Experiments with audio, music and the like

Up until 1 week ago my concept of music, i.e; good music, was a pair of Behringer head phones, Youtube/BBC streaming. I have a limited collection of music and most of the songs are pretty badly compressed.

I thought that I should venture into the world of amps, where amps has nothing do with current. The jargon stumped me to an extent where I did not know what to look for, where to purchase any of this or who to ask.So off I went surfing the tubes to understand what the heck do these things mean and how I can build these. Audioholics, Lifehacker, Audiokarma, Reddit/r/audio were good points to start and they definitely helped. I got some pointers on where to start with the jargon and after a thread on reddit I got started. As with other things, I needed to know if I actually like this so I did not want to invest ~ 1000 USD only to realise that I am not that into music and the Behringer headphones or Altec Lansing speakers are good enough for my tone deaf ears.

Children of “audiophilia”:

There are enough articles out there on home theatres and audio systems. I generally start with http://www.lifehacker.com when venturing into the unknown. Almost all the cases I’ve seen they have a good starter guide. Heck it got me started in the United States when I came here, audio should be a breeze for them. What I learned was that Audio/Music world is like a fractal. Any build you toss out there will have specific means to improve. The more serious you take this the better the builds you can spot. Oh and by the way, BOSE speakers, especially non 901/300 series are regarded as mediocre.

The purchase:

As with anything else I started off small. The best piece of advice I got from redditors is that I should make a budget and stick to it. Else it is like quick sand and I know what that means from my experience with Mechanical Keyboards (I have 8 with me now). Los Angeles being what it is, is an amazing place to pick up vintage stuff. So I started checking craigslist.org, ebay.com and a few other places. I preferred to go with craigslist because I could hear the products before I purchased them. I decided to first purchase the speakers as Receivers are easier to find. I probably visited 15 sales before listening to a decent pair (Bose Interaudio 4000). From what I heard they are not bad. I can’t ask for more when I negotiated it for $30. One of the main reasons I bought this one was because the seller had an impressive collection of speakers and amps. He knew what he was selling.

 New shit has come to light:

Given the rating on this one (4-8 Ohm impedance, 75 Watt RMS on each speaker), it was hard for me to go find a receiver. I was looking around when I ran into Ken. Ken was kind enough to sit me down and tell me where to buy receivers, what sort to buy and the electronics/electrical concepts. If only my professors taught me these concepts like he did, I’d have better grades. He explained to me in plain English what each of these concepts meant. More importantly he explained to me what each of these concepts imply in real life as against “get good grades”. He also told me that I should not purchase the receiver I was looking at. Suggested either Yamaha or Onkyo. His reasoning was that in his experience these were the ones that stood the test of time. Others, while being better sometimes, died early. He also warned that these receivers tend to die over the time so I should be prepared to spend another 60-100 USD on repairs.

At this stage it was simpler for me to scour the internets for the receiver I wanted. I landed a Yamaha RX-v630 and a Marantz SR-73.  The Yamaha was dead anyway and the seller just gave it to me. I figured I’d poke around and see how these things work. If at all I’ll fix it myself and the worst case it goes to ebay “for parts”. Marantz is a good brand and SR-73 has some good reviews.

 Cables, cables cables:

Before I can play any music, I’d need some good music. Of course this presented a bunch of problems because CD players, FM Antennae, Turn tables, Tape decks all have one issue – working models are hard to get. Reddit to rescue and they told me that I can get a good 3.5 mm jack to RCA connector. I also had to purchase a 100 ft 16-guage receiver to speakers cable.

 Let the music begin:

With the cables in places, I decided to hook up the speakers, the music source and go for a test drive. I setup the system in my living room and that meant I could not pull music from my laptop. But wait, I have a Belkin bluetooth music player! Brilliant, now all I had to do was connect the player and stream music over the ether. In this case my music source was my cell phone.

I then realised that I had an old laptop I use to host pictures and my OpenVPN server. I moved it from under my bed to the music system and stuck the 3.5 mm jack into the laptop. There’s my CD player.

 Test music:

I used the following songs to test the setup:

– Halo (original theme)

– Wasted Years (Iron Maiden)

– A tout le monde (Megadeth)

– Ninnena (Salute)

– Cheliya Cheliya (Gharshana)

– Stravinsky At Petrushka (Philharmonia Slavonica)

-KPCC (internet radio)

– BBC World News (internet radio)

– Many of the Annamayya keerthanas (not high quality)

– Enduko Emo (Rangam)

– Another brick in the wall (Pink Floyd)

– Ramachakkani Sitaki (Godavari)

– Beethoven Symphony 9 (Unknown)

Most of these songs were either on a CD or over Amazon Music.

What’s next?

Well I can say this – these sound awesome. I am comparing it to my existing rig so it feels like flying to the moon. Once I establish this as my baseline and I can find better sources of quality music, I’d like to take it up a notch. I definitely enjoy sitting in my living room, which was earlier a place I had to pass through to get to the kitchen, read Clojure/Illiad/Huck Finn/Reddit ;). Till then, this post will hold good. Any suggestions are welcome. That was the whole point of this post anyway.

 New shit has come to light:


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