Monday, June 23, 2008

Denon's Amazing CAT6 Ethernet Cable

I've subscribed to a thread dedicated to advanced topics in HD audio on AVS Forum where someone brought the Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable to our attention. This is a $500 ethernet cable. Now that's outrageous. Somebody please explain to me the benefits of such a thing. Anyhow, what's really hilarious are some of the customer reviews. Here are some of my favorites:

"A caution to people buying these: if you do not follow the "directional markings" on the cables, your music will play backwards. Please check that before mentioning it in your reviews. I was disappointed. I consider myself an audiophile - I regularly spend over $1000 on cables to get the ultimate sound. I keep my music-listening room in a Faraday cage to prevent any interference that could alter my music-listening experience. Sending any signal down ordinary copper can degrade the signal considerably. While ordinary listeners might not notice, to somebody with even a rudimentary knowledge of sound, the artifacts are glaring. Denon should have used silver wiring (hermetically sealed inside the rubber sheath to prevent any tarnishing, of course), which has a significantly higher conductivity than copper. Furthermore, Denon needs to treat the wires they use in the cable with a polarity inductor to ensure minimal phase variance."
- Michael McKinley

"If I could use a rusty boxcutter to carve a new orifice in my body that's compatible with this link cable, I would already be doing it. I can just imagine the pure musical goodness that would flow through this cable into the wound and fill me completely -- like white, holy light. Holding this cable in my hands actually makes me feel that much closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. I only make $6.25/hr at Jack In The Box, but I saved up for three months so I could have this cable. It sits in a shrine I constructed next to my futon in Mother's basement. I only gave it four stars in my review because I can't find music that is worthy enough to flow through this utterly perfect interconnect."
-G. P.

"As excited as I was to open my new Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable, I was much more dissatisfied by Denon's customer service experience. Apparently the result of an improper connection and the cable's high data transfer speed, I mistakenly caused the collision of a pair of positrons (i.e. leptons) at several hundred GeV. While the resulting mini black hole theoretically proved the validity of superstring theory and may result in endless new perpetual energy sources, it also stained our Berber carpet. When I phoned Denon customer support, the representative I spoke with--whose English was horrible, by the way--was discourteous and unhelpful. Regardless of my data transfer or particle acceleration needs in the future, I will not be shopping with Denon again."
- Mark E. Putnam

"Like an idiot I didn't follow the instructions that came with the cable. Instead, I "accidentally" ground them up in a blender along with a pile of Monster cables. What came out was a green, glowing, runny substance. I wasn't sure what I could do with it, so I threw it out of house and onto the garden. What happened, no one could have expected. Apparently most of the ooze found its way onto a family of turtles. It began to physically change them. It has been two weeks now and I have four teenage turtles in my house constantly breaking things with their martial arts. I'm about out of pizza and would like Denon to explain how these seemingly flawless cables could have caused such a problem. I read all of the warnings and didn't find anything in them about not blending them up and pouring it on turtles. I would like a full refund, or at least, Denon to cover my pizza bill."
- C. Whalen

"My wife and I have been trying to conceive for almost a decade. We've tried every form of therapy, artificial insemination, and some other, more questionable methods. Then I saw this product. The Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable. I just KNEW that it was the answer to our prayers. When they arrived my wife gave me the look of a defeated woman with nothing but a feigned hope. But I had faith! That night we wrapped ourselves in the Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable and tried one last time for a child. Nine months later our daughter was born. Thank you SO MUCH Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable. I'm only giving the product a 3-star rating, however. I was hoping for a true heir and I don't feel like buying a new cable."
- Steve O

"I got these cables to pull my Audi out of the ditch with Jed' pick-up, and they broke all up on the first pull. I knows it wasn't cause he was drunk and popped the clutch, these cables jest aint no good."
- Robert Cole "Jed's friend"

Never knew Amazon's customer reviews could be such a great source of entertainment. Learn something every day...

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Messed Up My Blog

I decided to update the design of this blog. Our current blogger template has two columns with the left column taking about 75% of the screen space, which leaves 25% for the right column. I had also just added the last.fm widget because the Sonific widget doesn't work any more. Sonific's website is gone and they no longer support their widget. The last.fm widget, along with a few others I was using, align along the left side, but are located in the right column. The text and widget alignments in the right column have bothered me for a long time, so I was trying to find some way to fix it. The text in most of the lists was aligned to the right and some of the widgets would only align to the left. Anyhow, I think it was a mess.

A few days ago, I tried testing out a few new blogger templates. I wanted to see what it would look like if I used a 2 column template with the large column on the right side. Basically, just a mirror of the one I was using. So I looked at the ones that are included with Blogger and searched the web for any others I could find. I found several that looked like they could work. Many of these will let you look at a preview, but you can't really tell if they will work unless you try them with your own content. So, I backed up my template to my local computer and tried a few of these other templates. Since I had this backup, I figured nothing terrible could happen because I could simply restore and our blog would be back to what it was before these experiments. Well, I was wrong. The actual blog articles are intact, but the list that I had for links, music stores, interesting forums, articles, etc., are all gone. I'm not sure why this happened, but I think the format for these link widgets must have been different on some of the experimental templates and they wiped out the ones that I had.

Oh well, I'm going to try to reconstruct them from memory. I should have saved each URL separate from the blog, but I didn't... I'm also going to take this opportunity to redesign the blog so everything will align a little better. So it might be a little while before everything is back to normal.

Friday, June 13, 2008

HDtracks - Another Music Store with High Quality Downloads

We can now add HDtracks to our list of online music stores that offer true CD quality tracks and albums. I just discovered them a few days ago and they offer music from a wide variety of independent labels. There's an impressive list of artists, including Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, John Prine, Aaron Neville, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Jean-Luc Ponty, Gary Burton, Norah Jones, Chuck Mangione, Patricia Barber, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Robin Holcomb, and on and on...

You have a choice of these download file formats (in decreasing file size order) - AIFF, FLAC and 320 Kbps MP3s. And this is something the other music stores should also provide - they include a very nice PDF file with all the cover art and liner notes. Oh, and of course, all the tracks are DRM free. In the near future they will offer select tracks in high resolution 24bit/96KHz formats. Hopefully, this will include some surround recordings.

HDtracks was founded by David and Norman Chesky of the audiophile record label Chesky Records. On their 'About' page they state: "In an age when there is a computer in every home, we have grown accustomed to accessing music at the touch of a button. But, what about the quality of that music? Why should the sound suffer because of convenience? With HDtracks, we have discovered the way to have it all: world-class music, unrivaled sound, and files that play in any environment."

They have a free sampler album (there's a link on the front page of their website), so I decided to test out their download process. After registering (don't worry, it's painless), you get an email that includes a link to the freebie. I can't remember all the details because it was a few days ago, but once I clicked on the link and followed the instructions, a little download program (Java applet) started and displayed the default settings for destination folders, etc., and provided a big button to start the download. Each track was listed and a progress bar indicated that the downloads were very quick. This was for the FLAC files. Overall, I was pretty impressed. HDtracks seems to have done it right, a great selection of music and their download process was very quick and easy.