W A R N I N G !

W A R N I N G !

This page is full of non-facts and bullsh!t, (just like the internet and especially forums and other blogs), please do not believe entirely without exercising your intellect. Any resemblance to real things in reality is purely coincidental. You are free to interpret/misinterpret the content however you like, most likely for entertainment, but in no case is the text written on this blog the absolute truth. The blog owner and Blogger are not responsible for any misunderstanding of ASCII characters as facts. *cough* As I was saying, you are free to interpret however you like. *cough*

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Latale Online - OGPlanet English Close Beta out

I'm one of the lucky few(?) that got selected for the close beta test. The lucky few being those who actually knew about this great game while the whole world concentrates on something else.

But it's only for 7 days. How many levels do they expect us to reach?

Well... actually, given just a few hours a day, and provided you know how to level up quickly, at least level 20. Level 30 might even be possible for the hardcore. Cos this game, if you're good, each level only takes at most 3 hours on average, and that's a conservative guess that applies for all levels below 50 which I managed to get before the JP server banned all foreign players. As a shield user, there were a few levels which I managed to level up very fast. And I'm talking about at ~lvl 30 and throughout most of 40+ (Yes the area was that good, for the shields).

And that's one thing I like about this game over Maplestory. MS takes 3 hours on the average per level for each level and that's also a conservative guess, the other way round. I was seeing like 5 hours or something, either that or eternity. And everybody is attacking the same enemies and in the same way, instead of different styles on different enemies that specific classes are more efficient in.

Plus, partying in Latale actually proves to be useful. No, unlike the increased exp in Trickster online, partying in Latale helps by increasing the efficiency of the party as you raid the map in a group. And prevents yourself from getting owned at the same time. And since the experience decreases as your level increases, this is the best way to fight tougher monsters or groups of also tough monsters.

And the best part of this game over Maple is that IT HAS PK!!! Players fight it out in an arena, action style.

Well, not going to blog too much about this yet. I'm going to play my heart out before the outfield on next Monday 4th of August.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Medical shouldn't be commercial

...and I take back my word about that SAF's medical department sucks. But they still don't care about the well-being of their soldiers.

I was referred to this "hearing specialist" by my family clinic to get a hearing test. When I reached the place, a commercial area of various private healthcare and beauty clinics, I knew something was wrong.

The guy does show more concern about the situation than the SAF MO's, but the hearing test was carried in a less professional manner - results written on paper before input into the computer, the number of tests is less, and the scale of the graph will result in the curve always being a straight line. Of course, he probably wouldn't know what's called selective frequency loss, and he called a 5db difference in hearing between left and right "normal". Normal? Fk it, that's at least 3 times as loud on a logarithmic scale. He obviously doesn't know his stuff.

And sure I know why. When I went outside, I saw his certificate. "University of Queensland - Advanced Diploma". Fuck, I'm consulting a polytechnic-equivalent in Singapore context. And the University of Queensland to boot - the last time I visited them after Exercise Wallaby I wondered if it could provide any decent level of education. Well, their Rockhampton town campus, but that campus has a medical school so it's still relavant. At any rate, I already know more than him on my condition.

And the best part?

I'm paying him $50 for the test.

The family clinic only charges $20 for consultation and the doctor holds a degree from NUS, which is like the best in the region for medical education.

So just by a nice shopfront in a golden district and of course, the "specialist" title, you expect people to pay you much more?

Which is why, I feel that medical shouldn't be commercialized. When it comes to making money, people ignore the actual work and performance and focus on things in a business-like manner. Hello~, we're dealing with lives here.

Now I totally understand why the doctors working in the public sector are always grumpy. Yes, life sucks isn't it? Y'all are one of the best out there yet you are looking at so many small cases for only $3000 per month. Stupid bond period. But that's where you get the money for your expensive studies and that's how the government gets good doctors to look at poor patients. The government did a good job here, although the attitude and hence treatment of patients still needs improvement.

And one thing for sure - the staff of the "specialist" clinic were all very happy to see their patients. At $50 per visit, who wouldn't?

Oh the power of money.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Auto-control your fan speeds - SpeedFan

Firstly, you need to know about this useful little program called SpeedFan here. A search on Google or Yahoo will give better and more detailed reviews and guides, so I won't include those.

However, a lot of users do not know how to make this automatic, from turning on at startup and reducing the fan speed, to increasing the fan speed when things get too hot and reducing it thereafter. This guide is to cover this. With everything properly set, SpeedFan is far better than most fan controllers out there, and, best of all, it's free.

So here we go. Firstly, set SpeedFan to run at startup by placing its shortcut in the Startup folder in the Start Menu.

This is what you would see if you run SpeedFan without applying any settings, minus the info messages that you see on first run.

...except the speeds should both be 40% by default, and there will be much more and incomprehensible temperature readings. Depending on your mainboard, many of these will be meaningless, and you will only be interested in Core, Ambient, either one or two of Remote 1/2/3 or 4/5/6/7/8..., and HD0/HD1/HD2...

And actually there is a problem - on some systems, if a temperature of e.g. 127 or -128 (or 0 or 255) degrees celcius is detected by SpeedFan, even if it has no meaning and/or isn't connected to anywhere, the system will shut down in a minute or a few seconds, so act fast to remove the problematic readings.

You see the Speeds, but you're not going to touch them, since they will be automated after SpeedFan is configured. However, you must check Automatic Fan Speed for the speed to change automatically. It's useful to have that option so accessible, since sometimes you'll want the full or no power for overclocking/silent operation.

To configure SpeedFan, click the, erm, Configure button.

You see various temperatures and their sub-menus, which are Speed01 and Speed02. If you tick a temperature, it shows up on SpeedFan. If you tick the Speed in the sub menu, it means if that temperature is too high it will affect the speed. You can choose one or more or nil temperature to be affecting a certain speed.

When you click on a temperature, you can set the desired and warning temperatures. Plus whether it shows up in the system tray or is logged.

Your fan speeds will be at the minimum value if all related temperatures are below desired, will ramp up to the maximum value when between desired and warning, and go to 100% at warning temperature. Take note of how this works, and choose your temperatures wisely.

Next tab, Speeds, if you click on a speed, you see the minimum and maximum values they will be at. Plus whether to make it automatically varied.

The use of minimum and maximum values has just been explained earlier.

Since we're making it start on startup, it would be nice to start SpeedFan minimized so that it does not pop up and bug you. It is also nice to minimize on close since it's human nature to click close and for the case of SpeedFan, it really will close if the minimize on close option isn't checked.

Delta value for fan speeds - this allows how precise you can set your fan speed and also affects how fast the fan speed changes automatically. Lower values means a slower change.

This Advanced tab is interesting, as advanced settings usually are. You can select the monitoring chip and change it's settings. In this case I'm showing my CPU, which gives the Core reading. Are we seeing something something interesting here? Temperature offset! Good for calibrating the sensor so that the temperature is accurate.

For the mainboard H/M (hardware monitoring) block, sometimes you can even choose which sensor to use for the different Remote readings.

Update 14/08/2011 -

I noticed on this mobo that the PWM mode is defaulted to SmartGuardian, which when selected will not follow SpeedFan's settings. Software controlled needs to be selected.

Now, some explanations on the terms/logos:

Flame on the temperature means too hot (above warning), and all fans will be set to 100%
Red on the temperature means getting hot or a temperature increase. Affected fans will be set to maximum value
A green tick means temperatures are ok and stablized. Fan speeds will be minimum if this temperature is around or below desired temperature
A blue tick means temperatures are way below desired or decreasing. No problem here. Fan speeds will be at minimum

Core usually means the reading from the sensor inside the CPU, which will give the same reading as CoreTemp or other such programs that read this temperature
Remote1 usually means mainboard CPU temperature sensor, while Remote2 is northbridge/ambient temperature, although sometimes their roles shuffle around. I even had a Remote3 as CPU before. To know which is the CPU, just do a Prime95 and see which rises.

HD0 = first HDD, HD1 = 2nd HDD etc. Tends to be accurate because HDD temperatures are taken from S.M.A.R.T. i.e. the sensor system on your HDDs, there's no chance for non-standardized mobos to screw things up.

Speed01 and Speed02 - while this depends on your mainboard and where you plugged the fans to, so far my experience is that Speed02 is usually the CPU fan while Speed01 is the system/power fan or no effect. Again, to know which is which, just test. *Hint - CPU fan is always the fastest (and noisiest)

There you go. Enjoy your automatic speed control. :)

This blog's been useless lately...?

I noticed the deviation of this blog from the original informative guide blog to a normal blog. Not good.

To make up for it, I'll be posting a guide on how to use SpeedFan such that it's fully automated and blends into the background. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Anime Music on a Hi-Fi system, How's That?

I'm going to use this as my sub-title. Just to make a statement. Plus, I do listen to Anime music on a Hi-Fi (recently considered to be one after upgrades) system. In fact, I've been listening to Anime music since 2002.

Anime music actually benifits much more from having a good sound system than other pop music genres, because of its complexity. The abusive use of high notes and complex beats (which my brother hates a lot) coupled with lots of chords makes the songs very damanding on the speakers (and ears). And this complexity is exactly what I like about it. The melody may be simple, well, used to be, but there still are simple ones, but the chord progression and syncopation can get very complex. Complexity combined with simpleness, sweet, the direct opposite of Mendo-pop.

I suddenly had this thought when listening to Da Capo II ~Asaki Yumemishi-kun to~ by yozuca. Because after the recent cable upgrade some of the high notes are finally clear. So it occurred to me that Anime music actually requires a good system for optimal enjoyment. The fact that I'm noticing lots of improvement each upgrade for this genre as opposed to the other genres (apart from Classical or Neo-classical and related) already says something.

Yea, I've always been proud of this genre. Because it's technically superior and the composers/arrangers are all god-like creatures that received proper music education and can do any genre you ask. True Anime music don't come with the popular/"popular" mainstream series's btw, they come from non-mainstream shows, games (hentai or otherwise), doujin works, written by people dedicated to writing Anime-style music for true supporters of the series. There are lots more good Anime songs out there than I/you might possibly know, just waiting to be discovered.

So stand out and be proud instead of being embarrassed/having an inferiority complex. There's nothing wrong in listening to Anime music. Stand up tall and shout "I LISTEN TO ANIME MUSIC BECAUSE I LIKE IT!!!".

P.S. Mizuki Nana pwnzors lots of singers out there, even though she started out as a seiyuu (voice actress). And I've Sound pwnz the world as the best music group that's also a production group, in both singing and songwriting. And similarly they started out working for *ahem* products. Can you see the potential that lies beneath the *ahem*?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Belden 1694A

Reason for getting this: I was nearby SLT and I wanted a cable upgrade from that flimsy-looking stock coax cable.

Reason for chosing this: It's like the whole world is saying that this is THE cable for digital coax cable, else at least it's value for money by a lot.

If others are using this on their Citypulse and higher I see no reason I can't use it on my Zhaolu. Oh yea, because it's only a Zhaolu and I'm feeding it with an Audigy. Hey, cables are meant to be overkilled so you feel good, because they're cheap yet affect the sound quality.

The moment I mentioned 1694A, the folks at LHS seem to know this guy pretty well too, and also offered me the common "standard" Canare connectors. Sweet, because I didn't know what connectors to use.

After checking online, turns out those were THE connectors to use too. Famous and true 75ohm, with good quality albeit duller-looking gold for the connectors and the ground part with multiple plates bending outwards to ensure good contact with the jack. Boy I should have upgraded the crap connectors on the Zhaolu.

Crimping was very fast, and it cost me $18.50.

I didn't really expect to spend much. But $18.50 isn't much. Especially when this is said to be better than the overpriced craps selling almost a hundred.

But all this performance (or price/performance ratio) comes at a price

Firstly, a high-performance coaxial cable => thick. It is thicker than the smaller gauge speaker cables out there. It sure is hard to bend. I'm lucky I bought 1.5m instead of exactly 1m because otherwise it wouldn't reach because of the bending.

Secondly, it looks plain ugly. The external have some words like blah blah high performance video cable 3ghz 1694A blah blah. If you didn't know this cable it would look like either some crap or some industrial shytz.
And the Canare connectors, yes they are THE connectors to use, but they are at least 5cm in length. And the color part is so freaking big. I got black, and if I'd gotten any other color it would look damn GAY.
In comparison, Kaichin has lots of cool-looking echoloft-DIY-type ones at $3.50 and less. For a while I thought that I should've chosen those instead. But the Canare connectors are still THE connectors.

So yea it does look ugly. But it looks like it does have lots of performance. Lets see how much it has.

I didn't expect much of an audible difference with this upgrade, at most subtle improvments in the highs, especially the extension, because it's the stock cable's weakness which I already know of.

But, the moment I plugged it in, I immediately noticed a big difference. The sound is so much cleaner like wow. Especially obvious in Shining Stars Bless. I didn't know some of the high notes reverb and is sustained for so long. Or is supposed to, because I couldn't hear them in the first place. Then switching to Reflectia, I'm getting back the correct high-frequency response, plus more.

And in general:
Soundstage seems to have increased... but I say seems to have because I'm not sure, because:
The instruments at the extreme sides are more pronounced => louder and more obvious
At any rate, I'm definitely hearing more "air", as in the "fake sounds" that's part of the recording.
But this increased "air" (what is it actually called anyway?) also sounds smoother at the same time.
Percussions are slightly more powerful now - bass is tight and puncy (although at most half the improvement I saw with the Zhaolu mod) and the cymbals and hi-hats strike with the nasty sound of hitting and ends off smoothly.
There is reduced cracking at high frequencies.
Because of better and cleaner highs performance I can hear more of the instruments' "noise" as they hit to make the sound. Like guitar, hi-hats, piano etc. (That's the "And more" in Reflectia)

And there's something interesting about the bass: It extended by 1/2 to 3/4 of a note, and the bass notes are now more pronounced also. But because of this, now instead of pure bass beats I'm also hearing the bass guitar together with it (for songs that do that of course). So it feels a bit wierd now, but I know it's good, since for that song (Megumeru ~cuckoo mix 2007~) I know it's meant to be that way, because it's half bass only and half bass + bass guitar next to each other to get that feeling.

That also means i can hear seperation between the bass beat and bass notes, as I later realized hearing other songs. Neat. That means I can now study bass notes better and hence compose better.

Lastly, one more song to add to the list that I'll always use for audio comparisons - sky ~version 2008~ by fripside. Reason for this song is because it is badly recorded and hence induces ear fatigue. A good system should reduce that (by introducing less noise and harsh into the system). And indeed now it's less strenuous to the ears.

This is supposed to be one of the best cables (and connectors) and there's no need for me to tell you that it's good. I'm just looking at how much the improvement it would bring to my setup. And for this amount of improvement, $18.50 is a steal. And I haven't even upgraded my analogue interconnects yet.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Small Zhaolu D2.5 mods... removed

I removed the jumper wires on the output caps because I found that they make the sound too harsh and overpowering. Sure it seems more dynamic and the highs are much more clear, but it's hurting my ears and I don't want that. Furthermore I didn't like the sound signature.

Removing it I confirmed and missed the much tighter bass and more realistic instruments it gave, but it's a tradeoff.

Apparently I'm not the only one that hates the sound of the DAC with the output caps jumpered:

Well, my LM4562 are going to arrive, that should solve the problem with the highs, although I don't know if it will give the punchiness that jumpering the caps give. Well, at least the LM4562 should give it more air and soundstage instead of destroying it. And it is a highly recommended upgrade by many so...

Plus, the reason I chose LM4562 instead of AD or BB is because of the price - $6.90 each, $13.80 for 2. If I bought $12 or $18 chips I'd be spending ~$30 or more on this DAC, which is stupid considering the price I paid for this. Even though OPA2107 with jumpered output caps would've been the best combination.

Another reason for removing the wires (along with mod 4) was to leave the product as professional as it was instead of being defiled by me. But there's always still the feeling that I've left some cosmetic imperfections, like specks of Blu-Tack, a bit of burn marks (from poor wire contact), rounded the screws a little trying to remove the PCB... I'm just me, a perfectionist at the wrong time and places.

Because of the above, I'm definitely not going for the electrical destruction by the pro in the link above. Seems like if I carried it out it would do more harm than good. Plus the LM4562 seems to make the most significant improvement anyway.

So, the only mod I'm going to give it is the LM4562. Not a very nice "mod" although it does give significant sonic change, but still not good to pass it off as a "modded" product at the next DAC shoot-out. Especially when it's going to go against it's modded cousin, a Zero. Maybe I should give them the option to hear it with or without the jumper cables (although Lm4562 + jumping would give horrible results).

But... it does sound really dark and lifeless now... Like when you adjust the tonal control... wait... doesn't jumpering the capacitors remove the capacitance, and doesn't capacitance affect the tone? Now it all makes sense now. Except jumpering the caps have the advantage of cleaner sound, but the designers definitely put it there for a reason, and that reason is not DC offset, else they would've skipped it and get better sound at the same time.
The highs are also softer, disappearing, and slightly distorted now, as it originally was. Stupid Burr-Brown, stupid lousy cables and system.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Small Zhaolu D2.5 mods...

I was bored and couldn't wait for the LM4562s to arrive, so I took apart my Zhaolu ahead of time and proceeded with some small mods:

Here is the list of mods to be done:

1. Fixing grounding issues
2. SPDIF transformer coil
3. Shorting output caps
4. Staples on crystal (lol...)
5. Disconnecting the headphone amp
6. LM4562/OPA2107/2132/2134
6a. AD823
7. Belden 1694A
7a. Belden 89207/89259

Without purchasing any extra material, I proceeded with 3 and 4.

I didn't want to resort to soldering, because that is irreversible (well.. semi), leaves and ugly mess, and I do not have a good soldering iron.

So an idea struck me and come a fixer's best friend: The Blu-Tack

Although it is called Blu-Tack, mine is white in color.

Why Blu-Tack? It is elastic and hence has more holding strength than silicone and tape. Furthermore, it's very to clean up and leaves no trace whatsoever.

But, without using solder, there's the problem of bad connection. How will that affect? I'll find out soon.

So, about half of my remaining 15cm or so of Belden 16AWG is sacrificed for this job. Boy they are tough to bend, real thick solid copper strands.

I also used the Blu-Tacks to surround the clock crystal with a bunker of staples. That should give it a bit of shielding. Shouldn't have any negative effects.

And the first thing I did after opening the casing was to disconnect the headphone amp. It is supposed to make the power supply cleaner, but I did it also because it was heating up in the system.

The immediate audible effect: Treble is... I dunno... more harsh but at the same time more clear with more details, but somehow I can feel that more notes are missing, and the instruments sound smoothed-out. Either my bad connection has killed the high frequencies, or it is a combination of the bad effects of the OPA2604's poor quality and typical Burr-Brown laid-back sound, and the poor high-frequency performance of my subwoofer + speakers setup. Perhaps the soon-to-come LM4562 and amp + speaker upgrade will solve the problem.

Another thing is that there are a few more instruments at the highs that can now be heard. That is an improvement I hope, at the expense of lowered smoothness, soundstage (air?) and high harsh, yet somehow it feels a tad more natural. Why the soundstage is reduced beats me.

EDIT: I realize why it sounds more natural yet has less air. It's less warm now, and the instruments are right where they should be. In short, it's more accurate, but I think I prefer the warmer, more spacious, laid-back sound. Have I reached my max in audio detail enjoyment? and focusing on the sound signature that I like instead.

Another distinct and good improvement is the lows response. The bass is more punchy, and it extended downwards by half a note more. The bass drum now sounds more like a real-life bass drum. These are expected improvements from shorting out the output caps.

Overall it has more goods than bads but I'm not used to the sound. After a while I'll get used to it and there's no turning back, as usual. The instruments definitely sound more real. Though I'd love it if the soundstage didn't become smaller.

But the bass... this is reminding of the Belden cables, but this case it's more punchy than mid-bass heavy. How, my subwoofer dial is already at 3/10 and too much deep bass is bad for my tinnitus.

I also wanted to fix the grounding issues while I'm at it, but couldn't find out where exactly to connect the wires, so had to abandon that for now. Else it would've been a small improvement without negative side effects. I know there will be an audible improvement coz the standoff-to-standoff through the chassis resistence is very significant. It was 1ohm or 0.1ohm, can't remember, but those are high values nonetheless.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Yotsunoha OVA - Afterthoughts (Also included: Some thoughts regarding ratings)

Well... I'm not sure if there are people who still like short stories anymore. But I for one am still a lover of those, and actually prefer them over long stories that are too elongated for anything interesting to be left after a while.

And this OVA, it is a very good piece of work. So it isn't nice to see it having a rating of ~6 on AniDB.net. But there are many important (and probably most influencing) factors to consider for the generic votes:

1. Whether the series is famous/well-known - being a flock of sheeps, most humans well tend to follow whatever others are doing/saying/thinking and have their own thoughts influenced by it. And yes so everybody is watching show xxx, it's got to be good and I must watch it also.

Sadly, it's rarely the case that the most famous/well-known titles are the best. I'm sure there are many *cough* examples out there. But to avoid offending any specific Anime supporter and to keep the context recent I'll relate to the recent Red Cliff movie that I just watched a week ago. Yes many people are watching, it set record sales and had a 80m budget, aside from the rave reviews and high ratings. But I can tell you, it sucked. Sure there are excellent points, but it sucked. In fact it sucked so much it was criticized on Taiwanese forums so much that it was even featured on the Taiwanese news.

2. The genre - unfortunately this is IMO a legitimate rating skewer. As in skew-er, to give a bias to/against or distort, not skewer, as in to kill. Because our preferences differ, what one likes may not appeal to another. And romance* shows are already on the edge. Add the slice-of-life feeling, recall of past events, short story representation, and there's practically nothing left.

* Romance in this context refers to a story that focuses on relationships and its development, not one that has its main point on something else like fighting, war or weapons. Not caring to avoid offending anyone, I can say that the latter usually has near-zero fomance and if any, it is of a elementary level. Meaning I love you and you love me, period, plus usually an obscure reason for it.

I myself am aware of my own preferences, so whenever I rate I try to give a possible rating range. I will give my own rating, but will mention the point modifiers. And if asked to give a single rating for the masses, I'll take my rating, minus half of the points that were the result of the modifier.

3. There was supposed to be a third point - sadly I forgot. :P

But anyway, the point is to read the the more detailed reviews IN DETAIL - there is a review of 6.5, while being a tad low (although relatively, it's already higher than the generic vote), there are lots of compliments, but weighed down by the story. Oh yes, which brings us to the third point:

3. Background/context - again sadly (yes the rating system is full of sadness), while this is also a legitimate point modifier, nobody actually cares about the background and context unless it is related to point no. 1. But in order to appreciate the show fully one has to understand the origin - from where did it come from, how is it made and what is its purpose or audience. But then you can argue that a generic vote should refer the opinion of a generic audience - I do not question that, that's why I also consider this a modifier and remove half the modifier points for the generic vote; it's too harsh on the show if I rate it just for the generic clueless audience without giving it some credit. More on this later.

First thing before the show: The Opening

While I don't judge shows by their opening, it's usually a good gauge of how good the show is. Because it is a show of how much effort the people are willing to put in. A good song with appropriate video will give a good first impression also.
(Of course, there are cases that I either love or hate the OP a lot but not the show, because there's lots of preference involved. Take Nanatsuiro Drops' OP - that will always be on my top list. The directorship is also good, but story really sucked and weighed it down alot, and the show is only average after applying modifiers.)

This show, song is nice, normal romance Anime type but still new in some ways. Video, very nice. Especially the background. Better than average at the very least. Lines are clean, many scenes (from the game obviously). Full of details.

On the whole, another OP on my fav list, both video and song.

If I were to rate this show, I'll give it my own score of 7.5, with the modifiers:

Artwork is good. Not the best, not revolutionary, but there is nothing to complain about. It looks normal, with extra details where required. Just very pleasing.
Story - a bit short, some characters not used fully - but many other shows are also culprits of this. Setting of reunion is good and although the basic school harem is always the norm. Characters are good, each with some personality that doesn't overlap too much, although you do see the usual norm - loli, friendly (and a bit dumb?) onee-chan, tsundere. But the male protagonist is a bit openly ecchi, and that's not usual and I like that.
Enjoyment - If I can spend longer to blog than watch something, what does it says about enjoyment? It's not heavy and does not require much brainwork, just some good easy enjoyment. No rewatchability though unless you played the game.
Enjoyment weighs a lot in my ratings btw.

Now the modifiers:
Short story - I myself don't penalize for short stories and I don't think anyone should, but those thinking that the story isn't enough will do it. Easily brings down the point by 1.
Background - The original games ought to be very long, as can be seen from the many events that were stuffed into the OVA. This OVA is most likely aimed at the original players, or to get new players to play. (I, for one, has been psycho-ed) Considering that, the limitation of its length, it is a job well done. +1 for background.
(Note: Background can also minus points, if the original is good but the adaptation sucks, like the famous cases of Fate, Tsukihime, Clannad and Air movies. Watching the good original will make the bad adaptation seem even worse, so take that in mind when rating, and use the modifier appropriately)
Genre - School, romance, life, the worst combination one can think of. Number of people that like all 3 together, very little if not counting the eroge cult group. Minus 2 points.

Ok, now the ratings:
In this case, I'm not affected by background and romance genre modifiers. Most of the time I try to ignore background and take the shows at face-value, although cases like Air movie and Fate can really make you throw up. For the romance genre, having read/watched the better of the love stories out there my expectation is high, so if it does an ok job, no point change. But if it does a bad job, like the obscure love relationship and/or harem, prepare to be sunk. In this case, applying the modifier actually increases the rating. However, I still have to apply the school + life modifiers, which is a +1.

So, my score is 7.5 after two +1s. So an appropriate rating for a general audience would be 7.5 - 2/2 = 6.5.

Hmm... seems like the case with that AniDB review guy. 6.5 with lots of compliments.

But seriously, I can't give it an 8, because 8 = must watch unless you really hate the genre because it's sure to be something good. I can let this one past, and was actually deciding between 7 and 7.5, but 7 feels too low by AniDB standards.

But oh well, it all ends well.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sonic Impact Technologies gets wierder...

First, they shocked the world with their T-Amp

Then, they disappointed the world with their 2nd-gen T-Amp that cost twice as much, couldn't be powered by batteries, and had no real improvement over its predecessor

Now, even that is removed from their website, and in its place is:

Sonic Tio Board

Have they gone crazy from their lack of products and sales?

It costs the same as their 2nd-gen T-Amp and frankly looks the same to me too, now with a new major problem of drawing power from the computer PSU. The last time I tried with NeoMini USB DAC it was a complete disaster. And I connected it on its own; who knows what happens when connected with the CD-ROM drive as shown in the manual; those produce so much EMI that the static built-up can literally shock you.

And under the features, it says PCI Sound Card and Customizable Equalizer. I don't see how it can be a sound card and have an equalizer when it isn't even digitally connected to the computer.

Only thing to describe this thing is: caveat emptor.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

...It Works!

...Actually the title was supposed to be "Digital cables/sources do make a difference", but I think this fits the mood better.

So far I've tried two f-ed up combinations for the transport - stock cable + on-board Realtek, and $7 cable on Audigy. Both sucked in different ways.

Finally I got the 3.5mm male to 2x RCA adaptor to use the stock RCA coax with the Audigy's fukked up digital out. And wow, it sounds very nice. I'm definitely hearing more instruments and details, and the most WOW part is that the noise in certain noisy songs (caused by interactions between instruments + use of SRS WOW effect) has reduced by a whole lot to almost nothing (but still there). Dynamics also improved back plus extras, highs feel more normal now, and the overall feel is more... natural.

Natural... why is it that the better equipments will always sound more natural? And how does it sound more natural despite the increase in dynamics? Audio is wierd.

And sadly, this isn't getting back the loss in 8khz that I'm experiencing. I've recently found my second song (or perhaps 3rd or 4th) that has a clear difference between 320kbps MP3 and FLAC - Reflectia by eufonius. And this song is very good for frequency testing because it has distinct notes at 4, 8, and 16khz. Especially the 8khz one at the chorus, which I am very fond of. Anyway, changing back to the NeoMini DAC didn't help, so I can be sure that the loss is due to my ear.

Just last Wednesday I was exposed to some very loud high-pitched noise. It was some bugger knocking something off a final drive like no tomorrow. After that, my tinnitus grew to include a very obvious hissing, and my 8khz frequency band was pretty much screwed up - I definitely lost a lot of hearing of that note, although it was more like 9-10khz when I measured it using a sine wave generator software.

So fk the MO specialists and consultants for saying that tinnitus is alright, there's no problem, I'm going to sue you all when I get the chance.

While we're at it, please donate to the "Help-tinnitus-sufferers-cure-tinnitus-through-buying-a-healing-laser-Fund". Basically there is a very potential cure for tinnitus called the healing laser, which when shot at cells stimulate the release of energy which triggers and aids cell restoration and growth/division, attacking the fundamental problem of tinnitus - the nerve cells don't grow back naturally. Off course, being the guy who discovered and thought of the idea, I will be the one using it first to... *ahem* test for safety and effect. Then after that I'll be calling out to all the innocent tinnitus sufferers who got tinnitus through the fukked-up SAF and NS. And I'll cure them in place of the incompetent, complacent, and apathic doctors that we have in the army. In this way I'll gather enough support to sue and hopefully overthrow the evil organization. Everybody hates the SAF, they know that too, just that nobody. is brave enough to shout that out in the public against the human-rights lacking government that we have.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fk the NeoMini, heck the Zero, my new hoot...

Zhaolu D2.5 DAC

Reason for getting it - I've always wanted to get the Zero DAC for a while now for its good performance and excellent price/performance ratio. And it's a nice stoppage point for audio upgrade. But the Zero costs $180 without warranty if brought in from overseas and an overpriced $240 at Jaben, compared to the original $130 it is worth. Not very worth it to buy unless you have the lobang.

Then while I was looking around echoloft buy/sell forum, I saw someone selling a Zhaolu D2.5 for $xxx (can't say out, coz you'll probably kill me).

The Zhaolu DACs is what the Zero is based on. Specifically, the Zero is based on Zhaolu D1.x (D1.3?), with cheaper components at a better price, and has a different circuitary and sound signature compared to the Zhaolus. One of the original makers of the Zhaolu DAC decided to go on his own and create the Zero DAC, which has one of the best price/performance ratio in the market. In comparison, the Zhaolus have an average price/performance ratio due to their high price, some may consider it bad because it just cannot compare to products one level higher yet only costs half a level more (e.g. Citypulse), and subjectively loses out to other DACs in the same price point, possibly due to the low cost AD1852 DAC chip being unable to fight against the clearer CS4398 in other DACs, including the cheaper SuperPro (but how the hell SuperPro could have actually sounded better beats me). It might be unfair since it's SPDIF (Zhaolu/Zero) vs USB (other DACs) and a bad SPDIF source will kill, but fact is it does sound worse in a bad set-up.

So, the Zhaolu D1.x split in its evolution path into the Zero and the Zhaolu D2.0/2.5. Sure Zero may have better design (or so they claim, but it looks just the same), and although the main chips are the same, the Zhaolu has a better transformer, an in-line AC filter (useful for all the shyt that my computer has been dumping into my already shytty power), better components, 2 op-amps instead of one for output (which also means balanced XLR output is attainable via modding),

If money is of no concern, which would you buy? Answer is obvious.

Sadly, the D2.5 I got is the cheaper D2.5A using the lousy AD1852 DAC also used in the Zero DAC, instead of the D2.5C with the CS4398 DAC. Heck, actually, the two DACs perform similarly, and the rest of the board is just as important if not more. And it's human mentality to get the lowest in the series thinking it will sound the same as those higher, that's how Geforce FX5200 and Celeron managed to sell big time.

Not a problem, since it's still all-round better than the Zero, which already pwns all the other DACs in the same price range.

The guy sold it cheap for a few reasons. 1) He's moving to China and might as well sell this since he's not bringing it with him, 1a) reason because he already got a whole lot of better shitz. 2) He got it 2nd-hand from another guy, and 3) The volume control knob is stiff at around the centre volume, although not a problem for me since I don't do headamps.

And... I don't think this thing was actually used for quite long. Accordingly, the original owner only used it for 6 months (this DAC isn't very old anyway), and the seller only used it for a few months and it was under-utilized. Makes sense; a guy who would sell this off in 6 months probably has other more-badass equipment. I don't think this even had 300hrs worth of burn-in - that would require 1 hr per day for a year. If you have other 1k-equipment would you be even playing this for an hour per day on the average?

At least under me, I'll make sure it gets 1000 hours in a year.

Now, lets hook it up.

Unfortunately I do not have any decent SPDIF source installed. The on-board Realtek is known to be a POS and I'm not sure if my Audigy still works. Nonetheless I still hooked it up to my Realtek.

The sound is... muffled. There is noticable loss in the highs and the bass sounds boomy.

No wonder people say the SuperPro is better.

However, despite the handicap posed by the on-board sound, there is also more details, more instruments to be heard. And the mid-bass response is excellent. Thanks to the higher SNR of the DAC, the SPDIF transport, and the 2x OPA2604.

I can imagine what this baby can do when it gets a better transport.

However, problems:

This Zhaolu has the same clicking problem as the Zero, which is from the DAc switching on and off from the presence or absence of input signal. There is a solution for this but I have currently forgotten.

The on-board Realtek SPDIF does not allow for the control of the volume via main volume control/keyboard, and the fixed gain of the OPA2604 is very high. Meaning I have to keep the volume of my sub very low.

This is not a review, as I have nothing that comes close to this to review. Anyway there are many reviews of the Zero and Zhaolu DACs, and it's definitely good for the money. The Zero at least. And my Zhaolu which is even more bang for buck.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Believe in the power: Part II

Since the cheapo powered USB hub still resulted in some noise (possibly caused by ground loop charging), I decided to see if connecting straight to the Seasonic PSU will be better.

Turned out it was much worse than even the mainboard USB power. The highs are greatly reduced, I could even hear a few complete missing notes in one of my test tracks "Shining Stars Bless". Now that I know how power quality affects the highs, I can't believe just how much shit the computer dumps back onto the power supply.

And so, using computer power for audio is a big fat definite no no.

And sadly, there was a D-Amp that uses computer power supply. Imagine how shytty it would sound, especially when class-D amps are switching amps, and having a lousy switch before it would be... disastrous.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My brother brought home a large group of church friends...

...and left being a huge path of destruction. My brother is known for destroying things of mine - getting my PSP scratched during the first week, getting my com infected with spyware,

and yesterday (Sat) his group of friends touched and toppled some of my figurines and carried my speaker system over to their room. They probably didn't take care when carrying it, as I saw some of the clipped bare wires (I still go by those) were definitely been pulled. When I powered them up I immdeiately heard something was wrong, and after taking out the wires to check, true enough, almost all the leads were blackened to various extent and that affected the sound. One pair (or one quad since it's a Star Quad) even had its color closer to dark brown than orange.

What happen was probably this - they simply brought the speakers over and pulled the wires in the process, fraying them and pulled them off the clips a little, resulting in poor contact. The poor contact then resulted in resistance and hence heat, which caused the copper to oxidise, resulting in the darkening and SQ drop.

After spending more time to recut/strip/twist/connect the cables, the Canares are back online. Although I didn't do as good a job as my first try there wasn't any obvious sonic differences this time. And true enough, the Canare indeed sounds brighter than the Belden, and its highs performance has its pros and cons over the 1307A. Definitely less bass and hence missing frequencies due to my 2.1 setup, but there is greater harmony, as in I can hear the chords better. Soundstage is wider but thinner. Perhaps things will get better after burning in. And I'm not afraid of it sounding too bright after burning in, since after the power upgrade my DAC's highs are clear with much reduced harsh.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

More small sound upgrades

One more interesting upgrade I've done for now: Adding an Elna 470µF cap in parallel with the 47µF Panasonic FM and the 0.1µF Wima to the decoupling stage on my NeoMini USB DAC

After "upgrading" the power by using the power adaptor and cutting the supply from the computer, I had a hunch that the power adaptor, with lousy max power capacity and voltage regulation, is going to provide insufficient power at times (power dips), which may explain the small bit of loss in bass power when I removed the com power supply.

So I decided to add a reservoir capacitor. Digging around, I found a 470µF Elna, courtesy of alvin1118. This kind of capacitors (brand + size + type + packaging) are supposed to be good for audio power, although using something that costs more than $0.25 on such a mini DAC (pun intended) is a definite overkill. But hey, I love overkills, at least I don't even have to think that I'm sacrificing something else for an improvement.

470µF seems like an overkill for a decoupling capacitor for such application anyway. Or so common sense would tell us. Will it yield little improvement as expected or does my current setup superceds common sense? Lets find out.

Lesson on electronics for the newcomers: Decoupling
Decoupling, bypassing, power reservoir, power filtering, they are all the same; it's just a capacitor connected in parallel to the load i.e. connected to the V+ and ground or V-. But other decoupling and bypassing which have slightly different use and approach, power reservoir (or reservoir caps) and power filtering seem to suggest some extreme situations - power reservoir suggests a huge capacitance to compensate for a very bad power supply which cannot handle the loads, while power filtering suggests a more sophisticated approach (or plain marketing badass). After you read on how it works, you'll realize they're all the same.

Basically, your DC power source will never be perfect; there will be EMI noise, ripple, and voltage dips, which are the same ol' fluctuations in voltage but in increasing magnitude and decreasing frequency. If we want a cleaner (more stable) power, we add capacitors in parallel. The capacitors act as a backup storage, or think of it as a alternate (or engineers like to call it, local, because of their proximity to the load) source of power. The good part is, capacitors provide very clean power and releases them very quickly, at least compared to a battery (which is by some definition a capacitor also, lolololol). And in audio it's already known that battery > adaptor, and capacitor > battery, so it's sure to be good. (BTW decoupling caps are also used in battery-powered amps.

Now the bad part, capacitors store very little power for their size, and the faster/cleaner power you want (which is dependant on capacitor type), the less capacity you get. You starting to see the trend among all the power sources?

And so, how decoupling capacitor works in layman terms - when the voltage is at e.g. 5V, the capacitor charges up to 5V and stays there. When there is a voltage dip at the power source to e.g. 4.5V, the capacitor, being at a higher voltage, will allow the current to flow out of itself, hence providing the 5V for a short while. Hopefully, after that the voltage dip is gone, and the capacitor charges back up again. It works the same way but opposite for voltage spikes; capacitor absorbs the extra voltage/current. And so what you get is a cleaner and more stable power.

Ok, a .5V dip isn't really what capacitors are supposed to handle - what they handle is in the 0.001 to 0.010V range. But from what I observed, poorly-regulated switching power supplies (meaning almost all your power adaptors and many computer PSUs) can allow for voltage drops in excess of 0.1V. While this isn't a problem for computing since they allow for a 5% variation from the rated voltage, in audio this translated into a very nasty 0.25V. And many cheaper power adaptors (AND MAINBOARD USB POWER!!! <---- read) don't even meet this standard (which is why your 2.5" USB HDD fails to spin). So isn't that worrying?

So while in normal audio cases for power filtering a 0.1µF and a 47µF capacitors are used (to deal with different frequencies of noise - remember that smaller capacitance = faster?), in my case I need a power reservoir to handle variations of ~0.1V. 470µF sounds just about right for this.

Now now, in many cases 470µF isn't used, coz:

1. It's usually physically too big
Yes, indeed I had to lay it down (put it horizontal instead of standing upright), and on the underside of the PCB in order to make it barely fit in my case.
2. It's usually too slow due to the capacity
Using an Elna should give me some room. Plus larger voltage dips due to poor voltage regulation/power capacity are usually of very low frequency.
3. You won't usually see situations that require that big of a capacitance
Now you do. In fact, for lower-end devices using poor power sources, many DIY people have used 220 to 470µF caps for decoupling.
I actualy wanted to put a 3300µF cap considering the voltage regulation of my power source (which is shiet) but it wouldn't fit in my case.

Enough of the stuff-most-people-won't-even-bother-to-care part above which I considerately reduced the font size. All we care is about the outcome, right?

So here it is - drastic improvement to the highs; they sound freaking clear, lots of high harsh is gone and the sound follows through well, not to be confused with reverb but after the notes hit the volume does not decrease too quickly. Very good for high-pitched percussion/hit type instruments. Same improvement to a smaller extent can be seen in bass too. Overall the sound is much more natural with a slight increase in soundstage.

However, there seem to be a slight loss in dynamics. At first I didn't understand why that happens since I was expecting that a more stable power will give better dynamics thinking that huge dynamics cause voltage dips which is countered using capacitors. Turns out the dynamics were still there when I played back at the same volume with the SRS WOW effect turned off; in fact there was more indeed. But the decreased noise and more detail and soundstage and music lingering in the air means even more things were amplified with the WOW (surround sound) effect, so the dynamics kinda got covered up. And also, since the harshness of the high instruments and boomy bass were gone these notes also made less of a presence.

But because of this, on the whole it sounds very natural. Very uncolored sound.

Interesting how cleaner power actually led to this neutrality and loss in dynamics. Is it that the better your system, the more natural it sounds?

And interesting how a $1 capacitor can improve the sound so drastically. Heck expensive interconnects which all they do is color the sound.

And interesting how sucky your computer power supply (and cheapo power adaptor) is in order to make this work.

Canare 4S6 (17AWG equivalent)(Star Quad - 2 smaller conducters for one wire) against Belden 1307A (16AWG)

At first I only needed some extra cables for some wiring and soldering job. Then I thought, why not get some Canare 4S6 to fight against the Belden 1307A that I'm using now?

And so a trip to LHS. Wierd, I asked for the smallest Star Quad they had, they say Star Quads are not for speakers; speaker cables are never meant to be twisted (HUH?). So I asked for the 16-17AWG Canare speaker cable, and they gave me the 4S6. Isn't this like the Star Quad I'm looking for? And after stripping it up at home, it is definitely twisted. So what was the uncle talking about?

Preparing the 4S6 was a nightmare - you have twice the number of conductors to strip, and the paper and cotton fly everywhere and onto the bare cables themselves. Not very nice. Getting two wires to clip onto the same hole is the worst, first twist the wires together at a good angle - too little and the wires comes off too easily, too much and it becomes too thick to fit. Plus have to make sure that the wires approach together instead of one front one back, else the 17AWG cable becomes 20AWG. Took much longer to hook up compared to the Beldens. (The Beldens are actually very easy due to the thickness and toughness of the strands)

These cables are definitely meant to be soldered onto connectors.

Initial impression - they are not burnt in, yet they already exhibit a more prominent high (although not as clear... yet). Bass is lacking definitely, slightly less than my Beldens before burning in and a lot less compared to them now.

This is to be expected - Belden has very thick strands, while the Canare has two conductors of very thin strands. Skin effect tells us the Canare will be brighter.

I'd say the two cables are equal with different uses - Canare for clearer trebles, Belden for more (natural) bass power. Also, the Canare feels more pro and might possibly sound that slightly better too, but the Belden won't wear and tear as much from usage. Anyway, there's no way I'm going to use the Canare for wiring projects. Plus, more people in audio seem to be advocating thick solid copper core nowadays, and Belden is closer to that than Canare, so one more win for the thick strands.

I originally wanted to keep using the Canares for speakers and cut some Beldens for a project, but something happened the day after I installed the cables which forced me to use back the Beldens. Read on to my next post...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Believe in the power

Further listening: After some time of listening to more songs, I noticed that there are more pluses to minuses effects. For one, the highs are definitely cleaner. Secondly, the mid-bass where the bass notes are also received a good improvement - they are more clear and don't get disrupted by the other sounds. Also, the sound is more natural on the whole despite being more noisy, plus the fact that lossless files did not exhibit the extra noise can only mean one thing,

Time to leave MP3 and migrate to loseless. If I can find them, that is.

EDIT: While trying to strip the rubber coating and getting past the aluminium shield, I realised that I could achieve the same effect by taping the power pins on the USB connector so as to insulate them. Did that in a minute and saved a cable (although the rubber was cut open and the aluminium slightly damaged).

It sounds differently now, and not all positively, might be placebo I hope. It sounds "less powerful", and more garbled, but that might be because of the song (and the SRS WOW effect). Despite this I seem to be able to hear more instruments, there is definitely less noise, and the highs response improved tremendously. Now all the cymbals/high-hats/ting-dlings are very clear and sustained.

Last week, our hero and friends couldn't wait any longer and just bought a USB hub with a power adaptor for $29 instead of the $24 it would've cost in a bid to solve the hissing problem that he has with his USB DAC. And instead of some cheaper, half-the-price USB hub he decided to go for one with 2A. (Pity the D-Link wasn't easily available; it is price similarly and has 2.5A)

Ok, there wasn't any hero, nor does he have any friends. They are all imaginary if any except for his soul mate/mistress - the computer. And it wasn't last week, but about a month ago.

And yes the hissing was solved for now, it only came back once or twice so far, instead of more than that every day. However, occasionally, I can hear the sound quality degrade, so I still need to plug out and replug the USB cable. But this is less annoying than the hiss and can be left unnoticed.

Thinking about this while replugging the USB cable, I decided to see what would happen if I offed the power adaptor (Sadly, this hub has no control circuitary whatsoever between the two power sources, meaning the light of the adaptor will light up even when the adaptor is not plugged in to the mains but as long as it is connected to the hub which is in turn connected to the computer. This means any noise generated from the computer still gets past, but at least the power strain is lesser. At least I already saw the improvement. But this is still irritating. And what happens if the power backflows to the com? My previous (badly regulated) adaptor already took out a USB port and hung the com/corrupted the HDD/forced 3 days of reformat and troubleshoot/and caused me to lose my just completed music composition. Big impact here, ouch). And so I did, and immediately I could hear a difference. There was a smaller soundstage and the treble was weaker and muffled and bass got a little muddy and weaker. This is on a 128kbps MP3. So I decided to do a side-by-side test with a FLAC. The (above mentioned) difference is audible, not obvious, but audible. And significant, for you may need a DAC one level higher to hear even such a difference.

So power quality (and amount available) really does make a lot of difference in audio.

And hence, my next project - a USB cable with the power wires cut off. I already threw the (failed-?) powered USB cable away unfortunately. This is to completely isolate the USB DAC's power supply from that of the computer. I hope to completely eliminate the noise and get better SQ.

BTW unrelated to this post but still related to audio, last Saturday I decided to connect my father's com to my subwoofer since he was reconnecting it (it is beside my desk and shares the same monitor/keyboard/mouse through KVM), and with My Music folder shared I decided to do an ABX test. The contender's VT1616, which is supposedly a relatively good chip (compared to Realtek, yup. Hey, VIA do make good DSPs, just that their own DACs are a little bit f-ed-up). It practically got owned by the NeoMini. Same things as always: wider soundstage, better instument seperation, tighter bass, cleaner sound. My dad agrees completely. And as expected, the NeoMini has less bass volume (despite being way less boomy) and less warm trebles (although it is less muffled too), because of the lack of a preamp. With a preamp the NeoMini's sound signature will definitely change, although I can't say if it'd be for the better, especially since I'm definitely not encouraging running an op-amp off a computer power supply, and the USB +5V at that.

And with my Belden 16 AWG speaker cables being burnt-in and giving a huge bass-boost, I'm loving my NeoMini USB DAC more and more, and thinking that $55 is definitely worth it. You should hear it practically pwn the on-boards and even SB Audigy; a new Sound Blaster Audigy Value already cost that much, and mine was the almost-full ES version which just didn't have the firewire port.