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Zunior Digital Music Downloads

On 20, Jan 2008 | One Comment | In Apple, Hi-fi, Ontario | By Ryan Feeley

ZuniorWhen I buy music I tend to lean towards purchasing local, independent music. Until recently I have been starved for an option that satisfies my embarassingly particular needs:

  1. Downloadable. Why take up any more space on the planet when we’ve long since moved on to digital formats.
  2. Lossless format. Why amass an inventory of MP3s that are less than CD quality? Sure, I might convert tracks to MP3 for my iPod, but I want nothing less than CD quality in the archives.
  3. iTunes and iPod-compatible. If I can’t get it to play in my iPod, it might as well be 8-track.
  4. Open Source. Music purchased from the iTunes Music Store will only play on devices licensing Apple’s technology. Cars for ages have supported MP3 CDs, but I’ve never seen one support AAC. Why build a library of songs that might not be future-friendly? No, transcoding is not an option.

Finally there’s Zunior. Canadian. Indie. And they offer FLAC for an extra $2 per album. Now that a solution exists to get FLAC into iTunes (which can be later converted to MP3, AAC or even Apple Lossless) I finally have a legimate source for the music I love in the format I love it. Thanks Zunior!

UPDATE: As expected a $10.42 charge for the album appeared on my credit card statement.




In Hi-fi

By Ryan Feeley

Class D for Disruption

On 13, Oct 2007 | 4 Comments | In Hi-fi | By Ryan Feeley

Sonic Impact T-AmpAn interesting disruption has been taking place in the world of hi-fi audio for the last few years. An amplifier technology is responsible for reducing amplifier size and weight, the heat they generate, the energy they consume, and most importantly, their prices. This technology is known by many names (Class D, Class T, IcePower, digital amplification) but technically they are all Switching Amplifiers. Hailed as a giant killer, the Sonic Impact T-amp, a $30 Class-T amplifier made by a kitschy computer accessory company, was discovered by some audio fanatic Italians. Their glowing review sparked a revolution; people started replacing their big, heavy, hot amplifiers with small, light, cool ones.

Google News is turning up some interesting results for for “class d” amplifier from computer speakers, to subwoofers to even cell phones. Danish audio design king B&O has their own ICEpower technology which they incorporate into a 2500 W powered speaker but which is also used in another Danish firm’s really cool Firewire-compatible amp.

Probably the two biggest budget contenders are the Texas Instruments powered Panasonic XR series home theatre receiver and the very tiny Trends Audio 10.1 giant kill stereo amp. The Trends won a digital amp shootout besting amps costing twenty times the price. And in a more recent shootout, the $150 Trends amp was bested by a $450 unit.

Here’s the biggest list of switching amplifier makers I have come across. It will be interesting to see if this technology can be applied in other areas to improve quality and reduce costs.




In Hi-fi

By Ryan Feeley

Home Theatre PC minus PC

On 23, Aug 2007 | 14 Comments | In Hi-fi | By Ryan Feeley

EurekaThe whole time I was waiting for the release of Apple TV, the devices I should have been lusting after were silently released by some Korean hardware manufacturers. Perhaps I had missed their release because their web pages are Search Engine Retardant containing no text, but images of text? When will companies realize that Google does not have a GIF braille reader?

The trend in Home Theatre PCs is to drop the PC and soup up a hard drive enclosure with multimedia features. Drop in a hard drive sized to your liking and start dumping your media onto it. A remote control will help you navigate your vast collection of JPEGs, audio files, video files, even HD! Some of these enclosures can output DVI for video, and digital out for surround sound processing in your home theatre receiver. And often sport Wi-Fi so you needn’t even connect them physically to your computer.

Here are all the ones I’ve come across. Please let me know if I’m missing any of them.

The best single online Canadian source I have come across to date is Ontario based




In Hi-fi

By Ryan Feeley

Headphone Recommendation

On 16, Apr 2007 | 9 Comments | In Hi-fi | By Ryan Feeley

CX300Part ear-bud, part canalphone, the Sennheiser CX300 are my favourite headphones for city life. They fit like a pinky fingertip in your ear and it’s that light seal that affords for very deep bass. They also block most outside noise which is great because they’re great even on the subway, but be careful crossing the street, and for heaven’s sake don’t wear them when you’re riding a bike.

Something strange is happening to their pricing from various merchants Tiger Direct has sold them for as low as $62 but they’re currently listed at $107. A lot of people think that $100 is a lot of money for what are essentially ear buds, but if you are using them every day you will appreciate the difference.