligent person consider killing an endangered  species whose population has fallen rapidly in the last ten years  and was even  part of a breeding group program?
All it takes is money, corruption and an a***hole of a Midwestern Dentist seemingly addicted to killing things by bow and arrow.
Please give to what you can to wildlife charities supporting breeding and consrvation work and support bringing that individual to full account for his actions.
Let Cecil not die in vain.
Thank you.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Caro's catch up post

Yeah I know it's a bit late but I've been rather busy this week with things so sorry if I haven't visited your forum leaving my usual quirky comments all over the place mixed with a tidgy bit of seriousness(tm).
I've been enjoying the Creedence Clearwater Revival in it's lossless glory as when my original laptop died, an album by them and another by the Allman Brothers Blues Band went as I only had them as downloads and not from places I could re-download them from either.
I likes me southern rock.
I don't talk politics much but I was pleased the Liberal Democrats picked Tim Farron MP as their new leader as he likes to engage directly with people in the street and recognizes the trend toward blaming whole groups of people for things not be right does us no favours even though that shouldn't stop of from having open debates about what is concerning us. 
I think he was the best of the bunch and we'll see how the next set party leader elections, that of the left leaning Labour Party go.
A functioning democracy needs a organized opposition to hold the governing party t account. I wrote that in 1981 and still think it's true.
Until next week, bye!


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Travelling onward

There's other things on my mind right now and today's been a bit of rollercoaster but if there's anything I've learned it's that change is never permanent and digging out those things you loved the most help you though things.
For me just getting away from whatever  that is, going for a walk, watching the world go by maybe taking the odd picture or two helps.
This picture was taken on a camera I've had for getting on for 19 years, when I first realized I wanted to take good pictures and what I had was getting in the way of that.
In that time I've gotten better lenses for it, learned along the way more about how to to take the pictures I had in my mind, trying different films and getting  used to the different ways lighting alters the scene.
And in some ways at least it's the same sort of thing when it comes to adapting to life, trying and reviewing different strategies to make the best of the situation as is and it's all coming together. 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Repaired ears

There are some things you buy that last a few years before you ultimately replace them having either fell apart or technology has moved on  and there's those that you keep and this is one.
I've had these Sennhesier HD560 II "Ovation" headphones for a good while having been introduced in 1991 but in the intervening years a lot of work was needed on them.
Starting with the leads to each headphone, the red right hand plug had become badly frayed at that plug end and needed replacing as the sound just cuts out.
The connections are actually on a plug and with a pair of pliers, you can pull them out and I was able to get a replacement lead set that also had better quality oxygen free cooper and gold plated connectors and have them fitted which solved that problem

This part, the centring insert and foam inner pads was a bigger problem because the foam inner pads had chemically become unstable disintegrating into a sticky powdery mess so not only had the pad fell apart, it had left deposits on that insert that needed to cleaned off.
I ordered some generic circular pads for them and inserted them and then refitted the outer cushion pads having given them a clean.

They now sound a little more open and deeper than they originally did which baring in mind at the time these were very expensive new,now  not only have they been restored but are better than ever.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Neigh they said edition

Phew, it isn't half hot which is why I'm in reality working on this tonight as cools a little rather than first thing tomorrow.
I got a film back and this picture taken locally is one I thought you'd quite enjoy of a couple of horses stabled within walking distance of home one morning early last Month.
I've always loved horses with living in the country and I'm sure you can see why.
Taken with Minolta Rokkor PE 300mm F5.6 telephoto lens, on Minolta X500 (aka 570 in North America), supported on fence. 
Film: Fuji Superia 200 colour print.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Ear, ear!

There are somethings you don't anticipate doing but then for reasons best known to themselves, it just happens like having being using for a good two and a half years with one pair of headphones they are picked up by a n other and you find the wire has broken. 
You repair that only to find the transducer that makes the sound in that ear seems to be damaged too.
With that in mind, you've only one real option here, replacing it and as I have have a small female face many bigger headphones just don't sit right on my ears which leads to a bass light sound your options are a bit limited.
One I did find was Beyerdynamic's DT235 which is quite a smaller fitting model with a soft piece over the plastic headband rather than anything chunky.
One big improvement is the lead which is quite a bit thicker than similar models around this price (about GBP £45), wired from the left with internal connections to the right unit which is less likely to break off.
Looking around I spotted a vendor selling a pair off at  substantial discount as a unused catalogue return less than what most wanted my previous pair for for I bought these instead.
The sound is a good deal less congested on busy tracks sounding very open, the bass while extended doesn't over dominate proceedings and the transients, those very fast sounds often associated with percussion are surprisingly good.
I'm impressed by this unplanned for upgrade which works well with my Fiio X1 digital audio player.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Down by the canal

If you were wondering why all this photo talk but where are the pictures the reason was a big delay at the lab as, given this is 2015 I actually  wanted them scanning to jpeg digitally using a professional scanner rather than the cheap and cheerful sub $60 offerings you can get.
Here we have a moored Narrow Boat (aka a "Barge in Northern British) along the Trent and Mersey canal in the North-west Midlands of England.
Taken on Minolta X500 (aka 570 back in Canada and the States), Tamron 28-80 F3.5-4.2SP on Fuji Superia 200, handheld.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Filling the digital gaps

One of the good things about digital download sites is sometimes albums that aren't currently available on record or cd are made available in that form.
This is a good example of one, the tenth Commodores album form the Fall of '83 which was not issued on cd in the UK or States and to whom had been long deleted  on  tape and record featuring the hit Only You.
Well as part of the Apple's Mastered For iTunes program all the Commodores albums have comeback out, freshly mastered and in with them was this, which I've only ever owned on pre-recorded cassette and my only digital copy was that copied to MiniDisc several years back.
Also included in it are the Caught In The Act and Movin' On albums the latter does sound a lot better than the PTG cd taken from a rather distorted record and the classic Hot on the tracks,Zoom,Natural High and Midnight Might albums, the home of hit 45's Brick House, Sweet Love,Just To Be Close to You,Three Times a Lady and Still.
Naturally I topped up on titles I don't have on cd for my music collection as these AAC 'lossy' encoded versions do sound rather good.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Objectively yours!

Did someone say Snap! last week?
Hmm the film is off to the lab and I'll be shortly test driving another "Those have loved" item fairly soon.
Going cheap and I mean cheap was this the type 27A Tamron 28-80mm F3.5 thru F4.2 variable aperture across the zoom range lens complete with Minolta MD mount that needs a bit a clean externally and required front and rear caps as they're MIA.
The main advantage of it is you can go from a fairly wide 28mm to a practically portrait short telephoto 80mm focal length with a twist of this two touch zoom's zoom range knob without change lenses on your camera.
Opinions seems to vary about it's quality, it appears to be potentially more troubled by flare for having the sun to the side of the front element than some (although I've bad memories of the mid 90's Centon 28-70 F3.5-4.5 which was very prone to it!) and it appears to benefit from used past F5.6 more being a bit soft wide open but if used hand hold with ISO 200 film in good light shouldn't be a problem for general 'our day out' photography where changing fixed length lenses in the street may not be easy.
The close focusing is good so while not the equal of dedicated macro lens for close ups is serviceable in the field.
It takes a 67mm filter which is a bit on the big side and usually dear but I managed to track down a UV one cheaply.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Snap!

Well this week was a bit better overall with the weather so I did get some photography done on Tuesday and just have to finish the roll off ready for developing which given there isn't a local to me lab will involve mailing to Fuji's UK lab in Lancashire.
When we had a local Jessops in dreary post heavy industrial Stoke on Trent, although they didn't have a mini-lab, they had Monday Through Saturday deliveries from Jessops own national lab and often the turn around was 36 to 48 hours which was convenient, they stocked film and camera gear being part of huge Leicester based photo chain so I'd drop them off, do some shopping in the City Centre and return in a couple of days time, picking them up and buying stuff from the store.  Simples.
In 2015 life ain't like that as only few stores survive following  going into Administration a few years back and ours isn't one of them. 
Equally the local branch of a well known Nottingham based Chemist no longer offers a store based development service and not even sure if Welsby's, a independent small photo store in my town do any longer.
So it's gonna take time to see the results but I really enjoyed using my film based photographic equipment

Thursday, 21 May 2015

You ain't goin' nowhere

Some week this turned to be.

I had planned to get some photography done this week but all we had is heavy persistent rain coupled with gloom which really isn't conducive toward it at all and I'm not that keen on still life photography, like pictures of models, coins and so on although I understand some love it.
As good as it got was testing out this Tamron Adaptall 300mm longish telephoto that was supposed to have been mounted to the ancient M42 screw fitting but came ready mounted for Olympus OM so I have a spare mount now as I'd bought one of my own to fit!
For what I paid for it it's an absolute bargain as the marque version sells for 4 times or more from what I'd paid for it, which only is slightly faster than this weighs 1.1 kilograms!
That kind of weight is something you'd sure know you're carrying in your camera bag!!!
The other side  of this weather is having to rub down Marmalade as he comes in from his outdoor escapades with towel demanding yet more food and the prime spot in front of the gas fire.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Pre flyte check

After all the drama following the Election, I decided to get back to doing something more agreeable namely sorting out my camera equipment.
One of the first thing I do is check on the condition of the button cell batteries used in the Camera body and replace if I'm in any doubt as to how much power is left in them and then check the camera's shutter fires up properly as sometimes the magnets used to control it seize up.
I then take a lens and check that the cameras meter is reading the light correctly selecting a appropriate shutter speed for the aperture setting on the lens.
If that's okay, I spend some time carefully cleaning with lens paper, every lens and filter so there is no 'filmy' build up on the front and rear of the lens so image will be as clear as possible.
It also gives me the chance to check the lens operates smoothly and no lens has gone Awl since I last used it.
Talking about lenses I did buy a longish telephoto lens as I noticed I was lacking a 300mm one that is useful for wildlife, sport and scenic pictures so I picked a older but good Tamron one and a mount to use it on my camera.
I think I now have enough lenses to cover my photographic needs. 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Errol Brown

As a long time lover of soul music I was saddened yesterday to hear of the death at the age of  Errol Brown, the lead singer of the British group, Hot Chocolate  who first recorded for RAK Records in 1970 with Herman's Hermits of all people!
Such hits as Emma, You Sexy Thing, Everyone's a Winner and It started With a Kiss were staples of mine growing up, showing how British soul talent could equal that of the United States and be different.
R.I.P Errol.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Seven days to go

Okay it's the four yearly pantomine season otherwise known as the General Election where people who generally speaking haven't done a real job proceed to tell everyone how they can so make everything better for those of us who have.
Thankfully we're not a republic and don't have an elected chamber of the second rate too otherwise we'd be having this carry on year after year at public expense and it does my head in as it is!
So why hasn't the major been the attack week in and out?
Simply because I've been looking at what everyone has been saying from the build up to the finally week, from the choreographed to the seriously off message for a reason to vote any of their representatives in this part of the Midlands  and how much I've seen of them in person.
To me the most focused Leader was Nicola Sturgeon but as her party, the Scottish Nationalists doesn't put up candidates in England I can't support her despite  my views on the European Union.
To me the face of the Tories is a smugness that's so obvious when the member for uptown Tatton grins just like a Cheshire Cat as the terminally ill under his government get found fit for work and die days later, whose response to the shorted of affordable housing is to sell off Social Housing to give the less well off (even in work) less of the chance of a decent affordable rent property and to be talking of cutting payments to disabled people and their carers. Times are difficult, we know money is tight but it wasn't the above who created the deficit  it was the previous government and the gamblers in the Banking sector.
Labour, the party of traditionally the downtrodden dare not even say they are for people on welfare even though that includes in work payments for fear of being linked in the right wing press to shirkers and want to just have a few less cuts from, yes the Tories.
The Liberal Democrats have some good ideas but their very pro-european union ideas just don't cut it in this area.
For me the United Kingdom Independence Party comes the nearest to ticking the boxes because I really think we need less government with more real focus on what and why it does what it does.
We need a party that unashamably for Britain and for all Britons regardless of race, religion, gender or disabilities and our interests that is prepared to spend more on our defence.
Many of us feel strongly we agree with co-operation with our European neighbours trading with them freely but do not wish for more governance at that level with all it's paperwork and blanket law making feeling those things are best decided and written by ourselves.
Ukip also came out strongly in favour of reforming the so-called welfare reforms that have impacted badly disabled people and the so-called bedroom tax as well as fuelling a negative anti disabled attitude amongst people at large.
The forging of some those shameful changes lies in Labour under Brown and Blair Premiership and their policy people so for me voting for them wouldn't alter that.
Ukip also oppose the HS2 rail proposal that is not really needed and where money would be well spent on the railways their are better options aiding the whole of the UK.
There is nothing wrong with immigration and indeed some of us were immigrants but it really needs to be managed so only those who can and are prepared to contribute to the UK are here and we are able to provide the facilities such medical care, health, education and housing that they need.
Accepting those who seek asylum is something as someone living here by choice I'm proud of but in doing so we need to ensure those people are prepared to integrate into our way of life like many of us did and we need to be careful not to allow those who would undermine our sense of security to come with them with their terrorist ideals.
I feel on balance Ukip are more honest about these needs than the three main UK wide parties.
I know where my cross is going next week.


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Hermans Hermits are back

I'm not feeling to great at the moment due to a particularly severe Migraine  which has left  it hard for me to pull things together but recently I ordered a couple of double cds one of which has already arrived and another is due very soon here
Hermans Hermits  tend to be seen as also runs after the Beatles, Stones and the Who, not really troubling the world with their perfect boy next door delivered Pop such as A Must To Avoid but for a period were up with the Beatles in the States when it came to sales and personal following.
In 2014 BGO issued four UK albums freshly remastered by Andrew Thompson who did the Hollies twofers a few years back I liked.
While the first was a more a setlist cut in a few days, the others cover such songs My Reservation's Been Confirmed, Rattler and It's Nice To be Out In The Morning and for a period I had the third album There's A  Kind Of Hush loving the songs on the original UK Columbia lp.
The forth was soundtrack repeating two previous hits but has some excellent songs some of which are in stereo.

Earlier this year the Bear Family in Germany in association with Warners who have the right to parts of the EMI catalogue put out a two disc compilation that has a lot of previously un issued in stereo versions of songs carefully remixed by Ron Furmanack as much of their recordings were only mixed to mono back in the 60's.
Each disc is over 80 minutes and while I can't see it supplanting both volumes of the now deleted Best of EMI years cds from 1991/2 which remain the last word as compilations go for material and sound quality, it is a welcome set.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Are you blue? (Bluetones)

On a bright sunny and distraction free morning I felt like working on this weeks blog entry.
For me one of bright spots of the 90's was a whole raft of British rock bands which reenergized the music business, getting youngsters into stores buying albums and singles as well as attending concerts .
I was well placed to observe this first hand being in the UK at that time and near a university city with lots of music fans who I hung out during lunch breaks with although I was by this point working.
For me outside of Liverpool's Cast, Hounslow's Bluetones held more of a fascination for they played more bluesy rock with well drawn, sometimes quite cutting lyrics looking at people, personalities and relationships.
One their singles they issued often quiet experimental material that wasn't incorporated into their albums and this lead me to track down the deluxe edition of the 2006 A Rough Outline singles collection as it held all the a  and b sides of their singles during this period and even a number of the A sides never made it to albums issued at the time.
The deluxe edition contained an extra disc of b sides in a card slip around cover making this a 3 cd set.
Also recommended studio albums:
Expecting To Fly (1996) -own on lp
Return to the Last Chance Saloon (1998)- very much Tex-Mex influenced
Science and Nature (2000)
Luxembourg (2004)