My blogging goals.

alexa-mazzarello-223406When I first started my blog my main idea was to improve my written English and also share some of my opinions, but since then my blogging goals changed a bit.
So now I’ll write about the current state of the blog and also some things to come.

One of the most visited pages on my blog is the KZ guide, any person who doesn’t know me or doesn’t read my “about” page might think I’m just another guy who thinks he’s going to be a reviewer or make lots money from this hobby. Yea, sure…
These days nothing is further from the truth, I did in a very far past think I could sell some affordable gear on a shop, but online retail actually made me give up on that endeavor.
In a way I’m glad for it, because some years ago a headphone shop opened in downtown Lisbon and it was very well situated. The shop was open for one year but the owner had to close doors. Why?
Well, people would actually visit it and try the headphones, but in the end they would buy the gear online because the price was better.
So yea, I have no grand money making ideas for my blog.

Most people don’t know that I actually review KZ IEMs for fun and also because I use them daily. Plus there is a lot of people new to the hobby who can’t spend all the money I already spent on these IEMs.
Given the fact KZ is a very hyped brand on some forums I felt the need to share my opinions on some models, because sometimes it’s hard to separate marketing bullshit from the honest reviews from people who actually pay for gear from their own pocket.
My main goal with the mini reviews around here is to help new people in to the hobby, some of them don’t have lots of money to try out new IEMs all the time, also it takes ages for some gear to arrive from China so every purchase they make must be carefully planned.
That’s also why I never actually went ahead and reviewed my Beyerdynamics or Grado headphones . People who buy those brands know exactly what they want.

I still keep writing about the state of the hobby, mostly pointing out bullshit when I see it, if anyone has a problem with that they can go piss in another tree because this blog is mine. I’m not as aggressive as before but bullshits is bullshit and it will not smell less after some time.

I got some ideas to share about my stencil hobby but work is keeping me a bit busy these days. It’s not forgotten and I will try to dedicate some time to it.

This blog is my main way to share my views about the world, one of the great things about WordPress is that I’m not in a social network bubble, even if some of my page views do come from Facebook.
In the past I shared many posts on that social network sadly I think only a few of my friends actually care about the stuff I write around here so I don’t share my writings in Facebook anymore. I still share on Twitter because users there are more informed about tech, plus I got some audiophiles who follow me.

As for things to come, I got some ideas but nothing too fancy. I will probably keep reviewing cheap Chinese IEMs but also from other brands.
I want to write about music on my free time, nothing too serious just “talk” about albums or songs I enjoy daily. The same goes for some books but I’ll avoid series and movies because everyone writes about that so I don’t want to beat that old horse.
As for the electronics hobby, these days my kids run around so much that I can’t even pick up my soldering iron, so no writing about that for a long time to come. I don’t have a safe calm space to work on my electronics so I only do some repairs when I really need to.

Anyway I don’t want to share stuff just because I can, I want to share interesting things and projects that help other people. In a way this blog does help many people, at least from what I can see on my visitors statistics.
I must say thanks, even if most of you don’t interact with me I’m happy to welcome you all to the journey of my life.

As for blogging goals, right now that’s about it. Peace.

My opinion on the MQA codec.

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Image from Wikipedia.

My short opinion about the Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) codec. Be warned I don’t like it one bit. (pun intended)

To keep it short, MQA it’s just another way to push a proprietary closed source codec upon audio enthusiasts and making cash along the way.

If this codec becomes mainstream it will result in a higher price for the end user (that will be me and probably you also).
I don’t mind paying artists but I do mind when I must pay for a codec when there are free alternatives in the wild.
I’m all for innovation but when said innovation brings practical uses to the table, the Sony ATRAC codec for exemple was pretty impressive when paired with the MiniDisc format.

Mp3 became the de facto standard for ok quality over really slow Internet, even if today there are better alternatives both proprietary and open-source. Mp3 does the job and is so imbued on users life that it will take a long time until another codec replaces it.
Not so with MQA, a codec mostly for a niche group but with the hope of reaching mainstream music lovers, something Flac already did in a certain way.

Hardcore enthusiasts and audiophile magazines are shoving negative opinions (some very objective) to the side. Saying that negativity doesn’t help the hobby.
Remember that these are the same people who in a way or another are connected to the industry so maybe negativity isn’t just the problem deep down at the root.

Well, I’m not the most objective guy to write about this MQA drama, so go visit Archimago’s blog and get a better objective view on the technical detail of the codec.

Why you might not need a better headphone amplifier.

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Lake People G103-S my reference headphone amplifier.

When I first jumped to the portable audio enthusiast train, my first pairs of headphones didn’t need a portable amplifier to sound great. I don’t say this in jest, it’s the truth.
Sure, my music players were mostly Sony Walkman’s at the time, so they had a decent sounding inbuilt amplifiers, this was in 90’s so you can imagine the quality of a mainstream amplifier these days.
My need for a better audio amplifier happened very late in the game when I purchased more demanding headphones that were not built to be driven by a standard consumer amplifier .

Given my experience with budget dynamic and balanced armature headphones I often dislike the idea of purchasing a amplifier if the one at hand is good enough to drive the gear.
I watch many newcomers worrying about what amplifiers should they buy to drive cheap and Mid-Fi headphones, when they should really worry about finding the best headphones they can possible buy with their current budget.
The community is often at fault here, new enthusiasts giving advice to newer enthusiasts, with opinions taken from Hi-End forums where people actually have headphones that need a better amplification.
Uninformed enthusiasts often give space to hype, snake oil sellers and more uniformed opinions being shared around, the very same happens with the need for better audio amplifiers.

Don’t get me wrong a good audio amplifier is very important if you have a headphone that can extract every ounce of quality, that is not the case with budget headphones that are limited by design and specs.
What I want to make clear is that the most important piece of the audio chain are the headphones, doesn’t really matter the money you spend on the amplifier, if you have shitty headphones no amplifier will solve that, so spend money were it really matters.

I don’t have a High-End amplifier so my Lake People G103-S is my reference when comparing mainstream amplifiers on motherboards, portable players, smartphones and Hi-Fi decks.
I only truly notice a true improvement when the headphones being tested have more demanding needs specially in terms of higher impedance and less sensitivity, that’s is not the case with cheap or Mid-Fi headphones with very low impedance and good sensitivity that can be driven by most mainstream amplifiers on the market today.
Some desktop motherboards are now claiming to drive up to 600 Ohms headphones, if thats your case, try them before follow the hype train.

I will be probably frown upon by most enthusiasts who read this, but this is my opinion based on experience, so deal with it. I’m not here to sell gear by making reviews like: “This great amplifier really made my cheap ass headphones sound amazing”. If you are in to that, go visit the so called biggest headphone forum in the world and be amazed at so much colors of bullshit!  🙂

Audiophile reviewers and disclosure.

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Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

A word of warning before you read this, if by any chance you review audiophile gear keep in mind that I’m probably not writing about you.
With that out of the way, I’m totally against people who say they are reviewers or make review blogs just to get free samples or even money for their opinions.

In fact this post came to be because I started to notice a pretty awful trend on so called headphone reviewers, most of them do it because they receive free stuff which they get to keep after their reviews.
Bloggers know it’s wrong and the companies who supply them often make a blind eye, because it brings them more customers already primed by word-to-mouth hype.
In fact this kind of marketing strategies were one of the reasons the FTC made US bloggers disclose any kind of endorsements or free samples.

No wonder we never read truly negative reviews on some audiophile sites or blogs.
Those writers refuse to review bad products because it would ruin their relationship with the merchant who’s giving them free samples! Sad but true.
Sure some bloggers will disclose they are receiving free gear but it’s all for nothing if they are reviewing just to receive the gear, thus they lack the main thing any reviewer amateur or professional needs above all, integrity.

I totally understand the rush of receiving new stuff on the doorstep, but these writers are literally selling their opinion to the lowest bidder.
Because of them most who are serious about their work or hobby are faced with the sad reality of being pressured by those very same companies for positive reviews. After all if one reviewer sells out everyone else will surely will!

I totally suck as a reviewer and I lack the necessary wine tasting vocabulary most use on their articles, but I do strive for honesty on my opinions.
For example in my KZ earphones guide I disclosed this:

– All earphones are bought with my money from various online shops.
– I’m not endorsed by KZ in any way nor do I want to be. 

I can fairly bash any KZ earphone I bought because of this, It’s my money and I’ll give my blunt opinion on the gear. Until now I never gave a negative opinion on any KZ product, but I don’t know what the future holds.

In this niche everyone has their fair share of blame for the problem.   
Some reviewers are addicted to free stuff and sadly some consumers need to confirm their purchases with positive reviews.
Reviewers are very important to the current consumer society but they are also accountable for their words.
It’s up to each one of us to understand what’s bullshit and what’s not.

China, the new audiophile superpower.

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Photo by WillSpirit SBLN on Unsplash

I could write a full article about the massive Chinese audiophile community, but I won’t go there for the sake of my sanity. Lets just say they are very enthusiastic about Hi-Fi.
In one point I think most occidental audiophiles agree, the Chinese are very serious about their Hi-Fi and they have the power of numbers on their side.
Those numbers are in fact their biggest strength when it comes to demand accessible high quality High-Fidelity gear, and Chinese companies are more than happy to deliver the goods usually at the expense of quality and originality.

During the 80’s Japan was in the forefront of everything Hi-Fi and the American and European companies struggled with the fierce Japanese competition.
That came to be because the occidental companies lacked courage to release new radical products on the market. Sure some companies had great products but their fear to fail on their shareholders crippled their imagination.
Today ironically that very same problem plagues Sony, a company that in the 80’s was the perfect example of a Japanese giant with amazing research and development (R&D), factories, distribution and marketing.
Japanese Hi-Fi companies like Sony had great quality assurance (QA) when they entered the international markets, mostly because they had very aggressive competition towards them and also because it’s was expensive to send the parts overseas to service the products.
Sure some Japanese companies built factories in the US and Europe but quality was and still is their best weapon to fight competition. That attention to detail and quality still stands today, as “Made in Japan” still means high quality workmanship, QA and a heavy price tag.

The problem with quality is that you have to pay for it, that premium even if well received by most audiophiles is the weak point of companies that need to uphold their brand name, after all it would be beyond awful if a batch of Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic headphones failed unexpectedly after 6 months.
When buying a product from a established Hi-Fi company the consumer pays R&D, production, distribution, marketing and of course QA, this is to name a few because it’s a complex subject which I didn’t study too deep.
With all that system in place for the established Hi-Fi makers, it’s normal that Chinese companies are now in a position to actually compete with cheaper prices because:
They can literally copy designs without legal issues and have the equipment and materials available, because most established companies make their stuff in China, thus no R&D.
Production is cheap for various social-economic reasons I won’t explain here.
Distribution is supported by the government and various local and international commercial agreements. Chinese companies help each other at least from my point of view, but as in all things I can be wrong.
Marketing is not really necessary because word-of-month between enthusiasts is enough, in fact word-of-mouth is so strong it can actually inflate the prices of products praised by the community.
QA focus in making the product work at a short term, because after all most of these Chinese companies don’t really worry about servicing their cheap gear,  they can always send a replacement unit.
Sure not all Chinese Hi-Fi companies are like the above, but let’s be sincere most of them are and they face no competition besides their own.

Having a massive enthusiast base and small companies that only need to worry on the short term makes China the new audiophile superpower.
The large community gives their opinion about the gear and factories almost in real time adapt to their requests. Very few established companies can actually do that and in my opinion some of them should actually start taking notes from their Chinese competition.

I still believe Chinese brands will have a hard time competing against established higher priced gear, after a certain price point enthusiasts will bash any company that doesn’t do serious QA on their products, plus legal problems will arise as soon as some companies setup offices outside China.

I must admit it’s a great time to be a audiophile, thanks to the Chinese enthusiasts and companies anyone in the world can enjoy a good song.