Thursday, 14 December 2017

Upgrading Hi-Fi Interconnects

In this video

Hans Beekhuysen describes how he gets rid of excess sibilance (that “sssss” sound) that can appear even on audiophile records such as Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat. Since his systems are already hi-end, he chooses to upgrade the interconnects, by spending over £1,000 on cables from Audio Quest and a LAN Adapter from Pink. He says these make a difference to the sound, and he does this for a living, so I’m going to take his word for it.

There’s a lot of scepticism about the improvement an interconnect can make. Cable isn’t passive. Like any electrical component, it has resistance, capacitance and inductance, however small, and the effect of last two vary with the frequency of the signal. Resistance causes loss of power by turning the current to heat, while inductance and capacitance cause a phase shift that changes with frequency, distorting the waveform that makes the ‘digital' signal. This might be enough to cause a change in the content of the signal at some points, turning a 0 into a 1, which will be converted by the DAC to an analogue waveform that gets passed to the amplifier and passed to the loudspeakers. The interconnects cannot make the signal better, only leave it the same, or make it worse.

So if a change of interconnect seems to improve the signal, it means a two things: a) the digital signal from the source must be of a very high quality, and b) the amplifier, speaker cables and speakers must also be high quality. What does ‘high quality’ mean? That they must be able to respond faithfully to the tiny changes in signal that changing the interconnects produces. They must have a great deal of precision and low intrinsic noise from thermal effects, power voltage variations and so on. Using a £500 interconnect between an iPhone headphone jack and a low-end amplifier from Sainsburys is silly: all it will do is more faithfully transmit the distortions of the low-quality iPhone DAC. Using expensive interconnects between high-end kit might make a noticeable difference, as it more faithfully transmits a high-quality signal.

£1,000 is slightly more than I spent on my Marantz / B&W kit. It makes no sense for me to buy expensive interconnects, because, though the Marantz CD6005 blew away the Marantz CD5005 it replaced, and that blew away the Cambridge Audio player, which blew the Denon I had before that, I doubt the CD6005 has the industry’s best DAC. It might help to get some better interconnects, rather than the usual grey cable ones provided, just as one should set aside the Apple ear buds as reserves and buy some decent ear phones from Bose, Sennheiser or other manufacturers who know what they are doing.

I suspect that audio equipment is a lot like cars: there’s low-price stuff that doesn’t drive or perform well and is uncomfortable, and there are Rolls-Royces and Ferraris, but mostly there are solid, mid-range cars that keep getting better and better, but will never be a Bugatti. On the other hand, a modern Fiat Punto will leave most 1960’s sports cars in the rear-view mirror, will brake harder and corner faster, and only E-type Jaguars and AC Cobras will leave it behind. (Don’t believe me? An early 1960’s E-type with a 3.8 litre engine did 0-60 in 7.1 seconds. A 2010 Fiato Punto 1.4 Evo does 0-60 in 8.5 seconds. As for the aerodynamics of those 1960’s cars? Awful.) Streaming 320kps MP3 through my iPad and a Dragonfly DAC gives me a better signal than my 1970’s Goldring Lenco turntable with its Shure cartridge and diamond stylus.

With modern manufacturing techniques, I’m fairly sure there’s no significant additional overhead to making a high-end cable out of some superior materials - the difference will be the cost of the materials, and that will be far less than the difference in price the market will pay for a high-end interconnect. Supplying the small audiophile market with a £500 interconnect can still be profitable, and it also serves to re-position the price of the mid-range stuff - suddenly £100 doesn’t look so bad. I think this is the real reason expensive interconnects are produced: it’s a great marketing device, and makes a unit profit. It may even actually make a difference.

Monday, 11 December 2017

How to Get Home From The West End

Two hours to do what should be a one-hour journey. I think the problems I can see on the Train App are due to cascading earlier problems caused by the snow. Oh, the innocence of the uninformed.

19:10 Leave Bill’s on Old Compton Street (Don’t judge me.)

19:20 Bakerloo line from Piccadilly Circus to Waterloo.

19:26 Arriving at Waterloo, we’re told to get to the platforms via the Jubilee Line, which is about an eight-minute walk. Ask the young man making the announcement, is this because of crowding on the main concourse? Yes, he says. I hear something about ninety minute delays. Nope.

19:28 Bakerloo line north to Embankment

19:35 Arrive on Westbound District Line platform, next Richmond train in 10 minutes

19:45 District Line to Richmond

20:10 Due to late running, this train will be terminating at Gunnersbury

20:18 Everybody off at Gunnersbury. You have never been to Gunnersbury. That’s because there is no reason to go there. I don’t know where the people who live there work, but if it’s central London, they get off at Turnham Green and walk, to avoid the shame of getting off at Gunnersbury.

20:22: London Overground to Richmond - but not after it’s vanished from the display board after being announced as “Approaching”. 20:30 Richmond. The Train app is lying about everything, but I’m sure I saw a badly delayed Windsor and Eton train on its way down. Look again three minutes later, it’s vanished. Talk with a man who’s been waiting half an hour, when an Ascot train appears on the board, arriving at 20:47. That will do.

20:40 A badly-delayed Windsor and Eton train arrives. The nice lady on the platform tells me this is all caused by a fire at Waterloo, but the service should be okay tomorrow morning.

20:45 My Bedtime App tells me to go to bed in fifteen minutes to get a good night's sleep.

20:53 Arrive at Feltham.

21:01 Unlock car.

21:05 Park car.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Sharing MGTOWs and Silent Bachelors

Yep. I’ve been listening to Sandman. I think that means I will be banned from reading The Rational Male by its cookie. Sandman asks at one point, what is the difference between a MGTOW and a confirmed bachelor, and suggests that a bachelor will keep quiet about how he lives as a single man and why he chooses to do so, and if he does will mention how great a life he leads, whereas the MGTOW will talk about the reality and risks of domestic relationships. The bachelor gets left alone by the SJW’s and cat ladies, but the MGTOW gets a ton of shaming dumped on him.

That got me thinking, since I’m a bachelor rather than a MGTOW. A bachelor isn’t getting married or entering into domestic relationships. The same way you aren’t going to cut off your left hand. Instinctive, basic, physical. I didn’t make that decision for a reason, because I never made that decision, anymore than I decided to have brown eyes or mild lordosis. Born with it. It has nothing to do with how women behave: they could be, to the last one, faithful, loving, strong, sexy and loyal through all the good and bad parts of their partner’s life, and I still wouldn’t get married - though I might look with a little more wistfulness on married couples than I do now.

MGTOWs may have started life wanting to be part of a domestic relationship, but what they saw changed their minds. They may also have been forced to develop high-content pastimes and projects when younger (an idea tol be discussed in a later post) and are effectively lost to ordinary socialising and relationships. MGTOW’s are single for a reason, and that reason is about avoiding the downsides and risks they see as inherent in domestic relationships.

A bachelor can’t share his why any more than he can his brown eyes. A MGTOW’s why can be shared. Bachelors don’t have a common how in the way that MGTOWs do because the MGTOW’s how is the way he maintains his apartness. A bachelor doesn’t have to maintain his apartness: it’s part of his physical make-up.

A popular bachelor tactic is the “I’m so busy I’m a terrible boyfriend” exemplified by The Great Henry Rollins here:

This line needs a lot of self-confidence to pull off without it turning into self-deprecation or self-pity. External proof of the value of your busyness - recognised accomplishments, money, public success - also helps. Being busy at a job that doesn’t pay in a career going nowhere is not convincing.

This tactic is a conversation-stopper. Generally, bachelors don’t want to talk about why they live as they do, mostly because they are surrounded by married people and want to be polite to the unfortunate don’t want to upset the marrieds don’t want to get into shaming discussions about what a ‘real man’ does oh heck, because it’s just easier that way.

The married men have made their mistake decision and are stuck in it except at great cost. If they’ve been it for more than five years or have two children, they know the realities, and they don’t need some snippy MGTOW telling them. At most they need another married man to say that, yep, that shit happens to all of us, and here’s what we do to get by.

The single men who want to get married are either delusional and so won’t understand any help a MGTOW tries to give; or desperately want to believe in NAWALTs and so will refuse to hear that help; or have their suspicions that all is not as advertised. That last group, and they alone, are the audience. There’s a small proportion of them, and the most anyone can do is put a body of work out there - as Sandman, Rollo and others have - and hope those who need them can find it.

The mainstream media makes content for the audience advertisers want to reach, and shrewdly guess that people who work hard, exercise, eat fresh food, buy only what they need with money they already have, don’t drink too much and don’t care about impressing people they don’t like, those people are not going to be prime targets for consumer junk. It’s not easy making content about fit, employed, sensible people, as they don’t have soap-opera lives. The only stories the mainstream wants about bachelors end with us a) getting married, b) being seen to be sad and lonely, c) like Hugh Grant...

(It’s impossible to follow that scene, so I won’t try.)

Sandman’s comment hit a nerve. We bachelors don’t do a lot of communicating about how we live our lives, the feelings and problems we have to deal with and how we dealt with them. Perhaps we should. It’s just not going to be about women, except in the same way it might be about cars. Or broadband connections.

Monday, 4 December 2017

13 Suggestions for Handling #MeToo

#MeToo. The USA is a little behind the curve on this, as the UK went over the reputations of its beloved old entertainers a couple of years ago.

Very little of this is actually relevant to daily life. Most of us spend most of our days on a sleep-commute-work-gym-commute cycle during which we see exactly zero attractive women or like-minded men, and meet even fewer. The streets of London or any other large town may as well be thronged with ghosts. However, if you’re worried, here is a 13-point guide to avoiding becoming a hashtag victim.

1. These #MeToo allegations come and go. Some of it is because the guys were pretty much pigs. Over-reacting to this stuff is un-manly and unseemly. However, that said, it’s time to invoke the Pence Rule for a while, so…

2. No closed-door meetings with women. ‘Closed-door’ here includes suppers- or lunches-for-two, interviews, taxi rides, chats in a side room at a party - anywhere where there are no witnesses or the witnesses could plausibly have missed the alleged incident. ‘Closed-doors’ includes private telephone calls. Records and witnesses at all times.

Most of these complaints are coming from women who gave in to advances from a man in a position to influence their careers. We’ll not ask why those women didn’t simply step away and go back to being supply teachers, and acknowledge that it is kinda low-class to swap sex for a promotion, so...

3. No relationships with women in any profession where any eminence you may posses might be construed as ‘power’ or ‘advantage’. So if you’re a producer, actresses are off-limits.

4. Should you have any eminence, accomplishment, position of power or authority, never mention it to make you seem more attractive. Your aura should come from you, not an organisation chart.

And while we’re talking about work…

5. Do not work in the public sector or any private sector department that employs a lot of women. Aside from anything else, this means your career is way off the right track.

The next two are fundamental. Like it or not...

6. Most men are not supposed to have casual sex and/or flirtations with women. They are supposed to wait until spoken to and summoned. No this is not a joke. Women are very particular about who can flirt with them, and most men don’t make the cut. But see Suggestion 10.

The other side of this is that you won’t have many opportunities for behaving inappropriately, since...

7. Most women are not suitable subjects for flirtation or casual sex. This is because, for a multitude of reasons that don’t matter, most women aren’t really attractive, nor are they playful or pleasant. If you think otherwise, you’re confusing ‘I met one last week’ with ‘most’.

The following are also true:

8. You will know if you’re attractive to women. If you don’t, you aren’t.

9. You will know if she is attracted to you. If you don’t, she isn’t.

Does this mean that men should not approach women? No. It means that socially clueless men, men who are neither Pretty Boys not Bad Boys, or who are out of shape, lack humour or have no charm, or are otherwise bereft of Game, should not approach women. Which sounds harsh, until you recall that men do not want to be approached by women who lack social graces and a decent figure. Sauce for geese is sauce for ganders. So it’s time to get on The Programme...

10. Work hard. Lift weights. Eat right and get five sleep cycles a night. Don't drink too much and leave the drugs alone. Only buy things you need with money you have. Learn some Game, travel, and read non-fiction. Turn off the TV, dump the junk culture, and screw political correctness.

Okay. Now you don’t look like a gunny sack of doorknobs and have cleaned the crap out of your head...

11. You have about thirty seconds in an opening to generate interest. If you can’t, and persist, you are becoming creepy.

Pretty boys and Bad Boys know the next one, so believe us when we say...

12. If she is attracted to you, she will make it easy to have sex with her. If she makes it easy to take her on dates and difficult to take her to bed, apply the three-date rule.


13. You will know if you can trust a woman enough to set aside Suggestion 2 and 3. If you don’t, you can’t.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Pete Atkin and Clive James - the 1970's Work

No musical couple are more 1970’s than Clive James and Pete Atkin. James wrote the lyrics, which are therefore preposterously literate, and Atkin found the music. It was an odd pairing liked by odd people. Like me. The first album, Beware of the Beautiful Stranger, was my favourite, and there isn’t a duff track on it. This the essence of 1970’s Daydreaming Teenage Boy-ness

The later albums had attempts at being rock-y and jazzy, and really Atkin couldn’t carry it off. Occasionally it worked when it shouldn’t, such as this wonderfully silly track

Secret Drinker is my second favourite of his albums, and this is my favourite track from that album

None of his 1970’s catalogue seems to be on Tidal. I say an enquiry is called for.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Alderman's Walk, City of London

Alderman's Walk is a passage between Bishopsgate and Old Broad Street and is a way of avoiding Liverpool Street itself as a way of getting to or from Old Broad Street. In the middle of the passage is the square. It was very windy the day I took these, hence the utterly clear air - click on the bottom photograph and you can see the details of the exposed floors of the building on the right. The City never stops building. It's almost as if somebody knows something the rest of us don't. It could also be that there's a lot of office space in the rest of London that's getting old, tired and towards the end of its lease. On the right day, against a pure blue sky, it all looks bleeding magnificent, even half-finished.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Autumn Leaves, Plate Glass

My current lunchtime walk - wearing a Fitbit does this to me - takes me down Bishopsgate and back round the other side of Liverpool Street station. I glanced right down the alley after the re-branded RBS, excuse me, NatWest building at 135 Bishopsgate and saw the tree in the square, it up in gold and red.

Get closer and there's this, which is all kinds of more pleasantly abstract.