Wannabe Audiophile – Vanatoo Transparent Zero

My biggest takeaway from the 2018 Capital Audio Fest was just how much of a spread there is between low priced high-quality speakers and the high end, crazy expensive speakers. There was one pair of speakers that really blew me away. The Vanatoo room had two pairs of speakers, the Vanatoo Transparent One Encore and the Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers. They were a real eye-opener for me. After spending most of the day listening to speakers ranging from $4000-125,000, I walked into the Vanatoo room and after listening to their offerings, I was done. I didn’t need to listen to anything else. Both speakers were fantastic, but the one that won me over and I thoroughly enjoyed the Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers. 

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Techie Stuff

These speakers have an integrated 48-watt channel bi-amp that will get you plenty of volume no matter how you are using it. (TV, Music, desktop, etc) These speakers could easily fill the void of a desktop speaker or fill a medium-size room with your favorite music. You can connect the analog or digital inputs to your music source or connect via Bluetooth. 

The speakers have a 4-inch aluminum woofer, tweeter, crossover, and 4” passive radiator. I will be honest with you, while I really really like these speakers, I don’t think I would use them for a desktop. I don’t know about you, but I don’t blast my desktop speakers. So I really don’t think I would see the real quality of these speakers as a desktop speaker. At the Audio show, they were really able to fill the room. I believe that’s how I would use them!

How Much??

At the Capital Audio Fest, there are all kinds of speakers, large and small, not so cheap and very expensive. Let me tell you, these speakers sound great for a very reasonable price. These may have been the cheapest speaker at the show at $359, and even more shocking was that they are available at Amazon! 

When I am ready to purchase my new set of speakers, these will definitely be on the top of my list.

Capital Audio Fest

I’m Not an Audiophile… But…

Last year my Dad and I went to the Capital Audio Fest. I had so much fun, that I wanted to go again! This year’s Capital Audio Fest was a lot bigger than last year. (At least it seemed that way to me!) Even though I wanted to go again this year, I knew I was still out of my element a bit. This audio show is really for those that consider themselves as Audiophiles. I.. am… Not. As I write this I want to make sure you know, I am NOT an audiophile. Never claimed to be. I’m not technical. Never claimed to be. I went to this Capital Audio Fest as a novice, not knowing any of the players, companies or equipment. 

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Those attending these types of audio shows are looking at speakers, amplifiers and other equipment at price levels that are incomprehensible for those that don’t have a real interest in high-end audio. I’m not talking about speakers from Sony, Pioneer, LG or Acoustic Research. Brands at this show are companies like Von Schweikert Audio (just the name sounds expensive!), Valve Amplification Company, Grado, or Volti Audio.

This audio fest is really a unique experience. Imagine a large hotel, and each exhibitor has a hotel room. All furniture has been removed, and the exhibitor has 6-10 chairs set up, and the stereo playing music. In some cases, it could only be you and the exhibitor. It’s a perfect opportunity to ask the representative any questions you may have regarding their stereo equipment. 

How Much You Say??

I heard speakers that ranged in price from $500, and I thought they sounded really good. I heard $4000 speakers that didn’t sound very good. There were $20,000 speakers that sounded good, and $35,000 speakers that were amazing. My goal was to listen to the most expensive speakers I could find. Well, I accomplished my goal. I came across a pair of speakers that cost $125,000… but that doesn’t compare. In fact, that is cheap. There was a system there had a price listed at over $1.13 Million…you read that right. Here is proof.

It’s All About The Music

I’m going, to be honest with you, I have no clue about the technology being used in these expensive stereos. There is one thing that DOES makes a huge difference… the music selection. I heard a lot of Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, and Chris Stapleton. However, some of the exhibitors put on some experimental music and frankly put, it was awful. I get it, I know why they did it. Weird sounds, odd instruments, can show the audience what the speakers can do. I’m just not a fan.

Digital Vs Vinyl

One more thing to note about the Capital Audio Fest. There are two distinct schools of thought in this world. Digital music vs Vinyl. Streaming services like Tidal, Amazon Music HD and Qobuz are targeting audiophiles with their Hi-Res streaming service. One thing I can tell you is that Vinyl is most certainly is not dead. There were numerous vendors set up at the show selling their vinyl records. Vinyl players are really expensive too. I’m leaning on the digital side. I moved all my music to my hard drive. I’m digital from here on out. 

For more in-depth coverage from real audiophiles, or from people that know this stuff better than I, check out Part-Time Audiophile and CAF2019. Enjoy some of my pictures I took from the event. I don’t know brands or anything, but they sure do look cool.

I’m a Cord Cutter, Are You?

What Started the Madness?

There is a lot of hype over being a cord cutter. A little over 2 years ago I received my Verizon Fios bill and it went up over $50. From approximately $139 to $189. So I did the normal reactionary move, and called Verizon and asked for the latest discount, or to waive the new increase. The rep said my current pricing is the best they can do for me. Meanwhile, I had in my hand an ad they mailed me that said $79.99 for TV, Phone and Internet. “That’s for new customers.” The rep claimed. So I did my usual empty threat of “I’m going to cancel and close my account” To my surprise, the rep said, OK, just one second and I’ll transfer you…. This is what started my cord-cutting experience. I’m now a Cord Cutter.

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What did I do?

So I canceled Fios. Now I needed Internet. So I went with Comcast. $39.99 for 200mbps. I thought it was a pretty good deal. To my surprise, I got it installed in 5 days. It was a great price, speed was good too. My only complaint was during peak hours, the speed dropped significantly. I actually did my own speed test and numerous times it PEAKED at 10mbps during 4-8 pm. I made several calls to tech support only for them to tell me it “looks good on their end”. A tech came out and replaced my line and that only improve the Mbps only by a small percentage. So I canceled, and luckily I signed up again with Fios as a new customer and got 100/100 for $39.99. I now had a reliable internet again.  However, I thought about it and wanted to try the Gigabit service for $79.99. I tried, LOVE it, and kept it.

Let’s move on from the drama of dealing with internet providers, let talk about TV services.

A Cord Cutter’s Antenna

I know some of the services provide locals, but I live 20 miles from 2 metropolitan areas. The TV services only provide 1of the locals, not both. I love football, and I wanted both local channels. Having no clue on what kind of antenna to buy, I did buy a pair of rabbit ears, but they were worthless. I bought a widow antenna, and that was fine, it picked up the majority of the locals, but the reception was spotty. So I went to Amazon and bought this one. A 360 degree omni directional antenna with 150mile radius. (The one in the link is a newer model. The exact one I bought was only a 75mile radius.) It does look like something like the Starship Enterprise, but it’s no bigger than a dinner plate! I installed my antenna on the top of my gazebo, which attached to my deck, and wired it through some vent pipe and connected it to my TV. I now have 60 local channels. CRAZY! 

A Cord Cutter’s TV Service

I signed up with Directv Now. I got 100 channels for $35 and HBO for $5. That was a fantastic Deal. I am an ATT wireless customer so I can stream on my cell or devices for free. Which is great for my kids and car rides! However, this WAS a great deal. Since I signed up in late 2016, my price has doubled. Come December I will be paying $65 for my service. Is it worth it? Is it worth the free streaming on devices? I think the answer is no, especially if I switch to an unlimited plan. I need to check out Hulu Live TV, Youtube TV, and SlingTV. (Coming soon, I will review the one I switch to)

I already had the streaming staples, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. Now I need to start thinking about ESPN+, Disney+, and HBO Max. Rumors out there claim that Disney will package Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu. I subscribed to Hulu for only $.99 a month for a year. ESPN+ is $4.99, but I’m not sure if the teams I watch will be on it. 

A Cord Cutter’s Pricing Break down

Is it Worth It?

Fifty bucks is Fifty bucks, but is it worth the pain and headaches of switching services? I could probably save some money on what I am paying now. I could lower the Internet speed, and I could find a new TV provider. However, with all the price increases from ATT and the increased options for streaming services you need to consider your options. One thing is for sure, with so many streaming services, and price increases by the TV providers, what was once a cost savings alternative, it’s becoming clear, it’s getting expensive to save money.

An Audiophile’s Set Up

alandistro:

Some of you who have been following me for years know that I’ve been on a mission to listen to, research, and rate every single song I own. 

Currently that is 32,706 songs, all ripped losslessly from CD, hi-res DVD or Blu-Ray Audio, digitized cassettes, or needledroped vinyl.

That’s 3,011 titles (a title is any individual release, so a CD single, an album, a 6-disc boxset… each of those count as one title).

I haven’t posted about my progress in a while so thought it was time for a little update…

As of this morning I only have 214 titles left to go! I’m 93% finished!!

At an average of 2-3 titles per day, I should be done in three months, four moths tops. I started this whole project about 6 years ago. At the time my digital library was a mess. It was filled with incomplete albums, poorly tagged releases, almost everything was lossy… and I never listened to it.

Now, everything is lossless, a good portion of it hi-res, 2,367 titles are from my CDs that I ripped manually using dBpoweramp to ensure they were 100% bit perfect. (the other ~700 titles come from DVD/Blu-Ray/vinyl/cassette transfers). Everything is properly tagged. Everything includes hi-res artwork (some of which I had to rebuild in Photoshop by hand when no good scans or images existed online). And, most importantly, each and every song has been listened to in full, has complete and information-rich metadata, and is rated using a 5 star system.

I’ll update with a TON of data charts on genres, decades, artists, formats, etc etc when I’m finished. But seeing that finish line creep up on the horizon feels great. I had no idea this would be such a long journey when I started. But I’ve discovered some lost gems, I’ve gone down a dozen different rabbit holes and found a ton of new-to-me artists and albums, and now my digital music library is a thing of beauty, of pride, and just so damn fun to get lost in.

2,797 titles down. 214 to go. Yay!

Also, I recently re-arranged my listening station, so thought I’d post a new pic of that… the thin thing in the center of the shelf is a Macbook Pro and that delivers all of my digital audio to the DAC and receiver, pulling files from my home server. The TV is connected to the Macbook so I can browse and display cover art while listening, it’s on a wall mount so it can swing out and be adjusted for better viewing.

image

Now this is a nice set up!

Wannabe Audiophile

A little bit about me. I love music. I love music when it sounds good too. However, I’m a wanna be music audiophile without a high-end stereo. A good high-end stereo, with good speakers, can really open your eyes to what instruments are being used on a song. A good song on a standard stereo, on your echo dot, or in your factory car stereo may sound good enough, but once you hear your favorite artist or song on a high-end stereo, you will understand what I am talking about. In fact, you may actually find your self asking “I didn’t know there was an *insert instrument here* in this song. At that moment you will realize, just what you’ve been missing… But hey, what do I know, I’m a wannabe audiophile without a high-end stereo

Thats Dad Stuff

You will simply need to take my word for it; the difference between a Hi-Fi stereo system and a standard stereo is night and day. I am no way an audiophile. Being an audiophile means you have the disposable income to buy the high-end equipment. I, unfortunately, do not, but I still love listening to hi-fi systems…

Last year my Dad and I went to the Capital Audio Fest. It was here where I rekindled my love of music. The Capital Audio Fest was in a hotel in Rockville, Maryland. It was really cool and really unique. Several hotel rooms were cleared out, and each room had a different stereo system along with a couple chairs, that’s it. Just you and a stereo, in a hotel room. Really unique. Never seen anything like it.

I’m going back this year. This coming November, same hotel, same setup. This year I am hoping to see one thing in particular, but at the same time, I seriously doubt it or they will be there. Amazon recently announced a new HD lossless streaming service, Amazon Music HD. In addition to their music service, they now have the hi-fi smart speaker, the Echo Studio. Echo Link Amp, and Echo Link.

I am very curious about what Amazon’s effect will be on the hi-fi/hi-res market. Will true audiophiles give Amazon the time of day? With Amazon entering the market, will we see an influx of new Amazon high-end smart equipment? I truly believe that Amazon’s jump into the Hi-Res market will have a lasting impact. Will their streaming service prove to be too much for Tidal? So many questions!

Be on the lookout, I will post about my experience at this year’s Capital Audio Fest.

I’m an Apple Guy… but…

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I have literally owned every Apple product I can think of. iPods, iPads, iMacs, MacBooks… Airport expresses, the list goes on… but my tight grasp on Apple products is starting to loosen. For Christmas one year I was given the 10″ Fire Tablet. I loved it. When the 7″ tablets went on sale, I bought two and I gave them to my daughters. My wife is a Kindle fan, she has the Paperwhite and loves it. Are the Fire line of tablets as fast as iPads… NO. But that price! You can’t beat them. The Fire Tablets with the whole Alexa thing too is pretty sweet. (Maybe another blog post topic? I like Amazon products. Are they ever going to beat Apple? No, of course not. Amazon can and will win over the good deal looking/cheapskate demographic.