Info

a short diary of some part of my life.

I wondered when Schiit would be making a preamp for speakers, it should have a remote. They went further. My favorite preamps are Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE and Audio-gd P-2. I love passive preamps. All they do is controlling the volume. I could have lived with the STP-SE but as I wrote previously, I don’t need balanced outputs and I prefer something with a smaller footprint. The P-2 should fill my needs but it’s *ugly. I ended up with a Swiss-army knife integrated amp, a W4S mINT.

  • Room
    Thick concrete floor finished with wood parquet. There are med-hard foam under the parquet.
    The ceiling is calcium silicate boards with rubber sheets cut in small pieces covering the suspension mounts, mainly to dampen excessive vibrations from tiny movements of the roof; these are not purposely built for audio, but to extend the life of the ceiling.
    Under the roof, there are hard foams here and there, acting as sound deadening.
    The roofing material is glazed ceramic.
    Walls are bricks covered with dense plaster.
    There are acoustic panels placed here and there.
    The window frames are YKK aluminum, rubber sealed (multiple). Just like suspensions for the ceiling, all window mountings use rubber O rings to dampen potential vibration.
    Basically, everything is built to last and to dampen vibration.
  • Power
    PS Audio Quintet connected to a wall outlet for audio that is individually grounded and isolated. The Quintet has different zones for DAC, preamp and power amp.
  • Source + DAC: Mac Mini + Schiit Eitr + Schiit Modi Multibit
    The Mac Mini is powered thru an APC UPS. Most of the time, I use iTunes + BitPerfect. I find no noticeable difference compared to Audirvana Plus. iTunes is huge win for convenience.
    The Schiit Eitr and Modi Multibit are plugged onto PS Audio Quintet on the same zone. The DAC zone.
  • Cables
    I use mainly Blue Jeans Cable RCA when out of sight. By out of sight, I mean if the cables are exposed, I prefer to use better looking cables that I made myself. The materials are mainly silver-plated copper, silver soldered and terminated with silver plated RCA plugs. Basically the stuff ALO Audio is using, sourced direct from the manufacturer in Taiwan.
    For digital cables, I use exclusively Blue Jeans Cable 1505F coax cable and Sys Concept high transmissivity optical cable.
    The power cables are Zu’s, I can’t remember the model name.
    Keep in mind that I’m not a cable believer, I believe, the shorter the cable, the better. I use boutique cables for their looks. And I’m just too lazy to sell them off.
  • Speakers
    Selah Audio Tempesta. A transparent pair of speakers. Enjoyable too. Mounted on Sanus speaker stands with IsoAcoustics Gaia isolation feet.

Performance

The Saga features relay-stepped attenuator. I am a huge fan of relay-stepped attenuator, also found in the STP-SE. Once you use this kind of volume control, you won’t go back to ancient pots. For those who like low-level listening, this is it. Say goodbye to channel imbalance.

Tube buffer? I love tubes, who doesn’t? Vs. passive mode, tube buffer offers a little bloom. I feel passive mode bass extension is more precise, you can may notice the difference. Depending on the music I am listening to, vocals sound best with tube.

Saga is dead quiet on both modes, as expected. I have various NOS tubes, it’s fun to find out how each one performs. And I guess this is the main selling point. I don’t believe there is anything like Saga in the market.

I don’t like to talk about price but in this case, I want to. Most of the time, you don’t get what you pay for in audio world. So comparing how an audio gear performs based on price is completely irrelevant. Yes, there are expensive high performing gears out there, but there are also cheap high performing gears that perform just as good if not better than expensive high performing gears. If I read one reviewer who says, “oh yeah, this USD 350 is off course performing just like how it’s priced, this USD 3000 gear is off course a better product.” I’d just close the page.

Even if the USD 3000 gear is well engineered, you need to calculate how much this expensive product maker wants to make in the first place. Things are moving at a much slower pace, they don’t have the numbers. Add to that the incredible efficiency that Schiit practice. Then there is the dealer cut.

I’ve gone thru this path, very rarely that I found an expensive gear that performs cut and above superior to the cheaper counterparts. Regardless of price, the Saga is a high performance preamp.

How does the Saga pair with Modi Multibit and Vidar?
Honestly, I feel like the Vidar is a bit of a letdown. It’s a fairly decent power amp, no doubt. Wyred 4 Sound mINT as a power amp is my preferred pairing. I will eventually write a Vidar review. Stay tuned.

Paired with the mINT, I can literally point out which DAC used at the time. It’s completely transparent. Paired with ModWright KWA 100, the Saga is also very transparent. A transparent preamp will expose flaws in the chain. Modi Multibit is a warm DAC.

Saga does not add anything to the signal path. Very transparent indeed. For those who prefers colored preamps, this is not for you. It’s fun to see how each DAC performs.

Build Quality

The first thing I notice is the aluminum top. It is nicely grained with the right amount of thickness. The corners are chamfered and finished without any noticeable gouge. It’s a looker.

Saga looks very handsome from a distance but when you look at it closely, The chassis has misalignments here and there. Not as bad as their smaller chassis but they can do better at no cost. It’s a non-issue for most.

I hope I won’t see these poor soldering job if I ever open it.

https://www.head-case.org/forums/topic/12921-schiit-jotunheim/
https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/hardware-teardown-of-schiit-fulla-v2-dac-and-headphone-amplifier.3154/
https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/hardware-teardown-of-schiit-modi-2-usb-dac.2082/

Let’s be fair, not everyone build their product as neat as Justin Wilson of Headamp. But bad soldering job is just sloppy and it looks like you want to make a cost cutting measure somewhere. I view buying an audio gear as a long term investment, an investment that hopefully last for decades. I don’t leave my gears active all the time like many do. So I expect what I purchase will last for a while.

Drawbacks

If there is one thing I would complaint about, it is the poorly chosen IR remote. The remote is awful; ugly looking and most uncomfortable remote to hold onto. Not to mention, its’ longevity.

I know many people like to frequently change gears but I don’t do that. Once I’m settled, I won’t care what comes out this year or the next. If I want to add another set-up, then I may set out seeking new gears. Besides, unplugging, plugging and moving heavy audio gears are not fun at all. After all, the goal is to enjoy the music, not comparing equipments.

This superb tube preamp gets my highest recommendation, whether you want solid state or tube, this will fit your needs. Passive preamp lovers? Checked! For the solid state guys, you may like the Saga as the tube buffer sounds like a superb solid state preamp. Sure, the tube buffer adds a bit of colors, you may end up liking it as much as I do.

28955889293_4433c6aaf2_b

Wine bug bit me. I was introduced to this fermented grape juice when I was travelling across Europe 15 years ago. I lost contact to wine after a period of time until just a few years ago.

There is a lot to talk about. Wine like audio can be very delicate, complex, and expensive. I need to know what to buy, which wineries are actually producing great wines. It is easier to find bad wines than good wines. I do my best not to buy name brands, because most of the time, the money is mostly spent on buying the brand.

My choices are very limited to small set of wineries, family-owned wineries, wineries that practice organic-biodynamic viticulture or at least going that way but do not want / do not have the resources to get certified, smaller wineries I’d say.

There are also things that I need to avoid, such as: traditional corks and fake bottles.

Bottle Closure

Corks are what we usually find in most wine bottles, even the affordable ones. I like cork for its classic way of pulling it out. I like screwcap the least but it turns out, screwcap is the more reliable closure than a traditional cork.

Why a screwcap?
The best way to sum it up is the answer Stephen Henschke gave to Levi Dalton on I’ll drink to that Podcast. A reviewer tasted his wine, a blended wine, the reviewer was able to point out the grapes used in the wine. The wine used a screwcap. The other bottle used a traditional cork, all the reviewer could taste was red wine.

I’m aware most old world wine wineries and drinkers tend to disregard screwcap wines as being cheap. But what is important is the content, not the seal. I don’t want to find out that my wines are tainted or premox-ed when I open them. Yes, opening a cork is fun. I get it. There is a real alternative to traditional cork.

Domaine Ponsot is using a very interesting solution. They use Ardea seal. It looks like a cork. It opens like cork. It pops like a cork.

There is a thin sheet of PVDC under a screwcap that seals the liquid inside the bottles from getting out. There is a medical grade shield on Ardea seal that comes in contact with the wine. The Ardea one is better than a thin sheet of PVDC found under screwcap.

Ardea is also more durable to due it is actually injected into the bottle opening. I can’t really damage it without damaging the bottle itself. Screwcap on the other hand, does not take beatings very well. It can be dented and damaged. Once it’s damaged, the seal may no longer form a perfect seal.

Cork has its day. Screwcap is a great alternative. Synthetic cork – Ardea seal is the future.

Fake Bottles

Reading Rudy Kurniawan’s story is scary. I have to wonder everywhere I go, whether the bottle I’m going to buy is a real one or not.

If you have the time, read this thread: http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=61172

If you don’t have the time, read this article on Vanity Fair: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/07/wine-fraud-rudy-kurniawan-vintage-burgundies

From what I can see, other than the wine inside the bottle, it does not take a massive effort to replicate every single detail of the bottle and the labels. There are cases of fake wines everywhere, from France, Italy, England, to China.

According to many articles found on Google search, fake wines are not only notoriously found at auctions, but at restaurants as well. Even affordable wines are getting faked. Now, I only buy from official distributors. I don’t buy wines from second hand market.

Empty Bottles

There is nothing green about consuming bottles after bottles of wines. From my personal experience, making glass bottles cannot be made green at all. The heat, the materials used, and the trash. First of all, I do not drink that much wine. I only drink wine on special occassions and when I feel like I want to drink one.

I do not hold special preference to fancy bottles. I don’t mind getting generic bottles because what matters the most is the wine. If I have to trash my bottles, I will make sure that they will get recycled. So far, I have not thrown one away. Wine bottles can be repurposed.

Now, let’s veer away a little bit to the wineries.

I’m a big proponent of organic farming. Bio-dynamic farming is even better. I can’t think of a better time of getting wines than today. Grape farming has gotten a lot better these days than what it used to be.

I’m completely baffled when people say a 1945 wine (in this case DRC – Romanee Conti and other famous wines) is a great wine. There were wars during the time and after the wars were over, people were scrambling for foods. I’d imagine making wine was not even a priority at the time. Famine was a huge problem. The terroir was probably in much worse shape back then. I don’t think it took a short amount of time to recondition the land to even worth growing basic vegetables, let alone grapes.

After the war, there was the chemical industry revolution. This was the time when pesticides and synthetic fertilizers were heavily used. The lost: biodiversity, water pollution, and soil contamination. Decades of use of these chemicals destroyed pretty much everything we need in order to make good wines. This is one of the main reasons I do not buy old wines.

Many younger wine aficionados, they don’t fancy Bordeaux wines as much as the older counterparts. Bordeaux is famous for chemical-farming. The soils are not that special. They don’t really care about moving to organic / biodynamic farming. The trend of making big wines from overripe grapes.

The two major events above is the main reason why I think new world wineries can be better than old world wineries. Most often than not, new world wines are better.

New world wineries can be built on virgin soils. Australia is a good example where most farms champion organic farming. Since they are relatively a young country, the lands aren’t exposed to decades of chemical sprayings. Many have even started on virgin lands that had never been used for anything before.

Biodynamic farming involves every single living thing in a winery. Reusing everything, including re-purposing waste. The use of the land is not limited to vines, other plants can be planted and often times, they are produce and plants that can be used fertilize the soil. Horses, donkeys, even chickens can be found in wineries that practice biodynamic viticulture. It’s really a beautiful sight.

Wineries are now more open to the idea of going organic and bio-dynamic. Many have done it and many are trying to. I hope the results make the wines even better and it should. Most importantly, it’s good for mother nature.

Read this before you make your own conclusion: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/dnc-hacker-guccifer-20-interview

GUCCIFER 2.0

Hello! I received lots of questions from journalists and other people who are interested in my doings. Many thanks to all of you, it’s a pleasure for me!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t reply to each of you personally, especially given that you often asked the same questions. That’s why I decided to answer the most frequently asked questions here.

I divided them into three groups:

1. About me

2. About my activities and publications

3. About my political views

As you can guess, all special services are doing their best trying to locate and catch me. And I have absolutely no desire to help them. So, if your curiosity isn’t satisfied after reading this post, you may have my apologies. It’s a matter of life and death. But I can assure you that everything I do corresponds to my beliefs.

Letsgetitstarted!

1. A glimpse of…

View original post 1,571 more words

Peace – a must have ad-blocker for iPhone & iPad

Untitled

Forbes.com w/ & w/o ads

The title says it all. Peace allows fine control over what you want to see on your iDevices. You can block ads, trackers, any kind of social media extensions and commenting system.

I’m all for supporting a website but when it gets really annoying to read their contents and they are valuable information, I would install an ad-blocker. Sorry but some websites’ ads are just unforgivingly bad. Peace allows you to download only the necessary files, you don’t need to download a huge amount of data just to view a website. This is a very useful feature for mobile users, users who use cellular data.

For those who value online privacy, this is your way to safe haven. One of the main reasons why a website can be very slow is due to trackers embedded to the website. You have to load all those trackers when opening the website. Once I installed Peace, I cannot believe how fast my browser experience is now and how bad it was.

Peace is not a free app. I’m not fond of buying free apps, we need to support apps developers more than ever, especially Indie developers who are now slowly withering.

Update: The developer – Marco Arment has since pulled the app off the App Store. There is a good alternative – Purify

After reading this article, I quickly noticed, this is exactly how Silicon Valley startups are run. They go viral really quick and they do it by the backing of a couple prominent venture capital firms. And they are mostly giving the service for free. The trick to use the service for free is simple, get your friends join Go-Jek by using your referral codes. You probably can get enough credit for hundreds of usage by giving out your referral codes.

I see Go-Jek practically everywhere. I mean it. There are a lot of people wearing Go-Jek’s helmets and jackets. It’s not a rare sighting. In Jakarta where the majority of the road users are motor-bikes, this is a huge deal. This is one startup that disrupts the industry that no other foreign startups can, not even Uber. Go-Jek must be bigger than Uber by now in Indonesia.

Go-Jek is actually solving problems that really needs solving that have been around for a while.

  • Ojek as we call it in Indonesia, is a motor-bike driver who earns money thru transporting people from one place to another. In order to get their service, we need to get to the nearest Ojek ‘station’, basically where the drivers spend their days waiting for customers. It’s not feasible for a lot of people as they are getting more and more rare. Now, with Go-Jek, I can simply call them to pick me up or send something to somewhere. Oh and, the company insure the driver, the customer, and the item(s) – if lost or broken. There is no way an ordinary Ojek would give such comprehensive insurance coverage.
  • The ordering method, the driver rating method, and the app experience. The app is simply one of the most polished app I’ve seen. It does not need to look fancy. It’s great I must say and at the same time, it’s super simple that a lot of people do not need explanation on how to use it. You simply click the order button, you’ll find several options. I heard they might be addding a few more in the near future. They want to expand beyond transporting customers and items. You can set the address on the map, based on Google Maps or you can simply type the address. You’ll be given the cost (Currently, It cost about US$0.80 for 25KM trip). That’s it. Once you are done, you’ll be given the driver’s phone number, current position in real time on Google Maps, and ETA. The driver usually call you to confirm your order. Once the order is completed, you’ll be served with a page to rate the driver, and write comments if needed.

Traditional Ojek has no order. Go-Jek has. I’m confident enough that I think they could make a dent greater than what Uber has done in many countries. The name is very catchy. There is a competitor but I hardly ever see GrabBike on the road. They made a big splash to compete with Go-Jek but their numbers are dwindling down rapidly. I believe Go-Jek won the battle relatively quickly and won it without a real fight.

Would Go-Jek be they are today without huge backers? I’d say no. They are now subsidizing the real cost. In my opinion, the usage of Go-Jek will slowly goes down as they reduce subsidies, they will not give subsidies forever, that’s for sure. In the long run, Go-Jek will thrive thru popularity, order, and ease of use.