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“The Editors”

Chris Connaker

Title: „Computer Audiophile”
Position: founder/chief editor

First issue appeared: November 20th, 2007
Publication frequency: irregular/portal
Country: USA

In "THE EDITORS" series we have interviewed so far:

  • Dirk Sommer, „”, Germany, chief editor, interviewed HERE
  • Marja & Henk, „”, Switzerland, journalists, interviewed HERE
  • Matej Isak, "Mono & Stereo", Editor-in-Chief/owner, Slovenia/Austria, interviewed HERE
  • Dr David W. Robinson, "Positive Feedback Online", USA, Editor-in-Chief/co-owner, interviewed HERE
  • Jeff Dorgay, "TONEAudio", USA, publisher, interviewed HERE
  • Cai Brockmann, “FIDELITY”, Germany, chief editor, interviewed HERE
  • Steven R. Rochlin, „Enjoy the”, USA, chief editor, interviewed HERE
  • Stephen Mejias, „Stereophile”, USA, Assistant Editor, interviewed HERE
  • Martin Colloms, „HIFICRITIC”, Great Britain, wydawca i redaktor, interviewed HERE
  • Ken Kessler, „Hi-Fi News & Record Review”, Great Britain, Senior Contributing Editor, interviewed HERE
  • Michael Fremer, „Stereophile”, USA, Senior Contributing Editor, interviewed HERE
  • Srajan Ebaen, „”, Switzerland, chief editor, interviewed HERE

ojciech Pacuła: Please tell me something about yourself, your career, background etc.
Chris Connaker: I was born an audiophile. I’ve loved music and great sound quality for as long as I can remember. I’ve also been a computer geek for a very long time. I graduated college Summa Cum Laude with a BA degree. After college I stared working in enterprise Information Technology for the world’s largest hair care company. I’ve done everything from desktop computer support to designing, configuring, and managing global data networks. It’s very interesting to see technology I used in the enterprise get scaled down for home use. I used to administer a multi- million dollar EMC SAN / NAS infrastructure. Now audiophiles can purchase NAS drives for their audio systems for a few hundred dollars. There are major differences between enterprise and home computing, but the general concepts are identical.
Photography is also a major interest of mine. I traveled to Kenya in 2002 on a photo safari with five other people and two professional photographers. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Recently I shot the 2013 Rocky Mountain Audiofest using my Hasselblad 503CW and Ilford Delta B&W film. When there are only twelve shots on a single roll of film each photograph is much more important than when shooting digitally. Medium format film was much harder to shoot at an audio show, but was much more rewarding from a photography perspective.

How did “Computer Audiophile” start? Where did the idea come from?
I had been using computer based audio solutions for several years. However, none of them sounded very good. Near the end of 2007 I started to get serious about putting together a computer based system that would sound better than my CD, DVD-Audio, and SACD players. I researched computer audio but didn’t see exactly what I was looking for at the time. My expertise is information technology and I’m an audiophile, so I decided to start “Computer Audiophile” November 20, 2007. My goal was to help audiophiles increase their enjoyment of this wonderful hobby by using music servers and computers rather than disc spinners. I knew the entire world was moving toward computer audio and that high end audio would eventually have to change or risk dying out completely. Fortunately, some in the industry are now moving in the right direction.

How do e-magazines differ from print magazines? What can we learn from each other?
The biggest differences are cost and finality. Running a print magazine and shipping physical copies around the world is expensive. The cost of entry into the online world of publishing is nearly free. Both online and print publishing have pros and cons. The online world has many more self-appointed experts who will say anything to get attention and have nearly nothing to lose. The print world has writers who think of themselves as Ministers of Information because they’ve been writing in print for so long. Making money from an online publication can be much more difficult than from a print publication. Online publishers are competing with Google for advertising dollars and must deal with the misconception that online advertising isn’t as important as print advertising. Plus, the established print magazine advertising model has been around for hundreds of years. Manufacturers looking to advertise frequently go with what they know or what is most comfortable, and that’s print publications. In addition to cost a major difference between online and print publishing is the concept of finality. After an online article is published it can be updated endlessly. After a printed article is published and mailed to customers it can never be changed. The online publishing world can learn a lot from the editing process used by print publications. Once a magazine is printed it’s final. All the work leading up to the final product must be as thorough as possible. I’ve made many mistakes when publishing my articles online. I know that I can always go back and fix a mistake so I end up making more mistakes. Forcing myself to edit my articles better is difficult. I wish I could afford to hire a full time editor.

Do you thing that the PC is a good environment for the music signal?
Yes and no. Some PCs are excellent while others are terrible. Computers designed for low noise and low power can make excellent music servers capable of better sound than any disc player, turntable, or reel-to-reel tape player. This great sound also depends on the Digital to Analog Converter used and the digital interface between the PC and the DAC.

How is music signal processing different from PC’s normal computing job? Or maybe it isn’t?
The only difference is when time is involved. For example, sending a file over the Internet or unzipping a word document can be done in reverse order from the last bit to the first bit. The final product is a readable file. Playing music must be done in perfect order from the first bit to the last bit and without large variations in timing or jitter.

What should be a neophyte’s starting point to play music from the computer?
Don’t worry about making mistakes or putting together the perfect system. Just start using a computer to play back music. People will run into problems along the way but these problems can be solved. Computer audio isn’t rocket science.

What would a properly setup computer-based system look like? What is most important?
There isn’t a single best way to setup a computer based system. It must start with the user’s needs. Some people want a great iPad remote control application and are willing to give up some sound quality. Others want to use an external word clock for better sound quality and must manually change the sample rate between tracks.

One very important thing to eliminate in a computer based system is electrical noise. Computers can be very noisy and send garbage all the way from the computer to the audio system. There are methods of isolating the computer from the DAC such as fiber optic cabling, isolation within the DAC, powerless USB cables, linear power supplies, and battery power supplies.

What is the upper limit for audio files in terms of bit-depth and sampling rate? Any thoughts?
The sample rate arms race is ridiculous. There is no need to go higher and higher. Sample rates have no direct correlation to sound quality. Consumers want the highest number and manufacturers want to sell components to consumers so they support higher sample rates. Consumers need to be educated about sample rates rather than sold components based on marketing hype and higher numbers. Some components perform much worse at higher sampling rates but consumers think the opposite is true. I’m sure next year we will see at 32 bit / 768 kHz DAC and maybe one song in that sample rate. It doesn’t make any sense but I’m sure someone will want to purchase such as product. I’m happy with 24 bit / 192 kHz and lower.

How about DSD – is it going to be a widespread format for downloading music?
DSD is a small niche in an already small niche. It will never be widespread compared to PCM. Maybe five to ten online stores will offer DSD downloads. The limiting factors are music and playback devices. Most people don’t like most of the DSD music available for download. Sony, Warner, and Universal will release DSD content in 2014. This will improve the music selection, but will not address the playback devices. Most devices in the world are design to play PCM. If someone has the option to download DSD or PCM, knowing that the DSD version might not play on all of his devices, he will select the PCM version.
I don’t think DSD is better than PCM. DSD is just different. There is some great music available as DSD downloads. I love the Nat King Cole albums in DSD. However, I don’t like that my DSD downloads can only be played on my main stereo system. I like to bring my music with me in the car and while traveling in an airplane. This is much harder to do with DSD files.

What should music labels change with respect to music files preparation?
This is impossible to know without knowing how much it costs to produce the music and how much it costs to make the music available for download. Building a download site is expensive. Music labels or online stores must recoup this cost. I hope downloads will be inexpensive, but everything has a cost.

What is their current worst mistake?
Not embedding the right metadata and album art.

Any thoughts about FLAC (AIFF) vs. WAV comparison?
It’s free to test all formats. If one of these is preferable to listeners then I recommend using that format. I think there are much more important issues with respect to computer playback than file formats’ sound quality. When considering metadata FLAC is the best by far.

How often should we reformat our hard disk drives to prevent signal quality deterioration?
Never. The quality is identical from the first day to the last.

What is your current home system?

Music Server(s):
C.A.P.S. v3 Carbon with RWA Black Lightening battery, Aurender W20, MacBook Pro Retina 15”
Music Server Operating System:
Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion), Microsoft Windows 7 (64-bit), Microsoft Windows 8 (32-bit), Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit), Linux
Preferred Digital Interface(s):
USB, AES/EBU (Single Wire), S/PDIF Coaxial (BNC), Ethernet (UPnP/DLNA)
Digital to Analog Converter(s):
Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Series 2, EMM Labs DAC2X, Auralic Vega
Digital to Digital Converter:
Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB, Wavelength Audio WaveLink
Spectral Audio DMC-30 SS Series 2
Spectral Audio DMA-260
TAD CR1 Compact Reference
MIT Oracle Matrix 50 Analog Interconnects (RCA), Wire World Silver Starlight USB Cable, AudioQuest Diamond USB Cable, Kimber Kable B Bus Ag USB Cable, WireWorld Ultraviolet 5 S/PDIF Coax Cable (BNC), AudioQuest Eagle Eye S/PDIF Coax Cable (BNC)
Loudspeaker Cables:
MIT Matrix HD 60 Bi-Wire
Power Cables:
ALO Audio AC6
Remote Control(s):
iPad (3rd Generation), iPhone 5
Remote Control Apps:
JRemote, Apple's Remote, Aurender iPad App
Cisco SG200-26 Switch, Baaske MI-1005 Ethernet Isolator, Micro Connectors Augmented Cat6A Ethernet Cable, Apple AirPort Extreme, Cisco RVS4000 Router, Cisco DPC3000 Docsis 3.0 cable modem, Comcast Extreme 105 Mbps Internet Service
JH Audio JH13, Grado RS-1, Sennheiser HD600, Etymotic ER-4p, Ultimate Ears ue11 Pro
Headphone Amplifier(s):
Astell & Kern AK100, ALO RX Mk3
Portable Player(s):
iPhone 5, iPod Classic 160GB

Could you give our readers a list of 10 albums they should listen to straight away?
This is the fun part!
1. Pearl Jam, Ten
2. Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas
3. Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, This Is How We Roll
4. Nat “King” Cole, The Very Thought of You
5. Ottmar Liebert, One Guitar
6. Pearl Jam, Vs.
7. Jack Johnson, In Between Dreams
8. Cowboy Junkies, At The End of Paths Taken
9. Chet Baker, Chet
10. Pearl Jam, Vitalogy

I naprawdę na sam koniec – jak długo, Twoim zdaniem, fizyczne formaty (CD, BD) będą jeszcze z nami?
Odtwarzacze fizycznych formatów będą z nami jeszcze przez jakieś dziesięć lat, ale tylko dlatego, że ludzie lubią korzystać z rzeczy, które znają. Ściąganie plików to dla wielu ludzi „dziedzina tajemna”, dlatego wolą kupować fizyczne nośniki. Ja nie mam odtwarzacza tego typu od 2005 roku. Wolę kupować muzykę i ściągać ją online.