Entreq and Improving Network Audio

We’ve posted about this before, but over the past few days I have spoken to 3 or 4 people over the past few days on the phone and the conversation with all of them has hinged around one thing – grounding your network to improve the performance of either streamed music coming from the Internet (Tidal/Qobuz) or music being streamed internally on a network (music stored on a NAS drive for example) or from a Melco connected to a USB DAC.

Routers are noisy, they are typically manufactured by the lowest bidder and use poor quality power supplies. That said, most modern day routers are pretty good and do what they say on the tin, but they don’t do your music any favours when it is being passed through router on its journey to your hi-fi.

The first improvement someone could make to their network is to connect an Entreq ground box to one of the spare ethernet ports on the router using an Entreq RJ45 ground cable. Entreq Silver Minimus and RJ45 Cables @ Audio TherapyWhat does this do?

It’s probably more important to say what it doesn’t do first, it is adding absolutely nothing to what is already there, the job of the ground box is to simply remove the noise and pollutants that present in the router and to allow the signal to pass through unhindered.

Entreq produce ground cables with a variety of termination types (RCA, USB, XLR, Ethernet, 5 Pin Din) and over the past few months the Ethernet connection has become the most popular we are now selling, by a significant number as well. For every 10 ground cables we sell, 6 or 7 of them are now Ethernet, so this is becoming a rather popular niche!

There is a variety of different ground cables as well, Copper, Discover, Konstantin, Challenger, Apollo, Atlantis and Olympus – all made from different material using different combinations of conductors, the entry level Copper and Challenger are the most popular RJ45 cables as they offer great performance at their respective price points. Apollo is excellent as well.

The most popular small ground box for connecting to a router is the Silver Minimus, priced at £480 it’s a neat little compact box that can easily be hidden from view but can offer significant improvements to the delivery of networked audio within a system. Entreq Silver Minimus and RJ45 Cables @ Audio TherapyOnce you have connected the ground cable to both the Silver Minimus and your router it usually takes around 24 hours for the full benefit to be fully appreciated, but on most systems after about 20 minutes of being connected you can tell that a change has occurred. The noise level drops and with some routers this can be quite significant. The sound becomes more dynamic and you typically find that detail and subtleties that have always been there but have been subdued or hidden in the background are now front and centre.

Which is the right ground cable to choose?

It all depends on your system and how you find it sonically. Copper can be very effective on systems that are quite lean in nature, Challenger has a mixture of silver and copper in its construction and as a result it works really well if you simply want to keep the overall presentation neutral. The Challenger has consistently been the most popular ethernet ground cable. The Copper Infinity RJ45 Ground Cables are £90 each, the Challenger Infinity are £400 each.

Entreq Challenger RJ45 Ground Cables @ Audio Therapy

I have done this demonstration more times than I care to remember using a Silver Minimus and Copper cable and the improvement has pretty much always been heard, but on some systems if you change to a Challenger the benefit can become really obvious.

There is no magical ingredient list, it really depends on your system.

If you have an Ethernet switch in your system and the audio signal is routed through it there is also benefit to connecting a spare port on your switch to the Silver Minimus as well. If you have a NAS drive you could connect that to the ground box using either an RJ45 or USB ground cable depending on what connections it offers. That said, I would not recommend connecting more than 2 items to a Silver Minimus though as it does become less beneficial.

The most effective way to find out what this does to the presentation of a system is to simply leave the Entreq connected to your router for a few days or a week and then disconnect it. More often than not when I have done this for local customers the streaming aspect of their system sounds veiled and mid-range can sound heavy and congested. Listen and you’ll see to coin a phrase. For a lot of people simply grounding their network offers enough of an improvement to their system, but those wanting to explore futher……

Ethernet Interconnect Cables

Entreq Primer RJ45 Ethernet Cable @ Audio TherapyYou can take your network audio further than just connecting your router to a ground box as well – Entreq also produce actual ethernet cables that carry the audio signal. Their Primer Ethernet Cable is £260 for a 1.1m length and comes with a 55cm ground cable and Primer Ground Box included in the price. Connect the Ethernet Cable to your router and the other end to your Network Streamer/Player away you go.

Ethernet cables don’t work though, it is impossible for them to effect the sound of streamed music as they are just 0’s and 1’s. Take a listen and find out for yourself!

The Primer Ethernet Cable has been really popular around these parts and if you have a decent system the benefit can be pretty substantial. The cable itself is not shielded in any way, any noise/pollutants are drained to the ground box. This allows the cable to truly breath and makes it really transparent. The benefit is very much as described above, it makes the presentation more dynamic, yet calmer and most importantly more musical and engaging, go back to your previous cable and it typically doesn’t take long to realise what you have been missing.

I’ve put one of these in a system that replaced a well known cable brands ethernet cable which was nearly £1000. I simply left the Primer with the customer to play with for a week, the other cable was relegated elsewhere onto another device and the difference between the 2 cables was far from subtle as well. Many cables sound very impressive and exciting when you listen to them, but they can be very “hi-fi” and don’t actually sound like real music.

Entreq Primer RJ45 Ethernet Cable @ Audio TherapyThe Primer cables comes as standard terminated RJ45 to RJ45, so you can use them in a variety of places in your network, but Entreq will also produce (via special order for the same price of £260) a cable with RJ11 connections so you can go from your master phone socket to your router. For streamed Internet services like Tidal this is a great improvement as well.

Using a Silver Minimus elsewhere in your system

Due to large of connection options  Entreq offer you can use a Silver Minimus on pretty much any device you want, they aren’t exclusively for connecting to network devices. You could use one to connect to your integrated amplifier, phono stage, DAC, Melco, computer, AV amp or Sky Box for example. The reasoning behind this is exactly the same as outlined above, to remove noise from the signal path to uncover hidden/obscured detail, increase dynamics. We have a substantial number of Entreq users who are using these to great effect. Entreq produce larger boxes such as the Tellus II, Silver Tellus for those people with larger systems and there is also the Olympus Ten, which is the same physical size as a Silver Tellus but even more effective! Every time the Olympus Ten comes out of the demo case, it always delivers amazing results!

Entreq Infinity Challenger Ground Cables @ Audio TherapyIf you want to find out more about the weird and wonderful world of Entreq please get in touch.

No black magic or smoke and mirrors, all you need is a decent system to begin with, a working pair of ears and a love of music!

 

 

Streaming Music…..A Rough Guide featuring Melco!

New to streaming music? Confused about the latest buzz-words and phrases?

I converse with lots of people on the phone and via email about ‘streaming music’ and ‘network audio’. I repeatedly get asked about the differences between ‘servers’ and ‘streamers’ and suchlike and I thought a blog post about the differences/similarities could be useful and how a Melco Digital Music Library can easily be classified into all of the above categories in one way or another.

There is definitely some cross-over and confusion between some of these terms and some people use different terms to describe exactly the same thing!

Streaming Music & Network Audio

Streaming music can mean a variety of things to different people. The most common usage of this term would be describe playing music using an Internet music streaming service such as Tidal & Qobuz, controlled by your phone or tablet. In order to do this it typically involves a component such as a streamer or network audio player connected to both your hi-fi system and your router/network.

Spotify are generally considered the market leaders in terms of streaming services, but their streams are heavily compressed and are nowhere near CD quality. Tidal and Qobuz on the other hand both offer CD quality streaming and even 24 bit streaming depending on the level of subscription you have. Tidal sounds very good in general, but for me Qobuz has the sonic advantage. Their library of music is perhaps a bit less mainstream than Tidal, but I’ve yet to catch it out with anything that’s of interest to me!

Many people will also consider themselves to be streaming music when they play their own music collection that they have ‘ripped’ from their CD’s onto a NAS drive (NAS = Network Attached Storage).

A streamer/network audio player typically will play music from both Internet Streaming Services and from a NAS drive which is connected to your home network.

You can also purchase 24 bit music from a variety of websites, download them onto your computer, then copy/paste the download onto your NAS drive and play them back as well.

Any device which can play back music from an online subscription based service or from a NAS drive could easily be described as a streamer or a Network Audio Player, as you are streaming music from another location – either locally on the home network with a NAS drive or externally via the Internet using Qobuz/Tidal.

NAS DrivesAs mentioned above, NAS stands for ‘Network Attached Storage’ and is basically a hard drive (in many cases multiple drives) contained within a box that is connected to your network. The NAS drive makes itself visible on the network so any ‘streamer’ or ‘network audio player’ on the same network can see the music and you can play it back through your hi-fi controlled via your phone/tablet using your ‘streamers’ control app. NAS drives can be configured so they automatically have a back up of you music on a second drive so if a drive fails you don’t lose your music.

Servers (or Network Audio Server)

A server will typically fulfill the function of a streamer/network audio player, you can playback music from Tidal/Qobuz and playback music from other storage devices, but most importantly a server will contain its own hard drive storage to hold your ripped CD collection. In theory a server can still technically stream music!

Computer Audio

Many people will simply connect their laptop into a USB DAC  which is connected to their hi-fi and use software on their computer (such as Amarra and Audirvana) to playback music either stored on the computer or from a NAS drive. Of course, a computer can also stream from services like Tidal & Qobuz. When set-up and configured properly results can be pretty good. I guess the downside to computer audio is that they can be buggy and require restarts for updates and suchlike. Because computers do so much they will never get the very best out of your audio files as there is always processing power getting in the way of the best sound. I also guess it depends on how computer literate you are as well!

I hope that brief overview of streaming, network audio, servers is useful if you are starting out in digital audio and the jargon makes sense. If not, please get in touch – I’d be more than happy to go through any questions anyone may have.

So where does Melco fit into this? Melco @ Audio TherapyTo quote Melco…… ‘the world’s first audiophile grade source component to access, store, deliver and play HiRes Digital Music without the compromise of computer hardware and peripherals, was debuted by Melco in November 2014. Since then our uncompromised audio NAS components have been the talk of the awards. Regularly used by leading audio manufacturers to showcase their devices, they are the defacto HiRes audio storge and player solution’

Melco produce a range of 3 products which they describe as a ‘Digital Music Library’. All 3 models contain built-in hard drives so you can store your music collection on the Melco itself, so it could be described as a Server.

You can read more about the 3 specific Melco models and their differences on this page

Melco also produce a dedicated CD ripper, called the D100. Connect this to one of the Melco’s 4 USB sockets and you are guaranteed to achieve a bit-perfect rip of your CDs, more accurate than any other drive or computer program can achieve, complete with perfect meta-data and artwork – all without the need for turning on your computer.Melco D100 Diagram @ Audio TherapyIf you already have a digital music collection stored on an existing hard drive it is really easy to import this onto the Melco via the USB 3 input on the rear panel.

Once you have music on the Melco there are 2 ways you can connect it to your hi-fi system to get music playing.

The most important connection (after power!) is to connect the Melco to your router via the LAN port. Once you have done this the Melco can see the Internet (for software updates and control).

The Melco has a second Ethernet socket (labelled Player Port) so if you have a Network Audio Player (like a Naim, Linn or Cyrus for example) this would connect to the Melco’s Player Port. This Player Port acts as a switch to isolate your current player from your network and by doing this you get a great upgrade in performance. In a good system this benefit is not subtle.

Melco N1ZH/2 Rear Panel @ Audio TherapyHowever, all is not lost if you do not have a Network Audio Player. The Melco has 4 USB sockets, one of which is specifically for a USB DAC, once connected the Melco will effectively ‘stream’ the music stored on-board to your DAC. Melco do not yet (watch this space!) have a dedicated control app, but if you use either Linn Kazoo or the Lumin app and you are connected to a USB DAC you have the option to stream from either Tidal or Qobuz.Melco USB Connection @ Audio Therapy

The Melco’s USB DAC socket is heavily optimised for the best performance and in my experience connecting to a USB-DAC is very best way to get the most out of both the Melco and your music collection! The Melco in effect is a high end bit-perfect digital transport.

If you have a D100 CD ripper connected to your Melco and you are connected to a USB DAC you can also use the D100 as a high-performance CD transport – on a good system it is difficult to tell a CD rip apart from a CD being played back, it is very good!

One of the USB sockets on the Melco is labelled back-up, simply connect a USB hard drive to this socket, format the drive on the Melco and perform a back up. No data loss should a drive fail. Subsequent back ups are incremental so they do not take long at all! Again, no computer needed to back up or archive your music.

So, you can use the Melco to stream music off its internal hard drive to either a network audio player via the LAN port or to a USB DAC via the dedicated USB socket. If you want to stream Tidal or Qobuz you can do it via the Melco if connected to a USB DAC.

The Melco is easy to use, very intuitive and most importantly performance is truly outstanding. Take the entry level N1A/2 and connect it to a £500 Arcam ir-DAC2 and you get great results. Step up to a better DAC and the performance jumps up accordingly. Moving to the N1ZH/2 the jump in performance is audible pretty quickly, even if you do an A/B demo with an N1A/2 on a relatively modest DAC, but when you put the N1ZH/2 onto a bigger, better DAC it really stretches it legs. The flagship N1ZS/2 is another story altogether, I would consider it to be a truly world class transport. 

The ease of use, superb performance and the fact you can get the very best out of a Melco without needing to turn on your computer makes it an incredibly popular choice. If you are looking for a streamer, server and network audio player all combined in one box one of the three Melco models could be just the ticket!

Melco @ Audio Therapy

Get your Network Audio Primed with Entreq

At the end of March I posted regarding the importance of grounding your network to get the best out of streaming music.

I felt this was relevant as more and more people are streaming music from Tidal or Qobuz into their systems. Also, if you pull music off a conventional NAS like a QNAP and feed that to a Network Player music is being pumped across the network.

Based on that last post there were a small handful of people who ended up purchasing the various ex-demo ground boxes and RJ45 ground cables I had on offer and I’m delighted to report everyone who made the jump was glad they did. As is often the case with Entreq people can be bit sceptical looking from the outside in, but once you’ve played with it in your own system, that initial sceptism quickly gets swept aside as you can hear what it’s doing to your music. Veils were lifted, performance gains were had across the board and customers were happy.

When I signed off that blog post I did say I would follow it up with another post on the new RJ45 Ethernet Cables, well at long last, here we are!!!

Ethernet @ Audio Therapy

With the coming of age of streamed music the importance of Ethernet and a stable network is more relevant than ever.

One question I often get asked is ‘what is streamed music?’

First and foremost streamed music is music played off the Internet, using a subscription based service like Tidal and Qobuz. Both of their services offer CD quality (16 bit, 44.1kHz) streaming and higher in some cases. Most Network Audio players have Tidal and/or Qobuz integrated into them, you simply enter your username/password into the player and you can stream away!

Qobuz Logo @ Audio TherapyAnother form of ‘streaming’ music is from within a closed network, all of your music is stored on a NAS drive and you ‘stream’ that music to a Network Audio Player like a  Lumin S1, Naim NDX or Linn Klimax DSM over the network.

A Naim NDX for example, can stream in both ways as outlined above.

All of the above requires Ethernet cables in one way or another. Your Network Audio Player connects to your router (or switch) via an Ethernet cable, likewise with your NAS. It all starts at your master phone socket, where you connect an RJ11 terminated cable which connects to your router.

Ethernet cables typically are inexpensive, designed to serve a purpose, they simply just work. Many audio-cable brands have released esoteric Ethernet cables some of which are very good and are certainly a step up over the very basic cable you can buy for a couple of quid.

Enter stage left……..Entreq Primer

Entreq have been working on a new entry level range of interconnects and I’ve been playing with their new Ethernet cables.

Entreq have always done things differently to everyone else, they use minimal alloy, nothing synthetic wherever possible and utilise cotton braiding, wooden connectors (non-magnetive and conductive) to keep things as natural as possible. It’s how they get their great sonic signature which is musical, full of texture and is never aggressive or fatiguing.

The vast majority of audio cables are shielded, this helps to protect the delicate musical signal, the shields picks up noise, electro-interference, RFI and EMI and it runs along the shield, right next to the signal, but the signal is protected right?

Entreq have never shielded their cables, they’ve always argued it was detrimental to performance. Instead you simply connect a signal cable to one of their passive ground boxes via one of their ground cables and that box acts as a reservoir/dump for the noise/interference to live. Think of the boxes as an attractive place for unwanted noise to reside!!Entreq Primer Ground Box @ Audio Therapy

So, the the Primer RJ45 cable is un-shielded and it comes with a dedicated Primer ground cable and Primer ground box, all included in the price of £260.00 for a 1.1 metre length. Longer cables are not a problem, it costs an additional £40.00 for every 0.55cm after the first 1.1m.

If you are familiar with Entreq you will know this is a real step for them as typically the price of admission has always been way higher than this and the ground cable and ground box were always bought separately in addition to the cable.

In my main demo system I have a Melco N1ZH/2 – it is full of music stored on the hard drives, but that music is sent via USB so not relevant here. Thankfully, I have both a Tidal and Qobuz Sublime account so ‘streaming’ using the Melco is no issue, I primarily use these services to discover new music which I either buy on CD or download in Hi-Res.

My Melco is connected to my router using a well known cable brand’s flagship Ethernet cable which costs almost 4 times the price of the Primer – the Entreq isn’t off to a good start.Entreq Primer RJ45 Interconnect Cable @ Audio Therapy

Comparing Ethernet Cables!

I queued up several tracks on both services and spent some time listening via my own cable. It sounds great, it’s musical and informative. It’s not as enjoyable as pulling content of the Melco itself, but it’s still very good. I listened to the same tracks on both services and to my ears and system Qobuz has the edge. Tidal sounds good but it is a little two-dimensional compared to Qobuz.

Making the change to the Entreq Primer took no time at all, but as always with Entreq it takes a little while the box to settle and for the noise to dissipate. I hit play and almost instantly you could tell the presentation had changed. One of my go to albums is ‘Popular Problems’ by Leonard Cohen and track number 2 ‘Almost Like the Blues’ is the track I always start with.

The ‘other cable’ sounded thick and heavy in comparison, a bit slow and Leonard’s gravelly bass baritone sounded almost like he had a cold. The Entreq had opened up the soundstage completely, it sounded bigger, wider, more dynamic and simply more interesting to listen to. I left the Primer playing for a good hour or so to let it settle and it certainly seemed to solidify over that time. Instrument placement seemed more become cohesive across the soundstage as time passed.

To make sure I wasn’t going mad, I took the Primer out and put the ‘other cable’ back in. Sure enough the pace slowed up, a veil came down and Leonard’s cold had come back. Don’t get me wrong, it still sounded really good, but the Primer sounded more accurate and simply ‘more right’.

Entreq Primer RJ45 Interconnect Cable @ Audio Therapy

So, the next step was to take out the 2 ‘branded cables’ and connect a basic Ethernet cable between the Router and the Melco. Playing the same tracks as before left me in no doubt this was by some margin the poorest sounding of the 3 cables. The presentation has become rather flat in comparison to the other 2 cables and it sounds a bit thinner and less interesting.

I must stress this is all relative, the system still sounds great and it hasn’t exactly fallen flat on its face, but the performance has definitely taken a good few steps backwards. Back to my original cable, we’ve gone 3D again and things are way better, after half a dozen tracks I move back to the Primer and the same thing happens again – the soundstage has opened up become wider, taller and there is definitely less mush and more going on. It simply sounds cleaner and more musical – the Entreq fundamentals of texture, flow is definitely working, the fact I can hear more suggests the noise floor has dropped.

The next step (which I have not done yet) will be to get a longer cable to go from the master phone socket to the input on the router and what happens there.

So, to sum up if you stream music from a good online source like Qobuz to your Network Audio Player or you stream your own CD rips from a NAS to a Network Audio Player changing the Ethernet cables pays dividends. For £260.00 the price of admission is relatively modest when you consider what you get and the performance is great. It has certainly pulled Qobuz way ahead of where it was and is making music much more engaging with better flow and fluidity.

I keep reading online and talking to people that streaming isn’t as good as playing physical media, the performance is lacking. If spend a bit of time addressing your network, get it grounded (check out the original blog post here) and change your Ethernet cables to some Primer and you can really unlock the potential of a system with ‘streamed music’ as serious source!

The Primer RJ45 Ethernet Cable is available to buy now. For now I have only put stock 1.1m lengths up to purchase but you can choose RJ45 to RJ45, RJ11 to RJ45 and RJ1 to RJ11. If you need a longer length please get in touch!

For anyone who serioulsly wants to unlock the performance of their network audio, there is also the Apollo and Atlantis RJ45 cables as well, they have integrated ground cables but require a seperate ground box.

Thanks for reading!

Ground your network for better streamed music!

Qobuz Logo @ Audio TherapyTidal Logo @ Audio Theapy

Internet based streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz are becoming more and more important and relevant for people, for many customers the beloved CD and Record are being replaced by a virtual music collection, which you never really own although you can play what you want whenever you want.

Tidal and Qobuz both offer ‘CD quality’ services which stream at CD resolution, they certainly sound way better than their compressed alternatives – Spotify, Amazon, Apple etc.

Your router is connected to the outside world and your hi-fi and away you go, all of the music on earth at your fingertips. Unfortunately routers  are inherently noisy devices and are pumping information all over the place in the modern home (TV’s, phones, iPads, games consoles, computers, lights – the list goes on an on, the amount of equipment connected to a router can be frightening when you break it down), they use poor quality, cheap power supplies that inject noise onto the network – Not good bedfellows for a high performing audio system!

By adding an Entreq ground box and cable(s) to ground your router and network switch (if you have one) you remove this noise and in turn lower the noise floor – streamed music becomes more dynamic with better clarity and all of sudden becomes a whole lot more enjoyable to listen to as a serious source for a good music system.

Entreq Silver Minimus Rear

Even systems that stream music from within a network and don’t talk to the outside world for information can also benefit from grounding the router, switch and/or NAS drive (most decent NAS drives – like the QNAP range have a spare RJ45 port). If you don’t have a free RJ45 port most NAS devices will have a USB socket on them so a USB ground cable could be used.

So, if you have something like a Melco or Aurender with onboard storage or a Naim, Linn or Lumin streamer with your music stored on a QNAP NAS drive (or Melco) simply grounding the storage device and the router can have the same sort of effect as outlined above, removing low level noise from the signal path – allowing subtle previously unheard details jump at you at like never before.

I am well aware that Entreq looks a bit weird looking in as a newcomer, but don’t underestimate its ability to increase the performance of your system.

The obvious starting point to ground a network is a Minimus or Silver Minimus Ground Box, these are nice and compact and will happily sit with your router/switch etc without taking up too much space. In terms of cables there is an extensive range available, whereabouts in the range you look at really depends on your system. The Apollo is the most popular ground cable, followed by Challenger. Although the Copper cable is relatively inexpensive it is still effective at removing noise if you have a more modest system.

We’ll be following this up with more interesting information over the next week or so as Entreq are just about to launch an entry level range of ethernet cables, they are producing an RJ45 to RJ45 version (suitable to connect your router to a Melco, streamer, NAS drive, switch etc). They are also producing a RJ11 to RG45 and RJ11 to RJ11 versions so you can connect your incoming master phone socket to your router. These signal cables come with a ground box and ground cable included. Our demo set is on order!

Entreq Challenger RJ45 Ground Cable @ Audio Therapy

Entreq Silver Minimus @ Audio Therapy

Read more about the ground boxes and ground cables

We also have a selection of ex-demo Entreq items available here

Our favourite demonstration tracks/albums

If you are interested in finding out what we music we listen to at Audio Therapy to evaluate new equipment and to demonstrate some of the great brands we represent please read on!

This is by no means an exhaustive list and it changes reasonably frequently, but most of what is listed below is what use most frequently. Of course, it may not everyone’s cup of tea and some of it may not necessarily be the best recordings of all time but it’s all about the music and it’s that which we listen to, not the system! The system is purely a means to an end – to reproduce music as naturally and accurately as possible.

Other things we like include Crowded House, Marvin Gaye, Nick Cave, Stevie Wonder, Arcade Fire, Mark Lanegan, Lyle Lovett, Daft Punk plus lots more!

Leonard Cohen - Ten New Songs

Leonard Cohen Ten New Songs @ Audio Therapy

Leonard Cohen is one my favourite artists, I adore his body of work, but Ten New Songs is my favorite. I can easily get lost with his wonderful lyrics, he was such a good songwriter, one of the best of all time in my humble opinion.

Cohen’s vocal is dark and weighty, with huge amounts of texture in it. A good system will really let his weary baritone shine through. If you want to find out how good the response is, this is good test.

The whole album is great, but the first 2 tracks are spectacular.

 

Ray Lamontagne - Till The Suns Turns Black

Ray Lamontagne - Til The Sun Turns Black @ Audio Therapy

A bit of idiosyncratic loner, I love Ray, I’ve seen him live 4 times and I’d go again in a heartbeat. This is his ‘difficult second album’ and for me it easily surpasses his excellent debut ‘Trouble’. It’s darker and much bleaker than Trouble (there’s a theme going on with dark and bleak here I think!)

Beautiful, brooding and melancholy, this album frequently moves me to tears with his folky Americana. Every now and again he’ll prove he can boogie with the bluesy ‘Three More Days’, but I enjoy Ray most when he’s in his dark place! Ethan Johns did a brilliant job on the production, fabulous dynamics and the vocals sound intimate and gorgeous.

Portishead - Dummy

Portishead Dummy @ Audio Therapy

Another downbeat album which is dark, but this time it’s got a real beat to it. Easily my favourite album of the 1990s. Dummy came of out nowhere, with no warning and 2 decades on it sounds just as fresh as ever.

Slow tempos, big drums that hit hard and are crisp with Beth Gibbon’s velvety vocals, she may sound like shes smokes 100 cigarettes a day, but she’s simply magical.

It’s a simple album in reality, but one with loads going on in the mix, a great system test.

Fink - Biscuits for Breakfast

Fink Biscuits for Breakfast @ Audio Therapy

Beautifully recorded, Brighton’s finest have made a great record. John Martyn crossed with dub is probably the closest thing or maybe a British Joses Gonzalez Acoustic guitar, gentle beats and Fink’s mellow vocal all combine to produce a wonderful album.

All Cried Out, Biscuits for Breakast and Pretty Little Thing are the standout tracks for me. Tina Grace (Nitin Sawhney) guests on Hush Now as well.

Highly recommended for something a bit different.

 

Bob Dylan - Oh Mercy

Bob Dylan Oh Mercy @ Audio Therapy

I’m fussy about Bob Dylan, when he’s on form he’s truly spectacular and Oh Mercy is Bob at the top of his game in my opinion. It’s arguably the first album where he’s started to sound old, but he’s created a truly classic album with this.

There’s no bad tracks on the album, but the standout has got to be The Man in the Long Coat.

It’s a massively powerful album, another great system test for showing off your systems dynamic range.

 

Radiohead - In Rainbows

Radiohead In Rainbows @ Audio Therapy

Radiohead’s seventh album is quite possibly my favourite and was a huge triumph for them, their strongest album for years. Their honesty box approach to this album (you could download it with a donation if you so desired) was interesting to say the least, but maybe the less said about the better.

It’s a supremely confident sounding album, the sound of a band at the peak of their power. The album is full of wonderful melodies, superb beat and electronic pulses. This is a bit of system tester I have to say. If you follow the melodies and beats and not get lost in the complication of it you know you’ve a resolving and natural system. This is a 10/10 album for me.

Josh Ritter - The Animal Years

Josh Ritter The Animal Years @ Audio Therapy

Josh Ritter is an American singer, songwriter. A bit like Ryan Adams, with maybe a bit more country/Americana in his roots. I first came across Josh, purely by accident, he was supporting Ray Lamontagne when I saw him live. I was hooked after one song.

Tremendously talented, The Animal Years is often thought of as his coming of age album, brilliant musicianship, there’s a real humility to his lyrics. Another great album from start to finish, the standout track from a system point of view, the first track, “Girl in the War”. It’s a simple vocal/guitar track, but he’s right up against the microphone, you can hear him taking breathes between lines and it’s real good test of your systems ability to reproduce micro-detail and expression.

 

Melco Firmware 3.70 Available Now!

Melco 3.70 @ Audio Therapy Melco have launched Firmware 3.70 which is available to download now, compatible with all Melco models.

It is integrating some tremendous functionality, further increasing ease of use and integration with other music services.

For sometime now purchases from highresaudio have downloaded directly onto the Melco hard drives which has been a favourite feature of many users, now Qobuz downloads are direct as well!

Qobuz Logo @ Audio Therapy

Simply enter your Qobuz username and password into the Downloader menu and away you go. Legacy purchases automatically download as do new purchases moving forward – more choice, ease of ease – happy days all round!

Melco 3.70 Qobuz @ Audio TherapyAlso anyone who has been using their Melco with a USB DAC streaming Tidal or Qobuz will have noticed that the front panel did not display the name of the track that was playing. It does now! Also they’ve added a logo on the display during playback so you can see which service you are streaming at any time.

The track display update is also relevant if you are playing back music locally but that music is stored externally to the Melco, i.e. on a USB or NAS drive.

Subtle additions on the face of it, but they all add up to making the Melco an even more compelling reason to get into a proper hard drive based streamer/server. No computer or conventional NAS drive required at all to rip, download and back your precious music collection. Learn more Melco

 

 

T+A Coming Soon to Audio Therapy

I am delighted to announce that we are becoming T+A dealers!

T+A @ Audio Therapy

To those who don’t know T+A are a German brand, and a pretty big brand at that. They have a fairly extensive range of cutting edge products, including compact all in one streaming receivers at just over £2300.00 to an integrated amplifier costing almost £15,000.

Performance is superb, it adds something completely different sonically to the Audio Therapy portfolio. Fantastic dynamics and clarity, loads of drive and attack, but it never sounds clinical or aggressive in nature.

Did I mention bass? This is one aspect where T+A scores massively over other brands, it’s not overblown, fat, ponderous or one-note, no, it’s quite the opposite. It’s deep, extensive with loads of texture and control. If you’re a bass fiend you owe it to yourself to have a listen to something.

Some superb source components that integrate CD playback, UPnP streaming, radio and online music services like Tidal, Qobuz and Deezer (the proper uncompressed services!).

T+A R1000 E Multi-Source Receiver @ Audio Therapy

The DAC 8 DSD is one particular product I expect to do well here at Audio Therapy, with DSD512 upsampling it offers tremendous resolution and insight, integrates beautifully with Melco, but if you use a PC or Mac to playback your music the DAC 8 is brilliant choice. It has a proper volume control built into as well so it drive a power amp directly (like the matching AMP 8) if required.

The build quality of T+A is utterly phenomenal, from entry level to flagship, it oozes quality and attention to detail. How about an integrated amp for a back breaking 38kg?! Compared to other brands, some of which are UK based and cost a lot more money the T+A puts them to shame if truth be told. They have left no stone unturned in their quest to produce their range and you can see that when you get a product in front of you. Then you listen and it gets even better!

T+A Build Quality @ Audio Therapy

Check out the T+A brand page, more content will be rolled out slowly – the range is too extensive to take everything, so what appears is what I’ll have to hand, but don’t worry if you want to have a demonstration of something else – I’m sure it can be organised!

Melco have added Tidal & Qobuz Integration!

It was only a matter but time I suppose, but Melco have added Tidal and Qobuz integration with the release of the latest firmware, V3.50. As with all Melco updates it really straightforward to update your machine, it’s literally just a few button presses and it does the rest itself.

In order to play a stream from either Tidal or Qobuz you simply need to use either the Lumin app or the Linn Kazoo app, both of which are mode 1 app’s on the Melco. Launch the app, go to the Tidal or Qobuz section enter your account details and away you go.

From within Tidal you have to absolutely everything Tidal has to offer in terms of new content with the brilliant Tidal Rising, new albums, new tracks and exclusive playlists and of course you can build your own own playlists and save them for future playback.

Linn Kazoo support has also been added with V3.50 and it’s a tremendous app, rock solid in operation, it’s easy to use and very intuitive and it can also be used as a desktop app on a Mac or Windows PC as well as the ubiquitous iPad and Android versions. I already have a number of Melco customers using Kazoo on a Mac and it really is superb!