Categories
Audio

Study System!

An impulse purchase led to rearrangement of the study rack to make room for Magni, Modi, and Mani giving a proper little study system.

There’s no end of Schiit showing up during the pandemic. Gas money is ending up in music and inexpensive yet magical audio equipment. This weeks change was to move all the study bits to the “study rack” and get it working. After the break, we’ll look at what is in the rack.

References

Product pages for the study system. I’ve written about most of these things before. The Audeze LCD-1 headphone is the new guy on the block.

  1. https://www.schiit.com/products
  2. https://www.schiit.com/products/modi-1
  3. https://www.schiit.com/products/mani
  4. https://www.audeze.com/products/lcd-1
  5. https://roonlabs.com
  6. /https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/raspberry-pi-4-model-b/
  7. https://ropieee.org/xl/
  8. https://www.audeze.com/blogs/audeze-journal
  9. https://www.hifiberry.com/hifiberryos/ Alternate Raspbian distribution.

So what changed?

Mani came. Mani is a phono preamp and a damned nice one. I had to make room for him over by the turntable (I mostly digitize records for lounge playback these days). While I was at it, I decided to move Magni and Modi from my study where they had been playing WHRV-FM @whrvfm because I was lazy. A waste of good kit turning 128k MP3 streamed audio back into waves. So I moved him back in the study to do what I bought him for, study music playback.

Magni and Modi

Mani and Modi are now stacked together with Magni by himself (he gets warm). Switching from streaming input to LP input requires shifting Magni’s input from Modi to Mani.

Why Roon?

The big reason for Roon is that I have no long uUSB cables! All the long connectors were USB-A to USB-B (the square one like on your printer). No way that would fit in the wrong little hole. So Raspy came to the rescue. Roon plays to Raspy or anywhere else in the house.

RoPiEEE

Raspy runs the Ropieee XL distribution of Raspian, a build preconfigured as Roon endpoint and Airport (original) endpoint. The nice thing about Ropieee is that it reboots periodically (0 dark 30) to check for updates. The time and period are configurable.

Ropieee also has a nice management interface.

HiFiBerry OS

The folks at Bang and Olufsen have put significant effort into the HiFiBerry Raspian distribution. HiFiBerry OS was pretty spare a couple of years ago. B&O is now riding herd and has expended significant effort on the management interface, application interface, and supported applications. It is now broader in scope than RoPieee.

Two surprises with HiFiberry OS.

  • Hostname change takes effect immediately. No apply and restart networking or rebooting
  • A hat/bonnet is required. HiFiBerry will not play to USB 2 Audio devices. RoPieee will.

Roon Host OS Updating

Note that Roon manages the updating of Roon endpoint software. RoPieee and HifiBerry OS need only manage the OS updating. That RoPieee checked for and applied updates was the deciding factor for using it.

HifiBerry now supports automatic updates! And you can revert an update that went wrong or was not as expected. Isn’t competition and corporate sponsorship wonderful?

RoPieee automatically applies updates. HiFiBerry requires a visit to the management interface to check for and apply updates.

A Roon Endpoint Setup Convention

When I set up a Roon host now, it is invariably a Raspberry Pi plus some other kit, usually streaming hats. I was having trouble remembering which fruity host name served which DAC. Since the 3 DACs have different godly Norse names, the associated hosts are now named after the DAC: modi, modius, and gumby. That makes it easy to determine who may need to be sorted.

The Headphones

My Sennheiser HD-555 headphones work well but are 20 years old. I had some mad money from Aunt Nancy (Pelosi), so it went into modern output devices. The Audeze LCD-1 were the first to arrive. Audeze engineers worked hard to simplify the driver manufacturing and headphone assembly processes. The LCD-1 is the end result, a state of the art planar magnetic headphone for $400. The LCD-1 is reputed to be a stout member of the Audeze product family. Where it differs is primarily in cosmetics and a bit less bottom end.

LCD-1 Headphones — Image courtesy of Audeze, Inc.

Audeze was looking to make a light weight and light price introductory headphone that would introduce the neutral, detailed intonation and articulation of planar magnetic headphones to a larger audience. Audeze kept the headphones neutral to allow pro sound use on location, primarily when tracking a location session or live performance.

The Audeze Blog describes some of the technical considerations in the design of the Audeze planar magnetic driver. Even headphones are systems and systems design considerations enter in. The thin membrane driver, the conductors on the membrane, the magnets that make the planar field all work together to make the magic. Audeze offers a glimpse at these but is careful not to divulge the secret sauce.

Listening Impressions

They’re neutral. I expected that. What is amazing me is the rendering of double bass playing in acoustic jazz. The buzz is there. The buzz that you hear in live unamplified play. The buzz the PA and the hall reverb swallows up. Also, Chris Thile’s mandolin play with its tiny sounds, percussive strums, and clean crystal picked notes. And voices. Brad and Chris sing the chorus in duet on Scarlet Town and both are clearly articulated when singing unison. They sing it differently each time. When Chris is singing the verses, the piano left hand is deep down underneath and clear.

Roon Trickery

Roon’s DSP comes with predefined settings for each Audeze headphone model that trim up the sound and adds a little cross feed mixing that allows the headphones to better approximate the live sound experience where each ear hears all of the sound but with slightly different level and timing. This slight temporal shifting gives speakers their spatial magic. But few speakers can match the ability of planar magnetic headphones to reproduce the small sounds in this record. Listen to I Cover the Waterfront. This track is incredible in the small.