Source, Player and Earphones

April 23, 2007

How are you doing folks? For the record, this is the first blog that I'm putting online. Prior to this, I've had a website on my interests that was taken down 'cos it was put up on my Uni's server space.

What can you expect to see on this site? Well, my focus is in expressing my interest in audio and giving you ways to reach Audio Nirvana! My focus will be more in
personal audio and earphones and not so much on full sound systems, though of course, I will be open to this area. It is not so much a hardcore audio site but more a blog where I can learn from people and post reviews of the players and earphones that I am using. Reviews of players and earphones will be as accurate as possible and will remain as such.

I have lived through the LP, Walkman, CDs, MDs and now the MP3 player phase. When jumping from phase to phase, I have realized the importance of 3 components:

  • The Source

  • The Player

  • The Earphones

a. Format
The format of the audio that you are listening to plays a part. Popular formats include LP, analog cassette, PCM (CD format), ATRAC (MD format) and currently the .mp3/.aac/.ogg standards.

b. Bitrate
Within each digital format lies a bitrate which further affects the quality of the source. Take .aac for example - Apple's iTunes store sells its music in 128kbps bitrates. From the layman point of view, the higher the bitrate, the higher the quality of the source.

c. Music Type
There are different types of reference music. To make the lines clearly drawn, we need to have music to test the bass, the midrange and treble of songs. Some songs emphasize each very clearly. Some examples of songs with bass emphasis are Pulp's intro to
This is Hardcore and Sophie Ellis Bextor's Murder On The Dancefloor (G-Club Vocal Mix) from 1:31 onwards.

The player is of course important. When some people are more passionate about their players, it is for a reason. Let's take the iPod mini vs Creative Zen Micro duel as an example - both were solid players in their own right. Both had their pros and cons. Factors include player form factor, user interface, battery life and simplicity of PC connectivity.

While some people may focus on the user intuitiveness of the software or cost, my goal is to focus on the audio precision a player is able to deliver.

Players Tested Part 1

Players Tested Part 2
Players Tested Part 3

a. Supplied Or Not?

Last but certainly not least are the earphones being used. From the user perspective (at least from mine not so long ago), the earphones supplied with the player may be impressive. Thankfully I learnt otherwise. Buying better earphones does make a difference.

Take for example the in-ear earphones (HPM-70) that's supplied with Sony Ericsson 1st generation Walkman phones. Pairing the Sony Ericsson W800i with the HPM-70 provides supposed in-ear sound isolation...NOT! For starters, the buds that come with the earphones do not fit properly. Secondly, the sound quality is very poor. Upon changing to the Creative Zen Aurvana DJ headphones and the Razer Pro|Tone m100 earphones, the difference becomes very apparent - the midrange and vocal clarity of the supplied earbuds is very poor to the point of being muffled.

b. Earphone Type
There are several types. To name a few, we have the in-ear, clip-on, normal and noise-canceling earphones. And that's excluding the headphone range. All offer different types of audio performance and of course, it all depends on what the user needs.

Earphones Tested

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