Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why Audio Video Receivers suck at music reproduction ?

A bit of background
Do Audio Video Receivers (AVR) deliver quality music for audio sources ? No, never. I guessed yes for a while but I soon discovered AVRs lack real presence of music although I listened to audio in Pure Direct mode.  What Pure Direct mode does is, it disengages power and control to tone controls (IOW it bypasses tone controls). This helps AVR to minimise signal contamination by the noise generated as a result of AVR's digital signal processing (DSP) mechanism. Pure Direct mode sends input signals straight to the amplification stage without deteriorating the signal quality.

What is missing in an AVR ?
The biggest problem with AVRs is lack of power among many other things resulting inaccurate music. You could certainly hear some "sound" but that isn't what actually the corresponding music instruments' music sounds in real. The depths of vocals, warmness of music, the tone, real spectrum of drums and heavy bass are just a few missing bits when you listen to music on an AVR.

AVR distributes its power to various other segments although you don't use them while listening to audio in pure direct mode. This is one of the key reasons why these AVRs don't sound good. The AVRs by design cut corners and the power isn't necessarily sufficient to drive speakers for good music reproduction even if it does, it lacks musicality.

With the storm of Audio Video Receivers (AVR), most people found AVRs a great way to listen to music via multiple speakers. The AVRs appeared to be a cheap, cost effective way of enjoying both worlds; audio and video. However, this trend crippled the HiFi stereo component market. The stereo aka two channel amplifier market plunged almost to its extinction as many manufacturers quit bowing to the declined sales.

AVR vs Stereo Integrated Amps

Just like many, I've been using a receiver for audio and changed a number of receivers in the space of 5 years starting with Yamaha RX-V 663, Marantz 7002 and Yamaha RX-V 2073. It didn't take much time for me to realise how bad the AVRs are for music, since I have extensively used a two channel integrated amplifier before moved on to AVRs. I almost stopped listening to audio on my AVR since music sounded crap.

I checked a few audio forums on what others say about two channel audio on an AVR. Quite surprisingly, many commented that there wouldn't be much of a difference in sound quality given most modern AVRs are powerful enough to deliver quality audio, which turned out to be an utter rubbish theory. 

Yamaha RX -V 2073 known to be a very good AVR in its league and its specs are promising on the paper but wasn't delivering the goods on pure direct mode for audio. I generally tend to do what mass majority thinks wrong. A good two channel integrated amplifier could outperform any AVR twice the cost of an amplifier on real music reproduction.

Why Yamaha A-S1000 ?
I short listed a few integrated amplifier brands, such as Rotel, Krell, Naim and Arcam but at the end I bought a Yamaha A-S 1000. I'm not a Yamaha fanboy but Yamaha outperformed many over hyped big names on the paper and on sound quality. The retail price for Yamaha A-S 1000 is ~$2500 but I got a nice discount from Todds.

 I've got a couple of turntables but I hooked my old Sony PS 3300 turntable to Yamaha A-S 1000; connected Klipsch F30 speakers with oxygen free four core cables using banana plugs. Powered the system and dropped the needle on one of my favourite records. The sounds were amazing, the sound quality difference between A-S 1000 and the AVR is like cheese and chalk. Some claim Yamaha amps are bit bright but I guess it all comes down to the speakers. The Ortofon 2M Bronze cartridge known to be on the bright side too but the highs aren't bright as bleeding as some say. The clarity, tone, details, depths are amazing. The sounds are very neutral yet natural and of course, I didn't touch the tone controls and I doubt I would ever.

Look and feel and sound quality
The A-S 1000 has been built like a tank, weighing 22.5kg. It has the retro 1980s look with a few modern twists built into it. The damping factor is pretty decent at 160 amongst many other little things, that are collaboratively effective in generating quality vibes. The THD is pretty low and the giant capacitors are yet to warm up to reach their peak. The S/N ratio is excellent at 93dB on the paper for my main music source, phono. For a moving magnet (MM) cartridge, it's an excellent figure. Importantly it runs at ease at a very cool temperature to my surprise, thanks to the Thor power board. This is my second integrated amplifier since Kenwood KA 4040-R in 1993 and the best to own so far. Finally, hifi music has arrived at its best. Now I hear music as it is in detail :-)

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Greatest Sacrifice

The turning point of mankind 
People have varied opinions on the turning point of mankind, some say it was when we invented the transistor. The newer generations claim it was after the WWII. The most recent generations claim the ARPANET, the first TCP/IP packet based network, which led the way to Internet. If you ask this question from a science student, you would hear penicillin as the answer. The evolution of technology and science have made our day to day life much easier and saved many lives although it has its own fair share of failures and setbacks. Sadly though, science or the technology has failed to defeat the death or find answers to the eternal questions on life after death. 

If someone asks my opinion on the turning point of mankind. I have an easy answer. It was the day when the Word took a cross in flesh on behalf of all the mankind, two thousand years ago. On a day like this. That was the day, when the separation between men and God was put to an end on a cross by a Man named Jesus. That was the greatest sacrifice on the surface of earth, and there won't be any of that kind ever in this world again. 

In simple words, the turning point of mankind was the day when Jesus was crucified on a cross. He was crucified to pay the price for all our sins, as a sacrifice.

What does that mean ?
A line of separation was drawn between men and God, since the day men turned away from God towards sin. The priests, descendants of Levi tribe were chosen to mediate between men and God. It was the highest priest, who met God in the most holy place in temple, representing men. 

The most holy place in the temple was the meeting point of God and the high priest; which was visually separated by a curtain from the rest. This process wasn't God's desire, His plan was to have a direct relationship with men and bless them with eternal life with His abundance of love. But the sin separated men from God.

Who is Jesus ?
Jesus is God. God sent Jesus into this world, to pay the price for all our sins; once and and once for all. Jesus was the sacrifice and the priest on the cross. His sacrifice cleansed us and spared from the eternal condemnation. This eventually terminated the need of having priests among men to consult God. Jesus took over the priesthood by becoming our mediator between God and us. His self offering was accepted by God as Jesus rose from the dead on the third day since he was crucified.

What it takes to have Him in our lives ?
Jesus Christ didn't come into this world to start a new religion or to establish a new denomination. Religions are a product of men, denominations are a barrier between the same league of followers. He came into this world to put an end to a thousands of years long dispute of man kind with God, to make a WAY for men to have a relationship with God through Him. His message is very simple. That is to accept His sacrifice and He as our personal saviour, to have a relationship with God. To save our souls at the end of our life span in flesh. 

Death is an event which spares our soul from the flesh. The soul lives on until the end, we follow Jesus to save our souls and to make our souls to be with Him at the end.

Jesus wants us to be His friends, come closer to Him, to become His followers. Following Jesus is all about taking our own cross and following Him and experience Him, His power. This process helps us to have a good communication with God. A communication means, a two way communication. Not just we talking to Him but to hear His voice in return.

What it takes to experience Him ?
The first and foremost thing is to become humble and honest. We can't come closer to Him with our own egos. God didn't have an ego. Jesus being God, humbled Himself at the hands of sinful men during the crucifixion. Being sinful, weak men, what do we seriously have to be ego driven ? Our days on the earth are numbered. We simply take the relationship we have with Jesus and the knowledge of Him when we bid farewell to this life in flesh.

Jesus didn't expect us to be just believers, instead He expects us to be His friends, followers and disciples. The early church didn't have a church building or well qualified preachers but it was filled with the power of God with Fire. Today we have well equipped church buildings with all the fancy things in the world in it, choir groups, well educated preachers (preaching boring sermons), comfortable seats, massive sound systems but the Spirit of the Lord and His power.

I'm glad there weren't any bible collages at the time of apostle Paul. Had there been bible collages during his time, he would have spent decades learning the bible, spending his best time learning the word, without actually carrying out his "duty". The only qualification God expects from us is to have a BA; Born Again.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Keith Green

In this day, we are stormed with faith albums all around but sadly I question the purpose they serve. There's a huge vacuum for worship music, so the musicians and record companies exploited this by increasing the production of faith albums. Just like a toy factory produces toys to cater the consumer demand. What these so called musicians have failed to realise was, faith music is not just another genre but the music for the King of the Kings, to the most Highest. Worship music indeed has a purpose to serve. Hence, I thought of writing about a musician who served that purpose, with the right spirit and the attitude.

The worship music not only meant to glorify His name, but it should bring the audience to His presence. I have listened to a number of modern faith albums but I didn't truly connect, they fail far behind. Needless to discuss about some of these artists. Their Christianity last just on stage, while they perform and it's all gone in their real life, the moment they step off that big flashy stage they perform.

However there were a few musicians who thought about worship music, a bit different to that. They took it quite seriously and did their best to generate what faith music was supposed to do. Late Keith Green was one such musician. It was more than a decade when I first heard Keith Green, on an audio tape that contained nearly two dozen songs of various artists. I remembered his rendition of Amazing Grace although the rest was soon forgotten. [That was a time I didn't know much about faith and I was at the process of learning the depths and widths Christ's love.]

Keith not only played Christian music and brought many to His presence, but he's someone who lived a life on what he preached and sang. He didn't stop there, he dedicated his life to serve the most Highest. He used his music as a way to preach the gospel and reach the _dead_. Let alone Christianity, none could deny Keith as one of the best pianists of our time. Had he chosen to be a commercial artist, he would have gone past many commercially successful artists in the industry. Keith was signed a record contract at the age of 11 with Decca records

However, Green decided to instrument his music, life and family to bring the lost to His wings after learning a few lessons from the Messiah. He was blessed to have the influence of Leonard Ravenhill and Randy Stonehill during his journey in Christ.

His first album, "For Him Who Has Ears to Hear" was one of the best if not the best Christian album of our time. It was God inspired, which Stonehill revealed after many years. He released 5 great albums carrying the Word in them. These albums can be purchased as a compilation from the Lastdays Ministries in 4 CDs. Keith completed what he was told do and went on to be with Jesus at the age of 28 leaving his legacy behind on 28th July 1982.

“If somebody writes a great poem, people don't run around applauding the pencil, saying 'Oh, what a great pencil'...I'm a pencil in God's hands.”
― Keith Green

A couple of Keith Green songs :
Until that final day :

Your love broke through: