Background Electrical Noise

Wow, this is some seriously impressive forensic work. Steve is going to dig this… :-)

Three men were accused of selling firearms to South London gangs. At their 2012 trial in Croydon Crown Court, the prosecution played the jury a recording, taken undercover, of the trio allegedly arranging a sale. But the men’s lawyers claimed that the recording was a fake, and that the police had fabricated it by splicing together clips taken at different times. To prove that the evidence really was authentic, the Metropolitan Police turned to a technique called electrical network frequency (ENF) matching.
How to date a recording using background electrical noise | Robert Heaton

Sound Mind

I have been listening to Of Sound Mind, by Nina Kraus. The subtitle is How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful Sonic World. I borrowed the audiobook because it was readily available while there was a considerable waiting list for the ebook. The audiobook is read expertly, but with a little too much drama for my taste, and I wonder whether I would have enjoyed reading the book more.

Link to a NPR piece.
Link to an 8′ audio piece on the book, also on NPR
Link to Brainvolts, the lab Nina Kraus leads.

In my opinion this book establishes beyond any doubt that music needs to be taught in every school. Playing music, with or without talent, improves everything, from motor control to visual correlation, to sound and speech decoding, group action etc. etc.

One remarkable story followed a group of Benedictine Monks who, after a Vatican edict, were ordered to stop chanting. They became unhappy and physically unwell, and some became sick. When the edict was overturned, and the monks started chanting again, these effects were reversed.

I found especially fascinating that the pathways between the ears and brain are two way streets, something I had long wondered about. This means that the pathways don’t just transport information gathered by the ears to the brain, but that the brain also sends instructions to the ear. The brain can for examples turn the volume down, by literally telling the tiny hairs that collect the sound to be less excited, or tune the ears to particular frequencies.

Highly recommended book.

Audio Nerdery

Early December, while I was in Lisbon, I noticed write-ups about a new digital-analog-converter from Astell & Kern, called the HC3 – link. It uses the ES9219MQ chip from ESS, is very small, and can be plugged into laptop with USB-C. The HC3 also comes with an adapter for the iPhone’s Lightning port. Price is around $200 and available sometime soon, in February I think. While looking into this DAC I came across this one, the Go-Link, made by an English company called ifi-Audio.

The chip in the Go-Link is the same one that powers the HC3. The Go-Link comes with a USB-C plug plus a Lightning adapter for the iPhone and an adapter for a USB-2 port, for computers that don’t have USB-C. I found the Go-Link at BH-Photo (link). The price is $59. The A&K looks cooler, perhaps, but is it nearly four times cooler? Plus, the Go-Link is available now. I pre-ordered in December and it arrived this morning.

I immediately plugged the Go-Link into my phone and used my Euclids to listen to a variety of lossless files (16/44.1 downloaded files on Apple Music, 24/96 files on Dropbox) and, while direct comparison is not possible, my impression was that the music felt more alive, more present, more dimensional. I really think this is the tool we were waiting for to be able to listen to high quality audio while on the move, without breaking the bank. Only a year ago, listening to this level of quality meant having a DAP (digital audio player), which costs at least $500 and can go up to $3,000 and more. And it’s one more thing to carry around. Now that Apple Music has caught up to Tidal and one can download hi-res files and play them back on the phone, or if one uses Dropbox in conjunction with a player-app like CloudBeats, the last barrier was how to get digital sound from the phone to your headphones. Bluetooth is practical, and I use it myself, but doesn’t sound very good. There were DACs, of course, but they weren’t tiny and they weren’t cheap. This Go-Link is the missing link, perhaps. I am psyched.

Binaural Video

This morning I noticed a new comment from Éric B. on a post from 2008:

Ok. After almost 14 years…. Is there a place to still access this video? It’s simply gone now. I found someone reposting your video but it’s been transcoded so the sound is not…. Really crisp anymore.
Help Ottmar! Help! ;)
Have a good time on your side of the planet and to all the crew. Much love.

Ah, the Internet Entropy. Well, I hadn’t watched that video in a long time, myself, and went looking for it. The video is 14 years old and looks like, well, the way video used to look. But it’s still great fun to see/hear when Davo walks around with the shakers or when I get up (at around 3’52”) and walk around the head. Watch the video here or go to this link, where you will also find download options.

Reminder: you will NOT properly hear the music is you listen with AirPods or similar “open” earphones. If that’s all you got, try to cover them with your hands. It’s important that your left ear does not hear anything emanating from the right speaker and vice versa. That is also why regular loudspeakers will not work at all. Old fashioned “closed” headphones, that cover all of the ear, work well. IEMs work, of course.

This links to the original post from September of 2007, which explains the video a little.

This links to a post by Stephen Duros about the binaural recording experience.

Marcy Street Water Drum

Walking down Marcy Street I recognized the sound right away. For years I walked past this water drain and enjoyed the sound. I stopped and recorded a little bit of it. Steady 106 BPM.