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Category Archives: mp3

Sony NWZ-S616F pink

Guess what I bought.
P1000030P1000029
P1000027P1000033
P1000028

My sister wants larger capacity DAP than the 2GB nano I gave her, and something with FM radio. The Sony player is perfect, especially with its super easy drag-n-drop file transfer. I guess transferring music to the nano is not “easy” enough for her. :p Plus she doesn’t need gapless playback.

The NWZ-S616F comes with minimal accessories. A stock bud (looks like the crappy E808), USB to WM-port cable, and a dock adapter. The body is plastic, but build quality seems okay. The buttons (especially the volume and hold switch) feel really cheap though. The FCC label looks like a cheapo sticker. Unit is Made in Malaysia. Obviously thicker vs the 2G nano (pictured above).

Drag-n-drop from my iMac is straight forward. The Sony is recognized as a UMS device. Drag-n-drop files using Finder is super easy. The only weird issue is that I cannot seem to eject the device. Every time I eject it, it will reconnect almost right away. Unplugging the USB cable when it’s not writing doesn’t hurt the content, but Finder yelled at me. I connected it to my WinXP machine, and it’s recognized as UMS device just fine. The fact that a Sony audio device can be as easy as this is mind boggling. 😀

Oh, gapless? Since I don’t see anybody doing it, I conducted a test myself. Here’s the video:

In short, gapless only on WAV files. Even at 4GB, using WAV files is not practical, unless you only listen to very few albums.

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Zune 2.5 software

Microsoft released the new Zune 2.5 software, including a new firmware for Zunes. MS claims gapless playback, but doesn’t list the format supported (WMA? MP3? AAC? all?). Asking in some forums didn’t yield any results, only more fanboys comments and anecdotal claims without specific details on the format/encoder. I guess there are not many people have Zunes in the first place, and those that do probably don’t care about gapless playback. Those that do care about gapless playback are probably either still stuck with Sony’s Atrac or have iPods already (eg. me). *sigh.

So far, some claims MP3 VBR is gapless, without details on which encoder (Lame?). Some people claims WMA lossless is gapless, some said no.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2008 in 2.5, aac, gaplesss, Microsoft, mp3, wma, Zune, zune software

 

Max, CD ripper for Mac

Max is a CD ripper program for MacOS X. Couple nice things:
– cdparanoia gives you more accurate rip. Probably not as extensive as EAC though.
– ability to rip from CUE sheet + .wav image file.
– uses Lame MP3

The ugly:
– MP3 ripped tracks have a 1 to 2 seconds silence in the beginning. I compared them with tracks ripped with CDex on Windows, and no such silence. 😦
– Minimal control over drive configuration compared to EAC
– Minimal control over MP3 encoder setting. Cannot specify the various presets, although the Transparent setting is presumably equal to -preset fast standard.
– One ripped track had the last second of the previous track in the beginning. WTF??

Not perfect. I’ll stick with xld for my CUE+wav into MP3 solution, or use my windows PC and enjoy the magnificent EAC and CDex.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2008 in cd ripper, cdex, cue, eac, lame, Mac, max, mp3, wav, windows

 

Stereophile: MP3 vs AAC vs FLAC vs CD

Original article.

Just another “audiophile” ranting about compressed music for not being CD quality. So how did he show it? By using graphs. I’m sorry, but last time I checked, I (and most normal human beings) listen to music using my ears, not my eyes. My guess is the author just find out about frequency response graphs. There are proven methods to compare sound quality using double-blinded test (most commonly called ABX test). Did we see any sort of listening/ABX test in the article? Of course not. Because that will show that many people cannot differentiate the sound quality between CD and a compressed version (MP3, AAC, etc), not the author’s agenda.

Several quotes:
“sonically compromised, lossy-compressed music on it.”
Well, I don’t see any listening tests to proof that lossy-compressed music are “sonically compromised.”

“all compressed file formats, both lossless and lossy, effectively have zero data redundancy, they are much more vulnerable than uncompressed files to bit errors in transmission.”
WTF is he talking about? Bit errors transmission? What the hell? Might some audiophile technobabble. Again, despite of the frequent usage of graphs, I don’t see him proving this “bit errors in transmission,” whatever that means.

The only good thing about this article is the recommendation of lossless compression, which are useful in backing up your music. Oh well, if there are no people like this author (audiophiles), then manufactures like Bose or Monster Cable would be out of business. Think about the people loosing those jobs… Oh, and don’t forget those $5000 cables.

Moral of the story, instead of buying these kind of magazines, go to HydrogenAudio and learn about listening tests, ABX, and the facts about audio compression.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2008 in aac, audiophile, cd, mp3, sound quality, stereophile

 

Cowon A3

The successor of the best portable media player Cowon A2, here comes Cowon A3.

The good:
-Supports .mp4 and .mkv, meaning more video podcasts and anime on the go.
-Supports H.264
-Sharp high res screen.
-Loading videos seem quicker than the A2.
-UI seems snappier than the sluggish A2.
-It even comes with a screen protector!
-Everything good about the A2 is applicable here (UMS compliant, can view text, pictures, can delete file within the device, etc), other than some ugly things mentioned below.

The bad:
-HD playback problems (see my youtube video overview). It would be amazing that a portable device like this can playback HD (720p) content perfectly. Knowing Cowon, firmware updates are expected, but maybe there are some hardware limitation involved.
-No subtitle support for Matroska (the .mkv I used in my youtube video has a hard-sub).
-No gapless playback of MP3 audio.

The ugly:
-Nipple/joystick control is annoying, and its reliability is questionable. (you’ll see on the youtube video, I was moving back and forth between the folder tree for no reason, that’s due to the stupid joystick)
-Proprietary USB jack. The mini USB jack is NOT a USB jack.
-No case included.

The PMP competitors:
-Archos. They are probably the closest competitor to Cowon in PMP. However, Archos decided to charge you extra for things like H.264 playback. WTF?
-Apple. The largest screen DAP Apple has is the Touch. It’s flash based and thinner, but capabilities as a PMP is way below the A2/3. If only Apple would support divx/xvid.
-Sony. Huh? Sony? Is that food? To give Sony’s credit, they put divx support on the PS3. Hopefully that will translate to their portable devices, that is if Sony is still interested in that market.
-Creative. Their Zen Vision W was quite popular, but Creative seems to be focusing on cheap flash based DAPs. The Zen? 320×240 videos won’t cut it anymore.
-Microsoft. The Zune? Meh. Large but low-res screen, plus limited codec support (not much different than Apple). However, Microsoft recently put divx support on the Xbox360. Question is will they do the same for the Zune.

As a DAP, the A3 fails. Let’s face it, it is designed to be PMP. As a DAP, it is big, heavy, has crappy audio battery life, folder tree only browsing, no gaples, and that dreaded joystick. The only great thing about it as a DAP is the on-screen spectrum analyzer.

As a PMP, the Cowon A3 is still king of the crop. I mean try to find a portable player that support .mkv. Heck, even the old A2 is still better than most PMPs/PMP-wannabe DAPs out there. I rate the A3 9 out of 10. -1 for HD playback problems, even though it is advertised to be able to. Hopefully Cowon can improve/fix the performance of HD content playback with firmware updates.

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2007 in a2, a3, cowon, cowon a3, divx, gaplesss, h.264, mkv, mp3, overview, pmp, review, video, xvid