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Hard Drive Forward!


I have never thought I would say it but music stored on hard drive seems to have many of the advantages (not all the advantages however) of vinyl. Or to put it in another way, some of the "nastys" associated with CD seems to be removed when music is stored and played back from hard drive.

I now regularly use (don't say this too loud!) the Red Wine modified iPod or the Olive, again modified by Red Wine.

I was minded to write this short article having spent the weekend listening to music from the hard drive off an Olive, via a 47Lab Gemini DAC, Mactone pre and power amplifier and into some Living Voice Avatar speakers, all strung together with Kondo interconnects and speaker cables. The point is that the music was reproduced in an entirely satisfying, lively and non-fatiguing way. This system isn't, of course, to coin a phrase "chopped liver" but in the world of audio it remains an "affordable" system.

As I have said before, the fact that Mactone is so little known is one of the great mysteries of audio. It sounds just so good, leading TAS to call it the "best kept secret in audio!"

The future of two channelled audio probably rests on its ability to reinvent itself after the desolate years of CD. The years after vinyl, which have been dominated by Red Book CD, have been a disaster. It is a nasty medium with nasty long term listening experiences associated with it. While LPs continue to delight some, the fact of the matter is more convenience is now required by most, and hard drive offers the way out from the horrors of CDs.

I don't download from iTune (I am not sure I know how!) but instead I transfer my CDs onto hard drive. Why is it that the music is much more satisfying via a hard drive, having originally been placed there from a CD? The answer is ...... I have no idea! All I know is that a day listening on CD leaves me frustrated, while a day listening to music stored on hard drive does not. I encourage more of you to try it!

Red Wine Audio

We are pleased to announce that we have been appointed distributors for Red Wine Audio. This is the first time we have represented an American manufacturer, and we are pleased to be the Red Wine Audio representative in Asia, believing their products to be different, and possessing exceptional quality.

To date, we have imported a number of Olive modified hard drive systems. They have been delivered to customers who have expressed very favourable feedback. They are interesting because they are effectively a computer that allows for the music to be played from a hard drive (which we are beginning to appreciate is a serious form of musical storage) without many of the difficulties that make CDs so problematic. Also, they can be used as a CD transport or CD player. In part, it is the versatility of this unit that makes them so special. At the moment, the Olives that we have imported have one difficulty and that is this, they run out of battery after about 5 hours with no warning! The good news is that this is soon to be rectified, because Red Wine Audio have developed a system whereby they will automatically shut off and recharge when necessary.

The advantage of battery power, as many of you will understand, is it "unhooks" the system from the grid, thus eliminating many of the nasty associated with "dirty" main electricity. All Red Wine products operate in this way.

The idea is to use the Olive system, either as a CD transport/player or as a hard driver, along with Red Wine Audio's own pre-amp, the Isabella, and power amps, the Signature 30.2 or Signature 70.2. We have already imported the Signature 30 (now modified to the Signature 30.2) which has been supplied to a customer who, again, has given very favourable comments.

This posting is just to introduce and welcome Red Wine to the Audio Evidence web site.

High End Audio, where is it going?

Sadly, nowadays, that question is often asked by "audiophiles" and indeed by manufacturers and retailers. Someone the other day told me that they thought there are about one million audiophiles, in the world and that is not a lot of people. Think about all the manufacturers, retailers, people employed in the industry generally chasing a client base of only one million people.

The disturbing truth is that even that number is falling. I was talking to Ken Chan, the proprietor of The Sound Chamber, who has been in "the industry" all his adult life; he was telling me how it was in "the old days", how young people would browse round the shop at lunch time, interested in the music and the equipment. No longer. Nowadays, the people that come round are middle aged or old, and do not have the same youthful vitality for music or the equipment.

I think the decline started, to some extent, with the invention of CDs. Despite the convenience they just don't thrill the same way that LPs did. It is a bit like eating a pre-prepared meal rather than Mom's home cooked version. Mom's is hard work to prepare but much more satisfying to eat.

Even shopping for the music was different in the days of the LP, it was a pleasurable experience; I remember choosing records from a record shelf, from the age of about 16 onwards and being thrilled at the experience. Who, now, is thrilled by buying a CD?!

Also, everyone seems to agree that all the great listening sessions, the ones, which really are memorable, seem to involve listening to music on LPs.

It is no good me trying to explain why, I don't know. Some people suggest that the recording process that is used in CDs actually scrambles the brain and sends the brain into a sort of depression! Other suggested that it is just that somehow the conversation of digital to analogue is so disjointed, that the music does not flow. I don't really know, in my system if I play a CD and then the same record, I can really not tell the difference in many cases. Nevertheless, listen to them over an evening and the LP version is much more pleasurable and so that it is one reason, perhaps, for the decline in the hobby.

I don't think it is the only reason and I think there are two other major reasons, the first can be stated shortly. It is down to the complex world we live in; there is an awful lot of "entertainment" attracting our attention. For the young and youngish two channel audio and music played on it is just not interesting enough.

The third and last major reason, I think, for the decline is the really outlandish high prices that were charged for some audio systems, manufactured through to the 80's and 90's.

There were a lot of system that were very expensive indeed and this was alright if they were truly worth it; the trouble is many were not. Of course, there are manufacturers who really put their heart and soul into manufacturing exceptional equipment which justifies the expensive in the same way as Ferrari justifies the expenses of their cars. Others charge "Ferrari" price and produced "Fords" (no disrespect to Ford, good cars as I am sure they are). This is not fair and of course it has tarnished the whole industry, not just the few that abused the system in the first place. People become sceptical about buying Hi Fi and you can't blame them.

What I think is now happening is that there are a number of manufacturers who make physically small and good sounding equipment at reasonable prices. I am thinking of the Op amps, Red Wine, 47Lab, Kore-Eda, and others. I think these systems deserve success but the question is how to attract the 18 to 30 years olds (those who have abandoned this sort of listening) back to two-channel audio and music in the home? These Op amps coupled with hard drive storage systems (a subject on its own) and modified i-Pods (into an acceptable audiophile tool) may hold the key.

It is a little depressed thinking about all this but perhaps it is cathartic to set the issue down in writing and stick it up on a web site!

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