A Great Mid-Priced Stereo System

You probably know that I like to be pretty minimalistic, and don’t accumulate a lot of “stuff” in my life. Yet for the few material things I value, I try to find the sweet spot: quality above average, price no higher than needed.

Music is one of the things I care a lot about: I have bought thousands of CDs. But I also value when my music sounds as good as possible. I treated myself to an upgraded stereo system so I’d enjoy better audio quality. Here’s my current system.


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The Best Lossy Music Compression

I noticed recently that Google Play Music has a set of features I wasn’t aware of before, and decided to give it a try. Through various kinds of yak shaving, I ended up tackling a project I’d wanted to look into for a while: which formats and settings are really the best for lossy music compression?

What I learned was both fun and surprising, and ultimately highly practical. If you’re in a hurry, the summary is that high-quality variable-bitrate MP3 produced with the LAME encoder is probably the best all-around choice if you want broad compatibility; if you want the best sound quality, though, AAC (Apple’s native format) or Ogg Vorbis are much better than MP3.

But before I get to that, let’s sharpen some yak razors, shall we?


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How to Tune A Guitar (Or Any Instrument)

Do you know how to tune a guitar? I mean, do you really know how to tune a guitar?

Guitar Closeup

I’ve met very few people who do. Most people pick some notes, crank the tuners, play some chords, and endlessly fidget back and forth until they either get something that doesn’t sound awful to their ears, or they give up. I can’t recall ever seeing a professional musician look like a tuning pro on stage, either. This really ought to be embarrassing to someone who makes music for a career.

There’s a secret to tuning an instrument. Very few people seem to know it. It’s surprisingly simple, it isn’t at all what you might expect, and it makes it easy and quick to tune an instrument accurately without guesswork. However, even though it’s simple and logical, it is difficult and subtle at first, and requires training your ear. This is a neurological, physical, and mental process that takes some time and practice. It does not require “perfect pitch,” however.

In this blog post I’ll explain how it works. There’s a surprising amount of depth to it, which appeals to the nerd in me. If you’re looking for “the short version,” you won’t find it here, because I find the math, physics, and theory of tuning to be fascinating, and I want to share that and not just the quick how-to.

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A review of Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser noise-cancelling headphones

I’ve used active noise-cancelling headphones for over ten years now, and have owned several pairs of Bose, one of Sony, and most recently a pair of Sennheiser headphones.

Sennheiser PXC 450 NoiseGard Active Noise-Canceling Headphones

The Sennheisers are my favorites. I thought I’d write down why I’ve gone through so many sets of cans and what I like and dislike about them.

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How to digitize records with Ubuntu, a USB Turntable and Audacity

I’ve been digitizing my LP collection recently and thought I’d share a quick howto, since I haven’t seen a good complete tutorial on the whole process online. Hopefully this will show up on Google and people can find it.

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