Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Friday Music: Apple and the Analog Hole

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  • Vivid,

    "And the audio jack is a century-old technology."

    Shouldn't we do away with Wheels and Fire then?

    Wairarapa • Since May 2015 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    How do Bluetooth headphones sound these days? I've always considered the best connector is no connector.

    (and while modern connectors are amazing triumphs of miniaturisation, they're also of questionable longevity and increasing difficult to hack with - compare the USB-A (4 pins, can be implemented as a piece of PCB) with the new USB-C (20 pins, reversible, tiny)).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    As someone who has implemented a USB dongle with "a piece of PCB", and abandoned it, I have to say it's a horrible solution (you have to be able to get an exact thickness and be able to get your PCB just so), sure it works 95% of the time, but the other 5% it falls out ... the cheap connector is < 5 cents from China.

    Roll on the USB-C that doesn't care which way around you plug it in

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • llew40,

    I don’t ever really get the point of Tame Impala,

    Wash your mouth out! :) - Currents definitely one of the albums of last year, and a quantum leap on his earlier work

    Since Nov 2012 • 140 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    How do Bluetooth headphones sound these days?

    With the AptX codec, pretty good.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Or are Apple trying to create a new platform/interface - wireless eargear plus Siri. Headphones you never take off.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    If this spawns and popularizes wireless sound technology that isn't flakey as shit, the way bluetooth is, I'll be in favor and might adopt it in, say, 5 years.

    There's been a certain old skool beauty to being able to hand riders an aux cable and having it work 9.5 times out of 10. Bluetooth experiences have been more like 5 out of 10, and invariably involve a lot more stuffing around each time. There are some amusing tradeoffs with the digital control too. With Bluetooth, there is no master volume control, the user is literally seizing the stereo. OTOH, if I don't like what is being played, I can push next on the stereo itself and that sends a message back to the phone. Presumably these features are offered by Lightning. Do I offer it via some no-doubt super expensive gadget that I can plug into the aux port to give a partial solution to riders who have chosen deliberately incompatible hardware with one of the few constants in the music world for the last 50 years? I'll think about, it, but probably nah. They can supply that. Aux port too annoying to carry around? OK, then carry a lightning to aux converter around instead and make sure you keep it charged.

    I admire the public spiritedness of it all, though. For 5 years or so a hard core of iPhone users will be unable to play their choice of music in many situations and have to suffer on everyone else's. They won't be able to wow anyone with the brilliance of a wireless solution because Bluetooth isn't exactly new, and it's quite widespread. But when they are in control of the devices, then the tables will turn. And eventually, people will come around to what a burden 100% compatibility and 2 extra grams of electronics always was. And we'll all look back on wired headphones and stereos and speak of the bad old days, while the youth roll their eyes heavenwards.

    Or that might not happen, of course. Comparing to floppy drives is a little unfair, since something many orders of magnitude better was available instead. Whereas the jump up from wired to unwired has been a bit of a meh in a lot of cases. As in, when both are available, still many people prefer the wired as being a higher quality solution, when all factors are considered. It's a bit more like the inductive hob revolution. Yes, they're clearly superior in many ways to an ordinary electric hob. So long as you replace every single piece of stovetop cookware, and accept that other people's will quite often not work, and be careful with your jewellery and metal utensils, and don't mind the price.

    It's probably not quite as silly as cordless vacuum cleaners, though.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    There’s been a certain old skool beauty to being able to hand riders an aux cable and having it work 9.5 times out of 10. Bluetooth experiences have been more like 5 out of 10, and invariably involve a lot more stuffing around each time.

    Gawd, that’s a pain. First-time Bluetooth pairing is really not what it ought to be. Mind you, neither is printing.

    And eventually, people will come around to what a burden 100% compatibility and 2 extra grams of electronics always was. And we’ll all look back on wired headphones and stereos and speak of the bad old days, while the youth roll their eyes heavenwards.

    Heh. But honestly, I just don’t use my headphone port much at all already. My cheap car stereo has USB input, so it’s a Lightning-to-USB cable there. I will grant you even that’s not as 100% failsafe as an aux cable., because it's a cheap stereo But the port doesn’t fill up with lint and become unusable either.

    And yes, Bluetooth’s back-to-the-phone features are weird. Gave myself quite a fright the time I pressed the button with the old-style phone handset icon on my Bluetooth speaker. And had to ruefully apologise to the friend I inadvertently called at 11pm from my hotel room.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Comparing to floppy drives is a little unfair, since something many orders of magnitude better was available instead

    There wasn’t any other good rewritable medium in 1998 when the iMac debuted – just Zip drives and a bunch of also-rans, There wasn’t even USB storage initially and the first flash drive wasn’t on the market till two years later – and by that time Apple had already introduced the iBook, the first laptop to ship with WiFi (aka AirPort).*

    In 1998, everyone had to buy Apple’s external USB floppy drive. It was a lunatic design decision!

    *I was in the room at Macworld Expo in 1999 when Jobs sprung the iBook. He started a video streaming then picked up the iBook and walked across the stage with it. It kept streaming (shittily, because it was QuickTime streaming, but still). I testified.

    Here’s that “one more thing” from 1999.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart,

    Yes, your Onkyo receiver does have very good DACs, most likely Burr Brown. In a previous life, I worked for Onkyo HQ in Osaka and one salt-in-the-earth engineer lectured me occasionally on why his team considered the DACs more carefully with the design and output stages than the competing manufacturers.

    Since Nov 2006 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    There wasn’t any other good rewritable medium in 1998 when the iMac debuted – just Zip drives and a bunch of also-rans

    Sure, but there were burnable CDs that stored 650 times as much as a floppy and cost a few dollars, and there were hard drives. On those odd occasions where you wanted to give someone some files that were too big for an email (which also made them too big for a floppy), you'd burn a CD.

    But the port doesn’t fill up with lint and become unusable either.

    Not a problem I've ever experienced. Lint's pretty easy to get out. But I do keep the phone in my pocket upside down with the jack port point down. What I have noticed is my cable getting worn by being stuffed too vigorously into dozens of different ports every night. I always tell them to be gentle, but kids these days just can't stuff it in fast enough once they get their hands on it. The silly thing is that they're doing more damage to the own device. The cable is only worth like $10.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to BenWilson,

    Sure, but there were burnable CDs that stored 650 times as much as a floppy and cost a few dollars, and there were hard drives. On those odd occasions where you wanted to give someone some files that were too big for an email (which also made them too big for a floppy), you'd burn a CD.

    You'd have had to spring what would then have been several hundred dollars for a CD burner, as the Bondi Blue and most later iMac drives were read-only. 1.44 Mb floppies were practically useless for graphics files.

    Cheap and reliable CD burning had been around since late 1994, when Adobe launched PC versions of their previously Mac-only graphics apps. Most Windows PCs had the option of a CD drive while beige-era Macs rarely did. By the end of the decade Apple, once synonymous with desktop publishing, had lost its industry edge.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It was a lunatic design decision!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Yes, I was meaning on a PC. I haven't had an Apple since about 1995. Nowhere I've worked used them so it just fell by the wayside and I certainly wasn't going to pay the tax just to have yet another incompatibility in my life. But I'll give that they've driven some technological revolutions and consider their fanbase to be public spirited on that account. They test all the whack ideas, and some of them stick. At their own cost, for the most part.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • andrew r,

    I might go to Laneway just for Tame Impala and Car Seat Headrest and the odd kid electro surprise. Haven't been for a few years. Lonerism is a great record. A drug record nearly. T.I for sure have their own Aussie interesting nod to '67 thing going on.

    auckland • Since May 2007 • 99 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    like the inductive hob revolution. Yes, they're clearly superior in many ways to an ordinary electric hob. So long as you replace every single piece of stovetop cookware...

    What? My copper bottom stainless steel pots all work flawlessly. The one trashy teflon-and-aluminium frypan that doesn't is something I wouldn't eat out of if you paid me. So sad. Being "forced" to replace that one item with a proper one was again, sad. The people who couldn't use a steel frypan have slowly learned. I don't think we've ever had someone bring their own cookware here except for oven stuff. We still have a resistive hob, though, so for those willing to walk out to the front door and turn it on that is an option (it's another 20W when it's "off" load we turn off at the wall).

    OTOH, a lightning DAC? I don't know of any good ones available, and my existing portable DAC is definitely not going to work without a USB adapter cable, if it works at all. I agree that 99% of phones won't drive 90% of >$500 headphones worth a damn, but that's a fairly small market (and yes, *I* am so afflicted). But Apople are somewhat notorious for their low-quality phone DACs anyway, so this is in many ways a step forward.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to andrew r,

    I might go to Laneway just for Tame Impala and Car Seat Headrest and the odd kid electro surprise.

    Get onto Bob Moses. Loving that record: indietronica with twang and reverb.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Moz,

    Like I said, there are advantages to the inductive hob, and there are some disadvantages. Some will find that in the balance the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and switch across. But others won't because it's not a giant quantum leap the way getting rid of floppies was. For many, using electric hobs and aluminium/teflon cookware (and all other cookware is compatible too) are perfectly acceptable ways to cook food. Just as wired headphones (and a plethora of other devices) are still a perfectly acceptable way of listening to music. Robust, and they always work. If you don't listen to music every day (yes, such people do exist) you don't have to worry that your expensive device is going to shit itself and die, the way so many wireless things do, or have slowly degrading quality as the battery carks out. This is technology that is compatible with many devices so you can plug into other people's devices easily, and it's got better and better in quality as time has passed as well.

    This is quite unlike floppies, which had literally had their day by the late 90s. They hadn't got any worse in themselves, quite the opposite they were cheaper and more reliable than ever before. But our need for data had made them go from being the bomb in 1985 to being a complete bastard in 1995, to completely untenable by 2000. They were being superseded by things that were a thousand times better. Now, a million times better. Whereas I rate wireless listening devices as maybe 10% better. They trade off getting rid of a cable and having a digital experience (well at least as far as the acoustic coupling that pumps the data into the brain via a meat machine, losing almost all of the digital fidelity in the process), with the hassle of having to keep a battery maintained, and mucking around pairing devices, and having devices that are 5 to 10 times more expensive. Hence my comparison to the hob - it's certainly a bit better, but will it become pervasive? Maybe, we'll wait and see. Many of the advantages are actually a matter of opinion, rather than simple calculation of storage, size and transfer speeds. Quite a few people wouldn't know digital fidelity if it blew their ears apart.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Mike O'Connell, in reply to andrew r,

    Music aside , I think the new Albert Park site will be a treat in its own right. Lots of lovely shady trees, etc. Worth the hike up from the S Island. Oh, and I'd be there to see Fazerdaze!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 385 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    it puts an end to the shitty little Digital to Analog Convertor

    While that has to be a good thing, I dont buy that thinner is a good thing. And waterproof? the real danger is salt water, fresh water wil dry out and not leave a residue.and the odd raindrop would have to be real determined to find its way to the jack input. I’ll just stick with these for a while, once you have an airtight seal in your ears they rock and the music is in your head, yes inside your head

    Yeah but thinner? marketing BS keep the caterwauling to a minimum you marketing departments, even Mick know how to do that, we’re not your slaves

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to andin,

    fresh water

    wadeable :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Mike O'Connell,

    the new Albert Park site will be a treat in its own right

    yep. glorious minimising of brutal tarmac

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to andin,

    I had a waterproof phone last year, the Sony Xperia. Of course when it comes to actually putting it in the water, at $800 for the phone that says water damage voids the warranty, I was never going to risk it, and kept it in a waterproof bag anyway. Under those conditions, I could certainly have found a possible use for my expensive wireless headset. But actually, I just never did. Usually, at those times, I preferred the sounds of nature.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    You didn't make the Snapper USB stick did you? They were heinous....

    To me the attraction of simple connectors for prototyping is that you can solder them in easily. The USB-C is probably some horrendous BGA-like arrangement or similar that's fine if you're on a precision automated process and not otherwise.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The other thing that occurs to me around USB-C is that it appears to have (at least on my Nexus-5X) to have fairly weak retention, possibly on purpose. Some legacy stacks (OSX/Novation/Ableton for one) don't recover when a USB connection is interrupted - I'd be wary of USB-C on something like a DJ controller unless this got fixed (most of them seem to still have old-school USB-B full-size connectors).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

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