Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Paradise at Anvaya Cove Golf and Sports Club

"No crackling fire or chestnuts roasting,
But we got some coconuts and rum for toasting
Don't need a snowman we'll build castles in the sand
I'm in a Christmas Paradise
You and me underneath a beach umbrella, we don't need no mistletoe at all
No need to hurry we don't have to worry there's no where else to be
But the starry sky and the Christmas lights when the sun sets on the sea"
- from Christmas Paradise by Carole King

Sunday, November 09, 2014

November Hi-Fi Show Manila

This yearly event has gotten bigger and bigger. It's new home, the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati, is a perfect venue, with a few function rooms occupied by the big set-ups and the demo rooms now occupying two floors. 

These Wilsons driven by Plinius amps from Listening In Style are quite impressive and weighty.
In looks and in sound.

The Focal-based system from AVDI is very good indeed. Detailed and neutral.

If I had to choose a cost-no-object system, it would have to be this system from Architectural Audio.
Magico Q5 speakers driven by Hegel amplification with Naim as source. 
It is very realistic, as if the performance is right in front of you. 
Just natural sound, music playback at its best, and what hi-fi should be about.

Proudly Philippine made. 
The Harana Audio brand can stand toe-to-toe with the megabuck imported brands and systems. 
These are built by hand by audio enthusiasts and designers. 
This horn-based system is very dynamic and is being given media coverage.

For the budget-conscious, this Thorens-NAD-PSB system is an excellent choice.
It will make you enjoy music at a fraction of the cost of the top systems in the show.

So will this real-world system from HyperAudio. 
Turntable, laptop, and tubes all  in one rack.

Diminutive speakers that pack a big sound from Raidho.
Attracted quite a bit of attention. Perfect for condos and small listening rooms.

Lots of vinyl being sold as well as several turntables. Analog is alive and well in the audio scene in Manila.

The other usual brands like Acoustic Research, Sonus Faber, Rega, etc were there, and even Moon from Africa made an appearance. New streaming technologies as well as headphones and home theatre were well represented.

Another successful Hi-Fi show, and in my view, the set-ups were among the best sounding in recent years.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

iPad first generation meets Spotify

Found use for my iPad first gen as a dedicated music server, streaming Spotify into my stereo system.
I was very pleasantly surprised at the very good sound quality, considering I'm using the headphone out jack.

A little search on google showed that this iPad uses a very good Cirrus Logic DAC and the output impedance from the headphone out is low (ie, good). Apparently RMAA measurements are very good too.

Really enjoying Spotify through this set-up. Played James Taylor and Diana Krall. Sound is clear yet not thin or digital sounding at all. I daresay that it compares very well with vinyl playback on my Technics SL1200 with Rega Exact cartridge played through the same system.

What a treat!

LSA Standard Integrated amp with NOS Tesla 6922 tubes
LSA 2 Towers connected via Rega speaker cables

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority - Test on Canon 550D and 17-40 F/4L

Canon DLSRs of recent years have in-camera features that are supposed to extend Dynamic Range. One feature - Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) - aims to retain details and prevent clipping of highlights (bright areas). Another feature - Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO) - aims to lift details from shadows (darker areas). ALO is deemed useful for high contrast scenes, eg, backlit subjects; HTP is deemed useful for high-key shots. Both are used on jpegs.

For the Canon 550D, HTP is enabled or disabled within the menu (Cn Fn 6), while ALO has four settings (Off, Low, Standard, Strong). ALO is disabled if HTP is turned on.

I did a few test shots using the EF 17-40 mm F4/L lens. The images below were taken a few seconds of each other and have not been edited except for resizing. Aperture f/5.6 and shutter speed at 640 and ISO 100, except for the image with HTP on at shutter speed of 1250 and ISO 200.

The effects of HTP and ALO are not subtle. Which setting to use is a matter of preference.
Colors with HTP on seem more saturated, but it does make the overall image darker. I can see that it could be good way to prevent blown out highlights when needed, but I do notice some noise in the sky.
For ALO, the effect is quite pronounced specially at the Strong setting. Here are 100% cropped images from the center of the frame.


The 550D does this processing as it converts the image to jpeg.

One can achieve the same effect with post-processing. I applied the simple "curves" tool in PaintNet to slightly brighten the ALO Low image, and to slightly darken the ALO Strong image; here they are  with the ALO Standard sample.

My personal preference is to turn off HTP and keep the ALO Low setting as default.
Of course, one can always shoot Raw and do all of this in post-processing, but the HTP and ALO features are shortcuts for jpeg shooters, which could be handy for casual shots such as for holidays and family events.