Sunday, October 30, 2011

Emotiva UMC-1 vs. Onkyo TX-SR707

This one will be quick. I used the Onkyo TX-SR707 as a processor. Feeding an external Innersound ESL amplifier for the fronts, Focal Profile 908s or something like that. To upgrade and make some dough, I sold the ESL, and the Onkyo, replacing it with an Emotiva UMC-1 and a pair of Yamaha P2xxx series amplifiers from the late 80s.

I had almost no reliability issues with the Onkyo. It functioned like a champ, and the universal remote that came with it was incredibly full functioned, though lacked meaningful backlighting. However, there is absolutely no comparison in the quality of sound between it and the Emotiva UMC-1 that just replaced it.

This isn't subtle only an audiophile would hear it either. It was a night and day difference in imaging and mid-treble to treble response. It makes me wonder if the Audyssey EQ in the Onkyo was totally off, or if whether there was just a generally depressed treble in the Onkyo. The Emotiva not only brought treble and sibilance alive, but filled in the images between my speakers. Honestly, I wish I had the patience and test tools because the difference is so great I can't believe these two units reproduce sounds above 4K with the same response curves. It's just a completely different world. I regret it took me as long as it did to upgrade.

Friday, September 30, 2011

MediaMonkey and JRiver's Media Center

September 30, 2011

I've been staring at a collection of about 50 mostly unlistened to CD's for the past year. Mind you, I totally like the music, but I've been promising myself that soon I was going to rip them via a lossless codec to my Network Attached Storage (NAS). After that, I would put them away someplace safe. I would have started on this earlier, except that I also promised that as part of that project I would go over the other 300 or so CD's on the CD rack and re-rip them as well. About half of them or more are already on the NAS, but in MP3, WMA or WAV (yes, I know, I know, I'm not really sure how I ended up with WAV files).

I have been taking a whole new look at my stereo, and in the process I looked at HDTrack's recommended PC software. They list only two, both of which I am currently using. MediaMonkey and JRriver's Media Center.

Here Are My Impressions:
Overall I think I am going to have to keep them both for different reasons.

JRiver's Media Center is easily the winner when it comes to ripping CDs. Once you have configured your default codec (FLAC, etc.) network paths, and track naming conventions, the entire process is almost completely automated. I can put my laptop next to my PC and rip two disks at once, with rarely any manual intervention. I turn on something on Hulu, and before the show is over I have ripped 10 to 20 CD's and barely interrupted my strangly un-masculine obsession with watching Gilmore Girls reruns. I justify it by claiming Heather Graham is a babe. She is, but that part is not the only reason. Back to the software. MediaMonkey, on the other hand, sucks for ripping large CD libraries. It feels really like regressing into the stone age. Media MediaMonkey needs intervention both before and after the ripping has been done. Before it rips you have to select the right meta data, which oddly brings over the album art. If you want album art you are forced to go get the tags again in order to get the album art, despite the fact that MediaMonkey had the artwork before you began. This is a process which JRiver completely automates. All I do with Media Center is put a CD in. Wait for it to eject. Done. This isn't every time, but about 90% of the time. Every so often I have to manually intevene by helping it pick a song list.

It is painfully obvious to me that the MediaMonkey developers are all network music guys and haven't seen a physical CD in years or they would have fixed this ages ago.

Also JRiver has a very very nice user interface which is never out of synch with what the program is doing. Not true with MediaMonkey. It's kind of ugly, and the windows are often out of synch with what the tool is actually doing. This makes it wickedly confusing to understand what steps to take next. Is it really going to save Tori Amos as if she were Deep Blue Something?

Why Keep the Monkey?
MediaMonkey does have some seriously nice features. It is ridiculously fast compared to JRiver at importing my 9,000+ song library. Also, music playback on MediaMonkey never ever stutters when clicking around the menu tree which JRiver often does, interrupting an otherwise pristine musical experience, and others have commented on just how good MediaMonkey is at re-organizing files and metadata. MediaMonkey can do on-the-fly conversion to my old Creative Zen player, and of course, I paid for it already so I better get some use out of it.

For the next few months I'm definitely not going to use MedidaMonkey for a while. After that, I'll look at it again, and post any new impressions.

Update December 5, 2011
Another reason to hate the monkey is it's inability to perform bit-perfect playback without plugins which are poorly documented. I have one word which sums up MediaMonkey: TOY!
If you are serious about music, and audio and you get your music from sources other than MP3 downloads, look elsewhere.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Theta Digital HDMI Upgrade is for Real?

According to recent posts at Ultra High End, Theta Digital has actually started to deliver Casablanca III HD upgrades which include HDMI as well as upgraded DAC's. Good for them!