Quarter Notes #7 (Volume 2, Issue 3)

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

Dear Get Better Sound readers,

Welcome to the seventh issue of Quarter Notes!

Quarter Notes is a quarterly newsletter for Get Better Sound readers, expanding on the Get Better Sound manual, as well as introducing new and timely subjects.  From time-to-time, we may have a guest writer on a special topic. This issue features an important guest.

In fact, for this issue, I’m focusing like a laser (pun intended) on perhaps the most important and relevant audophile topic of our time - Computer Audio.  If you still don’t have a computer audio system, then you probably need to read this article most of all!

The first topic we’ll briefly examine in this issue is the new Get Better Sound DVD! ☺

Don’t forget, you are invited to e-mail me with your questions and comments.  If appropriate, and with your approval, I may include your note – or a reply to it – in an upcoming newsletter.

I have a bunch of comments on hand even now, but I feel that they can wait another issue as we continue to examine the most important audiophile topic of our time.

Best e-mail address Since you’re reading this, the e-mail address that I used to notify you must have worked.  However, the only e-mail address I have is the one associated with your initial Get Better Sound order.  

If you have an e-mail address that you’d prefer to use to receive Quarter Notes notifications, send it to js@getbettersound.com. Be sure to list the month of purchase (if possible), and definitely include the address I used originally along with the one that you want to use to replace it.

The new Get Better Sound DVD! I don’t want to take up a lot of your time and our Quarter Notes space with this announcement.  It’s covered on the GBS homepage.  

However, I do want to briefly tell you why it even exists.  

As I’ve traveled around North America, voicing dozens of GBS readers’ systems, one thing struck me so hard that I knew I hadn’t done enough with the book.  

Every reader had used GBS, had reported improvements, and yet they asked me to complete the job.  I confess that I hadn’t even thought of this personal voicing aspect when I wrote the book.

What really surprised me was that after we were finished, they all were amazed at how much better the sound had gotten.  And yet, I had used the tips in GBS - the same ones that they had read.

What I discovered is that what I do is more detailed than readers realized.  And there were some additional topics that needed better explanations.  A visual illustration is far more powerful than I had expected.  

Industry people and audiophiles who had read GBS - who then saw the early test DVD clips - all said that this was a valuable addition, and would really enhance the book.  They all reported that they learned a lot.  Which was weird to me at first, since most of it was in the GBS book, but apparently not as clear as I’d thought.

So I did it.  In addition to making the most relevant tips visual, I’ve also included some new topics.

Almost halfway into the project, we ran into some issues that rendered our work largely unusable. So we started over.  Still not finished as I write this.

The lead times for print ads are at least a couple of months.  When I wrote a DVD advertisement for Stereophile a couple of months ago, I expected the DVD to be ready to ship when the ad appeared.  

The ad breaks in a few days (it’s Dec. 2, 2010 as I write this).  But the DVD may not be ready to ship until later in December.  So I decided to offer advance order pricing to those folks who came to the website expecting to order.

When the DVD starts shipping, its price will be US $29.70.  But advance orders are just $19.95.  You can go to the home page to read a bit more - http://getbettersound.com  

Computer Audio, Part Two In the last QNs issue, I spent some time talking about Computer Audio.  I know that it hit home, because I received more e-mail correspondence about that topic than any other QNs topics combined from the previous 5 QNs newsletters!

When you think about our lives as audiophiles, more often than not we’ve had to go through more and more steps as our sound sources improved.  I’ve called it the audiophile hair-shirt syndrome.  We are all familiar with the whole process required for vinyl playback. It takes time and a lot of care to get the potentially great results that are waiting in those grooves.  Watching me over the years, my wife would probably say it takes a good bit of compulsion. ☺

Of course, we all have to clean/coat/treat our CDs.  Maybe even put a vibration-damping mat on each CD as we play it.  

There’s been a resurgence of high-performance reel-to-reel analog playback.  Proper storage and handling of an analog tape is tedious (if you do it right).  Then there’s tape head cleaning and demagnetization.

Let’s be honest.  As our potential for higher sound quality has grown, our audiophile hair-shirt has gotten itchier and itchier.

And that’s part of why Computer Audio is so unique and so relevant to our future as audiophile music lovers.  For the first time that I can recall, a source technology (LP, CD, tape, etc.) is easier to use while sounding noticeably better.  When I say easier to use, I mean a LOT easier to use.

The sound Last issue, I touched on the sound quality of Computer Audio.  I purposely did not relate anything about some of the options available.  The cool thing is that there are upgrade paths that you can take, all without having to replace any hardware!  

For example, what follows is my upgrade path – I’m not saying that it should be yours, but I think it’ll be instructive info.

I initially used my MacBook Pro laptop with iTunes.  I later introduced significant improvements without having to change any hardware (OK, I made a couple of changes to my MacBook because I didn’t have it optimized for Computer Audio when I ordered it – more about that in a moment).  

I didn’t HAVE to change the MBP, but I had read enough about the effects that I couldn’t resist doing it.  If you remember the tip in GBS about making one change at a time, that’s what I did.

But the first thing I did was to select a software program that would yield better sound than iTunes. There were a number to select from, and the selection continues to expand.  The two most widely used on the Mac platform are Amarra & Pure Music.  

I ended up choosing Pure Music. You might not.  But a software system that can use the iTunes library, or maybe one that may not use it, can result in a rewarding upgrade in your sound quality if you’re playing Redbook CDs.  If you’re still only a vinyl guy/gal, this new technology may cause you to rethink that position.  I know it has for a number of my readers once they’ve been exposed to a higher level of performance from CD that is also far easier to use.

Better recordings, more involving sound There is more and more music coming out and/or being remastered from high-res digital or analog originals.  These 24 bit recordings, with a higher sample rate (88.2 or 96 kHz) than the 44.1 kHz CD, have an order of magnitude more information on them, which comes across as more detail (in every area – music, low level info, and enhanced spatial cues). Most importantly, they have much greater musical dynamics (not in the sense of being lo