Hifi Inventory 1 – Amplifiers

1. Schiit Asgard 2 headphone amp. A beautiful addition to your desktop. It suits the Apple aesthetic and it will crank any headphones you can throw at it. Schiit Audio, Headphone amps and DACs made in USA.

2. Onkyo TX8270 Stereo amp / network receiver. This is what powers our TV setup. It is a bit of an overkill at the moment considering the majority of our TV watching these days consists of “Pippa Pig”, “Puffin Rock” and “Llama Llama”. But I digress – this thing will give you any music you can think of, from Spotify Connect to Tidal to TuneIn radio, it will stream from the net. Then there is the DSD option, Bluetooth…basically anything you can think of. And it’s powerful enough for most speakers. Onkyo | TX-8270

3. Denon DM41 mini Hifi. This is a beauty for bookshelf or desktop in a small room. CDs and other inputs and Bluetooth make it very flexible – it sounds amazing too. Highly recommended. Denon D-M41DAB review | What Hi-Fi?

4. HRT MicroStreamer. This thing is a portable Amp and DAC to improve the sound from your laptop or cellphone. It certainly sounds good hooked up to the Asgard, but I am not sure if it is any better than the laptop’s internal system. Either way. Hifi marketing works on me. HRT microStreamer review | What Hi-Fi?

5. Musical Fidelity A1 stereo Amp – this one I got second hand from a wheeler dealer who sold me on the sound by hooking it up to an insane set of speakers. I couldn’t afford the speakers but the old map was doable. It’s (supposedly) a Class A amp which means a better build and sound. I need to get some speakers to really test it. Musical Fidelity A1 › Introduction

Hifi Inventory

Hifi equipment seems to grow in the corners of my house like a sort of ‘metal and wires’ fungus. It drives my wife crazy, but I can’t get enough of it. You see, setting up Hifi systems is strangely soothing to my mind. It gives me an escape from the jungle of life, and of course it gives me music.

To keep track of this (expensive) habit, I am starting a new section under the menu and widgets section (top right of the chimpwithcans.com webpage). “Hifi Inventory” will keep track of what I have and what I lust after. Maybe it will help me keep track of spending too!

What do you collect? Is it creating more of a jungle in your life? Or is it somehow helping you escape?

Designers on Instagram

Good design can help you escape your own personal jungle. These are some of the cool people I follow on Instagram for design stuff:

Studio Dylan Thomaz: @studio.dylan.thomaz – interior design in Cape Town SA with a focus on happiness through design.

Tone Alexander Design Studio: @tonealexander – Interiors and gardens designed locally here in Cape Town.

Fern & Roby: @fernandroby – Industrial design and Audio (speakers and turntables mainly) and beautiful furniture made in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

Happy Tuesday Chimps.

Contrast = interesting to humans

I once asked my dad why he liked The Rolling Stones so much. His answer was that they understood the need for highs and lows in a song.

It is hardwired deep in your nervous system. The senses that we humans have developed over millennia of evolution – touch, smell, sight, hearing – are made up of nerve cells linking to our brain. These nerve cells respond better to a sudden change than they do to repeated stimuli.

What does this mean? It depends on the situation.

For Mick Jagger and the boys it means that their songs have light and shade. Quiet verses and soaring choruses. Jagger will whisper and then he will growl and roar.

For emergency response vehicles it means the loud sirens are designed to be varied, sharp and with many different patterns so as to be noticed over the noise of everyday traffic. This contrast works better than one continuous noise which is easily filtered out by the human ear.

For creative people, I think it means that if a piece of art is not getting the desired response, then one of the first things to assess is the use of contrast – light and shade, highs and lows.

Contrast = interesting to humans.

Room design

I change the set up of my house quite frequently. It’s not something I thought I would become interested in, but interior design can impact your health, your mood, your daily movement.

The latest casualty is our bedroom. There is a small flight of stairs leading into the room. It used to be that as soon as you walked down the three or four stairs, our bedside table got in your way, then our bed got in your way. You had to make a hard left turn to get anywhere else in the room.

Now the bed and table are the other side of the room, freeing up the entry. The “Flow” of the room (ha! I’m writing about “room flow”) is so much better now that you can walk down the stairs and just keep on going. If you like you can keep going all the way through the room, unimpeded to the garden. It’s amazing how much difference this one change has made.

I also rigged up a sweet Hifi system in the bedroom using an old amp with Denon speakers and a chromecast. Check out the photos on the @chimpwithcans Instagram page if you like.

I can just feel the different vibe in the room. There is a “flow” as you arrive, and the music makes you want to stay.

Listen for the drums

Before I learned how to drum, all I heard was guitar and voices. I wasn’t listening for the drums as an instrument in any music I heard.

Once you start listening for new things in music, it opens up a whole world. This is something I love. I have recently tried to listen out for any horns sections in songs – there’s a surprising amount of horns out there!

Back to drums – as a backing instrument it rarely gets the credit it deserves. Consider this an effort at shining the light on two examples.

Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” has impeccable blues drumming. It kicks off the track and keeps it rock solid so that he can moan and growl on top. It’s so hard to drum slow and strong like this.

An easier one to hear: Ringo in the Beatles’ “Ticket to ride” adds syncopation and a lurching thump. This beat keeps an otherwise very average song up in the clouds.

Listen for the drums :).

Extrinsic rewards

I would like to pass CFA level one. I have already tried the exam twice and failed! Like anything this is a multi-variable problem – I have a job and 2 young kids, I never did maths at school, I don’t have a lot of time for studying. Etc. Etc. But I was very close to passing the last time.

Previously all the reward for studying has been intrinsic. But now I am going to give myself some sort of extrinsic, materialistic, awesome enticement for passing the next exam in December. Hopefully this sort of motivation works. It can’t hurt. Candidates for the prize include:

  • an apple device ( I like the look of the new watch and the new phones and the new speaker)
  • a hifi device (my speakers could do with an upgrade)
  • a holiday (after all that studying)
  • a new bed….because sleep.

I am stretching the limits with this exam, but I like the challenge and am lucky enough to be able to try.

To be chanted like the Americans chant: C F A…C F A…C F A

Contrast

Some thoughts on contrast:

In the world of fashion, I’m told it is a good rule to follow to wear one piece of clothing as the focus for your outfit. Make the focus piece obvious (colourful and/or patterned) and make all your other clothes darker and more plain in comparison. For example a brightly coloured, patterned shirt as the focus, and plain dark pants, jacket, and shoes to support. It is the contrast which makes it work. If it was all bright patterns, it would clash and likely not be pleasing to the eye. The same if it was all black. No contrast. Boring. Slightly morbid too!

The same thing happens in food. Eating a chocolate, washing it down with a sweet soda and an ice cream with syrup on top. It’s too much of a good thing. No contrast. Food manufacturers have figured out the perfect balance of salt, sugar, and fat to tease our senses. There needs to be a contrast in tastes, and in food types to satisfy truly.

The same with music and audio. A piece of music needs to have light and shade to work. A whole song of thrashing guitar solo after guitar solo is just too much and becomes very boring. Too much bass in the mix gives you a headache. Use light and shade to build up to a crescendo however, and it will raise the hairs on your neck.

Contrast is the way forward!