As audio hobbyists, we are always looking for ways to improve the music we love, on the systems we love just as much. In this industry, hearing the word “improvement” often quickly leads to a much lighter wallet. However, not all improvements will break the bank.
Are you a vinyl-lover? Well, people who are new to analog hifi, may be surprised to learn how transformative something as simple as keeping things clean can be.
We aren’t being glib! All you have to do is keep your records and the stylus tip clean and you will be able to create a much better sound from the system you already own! A stylus brush and cleaning fluid are small investments and absolute must-haves for all turntable owners.
For your records, cleaning vinyl by hand with clean cheesecloth strips and record cleaning solution is a fast and cheap way to get the improvements you are looking for. If you have a large record collection and/or buy a lot of used vinyl, a vacuum suction RCM (Record Cleaning Machine) or an Ultra Sonic RCM can achieve professional quality results and save you some valuable time.
However, it isn’t only the records themselves that can benefit from some attention. Even cleaning the inner sleeves that hold your records goes a long way. All you need is an anti-static gun to keep your records in tip-top shape.
All of the tools mentioned above can be purchased individually but you can also pick up a complete turntable setup kit from manufacturers like Acoustic Solid and Acoustical Systems.
Bangkok: On a warm and humid day in late August 2022, I am welcomed to HD HiFi by its owner, Noppol Teeravichayakul.
Kris Horpaopan, from Nordost’s Thai distributor, Deco2000, safely drives me to this interesting, and relatively centrally located, Bangkok hifi shop to meet with its owner. The entrance of HD HiFi is modest—a narrow townhouse-style building with a futuristic-looking facade featuring the HD HiFi sign as its main focal point. Upon entering the ground floor of the store, one might be fooled into believing that this is simply a small store that mostly sells lifestyle products. But just like a townhouse, while it might not be very wide, it’s deep and has multiple stories full of different levels of audio goodies!
Noppol tells me that he founded his business in 2015 in a different location and says he “wanted it all”: home theatre, lifestyle, accessories, high-end, mid-fi, entry-level etc. However, he soon realized that he first needed solid ground – a foundation upon which to build his business, and his current building became just that…both metaphorically and in its organization.
The ground floor, where customers enter, is for walk-in traffic. There, you find smaller, integrated electronics and all-in-one box solutions: Devialet soundbars, and KEF active speakers to give a couple of examples. However, if you happen to be interested in a more sophisticated hifi experience, Noppol is happy to take you higher. The next floor of HD HiFi houses what is often referred to as “mid-fi”. There, you are welcomed into a typical Bangkok-style living room area. During my visit, the setup was comprised of a pair of Totem bookshelf speakers, driven by an Arcam amplifier with a dCS Bartok as the source, all neatly wired with a mix of Nordost’s Leif and Norse 2 cables and a QBASE for power distribution, of course.
After that very convincing presentation, we proceeded to the top floor where the most prestigious products that HD HiFi offers are installed in two properly set-up rooms. First, we enter the Home Theatre Room with an assortment of “intelligent room” controls—you can control lights, AC, see who’s ringing on your front door, etc. The acoustic treatments in this room are very elegantly done, efficient and stylish without overdoing it. Finally, the second room on the top floor is the High-End Room—a very large, fully-loaded room that has the “High-End Experience” as its main goal. Acoustically, this listening area was designed as a “room within a room” that uses the whole width of the building.
The set-up of the day is Wilson Audio speakers and Nordost Tyr 2 cabling (which were standing in for Valhalla 2 cables, which were out on loan to a lucky customer) paired with a Devialet amplifier. Did that room deliver? It most certainly did! This is the type of system that produces a goosebump-inducing performance. However, HD HiFi does not limit itself to only one standout system. During my visit I was shown pictures of several past High-End systems that had been set up in that very room, proving it to be a truly versatile room in which to demonstrate High-End Audio.
In speaking to Noppol, he told that me he chooses to run his business using a strict, dealer-only model. He doesn’t want to be involved in the challenges a distributor faces, like import duties, stock keeping, and exchange rates… instead he focuses on what he’s best at: demonstrating hand-picked brands that he can trust to never fail in presenting audio performances that exceed expectations.
My only complaint is that we could not spend more time at HD HiFi. The musical experiences we had that day made the time pass very quickly and before I was ready, it was time to leave.
As we leave, Noppol sends us off with a wave promising, “When you come back next time I’ll have done some big improvements” … Spoken like a true enthusiast in the pursuit of the ultimate audio experience.
I’ll hold you to your promise, Noppol, as hard as that might be!
When speaking to a hifi enthusiast about digital audio, “jitter” is a four-letter word. If jitter was an audio villain, its evil powers would be inducing noise to unsuspecting recordings, obliterating the depth of field, and smearing the details out of pure, musical integrity… really dastardly stuff.
Just where does this jitter come from? When is it introduced into the signal? Is jitter an unstoppable force that we are doomed to live with, or is there a hero that can protect our fair hifi systems from this audio villain?
First, we have to ask – what is jitter?
Jitter is the
deviation from true periodicity of a presumably
periodic signal i.e., an error in clock
timing. While the definition for all jitter remains the same, the origin of
jitter is not, and this is what makes all the difference.
Two types of jitter and where they are introduced:
Recording jitter is when the timing errors themselves are embedded
in a recording. This occurs if timing errors are captured in the original data
samples. If the data sample that is stored includes jitter, then in becomes an
intrinsic characteristic of the data itself. Unfortunately, if a data sample is
produced with recording jitter it cannot be eliminated during playback,
regardless of the quality of the equipment used.
Playback jitter occurs as data streams from the digital transport to the D/A converter. As timing information converts to frequency information, the musical signal can experience a frequency modulation, known as phase noise. The audible consequences of this phase noise depends on whether the jitter is correlated to the audio signal or not.
Jitter correlated to the audio signal —
Peaks in the noise spectrum
More likely audible effects
Jitter uncorrelated to the audio signal —
Broad spectrum obstruction
Shortens depth of field and reduces soundstage precision
Less intrusive audible effects
Unfortunately, there is no caped component offering one simple solution to totally eliminate jitter. Although, there are plenty of techniques to mitigate it. Depending on the manufacturer producing the equipment, the solution could be re-clocking, introducing buffering, or incorporating high-quality oscillators… However, as with most things, the solution is typically more than the sum of its parts. When purchasing equipment, make sure that the manufacturer specifically addresses anti-jitter attenuation, not as a one-part solution, but as a holistic approach, including the design or sourcing of quality parts, how those parts interact with one another, and the intentional placement and mounting of said parts.
Apart from the components within your system, another element to address is cabling. No digital cable will be able to completely vanquish jitter from whence it came. However, a poorly constructed digital cable can further exacerbate the problem, blurring the edges of the square wave signal or altering its shape to a significant degree. This makes a DAC’s receiver less capable of detecting the correct timing of transmissions (aka. jitter). An expertly designed digital cable, on the other hand, can make make some real improvements where jitter is concerned.
Nordost’s digital solutions, pay attention to several factors which reduce jitter throughout the signal transmission. By making well-considered choices in conductor type, conductor geometry, dielectric, shielding and terminations, Nordost cables can ensure that a correctly shaped and timed signal is received by the D/A converter. This results in an improvement to dynamics, tonality, and timing, removing irritants from the sound and allowing the music to play free another day…
Nordost products are designed to allow you to enjoy your favorite performances as they were intended to be heard. All of us here are passionate about great music, and want to share our passion with you. Each one of us has our own style… We listen to a wide variety of artists and genres but, in a way, we appreciate them all. We thought that we would share a few of the songs on our own personal playlists with you each month. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your tastes, but we hope that there is something here for everyone.
Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this September.