I feel that standards need to be reestablished.

When 16-bit / 44.1kHz Audio was first developed, it implied a very capable system for representing high-fidelity sound. But I think that today, we live in a pseudo-16-bit era. Manufacturers have taken 16-bit components, but designed devices which do bot deliver the full power or quality of what this format once promised.

It might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I would say that out of those indicated 16 bits of precision, the last 4 are not accurate. And one main reason this has happened, is due to compressed sound. Admittedly, signal compression – which is often a euphemism for data reduction – is necessary in some areas of signal processing. But one reason fw data-reduction was applied to sound, had more to do with dialup-modems and their lack of signal-speed, and with the need to be able to download songs onto small amounts of HD space, than it served any other purpose, when the first forms of data-reduction were devised.

Even though compressed streams caused this, I would not say that the solution lies in getting rid of compressed streams. But I think that a necessary part of the solution would be consumer awareness.

If I tell people that I own a sound device, that it uses 2x over-sampling, but that I fear the interpolated samples are simply generated as a linear interpolation of the two adjacent, original samples, and if those people answer “So what? Can anybody hear the difference?” Then this is not an example of consumer awareness. I can hear the difference between very-high-pitch sounds that are approximately correct, and ones which are greatly distorted.

Also, if we were to accept for a moment that out of the indicated 16 bits, only the first 12 are accurate, but there exist sound experts who tell us that by dithering the least-significant bit, we can extend the dynamic range of this sound beyond 96db, then I do not really believe that those experts know any less about digital sound. Those experts have just remained so entirely surrounded by their high-end equipment, that they have not yet noticed the standards slip, in other parts of the world.

Also, I do not believe that the answer to this problem lies in consumers downloading 24-bit, 192kHz sound-files, because my assumption would again be, that only a few of those indicated 24 bits will be accurate. I do not believe Humans hear ultrasound. But I think that with great effort, we may be able to hear 15-18kHz sound from our actual playback devices again – in the not-so-distant future.

Continue reading I feel that standards need to be reestablished.

I have damaged my HBS-750 headphones slightly.

The “LG Tone Pro HBS-750″ Bluetooth Headphones differ from the newer “Infinim” Headphones, partially in that the HBS-750 still have a thin cable connecting each ear-piece to either side of the collar-piece, that cable being on the outside of the collar-piece. I read that with the Infinim series of headphones, there is an even thinner cable on each side, which retracts inside the collar-piece. A review by other testers suggested doubt, about the longevity of these ultra-thin cables, of the Infinim-series headphones. The thin cables of the HBS-750 are at least not quite as thin.

But after only owning my HBS-750 for a few days, I made a foolish mistake with them. With the ear-pieces of mine, held in place in each of the magnets on the ends of my collar-piece, I lay down on a cushion, even though I had my collar-piece around my neck. I lay down on my left side while watching television, with my actual phone placed safely on a table in front of me.

What has happened as of yesterday evening, is that the very thin cable on the left side, has developed a slight kink.

There is a hypothetical possibility of such a kink affecting sound quality. In general, headphones should operate with the sound balanced perfectly between left and right. A kink in a cable on one side can do two things:

 

  1. It can short-circuit the cable.
  2. It can insert some small amount of resistance, in series with the ear-piece in question.

 

The problem lies in the fact, that even if HQ ear-pieces are just stated to have ’32 Ohms’ of impedance, in reality their impedance curve is frequency-dependent. Ideally, this impedance might then be equal to 32 Ohms – neglecting any imaginary component – in the middle of the audible spectrum. But on the low-frequency end, as well as on the high-frequency end of the spectrum, it is likely that their impedance is much lower. This is due to the fact that a certain part of this impedance is actually due to the resistance of the wire in their coils, while most of it is due to the fact that their coils move, within the static magnetic field of their magnets.

Hence, to insert maybe ? 1/2 Ohm ? in series with one of the ear-pieces, will not affect performance much in the middle of the spectrum, but may affect performance at either end of the spectrum, where these hypothetical 1/2 Ohm will be in series with much lower impedance, due to the ear-pieces themselves.

What I have found, thankfully, is that for now, the actual kink in that cable, has not affected the sound coming out of the left ear-piece one iota. Yet, over time, these thin cables may deteriorate below the condition they are in right now. In fact, they may receive more kinks and blemishes in the near future. All of which prompts the question, of how long blue-tooth headsets are expected to last in general, with normal wear and tear.

One lesson learned: Do not lie down on one side of the head, while wearing them… The next time, I may not be so lucky. Right now, my sound still seems to be perfectly-balanced, and not in any way that favors specific frequency-ranges on one side. I also still get good, rich bass and treble on the left side…

Dirk