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*

Friday, October 31, 2008


No, not my PES status, but my audio setup. I'd luv a PES downgrade though. I deserve that, plus full compensation, after what the a**y did to me.

I'm seriously reconsidering the concept of d.i.y. Because my skill just isn't there and if I fail it makes more sense to have just bought a ready-made product in the first place. My Belden 89207 just gave way (again) after I decided to plug them out to connect my PSP to the amp to play DJ Max Portable Clazziquai Edition.

And the killer part, I tried to solder it to make the connector more secure, but in the process melted the plastic insulator between signal and ground on the connector, rendering the connector useless.

Plus, after the fiddling, the other cable of the L/R pair seems to have bad connection, as I was hearing some roll-off and distortion at the highs.

With no extra RCA cable pair available, not only was I forced to use a cheap cable, I was forced to use the 3.5mm out from my Audigy instead of the RCA of the Zhaolu.

And the difference? Not so obvious in terms of sound signature, as the OPA-Earth op-amp in the Zhaolu DAC's I/V stage is rather neutral. But the highs have the distortion that I missed, vocals sound muffled yet thin at the same time, bass is muddy. Space is... what space? Dynamics are just lost.

This temporary change just proved one thing, that there really is an upgrade from Audigy to an external DAC. And a $150 difference in the money I spent between them, or 7.5 times. Note that these figures are not based on RRP.

Now the question is, is this worth it?

It really depends on the rest of your system, like cables. If your amp/speakers are worth less than $200 combined, you wouldn't hear much of a difference, because your speakers will be more muffled than that to start with. Even between $200 to $400 it still depends, depending on what speakers you bought. My safe bet for obvious audible difference on an average ear would be $400-500 onwards.

But after that point, it is definitely worth it. Else spending $1.2k on speakers and extra $$$ on a good amp will still give you the same muffled sound.

Plus, this is a sure way to objectively improve the sound without changing the sound signature too much.

I know my system is probably unbalanced; too low budget for the speakers. But without extra money to spend, I'll leave it as it is.

I also tried out the Zhaolu's preamp when playing with the PSP. For the Zhaolu's own DAC, with the preamp, it sounds lifeless, flat (not the frequency response), full of distortion, bass heavy but bad bass. But with the PSP, compared to without, it sounds more dynamic and has better strike.

So there can be two conclusions:

1) The preamp sucks
2) The DAC is a much better, cleaner source than my PSP

But I remember with the Mini3 I didn't get that much performance out of my PSP, and I know that by design such a built-in DAC will still beat Mini3, so another conclusion can be drawn:

A good portable source, like the Cowan D2, is still no fight against a non-portable standalone.

And for good reason. It costs as much, is n times as big, and runs on AC power.

So when you're at home in your room free of noise, it pays to spend on a good home system, just to hear that extra quality out of your music once in a while.

And another sad thing, more highs roll-off for me. Twice within two weeks. Guess I'm really losing my hearing, I think I cannot hear anything above 17.8khz now.

And I also fried the Sony sub's fuse while playing with the power switch. Who would've thought that shorting the switch will cause such a great spark. Unless the power switch didn't use a relay, which would be stupid and dangerous, but explains why the power switch has bad contact now.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More funny phrases off the net: Computer-grade capacitor

Normally this should look alright, but know the context and u'll be shocked:

- from the description of a high-end* audio amplifier sales ad

*High-end, for me, is anything that costs over a few hundred dollars original price.

Because we know current-day audio-grade capacitors can cost over a dollar each, for the modest capacity ones. And capacitors in computers? $0.02. For a pack of twenty.

Plus, we have seen how the power capacitors in PSUs and on motherboards leak and blow up and die.

So is computer-grade capacitor any good? I don't think so.

And a high-end* amp that actually takes computer-grade capacitors as an advertising point, I'm so gonna stay clear of that and let the true hardcore "audiophiles" waste their money so that we lazy engineers can earn 5-digit salaries while doing nothing.

Since I'm on this topic, might as well take the chance to talk about things being compared to each other.

Like hospital-grade, army precision, and built with the precision of a spacecraft.

So the Ferrari is built with the precision of a spacecraft. Big deal. The first spacecraft is built in the age when people listened to what we now call "retro" music. This is fifty years later, we managed to invent and build things that are a hunred times smaller. So the precision of a spacecraft isn't precise anymore. And this thing isn't very precise to start with either, many of them explode during take-off or disintegrate during re-entry. Like that one which had one piece of its heat shield come off during take-off. Maybe they should start building spacecrafts with the precision of a Ferrari instead.

Hospital-grade power socket/cable/supply, by hospital, which one do you mean? They still use normal wall sockets and wiring, and the supply is loaded with EMI coming from all the funky devices. I wouldn't say it's better than the power coming from your conditioner, nor is anything better than your one-inch thick, 24K gold plated, fully shielded, funky crystals whatever, powercord.

And the best term is army "precision". Or the lack thereof.

I cannot mention any specific organization due to the recent threat looming around, so I'm going to use a fictitious entity. Any resemblance to any real-life organization is purely coincidental.

This is what actually happens at the fictitious entity:

Mechanic A: Pass me that size 17
Mechanic B: Can't find one, how about this size 18?
Mechanic A: Will do. Thanks.

Mechanic B: It says we need to torque to 300Nm
Mechanic A: Come, let me show you. (uses hand)
Mechanic A: There, it's tight enough.

Mechanic A: The voltage shows 26V (when it's supposed to be 28V).
Mechanic B: As long as it's above 24V (battery voltage) it's fine.

Note: Although 26V is above 24V, depending on battery design it may or may not result in charging. Which is important if you do not want your tank to be unable to start.

Mechanic A: Mix 17L of coolant to 33L of water
Mechanic B: Just dump the whole bucket (20L, of coolant) in followed by a bucket of water.

Mechanic B: We need to leave 2mm of gap.
Mechanic A: (Jams the pieces together) As long as can fit it's okay.

And many more.

So much for "army precision". This is what you get when you get untrained people that are paid less than cheap foreign labour to do things. Or people who cannot get a better job outside.

So, next time if you want a metaphor to describe your product, choose the object wisely.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

FiiO E3 Headphone Amplifier - the SGD$12 amp - review

I wonder why reviews are called re-views when most of the time the reviewer has only seen it once, so where did the "re" come about? And for many readers who have not seen the item in real-life yet it should be called a pre-view.

Enough with the misnomers, lets get on with the, um, view.

I bought a FiiO E3 headphone amp for a few reasons. It's cheap, I wanted a portable amp for my PSP, it's cheap and small so it wouldn't hurt, it's said to have sound quality that rivals or even beats the Go-Vibe Petite, and it's cheap so it's very good value. Did I mention it's cheap?

Want to know the price? Google or search the forums for it. I bought it online so it's even cheaper.

First Impressions

It's much smaller than I thought. I though it was the size of a Creative MuVo, but it was even smaller, like AA battery versus AAA battery.

One thing I can tell you, the build quality sucks. While it looks very nice when new, this is how it looks like after a day of my normal use outside:

Pretty bad eh? It looks like it's gone through outfield, more than once.

The words here are already gone.

And the bundled interconnect, it has bad contact since day one. Talk about QC.

The "View"

Now this is the part that's the most important and you're interested in. I'll be testing the FiiO amp against the built-in amp of the Zhaolu D2.5, my DIY 6SN7 tube preamp/headphone amp, and an AMB Mini3.

All of the above is false. I'm not going to test it against any of those because 1) The built-in amp of the Zhaolu has been disabled by me to reduce noise to the DAC 2) My 6SN7 preamp production is under frozen animation and 3) I don't own a Mini3.

But the real reason is, there's just no reason to compare against any of those because they're all of a much higher class than the FiiO, and because of an additional reason which will be stated below. I did manage to hear it and the Mini3 side-by-side but the gap is too obvious. I don't have a Go-Vibe Petite to test though.

Take a look at this graph. Bass boost is an understatement. Ear fatigue is almost as free of charge as the parade I was forced to attend recently.

With such a frequency response, the FiiO cannot be directly compared against anything that respects audio. So I'll look into how I use it and enjoy it.

"Normal" usage - as in in the house or outside, just not on the bus or train

Bass is too powerful, ear is too pain. Bass is uncontrolled and boomy, and spills over to the mids and some trebles. Feeling of space is greatly reduced as with the details. Basically, this thing is total crap. It's good for one thing though, hearing your player through it for 1/4 of a song then removing it will make you realize how good your player actually is.

It's amazing how people can claim getting much improvement in SQ with it; getting even any improvement is just plain impossible. But, as mentioned by a friend of mine, you don't need to use the product in order to write a review. It is in the same league as the Go-Vibe Petite though, in the sense that your earphones actually sounds worse through it. But how worse is hard to decide due to the bass boost by the FiiO, although I might think the FiiO is better.

One thing: The bass boost will help if your earphones is bass-wimpy, or if you think having more bass is good. Usually the two will come together (for beginners), and buying a $12 amp says it all. THAT might account for the "more dynamics" and better bass part, although I still don't see how it helps the soundstage. Perhaps having reduced highs have the feeling of the instruments being further away.

Usage on the train/bus

I usually listen at a low volume. Rather, I can only listen at a low volume to prevent further damage to my already-damaged ears. Sidetrack a bit, my guide is to listen at home at a comfortably loud and clear but not too loud level, and use up to the same volume to listen while on the go. Reason because being outside will make your music seem softer, but it's still there. Ever adjusted your player to a nice and clear level outside to realize it's deafeningly loud when you're in your room? Imagine the amount of damage it will do to your ears under extended periods, even though you're not hearing it that loud.

The problem with sound reproduction devices is that the bass sounds more when the volume is louder. And the problem with vehicles is that most of the noise is of a lower frequency, hence masking the bass. In short, bass is in short supply when I'm outside. I'm using the more bassy X3i and it's just barely enough when I'm on the train.

The FiiO amp changes the situation with the bass boost. With it, the sound is much better, and strangely it really does sound as though the soundstage is wider. Probably from the reduced highs. Loss of details isn't important when everything is so noisy and you just want a more correct sound signature.

However, after a while ear fatigue kicks in (please deduce the reason from 3 paragraphs above), after a few days, I decided to remove it.

As a preamp/bass-boost

Note: You should never, never add or need a bass-boost if your speakers are anywhere near being accurate. A pair of 5-inch's, placed correctly, can produce a lot of bass.

But my 3-inchers that are supposed to work (and works very well) with a subwoofer do not produce enough bass alone. So comes the FiiO.

Bass is improved in amount, but still does not hit low enough.

Guess you can't get a dead horse to run faster.

Details are reduced. But we already know that.


I dunno if this thing will be useful to you, but to me it seems more like a bass-booster than a headamp. It will be useful if you really need the bass boost, or if you're those audio noobs who just want an amp for the sake of having one thinking it improves sound quality instead of trusting your ears.

But for $12, can't complain much. I even think it's still worth the money. I mean, bass-boost, small size, cheap, it's a good thing to keep by your side. :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

China quality... is it in the genes?

No this post doesn't have anything to do with the recent milk saga. Might as well take this opportunity to share my $0.02: Although the milk products are from China, most of the brands are from overseas, and with a brand from New Zealand being caught in the act too only proved my suspicion:

It's not just the Chinese that put in the Melamine, but the ang mohs (Westerners) that ordered them to do so. I mean, come'on, it's the boss that decides what ingredients to put in their food product, and they selected China because of her not-so-stringent checks. So now who's at fault? You decide.

Back on topic, I've recently realized that while Chinese products are usually worth the money with a lot of quality for the price, they do not perform the maximum that they should, plagued by design problems. Kinda wasted. It's not that they do not put in effort or quality; their products show a lot of quality and effort, but somehow, there will be something wrong and it just wouldn't perform.

For example, the Zhaolu 2.5A DAC that I own, there are problems with the circuitary design - using the thermal viaducts as ground path, haveing 25.5V across a 25V capacitor etc. The Yulong T-Amp, which I current have two, have a whining problem from either improper grounding (again) or shielding, I'm going to check that out.

And the thing that led me to think this way is the Chinese Anime fansubs. They can be bigger in filesize compared to their English counterparts, but still be of worse quality.

(To people who believe filesize equates quality, I'll tell you that, no it does not. Not to the full extent. Encoding is an art and requires skill, especially video. A properly-encoded video can have more than 2x the compression ratio than a poorly-encoded one i.e. for the same quality, the properly-encoded video is less than half the size of the poorly encoded one. I believe myself to be reasonably good at choosing the right encoders and settings, more so than the "professionals" out there. Needless to say, those all-in-one simple encoders all suck.)

However, I can't say that they never put in the effort. They used higher bitrates knowing it will give better quality, and have a RealMedia version for those who need smaller filesizes too. Also, this is a fan job, by fans for fans, it'd only be natural if they put in their best efforts. In fact, effort-wise they have a lot, as they do a lot of series that the English do not.

So it's just their skills?


So, good quality, good effort, but poor skills, outcome is less-than-perfect.

A bit wasted don't u think?

How to repair your Mylar earphones and make them last longer

Apologies to those that have been following my blog, the reason for me not updating this blog for so long is because LaTale is so addicting, for many days it is LaTale as long as I'm at home. No Anime, little forums, research and repairs have been stalled, it is LaTale the first thing I get home.

(You should try it, really, it's this fun)

During this time, I had many things to post about, but left undone because of the game. Actually I'm only blogging now because the server is lagging now.

Unlike ZOMBiE who combines multiple blog posts into one, I'm still going to seperate them. Reason for this is categorization through tags, and so that I keep the blog posts shorter so that people can read them more easily and more importantly, it takes me less time to reach a stopping point and resume on the game. :P

The topic with the honour to be posted first, is as per the title.

As many users (and non-users but simply hearsayers, also known as sheeps, or audio-noobs) of the Crossroad Mylar series of products know, their build quality just isn't on-par with the rest out there. Physically coming apart within half a year is possible and achived by many that are under active use. The two most common problems are the cable connection at the earphones becoming loose and snap thereafter and the earphone itself breaking into two at the joint.

This blog post will teach you how to perform Basic Diagnosis And Repair, short-form BDAR, on your favourite earphones.

The friend here, as one of DIY-ers' favourite friends (another being the blu-tack), is the super-glue.

My second pair of X3i was having one of its connections coming apart. So I bought a small tube of super-glue (Note: Don't buy too big a tube, because if you don't finish it fast enough it'll dry up) and applied a drop at that point (with the bare wire exposed), and jammed it back in. Wait for a few minutes.

And viola! The X3i is alive again! No need to waste time and spend another trip to the Adelphi. In fact, the connection is now even studier than before, thx to the properties of super-glue, forming a hard crystalline structure, as a layer of coat on the external surface of the connecting area.

It's actually very easy to stop the Mylar from breaking apart in the first place, by proper design and better glue. Wonder why they didn't do that.

And note, if you accidentally let your hand contact super-glue, do not force it apart, soak it in soapy water and rub sideways. It will come off eventually.