Can A Good Router Give You A Better Audio/Video Experience?

If you have Internet service in your home, you probably have a router. This is an important piece of equipment that is often overlooked. Usually, the router is supplied by your Internet provider and also contains the modem. The modem is the device that connects you to the Internet. The router part performs several functions:

  • Provides wireless access for your Wi-Fi devices.
  • Acts as a firewall to help provide security against hackers (however, not 100% guaranteed protection).
  • Directs Internet traffic throughout your home.

All of these functions are important, but especially the last one. Our home has many devices hooked to the Internet. They included satellite TV receivers in multiple rooms, several computers, and connected audio/video components including TVs, Blu-Ray players and A/V receivers. Although I had subscribed to a high speed Internet plan, I noticed that my connection would continually slow down. Unplugging and plugging back in my modem/router would temporarily fix the problem for about a day. I had the cable company send a technician out.

He told me that the modem/router the cable company supplied was “junk.” He said that to direct all the Internet traffic properly so that there wouldn’t be IP crashes, a router needed a strong processor, unlike the cheapo one I had. He also said that the Wi-Fi function of the router was substandard, causing intermittent dropouts and limited range.

It was at that point that I had him install a plain modem without a router. I then went to my local electronics store and bought the best router I could find. A really good one can run about $140-$200. I can tell you that it was well worth it! Internet speed is always at maximum. Netflix and various videos from the Internet both, on wired and wireless connections, stream flawlessly. DirecTV Video On Demand, which also uses the Internet works very well.

So, if you’re not getting enough speed from your Internet, upgrading your router could be the answer.

2015-04-25T01:51:06-08:00

One of Audio's Greatest

This past Thanksgiving, the audio industry lost a gentle giant; Leon Kuby. Lee was an important part of Harman Kardon during it’s early days. He was largely responsible for the Citation line of audio components that are still cherished by audiophiles today. After his tenure at HK, he worked with Infinity (a Harman company) helping the company rise to its peak.

I met Lee in the early 70’s when he was Vice-President at Harman Kardon. An executive working with Lee at HK visited my tiny hi-fi shop in North Hollywood and listened to the speakers we were making. Apparently he was impressed; enough so to share his experience with Lee when he returned to HK’s headquarters in Plainview, New York. A few months later, Lee himself stopped by our shop during a visit to the West Coast.

In the years prior, I’d met top executives from several different industry-leading audio companies. New to the business, I was always excited to meet these people and share suggestions and ideas, based on my hands-on experience with customers and listening to their desires. Unfortunately, every meeting only seemed to be about one thing; boasting about how many boxes they were able to sell. Whenever I seized an opportunity to make suggestions, they’d respond courteously; but also made it abundantly clear that they had more important things to think about than the ideas of a some youngster.

During Lee’s visit, I shared my ideas and recommendations. I just couldn’t help myself; I guess I hadn’t learned my lesson… To my surprise, Lee really listened. He took out a pen and paper and wrote notes. His responses were thorough and thought out, not dismissive. He promised to get back to me on anything he didn’t have answers to. And he actually did! It was unlike anything I had experienced.

When Lee discussed his products, it was different. He was more interested in talking about was the quality of the products and why they sounded so good rather than how many boxes they sold. As an example, he discussed the new HK 630 and HK 930 stereo receivers. He explained that none of the Japanese-built receivers back then could pass a 20 Hz. square wave, an accomplishment vital for great sound.

Knowing this, Lee had the HK 630 and 930 receivers designed to overcome this hurdle. But when the prototypes arrived from Japan they were no exception. They couldn’t pass the square wave either. Lee was baffled. Eventually, the team discovered the cause of the problem: a lack of copper content in the core of the power transformer. When Lee confronted the manufacturer, they were offended about his criticizing the quality of their transformers. As it turned out, there were no power transformers in Japan that would suffice. So, Lee made sure that special transformers were produced for his receivers. Those two receivers received rave reviews and were among the best sounding on the market at the time.

By the end of the visit, a bond was born. I admired Lee for the time he spent and the respect he showed a young newcomer in the business. It was the start of a 40+ year friendship.

Lee Kuby was a true audiophile and he knew how to listen. He was always experimenting with better components in the basement of his Long Island home and would carefully listen to anything HK was working on before the public was exposed to it. He always tried to get the best source material. He had friends in the recording industry that would copy master tapes of classical music that Lee would play on his reel to reel.

I admired Lee’s ethics as an audio executive. I remember that, in the early 70’s, quadraphonic products started appearing on the market. I was very excited to get my hands on the new HK-150+ quad receiver that Lee was telling me about. I waited months until the big day arrived. I hurriedly unboxed it, hooked it up, and fired it up. Something didn’t sound right. I called Lee and instead of being defensive, he was concerned. I told him I’d be at Long Island on the weekend and he said he’d have one setup so we could listen.

At his house, he played some music through an HK-150+ for probably not much longer than 5 seconds. He shut it off made a very sour face and said something like, “Yucch!.” It was on a Saturday and he immediately got on the phone with their V.P. of engineering, Bob Furst. He told him they’d have to stop the release of these receivers until they could fix the problem. Most audio manufacturers would just let it go and maybe fix the issue on the next production run, but not Lee. They investigated and found that the Japanese manufacturer took the liberty of using a different tone control circuit, which degraded the sound.

Lee Kuby was the opposite of arrogant, but was impatient with others who were. He was passionate about audio and always said what he felt. He would always battle to produce the highest quality audio products. He made many friends and was respected throughout the industry, although there must have been others who may have been offended by hearing the truth.

Leon Kuby was born on November 14, 1925. He served in the Air Corps in WWII. He spent the last 25 years of his life living in Northern California with his wonderful wife Teri, whom he had met at Infinity. She described him as a “wonderful son, husband, father, and person.” I agree. Although he’s had some rough times in his life, he was always able to maintain his warm sense of humor.

Lee Kuby knew the art of listening like few others and I’m not only referring to audio, but to people. In my 40+ years in the audio industry, I met and became friends with hundreds of industry insiders, but Lee was my hero. I feel privileged that he was my friend. I learned a lot from him in addition to audio. He deserves a lot of praise, but I’m pretty certain he wouldn’t want any. He will be sorely missed. He was 89.

2016-12-16T09:21:11-08:00

Can iTunes Music Sound Good?

itunes logo

itunes music

When you purchase music on iTunes, it comes compressed, where some of the musical information is eliminated in order to save data space (there are however some lossless compressed formats that retain all of the data). Somewhat similar to MP3s, Apple has their own format called AAC. Purchased tunes usually have a bit rate of 256KB. For reference, an uncompressed CD has a bit rate of 1,440KB and a bit depth (different from bit rate) of 16 bits. There are audiophiles who’d probably like to make compressing music illegal, complaining that it degrades audio quality. Personally, given the choice, I’d always opt for uncompressed music.

 

How good or bad is quality of music purchased on Apple’s iTunes? That depends how the recording artist delivers the music to Apple. There are 2 methods: In the first, the artist delivers a CD to Apple. Then Apple compresses the songs to their AAC format. In the second method, the artist provides a copy of the master recording at the original bit depth and bit rate, which is usually higher than CD’s 16 bit depth and 44 KHz bit rate. As you’d expect, this master copy sounds better than a CD. Apple than transfers this master to their 32 bit depth equipment and then converts it to AAC. This method results in superior sound over the first method.

Are iTunes songs as good or better than CDs? No, but sometimes they’re close. I have purchased entire albums on iTunes and they sounded great. Naturally, I would prefer to have the original CD or a non-compressed high-resolution version on SACD or downloaded from websites like HD Tracks. However, many CDs are either very expensive imports or out of print. Often, iTunes will offer these at much lower prices. I’ve purchased several and haven’t been disappointed with the audio quality. There are rumors that someday Apple may offer lossless music files. I hope that happens.

Apple has put more info in a white paper that you can download at: https://www.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/docs/mastered_for_itunes.pdf

2016-12-16T09:21:11-08:00

How Good Was Audio 50 Years Ago?

 

These days, great sounding speakers seem to becoming smaller yet, the sound quality is better than ever(shameless self plug),. So, I was pondering the question: “How good was Hi-Fi in the late 50’s and 60’s when stereo first became popular?”

Let’s go back to 1961. If you weren’t here, pretend you were. I’ll put together a high end system for the time that was actually owned by my late uncle. For speakers, let’s go with KLH9 Electrostatic speakers. The Nines were the first full range electrostatic speakers produced in America. Their diaphragms were extremely light and they didn’t use boxed enclosures, which eliminated all sorts of audio problems exhibited by most of today’s boxed speakers (present company’s speakers excepted). These speakers still sound fantastic today, rivaling or surpassing many “high end” speakers. Powering these speakers was a McIntosh MC275, an all tube power amp along with a McIntosh MC20 tube Preamplifier. These classic McIntosh pieces are revered by audiophiles and command a hefty price. Even today, the amp and pre-amp combo’s sound quality is stunning.

To augment the bass, let’s choose an 18 or 30 inch Electrovoice woofer and a Marantz tube electronic crossover and an additional amp. The Empire turntable and cartridge delivered excellent sound quality. Back then, you could also buy stereo reel to reel tapes that sounded great.

Even some of the more affordable tubed stereo receivers from companies such as Fisher, Scott and Harman Kardon still sound great along with modestly priced speakers (like ARs and KLHs).

Also, in the 50’s and 60’s the recording industry had some great equipment, which delivered high quality record albums. For example, the Neumann condenser microphones of the 1960’s sound as good as any microphones of today and can fetch enormous prices. The analog tape recorders did an amazing job of capturing all of the sound.

Yes, the industry has made a lot of refinements. Great sound has become more affordable. But make no mistake about it, the early days of stereo in the 1960’s were far from the dark ages.

2019-08-27T11:28:51-08:00
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